Maria Tecla Artemisia Montessori, known as Maria Montessori (Chiaravalle, August 31, 1870 – Noordwijk, May 6, 1952) was an Italian educator, pedagogist, philosopher, physician, child neuropsychiatrist and scientist, internationally known for the educational method that takes her name, 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.
His father Alessandro was born in Ferrara and, after working as a clerk in the saltworks of Comacchio, in the seventies he was transferred to Chiaravalle for a job of control. It was in this place that he met the woman to whom he would later marry, Renilde Stoppani. In his writings his father gives us precious information about Maria”s growth and development.
His mother Renilde (1840-1912) was originally from Monte San Vito, a village near Chiaravalle, and came from a family of small landowners; she was an educated woman and loved reading. Like her father, she was Catholic, with a strong sympathy for the ideals of the Risorgimento. On her mother”s side, Maria was the granddaughter of Antonio Stoppani, an abbot and naturalist, still famous today for having been the author of the successful book Il Bel Paese. The young Maria Montessori found in Abbot Stoppani a point of reference and in her mother a constant support for her innovative ideas and her unusual life choices for the time, also in contrast to a certain conservatism of her father.
In February 1873 Alessandro was transferred to Florence, where he remained with his family for two years. A few years later the family faced another transfer: in Rome, which had recently become the capital, Maria was enrolled in the municipal preparatory school of Rio Ponte. Her elementary studies had not been very brilliant, due to health problems including a long bout of rubella. She studied French and piano, which she soon abandoned. Around the age of 11, she began to develop a passion for her studies. His youthful passion was dramatic art. He excelled in Italian, but had gaps in grammar and mathematics. In February 1884, a government school for girls opened in Rome: the “Regia scuola tecnica” (today the “Leonardo Da Vinci” Technical Institute, in Via degli Annibaldi). The foundation of this school was part of the school policy plan of post-unification Italy. Maria was among the first ten students and graduated with a score of 137160.
University choice and path
From her earliest years of study, the girl showed an interest in scientific subjects, especially mathematics and biology, a circumstance that caused her to clash with her father, who wanted to launch her into a teaching career; her mother, however, never stopped supporting her.Maria Montessori was initially unable to enroll in the Faculty of Medicine, as was her firm intention, due to the lack of a high school diploma. To overcome the difficulty of 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: Of all professions, the most suitable for a woman is that of doctor.
When she joined the faculty, Maria Montessori had to follow strict rules in order to become part of a scientific community composed mainly of men, since, in the field of medicine, there were still many prejudices against the female sex. In addition, Montessori was required to practice anatomy mainly at night, so as not to create a scandal because, at that time, it was unreasonable for a woman to grapple with the naked body of a deceased person and to work with other male students.
Particularly important for Montessori”s future commitment to the children of Rome”s poor neighborhoods were the lectures on experimental hygiene given by Angelo Celli, a native of the Marche region like herself, who was firmly convinced that some widespread diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, were not due to an inability of medical science, but were an expression of social marginalization and could therefore be eradicated only with the commitment of the state.
In 1896, she became the third Italian woman to graduate in medicine, specializing in neuropsychiatry. Maria Montessori devoted herself with passion and method to laboratory research. 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 in operation).
Maria Montessori was a very capable student, so much so that she won a prize of one thousand liras from the Rolli Foundation for her work in general pathology. In 1895 she won a position as an “adjunct in medicine” at the hospitals with the right to enter the Lancisian Society, reserved for doctors and professors of the hospitals of Rome. His curriculum was excellent in hygiene, psychiatry and pediatrics, subjects that will be the basis of his future choices. In the years leading up to his graduation, his study commitments were increasingly oriented towards experimental research in the laboratory and observation in the halls of the asylum of the hospital of Santa Maria della Pietà di Monte Mario (Rome). During the preparation of his thesis, he attended lectures on physical (or biological) anthropology held by Giuseppe Sergi. The thesis, which he discussed on July 10, 1896, was experimental in nature: almost one hundred handwritten pages that bear the title “Clinical contribution to the study of hallucinations with antagonistic content” (pp. 33-37).
