A light-hearted journal of observations (mostly of his 5th grade math students) and reflections about the ways that schools and students have built up defenses against each other and undermine any real learning. Holt is fascinated by the strategies students have for avoiding embarrassment, coping with fear of "the wrong answer", and confusion about why any of this matters. And he's interested in the ways teachers avoid finding out whether their students are actually understanding the material. Depressingly acute anticipation of the dangers of teach-to-the-test here in the 1960s. Argues for self-checking self-directed building of mental models by students, grounded in experiment with the real world and not interrupted by teachers' seeking control, fear of rebellion, or clever teaching ideas.