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John Holt - Learning All the Time

John Holt - Learning All the Time

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Published by qwett666
John Holt, Unschooling
John Holt, Unschooling

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Published by: qwett666 on Aug 05, 2012
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11/21/2012

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LEARNING ALL THE TIME
JOHN HOLT
 The most striking thing about John's writing is its firm, straightforward goodsense. He never derives theory from theory but stays as close as possible toexperience itself. His entire career was really based on this, this makingsense of experience. One of the finest things about him was the underlyingmotive of all that thought: he truly wanted to make the world a better placefor mankind. And it was the world he was thinking of at all times, not justthe field of education--as if that could be isolated from everything else. Thisoverarching care antedated his own career is a teacher. It was a lifelong careand he labored in behalf of it with remarkable patience, tenacity forbearance,and generosity. He was one of the few people I have ever known who couldcondemn the sin and forgive the sinner. In the heat, of argument he neverbecame unkind and never abandoned his own great loyalty to reason. If onewanted to know the meaning of ethics one had only to look at John Holt'sordinary courtesies. This is a way of saying, too, that he was an authenticallycivilized man-a rare, rare creature. His-procedure as a writer was anextension of his character. The appeal to reason and to experience is in factthe most civilized of procedures. It chastens the ego and defers correctly tothink that are truly great. It is modest and at the same time confident andeven adventurous.George Dennison October 1985EDITOR' S FOREWORDEarly in 1982, John Holt began to write a book about how children learn toread and write and count at home--with very little or no teaching. Aroundthe same time, while listening wryly to expansive promises from politiciansto pour more money into the schools and extend greater federal authorityand control over education, he had (only half-jokingly) proposed anotherbook, to be called "How to Make Schools Worse." Being by nature
 
optimistic and constructive, however, he had given up the notion of apolemic and focused more and more on the very nature of early learning as ittakes place in the everyday lives of small children. By the spring of 1983 heput into words exactly what this new book would be about:The book will be a
demonstration
(italics his) that children, without beingcoerced or manipulated, or being put in exotic, specially preparedenvironments, or having their thinking planned and ordered for them, can,will, and do pick up from the world around them important informationabout what we call the Basics.It will also demonstrate that "ordinary" people, without special trainingand often without large amounts of schooling themselves, can give theirchildren whatever slight assistance may be needed to help them in theirexploration of the world, and that to do this task requires no more than alittle tact, patience, attention, and readily available information.He continued for the next two years writing parts of the book, many of which appeared in the magazine he edited, and which his colleagues at HoltAssociates still publish: Growing without Schooling. Lectures that he gaveduring this time often developed the theme of "natural learning" or "the threeR's at home: The many small children who played and worked in the HoltAssociates office constantly stimulated and refined his insights.In June of 1984, concerned that his publishers, or future readers, mightmisconstrue his purpose, he wrote us a long letter distinguishing his book from the many others flooding the bookstores on "early" learning:
This is not a book about "How to Help Your Child Succeed in School." It isa book about children learning. By learning I mean making more sense of the world around them. (Let me try this again) Learning, to me, meansmaking more sense of the world around us, and being able to do more thingsin it. Success in school means remembering the answers to teachers' questions, getting clever about guessing what questions they will ask, and about how to fool them when you don't know the answers. Years ago, evenbefore my first book came out, I was for a while tutoring an eighth-grader,who was having some troubles in school. One day she asked me, with great seriousness, "How do you learn about history?" Taking her question asseriously as she meant it, I said, "I think you may be asking me twoquestions: one, how do learn more about history, and two, how do I get 
 
better grades in history class in school? The first thing to understand is that these are completely different and separate activities, having almost nothingto do, with each other. If you want to learn more about how to find out about what things were like in the past I can give you some hints about that. And if  you want to find out how to get better grades in your History class, I cangive you some hints about that. But they will not be the same hints." Sheunderstood and accepted this, and asked me for both kinds of hints, which I gave her. In this book I will for the most part be discussing the first of thesetwo questions what sorts of things might we do to make various aspects of the world more accessible, interesting, and transparent to children.
John Holt died in September of 1985, before he could finish this book.Since he had outlined so clearly what the book was to cover and had writtenso much of it, in draft, in the magazine, in letters, or elsewhere, it waspossible to assemble the book according to his design. In a few instances,when articles he had written earlier spoke directly to the themes he had laidout, these have been woven in with appropriate chapters and identified witha footnote.The publishers wish to thank Nancy Wallace and Susannah Sheffer formuch thoughtful editorial assistance. We ale also grateful to Pat Farenga,Dorna Richoux, and all the staff of Holt Associates for considerable help inmaking this publication possible. Each of these close colleagues and friendsof John Holt's is involved in furthering his ideas and beliefs and helped usshoulder the difficult responsibility of editing and publishing a posthumousbook The wealth of material called for painful choices, anticipated by Johnhimself: 'We are probably going to find ourselves with much more materialthan we will have room for.., cutting and squeezing, not puffing up, is goingto be the task" He went on to say, "I think we have something pretty goodhere, and am eager to get ahead with it."M.L. 6/14/89CHAPTER ONE READING AND WRITING

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