Monday, November 2, 2009

Feel-Bad Education

Larryferlazzo shared the following article with me, via Twitter. I want to mention this essay because it is well written and it affirms many things that I believe to be true concerning education. Written by Alfie Kohn in 2005, it is entitled, “Feel-Bad Education.”

The main idea of the article is that the modern classroom is not a fun place, intentionally.

Several passages in the article resonated with me, in part, because I have been recently contemplating the ideas of fun and games in the classroom. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an entry on this blog questioning my usage of games.

Kohn states:

That so few children seem to take pleasure from what they’re doing on a given weekday morning, that the default emotional state in classrooms seems to alternate between anxiety and boredom, doesn’t even alarm us. Worse: Happiness in schools is something for which educators may feel obliged to apologize when it does make an appearance. After all, they wouldn’t want to be accused of offering a "feel-good" education.

As I wrote previously, I always feel a tinge of guilt whenever I notice my students having fun or laughing. What if my principal walks in and thinks that the kids are just goofing off?

Alfie’s article suggests a religious underpinning, which is something I also alluded to.

There’s work to be done! Life (or learning, or whatever) isn’t supposed to be fun and games! Self-denial—whose adherents generally presume to deny others as well—is closely connected to fear of pleasure and redemption through suffering, and the whole package has a pedigree that is not only philosophical but theological. Who says religion has been banished from the public schools?

Near the conclusion of his essay, in reference to the state prescriptions of sterile dogma, Alfie makes a statement that mirrors my personal sentiment.

The irony is, appropriately enough, painful: Academic excellence, the usual rationale for such decisions, is actually far more likely to flourish when students enjoy what they’re doing.

I could have quoted more from Alfie’s eloquent essay, but brevity restrains me. I recommend everyone to read the original.

Photo by seanjonesfoto.


Post a Comment