Maria Montessori

Dafato Team | Jun 27, 2022

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Maria Tecla Artemisia Montessori, known as Maria Montessori (Chiaravalle, August 31, 1870 - Noordwijk, May 6, 1952) was an Italian educator, pedagogue, philosopher, physician, child neuropsychiatrist and scientist, internationally known for the educational method named after her, which has been adopted in thousands of preschools, elementary, middle and high schools around the world. She was among the first women to graduate in medicine in Italy.

The early years

The daughter of Alessandro Montessori, from Emilia, and Renilde Stoppani, from the Marche, Maria was born in a house, now a museum house dedicated to her, at number 10 Piazza Mazzini in Chiaravalle, a few kilometers from Ancona. Her parents were educated people who were sensitive to new political ideas and spoke of Italian unity.

His father Alessandro had been born in Ferrara, and after working as a concept clerk in the Comacchio salt works, he had been transferred to Chiaravalle in the 1970s for an inspection job. It was there that he met the woman to whom he would later marry, Renilde Stoppani. In his writings his father gives us valuable information about Maria's growth and development.

His mother Renilde (1840-1912) was originally from Monte San Vito, a town in the vicinity of Chiaravalle, and came from a family of small landowners; she was an educated woman and loved reading. Like her father, she was a Catholic, with a marked sympathy for Risorgimento ideals. On her mother's side, Maria was the granddaughter of Antonio Stoppani, an abbot and naturalist, still famous today as the author of the successful volume Il Bel Paese. The young Maria Montessori had in Abbot Stoppani a point of reference and in her mother constant support for her innovative ideas and unusual life choices for the time, even in contrast to a certain conservatism of her father.

Maria Montessori remained attached to her homeland: in 1971 her son Mario, during the laying of the cornerstone of the new Montessori school in Ancona, recounted how his mother, upon returning from India in the summer of 1950, had expressed a desire to see again the places where she had lived. With her son, in fact, she went to Ancona and Chiaravalle, where she said, Now I am happy; now even if I die I have seen my country again

In February 1873 Alexander was transferred to Florence, where he remained with his family for two years. A few years later the family faced another relocation: in Rome, which had recently become the capital, Maria was enrolled in the municipal preparatory school in Rio Ponte.From an early age Maria had been lively. Her elementary studies had not been very bright, due to health problems including a long rubella. She studied French and piano, which she soon abandoned. Around the age of 11 she began to take up studies. His youthful passion was drama. She excelled in Italian, but had gaps in grammar and mathematics. In February 1884, a government school for girls had opened in Rome: the "Regia scuola tecnica" (now the "Leonardo Da Vinci" Technical Institute on Via degli Annibaldi). The founding of this school was part of the school policy plan of post-unification Italy. Maria was among the first ten pupils and graduated with 137

University choice and pathway

From her earliest years of study, the girl manifested an interest in scientific subjects, especially mathematics and biology, a circumstance that would cause her to clash with her father, who would have liked to launch her into a teaching career; her mother, however, never ceased to support herMaria Montessori was initially unable to enroll in the Faculty of Medicine, as was her firm intention, due to her lack of a classical high school diploma. To overcome the difficulty in enrolling, she enrolled in the Faculty of Science and, after two years, was able to transfer to the Faculty of Medicine at the University "La Sapienza" in Rome and also by Pope Leo XIII, who declared: Among all professions, the most suitable one for a woman is precisely that of doctor.

Upon joining the faculty, Maria Montessori had to follow strict rules in order to succeed in a scientific community composed mainly of men since, in the field of medicine, there were still many prejudices against the female gender. In addition, Montessori was obliged to practice in anatomy mainly at night so as not to create scandals since, at that time, it was unreasonable for a woman to be grappling with a deceased man's naked body and working with other male students.

Particularly important for Montessori's future commitment to the children of Rome's slums were her lectures on experimental hygiene, given by Angelo Celli, a native of Marche like herself, who was firmly convinced that some widespread diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, were not due to a failure of medical science, but were an expression of social marginality and therefore could only be eradicated through the efforts of the state.

