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How Children Fail (Classics in Child Development) Paperback – September 4, 1995


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Product Details

  • Series: Classics in Child Development
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; Revised edition (September 4, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201484021
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201484021
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John Holt (1927-1985), one of this country’s leading educational and social critics, was the author of ten influential books which have been translated into fourteen languages. Known both as a passionate reformer and as ”the gentle voice of reason” (Life magazine), John Holt offers insights into the nature of learning that are more relevant today than ever before.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Gulley Jimson on June 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
I was struggling to teach seventh grade reading when I came across this book. It had been mentioned in a William Gaddis essay, so I picked it up and I can honestly say that it's changed the way I look at the world. Like all great books, it says things that seem to always have been under your nose, that always bothered you a little, and says them with such simplicity that you're not sure how you could have missed them.
Once Holt's ideas are in your head I assure you that they'll become part of your mental model of the way things work: every time I was in front of my classroom I could see my students reading me for answers, and engaging in a hundred games and subterfuges based on the anxiety caused by the way my school forced me to run things - along, of course, with what I had always assumed education had to be.
It bothers me that this book is given to teachers who agree with its observations but declare that the solution is not to create the sort of environment that Holt recommends, but to keep schools exactly the same and just make it harder for kids to fake the answers; to engage in a battle of wits to force them to think; and provide all sorts of unrelated incentives to get the students to try their hardest. This book forced me to look at how phony most of my teaching was, and I am confident that the solution does not involve putting a slightly new face to the phoniness.
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Beth on March 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is one of John Holt's earliest published works. At this stage he still thinks that schools are essentially very good (and very necessary) institutions with a few things wrong with them that it is quite possible to fix. Later he becomes disillusioned with that notion, and begins to advocate alternative schools. Eventually he realizes that the very nature of schooling and the assumptions it is built upon go against some of his most dearly held ideals, and he begins to advocate 'unschooling,' starting the publication "Growing Without Schooling" and the organization Holt Associates.

I think that this book is a valuable read if you want to understand the evolution of Holt's thoughts about education, but I would also recommend you take a look at his later works. Personally, I'm a big fan of "Teach Your Own."
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Maria Morales on April 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book with its simple format and language has opened my eyes to possibilities and perspectives that I simply never thought of. As an educator, I think everyone in the world of education should read. From policy-makers to administrators to teachers to school psychologists, and very specially, parents, we all owe it to our children and to ourselves to become informed and critical about the efficiency (or the lack thereof) of our educational system. Especially at times, such as now, when our children seem to be failing more than ever. Holt's observations, although limited to private schools, provide one with a solid view of what is happening in the world of teaching accross the board. Holt makes and answers questions that are not only relevant to his subject but vital to the development of better teaching. Holt's idea that we don't know enough about student-teacher relationships could not be more accurate. I know this because I am an educator. I agree with Holt when he says that it is time that we look beyond ourselves and our own interest and begin looking at students with respect. As an insider, I couldn't help blushing while reading the reasons that Holt gives for children's failure in school. I was only able to nod my head positively when he said that teachers aren't listening to their students because they are only listening to what they want to hear. Another reason children fail, according to Holt, is that they are not being intellectually challenged enough at school. The conclusion made by Holt makes plenty of sense. Teachers definitely need to make every effort to free their teaching from ambiguity, confusion and self-contradiction. Besides teachers, the pointing finger also points to standardized exams.Read more ›
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. Weed on April 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
All the years I've been "against" public school, they were for reasons I'd researched, or came from my own bad experiences and those of my child, and other reasons I just "felt" inside but couldn't explain... I'd certainly built a case for myself as to what was wrong with the whole environment. But I still had never seen or imagined what Mr Holt saw through the eyes of a teacher (yet I could relate it to my entire experience at public school and knew he was speaking the truth). As I read his book it just filled in so many of the vague holes I'd felt as to why I didn't like public school but couldn't explain why. What invaluable insight into what really goes on! It was truly a turning point in my resolve to homeschool. I wish I'd read this years earlier.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Mark Cooley on February 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
Being an education major I was assigned this book for a class project. It is an interesting day by day journal of author John Holt's experience as a teacher in a Colorado private school. Holt's insights are honest and convey what some of the major problems are with todays students. The book's strength comes from the way Holt sees through the eyes of children who desperately want to please the adults who teach them but, out of fear hold back their talents for learning. Although the book is sixteen years old it remains a strong indictment of our modern educational system. I strongly recommend this read for anyone entering the field of education.
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