ARLINGTON, Virginia, January 4, 2013 – Montessori School of Northern Virginia parent Alexa Stott considers author and progressive educator Alfie Kohn the voice of reason when it comes to letting children be children.
On Saturday, January 5 her children’s school and Montessori School of McLean are celebrating their 50th and 40th anniversaries, respectively, with a talk by progressive educator Kohn, who will speak on the topic: Pushed Too Hard: Parenting and Teaching in an Achievement-Crazy Culture.
Kohn says he will raise the possibility that there is a disconnect between what we say we want our children to become on one hand and what we’re doing to them on any given day. The problem of doing things to children rather than working with them underlies Kohn’s 2005 book, Unconditional Parenting, which challenges the practice of praising children with comments like good job or I’m proud of yourather than letting children determine for themselves what brings them joy and satisfaction.
Stott appreciates that Kohn advocates that children should be trusted to do their best through learning from their mistakes, being trusted to try again and become stronger students and people through internal motivation, rather than external rewards imposed by others.
While attitudes about parenting might not have shifted dramatically in recent years, Kohn feels the educational landscape has gotten much worse. We need to evaluate educational practices based on whether they’re helping get kids more excited or are killing that interest,he says. His work is critical of the emphasis in many schools on rewards, and punitive discipline.
Kohn maintains that pushing children toward achievement has destructive impacts that are both psychological and intellectual. He is concerned not only that we are squeezing the joy out of children in a desperate effort to make them outperform their peers but also undermining their intellectual curiosity.
Kohn wants educators and parents to respond to the needs and interests of children as real people with legitimate preferences and ways of viewing the world. A touchstone for him the practice of playing with ideas. It’s desirable, he says, for teachers to play an active role helping kids explore ideas they may not have come up with on their own Although Kohn identifies with a progressive education tradition rather than any brand-name approach, Stott wanted to invite Kohn to speak because Kohn believes that education is a process of learning by doing.
He advises teachers and parents to let the journey unfold for their child at the pace of the child, much like Maria Montessori believed.
Kohn’s talk will begin by having parents consider what their long-term goals are for their children and will help them analyze how that may or may not be consistent with their family’s present-day reality and with what children are experiencing in school
Online ticket sales for the fundraiser are closed; all remaining tickets for Saturday event, at 125 South Glebe Road in Arlington’s Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre, will be available at the door for $10.
Alfie Kohn’s website is http://www.alfiekohn.org, and he can be found on Twitter at @alfiekohn
Jessica Claire Haney is a freelance writer, editor and tutor. Her writing has appeared in parenting publications and poetry journals. A former high school English teacher, Jessica is mother to a six-year-old son and a toddler girl. She is passionate about holistic health and well-being and is a leader of a chapter of Holistic Moms Network./
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