Montessori: Evolving Toward a Public Secondary School in the 21st Century
November 7, 2012
The educational community has long been familiar with the Montessori method for its international ability to remediate or engage children who are, for any number of reasons, not suited to traditional public schooling. This paper examines the basis of the need for alternative schooling, outlines the development and evolution of the Montessori method and philosophy, and validates the methodology in research, providing a side-by-side comparison for examination of relative strengths and weaknesses of the program. For 21st century school reformists seeking alternative methods ...view middle of the document...
As a matter of fact, John Dewey, a dynamic naturalist philosopher who advocated the method of science and recognized an ever-changing society, derived his recommendations for education based on the consequences of certain choices rather than on premises about the nature of society (Noddings, 2012; Simpson & Jackson, 1997).
Preparation for the future is often cited as one of the main purposes of education: schools are charged with preparing graduates with the right skill and knowledge sets to succeed in the future. However, visions of the future are often clouded by knowledge of the past and present, or the assumption that what was useful in the past will dominate again tomorrow. Dewey posited that education’s aim should be more education, or growth – growth that leads to discussion and deeper thinking, rather than succumbing to the notion of education as preparation for some unknowable future state (1938). Education, then, is both the end and the means, and how we engage it as a vehicle depends upon further examination of and reflection on the philosophy of education.
The strong need for specific educational goals can be partially derived from the broader question, who should be educated? Today’s overwhelming response of “everybody” – education and equal opportunity for all – signals an accountability that resonates throughout the education system in an alarmingly public manner. An adequate response to this question necessitates thoughtful methodology, careful reflection and rational problem solving among the educational leaders of tomorrow…especially because we are now left with the greater debate over how individuals should be educated.
One size fits all? A third question that has remained vitally relevant is, “should education differ according to natural interests and abilities?” The common core curriculum insinuates that societal expectations can be met through the transmission of standard content through K-12 and assumes the importance of the traditional disciplines, but is traditional schooling enough to meet the needs of the present and ensure equality of opportunity and future success? This paper argues that no, it is not, and in fact the Deweyan tradition defends that education should be tailored to the child – an idea also put forth by Plato, but according to hierarchical, functionalist categories that represented a person’s capacities rather than their individual needs and interests.
According to Johnston and Wetherhill (1998), multiple forms of school organization and structure or process are necessary in order to provide all students with appropriate opportunities to learn and contribute to society, as demonstrated by current drop-out rates and the sub-par performance and success of at-risk students. While the standards movement has put a focus on accountability, it could be argued that control, order, and efficiency dominate the conventional system rather than care for the student:
If the pupil left...