In 1896 she would be the third Italian woman to graduate in medicine, specializing in neuropsychiatry. Maria Montessori devoted herself to laboratory research with passion and method. In addition to courses in bacteriology and microscopy, she took a course in experimental engineering. She also studied pediatrics at the Children's Hospital, women's diseases in the wards of San Giovanni (Rome), and men's diseases at Santo Spirito (Rome) (two hospitals still active).

Maria Montessori was a very capable student, so much so that she won a prize of a thousand liras from the Rolli Foundation for work in general pathology. In 1895 she won a position as "adjunct in medicine" of the hospitals with the right to join the Lancisian Society, reserved for doctors and professors of the hospitals of Rome. His curriculum was excellent in hygiene, psychiatry and pediatrics, subjects that would form the basis of his future choices. In the years leading up to his graduation, his study commitments were increasingly oriented toward experimental laboratory and observational research in the asylum rooms of the Santa Maria della Pietà hospital in Monte Mario (Rome). While preparing his thesis, he attended lectures on physical (or biological) anthropology given by Giuseppe Sergi. The thesis, which he discussed on July 10, 1896, was experimental in nature: nearly one hundred handwritten pages bearing the title "Clinical contribution to the study of hallucinations with antagonistic content" (pp. 33-37).

Choices and career path

She obtained an appointment as assistant at the psychiatric clinic at the University of Rome, in collaboration with Giuseppe Ferruccio Montesano (with whom she had a professional and emotional association), devoting herself to the rehabilitation of boys and girls with mental problems, at the time defined as abnormal. Her work in the clinic brought her into material contact with scientific circles in the United Kingdom and France. This gave rise to her interest in the early nineteenth-century French scientific literature about the cases of wild, animal-bred boys found in isolated areas during the eighteenth century, and the reeducational experiments attempted by Jean Marc Itard (1765-1835). It also attracted her attention to the work carried out by Itard and his collaborator, Édouard Séguin (1812-1880), regarding the possibility of the inclusion of abnormal boys and girls in the community through an appropriate course of education.It was precisely her participation in numerous pedagogical conferences, in various European cities, that enabled her to come into contact with the school of Itard and Seguin and to learn their experimental methods of reeducating the mentally handicapped.

She contributed her efforts to women's emancipation. She participated in the Berlin Women's Congress in 1896 as Italy's representative. A speech she made there on the right to equal pay for women and men has remained famous. On that occasion the working women of her hometown of Chiaravalle raised a sum to help with travel expenses. She also participated in the subsequent Women's Congress in London (1899).

In 1898 she presented the results of her early research at the Pedagogical Congress in Turin and, after a short time, became principal of the orthophrenic magistral school in Rome. As her interests shifted to the side of education, she decided to renew her cultural foundations by graduating in philosophy.Her scientific achievements, made in a cultural atmosphere strongly influenced by positivism, earned her awards and scholarships, and led her to participate in research on retarded children with her colleague, Giuseppe Montesano, to whom she became romantically linked. From the relationship with Montesano was born, in 1898, a son, Mario, whom Maria gave birth to in secret and entrusted to a family in Vicovaro (a small town in Lazio), specifically to the care of Vittoria Pasquali, and later had him enrolled in a boarding school. After her mother's death, Maria was able to take her son, now 14 years old, to live with her, saying that he was a grandson (the truth was revealed only in her will)

Subsequently, the relationship with Montesano ended dramatically; from the moment Maria Montessori learned that Montesano was going to marry another woman, she took to wearing only black, in eternal mourning for that ended love. The renunciation of her son, coupled with the end of her romance, undoubtedly marked fundamental changes in her life.

In 1899 she joined the Theosophical Society, to which she would remain attached in the years to come, so much so that she would find herself spending the years of World War II in Adyar, in the international headquarters of the society, albeit in forced domicile, being an Italian citizen and therefore from an enemy belligerent country. As Lucetta Scaraffia writes: " was not a matter of superficial adherence: Montessori's pedagogical thought and her philosophical-feminist writings bear considerable traces of the theosophical influence."

In 1903 she was appointed Assistant Physician Class II in the ranks of the Executive Staff of the Italian Red Cross, with a military rank assimilated to that of second lieutenant, available for the services of the Territorial Hospitals of the C.R.I.

