The Legacy of John Holt: A Man Who Genuinely Understood, Trusted, and Respected Children
John Holt is rather a hero to the ‘unschooling’ faction of the homeschooling movement, but his ideas and methods have broad resonance to anyone concerned about our educational system, schools, or children. He observed that children learn best and fastest when they want to learn; that coercion, to any degree, lessens learning; that children are innately programmed to learn. He trusted them, and respected them.
This book, edited by John Holt’s close friend Pat Farenga, collects a set of essays about John Holt the person. It seeks to dispel the mythology that has grown up around him, while showing how he lived his ideas and how his influence was real and powerful to those who knew him during his life as well as to those who later encountered him through his writings.
Rather than analyzing John Holt’s suggested educational reforms, the essays are the authors’ memories of their friendship with John himself. John lived what he preached, so his philosophy is eloquently stated in these stories from his life. Several of the contributors mentioned how important learning to play the cello was to John. John only began to learn when he was forty years old, but loved the instrument and practiced it joyously, until the end of his life. He wanted to prove that no one is ever too old to learn something new – an idea that was ahead of its time. His point was that if a person has the desire, with the right resources anything can happen.
Other contributors spoke of John’s clear, natural writing style; his love for nature and the environment; his advocacy for children and for homeschooling; his influence on reform-minded schools and parents who wanted a more loving, whole method for educating their children. Every one spoke of John’s approachability, how accessible he always made himself to anyone and everyone. He was always willing to discuss ideas and problems and enjoyed corresponding with people from all walks of life.
He was not perfect, but was a good man who genuinely wanted to improve the world. The message is abundantly clear from these essays: John Holt was a man to love and be loved. This book is a sensitive and loving tribute, and those who read it will be glad to get to know him through the memories of his friends.
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