A Long Letter to Montessorians in America
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A LONG LETTER TO MONTESSORIANS IN AMERICA, IN ANSWER TO SOME OF THE MANY QUESTIONS I RECEIVE
What is Montessori essentially?
A complex form of aid to the harmonious development of man from birth to adulthood.
What were the phases in the determination of this aid as conceived by Dr. Montessori?
Her initial investigation of normal children concerned the age group three to six years. She then investigated the age group from six to twelve and gave some directives for the investigation for the age group twelve to eighteen. Her final investigation concerned the age group from birth to three years.
Is the form of this aid the same for all ages?
Yes and No.
Yes, in giving the aid suitable to harmonious development by removing obstacles that may hinder it, and by giving opportunity for unfoldment to the tendencies and fulfillment to the potentialities of children. In this, not only is the conscious aspect of the mind taken into account but also the influence of the innate guides of the unconscious and those of the acquired subconscious.
No, because the aspect of tendencies and of potentialities change in the different age groups as does the relative influence of the unconscious and the subconscious. The answer to these changes has determined the different aspects one sees in Montessori institutions catering for the different age groups. These regard both the attitude of teachers (or of other persons giving this aid) and the educational means used to correspond to their potentialities.
Are all the aspects of the aids which have been determined alike in each country?
The essential aspects which are related to the development are alike in all countries because all children pass through the same phases of growth and development. For instance, in the age group 0-6, all normal children get their first tooth, begin to manipulate, learn to walk, and to talk with individual variations but in a determined span of time.
All pass through the same sensitive periods. These concern sensorial development, acquisition and perfecting of equilibrium in ambulation, language development, interest in exercises of practical life, in mathematics, writing and reading etc.
So the attitude of the grown-up and the method used will be the same, but the means will vary with regard to local cultures. The exercises of practical life in England for instance will not be the same as those in India. The exercises to prepare the children to write will be the same; but the alphabets differ, the sandpaper letters and the movable alphabet in such countries as India, Ceylon, Russia, etc. will differ from one another. What must be kept in mind with regard to these similarities and differences is the fact that Dr. Montessori was among the first to realize that the child has both "to become" by acquiring his different physical and mental abilities; and to "belong" by acquiring adaptation to the culture of the group within which he grows.
Is Montessori exclusively for Catholics?
No. There are or have been schools among Buddhists, different other expressions of Christianity, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Parsis, Theosophists etc. Also among people who profess no religion.
Did Dr. Montessori assume that as far as education, she had said the last word?
No. The last time Dr. Montessori attended a Montessori International Congress, in answer to a speech which complimented her on her method, she answered that by focusing their attention on her and calling what she had done a method, people showed little understanding. What she had done, was to give the possibility to children to reveal that they possessed a hidden energy with immense potentialities which, if studied and explored, would have far more reaching consequences than electricity. What she had done in studying this energy was only the beginning. It was comparable to what Galvani had done in the field of electricity when he explained that the contraction of decorticated frog legs hung on an iron railing was due to an unknown energy.
She was pointing to an energy hidden in the child and people, by focusing on her method, continued to look at her pointing finger instead of studying the child.
'As far as the knowledge of the child is concerned, we are at the stage of Galvani', she said. 'But ahead lies the atomic power in the spiritual field. This will be obtained only when the secret of the child, which is the atom of man, will be fully revealed and exploited'.
With regard to Mrs. Rambusch.
I first met Mrs. Rambusch when she came to the international Montessori congress held in Paris in 1953. She was a cheerful, young woman of ready intelligence and quick understanding - "with the heart in the right place". What she heard and saw at the congress - and later - made her wonder why Montessori had disappeared from the United States and why the generality of educators considered it as something old-fashioned and surpassed.
There are many people now who consider Mrs. Rambusch ungenerous, ambitious, self-centered and determined to have her own way at any cost.
What she has done does not appear to me to justify this judgement or to portray the essential qualities of this young woman. Cheerful determination she had, but this is not to be confused with self-centeredness. When she asked me what would be the best way to serve Montessori in the United States, I asked her as first step to take a Montessori course. She did, although so heavy with child that if I remember correctly the child was born during or soon after the course.
Her appreciation of the value of Montessori must have been very deep and sure to make her leave her husband, her other offspring and submit herself, in her condition, to the hardships of leaving the comforts of her home and of following a course in a foreign country. What she heard and learned in the course strengthened her determination. Ambition? Ambition of what? Wealth? Appreciation? Glory? What ambition could she have?
As I said she was (and still is) a young woman. She had no degree in Education. What hope could she have to overcome the determined opposition to Montessori which existed at the highest educational level in her country? Anybody else would have considered it a hopeless foolhardy task. What could a little mouse hope to accomplish by going against the powerful and colossal influence of American Education?
She asked me what would be the best way to set about it. I advised her to take a degree in Education at one of the American Universities; for without it, at high level, no one would pay any attention to her even if she did miracles. She followed my advice, and again I should like to point out how greatly must have been her appreciation of Montessori, to have to neglect her family once more in order to go to school again. What she must have heard in Teachers College about Montessori I do not know, but of the many people who, after having taken a Montessori course followed my advice to take a University degree in Education or Psychology, few remembered what Montessori was at the end of these further studies.
It is apparent from what she writes now that in investigating European Montessori, she must have found differences in the application of the method in schools; no common plan in the various Training Centres; no special qualifications demanded from the students who frequented them; no attempt at new research; but in teachers and trainers alike a stubborn loyalty to Dr. Montessori and to her method.
Probably all this must have seemed inexplicable to her. To me at least, had it not been for my past, it would have been very discouraging. But she went on undaunted and started first a class in New York, then another at Whitby. This developed later into a school. There were no encouraging results at first and she was all alone. She imported teachers from Europe and realized the need of importing Montessori Trainers if the eventual demand for local teachers was to be met. She consulted A.M.I.. and me as to the best people available and eventually, no doubt also with the help of these and especially of Miss Betty Stephenson who was both an experienced teacher and a trainer, the desired results were obtained.
It was Mrs. Rambusch who illustrated these in articles and in lectures, and when people came and saw for themselves, Montessori "exploded" in the United States, and with it exploded Mrs. Rambusch by multiplying her efforts to propagandize Montessori all over the country.
Was all this sacrifice due to ambition?
That she did it at her own cost she realizes it now; as she must realize that, I gave her a sound advice when I asked to form a Montessori Society, but not to become President of it, because otherwise all the blame and discontent which was sure to arise (if for nothing else for the impossibility to cope with the letters that accumulated) would fall on her.
I wonder how many nights she slept, or how many of them at home. I wonder how in all this turmoil she found the time to write a book or to cope with the confusion of people who insisted in starting schools and Montessori groups and importing trained or half-trained people from Europe and Asia.
Much of the blame which is put on her should be attributed to inevitable circumstances. What I have written in the beginning of this letter shows that a large part of what she advocates for America was advocated by Dr. Montessori - and most of the rest by me in the name of A.M.I..