In 1904 she obtained a professorship in anthropology and thus had the opportunity to deal with the educational organization of kindergartens. In 1907, Barons Alice and Leopoldo Franchetti contributed to the opening of the first Casa dei bimbi (Children's Home) in Rome and, after personally meeting the pedagogist from the Marche region at the home of the writer Sibilla Aleramo, decided to support her concretely by inviting her to stay at Villa Montesca in the summer of 1909. Urged on by the Franchetti family, Montessori put in writing what would later become the first edition of her famous Method, dedicating the work to the couple. During the same period she also held the first training course for teachers on the Montessori Method at Palazzo Alberti-Tomassini, home of the Umbra Canvas workshop in Città di Castello. Following this course, Baroness Franchetti opened a "Children's House" at Villa Montesca.

Through the intermediary of Alice Hallgarten Franchetti, Romeyne Robert Ranieri di Sorbello was able to meet both Montessori and the governess Felicitas Buchner at Villa Wolkonsky in Rome in 1909. The Montessori method was initially adopted at the behest of Marquise Romeyne directly on her three sons Gian Antonio, Uguccione, and Lodovico Ranieri di Sorbello, and especially the first two literally served as guinea pigs to test the Montessori materials being experimented with at the Villa Montesca in the summer of 1909. The method was then applied between the summer and fall of 1909 to the teaching of the rural elementary school of Pischiello in Umbria, founded by Marquise Ranieri di Sorbello herself. Marquise Romeyne's choice of the Montessori method was dictated by the need to make up for the severe cultural backwardness of local children who were predisposed at an advanced age, between 6 and 9, to the literacy faced in the first grade..

Upon her arrival in the United States in 1913, the New York Tribune introduced Maria Montessori as the most interesting woman of Europe. From that time on, her method enjoyed a good deal of interest in North America, with time then fading, until it made a comeback supported by Nancy McCormick Rambusch, founder, in 1960, of the American Montessori Society. From the success of the Roman experiment arose the Montessori movement, from which in 1924 would originate the "Scuola magistrale Montessori" and the "Opera Nazionale Montessori," erected, the latter, into a moral entity and aimed at the knowledge, dissemination, implementation and protection of her method. Maria Montessori became its honorary president.

Montessori and Fascism

Her political positioning was not peaceful: some critics on the left judged her to be right-wing because of the many private schools opened in her name and her high-ranking friendships. On the other hand, the idealist home did not like the importance she gave to scientific research, nor did the right appreciate her concrete directions to ensure criteria of equality and not classes based on elitist judgments. In the beginning Maria accepted the support of Mussolini, who was interested in solving the illiteracy problem with the "Children's Homes."

In 1914 Maria Montessori moved to Spain, where she remained until after the end of the World War. She returned to Italy in 1924, having joined the Fascist party, and won the applause of the Duce:

Also in 1924, a course was held in Milan with the praise of the regime, and the Society of Friends of the Method was transformed into a non-profit organization, taking the name Opera Nazionale Montessori, with offices in Naples and Rome, with Benito Mussolini himself as honorary president. However, the small schools, not directly wanted by him, gave him luster and annoyance at the same time, perhaps because he did not exercise total control over the project (Maria Josè of Savoy, who had little sympathy for Fascism, also dealt with it).This was the period in which the idealism of Croce and Gentile dominated on the cultural plane: far apart on some aspects, but both advocates of a frontal attack on scientific education and thus on the positive approach that also characterized the Montessori method.

In the same year, the director general for education, Giuseppe Lombardo Radice, who in previous years had shown himself in favor of the Montessori method, levelled a series of heavy criticisms at Maria: accusing her of stealing ideas from Rosa and Carolina Agazzi, claiming that only the two sisters from Brescia had developed a truly "Italian" method.In Lombardo Radice's wake came other criticisms. Montessori was called a "skillful charmer," a "disguiser," and a "businesswoman." Once again Maria dropped the criticism, as if it did not concern her, but from then on relations with Fascism began to deteriorate.

