John Holt's book, How Children Fail
, was an important influence in my thinking about the proper role of eduction. Below is 1980 interview he did for Mother Earth News. http://www.bloomington.in.us/~learn/Holt.htm
Teach Your Own Children . . . At Home
This article was originally printed in the July/August 1980 edition of THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS, pp. 11-16, as their "Plowboy Interview." This reprint is edited only slightly, by adding some comments about changes in the homeschooling situation in the past 20 years. [Comments by the editor in 2000 AD will be in square brackets like these. The ellipses--the three periods like this: ". . ." are in the original manuscript, and do NOT represent something that was omitted by the present editor. Italics, spelling, and capitalization are also completely as in the original. (Unless I made some typographical errors that I didn't catch!)] If you are interested in reading more by or about John Holt, see the book list of what is available at the Monroe County (Indiana) Public Library, or go to the Growing Without Schooling website.
A little over ten years ago, the movement which aimed to make America's schools relevant, enjoyable, and truly useful for their students was at its peak. John Holt was one of the leaders of that drive to make educational institutions more child--rather than teacher--centered. In fact, his books How Children Fail and How Children Learn practically sparked off the education reform movement all by themselves!
But that was ten years ago. Today, the attempt to establish "alternative", "open", or "free" schooling is all but dead. And, to tell the truth, most people have pretty much forgotten about that movement's emissary, John Holt.
MOTHER, however, is still very much aware of Mr. Holt . . . for two reasons. For one thing, the irrepressible New Englander won't let us forget him! John's a dedicated reader of this magazine, and he frequently writes us with suggestions, praise, and criticism.
More important, though, the one-time schoolteacher has not abandoned his efforts to help children learn and grow. Instead, John has taken a new approach . . . one that he sees as being the only logical response to the appallingly poor quality of public education and its innate resistance to change.
Namely, John Holt now devotes his energies to assisting people who want to help their youngsters learn at home . . . after pulling the children out of school altogether!
Why did a man who was at one time a conservative, traditional schoolteacher come to advocate keeping one's children out of school? How can parents successfully remove their youngsters from public school in the first place? And why does Mr. Holt think that readers of THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS should be especially interested in his ideas?
To get the answers to these and other questions, MOTHER sent staffer (and former schoolteacher) Pat Stone up to talk with John Holt in his tightly cluttered office in Boston, Massachusetts . . . where, in his scant spare time, John puts one of his central educational beliefs--that a learner should be responsible for her or his own learning--into practice by teaching himself to play the cello. The following edited transcript of their conversation deals with an admittedly radical approach to learning. Many readers will, no doubt, discover that they strongly disagree with Mr. Holt's thoughts. On the other hand, a few will probably be relieved to find that somebody out there feels as they do and is trying to help. No matter what your own response is, however, we're betting that John's words will set you to thinking about the state of education--and of children--in American today.
PLOWBOY: John, you've been a schoolteacher in three states . . . you've lead a nationwide effort for educational reform . . . and you're now at the center of a home-schooling network that almost resembles an underground railroad for children. Since you've put forth so much effort in ventures related to learning, I have to assume that you were trained as a professional educator.
HOLT: Absolutely not. I never formally studied education. I didn't even take any courses in psychology. To tell the truth, I didn't study any of the things that I'm now supposed to know something about.( Collapse )