Letter: My Friend Alfie

Letter to the Editor

After walking in the bluffs last week, I saw a poster on the office window announcing that Alfie Kohn will be speaking in Malibu on Aug. 28 at the Malibu Library. This is wonderful.

Alfie Kohn is amazing. He has had a profound, very positive influence on education. I think I have read all of his books and most of his articles. I have heard him speak several times—he is a wonderful and clear speaker.

I am very excited that he will be speaking in Malibu. 

Here are a few quotes from his writing: 

“When we set children against one another in contests—from spelling bees to awards assemblies to science “fairs” (that are really contests), from dodge ball to honor rolls to prizes for the best painting or the most books read—we teach them to confuse excellence with winning, as if the only way to do something well is to outdo others.” 

“The more we want our children to be (1) lifelong learners, genuinely excited about words and numbers and ideas, (2) avoid sticking with what’s easy and safe, and (3) become sophisticated thinkers, the more we should do everything possible to help them forget about grades.” 

“As S. Neill put it, promising a reward for an activity is ‘tantamount to declaring that the activity is not worth doing for its own sake.’ Thus, a parent who says to a child, ‘If you finish your math homework, you may watch an hour of TV’ is teaching the child to think of math as something that isn’t much fun.” 

Kohn’s talk is at Malibu City Hall, 7 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 28. If you want to attend you need to RSVP online at colapl.wufoo.com/forms/k2dshgo1kgkh3t/ or call Malibu Library at 310.456.6438. More at: lacountylibrary.org/events/malibu-library-speaker-series-alfie-kohn.

Stephen Krashen