It was precisely by letting the criticisms levelled at her fall on deaf ears that Montessori was able to organize the first national training course in 1926 that prepared teachers to follow her method. Incidentally, despite accusations that she was not very Italian, Mussolini himself supported Montessori, believing that the international fame she had achieved was a boast for Italy; the leader of Fascism even held the position of honorary president of the course and donated from his personal fund a grant of 10,000 lire for the benefit of the Opera. The course was held in Milan and as many as 180 teachers participated. They came mainly from the areas closest to the course venue (other participants came from Rome. The course lasted six months and was sponsored by the Fascist government.

Once the international courses held in Rome in 1930 and 1931 and the conferences abroad, especially the one in Geneva on peace that had international resonance, were over, a final break came: in 1934 came the order to close all Montessori schools, both for adults and children, except for two or three classes that would live in semi-clandestinity. In the same year Hitler also ordered the closure of Montessori schools in Germany along with Waldorf schools. In 1936 the regime also closed by order of Minister Cesare Maria De Vecchi the Royal three-year school of the Montessori Method, which had been preparing teachers in Rome since 1928. In 1933 Peace and Education came out, but Maria Montessori was by then marginalized by Fascist culture.

In 1933 Maria Montessori and her son, Mario Montessori, decided to resign from the Opera Nazionale, which in practice would be permanently closed by Fascism in 1936, along with the "School of Method" operating in Rome since 1928. Due to the now irreconcilable disagreements with the fascist regime, she was forced to leave Italy in 1934.

Trips and latest activities

Thus continued her travels to various countries to spread her educational theory. She went to India, where she was surprised by the outbreak of World War II and where she was interned, along with her son, as a citizen of an enemy country. She was released in 1944 and then returned to Europe in 1946, welcomed everywhere with honors.

Upon her return to Italy in 1947, she was concerned first and foremost with rebuilding the Opera Nazionale to which were entrusted practically the same tasks envisaged in the 1924 statute, the implementation and development of which was also fostered through the presence of "Vita dell'infanzia," whose birth she inspired and determined. Thanks to the impetus given to it by Maria Jervolino and Salvatore Valitutti, the Opera Montessori was able to resume and develop its goals, enhancing the pedagogical principles of the foundress and spreading the knowledge and implementation of the method.Due to a serious financial and organizational crisis, its management was placed under commission until 1986, when, completely restored, it regained its statutory physiognomy that still characterizes it today.

Having temporarily moved in with friends in the town of Noordwijk, Netherlands, she was asked in 1951 for her help by the soon-to-be-established state of Ghana to organize its school system. Uncertain whether to accept, strongly dissuaded by her son who feared for his health because of such a long journey, Maria Montessori died on May 6, 1952, in Noordwijk. On her tomb is written, in Italian, "I beg the dear children, who can do all things, to join me in building peace in people and in the world. "There is a very extensive and articulate Montessori bibliography; nevertheless, some classic biographical works on the scholar remain untranslated in Italy.

The Montessori method starts with the study of mentally impaired boys and girls and expands to the study of education for all children. Montessori herself claimed that the method applied on "frenasthenic" people had stimulating effects even when applied to the education of children without disabilities. Her thinking identifies the "child as a complete being, capable of developing creative energies and possessing moral dispositions," which the adult has now compressed within himself by rendering them inactive. The fundamental principle must be the "freedom of the pupil," since only freedom fosters the child's creativity already present in his nature. From freedom must emerge discipline.

For Maria Montessori, discipline derives from "free work"; it arises only when genuine interest emerges in the child, that is, when he or she "chooses" work by indulging his or her instincts, capable of procuring a state of absolute recollection. The teacher's task will be to work on maintaining this state through movement education. According to Maria Montessori, it is precisely movement that plays a central role, since personality is formed as psychic and motor faculties grow in unison. It is when the child learns to move following a purpose that is connected with psychic activity that he will know how to direct his will; only then will he be disciplined. This is why the work in "Children's Homes" is based on movement; by entering an environment built to his or her measure, with materials designed for autonomous use by Montessori herself, the child can choose his or her own activity, following instinct, awakening interest and concentration. A concentrated child is not yet a disciplined child because a disciplined child is capable of directing his or her will to the achievement of an end. The will is strengthened and developed through methodical exercises. The teacher will help the child in this process with activities provided by the method called "silence lessons" in which he or she will experience perfect stillness, attention in perceiving the sound of one's own name spoken from a distance, coordinated light movements for the purpose of not bumping into objects. Only when the child is able to direct his will to an end will he be able to obey and thus be disciplined. The adult, says Montessori, when he demands discipline and obedience from the child almost always neglects the child's will; he proposes to him a model to imitate: "do as I do!" or a direct command: "be still!", "be quiet!". One must ask, "how can the child choose to obey if he has not yet developed the will?" The answer is contained in this theoretical knot untangled by Montessori: from freedom to discipline.

