Thursday, July 08, 2010

Come learn about rational education

presentationYou can’t create real cultural change through a lecture, or just through blogging.  As philosopher Leonard Peikoff said yesterday, “You can only reach the culture through the educational system.”

So if you want to know about the only rational method of education, then listen up.  Here’s your chance. Next week in Mt Eden there is an information afternoon at the Maria Montessori Education Foundation (MMEF) training centre that you can attend, and learn more.

 _Quote This occasion will provide you with an opportunity to find out more about the forthcoming A.M.I. (Association Montessori Internationale) Early Childhood Teacher Education Course, to talk to A.M.I. Montessori teachers and other members of the Montessori community & learn about Montessori Education.

p_redrods The afternoon is primarily for prospective students of the A.M.I. Montessori (3-6) Teacher Education Course to be held in Auckland in 2011-2013, or for those who know someone who they think would like to be a prospective student—or, really, for anyone who’d like to know more about Montessori education and get a hands-on feel for it. Which is everyone with a brain—or should be.

The people at MMEF are folk who love Montessori education and what it can do for young children, and they want you to love it too.

So come along to find out more, and don’t forget to bring a friend.

Date: Tuesday 13th July
Time: 4:30pm – 6:00pm
Venue: The Quakers Meeting House, 113 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland
RSVP: By Friday 9th July to mmef@ihug.co.nz

To find out more about the AMI 3-6 Course visit mmef.org.nz.
To find out more about Montessori in New Zealand visit montessori.org.nz, or watch this brief introduction:

And finally, and on a lighter note … to find out more about what Montessori is not, then visit the new website of the Montessomething School, a website satirising schools that take the name Montessori but disregard the actual methodology.  If you know anything at all about real Montessori schools, this will have you in stitches.

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25 Comments:

Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

Montessori is inherently coercive -it just tries to be nicer about it than ordinary schools. As such, it can hardly be rational.

7/09/2010 06:54:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

Brian, we've had this out before.

No, Montessori is not inherently coercive-instead it encourages children to value their own independently acquired view of the world.

And yes, I'm afraid, your own view of the world is hardly rational. Children do need guidance. They can't live like wild animals.

7/09/2010 08:55:00 pm  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

Who said anything about children living like wild-animals and not needing guidance? Those are entirely your assertions. Your implication is that guidance requires some level of coercion and you defeat your assertion that Montessori is non-coercive.

7/09/2010 11:23:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@Brian: "Who said anything about children living like wild-animals and not needing guidance?"

Ah, you have, when you've trolled here previously.

"Those are entirely your assertions."

No, they were yours. You say something, we're entitled to believe you mean it.

Children need rational guidance, not the feral lack of oversight you promote.

7/10/2010 12:24:00 am  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

Well, PC, if you want to assert I have said things that I have not the onus is on you to provide the evidence. I agree that children need help and guidance so why would I be arguing differently elsewhere?

What I don't agree with is weasel-wording coercion by calling it something like "rational-guidance". And you are weasel-wording it, because if you were not, you would have no disagreement with me. Your argument, no matter how much you try to hide it, is that children need coercing in order to learn.

7/10/2010 04:58:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

Brian, I don't propose to have the same long drawn-out argument each time this topic is canvassed.

You've made your point, and for reasons we've covered at great length many times before, I think it 's absurd.

So let's leave it there, please.

7/10/2010 10:36:00 am  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

PC, the montesori video from the FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE post, said that children are left on their own to discover things (which I have already being aware of that, because that is how montesori does its teaching).

In your message above to brian, you said that , "children need rational guidance". What is the difference between montesorri guidance and the state-school guidance (ie, curriculum-wise)? I am baffled by the way they're being guided. If the montesorri is to leave children to self-discover, then that's not guidance at all.

Anyway, I am coming on Tuesday to the MMEF information afternoon to see it for myself and perhaps then critique after that.

My view on eduction, is that kids should be guided by adults , ie, tell them what to learn rather than leaving the kids to discover things on their own (montesorri handsoff approach), which can take longer for them to do or achieve.

