Montessori History, Part Two

Last week we had a summary of Dr Montessori’s background. This article will address the history of the educational method. You may wonder why, after the initial enthusiasm for Dr Montessori’s methods, that more schools were not formed in this country.

In 1914, William Kilpatrick, a professor at Columbia Teacher’sCollege, wrote a scathing denunciation of the Montessori method. Here are some of the things he said. It is a “meager diet for normally active children”. It was 50 years behind the times. It was not based on current educational theory. It only made sense to Roman children“from inferior surroundings”!

So, while the method expanded into public and private schools around the world, it suffered here and basically died out due to Kilpatrick’s disdain. Surprised?

Meanwhile, in 1919, Dr Montessori began training teachers every other year in London, England. In 1929, the First Inter.national Montessori Conference was held in Denmark. There, a structure was set up to control her book rights and the manufacture of the materials.

Dr. Maria Montessori

In 1930, one of her English students, Phoebe Child, became the translator for her courses in Rome. From 1936-39, Dr Montessori was in the Netherlands, continuing development of materials. During WWII (1939-1945), she was in Dr. Maria Montessori Kodaikanal, India, where her son Mario had been interned, as an Italian national. At this time, with a collaborator, Lena Wikramaratne, Dr. Montessori developed “CosmicEducation”.

In 1946, she opened a permanent training center in London, establishing in writing a trust to ensure its continuity and integrity. It was run by Phoebe Child and named “StNicholas Montessori Centre” (after the Catholic patron saint for children). Dr Montessori died in 1952, and her son Mario took over the Netherlands-based operation controlling the books and the materials. He called this the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). He began expanding its scope.

In 1958 an American, Nancy Rambusch, trained at St Nicholas, then returned to Greenwich, CT, to open the Whitby School, the first official Montessori school in the United States. The same year she started the American Montessori Society (AMS), to promote the Whitby School today method. Also, the same year,Mario Montessori made Nancy Rambusch the first American representative for AMI. AMS and AMI worked together.

Whitby School Today

In 1967, AMI and AMS entered into a lawsuit over who had the right to use the name “Montessori”,as AMI wished to be in exclusive control. The United States Patent Office determined the name was in the public domain. This means that anyone at all can open a Montessori school, with no need for certification, accreditation or any other official status. I always caution parents that it is entirely up to them to find out if their children’s teachers have true Montessori training and if a school is a “real” Montessori school!

In 1995, with charter schools proliferating in larger cities, and many of them opting to offer Montessori education, the teachers’ unions began to insist that there be a governing body to assure conformity and uniform standards of training in teacher prep. Thus was born MACTE (MontessoriAccrediting Council for TeacherEducation), a group of Montessorians who obtained control of setting the standards for Montessori teacher training, so public schools could feel “official” and secure in hiring teachers.

But, it is still up to the parents to investigate schools on their own. Many, many private schools operate beautifully without MACTE accreditation. It is the parents’ job to ask questions about their child’s teachers’ training. In our state, for instance, private schools can operate with teachers having no certification (not even state teaching certification or teaching degrees). Surprised?

As with any philosophical theory that’s been around over a hundred years, there are many layers. I hope this background will give you some insight to help you navigate the title “Montessori”!


National Music Week

The second week of May is considered National Music Week. We have two visits by and to local musicians on May 3 and May 14(violin, cello, and a pipe organ to be featured!).

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