Holt, John. How Children Fail. rev. ed. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, [1964] 1982. ISBN 0-201-48402-1.
This revised edition of Holt's classic includes the entire text of the 1964 first edition with extensive additional interspersed comments added after almost twenty years of additional experience and reflection. It is difficult to find a book with as much wisdom and as many insights per page as this one. You will be flabbergasted by Holt's forensic investigation of how many fifth graders (in an elite private school for high IQ children) actually think about arithmetic, and how many teachers and parents delude themselves into believing that parroting correct answers has anything to do with understanding or genuine learning. What is so refreshing about Holt is his scientific approach—he eschews theory and dogma in favour of observing what actually goes on in classrooms and inside the heads of students. Some of his insights about how those cunning little rascals game the system to get the right answer without enduring the submission to authority and endless boredom of what passes for education summoned some of the rare fond memories I have of that odious period in my own life. As a person who's spent a lot of time recently thinking about intelligence, problem solving, and learning, I found Holt's insights absolutely fascinating. This book has sold more than a million copies, but I'd have probably never picked it up had it not been recommended by a kind reader using the recommendation form—thank you!

September 2004 Permalink