Maria Montessori, Explorations


  1. Use Montessori’s description of how schools should foster “the free, natural manifestations of the child if in the school scientific pedagogy is to be born” (para. 7). Is this an accurate statement of your own experience of school, especially grammar school? What do you think Montessori means by “scientific pedagogy?” How would your schools need to change in order to bring them more in line with Montessori’s ideals?
  2. If you have not experienced a Montessori school, interview a graduate and ask to visit one near where you live and interview a teacher or principal, and visit a classroom. Then write a description comparing and contrasting the Montessori school experience with your own.
  3. In critiquing traditional schools, Montessori claims that “the principle of slavery pervades pedagogy, and, therefore, the same principle pervades the school” (para. 9). This is a very strong statement. She contrasts traditional teaching methods that create “an instrument of slavery” to her vision of an improved educational model that promotes a “movement of social liberation.” What is her evidence? Do you find her analysis convincing? Compare her discussion of slavery to the slavery examples depicted in Plato and Douglass.
  4. Montessori created her experimental Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) in one of Rome’s poorest neighborhoods in 1907. Her child-centered Montessori Method has grown significantly and internationally in the more than one hundred years since then. Why are her ideals and methods still relevant?
  5. Montessori spends a significant portion of her essay discussing classroom architecture (see especially paras. 9-20), focusing the stationary desks and chairs found in a traditional classroom. What is the problem with this enforced “immobility”? She claims that one purpose of this arrangement is to “render the child visible in his immobility” (para. 9). This idea is reminiscent of Jeremy Bentham’s description of the Panopticon (later developed at great length by philosopher Michel Foucault). Read Gallagher’s article, “Are Schools Panoptic?” and attempt to apply his analysis to Montessori’s critique of traditional schooling. You can find the article here: