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Chapter 1

EDUC 50 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Suggestibility, Protestant Work Ethic, Alfie Kohn

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How Not to Teach Values
A Critical Look at Character Education
By Alfie Kohn
John Halt in ‘How Children Fail’
“Teachers and schools tend to mistake good behavior for good character. What
they prize is docility, suggestibility; the child who will do what he is told; or even
better, the child who will do what is wanted without even having to be told. They
value most in children what children least value in themselves. Small wonder that
their effort to build character is such a failure; they don’t know it when they see
Character Education
Broad Sense: anything a school attempts to teach student outside of academics-
manners, morals
Narrow Sense: a particular style of moral training
the more we reward people for doing something, the more likely they are to lose interest
in whatever they had to do to get the reward. Extrinsic motivation, in other words, is not
only quite different from intrinsic motivation but actually tends to erode it.
Decreases intrinsic motivation- quicker instant gratification from extrinsic
When some children are singled out as winners, the central message that every child
learns is this: Other people are potential obstacles to my success.
An individual’s character is a product of their social environment (or a rebuttle in some
Whether or not we deliberately adopt a character or moral education program, we are
always teaching values. Even people who insist that they are opposed to values in school
usually mean that they are opposed to values other than their own
Protestant work ethic reinforced: to work hard and complete tasks promptly, follow
Who benefits when people are trained not to question the value of what they have
been told to do but simply to toil away at it
Rewarding students when they are caught being ‘good’ may mean nothing more than
praising them to follow adult’s demands
“Do you suppose that if Germany had had character education at the time, it
would have encouraged children to fight Nazism or to support it?”
Give students the chance to participate in making decisions about their learning and about
how they want their classroom to be
Schools are already powerful
Which values a character education program is attempting to foster-controversy about a list of
core values
Rather than employ literature to indoctrinate or induce mere conformity, we can use it to spur
reflection. Whether the students are 6-year-olds or 16-year-olds, the discussion of stories should
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