Home-Schooling Advocate John C. Holt Dies
John C. Holt, the teacher and author whose criticism of schooling helped ignite a national debate in the 1960's on the quality of education, died of cancer Sept. 14 at the age of 62.
Mr. Holt's first book, How Children Fail, offered a personally framed attack on traditional schooling drawn from his own experiences as an elementary-school teacher. Published in 1964, it attracted national attention and launched Mr. Holt onto the lecture circuit.
In his next book, How Children Learn--published in 1967--Mr. Holt offered suggestions for improving the system of schooling he had so severely criticized in the first book.
"What is essential is to realize that children learn independently, not in bunches," Mr. Holt wrote, "that they learn out of interest and curiosity, not to please or appease the adults in power; and that they ought to be in control of their own learning, deciding for themselves what they want to learn and how they want to learn it."
But early in the 1970's, Mr. Holt grew disillusioned with the potential for school reform and came to see home schooling as a viable alternative to traditional schools.
He became a national advocate of the home-schooling movement, encouraging parents to take their children out of school and teach them at home, and in 1977 founded Growing Without Schooling, a bimonthly newsletter on home instruction.
Mr. Holt was born in New York City on April 14, 1923. He graduated from Yale University in 19438with a degree in industrial engineering and joined the United States Navy, serving aboard a submarine in the Pacific during World War II.
After leaving the Navy in 1946, Mr. Holt worked for the United World Federalists, an international peace group that sought to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. He left the organization in 1952 and began his teaching career the next year at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, Colo.
Moving to the East Coast in 1957, Mr. Holt taught 5th grade for six years in Cambridge, Mass., first at the Shady Hill School and then at the Lesley Ellis School. From 1965 to 1967, he taught at the high-school level at Boston's Commonwealth School.
He also served as a visiting lecturer at Harvard University in 1968 and at the University of California at Berkeley in 1969.
A dedicated cellist, Mr. Holt wrote an autobiography, Never Too Late, My Musical Life Story, published in 1978.
Altogether, he wrote 11 books, including such other titles as The Under Achieving School (1969), What Do I Do Monday? (1970), Escape From Childhood (1974), and Teach Your Own (1981), and numerous articles.