A disciplined individual is able to regulate himself or herself when it will be necessary to follow rules of life. The infant period is a time of tremendous creativity; it is a phase of life in which the child's mind absorbs the characteristics of its surroundings, making them its own, growing through them, naturally and spontaneously, without having to make any cognitive effort. With Maria Montessori many rules of education established in the early years of the century changed. "Subnormal" children were treated with respect, educational activities were organized for them. Children were to learn to take care of themselves and were encouraged to make their own decisions.

Maria Montessori developed her entire pedagogical thinking from a constructive critique of scientific psychology, a current of thought established in the early years of the century. The basic misunderstanding of scientific psychology was to be found in its basic illusion that "pure and simple observation" and "scientific measurement" were sufficient to create a new, renewed, and efficient school. Montessori's pedagogical thinking restarts from "scientific pedagogy." In fact, the introduction of science into the field of education is the first fundamental step in order to be able to construct an objective observation of the object. The object of observation is not the child himself, but the discovery of the child in his spontaneity and authenticity. Finally, of the traditional infant school Maria Montessori criticizes the fact that, in it, the whole environment is designed to be adult-friendly. In such a designed environment, the child is not at ease and thus in a position to act spontaneously.

Maria Montessori defines the child as a "spiritual embryo" in which the development of higher mental functions is associated with biological development, to emphasize that, at birth, nothing is already preformed in him, but there are "nebulae" (today we would say potentialities that express specific anthropological and evolutionary needs of the child, which the environment must satisfy), which have the power to develop spontaneously, but only at the expense of the environment, only by assimilating from the external environment the elements necessary for the construction of higher mental functions. In the development of higher nervous activity there are sensory periods, called nebulae, that is, specific periods in which particular capacities are developed. Maria Montessori calls "absorbing mind" this tendency of the child in the first years of life to unconsciously absorb data from its environment, emphasizing the specificity of infant mental processes compared to those of the adult. This is why the human embryo must be born before it is completed and can only develop after birth, because its potentialities must be stimulated by the environment.

These nebulae, in the light of anthropoevolutionary neuropedagogy, can be defined as bio-neural potentials and maps or, more generally, as "plastic brain potentials" and express species-specific needs to be met. For the most effective outcome, this must take place during what Montessori calls "sensory" periods, e.g., that for the development of fine motor skills, which by the ages of 3 to 4 already allows for the correct grasping of the writing instrument, thanks to the refinement of the index-thumb opposition, and even the picking up of bread crumbs.

Cosmic Education

Typical of Montessori schools is the teaching of Cosmic Education. The concept of Cosmic Education is based on the idea of the cosmic plane-that is, the fact that every form of life rests on intentional movements having a purpose not only in itself, and that each thing is connected to the others and has its place in the universe. The cosmic plane leads to the idea of the cosmic task, that is, the cooperation of all animate and inanimate beings.

Within this framework Maria Montessori identifies as the purpose of man's life the "construction of something that surpasses nature": supernature. Through his work, which concerns "at once the hand and the intelligence," man enacts a creative process by which he dominates matter, conquers the environment and transforms nature. His discoveries and achievements benefit all mankind in space and time, and education has the task of making visible the harmonious and unifying principle that pervades the entire universe and unveiling this interconnectedness, so that through analysis and reflection a feeling of gratitude may be manifested, for man "has yet to become aware of the far greater responsibilities he has in fulfilling a cosmic task, of having to work with others for his environment, for the entire universe."

