Science and Art

I spent my undergraduate years studying visual arts and socializing with students of science.  Understandably I spent many a late night discussing the differences (and similarities) between science and art.

In an effort to gain more clarity about what I am doing and my intentions regarding this profession and my work with children, I wrote a personal guiding manifesto.  I wrote the following passages about science and art.

I believe that the science of guiding is in the theory of child development, the proper preparation of the environment, and the technically precise presentation of materials.  I believe that one can be trained in the science of guiding in an academic setting.

I believe the art of guiding is in observing children, selecting specific presentations, timing invitations, enticement, and engaging interest throughout a presentation.  I believe the most important art is observing.  I believe that one must master the art of guiding through work with children and that a qualified and engaged mentor facilitates this process.

(read the whole manifesto here)

I think the following passage from Primal Leadership validates my view of the science and art of the Montessori method.

Emotional intelligence … involves circuitry that runs between the brain’s executive centers in the prefrontal lobes and the brain’s limbic system, which governs feelings, impulses, and drives.  Skills based in the limbic areas, research shows, are best learned through motivation, extended practice, and feedback.  Compare that kind of learning with what goes on in the neocortex, which governs analytical and technical ability.  The neocortex grasps concepts quickly, placing them within an expanding network of associations and comprehension.  This part of the brain, for instance, can figure out form reading abook how to use a computer program, or the basics of making a sales call.  When learning technical or analytical skills, the neocortex operates with magnificent efficiency.

…The design of the neocortex makes it a highly efficient learning machine, expanding our understanding by linking new ideas or facts to an extensive cognitive network.  This associative mode of learning takes place with extraordinary rapidity: The thinking brain can comprehend something after a single hearing or reading.

The limbic brain, on the other hand , is a much slower learner- particularly when the challenge is to relearn deeply ingrained habits.  The difference matters immensely when trying to improve leadership skills: At their most basic level, those skills come down to habits learned early in life.  If those habits are no longer sufficient, or hold a person back, learning takes longer.  Reeducating the emotional brain for leadership learning, therefore, requires a different model from what works for the thinking brain: It needs lots of practice and repetition.

Primal Leadership p 102-103

The preparation of the adult is comprehended quickly (with the neocortex) and we leave training (or at least I did) feeling fully prepared and fully equipped to work with children in an authentic Montessori way.

The reality (for me at least) is that my training was only the beginning of my preparation.  Every day I struggle to be better, to inch closer to the prepared adult (reeducating the limbic brain).  The art of guiding, the daily emotional realities of stress and frustrations, hopes and dreams, the limbic brain part, is hard.  It may be the hardest thing I will ever do.

The authors of Primal Leadership state that the limbic brain skills are ” best learned through motivation, extended practice, and feedback.”  I have motivation (and I hope we all do) and I have opportunities for extended practice, but I want better feedback. I’m looking for Yoda to my Luke Skywalker.


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