That she came to the conclusion that Montessori disappeared from America because of lack of qualification of former Montessori exponents and because of their rigidity, is due I think to lack of information. That having come to this conclusion she resists now to accept the reluctance of more experienced Montessorians to follow her proposed methods to make Montessori acceptable to America, is perhaps also due to lack of information.
She feels she knows America better than they do and she realizes the danger of stubborn loyalists who have become fossilized and rigid and who, according to her, treat Americans like aborigines. If in this new renewal Americans accepted their authority, the repetition would occur of what happened when Froebel's ideas were introduced to America. Having come to these conclusions, it is not surprising that she would come to the further conclusion that to serve Dr. Montessori one would have eventually to forget even the name of Montessori.
Similar things have happened again and again in several countries. And, indeed, that is the main reason why A.M.I.. was founded.
But is this due to ambition? To thirst of personal glory? No, I prefer to remember the young woman who came to Paris; the young woman who, when there was no reason to expect success or glory, went through all sorts of efforts and privations in her determination to make available to the children of her country something that she considered valuable. The young woman who, unknown in the educational field, alone, unqualified and inexperienced set herself to struggle against the might of organized prejudice in order to achieve the re-introduction of Montessori in America. And I for one can certainly sympathize, on this basis, that she shows the same determination to fight now against the Montessorians - and even against the A.M.I.. - if they stand in the way to make what she considers the real Montessori approach available to her country.
Only I am persuaded that she herself lacks certain information which now becomes essential if she is not to destroy what she is trying to achieve. And I should like to keep the issues from becoming confused not only for her sake, but for the sake of those Americans who anew find in Montessori the hope of being helped in giving a proper education to their children.
Why Montessori disappeared from America and other countries.
Many wonder why Montessori disappeared from America - and those who have investigated or reasoned about it - generally attribute the causes to lack of qualification of former American Montessori exponents and their failure to make Montessori adapt to American culture because of their dogmatism, rigidity, and lack of further research. In my view, Montessori disappeared from America for these reasons:
- one: that the same lack of understanding that the European Montessorians are confronted with now, confronted Dr. Montessori.
- two: that Dr. Montessori hated war and therefore made her headquarters in neutralist Spain when America joined the first world war.
- three: that because of events which I am about to relate, she became disgusted with America and never returned.
In America, the lack of understanding - and the opposition against her resulting from this - was then even greater than now, both on the part of the anti-Montessorians as of Montessorians.
Dr. Montessori was confronted by all sorts of accusations. It may sound ridiculous now, but at the time it was stated by eminent people that she hypnotized the children. Because when having read her books and having deduced that the Montessori material made children angels, people bought it, left children free with it with the result that they broke each other's heads with the long rods.
To give another example of what she had to deal with: an American Professor of Education was very offended when, having asked her what was her secret to induce four and a half years old children to write, received the answer: "I give them the alphabet". This seemed ridiculous to him and he countered contemptuously: "Yes, of course, you want to exploit your secret".
With regard to the Montessorians in America: those of the East fought against those of the West. The American Montessori Society which wished to launch Montessori in the world on a sound commercial basis and had money and the influence to do it (to mention just two names: Mr. Graham Bell was President and Miss Margaret Wilson, the daughter of the President, secretary) left indignantly the field when they encountered the "rigidity of Dr. Montessori" who refused to comply with the laws of the country which requested that no formal teaching (writing, reading, arithmetic) should be included in the pre-elementary institutions run with her method.
Talk of qualifications had nothing to do with the disappearance of Montessori in America. Nor lack of knowledge of American culture or climate. Not even stubborn rigidity of loyalism which made no research possible.
The Montessori exponents of that time were not Europeans, and certainly they had no lack of qualifications in the Pedagogical field. Miss Anne George who worked in Washington, Miss Craig in Philadelphia, Miss Eva McLin and Miss Helen Watson in New York, Miss Helen Parkhurst who directed a Training College in Wisconsin and Miss Katherine Moore in California did certainly not lack in qualifications. And they were the highest exponents of Montessori theory and of practice in Montessori teaching. Nor did Montessori lack people at high level who understood and supported it. Among them there was David Starr Jordan.
Dr. Montessori's assistant in the course she gave in San Francisco during the Panama Canal Exposition was Miss Helen Parkhurst. She directed the Montessori class with glass walls which had been erected in the enormous Hall of Education. She lived in Dr. Montessori's home and I remember the two of them often talking about what aspect the method should take when applied to older children.
After having given other courses in Los Angeles and San Diego, Dr. Montessori made a contract to establish a Montessori Training Center in New York where she intended to return periodically from Spain. She chose Miss Parkhurst to run it during her absences. If I remember correctly Miss McLin and Miss Watson were to be the teachers of the demonstration classes. During one of her absences, the contract was torn up and Dr. Montessori dismissed, somewhat like Miss Stephenson recently. The Montessori Training Center changed its name into "Child Education Foundation". This was directed by Miss Parkhurst for some time, until she founded her own institution, the Dalton School, for older children and she was succeeded by Miss McLin, with Miss Watson as co-director. Dr. Montessori never returned to the United States. Similar things were happening and continued to happen in other countries. Dr. Montessori had established a Pedagogical Seminary in Barcelona at the request of Prat de la Riba, president of the Provincial Government of Catalunia, which was striving for secession from Spain. When the President died, the Catalans became even more strongly nationalistic and suddenly discovered that Dr. Montessori was Italian and substituted her with a Catalan pupil of hers.
The Montessori Society of Berlin - also composed of very eminent people who had obtained the sympathetic support of the Government - established a Montessori Training on the basis of people who had studied her books very carefully. Their version of Montessori did not correspond with hers and Dr. Montessori deauthorized them. Of course they could not believe their ears. They declared her crazy, for only a crazy person would refuse such an opportunity which would have brought her, as in America, large sums of money on the sales of her books and her material, great repute and an institutionalized regulated teaching supported by the Government to spread her method. Something similar occurred in England with the Gipsy Hill Training College; in The Hague, Holland, with a modified Montessori to suit the Dutch; in Rome, in France and even in far away India.
This happened with people who called themselves Montessorians. Outside the Montessori field she had renounced the offer of Catholicism, Masonry, and Socialism who would have given her international support if she changed some items or in exchange for exclusivity.
Meanwhile the idea of teaching aids and of freedom had taken root. Activity schools had multiplied. It was found that her freedom which led to self-discipline was a restricted freedom; that children should be active but not compelled to write at four or five years and that anything was good enough to be active with. When she refused to comply also to this and insisted to use only her own restricted means, she was declared to suffer from delirium of greatness. From all sides she was asked to retire both because, as they said, she had done enough and because she had come to the then retiring age of 50 years.
Thus did Maria Montessori become the first completely discredited Montessori fossil. It was then, when the mighty in Education, Politics, Industry and Religion had dismissed her, that the humble gathered around her; simple teachers, mothers, young people who had no qualifications and some who had. They gave her what she had given to the children: freedom of work, removal of obstacles and service. From this group eventually arose the International Montessori Association which advocated and advocates "pure" Montessori.
