Weathervane's Reviews > Freedom and Beyond

Freedom and Beyond by John Holt
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really liked it
bookshelves: education

A few points made:

- "Schooling" is not equivalent to "education" or "learning" -- schooling is about packaging a product and selling it; instilling students with dubious values comes free-of-charge. This is the "hidden curriculum." (Though I don't believe Holt uses this term.)

- Compulsory schooling eliminates freedom from a child's life. The only choice is between jail and school -- do we cut off your head or your hand? Teachers will never know which of their methods students are truly enthusiastic about if these methods are delivered under the shadow of coercion. Though "higher education" is not compulsory, it carries a similar choice: Do this for four years or you won't get a good job.

- The system of evaluating and grading each student based on performance teaches students to regard the label stamped upon them as deserved. Poor students believe they are incapable of learning, and good students believe they are superior persons to those with lesser grades. Schooling breeds fatalism.

- Schooling separates work from play, drudgery from joy. Holt argues that this is unrealistic. When getting a glass of water, for instance, you don't calculate the effort required to open the cupboard, turn on the sink, etc. This is a dubious claim; humans are constantly performing cost/benefit analyses, unconsciously much of the time. Holt's fierce opposition to compartmentalization in modern life is a bit strange, but he makes a good point when he notes that schools waste vast amounts of money, yet produce nothing. Learning has been enclosed in its own locker-and-hallway bubble, insulated from the rest of the world.

- Reforming the system from within the schools is a lost cause. (Contrast this with Holt's views in his previous books. He progressively becomes more and more against school as an institution.) He says we should replace most schools with learning networks, as Ivan Illich also suggests. Libraries are one sort of network; the internet, of course, is a vast modern learning network which Holt could not have foreseen.

This would've gotten five stars if Holt hadn't embarked on a few tedious tangents concerning economics. His slavish devotion to the environment is also a bit concerning, as is his opposition to industrial growth, which, overall, raises the standard of living in a country. Holt's utopia is willfully backwards. More power to him, I suppose.

A whole lot to digest in this book, and what a great book it is.
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Reading Progress

December 14, 2010 – Shelved
December 14, 2010 – Shelved as: education
Started Reading
December 15, 2010 – Finished Reading

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