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Daniel Willingham

I am feeling motivated today to write about Daniel WIllingham. I first saw his name when I read the article by Peter Gray called

Gray felt critical of Willingnam for missing what Gray thinks is the main reason people don't like school, which to Gray is the lack of freedom. Gray says bluntlythat school is prison. Willingham, evidently thinks young people don't like school because the teachers are not using the right cognitive approaches to teaching. To make an admitedly exaggerated comparison, tone might say this is a bit like saying girls don't like being raped because the rapist doesn't use the right techniques. I say this speaking as someone who pretty much hated school with a passion- but who loves libraties, learning and teaching. I need to also add that I love to discover things on my own.

This reminds me of a quote by a scientist who works with youth in Quebec. He said "It is cruel act to rob someone of the joy of discovery."

But back to Daniel Willingham.

I will say at the outset that I don't like Daniel Willingham. Not at least from what I know of him so far. The main reason I don't like him his because of his attack on Alfie Kohn. I don't think I would want to spend much time with Daniel, not after what he did to Alfie. Basically he misrepresented and discredited him.. I now feel a fairly strong desire to discredit Danilel. To me he is anothe rembarrassment to the profession of psychology.

I would very much enjoy asking him some questions and having him give honest answers. Or any answers at all. I suspect, though of course I could be wrong, that if I did ask him some questions, he would refuse to answer them, knowing how I feel about him and about psychologists in general. So I feel a little sad that I feel so passionate that it would frighten him so much that he would refuse to answer my questions. I suspect his is afraid of strong emotion, as I believe many if not most psychologists are. I say I believe because of course I don't know this for a fact.

Before I go on I want to say that I asked my partner how she thinks Daniel was feeling when he decided to write about Alfie as he did. Her answer was "threatened."

Ah, yes. Of course. That makes all the sense in the world to me. I had thought of the feeling of envy, but I didn't think of threatened.

We talked about it some more and it became more clear to me what I wanted to write here now.

I am going to make some assumptoins, or some speculations. I can only do that since I don't know much about Daniel. I am gong to suggest that he might feel threatened by Alfie because of their differences in beliefs.

Let's say, for example, that Daniel is a fundamental Christian. It is possible. There is no law against a fundamental Christian becoming a psychologist. Unfortunately, I am sure some are. Or maybe Daniel is an athiest because his overly religious parents forced him to go to church for years against his will. I really don't know But I would very much like to know. If you know anything about his religious beliefs, please let me know. I am searchng for the truth here. Trying to figure out what motivated him to write that article as he did.

It would make perfect sense to me if he were a Southern Baptist, for example, They, or some of them, believe that children are born with the "devil" inside them and you have to "beat the devil out of them." If you have never heard this then you probably are not from the USA. But yes, I am not making that up. So if Daniel believes in anything like that then he obviously would believe in Heaven and Hell. If he believes in those, then he believes in punishment and reward.

Let me emphasize the wordl "believes." He *believes" in it.

His belief would then affect his interpretation of science and research. He would feel threatened by anything which challenged his beliefs. He would feel insecure. So what does an insecure person do? Ofteh they attack. This gives them some sense of security.

If Daniel can, in his own mind, launch what he believes to be a successful attack against someone who he feels threatened by, it is, in a sense, fighting them off and regaining his sense of security, albeit a false one perhaps.

Of course I don't know if any of this is true. I want to stress that. I may send this to Daniek to ask him to comment. I realy doubt that he will, but I might be surprised. If he does reply he would probably give me some intellectual argument and use some big words and fancy terms that I don't even understand.

He did this in his attack on Alfie Kohn.

I consider myself a fairly literate and educated peson. I have managed to go ok in life so far. Yet I have never heard of .... much the less used it. I have heard of .. but I don't think I have ever felt a need to use it.

Even if Daniel doesn't believe in Heaven and Hell, he could still *believe" in usnishment and rewards. Psychology isn't like other sciences. That is one reason they those in the field try so ahrd to sound scientific, perhaps. In math, a person doesn't really "believe" that 2 plus 2 eqals one number while anothe rperson "believes" that it equals something else. Beliefs don't really play a big role. But I propose that in psychology and the social sciences, somewhat like in art, how you feel and what you believe is definitely goine to affect your work.

