Tag Archives: capitalism

Thoughts on Maria Montessori

I have been aware of Maria Montessori and her educational “movement” (as its often referred to) as part of the spectrum of educational alternatives available mostly to more well-to-do families who can afford the tuition to send their kids to a private Montessori school. There are over 3000 such schools in the United States today and more than 20,000 around the world. I have read about her early work researching child development, opening her first school in her native Italy and how she became a star of the progressive education world in Europe and the U.S. in the early years of the 20th century.

I am both intrigued and troubled by the fact that her ideas about creating a developmentally appropriate environment for children seem to have had so little impact on our public education system in what are conventionally the preschool and elementary school years. In digging a little deeper into the history, it seems her innovative ideas suffered a similar fate as the ideas of other “holistic” educators like John Dewey, succumbing to the “business efficiency” movement in education in the second and third decades of the 20th century.

Montessori was born in Italy in 1870. Overcoming barriers to women, she managed to gain a degree in the natural sciences from the University of Rome and, despite opposition from students and faculty, fight her way into medical school at the University, finally graduating in 1896 as a doctor of medicine. Her early career involved working with mentally disabled young people and researching ways to help them overcome their developmental challenges. As part of that research she read everything that had been published in the previous 200 years regarding education theory, and applied this wisdom to improving her efforts on behalf of this specially challenged group.

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Schooled to Accept Economic Inequality

Up front I would like to say that I usually don’t write pieces like this, pieces that are perhaps overly simplistic and provocative and lacking a more balanced and nuanced view of things. But in the best spirit of provocation to encourage the dialog… here goes!

I keep seeing statistics and voices calling out that the economic disparities between rich and poor in this country continue to widen. It makes me wonder… in a democratic society where (at least politically) “majority rules”, how come the most wealthy among us, “the one percenters” as they have recently been coined, seem to continue to call the shots on a government financial policy? Why doesn’t at least a majority of the “ninety-nine percenters” come to an agreement and vote for a more equitable path forward?

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Still Committed to Us and No Them

With the remembrances today of the events of 9/11 a decade ago, I want to call out something that I think is an important part of the continued processing of that event and the path forward from it into a new century of human development. In my previous piece, “Moving Beyond Us and Them to Only Us”, I wrote about what I see as the key transition we humans are going through…

That transition is what I often describe as from “patriarchy to partnership”, or alternatively from “hierarchy to a circle of equals”. If those terms don’t resonate with much meaning for you, maybe our human societal evolution could be described at its most basic as moving from “us and them” thinking towards thinking instead that there is no “them” and there is only “us”.

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Diners, Drive-Ins, Dives and Dancing

Food-chugging show host Guy Fieri

I can think of no greater exemplar of our American fetish with a steady diet of rich juicy food full of fat, salt, sugar and cholesterol (that contribute to our national pastime of accumulating “life style” diseases like diabetes, heart disease and obesity) than the enthusiastic red-faced Guy Fieri, host of the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”. He criss-crosses the country and its local low-brow eateries masticating his way through super-sized Philly cheese steaks, bratwursts and macaroni and cheeses presumably ignoring the cholesterol numbers in his blood tests (if he even dares have those tests) and always looking overheated and about to burst. Continue reading →

Five Themes of American Conventional Wisdom Part 4: Capitalism

So the fourth installment of this series, based on my friend Ron Miller’s take on American cultural conventions, I’m going to look at his thoughts on Capitalism and how it plays out in American conventional thinking, based on the first chapter of his very insightful book, What Are Schools For?

Ah “capitalism”… a word that to me connotes a big driving machine. A word that is loaded with so much baggage from the last 200 years of Western (and world) history, including all the robber barons, all the strife between workers and management and the competing ideologies of socialism and communism. A term that emphasizes the people, the “capitalists”, with the big bucks to finance business projects, rather than “free enterprise” which connotes more the entrepreneurs who start those small businesses (like my son and his friends did).

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