She was appointed assistant at the psychiatric clinic of the University of Rome, in collaboration with Giuseppe Ferruccio Montesano (with whom she had a professional and emotional relationship), devoting herself to the recovery of boys and girls with mental problems, at the time defined as abnormal. Her work in the clinic brought her into contact with scientific circles in the United Kingdom and France. This led to her interest in the early nineteenth-century French scientific literature on the cases of wild boys, raised by animals, found in isolated areas during the eighteenth century, and in the re-educational experiments attempted by Jean Marc Itard (1765-1835). It also attracted her attention to the work done by Itard and his collaborator, Édouard Séguin (1812-1880), regarding the possibility of integrating abnormal boys and girls into the community through an appropriate course of education. It was precisely her participation in numerous pedagogical conferences in various European cities that allowed her to come into contact with the school of Itard and Seguin and to learn their experimental methods of rehabilitation of the mentally handicapped.
She contributed with her commitment to the emancipation of women. She participated in the Women”s Congress in Berlin in 1896 as a representative of Italy. It has remained famous for his intervention in that forum on the right to equal pay for men and women. On that occasion, the women workers of her hometown, Chiaravalle, collected a sum to contribute to travel expenses. She also participated in the following Women”s Congress in London (1899).
In 1898 she presented in Turin, at the pedagogical congress, the results of her early research and, after a short time, she became director of the orthophrenic school in Rome. With the shift of her interests on the side of education, she decided to renew her cultural basis by graduating in philosophy. Her scientific achievements, achieved in a cultural atmosphere strongly influenced by positivism, earned her awards and scholarships, and led her to participate in a research on retarded children with a colleague, Giuseppe Montesano, to whom she became romantically attached. From the relationship with Montesano was born, in 1898, a son, Mario, that Maria gave birth in secret and entrusted to a family of Vicovaro (a village in Lazio), precisely to the care of Vittoria Pasquali, and later enrolled him in a boarding school. After the death of his mother, Maria was able to take her son, now fourteen years old, to live with her, saying that he was a nephew (the truth was revealed only in her will).
In the year 1903 she was appointed Assistant Physician of II Class in the roles of the Executive Staff of the Italian Red Cross, with a military rank similar to that of second lieutenant, available for the services of the Territorial Hospitals of the C.R.I.
In 1904 she obtained her free teaching in anthropology and 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 having personally met the pedagogist from the Marche region in 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. Encouraged by the Franchetti family, Montessori wrote the first edition of her famous Method, dedicating the work to her husband and wife. In the same period it held also the first course of formation for teachers on the method Montessori near Palace Alberti-Tomassini, center of the laboratory of the Umbrian Canvas to Città di Castello. Following this course, the baroness Franchetti inaugurated a “House of the Children” near 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 by the Marquise Romeyne directly on her three sons, Gian Antonio, Uguccione and Lodovico Ranieri di Sorbello, and the first two literally acted as guinea pigs to test the Montessori materials being experimented at Villa Montesca in the summer of 1909. The method was then applied between the summer and the autumn of 1909 to the teaching of the rural elementary school of Pischiello in Umbria, founded by the Marquise Ranieri di Sorbello herself. Marquise Romeyne”s choice of the Montessori method was dictated by the need to compensate for the serious conditions of cultural backwardness of the local children, who were predisposed at an advanced age, between 6 and 9, to the literacy addressed in the first grade. .
Upon her arrival in the United States in 1913, the New York Tribune presented Maria Montessori as the most interesting woman of Europe. From that moment on, her method was met with a good deal of interest in North America, but this interest waned over time until it was revived by Nancy McCormick Rambusch, founder of the American Montessori Society in 1960. 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”, the latter erected as a moral institution and aimed at the knowledge, diffusion, implementation and protection of her method. Maria Montessori became its honorary president.
Montessori and Fascism
Her political position was not peaceful: some critics on the left judged her right-wing because of the many private schools opened in her name and her high-ranking friendships. On the other hand, in the idealist home did not like the importance she gave to scientific research, nor did the right appreciate the concrete indications 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 problem of illiteracy with the “Children”s Homes”.
In 1914 Maria Montessori moved to Spain, where she remained until after the end of the World War. Returning to Italy in 1924, after having enrolled in the Fascist party, she obtained the approval 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, and with Benito Mussolini 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 (even Maria Josè of Savoy, who was not very sympathetic to Fascism, was involved). This was the period in which the idealism of Croce and Gentile dominated on the cultural plane: distant on some aspects, but both supporters of a frontal attack on scientific education and therefore on the positive approach that characterized the Montessori method.
