An Overview of Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook


Dr. Montessori projected an undeniably charismatic image unto the field of education. Her work has been overwhelmingly successful. She started studying education after she was given the opportunity to work with retarded children in Germany. She was so successful that those children did better on tests than normal children. She has undeniably been of the most, if not the most successful thinker in education. She is also one of the most ignored in academia today. The below quote by Montessori, explaining the eventual goal of the education of a child, explains why her educational philosophy has been successful. It also explains why she has been so slighted in academia.


"[T]he child has a personality which he is seeking to expand; he has initiative, he chooses his own work, persists in it, changes it according to his inner needs; he does not shirk effort, he rather goes in search of it, and with great joy overcomes obstacles within his capacity. “


This sums up entirely why Montessori produces such great results: because she adheres fully to the premise that the purpose of education is not to “socialize” them; indoctrinate them or anything other than to teach a child to negotiate reality. Montessori strives to create a child who is efficacious, who is productive, who is willing to think on his own. This is exactly why the socialists of today ignore her.


Dr. Montessori starts off in her book that she does not see the role of a mother or a teacher as solely catering to the physical needs of a child. The role of a human mother is to develop the child's mind.


 "The mother who has given her child his bath and sent him in his perambulator to the park has not fulfilled the mission of the ‘mother of humanity.’ The hen which gathers her chickens together, and the cat which licks her kittens and lavishes on them such tender care, differ in no wise from the human mother in the services they render."

"No, the human mother if reduced to such limits devotes herself in vain, feels that a higher aspiration has been stifled within her. She is yet the mother of man." 



As Montessori says, whereas science brought upon great advances in the physical health of children, decreasing infant mortality rate and other physical diseases, she believes a rational training of the mind would develop the child and reduce other psychical problems.


 "If today we possessed statistics respecting the nervous debility, defects of speech, errors of perception and of reasoning, and a lack of character in normal children, it would perhaps be interesting to compare them with statistics of the same nature, but compiled from the study of children who have had a number of years of rational education. In all probability we should find a striking resemblance between such statistics and those today available showing the decrease in mortality and the improvement in the physical development of children." 



Dr. Montessori then goes on to describe what a rational process of education would comprise of. It is based, above all things, on sensory education. She dedicates her book to Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller. Helen Keller was born blind and deaf, and yet Anne Sullivan, through the power of sensory education, taught Keller to speak and, thus - to think!


Currently, sensory education is not the basis of education. Instead it is based upon bogus “critical thinking” skills. Students are encouraged to think of things while void of contact with an objective reality. Dr. Montessori, quite correctly, rejects this.


Reason is the process that identifies facts of reality. Reason is the process that perceives what man's senses provide him, categorizes that data, and makes decisions based upon those facts. (Reason, however, is not taken this way anymore, due to Immanuel Kant. Abstract speculation/intellectual play has replaced the coldly scientific process of what reason should be. But I digress.) Sensory data, thus, is the base of all of man's knowledge.


A sound sensory education will teach man how to perceive reality with as much precision as possible. A sound sensory education teaches man to see facts and pick up on how they are similar and different than other things. The more he is keenly aware of these differences in facts of reality, the more precision he possesses. If he cannot see differences, everything to him remains as a huge fuzzy gray blob; reality is perpetually smudged by his senses. 


To accomplish the ability of a child to see reality with precision, Dr. Montessori has a set of didactic materials. For instance, one set of materials includes a set of cylinders first decreasing in diameter only. Children are asked to put these cylinders in their proper holes. Sometimes the child will put a small cylinder in a large hole. Once he finds himself with one last piece that doesn't fit anywhere, he is forced to re-arrange the cylinders. In the process he is learning to judge the differences in shape as he lines these cylinders up thus becoming more keenly aware of the differences of these cylinders. Another example of what Dr. Montessori has the children do is feel different fabrics, to feel their roughness and smoothness. The children learn to judge, based on their own senses, the minute differences between materials. She does a similar thing with musical notes, teaching the child to differentiate between musical notes. If you want to learn in more detail how these tasks are performed, I suggest you pick up a copy of Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook.


Currently, this reality-oriented method is not in school. No more blatant attack on sensory education is “whole language.” With phonics children are taught about individual sounds and the emphasis is on what letter makes what individual sound. They learn to differentiate different letters. There is a connection between the letter and what sound, in reality, it makes. Children learn to differentiate letters in words and can see, with precision, what they are reading. With whole language, instead they are encouraged to read completely on their own. They are given a book with pictures and are told to guess at the word. The children get a vague idea of what the words say, but they remain perpetually fuzzy in their mind. "Captain" will be confused with "capture;" "thick" with "thin" and so on. The child is not taught to think on his own; he instead has to memorize words in order to know them. The words remain a fuzzy blob in his mind; he will have a chronic fear of reading and writing for the rest of his life.


