“An unconventional education was a second significant influence in Page’s life. Like his Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, Page attended Montessori schools until he entered high school. They both cite the educational method of Maria Montessori as the major influence in how they designed Google’s work systems.”
Because subjects are not taught in isolation, Montessori education fosters a systems perspective of the world. This ability to see connections between seemingly unrelated subjects allows for greater creative and innovative thinking. It also fosters empathy for others and the environment as you see yourself and your actions as part of the larger system that is our world.
[Principal] Waller told Pitts that the targets—set by the district’s Department of Research, Planning, and Accountability—were unrealistic. It took a quarter of the year just to gain students’ trust. Two students, he said, were raped in the neighborhood that year. Others lived alone, with neither parent at home, or were on the verge of being placed in juvenile detention. When a student was arrested for stealing cars, Waller went to court and asked the judge not to send him to jail. Waller told me, “The administration wanted to move kids out of poverty—I do believe that. But test scores could not be the only means.” When Waller expressed his concerns, Pitts reiterated that Hall accepted no excuses, and told him, “The way principals keep their jobs in Atlanta is they make targets.”
Initiatives like No Child Left Behind assume that all children are the same and come from similar backgrounds. But children living in extreme poverty don’t care about their test scores or even learning. They’re too busy just trying to survive.
The first thing that college is for is to teach you to think. That doesn’t simply mean developing the mental skills particular to individual disciplines. College is an opportunity to stand outside the world for a few years, between the orthodoxy of your family and the exigencies of career, and contemplate things from a distance.
Learning how to think is only the beginning, though. There’s something in particular you need to think about: building a self. The notion may sound strange. “We’ve taught them,” David Foster Wallace once said, “that a self is something you just have.” But it is only through the act of establishing communication between the mind and the heart, the mind and experience, that you become an individual, a unique being—a soul. The job of college is to assist you to begin to do that. Books, ideas, works of art and thought, the pressure of the minds around you that are looking for their own answers in their own ways.
Why do we assume that teaching to think or “building a self” begins in college? Children begin thinking and building their selves the moment they are born. Our entire education system should support this self-differentiation process.
Students who have gone through the program ask more questions and have a greater awareness of how to answer them; construct their questions more carefully; became more thoughtful in the way they consider ideas and evaluate sources; and became better at managing their time.
Sounds very Montessori!
Be sure to watch the video at the end of this page: This Is What a Student-Designed School Looks Like | MindShift.