Cosmic Education embraces the concepts of ecological education, peace education and world education, but it does not end with the sum of them, as its main purpose is to guide the child to a love of life, to feeling part of the universe and to finding his or her purpose in the world. In Montessori schools, the ideas of Cosmic Education profoundly influence the teaching of all disciplines and not just History, Geography and Science, as is sometimes thought.

A pivotal point of Montessori's Cosmic Education is the continuous cross-reference from personal to universal experience, from the concrete to the abstract, from analysis to synthesis. Regarding synthesis, Montessori says that knowing the immense world is the imperative to which the child must respond in the face of the cosmic plane. In fact, the celebrated pedagogue also writes "...let us give a view of the whole universe." Regarding then analysis, she says that one must "give the child an idea of all the sciences, not already with details and precisions, but only with an impression: it is a matter of sowing the sciences, in this age in which there is a kind of sensory period of the imagination."

Thus, the mottos of Cosmic Education are "Let us give the world to the child," from which comes "Synthetic worldview"; "Let us sow the seeds of all the sciences," from which comes "Analytic worldview." About "sowing the seeds of all sciences," Maria Montessori's own words are quoted:

The birth of the concept of Montessori cosmic education is traced back to 1942, when, because of the war, Maria Montessori and her son Mario were confined to the Indian hills, in Kodaikanal, teaching children between the ages of two and twelve. It is thought that Montessori's cosmic education ideas in those years were inspired in some way by Indian culture and the figure of George Arundale, president of the Theosophical Society.

Enlightening about the concept of cosmic education are Maria Montessori's own words:

Music Education

Maria Montessori's pacifist thinking and the elaboration of the "cosmic plan," which are central to her educational philosophy, consist of principles that at the same time can be found at the basis of an education of which music is an essential element, namely: the principles of freedom, autonomy, collaboration, participation, respect and solidarity.

From the perspective of Montessori pedagogy, "Music aids and enhances the ability to concentrate, and adds a new element to the child's achievement of inner order and psychic balance," so music education has an indispensable function in the life of every human being and especially in the development of the child.

In stating this, Montessori highlights the positive effects that listening and practicing music have for the child, both psychologically and cognitively and neurologically, fostering the development of the ear and increasing attention and concentration skills. In addition, since music is closely related to movement, its application ensures improved rhythmic and coordination skills in the production of sounds through one's body, such as: finger snapping, hand clapping, foot tapping, all actions that characterize "body percussion."

Maria Montessori, in order to foster a complete musical education for learners, decided to introduce into children's homes very specific materials, which are still used today for practical-sensory exercises, for educating listening and for learning musical "writing." Among these instruments we find:

It is precisely because of these instruments that, according to the pedagogist, a musical corner should be organized in the educational environment, that is, a place where children experience and explore these sound objects by coming into contact with the world of music. Music education in the Montessori method enriches the child, developing in him intellectual, psychomotor and, above all, creative abilities, succeeding in educating him not only in independence, autonomy and freedom to act, but also in comparison and interaction with peers. It also enhances learning through listening; increases manual dexterity with musical instruments; and enriches linguistic properties through the aid of nursery rhymes and songs. In conclusion, for Maria Montessori, music education constitutes a fundamental building block for a comprehensive education of the child.

In 1906 the Istituto Romano Beni Stabili, headed by Edoardo Talamo, decided to build 58 new buildings in the San Lorenzo neighborhood in Rome, using workers who were not particularly qualified. To solve the problem of workers' children, Talamo turned to Maria Montessori.Thus, in 1907, he founded the first "children's home," intended no longer for handicapped children but for the children of the inhabitants of Rome's San Lorenzo district. It is a special home, "not built for children but is a children's home." It is ordered in such a way that the children truly feel it is theirs.

The entire home furnishings are designed and proportioned to the child's possibilities. In this environment, the child actively interacts with the proposed material, showing focus, creativity and willingness. The child finds an environment to express himself or herself in an original way and at the same time learns the basic aspects of community life. Essential is parental participation in health and hygiene care as a prerequisite for school. The teacher's task is the organization of the environment. He or she must wait for the children to focus on a particular material, and then turn to observing individual behaviors. The teacher helps the child, the development of which must be accomplished according to the natural rhythms and according to the personality the child demonstrates.

