Posts Tagged 'alfieKohn'

Leaving “competition” behind

Cross-posted at SchoolMatters (East TN, USA)

I’ve been steeping in a brew of educational conversation this week — first at a meeting on Monday afternoon in which board members, school personnel, and community leaders debated the future of our local school-community partnership and then tonight at a gathering in which a principal outlined an ambitious curriculum design for a new high school under construction.

So I was really primed for this column by Alfie Kohn. (Reading it requires a free registration at Education Week.)

Kohn, a longtime critic of the grading and testing procedures used in U.S. schools, critiques some loaded education verbiage we all know well: “competitiveness in a 21st century global economy.”

Kohn questions the conventional wisdom that treats test scores as a barometer of a nation’s economic health. But he goes beyond that to question the values system that links financial terms to teaching and learning:

Is the main mission of schools really to prepare children to be productive workers who will do their part to increase the profitability of their future employers? Every time education is described as an “investment,” or schools are discussed in the context of the “global economy,” a loud alarm ought to go off, reminding us of the moral and practical implications of giving an answer in dollars to a question about schools.

It worries me that educators and educational leadership co-opt language from the business community — “investing,” “buy-in,” “clientele, ” and so on. The prevalence of this language is everywhere, especially in my field of study, which is instructional technology. This is a passionate group of people who believe in technology’s power to foster creative problem solving and other-centered thinking and learning on a global scale. Yet, our advocacy is frequently framed in terms of “we must have x or y tool if we expect to compete in the 21st century.”

Is it because we believe that is the only way to get the establishment to listen?

For the last several months, I’ve been trying a little experiment. You can try it, too. It goes like this: next time you catch yourself saying “global economy,” try saying “global community” instead. Rather than “compete,” try “contribute.” Instead of “competitive,” use “compassionate,” and “collaboration” makes a nice substitution for “competitiveness.”

What do you think? (Thank you to Connie Weber at Classroom 2.0 for sharing the link to Kohn’s commentary.)

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Think on this:

"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn


"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

Train of thought:


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