I, who founded it with Dr. Montessori swore to myself that I would not rest if it took my whole life to do it until Montessori was brought back to all the countries where Dr. Montessori had worked, suffered and had been expelled. In spite of war and dictatorship A.M.I.. helped to establish schools where differences between what Dr. Montessori advocated and the other Montessorians did, became apparent. Around them, Montessori Societies, branches of A.M.I.. were started, poor in money but rich in souls. Gradually they spread to many other countries besides those where we had decided to vindicate Dr. Montessori.
It has taken all my life, but A.M.I.. has done it. The last two countries were Spain and America. In both a first step has been made, and in America, do not forget it, through the courage and the determination of Mrs. Rambusch. Since 1920, many discoveries, innovations and additions were made: the sensitive periods, the absorbent mind, the extension of mathematics, of language teaching, of music, the introduction of history, geography etc.
Why Dr. Montessori met with so many difficulties.
I think you all know how she began. She had discovered a new energy. The expressions of which were spirituality and mental hunger. When she described the transformation of behavior which the children underwent, it seemed as if she were describing the virtues of the Saints. The press referred to them as "converted children" and she herself was often called "the mystic of the child". Not that she ever considered herself a mystic, or thought that the children had been converted. She realized that she was describing the real nature of the child which had been hidden through circumstances deriving from prejudice, traditionalism and lack of understanding on the part of the adults. Continuing her study she experienced that if the conditions she offered were abided by, the phenomenon repeated itself with children of all races; if not, if something was changed, the phenomena did not appear.
After all, she was a scientist and she knew the importance of certain rigid conditions. Suppose you mix sugar with sulphuric acid in a glass; an impressive phenomena occurs: heat develops, suffocating fumes evolve, and a funny lump of coal rises up. The sweet, gentle sugar has become something horrible. To her, with regard to the children, the opposite had occurred.
This was the phenomenon that impressed her and the conditions for its happening could not be changed. Suppose you were doing such an experiment and people came to say: "Why is it only you who has to be right? And why sulphuric acid? Lets put tea, or coffee with sugar; it is much sweeter and you can drink it". What else could you say but: "You do not understand!"
It was not a question of giving children more freedom, more activity, more material to play with: what interested her was this spontaneous emergence of spirituality and the shedding of frivolity for the sake of work which only few took in consideration.
She considered this more important for humanity than learning how to learn. With study, one can arrive at the discovery of atomic energy, but without this essence of spirituality, one can use it to make atomic bombs.
Her persistence in safeguarding this essence and bettering the conditions for its emergence and permanence, her refusal to be distracted from it, to mix it with other methods of learning or to alter it in order to market it and become rich, made Dr. Montessori's life what it proved to be: a life of strife, of exile and even internment.
Dr. Montessori's double task.
In addition to her scientific and pedagogical work, Dr. Montessori assumed the task of predication to illustrate to the public in general the newly revealed child who remained (and still remains) hidden to the eyes of most, and whose rights were therefore ignored.
She wanted to arouse public opinion and therefore she admitted to her courses all who wanted to come. The ignorant and the learned came. The difference she made among them was not related to their qualifications but to whether or not they understood her message.
For her, it was not a question of "initiating liberally educated teachers to the mysteries of Montessori"; it was more like preaching Christianity to the pagans. Among the practical means she illustrated as help to the child, there was also the material by which the children could acquire the instruction required by schools. And the good Montessori schools which served as observation to the students of her courses were a patent demonstration of how far more than the State required the potentialities of the child could attain.
Because of her prediction, she was called the "Missionary of the child". Because she gave certificates, she was criticized.
The relative importance of qualifications.
What are the qualifications required to become a Christian? Must one be a graduate or a postgraduate? To be a Christian, to have patience, tolerance, and charity is quite different from being a priest. One does not have to be a teacher in order to understand Montessori. And does the mere fact of having a degree in education make you a Montessori trainer after having visited a few schools in Europe like Sister Josephine in Boston who started training Montessori teachers?
Not that A.M.I. or I are against proper educational qualifications or institutionalization of Montessori. On the contrary! And indeed there are Montessori Training institutions the diplomas of which are recognized by their state whether or not they are recognized by A.M.I. as full teaching diplomas in Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Ireland, Holland and India. In all other countries the Montessori certificates are recognized as additional qualification. In these latter countries to teach in State school, the Montessori diploma holder must also possess a State diploma.
It is not at all true that "the A.M.I. alone, of any country in which there is Montessori interest, it has established the training of teachers on a post-graduate level." In Italy, Montessori courses are attended mostly by elementary school teachers, in Germany by trained Kindergarten or elementary teachers and youth leaders. But there also, courses are open to all. And indeed, Montessori courses are or have been attended by mothers, social workers, psychologists, doctors and some of Dr. Montessori even by university professors.
With regard to Educational qualifications, I should like to point out that Dr. Montessori herself was a medical doctor, not a teacher and therefore not qualified in education, that the results in her first school which made her name famous, were obtained with two assistants who had no qualifications at all (see her book "The secret of Childhood"). Other eminent people of our times have proved that possessing qualifications is not always the answer. Marconi had no university degree and I wonder if Edison, Ford or Graham Bell had any such qualifications in the field that made them famous; I wonder also if Christ, Buddha and Mohammed had any teaching qualifications.
You will find, if you go around the world, that there are some excellent Montessori schools run by people without qualification in education. At the same time, you may find fully trained teachers who had long teaching experience before they took a Montessori course and who are now directing Montessori classes. Scrutinizing what is going on in these classes, you often find something wrong. On enquiry, you are likely to receive such answers as: "I have taken only the Montessori spirit"; "I find that only the Montessori material is of any value" or "I have improved on Montessori". So you find Montessori schools with the spirit without the material others with the material without the spirit and Montessori schools with various and different improvements, not only with state-qualified teachers but also with unqualified ones.
Very few - whether qualified or unqualified - become what Mrs. Rambusch calls "mystical". There was - and there is - no question in A.M.I. recognized courses of trying to create "child mystics"; nor did Dr. Montessori ever intend to do so. If some teachers seem to become mystical, it is because of their inner development which evolved by working with children; by becoming more and more aware and appreciative of the hidden values of souls in the process of what Dr. Montessori called "incarnation".
How Montessori trainers are chosen.
Theoretically, and most of the times, by observing teachers at work with children and choosing those who show in their practice to have really understood. When chosen, these teachers continue to study.
In Dr. Montessori's time, during summer vacations, these teachers came around Dr. Montessori. She cleared their doubts, suggested further studies, gave them all the new ideas or material she had evolved during the year and they returned home with renewed enthusiasm and added knowledge which they spread to other schools. After several years they were recognized as authorized trainers.
The same process is continued by A.M.I. with the addition that A.M.I. asks them now to assist authorized trainers first, so that any misconception or lack of knowledge they might have, is eliminated. Some of them are recognized as trainers only in one or more subjects. With the sudden expansion of Montessori after the war (and not only in America), exceptions had to be made because surviving experienced Montessorians were so few and the demand in different countries so great, that promising students, after having finished the course, may be asked to help correct books, or supervise students at practice; but there is always at least one experienced Montessori Trainer to supervise, guide and - if necessary - to discard them.
