Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Evidence, evidence, evidence!

"There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact." - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Many times in my career in Montessori, parents have asked if their child will be prepared for the 'realities of the world' in their Montessori education. The ideal environment of stress-free learning, so different from traditional education, causes some worry children will not be able to transition well into the less than ideal realities of the world. This is far from the truth, as Montessori graduates the world over, for the last hundred years, have proven.

However, the problem with answering this concern is that there is so much evidence to support this progressive model of education, so much published research, so many empirical examples for a Montessori school to point to, that one doesn't know where to begin or end in providing a response.  Over the years, I've come to answer this concern with a few questions of my own, which is very fitting for a Montessori educator, as we seek to guide our students to their own understanding and truths rather than the antiquated and ineffective model of 'filling an empty vessel from a full one'.  The questions I ask are:

What skills do you think your child will need to thrive as an adult?  

What knowledge base do you feel important for your child to have by adulthood?

What tools do you find most useful in your career, relationships, and personal life?

From these questions come answers common from the parent perspective.  If I compiled these thoughts into one response, it would be something like this -  "As my child enters adulthood, I want her to be able to think critically, collaborate and compromise with colleagues or partners, have grit and determination, and be resilient in the face of adversity.  I think she needs a broad knowledge base of the world yet acknowledge she will have information at her fingertips.  I wish for her to find a passion and be able to pursue it and make it a life career.  Myself?  I guess if I am honest, the skills I found most useful in my own career, relationships, and personal life have been about character - being humble, honest, open-minded, hard-working, determined, inquisitive, able to bounce back and to directly handle conflict.  Knowledge is constantly acquired, so being able to think critically and creatively are really key."

Well, I might respond, "A Montessori education is one that models, guides, teaches, and expects all of these character traits while sparking a love of learning, offering a personalizing education, and a challenging, interdisciplinary curriculum.  This challenging curriculum comes without undue pressure on testing, performing, competing, and keeping pace with an 'average' level of expectation. It is a model dreamed about by those stuck in the bureaucracy of outdated educational framework of tradition school."

In the press, we see a compelling plea, in print and video form, for a change to the failing traditional model of education, high-stakes testing, rote memorization and regurgitation of facts, competitive, fast-paced classes where depth of learning is unheard of, and dulled, tired educators bogged down with bureaucracy and administrative regulations.  Just watch 'Race to Nowhere', 'Beyond Measure', and  'Ivory Tower'.  Read articles like - Why What You Learned in Preschool Is Crucial at WorkWe Need An Educational System that Excites ChildrenEducation Needs to Change As Fast As Technology

Don't have time?  Here's an excerpt from 'Education Needs to Change as Fast as Technology', Forbes, May 23, 2013:

"American education remains basically modeled on an approach hundreds of years old. Students with varying levels of ability sit in classes organized by grade level before a “sage on the stage” who teaches reading, writing, arithmetic, and a bit of science. That system, at least in the U.S., doesn’t seem to work well enough. Among developed countries ranked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. is 31st in math achievement, 24th in science, and 21st in reading.  ...The delivery mechanism has also remained unchanged for generations. Teachers run classes as extended lectures and send students home to complete homework assignments, often alone and confused. ...We need pioneering innovations to make their way into more of our schools.."

Your investment in a Montessori education will pay off, in numerous ways, some beyond measure. You are giving your child the best chance at becoming their best selves, emotionally, socially, academically, professionally, and spiritually.  If that isn't preparing them for the realities of the world, I don't know what is. You are raising a human being, not a student, and life goes far beyond high school SAT's.  Thank goodness.

As is fitting for this week of Martin Luther King remembrances, in his own words as shared on our school's Facebook page, "The function of education is to teach one to think critically.  Intelligence plus character - that is the true goal of education."

Parents who want to read the research on Montessori education, specifically, should check out:

The Science Behind the Genius by Angeline Lillard

Montessori Today: A Comprehensive Approach to Education, Birth to Adulthood by Paula Lillard

Montessori Madness! A Parent to Parent Argument for Montessori Education by Trevor Eissler

Research supporting Montessori education:  American Montessori Research Library