Thursday, March 27, 2003


It's wacky enough to know that one of Nebraska's largest school districts has a Montessori program in it. That's a non-mainstream alternative from the private sector: making Millard taxpayers foot the bill for it is even more radical than (gasp!) the outlandish (?) notion of making Millard taxpayers foot the bill for any other non-mainstream education alternative, including Christian schooling and homeschooling.

What's even more amazing is the fact that Montessori in Millard is costing taxpayers $1,200 per pupil more than the average price per pupil for the regular education program. This is odd, in light of the fact that school-choice voucher programs are always for amounts of money that are less than the regular education per-pupil figure. And it's odd, since there is an utter absence of any evidence that Montessori educates the kids any better than the regular format or prepares the kids any better for real life. In fact, except for a hothoused few children who came out of Montessori programs, who would have excelled in any educational setting, Montessori methods are so anti-academic that they may be crippling children’s literacy and numeracy skills. How? By denying them the foundational basics of logic and language. That's because Montessori is the epitome of ''child-centered education,'' or the ''discovery learning'' process, in which children supposedly teach themselves by learning through play . . . at enormous taxpayer expense, with no evidence that there's more bang for the buck.

With these factors in mind, it's astounding and confounding to learn that Millard parents are still fighting to keep their Montessori program and funding in place, in the face of massive, mega budget crunches in school districts statewide, including in Millard.

But here's what's really weird:

If you type ''Montessori'' and ''occult'' into a search engine, your hair will reach a vertical state within minutes as you read how the Montessori philosophy is linked to spiritism, anti-Christian ideology, goddess worship, pro-humanism, pro-evolution, pro-socialism and pro-globalism.

For a taste of how Maria Montessori saw life and the purpose of education, go to http://mnatal.members.easyspace.com/montessoriinherownwords.htm and see if you think these are the ideas that a public school district in the year 2003 should be using to mold and shape young children.

Montessori was an Italian physician (1870-1952) who apparently was shut out of the choice medical jobs because of gender discrimination. So she turned to working with retarded children in a psychiatric clinic at the University of Rome. She applied her ideas from working with them to a school for slum children in Rome and opened the ''Casa dei Bambini'' (''Children’s House'') for poor children in 1907. Now there are Montessori schools throughout the world, most of them private preschools and grade schools for which parents pay tuition.

Montessori is characterized by a ''prepared environment'' with child-sized materials. That made good sense in the slums of Rome, where the street urchins did not come from homes with plentiful food, books, toys or certainly parental attention. But it's a stark mismatch with today's suburban schoolchildren, and another example of the educational overspending on the wrong things that is squeezing the life’s blood out of our schools.

The Montessori method also is problematic. In stark contrast to what we know from scientific research about the best ways of giving children the building blocks of literacy and logic, the Montessori school allows young children to flit from activity to activity – whatever interests them – instead of receiving a logical, systematic, comprehensive education in the basics of reading, writing, 'rithmetic and all the rest.

With Montessori's system, children discover things on their own. Teachers act as facilitators and suppliers, rather than instructors. Children are free to choose what to work on and to move around the room and talk when they feel like it. The emphasis is on hands-on, group activities. That means the emphasis is off intellectual, individual pursuits, chiefly . . . reading. Sigh.

But the method has come under the most criticism for its unorthodox approach to New Age-style ''spiritual education'' for children that is definitely slanted toward humanism and globalism, and away from traditional concepts like national sovereignty and traditional religions such as Judaism and Christianity. The extreme aversion to anything even approaching direct instruction and authority figures in the classroom has a tendency to produce children with an extreme aversion to systematic rules and methods, and authority in general. That doesn't bode well for the employers and husbands and wives of the future, who will have to work and live with these people.

In addition, Dr. Montessori herself was a unique and controversial figure. Seen as a feminist idol, she bore an illegitimate son and chose to relinquish him in order to fulfill her professional ambitions. She lived at home until she was 42. She had a longtime relationship with Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. He appointed her chief inspector of schools in Italy and gave her schools government funding. They eventually split over his dictate that kids wear uniforms. When she refused, funding was cut off and Montessori schools were closed, so she quit.

Later in life, Dr. Montessori lived in India and was involved in many cross pollinations of world religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and contemporary paganism. Her writings have a constant emphasis on the need for ''world peace,'' and since her goal was to model herself as a ''world citizen,'' she was buried in Holland simply because that's where she was when she died.

Dr. Montessori was in to theosophy, a turn-of-the-century European spiritual movement that has turned out most of the New Age leaders around the world today. Theosophy is patently anti-Christian, was linked to the fascists in Italy, denies Biblical truth, and seeks to promulgate the belief that there is a ''god'' within each of us that we should set free instead of being constrained by all those ''suffocating'' institutions such as organized religion.

Lastly, there's a cult-like attitude among Montessori teachers and parents that becomes an ''us against them'' mentality. There is a lot of bashing of conventional schooling and conventional parents and an air of arrogance and contempt to methods that are in opposition to Montessori methods. This defensive posture blocks the free exchange of ideas about the propriety and sense of many of the methods and practices being used, and if anyone tries to give a Montessori fan any contradictory evidence, that person is liable to get kicked in the head by the sacred cow.

So . . . to review . . .

Montessori is 'way more expensive than regular education . . .

. . . it was developed for retarded and impoverished children in Europe, and for not the typical, well-off, American suburban children found in districts like Millard . . .

. . . there's no evidence it works any better than regular education . . .

. . . it flies in the face of research that clearly shows which are the best educational methods . . .

. . . and it's chock full of weird, New Age occultism . . .

. . . but the Millard School Board should keep it, anyway . . . because the parents want something to brag about . . . or something?

Let's see what the Millard School Board does with this one. Will they cut the sacred cow out of the herd? Or will they continue to put up with this . . . educational bull?

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