It is not a capricious choice, nor imposition of the hands, but careful sifting and years' work.
What is the connection between the National Pedagogical Committees and A.M.I.?
It is A.M.I. which appoints or approves the members of the pedagogical committee because the national societies recognized by the A.M.I. are started by people who have taken the task of pursuing and asserting A.M.I.'s views in their country.
A.M.I.'s concern is only with "pure" Montessori. It has no wish to dictate how the society is going to be administered and indeed it makes a very clear distinction between the Board of the Society and its pedagogical committee. Usually, A.M.I. recommends that no member of the pedagogical committee forms parts of the Board except as an adviser. A Montessori teacher is not a financial expert, nor is she or he connected, except as an insignificant employee, with the Ministry of Education. Nor is she or he a public relation officer or a member of Parliament or a Senator or a University Professor or a Supervisor.
Yet, all of these may be necessary in a Board of a Montessori Society if Montessori is to be promoted in anyone country.
A.M.I. is fully cognizant that it cannot advise in such matters. But if the Society is created to promote Montessori, it asks that the pedagogical committee be composed of people who are fully cognizant and fully desirous to assert A.M.I.'s directives.
In countries where there is an established and not a temporary pedagogical committee, its members decide among themselves how to solve the problems which confront them. If they come to a disagreement which they cannot solve, they consult A.M.I., and A.M.I.'s judgement, after having explained the reasons for this judgement, is accepted as final.
In the same way as the trainers are chosen, the members of the pedagogical committee are chosen. One cannot go by democratic elections and public opinion, or trying to arouse patriotic feelings, by saying: "They treat us like aborigines, we are much superior to them". To A.M.I. that has the familiar stink of Hitler who, basing himself on Aryan superiority, hypnotized some of his people to kill millions of innocent Jews and many non-Jews who resisted him. (Speaking about the necessity of helping children to adapt to the culture of their country: A proposal was made to Dr. Montessori to start a "Montessori Hitler Jugend". She refused, after which Montessori was banned both in Germany and Italy, and Dr. Montessori's effigy and books were publicly burned in Vienna.)
The Montessori teacher's first duty is to renounce the power given to her by her status of teacher; the second to have understanding and charity towards the children who, being children, cannot have the experience to act as adults; the third, having seen what the children need for harmonious development to adapt to the demands of their society, is to serve them; the fourth is to learn from them what is the expression of natural spirituality which they - as adults-have lost.
These qualities, which a Montessori teacher should have, are as far as possible taken into consideration when a member of the pedagogical committee (who is not asked because of its efficiency in a special subject like mathematics or language) is chosen.
And those qualities are demanded to a far higher degree from an appointed - and not a self-chosen - Montessori leader.
In politics a farmer may become Minister of Education; but in any science, to become a scientist you must train and work and only when you have become a real expert you become an accepted authority. You cannot become a scientist because you have a political party behind you. Nor you can become a spiritual leader, unless, thinking you are right in pursuing this or that policy, you fail again and again, unless you recognize your own mistakes and do not try to put the consequences of your mistakes upon others who did not understand you or your intentions; and unless you go deep into yourself and - even if you have become an ascetic - and an accepted authority - are able to scrutinize whether what you advise to others, is not due to an unconscious lingering desire of power or glory, or you are dealing out of false charity. The only Montessorian I have met to possess such qualities was Dr. Montessori herself. I am very far from having them.
To become a spiritual leader one needs full objectivity, complete detachment from oneself, and charity even unto one's enemies, and the people who torment you and might want to murder you.
Is it necessary to have foreigners in National Pedagogical Committees?
There is no question of people of one country being superior to people of other countries, no matter how depressed they be.
It is a question of having people who can fulfill the necessary requirements, but few people have all the requirements.
In the pedagogical committee some are experts in mathematics or other subjects; others in child psychology as Dr. Montessori expressed it; others on pedagogical theory etc. Each is appointed for its own special capacity. The leader, if anyone is there to become a leader, is recognized by the other members of the pedagogical committee to be the best exponent of the Montessori spirit and pedagogical practice.
When in any one nation there are sufficient people to fulfill the requirements, the pedagogical committee is composed only of nationals.
Again, as I said, it is only a question of having experts in the country or, if lacking them, of requiring the help of foreign experts. After all, even Russia and America, the two most powerful and proud countries of our days, had to import or steal European experts to develop atomic power and train their own nationals. They did not consider themselves aborigines because they did it.
How is research in new fields made?
First of all there must be good Montessori schools and teachers who know the method thoroughly and consent to conduct the research.
Then, there must be advisers who are expert in the subject for which the research is done. Third, there must be the pedagogical committee.
Suppose the question were to find the way how to introduce botany which previously had not been considered in the Montessori approach. Besides the teachers there must be one or more botanists according to whether the schools are in the same city or not. The pedagogical committee, basing themselves on their experience in other subjects and on the knowledge of what is suitable for children from three to six or from six to twelve, suggests a material, an environment and special activities. The experiment is started and controlled by correspondence or by periodical reunions of all concerned to compare results, suggest additions or eliminations. After a certain period of time, semi-definite activities and materials to suit the different age groups are proposed to other schools in different countries who wish to collaborate. New assessment of results, new corrections and finally a definitive set of activities and material are made and incorporated officially in the Montessori method. Sometimes it takes years. To arrive at the present stage of "Montessori" biology it took from the 1930s to the 1950s.
It is not a question of saying Dr. Montessori has not said the last word in this or that.
Why there are differences in the Training Centers and in Montessori Schools.
Not all the teachers could keep up with the new additions and developments made by Dr. Montessori. As I said, when she was in Europe, people came to her during the summer from some countries and spread to the schools of their individual country what they had received from Dr. Montessori.
Many developments were made in India during the war, where she was unreachable by European teachers. These developments, taking a subject at a time, A.M.I. now spreads during its summer Study Conferences.
Why has nowhere available material been printed and why do students have to make their own textbooks?
Certainly, it is not because of "part of a tradition of distorted fidelity".
Dr. Montessori introduced the compilation of the material album by the individual student because by having to do so, his or her attention was forced to focus on every detail of presentation, aim, and age of the child. This forced focusing would not have been the case if the book had been handed over to them. It also required an effort and training in self-discipline which Dr. Montessori considered to be very necessary in a Montessori teacher.
As I said previously many developments were made during the time Dr. Montessori and I were interned in India. The people who were not in contact with us could not be aware of them. In consequence to serve as control and guide in the difference of approach from what they had learned before and to give the new items, I compiled one to serve as a reference. This, which is copyright, is sent by A.M.I. only to authorized Montessori trainers.
That it should be I to compile it after she had died and not she was due to the fact that Dr. Montessori did not have the time to write it. She had a much more important problem which confronted her.
She said: "If man must be helped in its development, one cannot cut him to pieces: age group 3-6, 6-12 etc."
"Man is a unity from birth, no, from conception to death."
"We have explored the ways to help him from 3-12 but what happens before 3?"
"Even at 3 the children are full of deviations. We must illustrate what happens between birth and three."
