By Susannah Sheffer
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Additional info for A Life Worth Living - Selected Letters of John Holt
There is something that troubles me about that word casual. It suggests that we can divide learning experiences into casual ones and not casual ones. How does learning to speak fit into this scheme? There is also a hint that casual learning is somehow less important or useful or worthy than non-casual learning. Perhaps you don’t intend this. In any case, it is to me a matter of critical importance; because it seems to me that the reason that children are able to master the extraordinarily complicated task of learning to speak is precisely that they do learn it casually, in the process of living, as it were.
It is the government that so many of our fellow citizens would get if they could that scares me—and I fear we are moving in that direction. I didn’t intend to write about this. I have started reading your new book,1 enjoying it is as always, and jumping around as is my custom. I find myself moved to write a few words about your quarrel, if we can call it that, with the young—something like a lovers’ quarrel, perhaps. I have been at. a couple of meetings at which you had arguments with them, and I have gone away distressed, with things on my mind, some of which I may be able to say here.
What are you going to do if he says the same thing about bringing out[side] materials into the class, getting away from the standard text, moving the desks and chairs around, having a little life and activity and conversation in the class. In fact, you’re not going to do a damn thing. If you persist — I get correspondence from teachers like these on the average of once a week, sometimes more — you’re going to get fired. You may then kick up a kind of squawk as some of these teachers tell me they have done, but they remain fired nonetheless.
A Life Worth Living - Selected Letters of John Holt by Susannah Sheffer