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Human Nature vs Prussian Discipline
Human Nature vs Prussian Discipline

Human Nature vs Prussian Discipline

In The Montessori Method, Dr. Maria Montessori wrote (pre-1912):
We often hear it said that a child’s will should be “broken” that the best education for the will of the child is to learn to give it up to the will of adults. Leaving out of the question the injustice which is at the root of every act of tyranny, this idea is irrational because the child cannot give up what he does not possess. We prevent him in this way from forming his own will-power, and we commit the greatest and most blameworthy mistake. He never has time or opportunity to test himself, to estimate his own force and his own limitations because he is always interrupted and subjected to our tyranny, and languishes in injustice because he is always being bitterly reproached for not having what adults are perpetually destroying.
There springs up as a consequence of this, childish timidity, which is a moral malady acquired by a will which could not develop, and which with the usual calumny with which the tyrant consciously or not, covers up his own mistakes, we consider as an inherent trait of childhood. The children in our schools are never timid. One of their most fascinating qualities is the frankness with which they treat people, with which they go on working in the presence of others, and showing their work frankly, calling for sympathy. That moral monstrosity, a repressed and timid child, who is at his ease nowhere except alone with his playmates, or with street urchins, because his will-power was allowed to grow only in the shade, disappears in our schools. He presents an example of thoughtless barbarism, which resembles the artificial compression of the bodies of those children intended for “court dwarfs,” museum monstrosities or buffoons. Yet this is the treatment under which nearly all the children of our time are growing up spiritually.
As a matter of fact in all the pedagogical congresses one hears that the great peril of our time is the lack of individual character in the scholars; yet these alarmists do not point out that this condition is due to the way in which education is managed, to scholastic slavery, which has for its specialty the repression of will-power and of force of character. The remedy is simply to enfranchise human development.
(pp. 366-367, The Montessori Method by Dr. Maria Montessori, trans. Anne E. George, (c) 1964 Schocken Books, New York (and (c) 1988 Random House), ISBN 0-8052-0922-0)
Amen. I agree, and I teach, in this respect, as Dr. Montessori did: respecting and fostering the independence of each individual. Interesting that Dr. Montessori said that — and passionately spoke against the fact that — some children were being made into intellectual and moral “court dwarfs.” The philosopher Ayn Rand said the same thing about modern education, but calling the ones who deformed children into “court dwarfs” “comprachicos,” from some characters in the Victor Hugo novel The Man Who Laughs. Ms. Rand said:
The academia-jet set coalition is attempting to tame the American character by the deliberate breeding of helplessness and resignation—in those incubators of lethargy known as “Progressive” schools, which are dedicated to the task of crippling a child’s mind by arresting his cognitive development. (See “The Comprachicos” in my book The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution.) It appears, however, that the “progressive” rich will be the first victims of their own social theories: it is the children of the well-to-do who emerge from expensive nursery schools and colleges as hippies, and destroy the remnants of their paralyzed brains by means of drugs. The middle class has created an antidote which is perhaps the most hopeful movement of recent years: the spontaneous, unorganized, grass-roots revival of the Montessori system of education—a system aimed at the development of a child’s cognitive, i.e., rational, faculty.  (“Don’t Let It Go,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, 214.)
She also said:
The only purpose of education is to teach a student how to live his life—by developing his mind and equipping him to deal with reality. The training he needs is theoretical, i.e., conceptual. He has to be taught to think, to understand, to integrate, to prove. He has to be taught the essentials of the knowledge discovered in the past—and he has to be equipped to acquire further knowledge by his own effort.  (“The Comprachicos,” Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 88.)
Both quotes of Ms. Rand from the Ayn Rand Lexicon (Copyright © 1986 by Harry Binswanger. All rights reserved. New American Library.) as provided by the Ayn Rand Institute (Copyright © 2009 Ayn Rand® Institute (ARI). All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited.). Really makes one thing about the essence of education and reason, and their importance in life.

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