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How Children Fail (Classics in Child Development) (original 1964; edition 1995)
by John Holt
How Children Fail by John Holt (1964)
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Holt's first book Is primarily a collection of his notes from his early years at teaching, primarily at the Colorado Mountain School. A private school for rich "progressives."
The copy I read was a later re-issue. It was certainly a different way of doing an updated revision. Normally when I read such its the exact same book with only a few paragraphs re-edited due to some new information, or updated references, since the original publishing. However This one kept the entire original in tact and the added additional commentary where the author had changed his mind since the original publishing, marked as such. I'm not clear if I really liked that or not, but it certainly made for a significantly longer book.
Holt argues that children fail because school is set up in a way that most kids are too afraid to actually learn. They need or want the right answer, but cramming for tests only ensures they don't actually know what they are being taught.
I lot of focus on math and the wildly disconnected "ideas" children have about it.
schools make children fail by making them afraid to try
Pretty interesting book about Holt's experiences in the classroom. I really liked the notebook-esque format as well as the later commentary. As I was thinking about my own frustrations with work at the time, this seemed to also be a useful book about company management.
A few takeaways:
- "children fail because they are afraid, confused, and bored:" this seems like a pretty helpful framework, not only for thinking about the circumstances in which children disengage, but also for thinking about how adults lose motivation.
- the idea of "producers" vs. "thinkers." I see "producer" behavior frequently, even among adults, where people freeze up and stop thinking when they feel pressure to give the right answer. I do think that framing it as behaviors instead of character traits might be more helpful.
- John Holt's journey from "how can I make school work for these kids?" to "School sucks, kids need to learn in self-directed ways" is fascinating to follow.
An excellent explanation why public schools are a failure and why students can't remember anything they supposedly 'learned'.
This is a much angrier book, though no less humane and caring, and it's equally important, even if there were fewer smiles per page.
References to this work on external resources.
Wikipedia in English (1)
First published in the mid 1960s, How Children Fail began an education reform movement that continues today. In his 1982 edition, John Holt added new insights into how children investigate the world, into the perennial problems of classroom learning, grading, testing, and into the role of the trust and authority in every learning situation. His understanding of children, the clarity of his thought, and his deep affection for children have made both How Children Fail and its companion volume, How Children Learn, enduring classics.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)371.28Social sciences Education Teachers, Methods, and Discipline School organization; School records Promotions; Degrading
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