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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

Defects of the Montessori System

Defects of the Montessori System.

The defects of the Montessori system are defects of omission only. Some of the subjects considered important in all modern Infant Schools find no place in the Montessori schools in Rome. The most important of these, and the one around which so much discussion centres, is literature. Stories, nursery rhymes, and poetry are entirely omitted from the curriculum of the Montessori schools in Rome, and no very satisfactory explanation as to the reason for the omission has been given by Dr. Montessori or those who seek to interpret her. The explanation probably lies in the doctor's strong adherence to the principle of liberty and in her belief that education should be active, not passive. Over and over again she reiterates the statement that "the child who does not do does not know how to do," and many teaching devices at first used in the Montessori schools in Rome were abandoned because they rendered the child inactive. Evidently Dr. Montessori's strong objection to the passive listening system of education, so prevalent still in most schools, has led her to the other extreme and has caused her to exclude story, nursery rhyme, and poetry from her curriculum.

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An Australian Montessori Schoolroom.

An Australian Montessori Schoolroom.

page 44

I do not, however, think that this or other minor defects of the Montessori system need concern us very greatly, since it is not likely that the Montessori or any other system of education can be introduced in all its detail into any school or schools. Dr. Montessori is the least dogmatic of persons. She would be the first to deplore any blind or mechanical adoption of her method. All she wants is a thorough mastery of her principle of liberty, and an intelligent application of that principle to all school subjects, In our own school at Blackfriars we still retain the story, rhyme, and poem, but we apply the principle of liberty, and only the children who wish to hear the story come to it. Some children remain away each time, but they are not always the same children. Those who remain away quietly employ themselves about the room in some work they have themselves chosen. The children who come to hear the story listen attentively, and the teacher is not at any time obliged to recall the wandering attention of any child. In all the discussion on the Montessori system heard in England and elsewhere, I did not once find any of the vital points of the method questioned. Everyone appeared to agree with the principle of liberty, and everyone acquiesced in the fact that if the child is to grow mentally, morally, and physically, he must do his own growing on each of these planes. The belief of most teachers and thinkers on education who have studied the Montessori system was that all schools, large and small, would be very much improved by the introduction of the Montessori method and material. At the same time it was thought that the system should be introduced systematically and by competent instructors, and that any haphazard introduction of it without proper guidance from those qualified to guide could only bring discredit to the system and probably do harm instead of good to the schools so using it.