7/10/2010 03:32:00 pm  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

PC, how have I made my point if you are asserting I have said that the method of child-rearing I advocate involves no help and guidance and leads to children living like wild animals? If that is what you think I said, my point isn't made let alone understood.

For the record: help and guidance are extremely important but must be consent-based (involve no coercion). Pleae don't make out I have said anything different again.

FF makes the point that Montessori often involves withholding help and guidance. That is because observation is central to the Montessori method and these are supposed to lead to induction. I think that learning involves problem-solving by conjecture and criticism and that explanations should be central.

One reason Montessori is coercive is that it is collective: Children are hearded together into a classroom for the purposes of teaching and, like in any school, this is going to involve coercion.

These are very important topics, PC, central to the future of liberty on our planet, and worth repeated discussion.

7/10/2010 07:22:00 pm  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

PC, is this what you find absurd: That children can be raised without having anything done to them that is against their will?

It seems to me that you have been reading this as children not getting help and guidance.

I have a practical interest in this you know and it bothers me that libertarians of all people seem to show such a lack of understanding. How do you think children raised by parents such as myself turn out? What would you do if you met one: tell her she is absurd!? And aren't we the type of parent you should be supporting, the type who take seriously the idea that your body is your own?

7/11/2010 08:40:00 am  
Anonymous Trevor said...

One reason Montessori is coercive is that it is collective: Children are hearded together into a classroom for the purposes of teaching and, like in any school, this is going to involve coercion.

Must disagree here with you Brian. The mere fact that all the children are in a class together does not make it "collectivism" or "coercive".

7/11/2010 08:51:00 am  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

You're right Trevor, but only if the children want to be there and they are free to come and go.

7/11/2010 07:26:00 pm  
Blogger Mark said...

@FF: Montessori guidance is about giving the children a range of activity options, but within a defined framework. All the options are specifically designed to teach something in particular and appropriate for their level of development. During the day though, the child is free to engage with whichever activity they want, for as long as they want. The teacher only gets involved when the help is wanted and/or they think they need to.

I'ts the best way for kids to learn - on their own initiative. My 3 year old looks forward to going there every day and misses it when he doesn't.

So in one respect it's complete freedom, but in another sense it relies heavily on a definite theory on how kids learn. To many people this seems a dichotomy, but it's not.

By contrast, state education is typically either freedom without appropriate guidance, or it's "guidance" of the bad kind - i.e. indoctrination. It's a false alternative - in the same way socialism or conservatism offer false alternatives.

To go into a classroom and see 3-6 year olds all quitely and happily at work (without disrupting each other), not in spite of, but *because* of the freedom they have is the most eloquent way to understand the Montessori method and it's benefits.

To call it a 'theory' could give the wrong connotations too - because Montessori herself was a hands on teacher not an academic, and developed her methods based on direct observation and experience with what worked. Once you've been exposed to it and understand the subtle processes at work in the classroom, it doesn't seem like a theory, but more like self-evident common sense.

There's a group called the Brainwave Trust that are giving excellent talks around NZ on the physical/scientific side of how kids brains develop up to the age of 6 (the most important phase). The science to me seems very compatible ith the Montessori method. Montessori herself wouldn't have known this, but her methods are supported by the latest neurological science.

The other important thing in respect to your question, is that at an early age (0-6), kids don't learn the same way we do. They learn more by by aborbing, not by explict teaching. So what's more important is their experiences, and whether they can interact with their environment at their own pace, rather than the specific content. So to task "what's the different in curriculum?" misses the point a little. It's more about method than content. There's a little bit of hippyish enviro-nonsense that goes with my son's Montessori school, but that's a very small price to pay, and of no real consequence in the long run.

7/12/2010 09:02:00 am  
Blogger Mark said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/12/2010 09:04:00 am  
Anonymous Julian said...

Thanks for the heads up on this Montessori event PC. I'll try to make it not because I am a prospective student but because I always learn something new when I attend meetings/workshops on Dr Montessori's method.

Julian

7/12/2010 09:53:00 am  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

@Marc: Some questions (and the odd comment):

Montessori guidance is about giving the children a range of activity options, but within a defined framework.

