A few days ago my class in my Montessori Teacher Training discussed the 13 Guiding Principles of Montessori. For unknown reason, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. While each one of these principles, I believe, is invaluable and intellectually sound, what stood out the most to me is number 10 which says, and I quote, “Help each child become a peaceful individual and peacemaker within the classroom, local, and global communities.”
This principle resonates as I listened to the news media reporting daily about the astounding civil war crisis in the Middle East raging and other violence that many countries are experiencing these days. It’s heartbreaking to see power uprisings turning to ferocity and violence, causing deaths and injuries of many people. Sometimes I wonder how many billions of dollars and lives have already been wasted and lost because of conflicts and battles? Is peace ever attainable?
I am of the view that the first step towards peace is finding it within oneself. For one, I believe in the adage that “we cannot give what we do not have.” It will be hard to make peace with others if we don’t feel peaceful within ourselves. We cannot experience it if we are full of bitterness, anxiety, stress, insecurities and all the other negative emotions. If we want peace to reign, then we have to consider it seriously.
What impresses me the most about the Montessori method of education is its educational philosophy which does not zero in on academic excellence alone. It also superimposes the importance of value, global understanding, and service to its instruction as discussed in the Four Pillars of Montessori. Value refers to the universal qualities such as integrity, non-violence, empathy to others, honesty, and community. Global Understanding, on the other hand, denotes knowing about people of the world and their history. It is giving opportunity to our children to appreciate and respect diversity, so that they can connect better to the humanity and so as to all things that have life. Montessori children are also taught the meaning of social justice. For example, the concept of conflict resolution is very much alive in Montessori’s Peace Table. All this reminded me of my former job at the embassy when diplomats came from different parts of the world discussing ways and means to better improve relationships. It is not uncommon to hear differences in opinions and principles; however, everything is settled at the table – with respect, tolerance, and diplomacy. In the 4 Pillars of Montessori, this social justice is referred to as Service. In my short stint in a Montessori school, so far, I have seen how Montessori guides inculcate in their children the idea of giving, sharing, and taking turns. Guides always emphasize that we don’t just live in our own skin. Every one of us is part of this world and therefore each one of us matters. I believe that if the whole of mankind will be united into one brotherhood – community like what Montessori schools strive to attain in each of its classrooms – disagreements may be narrowed.
Having said that, I agree with Kathy Carey (Let Us Not Forget, Montessori Life) that “laws and treaties are not enough: what we need is a world full of miracles… A new world for a new man.”
Note: The picture was borrowed from the cover page of the “Montessori Life” magazine spring issue.