Saturday, April 30, 2011

John Holt: Uninvited Teaching

I've recently written a post about Skipping those Teachable Moments, outlining some of the recent research that explores how children learn and how intentional teaching actually gets in the way of a child's learning.

Pat Farenga, of Holt Associates, has been posting youtube videos of talks given by John Holt when he was still living.

This morning, I was listening to a talk John gave in Sweden in 1982 and it reminded me of how incredibly wise and insightful this man was. The videos are all linked below, but here is some text I pulled out of Part III of the series. It's about "uninvited teaching" and how that affects a child.

Unasked for, uninvited teaching gets in the way of learning, prevents, slows it down, stops it altogether... That will seem, perhaps, a surprising thing to say.

There are several reasons why teaching which has not been asked for by the learner prevents, slows down, impedes learning.

This is a terribly important thing to understand. When one person says to another, without being asked, I am going to teach you something, that statement carries two hidden messages, very often unconscious messages. It says two things that we might not want to say. But it says them none-the-less.

And the first is, "You are too stupid to understand why this is important, why this is something you should know." And the second is, "Even if you understood that it was important, you are still too stupid to learn it or to figure it out for yourself with your questions and experiments, so I am going to have to do all that work for you."

Very little children are extremely good at hearing the emotional meaning of what we say. They hear these messages, which we may not even know we are sending... and it makes them angry.

"A word to the wise is infuriating"...

Unasked for teaching and I have to say, unasked for testing, is a statement of no confidence, so do not... give information that people have not asked for as they will hear this as an insult.
Lots of other good John Holt stuff in these recordings.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

These are not visually exciting (just stills, not video), so you can put them on and do other things. Definitely worth the time to listen to.