Alfie Kohn

4 Essential Parenting Tips to Avoid Raising a Kid with Trumpian Qualities

When the words “Trump” and “children” appear in the same sentence, it’s often because the writer is trying to figure out how to protect the latter from the former. How do we shield our offspring not only from what this man does (particularly if the youngsters in question are at risk of being harassed or deported) but from who he is? How do we explain to our kids that someone who bullies, lies and boasts about assaulting women has made it to the White House? The news these days presents parents and educators with what might be described as a series of teachable moments that we never asked for and cannot easily avoid.

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Trump Is a Conservative Only by Accident?

Perhaps you've heard it said that Donald Trump is all about ego, not ideology. The reason many conservatives were so slow to warm up to him, on this view, is that they realized he's not really one of them. He is driven not by any political or philosophical principle but by his desperate need for attention and approval. Thus, as one columnist suggested hopefully after the election, he may “tilt in whatever direction, and toward whichever constituency, is the surest source of applause.”

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Narcissist-in-Chief: The Psychopathology That Explains Donald Trump's Depravity

The following is from Alfie Kohn's blog at

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What We Mean When We Talk About 'Choice'

Here are two ways to abuse an idea: You can invoke it to pursue your own objectives, shamelessly exploiting the favorable associations it has accumulated over many years. Or you can create a caricature of the idea and then pretend you’ve shown it to be flawed.

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Have We Been Oversold on Ed Tech?

Maybe we shouldn't be surprised that the idea of using digital technology in the classroom tends to be either loved or hated.  After all, anything that's digital consists only of ones or zeroes.  By contrast, my own position is somewhere in the middle, a location where I don't often find myself, frankly.  I'm not allied with the Waldorfians, who ban computers from elementary and middle schools, but neither do I have much in common with teachers whose excitement over the latest export from Silicon Valley often seems downright orgasmic.

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'Your Hand’s Not Raised? Too Bad: I’m Calling on You Anyway'

Doctors in training call it “pimping.” A medical student or junior resident is abruptly put on the spot, sometimes during patient rounds, as an instructor fires off difficult questions about anatomy, diagnostic protocols, or surgical procedures.[1] The practice is defended in pretty much the same way that other forms of humiliation, bullying, hazing, or punishment are defended: Keeps ’em on their toes! Shows ’em I mean business! Toughens ’em up for when other people abuse them later! And of course that old chestnut: I suffered through it; why shouldn’t they?[2]

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What No Child Left Behind Left Behind

The metamorphosis of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act from No Child Left Behind into the Every Student Succeeds Act is being hailed as a historic triumph of bipartisan compromise. Why, we haven't seen such lopsided approval votes in Congress since... well, since Democrats and Republicans put aside their petty differences and agreed by overwhelming margins to let Bush invade Iraq.

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Schooling Beyond Measure

[This is a slightly expanded version of the originally published article.]

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The Case Against Grades

[This is a slightly expanded version of an article originally published in Educational Leadership.]
"I remember the first time that a grading rubric was attached to a piece of my writing….Suddenly all the joy was taken away.  I was writing for a grade -- I was no longer exploring for me.  I want to get that back.  Will I ever get that back?"  -- Claire, a student (in Olson, 2006)
By now enough has been written about academic assessment to fill a library, but when you stop to think about it, the whole enterprise really amounts to a straightforward two-step dance.  We need to collect information about how students are doing, and then we need to share that information (along with our judgments, perhaps) with the students and their parents.  Gather and report -- that’s pretty much it.
You say the devil is in the details?  Maybe so, but I’d argue that too much attention to the particulars of implementation may be distracting us from the bigger picture -- or at least from a pair of remarkable conclusions that emerge from the best theory, practice, and research on the subject:  Collecting information doesn’t require tests, and sharing that information doesn’t require grades.  In fact, students would be a lot better off without either of these relics from a less enlightened age.
Why tests are not a particularly useful way to assess student learning (at least the kind that matters), and what thoughtful educators do instead, are questions that must wait for another day.  Here, our task is to take a hard look at the second practice, the use of letters or numbers as evaluative summaries of how well students have done, regardless of the method used to arrive at those judgments.

The Effects of Grading

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Happy Holidays!