Ray Girn, The Self Made Child: Maria Montessori's Philosophy of Education
(these are paraphrases after the hyphens unless in quotes, cuz it's from audio and he chose not to offer a transcript for better discussion.)
- (5min) presents a concept of reason and says purpose of education is to impart this to child so he can be a reason-using adult.
i disagree. there's no conception here of the child disagreeing, or of error-correction of the parent/educator's conception of reason. there's no concept of it being the child's life, and his decision what ideas to accept. the parent should offer these things, but rely on persuasion. the goal should be to help the child, not to decide before the child is born what ideas the child should have in his head when he's 20 and then figure out how to get that result. that kind of predetermined and not-open-to-disagreement parental agenda ends up meaning trampling all over the child as an autonomous individual with a mind and rights.
- advocates parents using force to limit TV, and takes that for granted as right. puts it in the same category of as helping child not get run over by a car or die from guzzling lighter fluid.
note the key difference: the child does want to watch TV, but does not want to be hit by a car or be poisoned by lighter fluid. the child is not actually trying to commit suicide and doesn't want that. but does want TV. so the examples are completely different. but Girn mixes them together as the same thing, as cases where he thinks parental force is clearly OK.
- says you can't compel THOUGHTS (as opposed to using compulsion for ACTIONS like drinking poison), can't force a child to have certain ideas, like how you shouldn't force people to read Atlas Shrugged
- Montessori idea is, instead of freedom, to offer the child prepared freedom – design an environment to channel and leverage child's nature (instead of using compulsion)
yeah, it's all manipulation for the predetermined parental agenda. no fallibilism, no error correction of parent's agenda, no full freedom for child, just (this is common today) trying to find ways to control child without it being force.
- (14min) quote "the child will receive a lesson from the adult, a demonstration of (this is probably a 2.5 or 3 yo child) this activity, and then will be left free to kinda explore and repeat at his leisure"
notice how the child is explicitly free AFTER the lesson – NOT free about whether he wants this lesson. that's not an accident of wording, it's the child being compelled. he goes on to say things like "children work through activities like these" – it's decided in advance before the child is born and he doesn't have a choice. that is force.
- nothing in the mind that doesn't come from the senses
emphasis on training senses
- various activities, like blocks and number rods
the numbers stuff is trying to connect sound, symbol, amount. the activity itself sounds just kinda painfully awful and unpleasant, something i would have hated. there's an element of taste here and some people would like it better, but it's not presented as this thing for 20% or even 50% of kids, it's presented as what the kids do at Montessori. (i'm sure they have some choice if they hate one particular activity, but i think they get offered a bunch of activities which, in certain ways, are all similar, are all coming from the same kind of design philosophy. choice is limited and someone who doesn't like one activity of this style could easily dislike most of them).
these activities aren't open ended. they are designed to have a single outcome, and if child does it a different way that he thinks is better, he gets corrected. it's not like real life where you're doing exploration and coming up with your own goals and it can lead to other things. it's all predetermined and setup to go a specific way, like people at regular school doing the science experiment in the textbook in order to get the already-known result they are told to get, rather than as part of following their interests.
like my friend's kid tried to make a train out of blocks at a Montessori school, and then got corrected cuz that wasn't how the blocks were supposed to be used. that's mean. and it's not just some aberration at that school, it fits the Montessori way of thinking. the audio lecture was just saying how the activities are self-correcting, the toys are designed to only work one way and if the child does something else it doesn't work. meaning the adult already has in mind his mind a specific way the stuff should be used, that's the intended point he's trying to ensure happens. so of course that kinda perspective isn't friendly to deviance or innovation. the whole prepared environment thing is trying to do things like take away distractions, and decide which things a child should learn, that's the whole design here, not to let the child pursue his own interests and goals (like making a train out of blocks instead of learning the adult's lesson).
- curriculum not offered by teacher but embedded in world the child explores
this is dishonest. the teacher set up the curriculum in an indirect way, then pretends it's just child exploring the world.
and it's so controlled. the child doesn't get any non-Montessori toys, isn't allowed to have other stuff he might want like iPads or legos. so then the child, given only Montessori stuff, ends up doing some of it, rather than nothing. then parents see that as evidence the kid likes the stuff.
- (22min) materials are selected by what's enticing to child, what child directly needs, what child indirectly needs to gain something else, and then they're all set in order. then it plays this clip of Maria Montessori saying the choice of what to do is up to the child and the teacher is in the background.
but the teacher is deciding what teacher thinks child needs to accomplish teacher's agenda that was set before child was born. teacher is deciding what teacher thinks entices children (not what they actually find enticing like more TV watching). teacher is totally controlling the child's environment to control the child, and this is all on purpose, and then at the same time teacher is claiming to merely be in the background.
- (23min) Maria Montessori says b/c the curriculum is embedded in the materials, whatever the child chooses he ends up working on the curriculum
so you see the child has no choice, it's work on the curriculum or work on the curriculum. he's heavily controlled.
then Maria Montessori elaborates that even that isn't enough control. for example, if the child chooses geography stuff over and over, then she'll come up and push math on him in a way where she doesn't feel like a thug but she makes sure to get her way...
