Essay, Research Paper: Learn From You


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The purpose of this paper will be to make a thorough review of the book, “I
Won’t Learn from You!”. I will do this by discussing some of the main ideas
and points that are focused on throughout the book. Also compare and contrast
the different stories within the book, to earn a better understanding of the
concept and overall meaning that the author, Herbert Kohl, is trying to get
across to the reader. I believe reviewing the ideas of the book will allow us to
not only comprehend the true meaning more, but also make it more applicable to
our education and careers. The author begins the book with main idea displayed,
the idea of “learning how to not-learn”. This is a very complex thought and
many times is misconceived as being an excuse for the inability to learn.
Although, the process of “learning how to not-learn” is generally a much
more grueling experience. This process of “learning how to not-learn”
consists of an active and willful rejection of someone teaching something new to
you. The first example that the authors uses to implicate this willful process,
is with a fifth grader who explains to his teacher that his grandfather will not
learn how to speak English. Even after being confronted and offered a chance to
learn English, the grandfather still refuses. He refuses due to the fact that if
he gave in like the rest of his family and spoke English instead of Spanish,
then they wouldn’t know who they were. This fear of losing one’s culture
caused the grandfather to learn how to not-learn. To support the idea of this
being misinterpreted, I will use the example of other views of this action. The
author presented this story to colleagues who concluded that the grandfather was
doing this for the fear of learning or the failure there of. The author also
backs this story up with a personal experience, which is on the same track as
the Spanish to English story above. As a child the author was brought up in a
family, which he was traditionalized in a Jewish sense. His parents made him
attend a class where he was suppose to learn Yiddish. As the grandfather had
chosen to “not-learn”, so did Herbert Kohl himself as a child. He refused to
learn Yiddish. When it was spoken he, would change the subject, when talked to
in Yiddish he responded in English, and when tested in Yiddish he cheated. He
willfully refused to learn, because he found it useless and pointless for him to
know such language he would never use. Now, he regretted not learning the
language because it would have made him a better person, but at the time there
was no realization of this. Learning to not-learn can be noble and useful as
well as harmful. The author then takes an education turn and talks about a
student named Barry. Barry was an African-American student who was being held
back because of his supposed inability to read. This supposed inability was just
that, he had chosen to not- learn to read. The teacher Barry previously had from
last year was afraid and labeled Barry as basically being useless. Barry was
know by the other students as being the child that the teachers were afraid of.
Herbert Kohl confronted Barry with a book and asked him to read it, which in
turn, Barry through a temper tantrum and threw the book on the floor. After
assessing the situation, Herbert Kohl went to Barry and quickly read the first
sentence to Barry and asked him to read it back. This allowed Barry to not give
in to the teacher’s demands but just repeat the sentence that was just stated
by the teacher. Barry did so and slowly throughout the next few weeks his
reading gained strength and durability. Another example used in the book is a
student by the name of Akmir. Akmir was an African-American student who
struggled to maintain his culture and his roots despite the racist school
systems he was brought up in. He attacked the curriculum in class and made it a
time to fight back against the white racism taught in the classroom. This way,
of “not learning” allowed Akmir to live the life he wanted and not to
conform to an already racist system. This is just another example of a child
willfully refusing and learning not to learn. Although there were more stories
within the text, I believe that the ones touched upon in this review are the
most influential and significant. I believe that the book, “I Won’t Learn
from You” not only is a must for all teachers and educators, but wake up call
to our society. Anyone going into the educational field is obviously going to
come across kids who are learning to not learn. This is book allows you to
understand the reasons why and the solutions to the problem. It can be used as a
building block for future reference within any classroom. Regardless whether it
is elementary, high school, or even college. The process of learning not to
learn can be picked up early in a classroom and the teacher will be better able
to access the child needs and exploit his refusal. This will not only make a
better teacher and classroom, but a better student. We need to move away from
the racist system and derogatory terms we use in our day to day life. When a
child of a minority race, reads this the systems in ruining this child and
allowing problems to occur. The learning to not learn aspect of this comes into
play. Our society as a whole has made gigantic strides in equality in the past
years, but obviously there is still much work to be done. The only way to negate
our problem is for us to stop “not learning” equality and begin to learn a
fairness between us that will allow us to work together in the future.

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