Monday, December 13, 2010

Live Thursday Dec. 16th with Writer Alfie Kohn (note early time)

Join me Thursday, December 16th, for a live and interactive webinar with Alfie Kohn, author of eleven books, including The Homework Myth:  Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing and Punished By Rewards:  The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes. Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. His criticisms of competition and rewards have been widely discussed and debated, and he has been described in Time magazine as "perhaps the country's most outspoken critic of education's fixation on grades [and] test scores."

Date: Thursday, December 16th, 2010
Time: 12pm Pacific / 3pm Eastern / 8pm GMT (international times here)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: In Elluminate. Log in at The Elluminate room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early. To make sure that your computer is configured for Elluminate, please visit Recordings of the session will be posted within a day of the event at the event page.
Event and Recording Page

Alfie Kohn's criticisms of competition and rewards have helped to shape the thinking of educators -- as well as parents and managers -- across the country and abroad. Kohn has been featured on hundreds of TV and radio programs, including the "Today" show and two appearances on "Oprah"; he has been profiled in the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, while his work has been described and debated in many other leading publications.

Kohn lectures widely at universities and to school faculties, parent groups, and corporations. In addition to speaking at staff development seminars and keynoting national education conferences on a regular basis, he conducts workshops for teachers and administrators on various topics. Among them: "Motivation from the Inside Out: Rethinking Rewards, Assessment, and Learning" and "Beyond Bribes and Threats: Realistic Alternatives to Controlling Students' Behavior." The latter corresponds to his book BEYOND DISCIPLINE: From Compliance to Community (ASCD, 1996), which he describes as "a modest attempt to overthrow the entire field of classroom management."

Kohn's various books have been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, German, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, Bulgarian, Portuguese, Arabic, Hebrew, Thai, and Malaysian. He has also contributed to publications ranging from the Journal of Education to Ladies Home Journal, and from the Nation to the Harvard Business Review ("Why Incentive Plans Cannot Work"). His efforts to make research in human behavior accessible to a general audience have also been published in the Atlantic Monthly, Parents, and Psychology Today.

His many articles on education include a dozen widely reprinted essays in Phi Delta Kappan from 1991 to 2008. Among them: "Choices for Children: Why and How to Let Students Decide," "How Not to Teach Values: A Critical Look at Character Education," "Test Today, Privatize Tomorrow," and "Why Self-Discipline is Overrated."

Kohn lives (actually) in the Boston area with his wife and two children, and (virtually) at

The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing

Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason

What Does it Mean to Be Well Educated? And Other Essays on Standards, Grading, and Other Follies

The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools

The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and "Tougher Standards"

What to Look for in a Classroom: And Other Essays

Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community

Punished By Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes

The Brighter Side Of Human Nature: Altruism And Empathy In Everyday Life

You Know What They Say: The Truth About Popular Beliefs

No Contest: The Case Against Competition

Education, Inc.: Turning Learning into a Business


  1. Steve, I eagerly listen to most of the interviews on Future of Education; the interviews, plus reading the actual books and investigating articles, etc., are a major part of the plans I'm forming to change the model of our school district here in central Maine.

    As a lay person, I find it difficult sometimes to venture through the various personalities and sort through what they're saying and how they agree and contradict. Lately I'm struggling between Tony Wagner and Alfie Kohn. While I think Wagner has made a major contribution to clarifying what the industrial model lacks and how it needs to change, Kohn's ideas contradict him, particularly when Wagner talks about how we have to consider the needs of the business world. I believe Kohn would say, educate children for themselves, not for how marketable you want them to become.

    It could be that the two disparate goals have the same ends. But this is just an example of how confusing the market of ideas can be!

    I would love to hear you address this concern: how to take the aggregate of ideas on school change, take what you need, and leave the rest! I believe I am informed enough to be able to do that but would still benefit from it being addressed -- particularly the divide between Wagner and Kohn.

    Thanks so much...didn't mean for this to be a book!

    Lisa Cooley

  2. Hi, Lisa. :)

    I think what's increasingly interesting to me is that, like many of the recent guests, both Kohn (I think) and Wagner (I know)--and especially Deborah Meier and Phil Schlecty--advocating involvement at the local level with all constituent groups working together to develop a local educational plan. I continue to find that this line of thinking makes a lot of sense to me: that it's not about finding the one right solution and implementing from the top down, but it's more about going through the process locally of determining what you want as an educational community and working together to accomplish it. Of course, the parallels there are increasingly obvious to me: engaged student work / engaged educator work / engaged community work. Don't know how we could think that we'd get the engaged student work without having the same kind of environment for everyone else involved in the process.

    Hope that helps!

  3. I sent the link to Schlechtly and Kohn's interview to my Board, and am becoming a real pain in the ass as I insist that they read and listen and learn -- in fact, I posted on Facebook Schlechtly's quote, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to lead."

    I like your response on what ties Kohn and Wagner together. Here's another poser: I used to regard Bill Gates as a good influence, funding some good work here in Maine on the improvement of high schools. Somewhere along the line, Gates and the progressives I follow parted company. I see Gates as someone with quite a vested interest in a well-educated workforce, but now that his wagon seems firmly hitched to the Billionaire Boys' Club wagon, I think he may have gone over to the dark side. There's a real disconnect between him and us, now. I admit that I don't understand why he has swerved in the wrong direction. Any ideas?

    (BTW, happy holidays!)


  4. Sorry, Lisa. Not sure I feel qualified to answer that question! The more I've studied education, the more I've recognized that really thoughtful people have very different approaches and beliefs; and that those also can (should?) change over time. Which again leads me back to the act of local engagement and also allowing for other people to have different ways of doing things. For example, a lot of people criticize Teach for America for what I consider to be valid reasons, but I also found that in my interview with Steven Farr that I do believe they are making a difference in a particular kind of situation, and that there are really valuable lessons to be learned from what they do, even if one doesn't agree with them. In the case of TFA, I also think that there's been a polarization of the discussion, so those who don't like TFA aren't recognizing the value that is there, and TFA tends to claim broader applicability than may be warranted. Somehow we need to promote and support more nuanced, thoughtful respect for different opinions and perspectives in education discussions in order to help each other.


I hate having to moderate comments, but have to do so because of spam... :(