The Montessori Education in Service to World PeacePinewoods Montessori School, North Carolina

Montessori saw the child as a veritable world power, able to reconstruct society. The impact that parenting and education could have on society was profound for her.  She embraced education as an instrument for world peace. She envisioned an approach to education for the development of each individual’s human potential and as service to humanity. She saw the child as the constructor of of a better world, of a harmonious society, and as a result one who could eliminate war altogether.

Men are not sufficiently educated to control events, so have become their victims. Noble ideas, great sentiments have always found utterance, but wars have not ceased!  If education were to continue along the old lines of mere transmission of knowledge, the problem would be insoluble and there would be no hope for the world.

Education should no longer be mostly imparting of knowledge, but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentialities. 

Montessori M. (1946). Education for a New World, C.1

How is it that the child could be considered as a change agent of society on a magnitude that the adult could never attain?  The capacity for learning in the youngest of our species is so unique, so grand in scale, that the sheer scope is undefinable. Modern brain research has confirmed Dr. Montessori’s earliest theory of subconscious learning and the capacity of the child to take in the whole as well as all the details in a way no adult can learn.

With this subconscious mind does the child achieve his wonderful work of creation, through a power of wonderful sensitivity as resembles to some extent a photographic plate, automatically recording impressions in the minutest detail….

We have called this type of mind the “absorbent mind” and it is difficult for us to conceive the magnitude of its powers.

Montessori M. (1946). Education for a New World, C.3

That education could be the instrument of social reform was not lost on Dr. Montessori,  and through years of observation and the implementation of her approach in experimental schools she was led to discover that the child, in particular the youngest of children, possessed a unique capacity to learn through activity, much of which was guided by the child’s innate interest, and the capacity of absorbing a rich and varied knowledge based on discovery exceeded the conventional approach of school’s and educators of the day.

The one-size-fits-all Industrial Age model continues to dominate the schools of today.  Core subjects at most schools in the United States continue to emphasize the memorization of large amounts of discrete and often isolated information. Emphasis on isolated and limited subject matter has long been driven by the emphasis on testing to determine performance. It is far easier to test what you know than what you create. Even in the best schools knowledge is defined on learning objectives that only allow the use of pre-set methods and materials. These may be realized in a syllabus, a textbook, curriculum guides, or increasingly, online learning modules.

How interesting that In today’s world of instant content and rapidly changing information, the confines of discreet subject matter are blurred and lateral and integral knowledge is needed. It no longer matters what you know, what matters is what you do with what you know. The model for success in the 21st century is an aware global citizen, with good people skills, but most importantly, one who is able to manage new sources of information well to find the answers.

Gone is the age of ‘left-brain’ dominance. The future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: designers, inventors, teachers, storytellers—creative and empathic ‘right-brain’ thinkers whose abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn’t.

Pink D. (2006) A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future 

Even the best of today’s schools continue to be severely limited in the response to the individual child and their innate capacity to learn. Many schools are defined by structured classroom discussion, specific assignments, and tests based on content and not discovery.

Have technological changes altered the intrinsic nature of the child? Who are today’s children? They are the one’s coming of age who have made the adaptation to the information and communication technology world of today. They have already made the shift from the one-way broadcast media that you and I grew up with (print, radio, television) that reflect the values of the producer to a new age interactive media that gives control to all users, and that is the very heart of the new generation.

Our kids have grown up with the internet. They spend time online, not as passive watchers but active participators. Whether its gaming, social networking or texting they are a generation who watches less television then their parents, treating it more like background, while simultaneously interacting through several different devices, listening to music, virtual chatting, doing homework, eating, and looking at a graphic novel. With their reflexes tuned to speed and in personal control they are right at home with the brisk and accelerated pace of technological change. From this platform they are in a unique position to impact modern society, replacing a culture of conformity with a culture of innovation.

Education for a new world can ironically be found in an innovative education approach invented by Maria Montessori at the turn of the century. In Montessori schools learning takes place by an original and personal process of discovery. Children are able to choose their own work, direct their own progress, set their own learning pace to internalize information, and seek help from other children and adults when they need it. The Montessori approach uses specially designed, concrete materials to constantly engage the children in their own learning, allowing each to learn — and to understand — by doing.

The main aim of education must be that of helping humans to know who they are and what they must do in order to grow and achieve self-actualization, improving their own lives and their surroundings.

Montanaro, Silvana, (1991), Understanding the Human Being, x.

The Montessori approach allows students to take control of the decisions in how learning takes place. There are varied pathways to instructional goals. These new routes are intended to be more efficient and avoid barriers to success. A more authentic and personalized assessment in the Montessori classroom broadens students’ choices in the projects they pursue and the ways they demonstrate their learning. The emphasis in evaluation is on what you do.

In Montessori schools children know what to work on and kids are showing kids how to master difficult skills. It’s a place where instruction, both individual and group, is personalized to each student’s learning style. It’s a place where satisfaction comes from doing, and doing is learning. It’s a place where the teacher is more mentor and guide than “sage on the stage.”

Times have changed, and science has made great progress, and so has our work; but our principles have only been confirmed, and along with them our conviction that mankind can hope for a solution to its problems, among which the most urgent are those of peace and unity, only by turning its attention and energies to the discovery of the child and to the development of the great potentialities of the human personality in the course of its formation.

Montessori M. (1948).  The Discovery of the Child

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