My Wildest Dreams

I have three totally-crazy-in-some-future-lifetime dreams for Montessori. Okay, one is actually not that crazy, but still. Over the years, I’ve learned not to dream out loud because I’ve been told so many times “oh, that’ll never happen” or “you need to be realistic” or “that’s impossible.” But now I’m trying to practice not hiding my crazy dreams because I think everyone should be encouraged to dream out loud. How can real changes ever happen if no one dares to imagine them? So I’m going to shamelessly take this opportunity to dream big.

First, I want to see an honest to goodness, more or less sui generis, Montessori way of doing math for adolescents. Something that’s tied to real life, relevant to the concerns of adolescents, connected to other subjects, continues to develop real mathematical thinking, and does away with the idiotic and illogical “standard” progression of topics. As far as I know, nothing like this exists yet, but lots of Montessorians are working really hard on adolescent education, so I’m sure there are people working on it. If not, well…I’ll be a Montessori guide myself in another year or two, so watch out, World!

Second, the world should have a University of Montessori. It would be a teacher training center, but it would also be a place for serious research into issues of concern to Montessorians (developmental psychology, cognitive science, peace studies, environmental studies, etc, etc) and a laboratory for experimenting with real (Fourth Plane) education for young adults. Montessori students who wanted to stay in Montessori could go there for their college education, as could young adults looking for an alternative to regular college. College doesn’t usually get as much attention as K-12 education on the reform front, but if you read my rant about grad school, you’ll realize that I don’t think post-secondary education in the US is very skillful either (admittedly, I was talking about grad school, but a lot of what I wrote applies to college, though in a somewhat milder way). Fortunately, there are already a lot of unusual colleges that provide great environments for young adults, but I want to see what a group of Montessorians would invent.

Third, I want to see a Montessori variant of Teach for America. “Montessori for America” (or maybe Montessori for the World) would help set up public, or charter, or privately funded Montessori schools in neighborhoods that need them, and then send teachers off to training in exchange for working in these schools for a few years. I don’t want to fight the traditional system head on. It’s a juggernaut that will roll over anyone who tries to stand in its way, and anyway, Montessori is so important because it is a way to bring peace to the lives of children. Trying to create peace by stirring up acrimony strikes me as futile at best and outright hypocritical at worst. But I do want to make the alternatives to the traditional system so strong that they can be available to anyone who wants them. Perhaps someday, the traditional system will just quietly breathe its last as no one has a use for it anymore.

Okay, now back to your regularly scheduled reality.

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One thought on “My Wildest Dreams

  1. Unfortunately, I think the greatest challenge in education today is cost. Traditionally, education has been a labor-intensive process. The more labor-intensive, the “better” the education is often considered (teacher-student ratios, specialists for certain subjects, extra help, more planning or curriculum coordination periods for teachers, etc.).

    Given that the cost of capital is relatively low in the USA these days, while the cost of labor is relatively high, one would think we would have figured out some way to successfully substitute capital for labor in the process bu now. However, I have not come across any solutions yet that seem effective for all students (not just the highly motivated).

    In the end, I think the greatest challenge for each teacher is to motivate a student to study the subject, to provide good words for each student as they face its challenges, provide praise for insights gained and work done correctly and/or speedily, and to help each student learn lessons about themselves in the process.

    I cannot, at the moment, think of any ways that capital can substitute for labor in these areas. Thus, the only potential solution is to find people who can earn “a decent living” in some other way while also teaching part-time at low cost to students (a civic duty?).

    Class groups (vs one on one) are an old solution to wrestling some economic efficiencies out of the education process, but I perceive today’s economic requirements to be introducing teaching inefficiencies (large class sizes dictated by scheduling and student age, with higher probabilities of combinations of students who distract one another more than help each other learn) at the same time as they produce economic efficiencies.

    Students do not all achieve mastery at the same pace or in the same way – so why force some to be bored while others feel rushed, or some to start conceptually when they would prefer to start procedurally (or vice-versa)? We need more of an “educational free market” where students can choose the teacher and teaching approach that works best for them… something the Internet can certainly help with, but at the price of losing direct interaction with its accompanying feedback loop benefits.

    http://mathmaine.wordpress.com

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