I’ve been thinking about the world of business lately, and what the Montessori community can learn from business.
In my experience, most people involved deeply in Montessori education are Montessori Guides. Our training and skills revolve around interaction with small children. If you have agreed with these observations, then you should agree with my next statement; the Montessori community currently lacks the expertise to effectively compete with traditional education. (Further, I believe this to be a primary reason for the lack of significant growth in the Montessori community.)
I’m not saying the Montessori education is inferior, quite the opposite. I firmly believe that Montessori education is the best aid to life available, and far superior to traditional education. My point is that if the Montessori movement is ever going to replace traditional education, we have to win the ideological war for the hearts and minds of parents all over the world, and we are not trained for this conflict.
We have been trained how to work with children, not how to persuade parents or community leaders. I believe that we need to look outside the Montessori community and outside the field of education for expertise and strategies that persuade.
Although I might argue that any military or police force is essentially fighting an ideological battle, I think violence is an unacceptable option. Religious missionaries and evangelists are also engaging in an ideological battle for hearts and minds. However, given that Montessori is too often mistaken for a religion or a cult, I think it would be best to avoid strategies that would perpetuate that misunderstanding.
Business is the field that I believe holds the most potential to teach the Montessori movement how to win the hearts and minds of others. Business is concerned with attracting consumers (families and children) to purchase a product or service (Montessori education) and to choose it over other alternative products (traditional education).
I would like to believe that a superior product (or educational system) will always win the hearts and minds of the public, but it doesn’t. If you take a moment you can probably think of an inferior or poorly suited product that dominates the market. I thought of internal combustion engines (as opposed to electric cars), Microsoft products (as opposed to open source programs), and coal or nuclear energy (as opposed to solar or wind).
I believe that Montessori education is the best aid to life available, and I think that to convince the general public we need to do more than be right, and more than be effective guides, we have to learn how to sell Montessori. I would love to see the leadership of the Montessori community begin to consider market research, marketing strategies, branding, and other ideological strategies that have been tested in the business world, and if I win the lottery anytime soon I’ll happily pay the consulting firm fees.