That is to me the most important period of man's life. Much more important than to deal with helping people who go to the university. By then they are already formed or malformed and there is little one can do about it."
"To go to the origin of formation, that is important." So, she wrote "The Absorbent Mind" which illustrates the period of life from birth to three years.
"The illustration of the use of the material", she added, "can be done by anyone who possesses sufficient knowledge."
I believe that much of what I have written, Mrs. Rambusch did not know. I also believe it is because of a similar lack of information that Mrs. Rambusch wrote that "there has been little advance from the lockstep presentation of material to curriculum planning appropriate for the 'supranational Child' at higher levels."
Had she followed the Advanced Montessori course or even the last International Montessori Congress, she would not have made such a rash statement. The "supranational child" is precisely what Dr. Montessori intended for, and each age group, as I have mentioned previously, is helped according to its own potentialities of assimilating and understanding.
For the age group from 6-12, she has elaborated not only a curriculum but, as for the previous age group, a psychological approach. It may surprise that she, who advocated analysis of any one subject for the previous age group, uses correlation of subjects in the second age group.
This statement clearly reflects the changes in the tendencies of children of this age group.
And you would be surprised that to second them and to start making the "supranational child," she uses imagination based upon reality and correlates physical geography and biology on the one side, and economic geography and history on the other, to arouse in this age, so prone to hero worship, a feeling of gratitude towards God and towards man.
The same lack of information is apparent from what Mrs. Rambusch writes concerning the inadequacy of Montessori for language and mathematics. Had she followed the advanced course or even the last International Montessori Congress, she would know that her knowledge derived from the course related to the younger children is not the last word Dr. Montessori has said about these subjects.
In the Congress, few of the people who participated knew much about Montessori. Nor were the "new mathematics" absent. Mme. Lucienne Felix, who is often invited by Teachers College Columbia University, illustrated them. She recently sent a message to thank me for what I am doing in this field.
What the speakers and delegates saw so cleared their minds about what Montessori had to offer in the field of mathematics that the following was unanimously resolved:
The authorities concerned be asked to make possible the opportunity for suitable kindergarten and other teachers to acquaint themselves with Montessori Education by encouraging them to visit Montessori schools and kindergarten both at home and abroad, and to provide means to enable appropriate kindergarten and other teachers to attend official Montessori courses organized by A.M.I. by granting them leave of absence and affording every possible help.
Finally, to foster the establishment of kindergarten Montessori classes and Montessori schools for children of all ages.
(Resolution passed at the end of the XIIth International Montessori Congress).
This resolution has been fully accepted by the German government. And Germany ought to know something about mathematics.
I could say much more, but this letter is too long already. I will write again if people are interested and if I find the time.
I have been so long on this one because I wanted to clear the issue for the minds of Mrs. Rambusch and other American people interested in Montessori.
As I exposed in the preamble Dr. Montessori did not pretend to have said the last word about anything. On the contrary, she said that she perhaps said only the first word.
And one must think long and carefully about her last public declaration: "Do not look at my finger. Look at the child." She did not say: "Do not look at my finger, look at someone else's finger." This is and has been an ever-present danger. Because of this danger experienced Montessorians rise against neo-Montessorians who too hastily try to put into practice seemingly logical and marvelous additions.
It is in this that the former's "rigidity" lays. The result is a struggle between the two, animosity and heaping disrepute on themselves, but more on "Montessori."
We are all human, all of us have our own feelings and our own prides, our own faults. Let us make an effort and forget ourselves. Let us follow Dr. Montessori's advice. Let us, who all claim to strive for the child, stop looking at our own finger and look at the child instead.
Let us look at the small or large good there is in each of us and concentrate upon that, ignoring the negative portions which may be much vaster.
We have here Mrs. Rambusch, the brave, energetic and brilliant new pioneer of Montessori in America; we have a Board of AMS and its eminent advisors, and a few "old fossils". Instead of squabbling about each other's rights or wrongs in the name of the child, let us look at the child.
Let us be humans and not penguins who, if they find an orphan chick, try to take possession of it in order to mother it and in doing so pull him apart.
In trying to foster a Neo-Montessorianism, there may be the danger to create a new neo-anti-Montessorianism.
A.M.I. and I do not wish to deny or split from AMS, but if AMS creates a split then God bless them.
I know that I will work for the child, and even if they split from us, A.M.I., I shall help them in their efforts, as we support Froebelians, New Education Fellowshipians, Pestalozzians and others who are generally considered anti-Montessorians.
But we few old fossils will not leave the field.
We "old fossils" trust the spirit of America.
For me at least, the spirit of America is not what happens in Alabama.
For me, the complex symbol of America is composed of Jefferson's Declaration of Independence; of the countries effort to help depressed countries and persisting in doing so at the cost of ruining itself and in spite of receiving slaps and derision as compensation; it is the melting pot of all cultures.
And I am sure, as sure as I am alive, that in this melting pot there will be a place for us few old fossils, who have striven much, suffered much and in spite of being feeble fossils we shall continue throughout our lives - and beyond, by the inspiration we may give to younger people - to strive to make America and the world realize that in the child there is the hope of the future, in the light that our living fossil, Dr. Montessori, left us.— Mario M. Montessori
- A Long Letter to Montessorians in America by Mario Montessori 1963 https://hdl.handle.net/11134/20002:860642554 (PDF) by the University of Connecticut, UCONN
- Nancy McCormick Rambusch and the American Montessori Movement
https://lib.uconn.edu/location/asc/about/the-american-approach-to-montessori-teaching-and-learning/nancy-mccormick-rambusch-and-the-american-montessori-movement/ by the University of Connecticut, UCONN
This letter had been typed on a typewriter without any special formatting. For better structure and better usability, the sections in this document have been placed in sections with colored headers (PDF) and with h2-h4 headers. This was not the case in the original document provided by the University of Connecticut.
Interpretations of this letter
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An Interpretation and view backwards with the resources of our times:
Section 1: What is Montessori essentially?
The essence of Montessori, as Maria Montessori might argue, is an education philosophy and method that seeks to nurture the whole child – physically, socially, emotionally, and cognitively. It respects the individuality of each child and acknowledges their innate desire to learn. According to Montessori, learning should not be forced but should come naturally through curiosity and exploration. She might argue that her methods enable children to develop their potential and lead fulfilling lives by fostering independence, self-confidence, self-esteem, and respect for others and the environment.
Maria Montessori would probably stress that while her method's principles remain constant, the Montessori approach can be adapted to the needs of the individual child and the circumstances of the community. As such, she might reject any attempt to impose a rigid or prescriptive interpretation of her method and instead advocate for flexibility and openness to change based on evidence and research.
Section 2: What were the phases in the determination of this aid as conceived by Dr. Montessori?
Montessori may argue that her education method evolved through continuous observation and experimentation. Her initial focus was on the education of children aged three to six years, known as Casa dei Bambini or the Children's House. Here, she observed and refined her pedagogy, leading to the development of her signature educational materials and child-centered teaching methods.