In the same year, the director general for education, Giuseppe Lombardo Radice, who in previous years had shown himself to be in favor of the Montessori method, made a series of heavy criticisms of Maria: he accused her of having stolen ideas from Rosa and Carolina Agazzi, claiming that only the two sisters from Brescia had developed a truly “Italian” method. Montessori was defined as a “skilful charmer”, “camouflager” and “businesswoman”. Once again Maria dropped the criticism, as if it did not concern her, but from then on, relations with Fascism began to deteriorate.
In 1926, Montessori was able to organize the first national training course that prepared teachers to follow her method. Among other things, despite the accusations that she was not very Italian, Mussolini himself supported Montessori, believing that the international fame she had achieved was a source of pride for Italy. The head of Fascism even served as honorary president of the course and donated 10,000 lire from his personal fund to the Institute. The course was held in Milan and 180 teachers participated. They came mainly from the areas closest to the headquarters of the course (other participants came from Rome). The course lasted six months and was sponsored by the fascist government.
After the international courses held in Rome in 1930 and 1931 and the conferences abroad, especially the one in Geneva on peace, which had an international resonance, a definitive break came: in 1934 the order arrived to close all Montessori schools, both for adults and for children, except for two or three classes that would live in semi-clandestinity. That same year, Hitler also ordered the closure of Montessori schools in Germany along with Waldorf schools. In 1936, by order of Minister Cesare Maria De Vecchi, the regime also closed the three-yearly Royal School of the Montessori Method, which had been preparing teachers in Rome since 1928. In 1933, Peace and Education was published, 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 definitively closed by Fascism in 1936, together with the “School of Method” which had been operating in Rome since 1928. Because of the now irreconcilable contrasts with the Fascist regime, she was forced to leave Italy in 1934.
Trips and latest activities
She continued to travel 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 returned to Europe in 1946, welcomed everywhere with honors.
Upon her return to Italy in 1947, she was primarily concerned with the reconstruction of the Opera Nazionale, which was entrusted with practically the same tasks as those envisioned in the 1924 statute, the implementation and development of which was also favored 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 own aims, enhancing the pedagogical principles of its founder and spreading the knowledge and implementation of the method. Due to a serious financial and organizational crisis, the Opera Montessori was placed under administration until 1986, when, completely restored to health, it regained its own statutory physiognomy that still characterizes it today.
Having moved temporarily with friends to the city of Noordwijk, in the Netherlands, in 1951 she was asked for help by the soon-to-be established state of Ghana in organizing the school system. Uncertain whether to accept, and 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. Her tomb bears the following inscription in Italian: “I beg the dear children, who can do all things, to join me in building peace among men and in the world”. There is a vast and articulate bibliography of Montessori”s work; nevertheless, some classic biographical works on the scholar have not yet been translated into Italian.
The Montessori method begins with the study of mentally ill children and expands to the study of education for all children. Montessori herself argued that the method applied to “phrenasthenics” had stimulating effects even when applied to the education of non-disabled children. 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, rendering them inactive. The fundamental principle must be the “freedom of the pupil”, since only freedom fosters the creativity of the child already present in his nature. From freedom must emerge discipline.
For Maria Montessori, discipline derives from “free work”; it comes into being only when authentic interest emerges in the child, that is, when he or she “chooses” work in accordance with his or her own instinct, which is capable of bringing about a state of absolute recollection. The task of the teacher will be to work on maintaining this state through education in movement. According to Maria Montessori, it is precisely movement that plays a central role, since personality is formed through the unison growth of psychic and motor faculties. It is when the child learns to move following a purpose that is connected with psychic activity that he will be able to direct his own will; only then will he be disciplined. For this reason, the work in the “Case dei Bambini” is based on movement; 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 “lessons of silence” in which he will experience perfect immobility, attention in perceiving the sound of his own name pronounced from a distance, coordinated light movements in order not to bump into objects. Only when the child is capable of directing his will to a goal will he be able to obey and be disciplined. The adult, says Montessori, when he demands discipline and obedience from the child, almost always neglects the child”s will; he proposes a model to imitate: “Do as I do!”, or a direct command: “Be still!”, “Be quiet!”. We must ask ourselves, “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 when it is necessary to follow the rules of life. The infantile period is a period of enormous creativity; it is a phase of life in which the child”s mind absorbs the characteristics of the surrounding environment, making them its own, growing through them, in a natural and spontaneous way, without having to make any cognitive effort. With Maria Montessori, many of the rules of education established in the early years of the century changed. Subnormal” children were treated with respect and educational activities were organized for them. Children had 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 that had taken hold in the early years of the century. The basic misunderstanding of scientific psychology was to be found in its basic illusion, according to which “pure and simple observation” and “scientific measurement” were sufficient to create a new, renewed and efficient school. Montessori”s pedagogical thinking starts again from “scientific pedagogy. In fact, the introduction of science into the field of education is the first fundamental step in being able to construct an objective observation of the object. The object of observation is not the child itself, but the discovery of the child in his or her spontaneity and authenticity. Finally, Maria Montessori criticizes the fact that, in the traditional infant school, the entire environment is designed for adults. In such an environment, the child is not at ease and therefore not 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, in order to emphasize that, at birth, nothing is already preformed in the child, 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 defines the “absorbent mind” as this tendency of the child in the first years of life to unconsciously absorb data from its environment, emphasizing the specificity of infantile 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 potential must be stimulated by the environment.
