The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79
The Montessori Method. — World-Wide Interest
The Montessori Method.
n Rome, at the beginning of this year, there were gathered together from every part of the earth more than eighty students, intent upon gaining some first-hand knowledge of the Montessori System of Education, which has been, and still is, engaging the attention of the whole educational world. The eighty students comprising the class came from such widely-distant parts of the earth as China, South America, Japan, Canada, India, Russia, Holland, Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, South Africa, Great Britain, the United States, and Australia. Many in the class were sent by Governments, Education Departments, or Colleges, and almost all, whether sent officially or whether there of their own accord, were teachers of distinction in their own country.
Of the private students attending the class, not a few had made enormous sacrifices. Many spent the hoarded savings of years on the course, and one woman even went the length of mortgaging her home in order to raise the necessary funds.
What was the cause of this widespread interest? From what source did it arise? And how were the ideas spread all over the earth?
"A small school of children started five years ago in a squalid quarter of Rome, where in mean streets and in a few houses 10,000 delinquents without fixed dwelling-places were huddled together, and where almost all the inhabitants were illiterate. In a tenement house of working men, forty or fifty little children from 3 to 6 years old received those who went to see them, showed a remarkable activity new to their existence, and made progress superior to other children, in that at the age of 4½ to 5 years they wrote better than the children in the elementary schools. This is the cause."
There were no great institutions, no demonstrations, no great work of propaganda, by which the Montessori doctrine might be spread all over the world, but people came and saw and believed, and went forth to preach the new gospel of liberty for the children.page 7
The first training course for teachers was held in 1909, in Baroness Franchetti's house, at Citta di Costello. Teachers came to this course from every part of Italy. Then the Queen Mother became interested, and arranged a course for Italian nurses, besides founding the school in the Via Giusti. About the same time the Syndic of Rome instituted a training course for teachers in municipal schools.
Another proof of interest in the method were the schools which sprang up everywhere—in Italy, in Switzerland, in Paris, in England, in America, in the Argentine Republic, in India, in Syria, and in Australia.
Such, briefly, is what I found upon arriving in Rome in January of this year. I was fortunate enough to get in touch with Dr. Montessori immediately upon my arrival, partly through the good offices of Colonel the Hon. James Allen, Minister for Education in New Zealand, and partly through the doctor's interest in the working of the experiment in Sydney. I was at once invited to attend the lectures as the doctor's guest, and without fee. This I regard as a compliment to the State of New South Wales, and not in any way as a personal matter.
During my stay in Rome every opportunity was given me of inquiring into the method in the schools there, and much valuable information on various points was given me by the doctor herself, and by her friends, the Marchesa di Viti di Marco, the Donna Maraini Guerriere-Gonzaga, and other Italian ladies.page 8
The American women attending the class were mostly well-known kindergartners. I saw a great deal of these women, and we were able to discuss the method very fully, and to compare it with kindergarten methods in America and Australia. Not the least interesting and profitable of my experiences were the conversations and interchange of ideas with these keen, practical, far-seeing, enthusiastic Americans.
After seeing the schools at Milan, Germany, and Great Britain, I returned through Rome at the invitation of Dr. Montessori, in order to see the result of her experiment with older children. Of this experiment I am not yet at liberty to speak. It has been shown only to a few privileged persons. The doctor's own book on it will be out shortly. So much, however, I may say: that it fully bears out the wisdom of her method, and shows, with children from 7 to 10 or 11, the marvellous results that follow the application of the master principle—self-education through liberty. Much valuable didactic material for use with these older children has been devised by Dr. Montessori. By means of this material grammatical rules and the use of correct and exact language become an absorbing play, the solving of intricate geometrical problems a game, and number work a delightful and fascinating: occupation.
|(a)||Newspaper and magazine articles in every tongue.|
|(b)||Students and visitors from all parts of the world.|
|(c)||Montessori schools in Italy, Switzerland, France, England, Argentine Republic, India, Syria, Japan, America, and other places.|
|(d)||Translations of the "Montessori Method" into English, French, German, Spanish, Roumanian, Polish, and Russian.|
|(e)||The great demand for the book. Five thousand copies of the first English edition were sold in four days, and the book was in its sixth edition in five months.|
|(f)||The fact that Dr. Montessori has not only stirred the whole educational world profoundly, but that she has also stirred and moved to an extraordinary degree the world of ordinary men and women—a world that does not, as a rule, trouble its head overmuch about educational methods.|