Subsequently, Montessori expanded her focus to include the educational needs of children aged six to twelve and twelve to eighteen, leading to the development of the elementary and adolescent Montessori programs. Her final investigation concerned children from birth to three years, emphasizing the critical importance of early childhood experiences in shaping children's development.
Thus, Maria Montessori might argue that her educational method is not a fixed or completed system but a continually evolving framework that adjusts to the needs of children at different developmental stages and in diverse cultural contexts.
Section 3: Is the form of this aid the same for all ages?
Maria Montessori might argue that while the essential principles of the Montessori method remain constant, its practical implementation varies according to the developmental stage of the child. She would probably emphasize the importance of "following the child," which entails observing children's interests and developmental needs and adapting the learning environment and pedagogical approach accordingly.
For instance, Montessori believed that children's cognitive development proceeds through specific stages, each characterized by unique learning characteristics and interests, also known as "sensitive periods." These include sensorial exploration in early childhood, abstract thinking in later childhood, and social and moral development during adolescence.
Montessori would likely contend that education should respect these sensitive periods, tailoring learning activities to capitalize on children's natural curiosity and drive to learn. Thus, while the Montessori method remains consistent in its emphasis on respect for the child, independent learning, and the prepared environment, the specific learning materials, activities, and adult-child interactions will vary across different developmental stages.
Section 4: Are all the aspects of the aids which have been determined alike in each country?
Maria Montessori would likely argue that while the fundamental principles of her method remain the same across different cultures, the specific implementation of her method should be adapted to the cultural context. She emphasized that education should foster children's connection to their culture and society, helping them to become responsible and contributing members of their communities.
Therefore, Montessori would likely support adaptations of her method that respect and integrate local cultures, traditions, and values. For instance, the materials used in the "exercises of practical life," which help children develop coordination, concentration, and independence, might vary according to the tasks and activities common in a particular culture. Likewise, the language materials would be adapted to the local language or languages.
Montessori would likely argue that these culturally relevant adaptations do not compromise the integrity of her method but rather enhance its effectiveness and relevance.
Section 5: Is Montessori exclusively for Catholics?
Maria Montessori, a devout Catholic, was undoubtedly influenced by her faith. However, she insisted that her educational method was universal and applicable to all children, regardless of their religious or cultural background. Montessori saw her method as a means to foster peace and understanding among diverse peoples by nurturing children's natural curiosity, respect for others, and love of learning.
Montessori schools can indeed be found among a diverse array of religious and cultural groups, testifying to the universality and adaptability of her method. Montessori would likely emphasize that while religious instruction may form part of a Montessori education in some contexts, this is not inherent to the method and should always respect the child's freedom of conscience.
Section 6: Did Dr. Montessori assume that as far as education, she had said the last word?
No, Maria Montessori recognized that her method was not the final word in education but rather a starting point. She encouraged ongoing observation, experimentation, and refinement of her method in response to the changing needs and circumstances of children and society. In keeping with her scientific background, Montessori saw her method as a work in progress, open to modification and improvement based on empirical evidence and informed by advancements in the understanding of child development and learning.
Montessori would likely stress that her method should not be interpreted as a fixed set of rules or procedures but as a flexible and dynamic framework that must always put the needs and interests of the child first. She would caution against rigid or dogmatic interpretations of her method, arguing instead for an open-minded and child-centered approach to education.
Section 7: With regard to Mrs. Rambusch.
Maria Montessori's response to this section might first acknowledge Nancy Rambusch's significant contributions to the reintroduction and spread of Montessori education in the United States. She might recognize Rambusch's determination, courage, and commitment to the Montessori method, demonstrated through her willingness to leave her family and study in a foreign country, and to later obtain a degree in education despite potential dismissive attitudes towards Montessori.
At the same time, Montessori might caution against drawing too strong a division between "European Montessori" and "American Montessori". She would likely emphasize that the core principles of her method - respect for the child, the prepared environment, self-directed learning, and the role of the adult - are universal and applicable in all cultural contexts.
In response to Rambusch's reported resistance to experienced Montessorians and A.M.I., Montessori might express regret but also an understanding of Rambusch's position, given her experiences and the challenges she faced. Montessori might argue that differing interpretations of her method are inevitable and not necessarily detrimental, as long as they uphold the child's dignity and potential. She might express hope that such differences can lead to productive dialogue and mutual learning, rather than division or animosity.
Montessori would likely reiterate her view that her method is not a fixed doctrine but a flexible approach that can be adapted and enriched through ongoing research, experimentation, and dialogue. She might therefore encourage Rambusch and other American Montessorians to remain open to learning from the experiences and insights of Montessori practitioners from other cultures, as well as from the emerging body of research in child development and learning.
Section 8: Why Montessori disappeared from America and other countries.
From Maria Montessori's perspective, the disappearance of the Montessori method from America and some other countries might be attributed to a number of factors. She might first discuss the misunderstandings about her method and the opposition she faced. Montessori's emphasis on child-led learning, respect for children as individuals, and specialized learning materials was in stark contrast to the traditional teaching methods and expectations of the time. People who were not familiar with her philosophy and methods often misinterpreted them or found them hard to accept.
Maria might also touch on the challenges she faced due to political events, such as World War I. Her decision to relocate her headquarters to neutral Spain might have led to a decrease in her influence in America. Additionally, cultural differences and specific national regulations could have created difficulties in implementing the Montessori method in its original form, leading to modifications that strayed from Montessori's original ideas.
Next, Montessori could elaborate on the disputes among Montessorians themselves and how these internal conflicts could have undermined the establishment and development of Montessori institutions. For example, the American Montessori Society's decision to abandon the Montessori method due to disagreements about early childhood education might have had a detrimental impact.
In her response, Maria Montessori would likely highlight that her method was not intended to be a rigid, unchanging doctrine, but rather a flexible approach that could adapt to the needs of the child and the cultural context. She might argue that the problems she faced were primarily due to misunderstanding and misapplication of her method, rather than inherent flaws in the method itself.
This section raises many interesting points about the historical development of the Montessori method, its challenges, and how it evolved in different countries.
- Misunderstandings and Opposition: In the early 20th century, the Montessori method was still new and unfamiliar to many people. It faced opposition and misunderstanding from both Montessorians and non-Montessorians. Critics accused Dr. Montessori of hypnotizing children, while others saw her methods as too rigid or lacking adaptability to American culture. There were also conflicts within the Montessori community itself, as practitioners had differing interpretations of Dr. Montessori's teachings.
- Political Factors: The world political climate also played a role in the spread and acceptance of the Montessori method. Dr. Montessori's decision to base her headquarters in neutral Spain during World War I might have limited her influence in countries like America that were directly involved in the war.
- National Cultural and Legal Factors: Dr. Montessori's refusal to alter her method to fit with American laws regarding early childhood education contributed to her method's decline in popularity in the U.S. This demonstrates how cultural and legal context can influence the acceptance of educational approaches.
- Dismissal and Resurgence: Dr. Montessori faced personal setbacks, including dismissal from positions of influence and the emergence of competitors who modified her methods to suit their needs. Despite these setbacks, the International Montessori Association was formed and continued to advocate for "pure" Montessori education.
