John Holt was an adult who had the ability to see things from a child's point of view. As such, he understood not just the confusion many children have when trying to learn in a prescribed sequence that suits the "average" child, but also their underlying sense of indignity children have when they are told to do things that don't make sense. For Holt (and for many children), schools are an unnatural place for people to be and it's less a place of learning than it is warehousing. Indeed, what most people learn is going to be that if authority is obeyed people will be rewarded, and if it doesn't they will be punished (and sometimes severely).
While many of Holt's criticisms and observations will ring true 40 years after its publication (apparently people have been trying to reform schools since 1875, and in many of the same ways that they're trying to in 2016), his most incisive criticism is that the biggest lesson schools need to get across is that there are a finite number of winners and therefore many more losers. If you want to win- and don't we all?- you need to play by the rules, however illogical they may seem. At the heart of Holt's message, he wants us to ask why we've agreed to such an arrangement in the first place.
For all of his criticisms of Schools with a capital S, he doesn't object to children or adults learning, or people teaching. He thinks there should be many more places of learning (schools with a small s), but he objects to the idea that they must be compulsory. Let people opt in- and let them agree to whatever behavioral codes come with them- but give them an option to opt out. Until children have that, it's foolish to talk about anyone in the system having a choice.
This is revolutionary stuff, and it's presented as always in Holt's clear, cut-to-the chase style. Recommended for anyone who's looking for an alternative to traditional schooling.
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