The Back-to-School-Night Speech We'd Like to Hear*

Sit in a school auditorium listening to a list of rules and procedures, on the one hand, and numbing banalities about how "all children can learn," on the other hand -- and dream of a presentation that gets to the heart of what schooling could be like if kids (and learning) really mattered most...

Cheerful to a Fault

Is happiness really what we want most for our kids? Should we question "higher expectations" as a slogan for school reform? Is it time to rethink responses like "Good job!" and "Ooh, you're so close!"?

What's the Real Purpose of Classroom Management?

Is it possible that "managing" the classroom -- that is, controlling the students -- isn't always done in order to facilitate teaching but instead has become (for some educators) the ultimate goal, with the academic content chosen to achieve that goal?

A Different View

The opposite of self-centeredness goes way beyond the Golden Rule. It's the capacity to imagine someone else's point of view. Fortunately, there are practical strategies for helping children to acquire that skill.

Learning As A Sandwich

Having students think about what they're going to learn (ahead of time), and then talk about what they did learn (afterwards), really helps. And one classic version of this technique offers a radical challenge to traditional education...

The Wrong Way to Get People to Do the Right Thing

It may seem a matter of hard-headed realism to emphasize "enlightened self-interest" (rather than altruism) in our efforts to promote individual acts of caring or to justify spending public funds to address infant mortality or spousal abuse. But this approach, just like rewarding children when they do nice things, is counterproductive over the long haul.

The Grass Moment

If we want to raise kids who aren't self-centered, we should stop emphasizing compliance and instead foster a willingness to question authority

Evidence? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Evidence!

It's possible to prove that rewards and punishments aren't effective in the long run. But what if defenses of these practices are rooted more in ideology than psychology?

Four Reasons to Worry About "Personalized Learning"

When kids create their own meaningful projects, the learning is personal. When kids are fed prefabricated skills and constantly tested (via computer), the learning is "personalized." The latter is profitable for corporations, but not so great for our children.

Progressive Labels for Regressive Practices

Traditionalists have appropriated various terms that once were associated with student-centered, constructivist learning, effectively draining these words of meaning

Why the Best Teachers Don't Give Tests

Opposition to standardized tests is growing, which makes sense. But some education practices get a free pass even though they have a lot in common with standardized tests. One example: the tests that teachers make up themselves.

"Helicopter Parenting" Hysteria

Widespread denunciations of helicopter parenting - based mostly on anecdotes - tell us more about the prejudices of the people doing the denouncing than about what's really going on . . . or about what young adults really need

Perfect, It Turns Out, Is What Practice Doesn't Make

Why are we so eager to believe that putting in hours of practice is the key factor in producing excellence? And what should we make of new research that debunks that claim?

Just Another Brick in the Wall

A study says kindergarteners perform better on an academic task if their classroom has bare walls. But what's the task - and is it worth doing?

But What KIND of Universal Pre-K?

Corporate-styled school reformers, who favor prescriptive standards and high-stakes testing, will interpret "high-quality" pre-K as a dreary regimen of direct instruction of facts and skills, particularly for poor children.

A Dozen Essential Guidelines for Educators

12 core principles for educators (and parents) to consider

Recycled Assumptions

Like politicians and corporate officials, journalists who write about education often fail to question basic assumptions that keep schools depressingly traditional. The cover review of a recent issue of the New York Times Book Review is a case in point.

Debunking the Persistent Myth of Lagging U.S. Schools

"We're Number Umpteenth!" — or so the story goes. But the common claim that U.S. schools are in a death spiral compared to those in other countries is based on misinformation, an unfounded faith in standardized testing, and a tendency to treat education as if it were a competitive sport.

Parental Involvement In Education

Teachers want parents to be more involved in their kids' education (but not too involved). But not all types of involvement — or goals for that involvement — are equally desirable.

Homework: An Unnecessary Evil?

A new study offers further reason to doubt that kids benefit from being made to work a "second shift" of academics when they get home from school. No research has ever found any link between homework and achievement in elementary school. Now it appears that homework may not offer a boost even in high school - and certainly not enough to compensate for its disadvantages.

What Do Kids Really Learn from Failure?

There’s reason to doubt the popular claim that kids have too little experience with failure. Or that more such experience would be good for them.

What Makes a Terrific Parent

If you decided to have a child, presumably it was because you wanted to be a parent and anticipated that the experience would be fulfilling. You did it for you.

Criticizing (Common Criticisms of) Praise

Over the last few years I've had the odd experience of seeing my work cited with approval by people whose views on the issue in question are diametrically opposed to my own. The issue I have in mind is praise. I'm troubled by it, as are the people who quote me, but for very different reasons.

The Risks & Potential of Required Community Service

While a service requirement hardly guarantees any benefits—which are contingent, among other things, on the extent to which your staff and the students themselves take the activities seriously—neither does it preclude such benefits. Much depends on how (and by whom) the activities are designed.

Five Not-So-Obvious Propositions About Play

Children should have plenty of opportunities to play. Even young children have too few such opportunities these days, particularly in school settings.

Why Are Some People Always Late? (And Other Human Puzzles)

I often find myself unable to let go of questions that don't seem to give most people any pause at all. For example, why do we cry at weddings?