Thursday, 28 February 2008

Finding your work

I've currently found myself in the situation where I am reading around 4 or 5 books at the same time. No this isn't my usual scatty 'where-did-I-put-that-book-nevermind-I'll-start-another-one' behaviour, but a pleasant side effect of ordering too many books from Amazon, them all arriving within days of each other, and me not being able to resist peeking into each new arrival.

There's something truly wonderful about receiving a book in the post. In my imagination the books are individually wrapped in brown parcel paper and tied with string, smelling of exotic libraries in foreign places.

In reality they appear in a dull-looking padded envelope sandwiched in between bills and junk mail, and mostly they smell of the sorting office floor where they've probably been kicked around a bit.

But at least our regular postman is considerate enough to knock on the door and pass them over in person, a huge improvement on the relief postman who will try and stuff anything forcibly through our rather narrow letterbox. If on the rare occasion we are actually out, our lovely postman will carefully place the packages in the porch behind our green recycling bin. Sometimes I don't notice them there and have the surprise of finding them a day or two later when I'm not expecting them. It's almost as good as finding a ten pound note in a pocket that you didn't know you had, except that the latter is such a rare occurence that I don't believe it has ever happened to me.

One of the books I've just finished is John Holt's Freedom and Beyond. I'd like to say it's a beautifully written, eloquent examination of educational philosophy, but I'm not that posh and actually it's not always that well written (but who am I to criticise the acclaimed Master?). It does however make some very interesting points (in between the grumpy-old-man-bemoaning-the-state-of-society ramblings) and there is certainly lots of food for thought. Some of the issues I'm sure have already been covered in his other books; I have no idea in which order his books were written, but there is a great deal of overlap between them in terms of subject matter. A large proportion of this book is devoted to discussing Schooling and Poverty (plus a further chapter on Deschooling and the Poor) which make some pretty damning accusations against the American education system. These accusations are a common theme in most of his books, though there are occasions when he strangely holds up aspects of the English Education System as an example of better practice. I'm not so sure this would apply today.

Here is a quote from the book in which Holt is agreeing with the arguments of James Herndon (How to Survive in Your Native Land) :

' one can find his work, what he really wants to put all of himself into, when everything he does he is made to do by others. This kind of searching must be done freely or not at all.'

Sometimes you find someone says something that says exactly what you would wish to say if you found the words to say it.

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