I feel a little sad Alfie didn't write more about what might have motivated Daniel to say what he did in the way he did. To me, Wiillingham's article shows us that Willingham has a problem, not Alfie. I feel a little bad saying this, but on the other hand I feel pretty sure that Danilel has enough intellectual defenses to protect himself from feeling much pain over this. He will probably feel superior to me, as he seems to feel superior to Alfie. He will probably pick apart my writing while mssing the main points of it, as he did with Alfie's.

I really feel offended by what Willingham did. I have already written that I feel protective of Alfie, but I also feel protective of the truth. Since I started my website I have been motivated to seek and report the truth and to criticize thouse who I think mislead us rom it.

Now having said all of that, I also believe there is something to be gained from Wilingham's "blog." By the way, in his response, Alfie called Willingham a blogger. I saw a comment that said something like Alfie was disprespecting Daniel by doing so, rather than calling him a cognitive schientist. I feel some agreement with[ this but I also feel understanding of Alfie. Alfie does not feel respect for Willing ham and Willingham did not earn Alfie's espect. Nor did he earn mine. On the other hand Alfie has earned my respect, and a lot of it. This makes me wonder how many people have written in cyberspace "I respect Alfie Kohn" or "I feel respect ..." or I feel a lot of respect..." I am also interested in how many people say this about DW. I am also interested to talk to his students. They would be able to tell me a lot about him. I wonder if they feel cared about by him, for example,

Maybe I am being too harsh on him Probably so. But I feel so offended by what he did and by psychologists in general. I would very much like to help lower the public's esteem and respect for them. I believe we need something better.

We have real problems to solve and they are not contributing as much as they could. People around the world turn to psychologists for anwers, for help, for advice and understanding. I don't know how many people turn to them for caring or comforting, but I suspect if they do, they will walk away feeling unfulfilled.

Yes, I wll admit it. I have a very low opinion of psychologists in general. But I am sure there are some good or even great ones. I had luch with one I felt a lot of respect for in France one day. And I highly respect and admire Bruce Levine. Of course I also like the late Carl Rogers. I also like the work of John Gottman. And I learned much from Alice Miller.

By the way, f you have never heard of it. there was once something called Radical Psychology. This was back in the 1970s. The main premise was that mainstream psychologists just keep people in the system, rather than trying to change the system. I have found this to be true around the world. It is the rare school psychologist who advises a student that he or she would be better off leaving school. But it does happen. I think of the story Ken Robinson tells of the mother who took her daughter to various psychologists till she found one who said, "Your daughter is a dancer. Take her out of regular scuool and send her to dancing school" The mothe rdid and all "behavioral" problems were solved, and the child became a famous dancer later in life.

While I am on the topic of what might be called alternative or non-mainstream or non-conformist psychologists, I want to ask anyone who reads this to write me if you know the name of such a psychologist. I am a reader and contributor to a werbsite called School Survival and there are many teens there who are in need of some non-conforming support and validation. The regular forced system of school is not working for them. They need help from someone who thinks differently. Their voices are drowned out by the conforming crowd who just label, judgee, invalidate and try to control them.

Well I guess I will wrap this up for now. Thanks for reading. I have a feeling I will write more about this later. It is still bothering me.

S. Hein
June 20, 2013
La Paz, Uruguay

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If you can't answer these questions, you aren't qualified to criticize someone like Alfie Kohn.

You could criticize another cognitive scientist and find the errors in his thinking or logic or work and research, but not someone who is in another area of specialty.


Amazingly easy intervention for STEM participation


STEM fields or STEM education is an acronym for the fields of study in the categories of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.[1] The term is typically used in addressing education policy and curriculum choices in schools from kindergarten through college to improve the nation's competitiveness in technology development. It has implications for workforce development, national security concerns and immigration policy

I might say “It’s Westphalian ham on brioche.” If a toddler asked, I ‘d say “It’s a sandwich.”

(The real point of the Shafto et al. paper is to introduce a Bayesian framework for integrating these different three types of learning scenarios into models of learning.)

but this is voluntary...The second implication is this: when a more knowledgeable person not only provides information but tunes the communication to the knowledge of the learner, that is, in an important sense, teaching.

So whatever value you attach to “naturalness,” bear in mind that much of what children learn in their early years of life may not be the product of unaided exploration of their environment, but may instead be the consequence of teaching. Teaching might be considered a quite natural state of affairs.



balancing fiction and nonfiction texts taught during the language arts block, so that by 4th grade, 50% of the texts students are reading are informational/explanatory texts and 50% are fiction—a key requirement of the Common Core State Standards.

from http://www.coreknowledge.org/ccss-ela

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straussv@washpost.com valerie