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M.A., University of Chicago; B.A., Brown University

American author, researcher, and lecturer in the areas of education, parenting, and human behavior

Author of Schooling Beyond Measure . . . And Other Unorthodox Essays About Education (2015); No Contest: The Case Against Competition (1986); Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes (1993); The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and “Tougher Standards” (1999); The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools (2000); What Does it Mean to be Well-Educated: And More Essays on Standards, Grading, and Other Follies (2004); Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason (2005)

Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The author of numerous books and articles, he lectures at education conferences and universities as well as to parent groups and corporations. Kohn’s criticisms of competition and rewards have been widely discussed and debated, and he has been described in Time magazine as “perhaps the country’s most outspoken critic of education’s fixation on grades [and] test scores.”

Kohn's ideas on education have been influenced by the works of John Dewey and Jean Piaget. He believes in a constructivist account of learning in which the learner is seen as actively making meaning, rather than absorbing information. Kohn feels that students should have an active voice in the classroom—governed by curiosity and cooperation—with the ability to have a meaningful impact on the curriculum, structure of the room, and any necessary discipline measures. Kohn has been critical of the place homework holds in the American classroom, noting that research does not support claims of any benefit from homework. And, he feels, if standards are necessary at all, they should be kept very general.

In addition to speaking at staff development seminars and keynoting national education conferences, he conducts workshops for teachers and administrators on various topics. Among them: “Motivation from the Inside Out: Rethinking Rewards, Assessment, and Learning” and “Beyond Bribes and Threats: Realistic Alternatives to Controlling Students’ Behavior.” The latter corresponds to his book Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community, which he describes as “a modest attempt to overthrow the entire field of classroom management.”

Among Kohn’s honors, he received the Canadian Teachers’ Federation Public Education Advocacy Award in 2007, the National Parenting Publications Awards Gold Award for Unconditional Parenting in 2006, and the National-Louis University Ferguson Award for Distinguished Contribution to Early Childhood Education in 2002.

Kohn’s books have been translated into numerous languages. He also has contributed to publications ranging from the Journal of Education to Ladies Home Journal, and from the Nation to the Harvard Business Review, all of which contain debate of his theories. Kohn has been featured on hundreds of TV and radio programs, including the Today show and two appearances on Oprah.

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