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Teachers College, Columbia University
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Renilde Montessori Tells TC Audience Education Should Be About Children

Renilde Montessori, the youngest grandchild of Maria Montessori, who founded the Montessori method, presented "Children in the Eye of the Storm" at TC.

For all their good intentions, educators and parents often forget that children instinctively want to learn, said Renilde Montessori, the youngest grandchild of Maria Montessori, who founded the Montessori method.

Renilde Montessori is continuing her grandmother's work and advocates educational approaches that foster competent, responsible, adaptive citizens who are lifelong learners and problem solvers.

Her presentation at TC, "Children in the Eye of the Storm," drew on her recent work as the General Secretary for the Association Montessori Internationale Head Office in Amsterdam and as a representative of AMI at UNESCO in Paris.

Montessori said: "On the whole, we remain oblivious to the fact that the child comes into the world provided with precise, explicit inner directives urging it to seek the living experience necessary for the fulfillment of its potential. The directives inherent in the child are clearly discernible, easily observable if only we stop our noise and look."

"Instead, we surround the children with the tumult, turmoil and pandemonium of educational rhetoric and they can do nothing but wait patiently for us to stop running like the Red Queen in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in the pursuit of educational structures for their supposed benefit," she said.

"The problem is that unavoidably the child as an individual is forgotten in the furor of educational discourse, in the undeniable problems of school administration and in the managing of disproportionately large educational institutions."

As an example of good, but misguided intentions by parents, she mentioned a newspaper article she had read recently. A woman was expressing her pride that her two-year-old son spends ten hours a day playing computer games. Montessori said the woman explained in the article, "In fact, we have to take his food up to him for if we try to bring him down for meals, he goes into the most terrible tantrums."

The mother was proud, but Montessori was appalled: "The child's first word was not ‘papa,' nor ‘mama,' but ‘die.' The bleak panorama of this child's future does not bear thinking about."

One of the sad aspects of contemporary family life in too many cultures is that "the daily routines and rituals, which give rhythm to life and peace to the spirit, are becoming obsolete," she said.

She told a story about some teenagers who spent three weeks on a farm with their teacher. "For most of them," she said, "it was the first time in their lives that they gathered for an evening meal around a dining room table-the ultimate symbol of family life."

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