John Holt describes why he gave up on trying to reform schools and started advocating that families liberate their children from schooling.
Instead of Education
Instead of Education is Holt’s most direct and radical challenge to the educational status quo and a clarion call to parents to save their children from schools of all kinds. In this breakthrough work, Holt lays out the foundation for un-schooling as the vital path to self-directed learning and a creative life.
It has become common knowledge that our educational system is in dire straights. Children graduate high school without knowing how to read; students are driven to violence by the brutal social climate of school; and with the ever-increasing demand for stricter discipline and higher standardized test scores, teachers have little time to convey their passion for their subject, if indeed any has survived. John Holt also makes the point that schools stifle children’s creativity and individuality. In Instead of Education he gives us practical, innovative ideas for changing all that. He suggests creative ways to take advantage of the underused facilities we already have, such as holding classes that people really want on weekdays in churches and on weekends in schools. He gives lots of examples of educational programs that work and of people who self-educate in interesting ways. He describes actual non-compulsory schools, learning centers, and informal learning arrangements in action.
He firmly believes in learning by doing, and in fact, argues persuasively that all knowledge is action. It’s “a process in the minds of living people. It is what we do as we try to find out who and where we are, and what is going on about us.” He explodes the myths hidden in the concept of learning, such as the idea that learning to play the cello is distinct from playing the cello. “This is a book in favor of DOING—self-directed, purposeful, meaningful life and work—and AGAINST ‘education’—learning cut off from active life and done under pressure of bribe or threat, greed and fear. It is a book about people doing things, and doing them better; about the conditions under which we may be able to do things better; about some of the ways in which people may be able to help us (or we them) to do things better; and about the reasons why these conditions do not exist and cannot be made to exist within compulsory, coercive, competitive schools.” Reading this brilliant educator revolutionizes our thinking about what schooling is for and what we can do to accomplish its true goals.
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