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Part of this fifth book by the well-known educational reformer reaffirms Holt's commitment to the ""open classroom,"" based on children's natural eagerness to learn. It makes acute observations about teachers, students, reading pedagogy, etc., and answers questions like, ""What do you do when a kid is only interested in hot rods?"" and part of the book discusses schooling in relation to society. Taken as a whole, the diagnoses and prescriptions are equivocal, encouraging divergent emphasis by both critics and readers. Most industrial work is moronic, Holt points out; therefore, don't overeducate workers or don't change working conditions -- or both? ""Deschooling"" a la Ivan Illich is presented as a way of giving more people a broader, freer education as well as scrapping tire ""credentials"" system; Holt notes that 3-R's fundamentalists may boost deschooling for their own reasons, but he doesn't deal with recent proposals by such eminent figures as James Coleman to ""deschool"" kids into vocational training. Would he approve? The book leaves one uncertain. Unlike many writers on education, he underlines job shortages and scarcities of housing, services, etc., but his proposals in this connection are disjointed, some to adjust students to the situation, some to reform it. Don't ""overqualify yourself"" for a non-existent good job -- on the other hand work for new social priorities. Despite all the things he notes which need to be built and taught, ""it makes no sense to link livelihood with jobs"": a guaranteed annual income is best since ""there is not enough work to be done, or at least we cannot see how to turn the work that does need to be done into what we call jobs."" The book ends on a somewhat pessimistic note with a reminder that, as now constituted, school functions are not to educate kids so much as to corral them, and when discussing ""multiracial experience"" we should remember that all youngsters' experience in school involves the destruction of their dignity and self-respect. Holt is a sensitive and engaging writer, and because he tries to deal with the larger educational questions, the book will arouse interest beyond the ""open classroom"" debate as such.

Pub Date: May 31st, 1972
ISBN: 0867093676
Publisher: Dutton