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Additional resources for A Life Worth Living - Selected Letters of John Holt
Best, [TO GARY HICKS] 2/24/69 Dear Gary, Sorry not to have written in a while. I arrived out here1 expecting to teach two days a week and find myself teaching four, with about three times as many students as I had expected, plus a lot of outside lecture engagements. All this is very interesting but it leaves me working a good deal harder than I meant to, and even then the paperwork gets away from me. We’re in the middle of a big hassle here. The Third World students—black, Asian, Mexican—are holding what they call a strike, but which is really a boycott, trying to get the university to give them a Third World College, with largely autonomous direction.
There was nothing either free or easy about my observation, I learned whatever I have learned about children by prolonged and careful observation, and even more importantly, as a result of continued failures to teach them, in more or less orthodox school fashions, things people said they should learn. There seems to me a suggestion—forgive me if I’m wrong about this—that in learning about the world, other people’s books are more important than observation. With this view I most emphatically and strongly disagree.
As I read the book, or parts of it, two thoughts struggled in my mind. On the one hand, I thought that we need a great many young people to go into the law to struggle as this woman has, and that if enough of them went in they might in time be able to get things changed around. On the other hand, I found myself thinking, like many of the angry young, that the system is too far gone, too corrupt, too self-serving and selfprotecting at a hundred points, too well armed with defensive mechanisms, to be reformable.