How John Locke Inspired Maria Montessori

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JOHN LOCKE

"Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has a right to, but himself." – John Locke

Childhood

John Locke was born on August 29, 1632, in Wrington, a village in the English country of Somerset. He was baptized the same day. Soon after his birth, the family moved to the market town of Pensford, about seven miles south of Bristol, where Locke grew up in an old fashioned stone farmhouse . His father was a county lawyer to the Justices of the Peace and his mother was a simple tanners daughter. Both his parents were Puritans and as such, Locke was raised that way. His early life was spent at home in the country, where he was taught by his father; this explains why he favored the tutorial form of education.

Early Adulthood

In 1647, John Locke enrolled in Westminster School in London where he earned the distinct honor of being named a “King's Scholar”, a privilege that went to only select number of boys and paved the way for Locke to attend Christ Church University, in Oxford, perhaps Oxford's most prestigious school . He studied medicine, which played a central role in his life. After graduating in 1656, he returned to Christ Church two years later and received his Master of Arts. He graduated with a bachelor's of medicine in 1674.

Educational Theory

In order to fully understand Locke, it is necessary to realize that his aims and methods were largely determined by the place and time in which he lived, and by the schools in which he attended. John Locke's theories center around the case that the human mind, at birth is a "Complete, but receptive, blank slate.” It is the experiences placed upon this blank slate throughout life that determine a child's characteristics and behaviors. Locke rebelled against the traditional theories of original sin and did not agree that children were born into the world as evil beings but instead believed that things could only be added to a child's blank slate through experience.

John Locke believed that “The well educating of their children is so much the duty and concern of parents, and the welfare and prosperity of the nation so much depends on it, that I would have everyone lay it seriously to heart.” Locke’s Thoughts concerning Education occupy an important place in the history of educational theory. He believed that “the minds of children are as easily turned, this way or that, as water itself.” For Locke, “Educating children, required instructing their minds and molding their natural tendencies. Education develops the understanding, which men universally pay a ready submission to, whether it is well or ill informed” Because children are born without a natural knowledge of virtue, early education greatly shapes their development, where even little and almost insensible impressions on their tender infancies have very important and lasting consequences!” Locke’s method of education is meant to be observed by parents even from the time their child is in the cradle, long before the teaching that comes from books. He encourages parents to watch their children, for through observation, parents can understand their child’s distinctive inclinations. Specifically, they should pay particular attention to their child “in those seasons of perfect freedom” and “mark how the child spends his time” Once armed with such information, parents can better know how to motivate their children towards the right and can craft their methods of education accordingly. Above all, Locke believed that children could reason early in life and should be addressed as "reasoning beings" by their parents and not regarded as “only a simple plaything, as a simple animal, or a miniature adult who dressed, played and was supposed to act like his elders”…Their ages were unimportant and therefore seldom known. Their education was undifferentiated, either by age, ability or intended occupation.” Locke, on the other hand, thought of children as human beings and proposed...
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