so there is less chance of students
Setting the Example
being silenced by the teacher’s . . .
comments on the issue” (Shor, 1992,
n Highlight examples of dissent in
teaching various topics, so students
learn about people who have over-
turned established ways of painting
or governing or thinking about the
natural world. Emphasize issues on
which experts still disagree or are
n Help students realize that, even
with respect to basic facts and skills,
many things we accept as givens could
be otherwise. It’s helpful to know how
many ounces are in a pound, but it’s
much more important to understand
the lack of any transcendent rationale
for dividing up a pound that way, or
for using pounds as a unit of weight in
the first place. We might also remind
students of how arbitrary the “correct”
spellings of words really are.
Questions can reflect not only a curiosity about the world, but also a desire
to make the world better. To that
extent, it’s vital to reflect on—and
share with students—what we (as
adults) ask and why. There is evidence
that an adult’s expression of curiosity
can be contagious (Engel, 2011; Johns
& Endsley, 1977). The same may be
true for modeling skepticism: We can
set an example by being willing to ask
whether a rule makes sense or whether
an institution is legitimate, rather than
just accepting unjust policies as “a part
of life.” If it’s possible that our students are damaged by dubious education mandates, then the ultimate
challenge for us as educators is this:
How willing are we to go beyond the
details of implementation and ask
whether the whole arrangement makes
sense, and, if not, what we can do
about it? EL
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Copyright © 2015 Alfie Kohn
Alfie Kohn ( www.alfiekohn.org), who
speaks frequently at education conferences, is the author of 14 books,
including, most recently, Schooling
Beyond Measure and Other Unorthodox
Essays about Education (Heinemann,
2015) and The Myth of the Spoiled Child
(Da Capo, 2014). Follow him on Twitter