If you want to know what’s wrong with education in America — arguably the root of all our problems — then look no further than Maria Montessori.
Montessori was one of the greatest educators of all time.
In recent decades particularly, most schools have done the precise opposite of what Montessori very wisely thought and taught. That’s why we’re in such trouble.
Consider one of her greatest quotes:
“The greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.'”
American schools don’t work to get students to this point. They strive to indoctrinate. Instead of graduating students who function, think and work as if their teachers never existed, they barely function at all. And they certainly can’t think. In varying degrees, with only heroic and rare exceptions, they’re paralyzed, behaviorally and cognitively.
It all started not at home, in most cases; but at their schools.
It’s because schools indoctrinate. They do not educate.
When you’re indoctrinated with social, political, ideological and any other kinds of agendas, you’re learning the opposite of thinking. Yes, we all know today’s public schools are thoroughly left-wing. They’re indoctrinating kids with dogma about gun control, socialism, the superiority of transgenderism, the superiority of Islam, the supremacy of feelings over facts, and all the rest.
But even if the ideas being taught were correct, dogma and indoctrination are still not education. In order to accept true or false ideas, you have to be able to think. The definition of self-esteem is confidence in your ability to think, reason and KNOW.
Find any person who has panic attacks and I will show you someone who has little or no confidence in his ability to think and know. THAT’S at the root of any psychological disorder, much more than brain chemistry.
Dogma — from any direction — is the exact opposite of confidence. It’s the opposite of knowing.
The kind of dogma being transmitted to students in today’s world is particularly toxic. Children are basically taught to FEEL good about themselves without being given any of the tools for doing so. Nobody told the educators, it seems, that the only way to FEEL good about yourself is to learn how to THINK independently. You FEEL good only when you ACHIEVE, and — as Montessori grasped — you achieve only when you know how to think.
And being told WHAT to think, rather than how to think, is not the way to learn.
“When you have solved the problem of controlling the attention of the child, you have solved the entire problem of its education”, Montessori said.
Wow. Schools have done the precise opposite. Instead of exposing children to the joys of thinking and learning, schools have thrown up their hands and concluded, “It must all be a disease. It’s ADHD”.
How convenient. By dismissing the wandering of attention as a normal and reasonable obstacle to human learning — we all go through it! — and turning it into a medical excuse for drugging children, and creating untold problems later in their early adulthood, educators have abdicated on what Montessori correctly asserted is their most important task: To motivate the child to learn.
You can almost always pick out a child who went to a well-run Montessori school. They’re serene. They’re content being alone. They’re comfortable with their own minds, they can think for themselves and they can entertain themselves.
These are absolutely essential tools for mental health.
Most of the mental and emotional damage I have encountered in my three decades of being a therapist has not been the fault of parents. Some parents are evil and toxic, and they can do terrible harm. But most are not. And the human capacity for overcoming such evil is truly heroic.
Young people suffer today, and don’t know why. Montessori’s ideal of turning a child into a thinking, autonomous individual is not what most of them got in school. Schools are ruining society. Indoctrination has made many of us stupid, even when so many of us are really quite smart.
It’s heartbreaking to see it in so many younger people. They don’t know what they did wrong, and they’ll end up blaming the wrong sources — profit, capitalism, rationality and freedom. It’s already happening.
Think about all this the next time you hear some vacuous, hollow politician go on about “education”.
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