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Alfie Kohn
Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The author of eleven books and scores of articles, he lectures at education conferences and universities as well as to parent groups and corporations.

Kohn's 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."

Kohn lives (actually) in the Boston area and (virtually) at Follow him on Twitter at @alfiekohn.

Entries by Alfie Kohn

Just Another Brick in the Wall: How Education Researchers Ignore the Ends to Tweak the Means

(0) Comments | Posted June 4, 2014 | 10:40 PM

"While we're at it, maybe we should just design classrooms without windows. And, hey, I'll bet kids would really perform better if they spent their days in isolation." My friend was reacting (facetiously, of course) to a new study that found that kindergarteners scored better on a test of recall...

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But What Kind of Universal Pre-K?

(0) Comments | Posted January 31, 2014 | 3:09 PM

Universal pre-kindergarten education finally seems to be gathering momentum. President Obama highlighted the issue in his 2013 State of the Union address (and then mentioned it again in this year's). Numerous states and cities are launching or expanding early-education initiatives, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has made...

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Recycled Assumptions: How Journalists Keep Education Tied to Damaging Ideas

(13) Comments | Posted August 27, 2013 | 3:29 PM

It very rarely happens that the cover of the New York Times Book Review, which represents some of the most prestigious intellectual real estate in the U.S., is given over to a discussion about education. When that does happen, as it did last Sunday, it becomes clear why "school reform"...

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'We're Number Umpteenth!': Debunking the Persistent Myth of Lagging U.S. Schools

(155) Comments | Posted May 3, 2013 | 9:13 PM

Beliefs that are debatable or even patently false may be repeated so often that at some point they come to be accepted as fact. We seem to have crossed that threshold with the claim that U.S. schools are significantly worse than those in most other countries. Sometimes the person who...

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Parental Involvement in Education: What Kind? To What Ends?

(2) Comments | Posted February 6, 2013 | 3:29 PM

When people who write about agriculture or dentistry tackle the important issues in their respective fields, do they try to shake things up? Are they feisty and willing to peer beneath the surface of whatever topic they're exploring? I have no idea. But I do know that those qualities are...

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Homework: New Research Suggests It May Be an Unnecessary Evil

(236) Comments | Posted November 25, 2012 | 8:03 PM

A brand-new study on the academic effects of homework offers not only some intriguing results but also a lesson on how to read a study -- and a reminder of the importance of doing just that: reading studies (carefully) rather than relying on summaries by journalists or even by the...

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What Do Kids Really Learn from Failure?

(120) Comments | Posted October 3, 2012 | 1:16 PM

Education experts have long known that there is more to success -- in school or in life -- than cognitive ability. That recognition got a big boost with science writer Dan Goleman's book Emotional Intelligence in 1996, which emphasized the importance of self-awareness, altruism, personal motivation, empathy, and the ability...

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Lowering the Temperature on Claims of 'Summer Learning Loss'

(17) Comments | Posted July 20, 2012 | 10:56 AM

The idea of summer learning loss -- the implication being that it's risky to give kids a three-month vacation from school because they'll forget everything they were taught -- has become the media's favorite seasonally specific education topic. And that's not just because they're desperate for something to write about...

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What Makes a Terrific Parent?

(2) Comments | Posted April 23, 2012 | 12:16 PM

If you decided to have a child, presumably it was because you wanted to be a parent and anticipated that the experience would be fulfilling. You did it for you. But the child's arrival demands a radical shift: Now you must do things for him or her. Moreover, you need...

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Criticizing (Common Criticisms of) Praise

(5) Comments | Posted February 3, 2012 | 11:09 AM

Over the last few years I've had the odd experience of seeing my work cited with approval by people whose views on the issue in question are diametrically opposed to my own. The issue I have in mind is praise. I'm troubled by it, as are the people who quote...

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The Risks and Potential of Required Community Service

(1) Comments | Posted January 8, 2012 | 2:13 PM

Q. We are facing a proposal to require community service for all high school students. I am very concerned about the mixed message this will send to our students about freely giving of themselves in service to others. What are your thoughts on community service as a requirement for graduation?...

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Five Not-So-Obvious Propositions About Play

(6) Comments | Posted November 17, 2011 | 9:54 AM

* Children should have plenty of opportunities to play.
* Even young children have too few such opportunities these days, particularly in school settings.

These two propositions -- both of them indisputable and important -- have been offered many times.[1] The second one in particular reflects the...

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Whoever Said There's No Such Thing As a Stupid Question Never Looked Carefully at a Standardized Test

(24) Comments | Posted September 16, 2011 | 2:52 PM

It can't be repeated often enough: Standardized tests are very poor measures of the intellectual capabilities that matter most, and that's true because of how they're designed, not just because of how they're used. Like other writers, I've relied on arguments and research to make this point. But sometimes a...

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What We Don't Know About Our Students -- And Why We Don't Know It

(6) Comments | Posted September 7, 2011 | 2:51 PM

There's a scene near the beginning of Small Change (also known as Pocket Money), Truffaut's übercharming movie about children of all ages, in which a teacher makes each of her students recite a passage from a Molière play -- a test of both memory and dramatic skill. The teacher is...

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Teaching Strategies That Work! (Just Don't Ask "Work to Do What?")

(22) Comments | Posted August 10, 2011 | 1:56 PM

So here's the dilemma for someone who writes about education: certain critical cautions and principles need to be mentioned again and again because policymakers persist in ignoring them, yet faithful readers will eventually tire of the repetition.

Consider, for example, the reminder that schooling isn't necessarily better just because it's...

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Why Are Some People Always Late? And Other Human Puzzles

(2) Comments | Posted July 25, 2011 | 10:43 AM

I often find myself unable to let go of questions that don't seem to give most people any pause at all. For example: Why do we cry at weddings? The more I think about this, the less certain I am about the answer -- or, rather, the answers, because there...

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How to Write an Article About Current Parenting Styles

(1) Comments | Posted June 30, 2011 | 11:00 AM

1. To maximize the chance of getting your article published, be careful to make exactly the same argument that shows up in every other article on the topic. It sounds like this: "Parents today refuse to set limits for their children. Instead of disciplining them, they coddle and dote and...

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What Parents Aren't Asked in School Surveys -- and Why

(10) Comments | Posted May 23, 2011 | 3:37 PM

The results of an opinion poll will vary -- and not by a little -- as a function of how the questions are phrased. "Do you favor special preferences for minorities in the form of affirmative action?" will attract many fewer favorable responses than "Do you favor efforts to help...

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Studies Support Rewards, Homework, and Traditional Teaching. Or Do They?

(8) Comments | Posted March 31, 2011 | 1:09 PM

It's not unusual to read that a new study has failed to replicate -- or has even reversed -- the findings of an earlier study. The effect can be disconcerting, particularly when medical research announces that what was supposed to be good for us turns out to be dangerous, or...

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"But I Need to Assign Homework! Look at All I Have to Cover!"

(64) Comments | Posted March 3, 2011 | 6:46 PM

A parent wrote me today to express her frustration not only with homework but with the response she hears from teachers when she complains about homework. Even those teachers who are sufficiently knowledgeable and brave to admit that research fails to show any meaningful benefit from making kids do...

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