Alfie Kohn on Goals

Kohn, A. (2004). What does it mean to be well educated?: And more essays on standards, grading and other follies. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

In the preface and introduction to What does it mean to be well educated?Alfie Kohn posits that one of the issues with education, the one this text is going to discuss, is “failing to talk meaningfully about goals and practices” (p. xii). In the essays in this collection, Kohn will address how to construct the classrooms we need to reach goals that don’t include students becoming master test-takers, how that affects how teachers instruct in their classrooms, and how to respond to student success once we’ve broken them of the need to find validation in authority figures.

For readers whose point of departure is a worldview very different from my own, my objective, naturally, is to invite them to look at things a little differently by the end of an essay than they did at the beginning. But for everyone else, my hope is to provoke reconsideration of practices, and even of goals, by beginning with the basic values we share. That’s what allows a logical progression of reappraisal: GIven that we’re agreed on this broad (or long-term) principle, how much sense does it make to pursue these narrow (or short-term) goals, and the, in consequence, how wise are these policies and behaviors? (p. xv)

Kohn’s last question is the lens through which I wish to look at these essays, while applying what I know about best practices in adolescent literacy and my own teaching experience.

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