- freedom for child to engage in reasonable forms of activity, not anarchy
so it's: you have freedom as long as you don't deviate too much. you can disagree as long as it's within the scope of what the authority considers a reasonable disagreement and allows, but nothing more.
- (29min) ground rules
- can't interrupt unless you follow a politeness procedure
- only may use materials if you receive the presentation (b4 that, off limits)
and if the child wants to use a material but not receive the lecture? then the RULES are enforced by FORCE, right? gentle force if possible – trying to guide the child, ask him to stop, put subtle pressures on him. (just like the government doesn't send armed men to collect taxes, they just mail you some forms to start with, most people never see the guns)
(concretely, what they frequently actually do is kick kids out of the school to dodge the issue. if the kid is noisy, doesn't obey some rules about what materials he can use, stuff like that, and their pressure doesn't work, then the kid can just get kicked out, which is pretty common.)
- talks about uninterrupted time
actually there is a preset schedule which interrupts the children, even if they don't want to be interrupted, a few times a day. (how? what if child doesn't obey? you take it from there)
- says how adult is guide, comes in now and then (yes, during "uninterrupted" 3 hour work period), not directing the process, shows a learning period video
this is dishonest. the adult is controlling everything indirectly. does less directly. then talks about not directing things because his control is indirect. it's just a rationalization of control, and they keep talking about it like it isn't control.
- (41min) says how child is learning to be free in this citadel of knowledge where nothing is accidental, it's all lovingly selected. rich knowledge designed for purpose of "allowed" child to learn how to live well.
how to live well according to parent's concept of living well, which child is not free to disagree with.
- (44min) says to prevent 10 year old from playing video games all day or drinking a bottle of whiskey
prevent by force. why do those particular things justify force? what's so bad about video games? it's just convention, it's saying stuff lots of people believe, not doing philosophy. and there's an element of whatever children like is assumed to be bad: http://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/video_games_a_unique_educational_environment
- says something about engendering curiosity
Girn has this concept that the child kinda sucks. he has to be carefully controlled to get good. he doesn't have curiosity at birth, you have to find some way to make him curious. he's not rational, you make him rational.
this contradicts my understanding of Atlas Shrugged where John Galt is a **normal man**, and the reason other people aren't like that is because they are broken. you don't have to do something special to get a John Galt, you just have to not break the kid. but Montessori isn't about making sure not to break the kid, it's trying to do all this special stuff.
- (48min) wonders how much education should emphasize transmission of integrated body of knowledge, deep knowledge of the "Western canon". Girn is unsure
- if child won't learn it voluntarily, it's our problem as educators (to figure out how to get him to learn it voluntarily). says stuff about cultures of learning, respect for intellect, role models, inspiration, resources, materials, lessons which give motivation
as long as the end result is predetermined and inflexible, no amount of trying to make it voluntary will ever make it actually voluntary.
- classical education prioritizes gaining knowledge, loses importance of it and applications
- progressive education ignores that child needs knowledge
- Girn advocates third way between classical and progressive. mentions that child is left "completely free"
i think it's notable this "third way" doesn't reject the existing continuum and reconceive of education, it's just, by his own account, in the middle, trying to get the good stuff from two different schools of coercive education.
- (60min) what about consent? Girn knows it's important but hasn't been able to figure out how it affects these topics.
sigh. yes, consent is a big deal when you're trying really hard to control human beings. if they'd respect consent at all times, they couldn't do lots of what they do.
10 year olds don't *consent* to be forcibly prevented from playing video games they want to play. kids don't *consent* to being forcibly prevented from watching TV they want to watch. kids don't *consent* to having access only to Montessori materials, not iPads. Kids don't *consent* to being forced to have to do a presentation thing before using some materials even if they'd rather use those materials now.
- (65min) questioner asks about explicit training in mind self management, and generally about updating Montessori to teach newer stuff. Girn says they do some stuff like that
the whole premise is the educator deciding what the child does, rather than offering things to child that child might want and can make a choice about. it's authoritarian.
- (68min) question about whether/how to teach Objectivism. Girn says he doesn't really have an answer. says if kid is exploring it on their own then they can do a bunch, but if you're imposing it be more conservative.
so, you can impose some stuff on child, at all, ever. he's fine with that.
at the beginning it was like everyone agreeing not to make Atlas Shrugged required reading. but here he is being OK with imposing some Objectivism on kids, if you're like careful or something he hasn't worked out clearly.
- (76min) Girn says how some people have Montessori preschool, then regular school, then at University it's like Montessori again with choice.
given my view of universities, this is damning.
big picture: the whole thing is how to control the child while also thinking you aren't a thug. there's lots of stuff like this today because many, many parents want both of those things. but they contradict and this whole thing is irrational – it assumes the educator is right, doesn't concern itself with disagreements or with any error-correction of educator's ideas, and it doesn't respect the child as a real person.