Concerned residents of Livingston County were recently told that investment in Early Childhood education is crucial to a strong, healthy adult, a competitive workforce and prosperous United States and an innovative world. At the Bill Millett presentatation, which included Early Childhood educators and supporters and also members of the Brighton and Howell area business communities, we were told how much the United States is lagging behind other countries in recognizing and supporting those most important early years of brain development. Bill referred to many studies to support his strong position. USA is 14th in reading, 17th, in science and 25th in math. We are falling further and further behind because of, he said, “an educational system that is a continual erosion of our nation.” He said our current system is “producing robots”.
In her book, “Montessori; The Science Behind the Genius,” Angeline Lillard refers to our nation’s current form of education as “factory education”. The research studies that are cited in this book establish the difference in results, both academically and socially between children educated by the “factory method” and the “Montessori method. Dr. Maria Montessori, over 100 years ago opened a “Children’s House” in the slums of Rome. What Dr. Montessori observed in that classroom, the “secret of childhood”, resulted in a revolution in thought and understanding about the importance of early education…and indeed, how children learn. Out of her observations and her research, came a most extraodinary educational method that is still a standard of excellence around the world. Montessori education, from infant to High School and beyond is still true to those observations. Planes of development and sensitive periods determine the structure of the environment and ensure that the child’s needs are met and nurtured. The teacher, observer of children and guardian of this environment, connects the child to the classroom in a hands-on, step-by-step way that both encourages and respects the child. Very individualized, very brain based, and not at all “factory”…we do not produce “robots”!
I discovered Montessori 30 years ago when my oldest son was 4 years old. I have been in awe ever since I first walked into a Montessori classroom. I am in awe of Dr. Maria Montessori’s insight, brilliance, progressiveness and courage. I am in awe of nature’s course of child development and of the teachers that learn how to respect and facilitate this incredible, miraculous process. I am in awe of this social movement that takes the form of a method of education so nurturing, so respectful and so expansive that it has earned recognition around the world. Dr. Maria Montessori was nominated for 3 Nobel Peace Prizes for her amazing work.
Should we rethink our priorities, as Bill Millett suggested? Does early childhood, the time of the “Absorbent Mind”, deserve our focus, our effort, our respect and financial support? How could anyone answer other than “YES” ? As Dr. Montessori said, “A child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.”