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John Holt, who has contributed several books -- and more than a few ripples in the field of education -- now proposes that adult rights and duties be made available to children regardless of age: the right to vote, to equal treatment under law, to employment, to the buying and selling of property, to manage (and cut off at will) one's formal education, etc. This completely serious pronouncement introduces a responsible thesis on the nature of childhood and our attitudes toward it. The nuclear family, he writes, is ""a ready-made source of victims and enemies;"" the sentimental view of the ""child's world"" as sacred and pure has not confronted the fact that it's no paradise, as any kindergarten teacher knows (the bullies, the lonely ones, etc.). To most parents raising children is a burden, particularly emotionally, and many resent the ""fact"" that children have it so easy; the ""love, love, love"" regimen skirts the main truth -- it's not people telling a kid he's O.K. or begging him to let them help him that allows him to grow, but rather it's hard work that's satisfying and important to him. Holt's main point is that children are far more competent than we think (he gives examples of self-sufficient Italian street urchins and Japanese pre-schoolers playing Bach on tiny violins), and we should not put a limit on what we think they can do. Of course achild should have uncondescending love, but he's not a ""love object"" or an abstraction, but a temporarily small human being who wants to grow up -- let him out of the ""walled garden"" to learn for himself, aided but not imprisoned by adult knowledge. No one, including Holt, expects to see Buster Browns under the voting curtain soon, but this is an innovative slant on the claustrophobic world of child/parent relationships in American society.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1974
Publisher: Dutton