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Extra info for A Life Worth Living - Selected Letters of John Holt
You all talk about getting inside the system so you can change it. Let’s take a very concrete example, like marks. I dare say that most of you feel that marks and grades are a bad thing. Indeed, I suspect that many of you would agree with a great deal of the things that I say in my article in Look about the changes that need to be made in school. You will probably not like the fixed curricula or homogeneous grouping, or the necessity for giving exams, or the disciplinary rules, or the psychological probing, or the making of dossiers on children to give to their future employers.
We have the preposterous situation that millions of black people live in substandard housing, which needs to be extensively repaired or even demolished and rebuilt. At the same time there are hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of black people who need the work and who would be very glad to do this work. Because of the nature of our money economy there is no way of putting these needs together, so that black people can rebuild their own cities. One of the things that Gandhi did in creating the revolutionary and independence movement in India was to try to persuade as many Indians as possible that they should to the greatest possible degree free themselves from the British economy [by] spinning their own thread, weaving their own cloth, and refusing to buy luxury goods that only the British economy could produce.
But it is you who are the exception. As I guess you know better than I, you would probably not be a very welcome permanent member of any university community in this country, and there are a great many in which you would not get hired at all. Why are you any more a true spokesman for Newton than, let us say, Edward Teller or Wernher von Braun? Or B. F. Skinner? Or the doctors now dosing little children with amphetamines to make them quiet in school? Another way of putting this might be as follows.