Best Selling Books by Alfie Kohn

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release date: Mar 28, 2006
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Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason
Most parenting guides begin with the question “How can we get kids to do what they're told?” and then proceed to offer various techniques for controlling them. In this truly groundbreaking book, nationally respected educator Alfie Kohn begins instead by asking, “What do kids need—and how can we meet those needs?” What follows from that question are ideas for working with children rather than doing things to them.

One basic need all children have, Kohn argues, is to be loved unconditionally, to know that they will be accepted even if they screw up or fall short. Yet conventional approaches to parenting such as punishments (including “time-outs”), rewards (including positive reinforcement), and other forms of control teach children that they are loved only when they please us or impress us. Kohn cites a body of powerful, and largely unknown, research detailing the damage caused by leading children to believe they must earn our approval. That's precisely the message children derive from common discipline techniques, even though it's not the message most parents intend to send.

More than just another book about discipline, though, Unconditional Parenting addresses the ways parents think about, feel about, and act with their children. It invites them to question their most basic assumptions about raising kids while offering a wealth of practical strategies for shifting from “doing to” to “working with” parenting—including how to replace praise with the unconditional support that children need to grow into healthy, caring, responsible people. This is an eye-opening, paradigm-shattering book that will reconnect readers to their own best instincts and inspire them to become better parents.
release date: Sep 30, 1999
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Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes
The basic strategy we use for raising children, teaching students, and managing workers can be summarized in six words: Do this and you'll get that. We dangle goodies (from candy bars to sales commissions) in front of people in much the same way we train the family pet. Drawing on a wealth of psychological research, Alfie Kohn points the way to a more successful strategy based on working with people instead of doing things to them. "Do rewards motivate people?" asks Kohn. "Yes. They motivate people to get rewards." Seasoned with humor and familiar examples, Punished By Rewards presents an argument unsettling to hear but impossible to dismiss.
release date: Aug 14, 2007
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The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing
So why do we continue to administer this modern cod liver oil-or even demand a larger dose? Kohn's incisive analysis reveals how a set of misconceptions about learning and a misguided focus on competitiveness has left our kids with less free time, and our families with more conflict. Pointing to stories of parents who have fought back-and schools that have proved educational excellence is possible without homework-Kohn demonstrates how we can rethink what happens during and after school in order to rescue our families and our children's love of learning.
release date: Aug 30, 2006
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Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community
In this 10th anniversary edition of an ASCD best seller, author Alfie Kohn reflects on his revolutionary ideas in the context of today's emphasis on school accountability and high-stakes testing. Find out how his innovative approach- where teachers learn to work with students, rather than do things to them-has withstood the test of time and helped educators create positive learning environments that prevent discipline problems from occurring. Using examples of real teachers dealing with common behavior problems, Kohn explains Why classroom management approaches that rely on rewards and punishments actually prolong behavior problems. How to turn misbehavior into teaching opportunities. Why changing your curriculum can solve discipline problems.
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release date: Sep 05, 2000
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The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and "Tougher Standards"
In this “lively, provocative and well-researched book” (Theodore Sizer), AlTe Kohn builds a powerful argument against the “back to basics” philosophy of teaching and simplistic demands to “raise the bar.” Drawing on stories from real classrooms and extensive research, Kohn shows parents, educators, and others interested in the debate how schools can help students explore ideas rather than filling them with forgettable facts and preparing them for standardized tests.
Here at last is a book that challenges the two dominant forces in American education: an aggressive nostalgia for traditional teaching (“If it was bad enough for me, it’s bad enough for my kids”) and a heavy-handed push for Tougher Standards.
release date: May 02, 2003
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Learning to Trust: Transforming Difficult Elementary Classrooms Through Developmental Discipline
Faced with increasing numbers of children who are difficult to manage and the pervasive presence of high stakes testing, many teachers feel frustrated and compelled to reduce their attention to building relationships with and among their students and their focus on social and ethical development. In Learning to Trust, an educational psychologist and a classroom teacher collaborate to demonstrate through an in-depth case study of an inner-city classroom the power and importance of caring, trusting relationships for fostering children's academic growth as well as their social and ethical development.
Marilyn Watson explains and describes the ups and downs of Laura Ecken's classroom through the lens of attachment theory, while Laura describes in vivid detail the ongoing life of her classroom, revealing throughout her challenges, thoughts, fears, failures and successes. Together they explore a fundamentally new approach to classroom management and present many practical strategies for helping all children develop the social and emotional skills needed to live harmonious and productive lives, the self confidence and curiosity to invest wholeheartedly in learning, and the empathy and moral understanding to be caring and responsible young people.
release date: Sep 08, 2000
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The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools
Our students are tested to an extent that is unprecedented in American history and unparalleled anywhere in the world. Politicians and businesspeople, determined to get tough with students and teachers, have increased the pressure to raise standardized test scores. Unfortunately, the effort to do so typically comes at the expense of more meaningful forms of learning.