These nebulae, in light of anthropoevolutionary neuropedagogy, can be defined as bio-neural potentials and maps or, more generally, as “plastic potentials of the brain” and express species-specific needs to be met. For a more effective outcome, this must occur during what Montessori calls the “sensory” periods, such as the development of fine motor skills, which by the age of 3 to 4 already allow the child to correctly grasp the instrument of writing, thanks to the refinement of the index-thumb opposition, and also to pick up bread crumbs.
Typical of Montessori schools is the teaching of Cosmic Education. The concept of Cosmic Education is based on the idea of the cosmic plane, i.e., that all life rests on intentional movements that have a purpose not only in themselves, 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 collaboration of all animate and inanimate beings.
Within this framework Maria Montessori identifies as the purpose of human life the “construction of something that surpasses nature”: Supernature. Through his work, which involves “at one and the same time the hand and the intelligence,” man puts into action a creative process through which he dominates matter, conquers the environment, and transforms nature. His discoveries and achievements benefit all of humanity in space and time and education has the task of making visible the harmonious and unifying principle that pervades the entire universe and to reveal this interconnection, so that through analysis and reflection can be manifested a feeling of gratitude, man in fact “has yet to become aware of the far greater responsibility that he has in fulfilling a cosmic task, to work with others for his environment, for the entire universe.
Cosmic Education encompasses the concepts of ecological education, peace education, and global education, but it does not end with the sum total of these, for its primary 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, not just History, Geography and Science, as is sometimes thought.
The pivotal point of Montessori”s Cosmic Education is the continuous reference from personal experience to universal experience, from the concrete to the abstract, from analysis to synthesis. As far as synthesis is concerned, Montessori says that to know 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 vision of the whole universe.” Regarding then the analysis, she says that one must “give the child an idea of all the sciences, not 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.”
The mottos of Cosmic Education are therefore: “Let us give the world to the child”, from which derives “Synthetic vision of the world”; “Let us sow the seeds of all the sciences”, from which derives “Analytic vision of the world”. With regard to “sowing the seeds of all the sciences,” we quote Maria Montessori”s own words:
Illuminating about the concept of cosmic education are the very words of Maria Montessori:
Maria Montessori”s pacifist thinking and the elaboration of the “cosmic plan,” central to her educational philosophy, are made up of principles that are at the same time 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 point of view of Montessori pedagogy, “Music helps and strengthens the capacity for concentration, and adds a new element to the child”s conquest of inner order and psychic equilibrium.” Therefore, music education has an indispensable function in the life of every human being and especially in the development of the child.
In affirming this, Montessori highlights the positive effects that listening to and practicing music has for the child, both from a psychic point of view and from a cognitive and neurological one, favoring the development of the ear and increasing the capacity for attention and concentration. In addition, since music is closely related to movement, its application ensures an improvement in rhythmic skills and coordination in the production of sounds through the body, such as: the snap of the fingers, the clapping of the hands, the beating of the feet, all actions that characterize the “body percussion”.
