Maria Montessori after World War II said, “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.”
One has to only turn on the news or open a newspaper to hear stories of murder, mayhem and carnage. These last few months, between the police shootings, the murders of policemen and the Nice attack, I have felt overloaded by the images of violence. But even more disturbing is that I am developing immunity to the virus of bloody images, I am growing less nauseous or tearful at what I am seeing on television.
Upon reflection, I realized that there is a message that is screaming at us. Our youth and young adults are unable to find peace within themselves, nor do they know how to resolve conflicts peacefully. Our education systems are not addressing the needs of the whole child, we are so concerned about grades and tests, that we have lost sight of what it is that makes us human. We have to be more that instincts and hate. We have to find an education system that teaches living in peace? Yes, Montessori is one proven education ideology that can be implemented immediately.
Peace education in Montessori is built on many things. Starting at Early Childhood, students are taught is to take responsibility for their actions and to resolve differences through words. As they get older students realize that peace means living in harmony with their classmates and with the world outside of them. As adolescents in Montessori, they are learning to find ways to be peaceful within themselves. They are learning about their challenges and strengths or “ogres and allies” and using allies to overcome their personal ogres. They need to know that they have a purpose and a place in society so they take action in the community. They needed to be grounded in hard work. Montessori students are learning that mistakes are learning opportunities to become better at what they are doing and it is a mastery-based program.
At Montessori High Schools, students are allowed opportunities to ‘self-construct” that is they have time in the day for personal reflection. Students are not afraid of conflict, internal or external. They embrace the chance to know themselves, are given tools to fight their inner demons as they are given to tools to fight external conflicts. Students learn over time what external conflicts they can handle and what they need an adult help with. They know that they have a purpose in life and that is to make a positive difference in the world.
There is a myth that Montessori means no structure or that is only for Early Childhood. In fact, Montessori High School students are getting in excellent colleges. They are embodying everything we want our youth to be. They are confident, self motivated individuals who know how to learn. They are students who you can be proud of, who can coexist with preschoolers and toddlers and who are leaders of the community.
Superintendents across the country should be reflecting on what education means for us as a society and consider Montessori.
Sunita Pailoor is the Director of Secondary Programs in Washington. She is an AMS certified Montessori teacher for elementary at Woodinville Montessori School and is currently pursuing an administrator’s credential through Houston Montessori Center. Sunita has a M.Ed from Plymouth State University, a B.S from Portland State University, a BA from Bangalore University in India. She also teaches adults at MEIPN, an AMS teacher training institute.