In the same year he founded, also in San Lorenzo, a second Children's Home.

To complete the design of the services present within the First working-class neighborhood of the Società Umanitaria on Via Solari in Milan, on October 18, 1908, in the presence of Montessori herself, the Umanitaria inaugurated the city's first Children's House, beginning a unique experiment in the history of Milanese services dedicated to childhood. The understanding with Montessori and the application of her method would continue, in 1909, with the inauguration of a second Children's House to be opened in the Umanitaria's second working-class neighborhood on Viale Lombardia.The Children's Houses were also successful outside Italy: the first nation to test their effectiveness was Switzerland.

In World Illiteracy, Maria Montessori argues for the absolute importance of coping with the phenomenon of illiteracy: speaking without being able to read and write is in fact tantamount to being cut off completely from any ordinary human relations by finding oneself living in a condition of linguistic impairment that precludes social relations and in this way makes the illiterate an "extra-social."

"The person speaking, dispersing through the atmosphere articulate sounds is not enough. It is necessary for speech to become permanent, to solidify on objects, to be reproduced by machines, to travel through the media, to collect the thoughts of distant people, and thus be able to eternalize itself so as to fix ideas in the succession of generations. Hence it is that, lacking written language, a man remains outside of society."

Speech must therefore be joined by an additional skill that complements natural language by adding another form of expression, namely writing. Montessori states that the power of the alphabet, the most important achievement for all mankind, is not simply to make written words understood in their sense, but is to give new characters to language by doubling it. Mastery of the alphabet enriches man, extends his natural powers of expression, makes them permanent, transmits them in time and space, and enables him to address humanity and new generations.Starting from her experience with children, Montessori indicates practical principles for constructing a method, adapted and suited to different conditions, for teaching adults to read and write as well.

The first and fundamental step in the Montessori method, with both adults and children, is to recognize and discover the sounds of one's language and match them to the corresponding alphabetic sign. In this way the visual medium is also a stimulus that helps to analyze the sounds of words. Writing merely repeats very few graphic signs in different combinations, and it is precisely this awareness, given by the discovery and testing of the infinite communicative possibilities that can be achieved with the few letters of the alphabet, that will arouse an interest that will be the fundamental spring to learning to write. Exercises, tools and techniques, designed and reasoned by sequential stages of learning, are thus proposed within an educational relationship that privileges the experience and autonomy of the student.

"...language is there in every man. The illiterate possess it, carry it with them. So awaken it, make the possessors aware of it, indicate that it is within their minds that one must resort to use it. This is an attempt to renew from inertia the stagnant intelligence: and this is necessary because we must go on again: and go to the actual conquest of the printed world, where the thoughts and warnings of other men can be gathered."


There are 22,000 Montessori schools of all grades worldwide, including nurseries, kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools:

There are also Montessori schools in Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, Fiji Islands, Philippines, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Tanzania, and Vietnam.

The ideal center of this worldwide spread is the town where Maria Montessori was born, Chiaravalle: here the house where she was born can still be seen, in which a Montessori museum and library are housed. The house is also home to a study center that organizes conferences dedicated to the work and thought of the educator and attended by scholars from the various countries where Montessori education is widespread.

The graph below displays the relationship between the number of Montessori schools and the population of certain countries: the shorter the line, the more Montessori schools are available in a given country.

Rediscovery of Montessori in Italy

At the turn of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, Italy, too, witnessed a surprising rediscovery of Montessori's thought, marked by the reissue of the Marche educator's three seminal works, The Discovery of the Child, The Secret of Childhood, and The Mind of the Child, as well as Education for a New World, Self-education, and How to Educate Human Potential; in addition, the anthology of Montessori's writings Education to Freedom was republished and sharp essays devoted to her thought were published.

In 2007, the TV drama Maria Montessori - A Life for Children was aired, pointing out the figure of the educator to the general public. Also, in 2012, on the occasion of the anniversary of Maria Montessori's birth, the third channel of the Italian national radio broadcast, in episodes, the reading of some passages from The Discovery of the Child. In the face of the success of the Montessori method, several publishing houses have directed their activities toward implementing Montessori pedagogy in public schools, for practicing parents and educators in general.


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