Friday, January 05, 2007

Educational Theorist Makes Comeback

I mentioned that Marsha was in Rome attending a "100 Years of Montessori" conference. The Washington Post ran an article to mark the anniversary. (Thanks to Stephen Hicks for the link.)

I loved this quote from the article:

The stubborn Italian physician and her contemporary, U.S. philosopher and psychologist John Dewey -- who believed that learning should be active -- are considered perhaps the most influential progressive thinkers in the modern history of education.

But Montessori has had the more tangible impact, with versions of her child-centered practices passed from preschool teacher to preschool teacher, some not even aware of the origins of what they are doing.

If true, this represents a remarkable turnaround. Dewey and Montessori were philosophical antagonists in many ways, and the battle has moved back and forth. Montessori made early inroads in the U.S., but one of Dewey's allies wrote a scathing attack upon her system, and by the 1940's there was nary a Montessori school to be found here. Then, in the 1950's, an American mom began a grass-roots effort to bring the Montessori way back to the U.S.

Marsha discusses all this history in her foundations study guide, which is where I learned about it. She describes the antagonism between Dewey and Montessori this way:

Dewey and Montessori approached education from philosophically and psychologically different perspectives. Dewey's concern was with fostering the imagination and the development of social relationships. He believed in developing the intellect late in childhood, for fear that it might stifle other aspects of development. By contrast, Montessori believed that development of the intellect was the only means by which the imagination and proper social relationships could arise. Her method focused on the early stimulation and sharpening of the senses, the development of independence in motor tasks and the care of the self, and the child's naturally high motivation to learn about the world as a means of gaining mastery over himself and his environment.

I could end with something silly, like "Phooey on Dewey." I could try for something praising his antagonist, like "Glory to Montessori." But I suppose the most important person to cheer for is the child, who must learn to use his or her mind, which is quite an adventure.

Sharpen your mind.
And trust it can find
The reasons behind
All things.


Bruce Deitrick Price said...

I wish, if your reference to Phooey on Dewey is to my article "Phooey on John Dewey" (please Google), you would tell people. Silly or not. I was tempted to show restraint but finally decided Dewey is just too overblown. His reputation needs to be deflated because he has caused a lot of damage.

Bruce Deitrick Price

JohnJEnright said...

BDP, I wasn't referencing your article. Every day I make silly rhymes, and I think we both just hit on "Phooey on Dewey" by coincidence. As a title, I like it. I just didn't think it was good as one of my closing rhymes on that particular day. In case anyone else finds this, is Bruce Deitrick Price's article: