TIME magazine 1930

Whilst stumbling through the interweb, I discovered an article entitled “Return of Montessori”, originally published in TIME magazine, Monday, February 3, 1930.

The passage of time has created its own distance between contemporary citizens and Dr. Montessori, and the Montessori community has deepened this distance through the awe and revere we create.

For these reasons I enjoy reading articles written, published, and read during Dr. Montessori’s lifetime.  They often provide a glimpse into the thinking of the time, such as these concluding paragraphs

Criticism. Most U. S. educators, jealous of the fame of John Dewey, are quick to point out that Dewey, in 1902, was working with auto-education in his University of Chicago-school. The interpretation of his philosophy in the education of young children also emphasized the importance of correlating the infant’s use of its hands to its brain.

The system, derived from Dewey philosophy, now used at Columbia University Teachers College, differs from the Montessori plan in that it stresses the child’s supervised intellectual growth rather than its undirected development. At Columbia the pupil is taken to see a hangar full of airplanes which he is encouraged to copy in clay, wax or crayon in the classroom. Under the Dewey method, the child has opportunity for creative expression which the less plastic Montessori equipment does not allow.

As trained Montessorians, we can see the inaccuracy of describing the Montessori method as “undirected”, or “less plastic”.  Yet, at the time of its publication in 1930, in a major news magazine, how influential was this opinions on the US public.

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One thought on “TIME magazine 1930

  1. I appreciate your effort to raise important issues regarding the schism between the AMS and AMI. But perhaps schism is not so much due to weaknesses in the Montessori philosophy (which more unity would supposedly correct) than in varying attempts to deal with the exigencies of the situations schools find themselves in. Situations are similar in other fields such as Pilates, the Feldenkrais Method, etc. In the former, the movement’s elders lost control of trademarks, and so now almost anyone can claim to be a Pilates teacher. In the case of Feldenkrais, the trademark has been enforced, perhaps to the detriment of the movement, and other fans of the method have had to splinter off and use other names, such as Anat Baniel, etc. Think about it. If as a Pilates teacher, or other kind of teacher, I had to take a certain kind of training, one that supports the income levels desired by the trainers, the movement as a whole is limited. (Perhaps this is the situation in Feldenkrais North America that has required more training and a different style of training than in Feldenkrais Europe. But thanks to the influence of Anat Baniel, they may be changing to more effective methods due to some competition from her and others.) Today, Pilates seems almost everywhere, but who has heard of Feldenkrais?

    Today, AMI continues to refuse to do Internet-based training. And AMS supports schools that fall under the jurisdiction of the US Dept of Education’s accreditation process, and requires an in-house component. I have personally benefitted from the NAMC’s all-correspondence course training that is not recognized by either of these two organizations. I homeschool, and I could not commute to a training location, so NAMC’s program is very helpful to me. If I want “pure” Montessori, I poke around AMI-affiliated sites. If I need something a bit more eclectic, that nods to trends among public schools and their training colleges, I poke around AMS. I’m very thankful for these two organizations that have their own perspectives and generally stick by them. It’s better for the whole community I think. Given human nature, and they way our democracy works, it’s perhaps good for the population as a whole to observe two main parties oppose each other. The tradition of the opposition is a basic tenet of democracy. Let these organization do their uttermost, in a transparent and democratic way, to attempt to convince others that they are right. Perhaps taken to its logical conclusion, we can see how stupid an all out war would be, and how it would be better to promote the Montessori ideals generally and increase the overall pie of children educated by the method than by destroying each other.

    This is a dance that software companies play all the time. Some term it “coopetition,” so there is some tension among different ways of doing things and different economic interests, but the companies also know that more members in the “ecosystem” around a certain new technology gives the technology more publicity, allows it to serve more customers, and perhaps increases the chances that it may become a core technology (that other companies use in their products thereby increasing marketshare), and perhaps become a technology that its creators could try to dominate through innovation. In software or information technology, it is very difficult for one company to totally dominate, as their product or telecommunications device is often simply a component of a large “stack” of technologies that allows information technology to work. Which part of the stack has high value in economic terms changes with innovation, but nonetheless, older parts of the telecommunications or operating systems stacks remain crucial. So the ways of AMI and AMS may seem critical technologies now, but as other ways of doing things like homeschooling grows, perhaps the debates among the two perspectives may seem arcane to creating a cheaper, effective school system that uses homeschooling methods as well. As homeschooling grows, it is my preference that AMI and AMS stay as they are, for they give a depth to the Montessori movement, and have resources to serve folks who may not be ready for even homeschooling partially. And because of their historical adherence to particular perspectives, they exude a certain legitimacy that aids Montessori homeschoolers in their critique of expensive conventional state-supported education. In a democratic system, the more voices the better. One could also think in terms of fuzzy logic. Linguistically, fuzzy logic has been used to categorize language, and we could perhaps say that AMI is “totally” Montessori, AMS is “pretty good” Montessori, and homeschooling Montessori is “just enough” Montessori (definitions are relative to each other). We limit markets and choices when we think in binary terms, “Montessori” or “not-Montessori,” and attempt to create an all-encompassing “Montessori” category (by promoting a disjointed unity among the AMI and AMS) to exclude others. Besides, ideas do not live solely in organizations, and just as non-trademarked Pilates has morphed into many forms (some critical actors in this process seem to be the equipment manufacturers that may need to pay royalties in the case of a trademark), it would be hard to contain ideas as effective as those Maria Montessori developed. Let us increase the pie and the influence of Montessori by allowing for some organizational fuzziness. After all, let us remember that Montessori is also a social movement to reform education and not just a professional society, and how it is framed can vary with the actors involved. With homeschoolers let us cry, All hail to democratic pluralism in education! What could be more respectful to children and their families.

    Martin Beversdorf
    Libertyville, IL

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