How Children Learn by John Holt

John Holt’s diary of classroom observations.

How Children Learn is far too dense for me to critically analyze. Suffice to say I am really enamored of his respect for children, and inspired by his philosophies on facilitating learning. The closing paragraph of the book sums it up:

In my mind’s ear I can hear the anxious voices of a hundred teachers asking me, “How can you tell, how can you be sure what the children are learning, or even that they are learning anything?” The answer is simple. We can’t tell. We can’t be sure. What I am trying to say about education rests on a belief that, though there is much evidence to support it, I cannot prove, and that may never be proved. Call it a faith. This faith is that man is by nature a learning animal. Birds fly, fish swim, man thinks and learns. Therefore, we do not need to “motivate” children into learning, by wheedling, bribing, or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do, and all we need to do is bring as much of the world as we can into the school and the classroom; give children as much help and guidance as they need and ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest.

3 thoughts on “How Children Learn by John Holt”

  1. I am so terrible at teaching that I am always fascinated by people who can actually do it. I used to work for a nonprofit involved in education, so I’ve heard a lot of talk about how to make children learn. It’ll be interesting reading a book by someone who actually managed it. 🙂

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