Why does our world need Montessori?
To answer this question, let’s go back to the beginning. Maria Montessori first began developing her methods in the early 20th century while she was training to become Italy’s first female physician. She was assigned to observe a ward of children who had been classified as mentally retarded by the government. These children were being raised without the benefit of outside stimuli or toys of any kind. Montessori saw that the little children were so desperate for activity that they picked up crumbs from the ground and rolled them about in their fingers, just to have something to do. Montessori spent the next few months of her life providing these children with her basic educational materials and at the end of that time, the children were able to pass national tests, and even to test higher than so-called ‘normal’ peers.
Montessori learned that adults are prone to underestimate the intelligence of children in general. In today’s world, toys, games and educational materials are dumbed down for the child ‘consumer’ to a never-before-seen low level. We don’t simply give a child a set of wooden blocks or a book. We give him or her flashing cartoons and flickering video games with a deafening explosion per minute. As a result, we have youngsters who are unable to concentrate, focus, play on their own, understand the rights of peers, or pay attention to anything that isn’t being spoon-fed to them via the dubious medium of constant, unceasing entertainment.
Oftentimes, parents are shocked to discover that their children become ‘functional’ the moment they are given something interesting, useful and engrossing to do. Meaningless, adrenaline-filled boredom is replaced with purposeful activity and the child is suddenly focused and able to concentrate. Montessori materials provide that ’something-to-do’ that children so yearn for in their quest to become helpful, recognized, active members of the human family.
Concerned adults are shaking their heads over the disorganization, inequality, violence and general chaos of our modern civilization. Psychology has long recognized that our experiences in our formative years dictate a great deal of our adult behavior. The antidote to the rude, selfish adult is the loved, respected child. A system of education that devotes itself to creating a safe, positive atmosphere in which children can learn, grow, achieve, succeed, and come to respect themselves and others gets my vote.
The Montessori method is currently celebrating its centennial anniversary. Its contributions to the world – including many thoughtful, responsible, useful citizens – are ones which we can all appreciate. Congratulations, Montessori! May our world continue to benefit from your respectful philosophy for another hundred years.