For those educators who have never read John Holt’s books, I thoroughly recommend “How Children Learn” and “How Children Fail”. It’s some of the most sensitive and lucid writing on children and childhood you will find anywhere.
Holt passed away in 1985. He was no lover of schools and a great supporter of home schooling and ‘Unschooling’ movements. Tragically, when you read so many of his complaints against the school systems, you realise how little has changed since his time. How many educators applauded his wisdom, nodded their heads, but then failed to make the changes that were right for generations of children and learners.
A friend recently pointed me to a superb article written by Holt for The Atlantic back in 1971, in which he analysed shortcomings in the Sesame Street programmes for children;
The reason i share it here is that I think it poses some fascinating questions for teachers, even today, about how they set up learning experiences for young children in the classroom, the practices that they use when introducing children to reading concepts, writing or concepts of number. Since Holt was writing, ICT has offered teachers great ways to achieve some of the approaches he suggests.
What also comes across in this beautifully written piece is the care for children, the sensitivity to their needs as learners that was Holt’s trademark.