Goodreads helps you follow your favorite authors. Be the first to learn about new releases!
Start by following John Holt.

John Holt John Holt > Quotes


John Holt quotes (showing 1-30 of 39)

“Leaders are not, as we are often led to think, people who go along with huge crowds following them. Leaders are people who go their own way without caring, or even looking to see, whether anyone is following them. "Leadership qualities" are not the qualities that enable people to attract followers, but those that enable them to do without them. They include, at the very least, courage, endurance, patience, humor, flexibility, resourcefulness, stubbornness, a keen sense of reality, and the ability to keep a cool and clear head, even when things are going badly. True leaders, in short, do not make people into followers, but into other leaders.”
John Holt, Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book Of Homeschooling
“We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards, gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A's on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean's lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys, in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else.”
John Holt
“The true test of character is not how much we know how to do, but how we behave when we don't know what to do.”
John Holt
“We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions -- if they have any -- and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.”
John Holt
“A child whose life is full of the threat and fear of punishment is locked into babyhood. There is no way for him to grow up, to learn to take responsibility for his life and acts. Most important of all, we should not assume that having to yield to the threat of our superior force is good for the child's character. It is never good for anyone's character.”
John Holt
“To trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves...and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.

John Holt
“What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children's growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn't a school at all.”
John Holt
“To a very great degree, school is a place where children learn to be stupid.”
John Holt
“If I had to make a general rule for living and working with children, it might be this: be wary of saying or doing anything to a child that you would not do to another adult, whose good opinion and affection you valued.”
John Holt
“Why do people take or keep their children out of school? Mostly for three reasons: they think that raising their children is their business not the government’s; they enjoy being with their children and watching and helping them learn, and don’t want to give that up to others; they want to keep them from being hurt, mentally, physically, and spiritually.”
John Holt
“This idea that children won't learn without outside rewards and penalties, or in the debased jargon of the behaviorists, "positive and negative reinforcements," usually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we treat children long enough as if that were true, they will come to believe it is true. So many people have said to me, "If we didn't make children do things, they wouldn't do anything." Even worse, they say, "If I weren't made to do things, I wouldn't do anything."

It is the creed of a slave.”
John Holt, How Children Fail
“For many years I have been asking myself why intelligent children act unintelligently at school. The simple answer is, "Because they're scared." I used to suspect that children's defeatism had something to do with their bad work in school, but I thought I could clear it away with hearty cries of "Onward! You can do it!" What I now see for the first time is the mechanism by which fear destroys intelligence, the way it affects a child's whole way of looking at, thinking about, and dealing with life. So we have two problems, not one: to stop children from being afraid, and then to break them of the bad thinking habits into which their fears have driven them.

