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peter fox

Socialism and Montessori

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We send our daughter to Montessori schools because the environment allows children to learn that the world is meant to be, and can be, understandable, just and benevolent. The philosophy teaches her that she is deserving of respect and expected to respect others. The education, to my eyes anyway, is based on cause and effect. The materials are designed so that if you properly manipulate them they will work and, if you do not, they will not. In that way they mirror nature. The system works so well because children inherently want things to make sense and in this environment they generally do.

I was dismayed when we recently received a letter from the school telling us the children were asked to bring canned goods they purchased with their own money so they could feel what sacrifice is and help out the less fortunate in the spirit of Gandhi. The next day we received the school’s annual report and were told, and I am paraphrasing, how lucky we are that in a world where the word "I" is used so much that we have a school that teaches children to think in terms of we. I now wonder if my daughter will come home with the name Equality-4189 rather than Lauryn in a few weeks time.

I am used to seeing this kind of rhetoric in the public domain and do not wish to shelter my daughter from it, but at the same time I definitely do not want her to hear it from people she really trusts. Her work environment is based on individual work ethic and rationality. To have the lessons she learns in this environment contradicted by selfless tripe coming from people she respects is too much. I am actively looking for another Montessori school which is a shame because my daughter loves the school and she is learning very well. This is her third year in Montessori, but her first in this school. Her previous school did have some hints of socialism but we were willing to live with that because at the time the benefits seemed to outweigh the possible damage.

I thought about writing a letter to the school explaining why this kind of language contradicts Dr. Montessori’s philosophy, but then realized that it doesn’t contradict her philosophy. It is, in fact, Dr. Montessori’s philosophy that contains the contradictions. She preaches rationality through cause and effect in the classroom, but socially believes in self sacrifice. Is this contradiction too great to overcome? I would appreciate your opinion of the effect Dr. Montessori’s socialist beliefs have on an otherwise excellent educational philosophy.

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