Willingham was too kind to Kohn.
Kohn responded and denied the allegations, casting most of the disagreements as merely a difference of opinion. Hopefully, Willingham will respond to Kohn's response and give him the smack-down he so rightly deserves because I, like Willingham, believe that Kohn is butchering the fair-reading of the research to lend credence to his crack-pot opinions and agenda.
Kohn is not the dispassionate advocate he pretends to be. He is a intellectually dishonest muck-raker with an agenda. A dangerous agenda for at-risk children.
You see, what Kohn does is prey on the sorry state of the quality of instruction and education research as a springboard for his opinions. For example, we know that praising students to increase motivation is difficult to do properly. It is difficult to get it right and easy to get it wrong and it is even more difficult to show positive academic results because those results are also dependent upon the quality of the delivered instruction which is often ineffective with at-risk kids, i.e., the ones who need the motivational praise. You see the problem --because Kohn doesn't. To Kohn, all praise or positive reinforcement is detrimental, unless you want to count Kohn's carefully worded weasel language he includes at the end of a long diatribe for plausibly deniability. Here's the weasel language that comes at the end of a long article informing the reader of how bad positive reinforcement is:
It’s not a matter of memorizing a new script, but of keeping in mind our long-term goals for our children and watching for the effects of what we say. The bad news is that the use of positive reinforcement really isn’t so positive. The good news is that you don’t have to evaluate in order to encourage.
Kohn ignores the large body of research in which the proper use of positive reinforcement was found to be effective in getting disruptive students to stop being disruptive so they can learn. What I haven't seen is a teacher of a classroom of disruptive kids following Kohn's advice and being able to get the classroom under control and then teach them effectively.
And, ultimately that's Kohn's main problem. He has lots of opinions on education, but no evidence of his opinions being put into practice and being effective. In fact, I'll go so far as saying that to the extent that his condoned practices have been actually been used, they've been failures. Miserable failures.
Look how poorly the Open education model and the other child-centered models fared in Follow-Through. That's some very inconvenient evidence for Kohn which he realizes and attacks. And, it's that hatchet job which I'll deconstruct in my next post.