Maria Montessori, in order to provide her students with a complete musical education, decided to introduce into the homes of children specific materials, which are still used today for practical-sensory exercises, to educate listening and for learning to “write” music. Among these instruments we find:
It is thanks to these instruments that, according to the pedagogist, a musical corner must be organized in the educational environment, that is, a place where children experiment and explore these sound objects, coming into contact with the world of music. Musical education in the Montessori method enriches the child, developing in him intellectual, psychomotor and, above all, creative capacities, succeeding in educating him not only in independence, autonomy and freedom of action, but also in comparison and interaction with his peers. In addition, it improves learning through listening; it increases manual dexterity with musical instruments and enriches linguistic properties through the use of nursery rhymes and songs. In conclusion, for Maria Montessori, musical education is a fundamental element in the global formation of the child.
In 1906 the Istituto Romano Beni Stabili, directed by Edoardo Talamo, decided to build 58 new buildings in the San Lorenzo district of Rome, using workers who were not particularly qualified. To solve the problem of the workers” children, Talamo turned to Maria Montessori and in 1907 founded the first “children”s home,” no longer for handicapped children but for the children of the inhabitants of Rome”s San Lorenzo district. It is a special house, “not built for children but a house for children”. It is arranged in such a way that the children truly feel it is theirs.
The entire furnishings of the house are designed and proportioned to the possibilities of the child. In this environment, the child actively interacts with the proposed material, showing concentration, creativity and willingness. The child finds an environment in which to express himself in an original way and at the same time learns the fundamental aspects of community life. Essential is the participation of parents for the care of health and hygiene as a prerequisite for school. The teacher”s task is the organization of the environment. He must wait for the children to focus on a particular material, and then devote himself to the observation of individual behavior. The teacher helps the child, the development of which must be accomplished according to the natural rhythms and according to the personality that 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 in Via Solari in Milan, on October 18, 1908, in the presence of Montessori herself, the Umanitaria inaugurated the first Children”s House in the city, 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 opening of a second Children”s House in the second working-class neighborhood of the Umanitaria in Viale Lombardia. The Children”s Houses were also successful outside of Italy: the first nation to experience their effectiveness was Switzerland.
In Analfabetismo mondiale (World Illiteracy), Maria Montessori argues the absolute importance of addressing the phenomenon of illiteracy: to speak without knowing how to read and write is, in fact, to be completely cut off from any ordinary relationship between men, finding oneself living in a condition of linguistic impairment that precludes social relationships and that in this way makes the illiterate person an “extra-social” person.
“The person who speaks, dispersing through the atmosphere articulate sounds is not enough. It is necessary that the word should become permanent, solidify on objects, reproduce itself with machines, travel through the media, gather 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.”
In addition to speech, there is a further skill that complements natural language by adding another form of expression to it, namely, writing. Montessori asserts that the power of the alphabet, the most important achievement for all mankind, is not simply that of making written words understand their meaning, but that of giving new characters to language by doubling it. The 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 the 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 phase of the Montessori method, with both adults and children, is to recognize and discover the sounds of their own language and to match them to the corresponding alphabetical sign. In this way, the visual medium is also a stimulus that helps to analyze the sounds of words. Writing just repeats a few graphic signs in different combinations, and it is 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 mainspring of learning to write. Exercises, tools and techniques, designed and reasoned for sequential stages of learning, are therefore proposed within an educational relationship that favors the experience and autonomy of the student.
“…Language is there in every man. The illiterate possess it, they carry it with them. Therefore, to awaken it, to make its owners aware of it, to indicate that it is within their mind that they 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 further: and go to the actual conquest of the printed world, where the thoughts and warnings of other men can be collected.”
There are 22,000 Montessori schools of all grades worldwide, including nursery, kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school:
There are also Montessori schools in Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, Fiji, the Philippines, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Tanzania, and Vietnam.
The ideal center of this worldwide diffusion is the town where Maria Montessori was born, Chiaravalle: here the house where she was born can still be seen and houses a museum and a Montessori library. The house is also home to a study center that organizes conferences dedicated to the work and thought of the educator and at which scholars from the various countries in which Montessori education is widespread participate.
The chart below shows 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
Between the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first, Italy witnessed a surprising rediscovery of Montessori”s thought, marked by the re-edition of the three fundamental works of the educator from the Marche region: The Discovery of the Child, The Secret of Infancy, The Mind of the Child, but also of 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 some acute essays dedicated to her thought were published.
In 2007, the television drama Maria Montessori – A Life for Children, which introduced the figure of the educator to the general public, went on air. Moreover, in 2012, on the occasion of the anniversary of Maria Montessori”s birth, the third channel of the Italian national radio broadcasted, in episodes, the reading of some passages of The discovery of the child. Faced with 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.