Borderland Journey

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 20 2011

“I Won’t Learn From You”

I won’t Learn From You and Other Thoughts on Creative Maladjustment by Herbert Kohl was recommended to me by TFA. Like the other books they recommended, I requested it from the Library. I got it in today and began reading it as part of the strategy to study for the certification exam. I thought it would be a way to realax after a stressful day (but that’s another post).

 It rocked my world.

 I have been reading it since about 9pm and it is going on 11:20pm. Given I was watching Eureka on Netflicks at the same time, but I digress.

 Kohl starts off by defining some terms: not-earning, hopemongering, and creative maladjustment. And from the get-go you know you will be in for a ride, as long as your mind is open to the possibility.

 “Not-learning is the conscious decision not to learn something you could learn. It consists, for example, of refusing to learn how to cheat on your taxes, cook crack cocaine, or yield to community pressure to become racist or sexist-choosing not to learn something that you find morally offensive or personally noxious.” (Kohl, XIII)

 “Hopemongering is the affirmation of hope and the dream of a just and equitable future despite all the contrary evidence provided by experience.” (ibid)

 “Creative Maladjustment is the art of not becoming what other people want you to be and learning, in difficult times, to affirm yourself while at the same time remaining caring and compassionate.” (ibid)

 Kohl warns teachers to not confuse not-learning with a failure to learn. And I already know that I will encounter not-learners who have been labeled failures. Kohl goes on to point out that not-learning is a strategy to provide a safety to yourself when confronted by the dominant class/ethnic/race structures of your community/culture that you might not fit into. Such as Latinos who are forced to learn that the “first” settlers to TX came from New England. As one child pointed out in that class, “What are we animals?” (Kohl, 26) The original teacher then walked out and left Kohl there to speak to the students, by owning up that the book was racist, Kohl was able to engage these students who were labeled “problem children” or “apathetic” in a discussion that was relevant to their lives.

 I am on the path to not-learning/unlearning some of things that I was thought. Like “man” is not a correct substitute for all humans. And that “white” is not normal.  And that a student who “can’t” read might be choosing not to read if all they are presented with is things that support a racist ideology.

 While I haven’t finished reading this book, I hope to at least implement these first strategies into my teach. I hope that I can convince students that not-learn is an effective strategy, but that I will not push an ideology that I do not agree with.  That I am different than the other “gringa” teachers that they have had that do not care. I will try to reach them. I will try to teach to them on their level. I will try to show them that the would world is not agains them, that there are people who care and who try to fight back, right their besides them.

 Through that I hope to inspire them. I hope to show them that learning can be fun and helpful and most importantly


 to their lives.

 What will your journey be?

2 Responses

  1. elsa

    this book sounds great!!! what other books did TFA recommend to you?! I want to read them :)

    • chenryrgv2011

      “Setting Limits in the Classroom” by Robert Mackenzie
      “7 Habits of Highly Effectve People” Steven Covey
      “I Read It, But I Don’t Get it” Cris Tovani
      “The First Days of School” Harry Wong
      And on TFANet, the 2010 Cirriculum

      A my school, for elementary education magers, “So Now What?” is reccomened by the students, but I can’t seem to find that one online.

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Beacuse Education is a Journey in the Borderland

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