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About How Children Fail:
How Children Fail is a non-fiction book written by John Holt. It was published in 1964 and republished in 1982. It has sold over a million copies. In it, he cites personal teaching and research experiences that led him to the belief that traditional schooling does more harm than good to a child’s ability and desire to truly learn. In How Children Fail, John Holt states his belief that children love to learn but hate to be taught. His experiences in the classroom as a teacher and as a researcher brought him to conclude that every child is intelligent. However, children become unintelligent because they are accustomed by teachers and schools to strive only for teacher approval and the “right” answers and consequently forget everything else. Children believe that they must please and obey the teacher, the adults at all costs. They learn how to manipulate teachers to gain clues what the teacher really wants. Through the body language of teacher and other clues, they learn what might be the right answer. When children are very young, they have natural curiosity about the world, trying diligently to figure out what is real. Holt maintains that when teachers praise students, they rob them of the joy of discovering truth for themselves. They should be aiding them by guiding them to explore and learn as their interests move them. In mathematics, children learn algorithms, but when faced problems with Cuisenaire rods, they cannot apply their learning to real situations. Their learning is superficial in that they can sometimes spit out the algorithm when faced with a problem on paper, but they have no understanding of how of why the algorithm works and no deep understanding about numbers. Holt believes that end of year achievement tests do not show real learning. Teachers generally cram for these tests in the weeks preceding. Meanwhile, the material learned is forgotten shortly after the tests because it was not motivated by interest and has no practical use.
About John Holt:
John Caldwell Holt was born on 14th April, 1923 and died on September 14, 1985. He was an American author and educator, a proponent of homeschooling and specifically, the unschooling approach, and a pioneer in youth rights theory. Holt wrote in his first book, How Children Fail (1964). The notion led him to make changes within his own classroom to provide an environment in which his students would feel more comfortable and confident. Holt’s growing without Schooling (GWS), founded in 1977. It was America’s first home education newsletter.
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