More from John Holt in How Children Fail
It is not subject matter that makes some learning more valuable than others, but the spirit in which the work is done.
If a child is doing the kind of learning that most children do in school, when they learn at all--swallowing words, to spit back at the teacher on demand--he is wasting his time, or rather, we are wasting it for him. This learning will not be permanent, or relevant, or useful.
But a child who is learning naturally, following his curiosity where it leads him, adding to his mental model of reality whatever he needs and can find a place for and rejecting without fear or guilt what he does not need, is growing--in knowledge, in the love of learning, and in the ability to learn.
He is on his way to becoming the kind of person we need in our society, and that our 'best' schools and colleges are not turning out, the kind of person who, in Whitney Griswold's words, seeks and finds meaning, truth, and enjoyment in everything he does. All his life he will go on learning. Every experience will make his mental model of reality more complete and more true to life, and thus make him more able to deal realistically, imaginatively, and constructively with whatever new experience life throws his way.
To love learning. To be able to approach and explore unknown information knowing that you are capable of learning it. To have the skills to acquire new knowledge. Do students leave school with these skills?