Stupidity and Tears: Teaching and Learning in Troubled Times

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In Stupidity and Tears, renowned educator and National Book Award winner Herbert Kohl offers us a thoughtful and ultimately optimistic meditation on the forces that conspire to keep teachers and students “stupid”—i.e., frustrated and unable to excel in an education system that is clearly failing them.

Among the topics explored by Kohl are the pressures of standards based assessments and harrowing sink-or-swim policies, the pain teachers feel when asked to teach against their ...

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Overview

In Stupidity and Tears, renowned educator and National Book Award winner Herbert Kohl offers us a thoughtful and ultimately optimistic meditation on the forces that conspire to keep teachers and students “stupid”—i.e., frustrated and unable to excel in an education system that is clearly failing them.

Among the topics explored by Kohl are the pressures of standards based assessments and harrowing sink-or-swim policies, the pain teachers feel when asked to teach against their pedagogical conscience, the development of a capacity to sense how students perceive the world, and the importance of hope and creativity in strengthening the social imagination of students and teachers.

A rousing call for common sense in the face of dwindling budgets, crippling state mandates, and injudicious politics, Stupidity and Tears is “vintage Kohl—incisive, funny, reflective, profound . . . a provocation to educators to better teach all our children” (Norman Fruchter, NYU Institute of Education and Social Policy).

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[A] passionate declaration of war against a punitive, self-defeating system." &#8212O, The Oprah Magazine

"A call to arms." &#8212The New York Times

Publishers Weekly
National Book Award-winning educator Kohl (36 Children and some 40 other books) offers six essays on "sustaining the joy of teaching while under pressure." How can teachers maintain integrity and creativity when school systems mandate uniform teaching protocols and test-oriented curricula? How do teachers guide the moral development of children after 9/11? How can teachers reconnect alienated students? With 40 years of experience working with the nation's "least-served children," Kohl isn't afraid to speak plainly about the "willful stupidity" of our education system and currently proposed reforms. He says mandating a uniform curriculum won't improve education, since "a terrible teacher will be terrible" with any curriculum and such micromanaging just pushes creative teachers into private schools. Literacy "will not come through testing and an obsession with standards, but through patient, intelligent, and sensitive speaking, reading, and listening." Thus teachers need to be aware of how they are being heard, in much the same way that politicians, lovers and actors are always monitoring how their message is being received. Instead of a simplistic, monocultural model of moral development, Kohl stresses the need to examine a wider range of transformational experiences (social violence, deprivation, altruism, etc.) to understand their impact on children of diverse backgrounds. Brief in words but long on courage, Kohl's latest will be required reading for progressive-minded teaching professionals and recommended to everyone else concerned about the hearts and minds of our next generation of citizens. (Jan. 29) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Celebrating 40 years of teaching and writing, Kohl (Should We Burn Babar?; Growing Minds) hones in on the heart with this small collection of courageous essays. In the title essay, he criticizes current reform trends that require teachers to mold their curriculum to standardized tests. Defining stupidity as the state of being insensible, numbed, or astonished, he proposes that any system demanding conformity to outside forces at the expense of what a teacher believes is best for his students can be reasonably described as stupifying. An intelligent and enthusiastic teacher who must conform to teaching ineffectively is thus forced to become stupid in order to stay employed within that system. Consequently, good teachers in dysfunctional systems can be driven to tears of frustration right along with their students. Always an advocate for student learning and mindful teaching, Kohl encourages teachers to engage in the struggle to improve the system from within, providing examples and a philosophical blueprint for action. Highly recommended.-Jean Caspers, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, OR Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565849822
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 8/28/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Herbert Kohl is a celebrated writer, teacher, and advocate. He is the author of more than forty books, including “I Won’t Learn from You”: And Other Thoughts on Creative Maladjustment, Should We Burn Babar?: Essays on Children’s Literature and the Power of Stories, The Discipline of Hope: Learning from a Lifetime of Teaching, Stupidity and Tears: Teaching and Learning in Troubled Times, She Would Not Be Moved: How We Tell the Story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and The Herb Kohl Reader: Awakening the Heart of Teaching (all published by The New Press), as well as the bestselling classic 36 Children. He is a co-author, with Judith Kohl, of The View from the Oak: The Private Worlds of Other Creatures and a co-editor, with Tom Oppenheim, of The Muses Go to School: Inspiring Stories About the Importance of Arts in Education, both published by The New Press. A recipient of a National Book Award and a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, he was the founder and first director of the Teachers and Writers Collaborative in New York City, has served as a senior fellow at the Open Society Institute, and established the PEN West Center. In 2010, Kohl was named a Guggenheim Fellow in education. He lives in Point Arena, California.
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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Pt. I The Tears 1
1 Stupidity and Tears 3
2 Worrying: Notes Toward a Moral Education Curriculum Post-9/11 39
Pt. II The Joy 69
3 Write It in the Sky: Imagining the World Otherwise 71
4 Topsy-Turvies: Teacher Talk and Student Talk 101
Pt. III Educational Reflections on Becoming Sixty-five 119
5 Burning Out and Flaring Up 121
App Developing Teachers for Social Justice 139
Notes 159
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