A Child Is Most Intelligent When…

“Infants are not stupid. Children of one, two, or even three throw the whole of themselves into everything they do. They embrace life, and devour it, it is why they learn so fast, and are such good company. Listlessness, boredom, apathy- these all come later. Children come to school curious; but within a few years most of that curiosity is dead, or at least silent. Open a first or third grade to questions, and you will be deluged; fifth-graders say nothing. They either have no questions or will not ask them. They think, ‘What’s this leading up to? What’s the catch?’… Curiosity, questions, speculation- these are for outside school, not inside.

We ask children to do for most of a day what few adults able to do for even an hour. How many of us, attending, say, a lecture that doesn’t interest us, can keep our minds from wandering? Hardly any. Not I, certainly. Yet children have far less awareness of and control of their attention than we do. No use to shout at them to pay attention. If we want to get tough enough about it, as many schools do, we can terrorize a class of children into sitting still with their hands folded and their eyes glued on us, or somebody; but their minds will be far away. The attention of children must be lured, caught, and held, like a shy wild animal that must be coaxed with bait to come close. If the situations, the materials, the problems before a child do not interest him, then no amount of exhortation or threats will bring it back.

A child is most intelligent when the reality before him arouses in him a high degree of attention, interest, concentration, involvement- in short, when he cares most about what he is doing… It makes me sad, and angry, and appalled, that in our well-meaning way we have given this child, and many others, so few opportunities for real thought and discovery, honest understanding. We have done to their intelligence what denying them good food would have done to their bodies. We have made them intellectually weak and stunted, and worse, dishonest. No doubt children are clever about fooling their teachers about what they know; but the job is made much easier by the fact that we, their teachers, are so ready, so eager to be fooled, to tell ourselves that children know what a few minutes’ careful inspection would show they did not know at all.”

~ John Holt, from his book “How Children Fail”

Linking up with my other blog, Playing Life’s Guitar, for the series Thoughtful Thursday.

Please share a quote you’ve enjoyed or let me know your thoughts about this quote in the comment section! A thought-provoking quote can be the bridge that leads us farther along the path of understanding ourselves and the world.


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1 Response to A Child Is Most Intelligent When…

  1. Love this quote. John Holt has been very influential in our homeschooling 🙂 Thanks for posting!

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