In Context: John Holt

An Interview with John Holt, by Robert Gilman, The Way Of Learning (IC#6) Summer 1984:

John Holt is a leading spokesperson for what he would describe as “growing without schooling.” How he came to this is a fascinating story that I’d like him to tell in his own words by using the following adapted excerpt from the introduction to his most recent book, Teach Your Own , (New York: Dell, 1981, $8.95).

IT BEGAN in the late 1950s. I was then teaching ten-year-olds in a prestige school. I was also spending a lot of time with the babies and very young children of my sisters, and of other friends. I was struck by the difference between the 10’s (whom I like very much) and the 1’s and 2’s. The children in the classroom, despite their rich backgrounds and high I.Q.’s, were with few exceptions frightened, timid, evasive, and self-protecting. The infants at home were bold adventurers.

It soon became clear to me that children are by nature and from birth very curious about the world around them, and very energetic, resourceful, and competent in exploring it, finding out about it, and mastering. In short, much more eager to learn, and much better at learning, than most adults. Babies are not blobs, but true scientists. Why not then make schools into places in which children would be allowed, encouraged, and (if and when they asked) helped to explore and make sense of the world around them (in time and space) in ways that most interested them?

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