Herb Kohl - Social Justice
Herb attended the Bronx High School of Science and studied philosophy and mathematics at Harvard from 1954-1958. At Harvard he was president of the Signet Society and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, graduating with an AB degree in 1958. During the 1958-59 academic year he attended University College, Oxford on a Henry Fellowship, and in 1959-60, was rewarded a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, and studied philosophy at Columbia, University.
Deciding against an academic career, he matriculated at Teachers College, Columbia in 1961, and in 1962 received an MA in teaching, while qualifying for a permanent kindergarten through eighth grade teaching certificate in the New York City public schools. In 1962 I became a sixth grade teacher in the New York City public schools, something he had dreamed of doing since childhood.
He has been teaching and writing for over forty-five years. During that time he's taught every grade from kindergarten through graduate school, not in that order.
In 1964 his first book, The Age of Complexity, about analytic and existential philosophy, was published at the same time that I was teaching sixth grade. His first writings on education, Teaching the Unteachable (New York Review of Books, New York, 1967), and The Language and Education of the Deaf (The Urban Review Press, New York, 1967) set the themes for much of my future work. They centered on advocating for the education of poor and disabled students, and critiquing and demystifying the stigmatization of students perfectly capable of learning.
In 1967, 36 Children (New American Library, New York, 1967) was also published and he was drawn into national debates on the education of African American and other minority students, and into conversations on school reform and the nature of teaching and learning. He is still engaged in them now, forty-two years later, having lived through cycles of reform and reaction, none of which succeeded in creating excellent education for the children of the poor. The problems persist, and he still believes that, through hard, imaginative effort, they can be solved.