I had the pleasure of listening to Alfie Kohn speak and answer questions today. I wish that his philosophy on education was the direction we in the United States were heading. His views on Progressive Education would make a significant and positive difference to many of our students. He put into words for me many of my half-formed thoughts and articulated them in a manner that made it seem as though that is what we should be doing instead of where we are headed.
Most of his great ideas and progressive insights are not the present mainstream thought on education in the U.S. and it would take a monumental paradigm shift to achieve even half of what he advocates for changes in our educational system. Unfortunately, many of his views or ideas will not happen in today’s climate or in the future. Which to me is unfortunate and will negatively affect the future of many of our students.
Too many people in power, politics and edu-business would have to agree to give-up their control of their part of the educational system for Dr. Kohn’s ideas to succeed. We all know the chances of that happening – Zero.
What can we do? Start a quiet revolution?
What would happen if all the attendees who attended his presentation(s), simply stopped giving homework. Then discussed the results (positive and negative) with others in their building? It might make become like a giant snowball that people in power would have to at least acknowledge or get run over by it. I understand that it won’t happen because homework in education is too entrenched whether it is beneficial or not. But at least it is an idea that would cause some ripples in the water, when many want smooth sailing for their educational agenda (public, private or personal).
In most schools homework is not something that teachers have to get permission to give or not give, it is actually one of the few things that we have control over most of the time. Whether we assign homework or not.
Personally, I have not assigned any homework that a student has not requested since I got back to teaching (and that was for one so he could read and get out of evening chores 🙂 ). It has not had any negative impacts that I can see on my classroom or my student’s performance and definitely has reduced the anxiety that they have in my class. I get to see that anxiety when we discuss what it is like having homework or I help them with their homework from other classrooms.
I have whined and complained about us just whining and complaining, well here is one idea to bounce around and could actually be done at the classroom level by classroom teachers that probably would benefit our students immediately – just stop giving homework and see what happens.
My little contribution to subversion in education :).
Alfie Kohn is going to be at the Constructing Modern Knowledge Convention in Manchester, New Hampshire during July 12-15, and I am going to find a way to attend. I know that it will be out of my own pocket, but I want to hear more of Alfie Kohn has to say about education and what we can do to change it.
Am I a disciple of his ideas on education – nope. But from what I have read and heard so far they make a hell of a lot more sense than the direction we are going.
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