Another integral part of the Montessori House that she sets up for the children is the insistence on autonomy in the child. The child cleans himself, he cooks for himself, and they enjoy doing productive work. As Montessori says,


"In short, where the manufacture of toys has been brought to such a point of complication and perfection that children have at their disposal entire dolls' houses, complete wardrobes for the dressing and undressing of dolls, kitchens where they can pretend to cook, toy animals as nearly lifelike as possible, this method seeks to give all this to the child in reality -- making him an actor in a living scene.”


This autonomy, the willingness to embrace effort, is a particularly grating point to liberals who despise Montessori.


Another favorite part of mine about Montessori education is her idea of the role of the teacher. The teacher's role, fundamentally, is to watch the children as they experience things. The experienced teacher is supposed to be keen to individual learning styles, guiding an individual child into autonomy. This, the focus on individualism, be stills my heart.


Whereas traditional schools strive to scare the child into immobility for "discipline," and progressive schools strive to let the child do whatever he wants, Montessori keeps the focus solely on helping the child master his own body and his own brain.


 "The education of the movements is very complex, as it must correspond to all the coordinated movements which the child has to establish in his physiological organism. The child, if left without guidance, is disorderly in his movement, and these disorderly movements are the special characteristic of the little child. In fact, he ‘never keeps still,’ and ‘touches everything.’ This is what forms the child's so-called "unruliness" and ‘naughtiness.’


"The adult would deal with him by checking these movements, with the monotonous and useless repetition of ‘keep still.’ As a matter of fact, in these movements the little one is seeking the very exercise which will organize and coordinate the movements useful to man. We must, therefore, desist from the useless attempt to reduce the child to a state of immobility. We should rather give ‘order’ to his movement, leading them to those actions towards which his efforts are actually tending."




Ah. This quote takes my breath away as well!


The pleasure a child seeks in a Montessori school is not good grades, but the pleasure he attains from mastering skills. It is discipline over his own body, mastery over reality, the ability to successfully do things that gives the child pleasure in a Montessori school. Indeed, it is indicative of any educational institution that must heavily rely on gold stars and good grades to control child's behavior. It is a sign of a school that is not providing a barometer of success relative to the mental and physical growth of the child.


"Once a direction is given to them, the child's movements are made towards a definite end, so that he himself grows quiet and contented, and becomes an active worker, a being calm and full of joy. This education of the movements is one of the principal factors in producing that outward appearance of "discipline" to be found in the "Children's Houses." 


Montessori is right that schools with irrational teaching philosophies create children with discipline problems. Traditional schools believing putting the fear of God is what is necessary to discipline children. But this is not so. A child with an ordered mind (the eventual goal of Montessori education) is disciplined. This is backed up by research. In Why Our Children Can't Read, Dr. Diane McGuiness suggests that when whole language became popular in schools is when the epidemic of using Ritalin to fix supposed disciplinary problems in children broke out. It is beyond me why any educational philosopher would adopt such a cruel method of teaching as whole language.


The eventual result of a child who goes through Montessori schools is a child capable of autonomy. They are capable of thinking. They are capable of thinking creatively, i.e. thinking of new, original ideas. This is opposite the outcome of a conservative/traditional schooling. Whereas students from traditional schools are very disciplined and have very specific content mastered from their schooling, they are incapable of thinking creatively. This explains why conservatives generally go into purely business, engineering, accounting etc. type jobs.


The child, also, in his own right, becomes a scientist. Trusting his own senses, he is comfortable in a lab when he gets older. He is comfortable both in a chemical lab and any other part of the laboratory called life. Near all jobs involve the interaction with reality. Whether it is the miner who must be able to tell apart minerals, the doctor who must tell apart diseases, or the musician who must understand notes: most professions involve the interaction with reality. Currently, education does not serve to develop people able to evaluate reality.


Current academics reject Montessori education because, to them, education isn't about developing the individual, but training them to live in a socialist world. Don't believe me? Take it from the horses' mouth:


"You can’t make Socialists out of individualists. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming, where everyone is interdependent." - John Dewey 1899 


John Dewey is credited with having the most profound affect on education in the 20th century. He is the father of the “progressive” movement in education. The progressive movement, which was formed largely in rebellion to traditional education, is dedicated to being "child-centered." The child is given full freedom; he is allowed to do whatever he wants. The teacher plays a hands-off role.


