Sunday, April 29, 2012
Recently I was listening to a friend’s comment about Maria Montessori and her understanding of the child as a savior of humankind, an instrument of peace. My friend suggested that my book would have a limited audience with such a premise that the child is the Christ, our Savior. She said many people would not buy that, or be interested in reading about it. Most Christians pray and think of the adult Jesus as their savior, as their Christ. Other organized religious followers have adult gods or persons representing their God; except for the Buddhists who search for the divine child.
Yet, Maria Montessori says, “It is the child who makes the man, and no man exists who was not made by the child he once was.” Another paradox that I’m not sure I can explain except to say that I understand myself to be a disciple of Maria Montessori’s spirit and, at the same time, a follower of Christianity. Do I believe the crucified Jesus is my savior, my Christ? What is my standpoint? I need time to think this over.
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Sunday, April 22, 2012
Thinking about the work of parents and educators collaborating with the child has introduced puzzling thoughts and questions for me. How can a mature adult who has formed his own logic, ethics, prejudices, and preferences for living out his life, give in or accommodate the revolutionary ways of a child forming a new point of view, a new world view—a child creating his own intelligence? The possibility of such a sacrifice is not only nearly impossible but extremely humbling.
Today on my walk, I watched how the sun works to melt the snow so the stream could run to nourish the plants, to feed the birds, and allow the salmon to run to lay their eggs and produce more salmon for our table. Nature is so glorious. What would we do if nature did not do its work of collaboration? Even when we have natural disasters confront us—storms, floods, quakes—we find a meaning in this work—work of God we might say.
Given freedom of spirit, the child desires and is capable of absorbing the world view of the adult and will do so whether the work be good or bad. Independently, enjoying the ongoing creation of his intelligence and free will, the child creates a standpoint, his own world view, from the environment presented to him by the mature adult living a reasoning life in his presence. This is the collaborative work of mankind—the kind of work that needs to be active in families and schools, the work of transforming children into adults. Can Nature be a guide?
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012
A famous quote of Maria Montessori: “The child becomes a person through work,” leads me to question what she would see as work for our children of today. Would there be any praise at all for the work of playing the video games? I read recently about a study involving laparoscopic surgeons who use video cameras to do their work. Research found that the ones who had played the games had improved surgical skills.
Would she recognize and approve of the intense devotion and time spent on sports that occupy our young people, as work toward their development? Would she appreciate time spent on studies at school and sometimes difficult homework assignments that often interfere with the social work of maintaining friendships? . . . and the work of learning and developing musical skills?
Yes. I believe Maria would affirm all these activities as important work toward the child’s becoming a person as long as he is given an encouraging environment to independently, in collaboration with his family, make his choices. "No adult can bear a child’s burden or grow up in his stead,” Maria reminds us. The important words here are: independently in collaboration with his family.
This is the paradox—that the child is allowed to make choices of work according to his own rhythm yet encouraged to grow to appreciate the adults’ matured rhythm of life’s work. This is collaboration.
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Thursday, April 5, 2012
I have been thinking about the child’s work and trying to decide if playing the video games is work for the child. I've never played--as an adult it would be work for me. As an adult I want to win; I want to get to the end with the highest score. Isn't that the whole reason for playing any game—to win?
It’s so easy to assume that the child or young person has the same goal—to win. If the child or young person watches and listens to the adult playing games they quickly learn to take on the same pattern of playing; ie, they must win. Winning at the games; winning at financial efforts; winning at tests; these are natural goals that bring happiness for the adult. The adult’s work is to produce the maximum amount of something externally, materially, with the least effort. The child or young person watches the adult, listens to the adult, and soon learns the same values, the same behaviors--this is what makes the adult happy—this is what the adult expects of the child.
Maria Montessori tells us that children and young persons’ work is to grow physically and to construct their own personality and acquire their culture, naturally. How can we meaningfully expect our young to ‘grow-up’ if we don’t respect them to work by their own natural instinct--which is not necessarily to win but to transform and internalize their environment?
Adults have reached the norm of their species while a child is a being in a constant state of transformation. A child has a different rhythm of life which needs to be respected, not speeded up. More about this paradox next week. (comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org)