Monday, February 21, 2011

Twitter Book Club: John Holt (1964) How Children Learn - Chapter 1

Just like his other classic book, How Children Fail, this book was originally published in 1964 but the revised edition (the one I read) contains much more information and commentary that Holt added in 1983. Again, I regret that I did not distinguish between quotes I tweeted coming from the 1964 and 1983 portions.

I found this book to be powerfully simple in how he tears down arguments for much of what we do to kids in schools today. I also found myself feeling a greater sense of love and admiration for my own children as a result. I would recommend this book not only to other educators but to parents as well. A must read for anyone researching and exploring child development. Plainly states how research ought to be done regarding children and their learning but also how most practices we use to measure that learning are also harmful to children and a disservice to them.

Learning About Children

"From the first the right-left brain theory seemed to make far too simple what my own experience as a mind user tol... than a minute ago via Twittelator

"it is hardly ever possible to separate what we think about something from how we feel about it." John Holtless than a minute ago via Twittelator

Calls into question the existence of objective assessment. Reminds me of a Twitter conversation I had a few weeks ago about whether one could be an expert in a field and also be neutral on the topic. I think not.

"Making judgments about how the mind or brain (they're not the same) works on the basis of a few (or even sixty-fo... than a minute ago via Twittelator

Lets reprint that one for emphasis:

"Making judgements about how the mind or brain (they're not the same) works on the basis of a few (or even sixty-four) squiggles on a chart is like deciding what lives in the ocean by lowering and then pulling up a five-gallon bucket and seeing what you can find in it." John Holt

A lot of schools, one which I do some consulting for, make use of Data Walls in their schools. If you are not familiar with these, they are big prominent displays on the wall of a school showing student data derived from standardized tests, attendance records, discipline referral records, etc. Not that this data doesn't represent something important but too often schools who make use of such data tend to lean toward valuing the data over what it supposedly represents. Do we value the child or the picture of the child we take and keep in our wallets? In either case, data or snap shot, what we have is an abstraction, a shadow of the child. It is perverse to value a shadow over the individual who casts it. The shadow tells us very limited information and can be distorted.

What I see happening with these data walls is an administrative mandate to turn us into Plato's prisoner's in the allegory. Eventually, those who see the shadows and know what produces them are seen as blind and those who see the shadows as reality fight to keep others from being turned around to look at the light. If they did they might see that some of these shadows are distorted by anxiety and fear and others are distorted because those who are passing by the light find the light insulting and willfully distort the image of themselves cast in the shadow. To the cave's prisoner there is nothing in their mental models to understand the existence or nature of things that don't cast a shadow in this light. Unseen are pieces of fine crystal and gems which refract and reflect the light. So, their existence gets denied.

"The only way we will ever learn much about [the mind]—and even this will be highly incomplete and uncertain—will b... than a minute ago via Twittelator

Another one worth repeating:

"The only way we will ever learn much about [the mind]—and even this will be highly incomplete and uncertain—will be to dive, swim about, and see what we can see in the deep waters of our own thoughts." John Holt
Metacognition! I refer you to this post.

"This notion, now very popular in leading universities, that organisms, including human beings, are nothing but mac... than a minute ago via Twittelator

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