Cover image for What does it mean to be well educated? : and more essays on standards, grading, and other follies
What does it mean to be well educated? : and more essays on standards, grading, and other follies
Kohn, Alfie.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston, Mass. : Beacon Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
xv, 194 pages ; 22 cm
The purposes of schooling? What does it mean to be well-educated? Turning learning into a business. The costs of overemphasizing achievement -- Standards and testing. Confusing harder with better. Beware of the standards, not just the tests. Standardized testing and its victims. Sacrificing learning for higher scores. Two cheers for an end to the SAT -- Grading and evaluating. From degrading to de-grading. The dangerous myth of grade inflation. Five reasons to stop saying 'good job!' -- Moral, social, and psychological questions. Constant frustration and occasional violence. September 11. A fresh look at Abraham Maslow -- School reform and the study of education. Almost there but not quite. Education's rotten apples. The folly of merit pay. Professors who profess.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
LA217.2 .K65 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Few writers ask us to question our fundamental assumptions about education as provocatively as Alfie Kohn. Time magazine has called him'perhaps the country's most outspoken critic of education's fixation on grades [and] test scores.' And the Washington Post says he is 'the most energetic and charismatic figure standing in the way of a major federal effort to make standardized curriculums and tests a fact of life in every U.S. school.'

In this new collection of essays, Kohn takes on some of the most important and controversial topics in education of the last few years. His central focus is on the real goals of education-a topic, he argues, that we systematically ignore while lavishing attention on misguided models of learning and counterproductive techniques of motivation.

The shift to talking about goals yields radical conclusions and wonderfully pungent essays that only Alfie Kohn could have written. From the title essay's challenge to conventional, conservative definitions of a good education to essays on standards and testing and grades that tally the severe educational costs of overemphasizing a narrow conception of achievement, Kohn boldly builds on his earlier work and writes for a wide audience.

Kohn's new book will be greeted with enthusiasm by his many readers and by any teacher or parent looking for a refreshing perspective on today's debates about schools.

Author Notes

Alfie Kohn was described by "Time" as "the country's most outspoken critic of education's fixation on grades & test scores." The author of the influential "No Contest" & "Punished by Rewards," he writes & speaks widely about human behavior, education, & social theory. He lives in Belmont, Massachusetts.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

If general readers recognize Kohn's name, it's thanks to his campaign against standardized testing (The Case Against Standardized Testing). Educational professionals will recall Kohn's insights into classroom management (Punished by Rewards) and school reform (The Schools Our Children Deserve). This collection of essays, written from 1999 to 2003, proves the author is one of America's most astute critics of current educational policies. Kohn revisits the standards and testing mania, but also takes on other controversial issues: grade inflation, school violence and how educators can deal with the aftermath of 9/11. "Turning Learning into a Business" is an informative and incisive critique of the many ways in which Kohn sees the corporate world exploiting kids and profiting from schools through the marketing of tests, advertising in schools and textbooks, and turning schools into for-profit businesses. Kohn carefully links these issues to larger social concerns: "one of the most crucial tasks in a democratic society" is "the act of limiting the power that corporations have in determining what happens in, and to, our schools." Kohn is unapologetic and articulate about the advantages of a progressive approach to education that values students' interests, focuses on understanding (rather than the acquisition of isolated facts) and assesses student work authentically (rather than by single, standardized measures). True to his educational philosophy, he asks readers to consider big questions, such as: What's important to know? What are the qualities of a good school? And perhaps most vital, Who gets to decide and who benefits? (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

How much does someone need to know to be considered well educated? And who gets to decide what it means to be well educated? Kohn (Punished by Rewards) here analyzes these and other questions regarding education. As he did in What To Look for in a Classroom, Kohn gathers several of his essays concerning how educators currently assess students' learning. In "Turning Learning into a Business," he debates corporate sponsorship in schools, including advertisements on buses, soft drink companies' incentives for exclusive rights on campus, Channel One's stories and ads, brand-name placement in textbook problems, and lessons underwritten by companies that use their products. He sees this trend as threatening the basic reason for education: to teach students to think for themselves. Other pieces question standardized testing as the best way to measure a student's intelligence and describe studies that have shown grades to be unreliable indicators of what a student has learned. Kohn aims to inspire readers to question current education practices and believe in the possibility of constructive change. For academic and larger public libraries.-Terry Christner, Hutchinson P.L., KS (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.