Before Maria Montessori’s death in 1952, she was nominated six times for the Nobel Peace Prize, but never received it. That was a terrible oversight. So with the power invested in me as a teacher, I hereby award it to her posthumously. Of course, I have no power whatsoever in political terms, but I have a far greater power than even Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa or Nelson Mandela to directly affect a child’s life and cultivate their humanitarian promise close up. Naturally, the big hitters can inspire with their words and deeds, but it is the teachers, from preschool through college, who work directly with students to either open their hearts in real and tangible ways—or not. Dr. King, Mother Theresa and Mr. Mandela dealt with the failure of schools, families and society to rear children who have no reason to hit, hurt or hate others because all they’ve known is the blessing, praise, help and loving kindness of teachers trained to cultivate their humanitarian promise.
Yet how many teachers have actually been trained to do that? And what would that training look like? And what would a school committed to it look and feel like? Over hundred years ago, this amazing visionary, educator and humanitarian thinker was already considering these world-changing questions. And she knew down to the marrow of her bones that her lessons with the little ones could have far-reaching consequences far beyond their ability to construct the pink tower and trace the sandpaper letter. Listen to what she says:
How can we speak of Democracy or Freedom when from the very beginning of life we mold the child to undergo tyranny, to obey a dictator? How can we expect democracy when we have reared slaves? Real freedom begins at the beginning of life, not at the adult stage. These people who have been diminished in their powers, made short-sighted, devitalized by mental fatigue, whose bodies have become distorted, whose wills have been broken by elders who say: “your will must disappear and mine prevail!”—how can we expect them, when school-life is finished, to accept and use the rights of freedom?
Now read that last sentence—“These people who have been diminished in their powers…” and here you understand perfectly well what led to a half (or less) human person like Kim von Trump and all his fellow tyrants and all those who excuse and play along. These were people who went through some 12 years of schooling without developing the power of empathy, the long vision of rigorous intellectual thought, the energizing tonic of reading and writing and listening, the training of their bodies as instruments of knowledge and kinesthetic beauty. Apparently, no one had a teacher or adult who saw the hidden golden light waiting to be released by the blessing of a teacher and so it festered in the dark, protecting itself from the brutality of the teacher-tyrant shouting “Because I say so!” And when they left school, all they could see as a choice was to become such tyrants themselves and chase after money and power to put down others. Or else hide yet further into depression and anxiety and just try to get through without being noticed.
No matter who gets elected in 2020, no matter how many of these bad, bad people get their just desserts (is there a Montessori jail for them to rehabilitate?), no matter how many laws get made that bend the arc of justice to the rainbow’s end, none of it will endure without changing the way we raise and educate children. Montessori knew it and so should we.
And so I hereby award Dr. Maria Montessori with the Nobel Peace Prize she so richly deserved. All in favor?