Monday, March 8, 2010

Teaching Books: Stupidity and Tears by Herbert Kohl

[I'm not going to try to review the books I'm reading as part of my transition to becoming an educator. However, I do want to at least do summaries, both for myself and if anyone's interested. Consider these mini-reviews, if you will.]

A series of five mostly theoretical essays about the difficulties Kohl sees for teachers who want to break outside the mold of standard education, particularly in the school districts with severe problems in the achievement gap.

Mr. Kohl makes no secret of his political leanings, which is very refreshing, as most non-fiction writers tend to bury that part of themselves. He is a educational thinker on the far left, and his ideas about what should go on in the classroom reflect this.

The book brings up a lot of questions, but is very short on answers. He talks about teachers wanting to quit rather than work under new guidelines and laments the loss of talented, caring people. However, there are no suggestions for how to solve this problem.

Another section offers questions to consider when teaching students today, but again, does not offer guidance on how to approach these questions.

Essay Four, about how talking in the classroom is more than just words, comes closest to offering advice. Kohl cautions that what might be appropriate in a college setting will not work in a classroom. He urges teachers to set a level of trust and understanding, so that learning can begin to happen. Kohl also notes that students are listening far more often than one might think.

Overall, this is a book designed to bring up issues in the classroom and get people thinking about how they might address them. It is a call to action, but what actions to take are only vaguely hinted at.

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