What if the child wants to do something outside the defined framework? Is the defined framework for the benefit of the children or for the convenience of the parents so that they can leave their children there?

All the options are specifically designed to teach something in particular and appropriate for their level of development.

What if the child wants to try something not "appropriate for their level of development"?

During the day though, the child is free to engage with whichever activity they want, for as long as they want.

Could they decide to go to the science museum or spend a day down the park or watch a movie?

The teacher only gets involved when the help is wanted and/or they think they need to.

Is the teacher the only one helping? Can other children help? Or visitors to the classroom? Could they phone up their parents and get them to come around?

My 3 year old looks forward to going there every day and misses it when he doesn't.

Does he enjoy every aspect of it? Are there some things he doesn't enjoy? If so, how is his lack of enjoyment dealt with?

So in one respect it's complete freedom, but in another sense it relies heavily on a definite theory on how kids learn. To many people this seems a dichotomy, but it's not.

How can it be complete freedom when the framework is defined? See above questions.

By contrast, state education is typically either freedom without appropriate guidance, or it's "guidance" of the bad kind - i.e. indoctrination. It's a false alternative - in the same way socialism or conservatism offer false alternatives.

"Appropriate guidance" sounds like socialism to me. Who decides what appropriate guidance is?

To go into a classroom and see 3-6 year olds all quitely and happily at work (without disrupting each other)...

Why is it important for children to be working quietly? What happens if the children start getting noisy. Why the segregation into age-related peers? What if the child prefers the company of older children or adults?

To call it a 'theory' could give the wrong connotations too - because Montessori herself was a hands on teacher not an academic, and developed her methods based on direct observation and experience with what worked.

You seem to be saying it is just pragmaticism. Is it?

Once you've been exposed to it and understand the subtle processes at work in the classroom...

Subtle processes sounds like manipulation. Are the children made aware of what is happening? Is everything explained to them about the method?

The other important thing in respect to your question, is that at an early age (0-6), kids don't learn the same way we do. They learn more by by aborbing, not by explict teaching.

No, they do learn the same way we do. Children are not buckets into which information is poured or sponges into which it is absorbed; they have to form conjectures and try things out, just like adults.

So what's more important is their experiences, and whether they can interact with their environment at their own pace, rather than the specific content.

*Their* environment is not just the school but the whole area in which they live? Do you really mean, then, that they can interact with *their* environment?

So to task "what's the different in curriculum?" misses the point a little. It's more about method than content. There's a little bit of hippyish enviro-nonsense that goes with my son's Montessori school, but that's a very small price to pay, and of no real consequence in the long run.

Does the child have a choice not to learn this stuff?

7/12/2010 10:50:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

Brian, it's been five years or so since you first landed here, and took upon yourself the job of criticising (your view of) Montessori education for not corresponding to your own absurd ideas on child raising.

Yet in that time it's apparent you've learned nothing at all about even the basics of the subject you've taken as your specialist topic of abuse.

Which says a lot.

You've had around five years of reading recommendations given to you on the "freedom within a prepared environment" that Montessori represents. That you clearly still haven't availed yourself of any of them speaks volumes; that you feel obliged to criticise something about which you so obviously know nothing says even more (but is of a piece, of course, with your stated view that real knowledge is impossible).

It's not too late however to learn about that which you criticise.

There are many introductions that you may choose, but I can personally recommend (once again) that you explore these particularly splendid introductions to the field:

1. 'The Comprachicos,' by Ayn Rand, included in her essay collection 'Return of the Primitive.'

2. 'Montessori Today: A Comprehensive Approach to Education from Birth to Adulthood,' by Paula Polk Lillard.

3. 'The Secret of Childhood,' by Dr Maria Montessori

4. 'Dr Montessori's Own Handbook: A Short Guide to Her Ideas and Materials

I commend them to your attention. And I recommend some attempt to absorb at least some of them before you return.

7/12/2010 11:31:00 am  
Blogger Mark said...

@ Brian: Firstly, could you tell me whether you've had any experience first-hand with the subject matter - i.e. raising children? And if so, in what circumstances?

In normal circumstances I don't think someone *must* have had personal experience of something to say something sensible on the subject, but in your case I do.

