The Montessori Philosophy
Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was truly a radical in terms of her philosophy regarding children and the fact that she was putting it forward at a time when children were most often thought of as extensions of their parent, their parents' beliefs and culture, and a creature to be shaped in ways that would create an "appropriate" and "successful" adult based on those beliefs. The collective consciousness regarding childrearing was that it was important to replicate and propagate one's own beliefs which would essentially assure that their values would continue into the future. The fact that Montessori insisted that a child "is not an inert being" initiated a remarkable shift in thinking. As more people found value in her philosophy and began to apply it in education and childhood development, it became clear that there was a great deal of merit in applying this changed way of thinking. Modern Montessori Methods
Montessori was a young Italian physician (the first woman to become a doctor in Italy) who developed her educational theories when she served as a "director of a school for retarded children in 1900" (Cavendish 64). Shute adds that Montessori's observation of the "deficient and insane" children at the school demonstrated to her that they "were starved not for food but for stimulation" (70). She began practicing her techniques with those students, then: "some of her idiots began passing the same exams as non-retarded children, she started to question the effectiveness of the conventional methods of teaching normal children" (Cavendish 64). In fact, Shute also notes that: "After working with Montessori for two years, some of the "deficient" children were able to read, write and pass standard public-school tests" (70). Cavendish explains that the "Montessori" system that evolved from her efforts was: "based on the principle of children learning for themselves, with the teacher in the background" (64). The teacher...
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