HoltGWS.com update, Catholic Unschooling, and Illich Video

I’ve been overwhelmed with good wishes, support, and requests for help since I launched the new www.holtgws.com site, which is why I haven’t been able to do much of anything else since it officially went live on Sept. 14. I’m rather surprised at how emotional I get when I read the materials we produced at HoltGWS; this is even truer when I review the photos, audios, and videos of John and my friends and colleagues from years past. It has taken me nearly a year to get the site to the point it is today, and I’m still surprised by some thought or memory that comes back to me as I work with the materials. It’s been ten years since we officially ceased publication of GWS and the distance does help me from getting too blubbery about its demise, but I’m still surprised at the emotions that get stirred by an old photo or reading an old letter.

 It is especially nice to have so many old friends and subscribers get back in touch with me. It is very encouraging to hear from parents whose children are now adults in their 30s and 40s describe how GWS and unschooling made such a positive difference in their lives. Indeed, as I create the first newsletter for the site I plan to reprint some of those letters, and to create a section on the site for GWS veterans to share their stories with those who are just starting, or are in the process, of homeschooling/unschooling. As momentum and publicity build about the site I look forward to hearing from more old timers.

I’m also still trying to decide which platform to use for a discussion forum for the site: Facebook (so many people are on it already), Google Plus (the Hangout video chat feature could be a leg up on Facebook), Tumblr (blog comments on steroids), or a stand-alone BBS that is located on the site—all have their pros and cons and I’m befuddled. If anyone has thoughts or opinions on which platform would be best to use, I’d appreciate you getting in touch with me.


Suzie Andres informed me of a book promotion her friend Sue Elvis is doing. Elvis will be giving away three copies of Suzie’s book A Little Way of Homeschooling: Thirteen Families Discover Catholic Unschooling. You can enter by going to her blog, Stories of an Unschooling Family.


Another bittersweet moment for me occurred the weekend before I launched the HoltGWS site. I was in PA with a group of friends to attend a farewell symposium for Lee Hoinacki, a great person who is also a writer, thinker, farmer, and activist. One of Lee’s books, El Camino: Walking to Santiago de Compostela, is a moving philosophical and spiritual reflection about his pilgrimage and his thoughts about modern society that I find to be particularly powerful. Lee and Ivan Illich were close friends; indeed, many at the symposium felt Lee helped make Ivan’s work more understandable to them, including myself.

Gene Burkart and I drove down together, as we have several times before, and we decided to take the scenic route instead of the more direct highway route. Despite the bad weather we had faced right up to the day before we left, we were assured that all roads were now clear. Nonetheless, we got more than we bargained for—severe flooding in New York and Pennsylvania from the Susquehanna River caused a couple of detours for us that opened our eyes. As we neared Binghamton, in particular, many homes, malls, and gas stations could be seen on the river-side of the road, engulfed by at least four feet of water. It was an eerie experience. The weather was gorgeous—clear sky, mid-seventies for temperature—yet there was all this devastation floating near us. The scenic route doubled our driving time due to these difficulties, but it also gave us more time to talk.

One thing Gene told me about was a blog he had recently discovered about Ivan Illich: New Scare City. He mentioned it again to the group in PA, and then again as we drove back to Boston a couple of days later. I have since gone to the blog many times and have enjoyed all the history and posts about Illich and his work that Winslow, the site’s author, creates. Most recently he put up a video of Illich that he found in the Internet Archive. The archive describes it: “Ivan Illich, in the 1984 Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture conference titled "What Makes a City: Water and Dreams," explores the human conception of water through history, which leads to the inspiration of his book H2O and the Waters of Forgetfulness."

Ivan did not like to be filmed or photographed; he once described photographs to me as a modern version of collecting scalps. Winslow writes, “We're not aware of any other such video showing Illich speaking publicly. A good number of audio recordings of him are available, but not video, as far as we know, probably as a result of Illich's well-known aversion to being recorded. (‘Modern-day pornography,’ he testily described the recording of his ‘conversation’ about de-schooling with an evangelical audience in the 1970s.)”

It is quite ironic to me that after our drive through the flooded areas to say farewell to Lee, with Ivan in our hearts and minds the whole way, that a rare video of Ivan would appear on the subject of water: H2O and the Waters of Forgetfulness. It appears as two videos below.