John Holt’s “Escape from Childhood”

The copyright in this, John Holt’s most challenging and many would say subversive of books, is 1974.     The book is no longer in print, and after reading a used copy for which I paid dearly through the Amazon marketplace, I think that were it written today it would have little or no chance of being published at all.

 In Escape from Childhood, Holt pushes the   boundaries of how we’ve been programmed to view childhood and our children, reminding us that children are far more capable than we believe and in fact should be afforded the same rights and freedoms we as adults enjoy.

This is not a simple task and there are many variables, which Holt admits and discusses .   His book is not one of ultimate answers, but of many questions and suggestions and challenges.

Over the next few days I’ll be posting excerpts from the book, covering issues as wide ranging as the right to vote, the right to earn money , the right to travel and of course the right to control one’s own learning.   Some of the ideas proposed in his book will seem shocking to you, maybe reckless.   Others may come across as reasonable or already in line with how you and your family live and interact with each other.

As Holt, in the first chapter (aptly titled “The Problem of Childhood”) says:

“It is never easy to change old ideas and customs. Someone wrote of her grandmother that whenever she heard a new idea she responded in one of two ways: (1) it is crazy, or (2) I’ve always known it.  The things we know and believe are a part of us.  We feel we have always known them.  Almost anything else, anything that doesn’t fit into our structure of knowledge, our mental model of reality, is likely to seem strange, wild, fearful, dangerous and impossible.  People defend what they are used to even when it is hurting them.   No one could be optimistic about the possibility of making the changes I propose in this book.  How things will work out, no one can know. I can only say, if we are going to make a society and world in which people will be not only able to live but also glad to live, and in which the act of living will of itself make them more wise, responsible and competent, then there are some things we must learn to do very differently.”


Quotes from Escape From Childhood copyright 2013 by HoltGWS LLC are used with permission.

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