Friday, December 08, 2006

John Holt

John Holt was regarded by many of us, in the late 60s and early 70s, as the most perceptive writer about teaching and learning. Two of his better known books were, 'Why Children Fail' and 'How Children Learn'.

If you can get hold of any of his writings they are as insightful today as they ever were. Holt eventually gave up on schools ever being able to change and he would not be surprised to see how little they have changed today. Holt died in 1985 at 62.

In his later years he threw his energy behind the home schooling movement and started a magazine 'Growing Up Without Schooling.' His influence can still be seen in the works of contemporary educational writers and he is certainly an influence in my own thoughts. I now join him in believing that traditional schooling has outgrown its 'mass' education purpose and that we need to re imagine schooling to provide a 'personalised education pathway' designed for each individual student.

This is entirely possible if teachers were to change their 'mindsets' and, in particular, the idea that one can construct a curriculum from a distance that will fit all learners.

Below are a few words from his book, 'Escape From Childhood:'

'Young people should have the right to control and direct their own learning, that is decide what they want to learn, and when, where, how much, how fast, and with what help they want to learn it.

To be still more specific , I want them to have the right to decide, when, how much, and by whom they want to be taught and the right to decide whether they want to learn in a school and if so which one and for how much of the time.

No human right, except for the right to life itself, is more fundamental than this. A persons freedom of learning is part of this freedom of thought, even more basic than his freedom of speech.

If we take from someone his right to decide what he will be curious about, we destroy his freedom of thought. We say, in effect, you must think not about what interests and concerns you, but about what interests and concerns us'.
It is worth considering that this concept of choice underpins the first years of life and early schooling until 'the curriculum' takes over. As a result many so called 'successful' students leave our schools never knowing their real interests and talents are.

No wonder many of our most curious and talented students can't wait to leave and get back to real world learning.

In a world where talent will be the most important factor, for an individual, an organisation, or a country's success, we can't afford such a waste.

A site about John Holt Posted by Picasa


Anonymous said...

John Holt was right then and he would still be right today. Teachers should stop teaching/telling and start listening to their students. Their role is to create the conditions and provide the help for all students to develop whatever interests and talents they might have. Nothing is more important in a creative age!

Anonymous said...

What Holt is saying is the need to move away from traditional transmission 'just in case you need it' teaching ( or 'we know best') to an environment that personalizes learning around the needs and talents of the student.

This is the philosophy for a creative age; traditional 'schooling' is still locked into an industrial age that is well past its 'use by' date!

Anonymous said...

Where or who is the modern version of John Holt?