- Legacy and the Role of Mrs. Rambusch: Despite the challenges, the Montessori method eventually found new life and expanded to many countries, including a resurgence in the U.S. largely due to the efforts of Nancy Rambusch. The method continued to evolve, with additions and innovations developed to keep it relevant to contemporary educational needs.
This brief explanation provides an overview of some of the points raised in this passage. The historical journey of the Montessori method demonstrates how educational methods can face challenges related to cultural, legal, and political factors, as well as internal disagreements among practitioners. However, the enduring legacy of the Montessori method shows that dedicated advocates can help to ensure the survival and adaptation of innovative educational approaches.
Section 9 Why Dr. Montessori met with so many difficulties.
This section you've posted speaks of the underlying philosophy and spirit of the Montessori approach and the struggles Dr. Montessori encountered because of her unwavering adherence to her observations and beliefs about children.
- Discovery of a New Energy: Dr. Montessori believed she had discovered a new understanding of children’s potential, driven by a spiritual energy and a natural desire to learn. This transformation she witnessed in children was so profound that she and the press likened it to a religious conversion.
- The Importance of Conditions: As a scientist, Dr. Montessori understood the importance of maintaining specific conditions to obtain consistent results. She believed that the spiritual and intellectual awakening she observed in children could only occur under certain conditions that respected and facilitated their natural development. Any changes to these conditions could alter the outcome, much like changing an element in a chemical reaction changes the result.
- Spirituality vs Learning to Learn: Dr. Montessori prioritized the spiritual awakening and self-driven learning she observed in children over the simple acquisition of knowledge. For her, this inner transformation was far more important than the mere act of learning, because it had the potential to change the course of humanity for the better.
- Unwavering Commitment: Dr. Montessori’s unwavering commitment to her approach, despite pressures to modify or commercialize it, led to many personal challenges. She faced strife, exile, and even internment because of her refusal to compromise the principles she had observed and believed in.
In essence, this excerpt suggests that the difficulties Dr. Montessori encountered were the result of her steadfast commitment to the purity of her observations and beliefs about children’s development, as well as her refusal to modify her approach in response to external pressures. Her vision for education was far more than a method or a set of teaching tools—it was a fundamental change in understanding and respecting the child's natural development.
Section 10 Dr. Montessori's double task.
This section describes the dual roles Dr. Maria Montessori played and the criticism she faced:
Advocate and Educator: In addition to her work as a scientist and educator, Dr. Montessori took on the role of an advocate for children. She believed she had uncovered a new understanding of the child's nature, which remained hidden from most people's eyes. Her mission was to educate the general public about this understanding, with the hope that it would lead to a greater respect for the rights of children.
Open to All: Dr. Montessori believed that anyone, regardless of their level of education or prior knowledge, could understand her message if they were open to it. Therefore, she welcomed all interested individuals to her courses. She saw her role not merely as a teacher passing on information, but more akin to a religious preacher spreading a transformative message.
Practical Application: Part of Dr. Montessori's method involved practical means to help the child, including the use of specific learning materials. These tools helped children exceed the instructional requirements set by schools, which she demonstrated in her model Montessori schools.
Criticism: Despite her intentions, Dr. Montessori faced criticism from various quarters. Her work as an advocate earned her the title of "Missionary of the child," implying she was proselytizing rather than educating. Furthermore, her practice of issuing certificates was critiqued, presumably because critics felt she was claiming an authority that they did not recognize or accept.
In essence, Dr. Montessori was dedicated to revealing and respecting the true nature of the child, a commitment that led her to adopt roles beyond those of a traditional educator. However, this approach also attracted criticism from those who misunderstood or disagreed with her methods and philosophy.
Section 11 The relative importance of qualifications.
The relative importance of qualifications in becoming a Montessori teacher can be compared to becoming a Christian - there are no requisite degrees, postgraduate or otherwise. A degree in education does not automatically qualify one to be a Montessori trainer, much like Sister Josephine in Boston who began training Montessori teachers after only having visited a few European Montessori schools.
This is not to say that qualifications or the institutionalization of Montessori are not valued. There exist Montessori Training institutions whose diplomas are recognized by their respective states, regardless of whether or not they are recognized by A.M.I. as full teaching diplomas. Such countries include Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Ireland, the Netherlands, and India. In all other countries, the Montessori certificates are recognized as an additional qualification and to teach in state schools, the Montessori diploma holder must also possess a state diploma.
Courses held by A.M.I., contrary to some views, are not exclusively postgraduate level. For instance, in Italy and Germany, they are attended mostly by elementary school teachers, Kindergarten teachers, and youth leaders. But these courses are open to all, with attendees including mothers, social workers, psychologists, and doctors, among others.
One notable point regarding educational qualifications is that Dr. Maria Montessori herself was a medical doctor and not a teacher, hence not educationally qualified. Her first school, which made her famous, was run with two assistants who had no qualifications. This echoes examples from other fields - Marconi, Edison, Ford, and Graham Bell all achieved great feats without specific educational qualifications in their fields.
Across the globe, there are excellent Montessori schools run by people without education qualifications. You may also find state-qualified teachers directing Montessori classes, but upon closer scrutiny, some of these classes may show discrepancies. Some teachers may claim to have only adopted the "Montessori spirit" or only value the Montessori material, leading to Montessori schools with varied interpretations and implementations of the method.
Lastly, few, qualified or not, become what some call "mystical". A.M.I. recognized courses are not aimed at creating "child mystics"; neither did Dr. Montessori intend this. If some teachers appear mystical, it is due to their inner development and growth in awareness and appreciation for the hidden values in children, a process that Dr. Montessori called "incarnation".
Section 12 How Montessori trainers are chosen.
The selection of Montessori trainers is an intentional process, typically involving observation of teachers working with children. Those who exhibit a strong understanding of Montessori principles in their practice are chosen. Upon selection, these teachers continue their studies to further refine their understanding and skills.
During Dr. Montessori's time, chosen teachers would gather around her during summer vacations, a time she would use to clarify any doubts, suggest further areas of study, and introduce any new ideas or materials she had developed during the year. These teachers would then return to their respective schools with refreshed enthusiasm and new knowledge to share. After several years of this process, they were recognized as authorized trainers.
This process has been continued by A.M.I., with the addition that prospective trainers are now required to assist already authorized trainers. This approach ensures that any misconceptions or gaps in knowledge are addressed. Some trainers may be recognized as specialists in one or more subjects. Given the sudden expansion of Montessori education after the war (and not just in America), some exceptions had to be made due to the scarcity of experienced Montessori trainers and the high demand in various countries. Consequently, promising students, upon completing the course, might be asked to assist in book corrections or student supervision. However, at least one experienced Montessori Trainer always supervises, guides, and, if necessary, makes the decision to discontinue their involvement.
In conclusion, the selection of Montessori trainers is neither a capricious choice nor a simple act of approval, but rather a rigorous process involving careful evaluation and years of work...
Section 13 What is the connection between the National Pedagogical Committees and A.M.I.?
The Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) is responsible for appointing or approving the members of the national pedagogical committees, as the national societies recognized by the AMI are established by individuals who have committed to promoting and asserting the views of the AMI in their respective countries.
Section 14 Is it necessary to have foreigners in National Pedagogical Committees?
The necessity of having foreigners in National Pedagogical Committees is not inherent. The primary concern is not about nationality, but rather the ability to meet the necessary qualifications and requirements. A Pedagogical Committee typically comprises of individuals with expertise in various domains, such as mathematics, child psychology, and pedagogical theory. Each member is selected based on their specific capacity and understanding of the Montessori method.
The leader of such a committee is often recognized by fellow members as the most adept exponent of the Montessori spirit and pedagogical practice. When sufficient experts exist within a nation who can fulfill the required roles, the committee can be exclusively composed of nationals. However, in cases where national expertise is lacking, the assistance of foreign experts may be sought.
As Maria Montessori might have pointed out, even powerful nations such as Russia and America, at certain points in their histories, had to import or engage with foreign experts to develop specific technologies or train their own citizens. They did not consider themselves inferior or less developed because they did so. The focus is always on acquiring the necessary expertise, regardless of where it originates..
Section 15 How is research in new fields made?
The incorporation of new fields or domains in the Montessori method is a rigorous process, involving a harmonized effort from competent Montessori schools and teachers, specialized advisors, and the pedagogical committee.
Consider, for instance, a proposal to introduce information technology (IT), a field that Dr. Montessori could only dream of, into the Montessori curriculum. Despite the fact that Dr. Montessori was known to appreciate modern technologies of her time - like her car, which was a cutting-edge technology then - the process would still require a thoughtful and careful approach.
As a first step, the pedagogical committee, leveraging their expertise in other areas and their understanding of what's suitable for children of various age groups, would suggest materials, activities, and environments conducive to learning IT. The experiment would be commenced and monitored, with results evaluated and adjustments made based on feedback and observation.
The resulting preliminary set of activities and materials would then be shared with other Montessori schools in different countries who are willing to test these new additions and offer feedback. Their inputs, along with further assessments, would lead to further refinements.
This cycle of testing, feedback, and refinement would continue until a final set of IT-related activities and materials is developed and officially incorporated into the Montessori method. This process could take years, as was the case with the development of Montessori biology in the 20th century.
With the fast-paced advancements in IT and Artificial Intelligence (AI), new challenges and opportunities arise that weren't present during Dr. Montessori's time. However, if we take into account Dr. Montessori's love for modern technology, it could be argued that she might have embraced these advancements, as long as they are introduced in a way that aligns with her pedagogical principles and contribute positively to a child's development.
The AMI is primarily concerned with the propagation of "pure" Montessori principles. It does not seek to dictate the administrative aspects of the society, and a clear distinction is made between the society's Board and its pedagogical committee. Typically, the AMI recommends that no member of the pedagogical committee serve on the Board, except as an adviser. The board of a Montessori Society may require diverse expertise such as financial acumen, public relations skills, political influence, and more, to promote Montessori education in any given country. The AMI acknowledges its limitations in providing guidance on such matters, but it insists that the pedagogical committee consists of individuals fully committed to upholding and implementing the AMI's directives.
In countries with established pedagogical committees, the members collaborate to solve any issues they encounter. If disagreements arise that they cannot resolve internally, they consult the AMI. The judgement of the AMI, provided with accompanying explanations, is typically accepted as final..
Selection of committee members follows a process similar to the choice of Montessori trainers. Democratic elections or public opinion aren't primary determining factors. The essential qualifications for Montessori committee members are the ability to renounce the power bestowed upon them by their teacher status, understanding and empathy towards children, a commitment to serving children's needs for harmonious development, and a willingness to learn from children about the expression of natural spirituality. These qualities are rigorously considered when selecting a member for the pedagogical committee..
Becoming a spiritual leader in the Montessori context demands even more. This role requires full objectivity, complete detachment from personal interests, and charity towards all, even one's opponents. It requires constant introspection and humility, acknowledging one's mistakes rather than attributing them to others' misunderstanding. Dr. Montessori herself embodied these qualities, and they are a high standard for anyone aspiring to leadership in the Montessori community..
Section 16 Why there are differences in the Training Centers and in Montessori Schools.
The existence of differences in training centers and Montessori schools can be attributed to varying capacities of teachers to keep pace with the new additions and developments made by Dr. Montessori.
During her time in Europe, teachers from various countries would convene with her during the summer, absorbing her teachings and then disseminating them to schools in their home countries. However, several advancements were made in India during the war when she was unreachable by European teachers.
Currently, the Association Montessori Internationale (A.M.I.) is responsible for disseminating these advancements through its summer study conferences, addressing one subject at a time. As a result, the exact degree of incorporation of these developments can vary between different training centers and schools, leading to the observed differences.
Section 17 Why has nowhere available material been printed and why do students have to make their own textbooks?
Mario Montessori, the son of Maria Montessori, was asked about why Montessori materials are not readily available and why students are encouraged to create their own learning materials. His response was that the practice of creating their own materials helped students focus on every detail of the presentation, aim, and age of the child, and that it required a level of self-discipline which was very necessary for a Montessori teacher.
Regarding advancements in the Montessori method, many were developed during the time Maria Montessori and her son were in India, and those who were not in contact with them were not aware of these developments. To assist with this, a material album was compiled to serve as a reference, helping to guide the difference in approach from what was previously learned and to provide the new items. This was only made possible after Maria Montessori's passing and was done by her son, Mario Montessori.
Mario Montessori also addresses the issue of advancements in fields such as information technology and artificial intelligence, areas Maria Montessori could only dream of during her time. Given Maria Montessori's love for modern technology, it is plausible to think she would utilize these new tools in her educational approach.
In the context of contemporary efforts to democratize education through technology, Montessori's method remains adaptable. Innovations such as the open-source movement, online collaborative projects like Wikipedia, and free online educational resources such as NextGenU and UpSchool present potential opportunities for integrating Montessori principles with modern technology. These tools could possibly democratize Montessori education, enabling anyone interested to learn the Montessori method, thus fulfilling Maria Montessori's vision of education for peace.
Finally, Mario Montessori makes a plea for unity within the Montessori movement, urging all interested parties to focus on the needs and potential of the child, rather than squabbling over differences in interpretation or practice. He concludes by reaffirming his commitment to the child and to the vision of Maria Montessori.
As a disclaimer, it's important to note that my responses are interpretations of Maria Montessori's thoughts based on her published works and do not represent her actual words or opinions.
Montessori X is delighted to present Montepedia, a comprehensive resource designed to deepen your understanding of Maria Montessori and her innovative educational method. The content has been thoughtfully curated to facilitate easy translation into multiple languages. We encourage you to engage with Montepedia, contribute improved translations, and suggest necessary edits. This initiative is part of our broader "Montessori Restoration and Translation Project," aimed at making Montessori education accessible to all, worldwide. We're dedicated to creating open, free, and affordable resources for anyone interested in Montessori Education, and to cultivating authentic Montessori environments globally.— Your support at https://ko-fi.com/montessori is greatly appreciated. Thank you!
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