John Holt Speaks to Swedish Teachers About How Children Learn

Though there aren't many videos of John Holt, there are numerous audio tapes of him speaking since John was an audiophile who recorded most of his own talks, as well as Boston Symphony Orchestra rehearsals (he had permission) and many other daily sonic events. This is my first effort at transferring an analog cassette tape to digital format; I had to further format it to fit into YouTube's 15 minute limit. I also added a few photos so you aren't staring at a blank screen for an hour while John talks.

This is a talk John Holt presented to Swedish teachers in Gothenberg, Sweden on March 22, 1982. As John notes here, he was revising How Children Learn during the time he was doing his Scandinavian tour, so these are pretty fresh thoughts and ideas that John was working with in light of his connection to homeschoolers (I didn't hear him say "unschooler" at all in this talk, FYI). What else is noteworthy is how Sweden, in 2010, banned homeschooling on the grounds that a professional education was available from the state and families therefore had no need for homeschooling. As Holt notes forcefully on this tape, unasked for teaching actually impedes learning, particularly for young children, a lesson confirmed by research that Holt notes in 1982 and quite recently confirmed again by new research cited in the Boston Globe (Front page, 3/29/11). However, a point often lost among today's unschoolers is that when a child of any age asks to be taught then "Go for it!" John provides an example of how a baby or toddler might ask for or invite teaching from an adult.

Like most of the audio tapes I have, this was recorded by John while he spoke, so the quality is a bit rough. I've removed as much hiss as I could, and the entire speech is here, though part 4 ends abruptly during the Q&A section. However, you are able to grasp John's final point, one he made often: schools should be more like public libraries, in spirit and in organization.