I'm asking this because the children you talk of seem to be part of some strange alternate universe I'm not aware of - not the real life flesh and blood creatures I'm responsible for here on planet earth.

If all you're talking about is some ivory-tower conception of how things 'should be', there's no value in me having this discussion with you.

On the other hand, if you've had some success in implementing the ideas you adhere to, let's hear about it (with some real examples to back it up).

7/12/2010 12:00:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

I think that my line of questioning I posed above, was about the generality of Montesorri education system/framework and I wasn't thinking specifically of young age children [from 1 to 6 years], but all age school students up to high school as now I am aware that there is secondary/high school Montessori.

So, I'll ask here of what they (students) learn at Montessori high school in math for example. Let's say that they learn algebra or calculus. How did the students know that there is something call calculus if it wasn't introduced to them in the first place by adults/teachers (or let say, the curriculum stated clearly that teachers must teach those topics to them at certain level). Surely, if the students are left to their own device (hands-off approach), then the majority of them would never stumble across such topics as calculus & algebra on their own.

On the other hand, if the Montessori high school students are being taught the calculus or algebra subjects ( lets say, they're given some limited guidance/lesson only to learning calculus by Montessori teachers, thus again, leaving the students to propel or advance themselves on their own, without too much interference, hand-holding or spoon-feeding from teachers). My question, then, why is this approach is any different to state-school in the way, the students there are being taught calculus?

In state schools, students are being introduced to those topics, whether they like or not. They had no choice. This is the approach I like. I like to force the students to learn topics, because I think that it would be good for their learning. Students should have a choice of taking the subject or choose to do art, but learning these subjects must not be left to the students to decide whether to take them or not. It should be forced on them. Note: My view on forcing students to learn something here, is not to be equated to coercion as Brian is talking about above. I take the position that adults know better than students, therefore adults must force students to learn what they're being given. Don't leave it to the student to decide, by leaving them to their own, because as I said above, some would never learn certain topics.

[Continue below...]

7/12/2010 01:25:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

[Continue on from previous post...]

Ok, I'll finish off the point that I am trying to make here, by informing you that you test Ishmael's calculus & algebra knowledge when he visits you at the Castle next time. You would be surprised to see a 9 year old boy of his age that have the ability to solve polynomial calculus problems in both differentiations (i.e., 1st, 2nd & 3rd derivatives) and integrations (i.e., indefinite integrals & definite integrals given initial points). Actually, he is being coerced by me to learn calculus. Is it a bad thing? Umm, Nope! It is good coercion; I forced him to learn something that I think it would be good for him, because it can give him a wider scope in choosing a career path to take. He may end up doing something different (like painting & art - since he is good at it), but at least he is being coerced to take something that gives a wider career horizons if he chooses to pursue one that is of interest to him.

If he is progressing well at this rate of learning as I've observed him so far since I started the program at the beginning of the year, then I think that he will be able to attend University, perhaps by the time he is 13 or 14 years old (roughly). I have brought up this very topic (going to uni by 13 or 14) with him, and he is very keen on that.

I think that the hands-off approach (Montessori way) is good when students are being first introduced to some concepts. Then leave them to dig further in those topics. Not introducing them to certain concepts to start with is bad, because IMO, they will never stumble across them on their own. But introducing something to students, can be labelled as indoctrination (Mark's view) or coercion (Brian’s view), which I think is misleading (we're trapped here in semantics). I believe in forcing/coercing/introducing new concepts to students to learn, be they like it or not, they had no choice. Quit if they don't like it or pursue it if they do like it.

7/12/2010 01:27:00 pm  
Blogger Mark said...

@FF: Sorry FF, I don't know too much about Montessori for older children (haven't got there yet) - except that there's very few schools in NZ that cater to over 6's (eg; only one in Christchurch). I suspect the differences with conventional education become less the older the child gets, as they get closer to being adults and therefore can learn the same way adults do (i.e. curriculum based). Ages 3-6 is the most crucial because that's when that their basic mental processes become hard-wired (for better or worse).

