“What Do I Do Monday?”

It is the start of another beautiful summer day in North Oakland. Before I run to work, I wanted to share a mini-post of something I’m reading, something that’s inspiring me and resonating with my current pursuits in writing, remembering and asking questions…

Here’s a sample from the first pages of John Holt‘s What Do I Do Monday? published in 1970. This is the first book by John Holt that I have ever read, and I’m still in the beginning chapters. He was one of the greatest influences in my mother’s approach to education, and in that way, Holt indirectly shaped the course of my life… So, it seemed like a good idea to see what he had to say. The first page hit me close to home, I hope you will also enjoy.

What Do I Do Monday

1: WHAT DO I DO MONDAY?

This book is for teachers, for parents, for children or friends of children, for anyone who cares about education. It is about learning and above all some of the ways in which, in school or out, we might help children learn better and perhaps learn better ourselves.

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The usual ways of ordering ideas in a book will not work very well here. These are what we might call logical orders, the way we arrange thoughts when we are classifying them or when we are trying to win an argument. We list ideas according to some scheme. Or we start with some premise, A, that we think the reader will agree with. Then we try to show that if A is true, B must be true; if B, then C, and so on until, like a lawyer, we have proved our case, won our argument with our readers. But I am not trying to win an argument. I don’t feel that I am in an argument. I am seeing something in a new way and I want to help others see it, or at least look at it, in that way. For this, a step-by-step straight-line logical order will not help. This is not the way we look at a picture or a statue or a person or a landscape, and it is not the way we ask people to look at these things –when we really want them to see them, or see them anew. We look at the whole, and at the parts. We look at the parts in many different orders, trying to see many ways in which they combine, or fit, or influence each other. We explore the picture or the landscape with our eyes. That is what I would like to ask you to do.

As I write, these ideas and quotes, these bits of the landscape of learning that I will ask you to look at and see with me, are written on many small pieces of paper which I have read many times, in many different orders, trying to find the best way to present them. There is no one best way.

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The point is that all of the parts of what I am trying to say are connected to and depend on all the other parts. There is no one that comes first. No one of them came first to me. They have grown in my mind, all together, each influencing the other, over the years. In this form I offer them.