celebrating john holt

John Holt's writing has a deceptively simple eloquence that is not easy to achieve. In essays like "Schooling and Poverty" and "Deschooling and the Poor" or "Schools Against Themselves" from Freedom and Beyond, Holt grapples with the same issues that surface today in pieces like Dana Goldstein's shock bait "Liberals, Don't Homeschool Your Kids" where Goldstein advises parents to ignore the progressive activism of the past 30 years as well as their own child's needs in support of ed reform. (Perhaps we should stop growing organic and remain within the industrial food model, too.) Holt long ago wrote about these dilemmas with clarity and he offered a simple method any family could use to move outside mass institutions and toward a more humane way of relating. Homeschoolers have since changed the laws in almost all 50 states.

April 14th was John Holt's birthday and Lefty Parent has a very nice tribute to Holt up at his blog:
Happy Birthday John Holt – “Patron Saint” of Unschooling | Lefty Parent: 
"I think Holt is still the “patron saint” of the homeschooling movement to many parents and others in the progressive community. He framed the movement broadly as applying full human and civil rights to children, not just as an alternative venue for school. He represents a continuing thread in our culture carrying forward ideas of more egalitarian rules of engagement between adults and youth from his philosophical predecessors, including A.S. Neill, Homer Lane, Will Durant and Bronson Alcott. 
Here is Holt counseling parents on how to homeschool their children (and a bit of Nancy Wallace, as well), from 1984, in that bastion of left-wing extremism, Mother Earth News:
How to Home School: Home Schooling Requirements and Information - Modern Homesteading - MOTHER EARTH NEWS"Find out what your state laws say about school attendance, the legal alternatives to it, the possibilities of home instruction or tutoring, and the requirements for setting up a private school. There are several ways to get this information, all of them good." 
One method is to look up the laws yourself. It's easier than you think. Most good-sized public libraries, or law libraries, or lawyers will have a set of all the laws of your state. Look under "Education" in the index of one such collection . . . most or all of what you want will be in this section. Read carefully and copy, if possible, everything dealing with attendance, home schooling, private schools, etc. Also, read and copy everything in your state constitution concerning education and the rights of parents and families.  
Looking up the law yourself is a good exercise. It will help cure you of thinking that the law is a mystery known only to lawyers. Also, since you'll know the regulations yourself, you can speak to school officials with the authority of an expert and can correct them if (as often happens) their incorrect or incomplete version of the law fails to mention some of your important rights. 
And this:
You may also wonder, particularly if you did not do well or go far in school yourself, whether you know enough to help your children with their learning. Again, in my journal you will hear from people without much schooling who are doing a wonderful job of helping their children, mostly because they have been able to discover from the children themselves what the schools have never been able to realize: It is the interest, ingenuity, and activity of the learner, not the teacher, that is primarily responsible for creating learning. 
Another interview with Holt is linked to at the end of the Mother Earth News article:
John Holt: Homeschooling Advocate:
The truth is the home-schooling movement is good for the schools. We provide, among other things, extremely important educational research. Besides that, if-in the long run schools are going to have a future, they will eventually have to function as learning and activity centers which more and more people come to voluntarily . . . and the sooner our institutions begin to move in such a direction, and some community schools already are moving that way, the better off they'll be.
Home schooling is good for society as a whole, too. Most young people come out of high school today with feelings of alienation, self hatred, bottled-up anger, and the sense that life is useless. Such emotions constitute a largescale and potentially dangerous social problem. I don't entirely blame the schools for this situation, of course, but they have pretty well demonstrated that they can't change it . . . and I don't expect home-schooled teenagers-since they've grown up in contact with serious adults who take young people seriously-to have the same problems.
John Holt: Unassuming Reformer «"By the early seventies, Holt was reluctantly coming to see that the school reform he had so fervently worked towards for so long was not ever going to come because the system was fundamentally flawed. Inspired by his contact with Ivan Illich, author of Deschooling Society, Holt’s books from this period show his thinking moving from the classroom and school system to an analysis of children’s place in society. School reform, he said, was “doomed from the start, simply because nobody really wanted to make the schools better. You can’t believe how much I hated facing that truth.”" 
John Holt by Sandra Dodd
A Reluctant Guru by Wendy Priesnitz
John Holt and the Origins of Contemporary Homeschooling: by Pat Farenga



Partial Transcription/Summary
In this segment, Holt talks a lot about teachers. Holt recounts the frenzy about math and science and back to basics ...  he mentions the closing of small schools to make big ones ... he talks about howreforms have the result of "reducing the independence, the authority, the autonomy, and the responsibility of the classroom teacher, and more and more making the teacher into a factory worker"  ... "we run education as if it was a quasi-industrial process" .... "as if we were running a bottling plant and the kids are like empty bottles" ... "all these assumptions are wrong, learning is an activity carried out by learners" ... "the only experiments that will ever improve education are the experiments done by teachers in their own classrooms" ....  "learning can't be quantified ... it can be observed .... but you can't measure it in numbers" .... Holt is critical of testing and merit pay ....  the lack of reading happening in schools ... he discusses possible changes ...  "and it wouldn't cost more money" (Holt thought the sums spent were outlandish) .... "cut down the non-teaching personnel"  .... "I do think a decentralization of power and authority is essential"  .... "it's a day jail for kids, preventive detention"  ....  "school is basically a machine for putting winner labels on a few and loser labels on the rest" ...  "as long as schools have those tasks [day jail, grading and labeling, and ... teaching them that life is tough, they aren't going to do anything else]  ... it ends with Holt saying "I am a teacher."
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