Montessori Baby

The author, trained as a Montessori primary teacher (AMI), documents and analyzes her efforts to raise a "Montessori" baby.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Educate for Peace

It has been a while since I've done a really theory-driven post, so I pulled Education and Peace off the shelf today in search of inspiration. Given the times in which we live, it was not difficult find topical ideas. This one struck me especially:

"Education as it is commonly regarded encourages individuals to go their own way and pursue their own personal interests. Schoolchildren are taught not to help one another, not to prompt their classmates who don't know the answers, but to concern themselves only with getting promoted at the end of the year and to win prizes in competition with fellow pupils. And these poor, selfish little creatures, who experimental pedagogy has proved are mentally exhausted, find themselves in later life like separate grains of sand in the desert; each one isolated from his neighbour, and all of them barren."

In this and other lectures, Montessori goes on to talk about the need for education that examines societal structures and the technology that rules our lives. She argues for an education steeped in the "science of peace" - a proactive, practical approach to unearthing the charitable and kind in each individual and of equipping him to serve humanity, not a particular country and not solely his own interests.

Even though my blog space is virtually unlimited, it would take a great deal of time (and review!) to summarize her approach at each stage. Instead, I will simply point out the sadness I feel in seeing how little has changes since she made these speeches. When I examine current educational policies, I see a system designed to create competitors and to leave the failing behind. The continued emphasis on testing isolates the individual and purports to tell him his worth relative to his peers. Even many parenting books emphasize an atmosphere of conformity and control rather than cooperation and mutual respect.

As a parent and educator, I would like to see our society move toward an education for peace. Where do we even begin? Just as Montessori said, I feel a bit lost in the structures we've created for ourselves. I imagine that, as they do in Montessori classrooms, we begin with the world in mind - as we raise our children, pursue our careers, make choices in our daily lives, and participate in our communities...

Perhaps this world focus can become an ongoing part of my reflections here. Where does it make itself felt in Montessori parenting? I guess we shall see...


At 9:15 PM, Anonymous Sara said...

I hear you. I remember my reaction to my students in the former Soviet Union - how they all seemed to turn in the same essay (word for word) and have the same answers on tests. From our cultural view, they were cheating. The longer I taught them - the more I began to understand the cooperative atmosphere that existed. My challenge there became helping them to express their individuality. The challenge in the U.S. is in helping students co-operate. And merely assigning group work (as is popular in secondary schools) doesn't really do it. As a parent of a very young child, I find myself dreading the inevitable decisions about my child's education. And closer to home are all the parenting books you mention and mainstream conventions that advise control & conformity and (paradoxically) independance quickly and at all costs (in my opinion, a false independance) - they leave me wondering if the child was lost in the midst of a frantic societythat can't stop long enough to breathe, let alone observe!

I'm glad you are going into education. . . I guess teachers like you are where we have to begin. Thanks for the food for thought.


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