That disturbing conclusion emerges from Alfie Kohn's devastating new indictment of standardized testing. Drawing from the latest research, he concisely explains just how little test results really tell us and just how harmful a test-driven curriculum can be. Written in a highly readable question-and-answer format, The Case Against Standardized Testing will help readers respond to common questions and challenges-showing, for example, that:

  • high scores often signify relatively superficial thinking
  • many of the leading tests were never intended to measure teaching or learning
  • a school that improves its test results may well have lowered its standards to do so
  • far from helping to "close the gap," the use of standardized testing is most damaging for low-income and minority students
  • as much as 90 percent of the variations in test scores among schools or states have nothing to do with the quality of instruction
  • far more meaningful measures of student learning-or school quality-are available.
Kohn's central message is that standardized tests are "not like the weather, something to which we must resign ourselves. . . . They are not a force of nature but a force of politics-and political decisions can be questioned, challenged, and ultimately reversed." The final section demonstrates how teachers, parents, and students can turn their frustration into action and successfully turn back the testing juggernaut in order to create classrooms that focus on learning.

Also available on Audiotape: The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools, read by Alfie Kohn.

release date: Mar 08, 2016
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The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Coddled Kids, Helicopter Parents, and Other Phony Crises
A prominent and esteemed critic challenges widely held beliefs about children and parenting, revealing that underlying each myth is a deeply conservative ideology that is, ironically, often adopted by liberal parents.

Somehow a set of deeply conservative assumptions about children—what they’re like and how they should be raised—has congealed into the conventional wisdom in our society. Parents are accused of being both permissive and overprotective, unwilling to set limits and afraid to let their kids fail. Alfie Kohn systematically debunks these beliefs, not only challenging erroneous factual claims but also exposing the troubling ideology that underlies them. Complaints about pushover parents and coddled kids are hardly new, he shows, and there is no evidence that either phenomenon is especially widespread today—let alone more common than in previous generations. Moreover, new research reveals that helicopter parenting is quite rare and, surprisingly, may do more good than harm when it does occur. The major threat to healthy child development, Kohn argues, is parenting that is too controlling rather than too indulgent.

With the same lively, contrarian style that marked his influential books about rewards, competition, and education, Kohn relies on a vast collection of social science data, as well as on logic and humor, to challenge assertions that appear with numbing regularity in the popular press and are often accepted uncritically, even by people who are politically liberal. These include claims that young people

   • suffer from inflated self-esteem
   • are entitled and narcissistic
   • receive trophies, praise, and A’s too easily
   • are in need of more self-discipline and “grit”

Kohn’s invitation to reexamine these and other assumptions is particularly timely; his book has the potential to change our culture’s conversation about kids and the people who raise them.
release date: Nov 12, 1992
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No Contest: The Case Against Competition
No Contest stands as the definitive critique of competition. Contrary to accepted wisdom, competition is not basic to human nature; it poisons our relationships and holds us back from doing our best. In this new edition, Alfie Kohn argues that the race to win turns all of us into losers.
release date: May 15, 2004
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What Does it Mean to Be Well Educated? And Other Essays on Standards, Grading, and Other Follies
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.
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