Critical Mass

I’ve been thinking more about the Tipping Point of the Montessori movement, and specifically critical mass, which is defined as “an amount necessary or sufficient to have a significant effect or to achieve a result” ( 2006). 

A few innovators and early adopters isn’t enough to push a phenomenon to the Tipping Point.  There have been innovators and early adopters in the environmental movement for more than 40 years, but business and the general public are only beginning to approach a Tipping Point in the way they interact with the environment.  There must be enough innovators and early adopters, a critical mass, to sway the remaining group.

How many is enough?  I think the critical mass is dependent on a number of factors.

  • How large is the group? (a small group will be easier to sway than a large group)
  • How important is the belief being swayed? (choice of footwear will be easier to sway than choice of educational pedagogy)
  • How deeply entrenched is the current belief? (this seasons fashions will sway easier than decades of school traditions)
  • What laws and bureacracy exist around the current belief? (hairstyle is easier to sway than the tax code)

If you accept the premise of my argument, achieving critical mass for the Montessori movement is quite challenging given that education is very important, deeply entrenched, with many laws and extensive bureaucracy.   These factors really can’t be changed, but the size of the group may be manageable. 

Currently the AMI network is spread thin over the globe, and the Draft Goals 2017 call for a steady increase in AMI’s global presence.  This is an effort to sway a large group.

I wonder what effect AMI might have if it pushed hard to sway a targeted, small group.  Milwaukee for example, where there is a training center, an elementary trainer, and a popular public school system.  What if AMI filled the training center with a Primary trainer and an A to I trainer, lobbied the city council and Wisconsin legislature for support, and conducted an aggressive marketing/education campaign in Milwaukee?  How much effort would it take to create a model of excellence to show the world? 

What is a more effective way to reach a global tipping point; an incremental global push, or an aggressive targeted push to create a model of excellence. 

I certainly don’t have the answer, but I would love to be able to point to a shining example of citywide Montessori education in action when I am trying to explain Montessori to others. Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.


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