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Is School Bad for Children?

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Education has always been an intense topic of discussion among many cultures and different groups of people. For many years it was believed that without formal structured education, academic success couldn’t be achieved. Today that idea has been challenged and proved invalid by homeschooling, online classes and alternative learning of all sorts. In the article,”School is Bad for Children,” American author and educator John Holt talks about the failures and flaws within our traditional schooling system. Holt argues boldly that the way our current educational system works is not best for children or their learning process. In the article Holt points out the specific flaws in modern education. He also offers alternative ideas for educating our youth. Through examples John Holt expresses the idea that children are much better learners without any formal teaching, before they ever set foot in a classroom. John Holt makes the statement, almost every child on the first day he sets foot in school is smarter, more curious, less afraid of what he doesn’t know, better at figuring things out, more confidant, resourceful, persistent, and independent than he or she will ever be again in school.

Holt explains that without any formal education, by experimenting all alone, the child has done a task far more complicated and abstract than anything he will be taught. The child discovers and learns to use language independently. Holt goes further to argue that traditional schools’ impersonal and dull approach teaches the child that his or her experience, hopes, fears likes dislikes and opinions count for nothing. School tells our children that he only way they are capable of learning is by being properly taught from a teacher, and that without formal instruction; he doesn’t have the ability to figure things out and find answers on his own. The child learns not to ask questions, the author says, because only right answers are sought and rewarded. The student is expected to give his undivided attention to the instructor and to ignore his interest in the children around him. Holt states that both the student and the teacher are expected to play a certain role where the teachers are no more free to respond to the student than the student is free to respond honestly to the teachers or the other children.

John Holt points to the probability that if a child isn’t given a chance to find out who he is and wants to be and develop that person; the child soon comes to accept the adults and schools’ often inaccurate evaluation of his or herself and capabilities. Along with his criticism, John Holt offers several suggestions for change. Holt suggests abolishing compulsory school attendance laws that once served a purpose in protecting a child’s right to schooling, against adults who would have otherwise denied them it in order to exploit their labor. To keep kids in school who would rather not be there costs the school an enormous amount of time and trouble. A child who doesn’t want to be in class , not only doesn’t learn, but makes it tough for others around to learn as well. Holt thinks that the children should be given the answer book and correct their own papers. We never give the students a chance to figure out their own mistakes let alone correct them. Soon, he becomes dependent on the expert.

We should let them do some things alone or with the help of the other children around him, Holt says. The teachers’ job should be to help the student find the right answer when the student isn’t able to find it themselves. Holt suggests we could cut out fixed, required curriculum altogether. “Throw it all out!” Holt says- and allow the child to measure his or her own understanding and abilities. Let them figure out how to know what he knows, doesn’t know and should know. Furthermore, John Holt suggests that schools incorporate teaching children through the world around them by getting them out into it. Leave behind the classrooms for real world lessons in places like libraries, courtrooms, exhibits, labs, businesses, jobsites and meetings. A few schools have already started doing this. “It makes sense, we need more of it,” says Holt.

John Holt expresses good ideas and offers unique strategies for improving our educational system. What he says makes sense- about a child being capable of learning on his own, evaluating and comparing his own abilities. For example, in my English class, we revise each other’s papers and offer each other advice on how to put together a good essay. We are able to evaluate other students’ writing, make comparisons, and get ideas. A student who wants to improve figures out quickly to get good advice and editing from the kids who are stronger writers. This seems to work really well. I would have to agree that traditional schooling’s’ approach is dull and impersonal, and it oppresses the child’s’ individuality and character. I believe that John Holt is absolutely right when he says that more than anything else, even after years of miseducation, is to make sense of the world, themselves and other human beings-They want to learn. Let them get at it, in the way that makes the most sense to them, without help if they ask for it.

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