In a survey we conducted a few years ago, Gina Riley and I asked unschooling families to name the writers whose works had influenced them most in their decision to take that route. John Holt was by far the most often cited, named by more than half of the 232 families in the survey (see here or here (link is external)). Holt died in 1985, of cancer at the too-young age of 62. Yet he continues to exert great influence.
My colleague Pat Farenga, who has managed Holt’s legacy ever since his death, recently oversaw the publication of the 50th anniversary edition of what to me is Holt’s most significant book, How Children Learn (link is external) (Da Capo Press, 2017). I read the first edition decades ago, without full appreciation, before I had begun my own research into children’s learning. Rereading the book now led me repeatedly to think, How true, How brilliant, How sad. Sad because these true facts and brilliant insights are still understood by only a small percentage of the population, and our schools are now even worse than they were when Holt was alive. They are even more anxiety provoking, more wasteful of young people’s time, more insulting of young people’s intelligence, and more disruptive of deep learning and understanding.