What is most surprising of all is how much fear there is in school. Why is so little said about it. Perhaps most people do not recognize fear in children when they see it. They can read the grossest signs of fear; they know what the trouble is when a child clings howling to his mother; but the subtler signs of fear escaping them. It is these signs, in children's faces, voices, and gestures, in their movements and ways of working, that tell me plainly that most children in school are scared most of the time, many of them very scared. Like good soldiers, they control their fears, live with them, and adjust themselves to them. But the trouble is, and here is a vital difference between school and war, that the adjustments children make to their fears are almost wholly bad, destructive of their intelligence and capacity. The scared fighter may be the best fighter, but the scared learner is always a poor learner.”
John Holt, How Children Fail
“It's not that I feel that school is a good idea gone wrong, but a wrong idea from the word go. It's a nutty notion that we can have a place where nothing but learning happens, cut off from the rest of life.”
John Holt
“Over the years, I have noticed that the child who learns quickly is adventurous. She's ready to run risks. She approaches life with arms outspread. She wants to take it all in. She still has the desire of the very young child to make sense out of things. She's not concerned with concealing her ignorance or protecting herself. She's ready to expose herself to disappointment and defeat. She has a certain confidence. She expects to make sense out of things sooner or later. She has a kind of trust.”
John Holt
“schools assume that children are not interested in learning and are not much good at it, that they will not learn unless made to, that they cannot learn unless shown how, and that the way to make them learn is to divide up the prescribed material into a sequence of tiny tasks to be mastered one at a time, each with it's approrpriate 'morsel' and 'shock.' And when this method doesn't work, the schools assume there is something wrong with the children -- something they must try to diagnose and treat.”
John Holt
“It is hard not to feel that there must be something very wrong with much of what we do in school, if we feel the need to worry so much about what many people call 'motivation'. A child has no stronger desire than to make sense of the world, to move freely in it, to do the things that he sees bigger people doing.”
John Holt
“The idea of painless, nonthreatening coercion is an illusion. Fear is the inseparable companion of coercion, and its inescapable consequence. If you think it your duty to make children do what you want, whether they will or not, then it follows inexorably that you must make them afraid of what will happen to them if they don’t do what you want. You can do this in the old-fashioned way, openly and avowedly, with the threat of harsh words, infringement of liberty, or physical punishment. Or you can do it in the modern way, subtly, smoothly, quietly, by withholding the acceptance and approval which you and others have trained the children to depend on; or by making them feel that some retribution awaits them in the future, too vague to imagine but too implacable to escape.”
John Holt, How Children Fail
“It is not the teacher's proper task to be constantly testing
and checking the understanding of the learner. That's the learner's task, and
only the learner can do it. The teacher's job is to answer questions when
learners ask them, or to try to help learners understand better when they ask
for that help.”
John Holt, How Children Fail
“Fear, boredom, and resistance--they all go to make
what we call stupid children.”
John Holt, How Children Fail
“People should be free to find or make for themselves the kinds of educational experience they want their children to have.”
John Holt
“The biggest enemy to learning is the talking teacher.”
John Holt
“We learn to do something by doing it.
There is no other way.
John Holt”
John Holt
“A life worth living, and work worth doing - that is what I want for children (and all people), not just, or not even, something called 'a better education.”
John Holt, Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better
tags: life
“Much of what we call History is the success stories of madmen.”
John Holt, Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better
“Someone asked the other day, "Why do we go to school?" Pat, with vigor
unusual in her, said, "So when we grow up we won't be stupid." These
children equate stupidity with ignorance. Is this what they mean when they
call themselves stupid? Is this one of the reasons why they are so ashamed of
not knowing something? If so, have we, perhaps un-knowingly, taught them
to feel this way? We should clear up this distinction, show them that it is
possible to know very few facts, but make very good use of them.
Conversely, one can know many facts and still act stupidly. The learned fool
is by no means rare in this country.”
John Holt, How Children Fail
“Of all I saw and learned this past half year, one thing stands out. What goes
on in the class is not what teachers think-- certainly not what I had always
thought. For years now I have worked with a picture in mind of what my
class was like. This reality, which I felt I knew, was partly physical, partly
mental or spiritual. In other words, I thought I knew, in general, what the
students were doing, and also what they were thinking and feeling. I see now
that my picture of reality was almost wholly false. Why didn’t I see this
before?”
John Holt, How Children Fail
“We who believe that children want to learn about the world, are good at it, and can be trusted to do it with very little adult coercion or interference, are probably no more than one percent of the population, if that. And we are not likely to become the majority in my lifetime. This doesn't trouble me much anymore, as long as this minority keeps on growing. My work is to help it grow.


John Holt
“I doubt very much if it is possible to teach anyone to understand anything,
that is to say, to see how various parts of it relate to all the other parts, to
have a model of the structure in one's mind. We can give other people
names, and lists, but we cannot give them our mental structures; they must
build their own.”
John Holt, How Children Fail
“When children are very young, they have natural curiosities about the world and explore them, trying diligently to figure out what is real. As they become "producers " they fall away from exploration and start fishing for the right answers with little thought. They believe they must always be right, so they quickly forget mistakes and how these mistakes were made. They believe that the only good response from the teacher is "yes," and that a "no" is defeat.”
John Holt, How Children Fail
“By now I have come to feel that the fact of being a ‘child’, of being wholly
subservient and dependent, of being seen by older people as a mixture of expensive nuisance, slave and super-pet, does most young people more harm than good”
John Holt

« previous 1

All Quotes | Add A Quote
Play The 'Guess That Quote' Game

How Children Learn How Children Learn
1,424 ratings
How Children Fail How Children Fail
977 ratings
Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book Of Homeschooling Teach Your Own
910 ratings
Learning All The Time Learning All The Time
653 ratings