Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius

Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius

Most of the schools for most of the kids are boring or to put it in another way, they are the killers of innovation. Even the most curious kid with an insatiable desire and a healthy dose of intellectual energy knows what it feels like after 5-10 years of schooling, some even remember vivid accounts of how their energy was sucked out of their souls. It is a cliché to say that education is very important but then what kind of radical reforms we witnessed during the last 100 years?

I don’t have any particular expertise in the field of education, pedagogy or child development, but I spent a lot of time studying cognitive science, was involved in psychology research,  and practically taught kids how to program (heck, I even read “Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas” from Papert long time ago!). I’m not a foreigner to Piaget and read from books from and on Vygotsky. But I heard about Montessori only about a few months ago (well, to be fair I must admit that Papert’s book mentions Montessori, only in one page, in a single sentence and negatively). If Montessori method of education was something very new, or just a few years old, or even one or two decades old, I would not consider my situation very odd. Or if the method of Montessori was put to use only in a few schools in a few distant countries I would forgive myself for my ignorance. But to my surprise I learned that Montessori method is about 100 years old and put to test daily in many countries including many European ones as well as USA (some of the most famous names in my field turned out to be educated in Montessori schools: Larry Page and Sergei Brin (founders of Google), Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon.com), Will Wright (the inventor of “The Sims”); read “The Montessori Mafia” from The Wall Street Journal for more information).

I’m so much thankful to Dr. Lillard for presenting a highly readable yet scientific, evidence-based account of this wonderful method of education. I’m yet to witness a Montessori school in practice and I did not send my child to such a school, so maybe I should keep the skeptic inside me very alive. But if half of what Lillard describes is true then I’d say it’ll be very difficult for me to choose any other type of education for our child. “Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius” answers almost all of the questions that a parent or a researcher can ask. And whenever there is a concrete answer you are provided with relevant results from scientific literature. If your question is still open to discussion, if there is no conclusive evidence then Lillard does not hesitate to state this, too. She also stresses a few points from Montessori methods which are almost proved false by scientific research (but these points are very few, Lillard shows that a very big part of Montessori method is supported by the evidence).

There are other books explaining or advocating Montessori method but I believe no book yet surpassed this book in terms of scientific rigor. Thanks to the comprehensive overview by Lillard, I can clearly see the problematic points of mainstream educational methods and how negatively they affect children. I can also easily see how Montessori method solves a lot of those problems without introducing them to begin with. Many times I found my self marking pages from the book, smiling to myself and thinking “yes, that’s the way it should be!”.

If you think your child, or any child is something more than an empty vessel waiting to be filled by “knowledge” by a teacher, if you ever said to yourself “if only they let me be engaged with whatever I was interested in so that I could learn much more and have fun”, if you think that a human being’s destiny is probably something more than trying to fit into stereotypes and find herself of a fine 9-to-5 job, if you ever thought that accomplishing something beautiful, overcoming a real challenge was a feat in itself and you did not any extrinsic motivation for it, your inner drive was the source of greatest pleasure… Well, then you owe yourself to read this book. This book may not change your life, or maybe you’ll never have the option of sending your child to a Montessori school for this or that reason. But one thing for sure, this book will completely change the way you look at and think about educating children and preparing them for life. And every minute of it will be well spent.

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