John Holt on education

I’m very much enjoying this audio from 1983 and finding so much truth in what he says… especially the continual evaluation of our schools and proclaiming that they are in terrible shape and “it’s time for reform!”  The fact that I didn’t know this was recorded 20 years ago and assumed it was recent until 10 min in, is proof that this point is correct.

Of course, as someone who truly enjoys compassionate communication, my favorite of his points is about the disrespectful treatment of children.

It makes so much sense to me that humans learn at age 5, 10, 15, 20, 32 (my age) and beyond the same way our infants and toddlers do.  As babies, we learn to sit up on our own, crawl, walk and talk from observation of those around us and a natural inclination to grow and develop. As a pre-teen I began to see that school was about performance and I lost my natural love of learning and began to evaluate myself based on how others saw me and how I performed on paper. But as an adult, I’ve rediscovered my passion for learning and it has been like a personal renaissance… I have read more books, watched more informative videos, done more research, practiced more skills and have written more on these subjects in the last 5 years than I have in all of my formal education and I did it from a space of curiosity and a natural desire to make life more wonderful.  And I did it by seeking out the expertise of people already doing what I wanted to do and modeling and adapting their methods to meet my own needs.  I believe it is no different for anyone of any age… we learn quickly and easily when we can see the purpose and value clearly and it comes from an inner drive.

I’m so hopeful to give this gift to my daughter… that she can learn through passion and curiosity her ENTIRE life and never be compelled to perform for anyone, including myself and her father.  And that she be internally motivated with her natural desire to be connected to those she loves and contribute to their well-being.  I believe as she matures, this love will expand beyond our immediate family and to the greater community and the world and her desire to contribute will make her very useful to society and also very happy from the inside out.

This vision is what drives my own passion to help create an environment that would give this to many children, not just my own.  I’ve been very excited and inspired by the efforts of those co-creating Cedarwood Academy.  I am currently assisting them with crafting their discipline policy around Restorative Practices and the consciousness of Compassionate Communication as taught by Marshall Rosenberg.  It hasn’t been an easy task, but it has been fulfilling and it gives me hope and satisfaction with every corner I turn.  I told my partner on the project that it has been like putting a puzzle together… I am looking at my vision of what’s possible as if looking at the image on the box and I’m sifting through the various resources that point in this direction looking for the perfect pieces that fit together for this community at this time.

My favorite facilitator on the subject of Restorative Practices is Dominic Barter, and he makes this point often which I will loosely explain here as I understand it:  He sees that there is no method to be written down and replicated around the world, that it must be organically grown by the community to accomodate the specific needs and flavors of that culture, environment and social norms.

Another analogy comes to mind around cooking… that while I might start with a recipe and a general idea of what I’d like to achieve (in this case, a respectful learning environment), I have to work with the ingredients and the tools I have… for instance, I prefer not to use a microwave, so every recipe has to be adapted to using the stove or oven and I don’t always have everything in the recipe calls for in my pantry, but often I can find a great substitute that makes the dish delicious.  And in the case with this school, our community is vastly different from the communities Dominic works with in the outskirts of Rio De Janeiro or the long-standing public schools in Pennsylvania with high violent incident reports who are using these approaches to find peace in a violent world.  Our space is already fairly peaceful and we’d simply like to establish an agreement that helps us to maintain our deep connection and respect even when we do have the occasional conflict.  So we borrow a little from one source and incorporate the gifts and talents of community members and eventually we’ll bring all the pieces together to make our own beautiful living image of a restorative community agreement.

In summary, education is a hot topic today, and if John Holt’s assessment is correct, my guess is that it will remain a hot topic.   The solution for me personally, (I don’t proclaim it to be the solution for everyone),  is so clear to me that I hope to offer my many of my waking moments to helping interested young people discover and groom their passions, gifts, and talents within a respectful environment, so they will grow to be happy, fulfilled, engaged members of society.  By doing this, I will also become one of them… happy, fulfilled and engaged.