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But in a sense, this approach is misleading. Why is this important? And it is starting from that theory that it deduces a practical method.

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Montessori, who was a scientist by training and never claimed to be anything more, worked the other way around. Those aspects were introduced over time and tested, and they worked. The same was true with the activities. From her findings, Dr. Montessori developed theories, of course, but then put the implications from her theories to practical tests. That is, in a word, the scientific method. The Montessori Method is the only pedagogical method that was completely developed and refined through the scientific method.

And here lies the qualitative difference. The Montessori Method is the only pedagogical method that was completely developed through the scientific method. The sum total of what humans could learn about pedagogy did not end when Maria Montessori died. But unfortunately, her spirit of rigorous experiment was for the most part not carried on. To take just one example, in my experience most Montessori advocates are opposed to children using digital devices.

Maria Montessori was a deeply devout Catholic and a daily communicant. She believed her method was firmly grounded in the Gospel even as it was based on science, since indeed the two could never contradict each other, as St. Thomas Aquinas taught.

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She fostered the development of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd , a religious instruction program using her methods, which has also shown amazing results in bringing children to know and love the Lord. And the Method is indeed grounded in the Gospel. A Montessori classroom is the living embodiment of the Catholic truism that true freedom can be exercised only in an ordered framework.

Montessori saw her goals as moral education, scientific education and artistic education—or education for the good, the true and the beautiful. The Method is incarnate; it reaches the soul through the body. And, of course, with those beautiful objects and precise rituals, it is liturgical. So, as we must ask of the world, we must ask of the church: Why did we ignore Maria Montessori? Imagine for a second if the church had adopted Montessori education as its blueprint early in the 20th century. Imagine first the countless lives that would have been transformed, the people who would never have reached their full potential in a traditional school.

Then imagine the greater robustness of the church. How many have left the church because of angry teachers or utterly boring catechism lessons? Catholics keep wondering what they have to give the modern world that it does not already have.


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By the end of the 19th century, the church had been the biggest educational institution in the world by far, continuously for centuries. Indeed, it had literally invented the school, as well as the university. But by that time, modern nation-states had taken over mass public education. The church could not compete. Modern states had infinitely more money and resources, and they could make school free for everyone and compel attendance, which certainly helped turnout.

And suddenly countries were faced with the question of pedagogy for the first time. Most of them ended up copying the Prussian model. The vast majority of schools, public and private, across the West, despite some variations due to history and geography, still follow the same basic model invented by a militaristic dictatorship in the 19th century. As Prof. This comes from the era of the Industrial Revolution, when schools were explicitly modeled on factories, with children as inputs.

Bells were introduced to mimic the bells on the factory floor that signify breaks. Learning was induced through a reward and punishment system. Germany and other European nations were also anticipating mass warfare, and schools needed to produce disciplined future soldiers. The approach made practical application of philosophical assumptions. This form of schooling is based on the Lockean tabula rasa view that we come into this world as blank slates, as simple receptacles for information, and on the Cartesian dualism between mind and body. Accordingly, the best way to learn something is to receive it in a disincarnate way.

Those are assumptions contrary to the wisdom of the Catholic tradition. Against the Lockean view, Montessori supports the authentic Christian view that every child has a unique, God-given identity and gifts and must, by grace, develop them. As opposed to the Cartesian view, this approach rejects mind-body dualism. Because we did not—we could not—believe we could do better. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the pace of technological change was much faster than it is today, and the overall sense of the unstoppable nature of technological and organizational progress was pervasive.

There was no sense born of world wars and environmental catastrophes that technology could also bring forth tragedy. They were the scientists.

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We were amateurs next to them. Of course the best we could do was copy. I'm glad to read this, as it's so pertinent to considering alternatives in the context of public education today. I would like to hear what the author thinks of Waldorf Education, a smaller, but active private school alternative that established itself in many U.

Its philosophy and teaching methodology, contrasting with Montessori in some, but not all, aspects, derives from the work of German philosopher Rudolf Steiner. I wonder if knowledge of this method should be publicized to Deaf Parents with young Hearing Children. As the firstborn child with normal hearing of deaf parents, I had no language acquisition in the home until I was around 4 years old when I learned how to speak from other children in the neighborhood.

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When I was enrolled in the first grade at our local Catholic grade school which didn't have a Kindergarten , in the early 60s, I was lost. As a result, I had to repeat first grade because I failed Reading. On the whole an excellent article. That said, Gobry does not fully spell out the obstacles to scaling Montessori. In particular, while there are public Montessori schools, insofar as they are required to hire conventionally certified teachers and cover conventional public school curricula and meet annual grade level accountability testing expectations, public Montessori, including charter schools, are contaminated from the start.

In the private sector in most states there does exist an opportunity to create real Montessori schools, but there remain challenges in being a marginalized movement relative to the mainstream. In short, the dominant system serves as a standard-setting system that imposes significant costs to educational models, such as Montessori, that are outside the mainstream perimeters.

I describe it as a dominant operating system, with all the power of the state behind it, with a dominant market share much greater than Microsoft ever had. Here is an extended analysis of this perspective,. I create Montessori-aligned high schools for a living Academy of Thought and Industry and am deeply involved at a granular level with these issues. What a stimulative article! Way outside my area of familiarity, except as a parent and grandparent and with my own memories of schooling, but I feel enriched for having read it.

Good comments thus far, too. As far as I know, no method has been shown in a study to outright erase the income achievement gap—except Montessori. Surely they have enough power under home rule charters, or enough clout in their state capitals, to take such action. Female students at the high school I attended in upstate New York no longer need to teach themselves calculus from a book, and the physics classes are taught by a charismatic young woman.

When I first returned to Yale in the fall of , everyone kept boasting that 30 to 40 percent of the undergraduates majoring in physics and physics-related fields were women. More remarkable, those young women studied in a department whose chairwoman was the formidable astrophysicist Meg Urry, who earned her Ph.

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She has a quizzical smile and radiant eyes and an irreverent sense of humor; not one but five people described her to me as the busiest woman on campus. Before we met, Urry predicted that the female students in her department would recognize the struggles she and I had faced but that their support system protected them from the same kind of self-doubt. For instance, under the direction of Bonnie Fleming, the second woman to gain tenure in the physics department at Yale, the students sponsor a semiregular Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics at Yale.

When I mentioned that a tea was being held that afternoon so I could interview female students interested in science and gender, Urry said she would try to attend. Judith Krauss, the professor who was hosting the tea she is the former dean of nursing and now master of Silliman College, where I lived as an undergraduate , warned me that very few students would be interested enough to show up.

When 80 young women and three curious men crowded into the room, Krauss and I were stunned.