After reading through his works, one of the most mind-numbing examples of how his teaching philosophy pans out is this.


“Visitors to some progressive schools are shocked by the lack of manners they come across. One who knows the situation better is aware that to some extent their absence is due to the eager interest of children to go on with what they are doing. In their eagerness they may, for example, bump into each other and into visitors with no word of apology." John Dewey Experience and Education 


If you ever want to know why so many people do not have manners any more, thank John Dewey.


Children in progressive schools have no control over their mind or their bodies. Whatever gives them pleasure is all they can think about. They are like savage little animals, unable even to say “'excuse me” or “sorry” when they lose control of their bodies and run into someone.


The current curriculums in education, from pre-school all the way up to universities, are not dedicated to producing autonomous, thinking individuals. They are dedicated to training students to live in a socialist economy.


“Marxism and Humanism are the predominant philosophies of America's education establishment, yet every day we send the public schools our most precious gift, our children, to be ‘educated.”’ -- Joe Larson, president of "Restoring America" 



The younger curriculums, with their focus on self-esteem, their lack of standards, and the lack of developing rationality in the child are characteristic of curriculums of authoritarian regimes, not a free society. Hitler burned Montessori books. Socialists hail John Dewey. More sobering, the National Education Association in America also gives high praise to John Dewey. In younger curriculums, as Diane McGuiness suggests, we are successfully turning students into second class citizens. These students are easily ruled and manipulated.


In high school, the indoctrination is the elimination of values and conformity to the group. This is evident in grade school too, but it is particularly destructive in high school. Remember high school being a bad experience? Remember the taunting that goes on? Think "that's just the way kids are?" No, it's not. It doesn't have to be that way. Kim du Toit, writes


“So we pulled her (his daughter) out of public school, in the sixth grade. The change was almost immediate. Instead of a surly, sullen child who admitted to us that she had contemplated suicide, we discovered in her a happy, intelligent person with a devastating wit. “


Somewhere in the 1960s it was decided there are no moral absolutes. As such, behaving in any objective way was no longer taught in schools. Children are not taught that behaving with civility is right and behaving with malice is wrong. As such, their emotions take over, and high school is an unbearable place, particularly for anyone of intellectual worth.


In higher education we see the same thing. Browse through any college curriculum and what you will find is not courses based on examining classic literature or studying political theory or anything intellectual. Instead, what you will find is classes dealing with racism, sexism, homophobia etc. College professors are encouraging group politics. They are encouraging economic protectionism not the free-markets. They are encouraging students to see the world in terms of classes and race, thus seeing the world as a place of oppressors and the oppressed. This, again, is not the hallmark of a free society, but of a society quickly heading towards socialism.


If you want an educational philosophy that focuses on developing the individual, not on training a student to live in a new collective world order, you must reject John Dewey, and near all public schools, and embrace the principles of Montessori education.


Summary of important points



  1. Sensory education. Children learn to see similarities and differences in reality thus gaining precision. Reality is then NOT a smeared, smudged, fudged, fuzzy blob to them.
  2. Autonomy. Children clean themselves, cook for themselves etc. They learn to engage in productive work around the house.
  3. Individualization. The teacher pays attention to the growth of an individual child. There is no uniform one-size-fits-all curriculum
  4. Discipline. Discipline is created by the child with the ordered mind. He need not be beat into immobility. He is disciplined because he has control over his mind and body


Amber Pawlik

August 7, 2002


Policy of NEA, “The major problem of education in our times arises out of the fact that we live in a period of fundamental social change. In the new democracy [we were a Republic] education must share in the responsibility of giving purpose and direction to social change..


Paul Haubner, specialist for the NEA, tells us, “The schools cannot allow parents to influence the kind of values-education their children receive in school; that is what is wrong with those who say there is a universal system of values. [Christians?] Our (humanistic) goals are incompatible with theirs. We must change their values.”


Professor Chester M. Pierce, M.D., Professor of Education and Psychiatry at Harvard, has this to say, “Every child in America entering school at the age of five is mentally ill because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our Founding Fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It's up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well -- by creating the international child of the future.”


So we pulled her out of public school, in the sixth grade. The change was almost immediate. Instead of a surly, sullen child who admitted to us that she had contemplated suicide, we discovered in her a happy, intelligent person with a devastating wit. Independent self-reliant people would be a counterproductive anachronism in the collective society of the future where people will be defined by their associations. 1896 Our schools have been scientifically designed to prevent over-education from happening. [...] The average American [should be] content with their humble role in life, because they're not tempted to think about any other role. -- William T. Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education, 1889