I've shown this video at a few conferences over the years and always enjoyed the conversations it created. Since video footage of Holt is hard to come by (most of John's appearances are trapped in the vaults of the major TV networks or were never preserved) I've been parsimonious sharing this video. However, now that The Legacy of John Holt is published, where you get to read many different, intimate portraits of John's personality, work, and life, I thought it would be valuable and helpful for people to see and hear how John acted before a live, national audience, how quickly he thought on his feet, how empathic yet firm he could be about children and school issues, and how he was a master of the short, sharp answer. The other videos I have of John are pretty much him speaking alone or one-on-one interviews, so this is a rare video of John mixing it up with the audience. Though it is from 1981, I think all the criticisms, responses, and issues are pretty much the same today despite the continued growth of homeschooling. What do you think?
I also want to note that John invited two families to join him on the show, a religiously oriented homeschooling family, the Kinmonts, and a secular one, the Van Daam family. Both were friendly with John before the show; indeed, the Van Daam's were photographed as the family for the cover of the first edition of Teach Your Own. You'll also hear during the show that Peter Van Daam faced legal action for homeschooling in RI, which was eventually thrown out of court. Peter also ran for governor of RI twice in the 1980s.
Here is the historical context for the video that I wrote for the video's YouTube page:
John Holt's book Teach Your Own had just been printed and controversy over homeschooling was quite strong in 1981, when Holt joined two homeschooling families on live, national television to address strong opinions about homeschooling and schooling in general from a restive audience, moderated by Phil Donahue.
John Holt appeared on The Donahue Show once before, a year or two earlier, speaking about Growing Without Schooling (GWS), a magazine Holt launched in 1977 to promote self-directed learning. That appearance, which I have never seen, helped put GWS on the radar of parents who were dissatisfied with their school options: the Holt office was flooded with mail for over two weeks from people seeking homeschooling information after the show aired. When John came out with his book about homeschooling, Teach Your Own, he was asked back on the program and this is what is recorded here.