Commentary Contributor: Alfie Kohn

Author and speaker Alfie Kohn has been a prolific contributor to Education Week Commentary since the 1990s. Read his thought-provoking opinion essays on standards and accountability, assessment, homework, discipline, and other hot-button education issues.

Why Punishment Won't Stop a Bully

When addressing bullying in schools, punitive discipline can itself be a type of bulling, argues author Alfie Kohn. (September 7, 2016)

Do This and You'll Get That: A Bad Way to Defend Good Programs

We should promote the intrinsic value of education ideas, rather than justifications tied to external outcomes, advises Alfie Kohn. (September 30, 2015)

Dispelling the Myth of Deferred Gratification

Lessons from a famous experiment asking children to wait for a treat have been misconstrued, pushing schools to try to "fix" children rather than what and how they're taught, writes Alfie Kohn. (September 9, 2014)

Encouraging Educator Courage

Teachers need to stand up for their principles, even if it means being labeled as troublemakers, Alfie Kohn writes. (September 18, 2014)

Schooling Beyond Measure

Alfie Kohn writes that "our love affair with numbers" is causing us to focus on what is easiest to measure instead of what matters most in the classroom. (September 19, 2012)

Corridor Wit: Talking Back to Our Teachers

Alfie Kohn reflects on perfect responses to the cutting classroom barbs that undermine students and strip learning of its joys. (September 28, 2011)

How Education Reform Traps Poor Children

Too often, reform saddles poor children with an education that focuses on rote learning instead of the richer academic opportunities that would help them thrive, Alfie Kohn writes. (April 27, 2011)

Turning Children Into Data

Alfie Kohn offers a skeptic's guide to assessment programs that turn educators into accountants and trivialize their teaching. (August 25, 2010)

Debunking the Case for National Standards

National standards are not only unnecessary, writes Alfie Kohn, they’re also based on the premise that “our teachers cannot be trusted to make decisions about which curriculum is best for their schools.” (January 14, 2010)

The Value of Negative Learning

Alfie Kohn explores how nontraditional educators can rise above bad schooling by regarding it as a chance to figure out what not to do. (September 16, 2009)

It's Not What We Teach, It’s What They Learn

It’s easier to concern yourself with teaching than with learning, says Alfie Kohn. (September 10, 2008)

Against ‘Competitiveness’

Alfie Kohn explains why good teachers aren't thinking about the global economy. (September 19, 2007)

The Truth About Homework

Needless homework assignments persist because of widespread misconceptions about learning, says Alfie Kohn. (September 6, 2006)

Getting-Hit-on-the-Head Lessons

The "Better Get Used To It" principle of education is overshadowing meaningful instruction, says Alfie Kohn. (September 7, 2005)

Feel-Bad Education

Does taking the joy out of learning lower the quality of a student's education? Author Alfie Kohn says America's "feel-bad education" is a frequently overlooked problem that deserves more attention. (September 15, 2004)

The Folly of Merit Pay

Pay-for-performance plans are reliably unsuccessful, if not conterproductive, writes Alfie Kohn. (September 17, 2003)

Education's Rotten Apples

What if something that works to accomplish one goal ends up impeding another? Alfie Kohn asserts that when progressive and traditional educational strategies are used simultaneously, the latter undermines the former. (September 18, 2002)

Beware of the Standards, Not Just the Tests

Alfie Kohn says that standards, not just standardized tests, are a threat to learning. (September 26, 2001)

Standardized Testing and Its Victims

The inimitable Alfie Kohn reviews some facts about standarized testing, arguing that the inevitable outcome is inequity. (September 27, 2000)

Confusing Harder With Better

If our students are memorizing more forgettable facts than ever before, if they are spending their hours being drilled on what will help them ace a standardized test, then we may indeed have raised the bar--and more's the pity. In that case, school may be harder, but it sure as hell isn't any better. (September 15, 1999)

Students Don't 'Work'--They Learn

September is a new beginning, a time for fresh starts. Consider, then, a resolution that you and your colleagues might make for this school year: From now on, we will stop referring to what students do in school as "work". (September 3, 1997)

Beyond Discipline

A few years ago, I received a letter from a woman who was working on a book about a progressive educator. She said she was considering devoting a chapter of her manuscript to a discussion of a program called Assertive Discipline, which was at best only indirectly related to her subject. (November 20, 1996)

Newt Gingrich's Reading Plan

Our culture is marinated in behaviorism. At work, at school, and at home, we take for granted that the way to get things done is to dangle goodies in front of people. Thus, it seemed perfectly reasonable to observers across the political spectrum when Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in February inaugurated a national campaign to pay children to read. (April 19, 1995)

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