7/12/2010 10:10:00 pm  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

@Mark: Yes, one does not need experience in order to say something truthful. That is a general truth, just like it is a general truth that one's own incredulity is no guide to truth. So, whether I am a parent or not, and whether you are incredulous of the ideas I speak of or not, has no bearing on any truths. Furthermore, although I am actually a parent, my offering personal anecdotes isn't going to help you because you have no easy way of checking these and also because, at heart, we are talking about philosophical ideas and understanding these is far more valuable than having anecdotes. Know, also, that my child's privacy is important, and I won't disclose personal details without permission. Naturally, I wouldn't be advocating my approach if I didn't think it was good.

The approach itself comes from several people, but most notably Oxford physicist and libertarian David Deutsch. Unfortunately, much of David's writing on child-rearing is in hard to find archives and on lists that are not publicly available. Here are some samples from what is publicly available:

Are schools inherently coercive?
But if we don't make her do maths...
Video Games: A Unique Educational Environment

You can google and follow the trails to discover more. Hope that helps!

@FF: I don't call introducing children to something coercion (that is Peter's wrong assertion about what I said). It is coercion if they don't want to do it and then you make them. And if that is what you are doing, then I disagree with it. Children generally like to try out new things and introducing them to things, including advanced stuff, is usually no problem. If they have developed hangups about learning from school, however, then it can be a problem. One criticism we both have of Montessori is that children don't get introduced to nearly enough things.

@PC: How about dropping the meta-discussion and responding to a specific question that was raised? Just saying something is absurd and indulging in a bunch of meta is no help to anyone.

7/13/2010 06:46:00 am  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

@PC:

That you clearly still haven't availed yourself of any of them speaks volumes; that you feel obliged to criticise something about which you so obviously know nothing says even more (but is of a piece, of course, with your stated view that real knowledge is impossible).

You made an egregiously false statement in your post: that Montessori is "the only rational method of education". Schools are authoritarian institutions, PC, and no school is rational. Do you expect me just to let your statement stand? School is not the only alternative for a child. Are you aware of what parents such as myself who are critical of school are doing and what obstacles we face from ignoramuses and from governments (sheesh, Sweden has just banned home-education)?

As for knowledge: you never replied to my question on the other thread about what on earth a conjecture which explains something that has stood up to all criticism, including possibly testing, could be. I say it is knowledge. If you want to convince me of anything you need to give an argument and not just repeat you think it is not (and assert I think it is not).

7/13/2010 07:43:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

Brain, you've tried to make your point, with no more success than in the past; and you've made youre criticisms of Montessori education, at great length and with no more evidence adduced than any time before--with no more knowledge evinced by you of the subject you're discussing.

So let's leave it there, please. You've once again successfully hijacked a thread without offering anything of substance in return.

7/14/2010 08:40:00 am  
Anonymous Brian Scurfield said...

@PC: You have stone-walled or ignored most of my questions, put words in my mouth, made out I know nothing, and falsely asserted that I haven't offered anything of substance.

That really is a low standard of debate PC. Progress requires on-topic critical debate and as that doesn't seem to be happening I'll respect the fact it is your blog and leave.

7/14/2010 10:57:00 am  
Anonymous R said...

PC, I stumbled on this site and was surprised a little by the talking at cross-purposes going on, and assumptions about other people (in this case Brian) which seems to derail some of the discussion.

I have no ax to grind on education (my children are in state and integrated schools, and my sister-in-law has several children in Montessori - all are thriving).

I've also met Brian and family on quite a few occasions, and have interracted with all.

Brian's choice is different than mine, and yours, but I've seen first hand that it seems to work well for his family, as I'm sure it does for yours, as with mine and my sister-in-law's.

Rather than make things personal, decry other's choices as 'absurd' if they don't follow our own, or ask people to leave if they won't change their views (ironically it seems in the face of 'accusers' or 'officials' who haven't either), and perhaps it's none of my business anyway, but I reckon it's great to have varied and divergent views expressed, even (and perhaps sometimes especially) if they differ from our own.

Maybe no-one will change their view, but that's not the point. Respectful dialogue is more likely to induce the thinking capable of opening minds to new ideas than any collision of derision or dogma.

And in the meantime our respective children (of you, me and Brian) are thriving, which is what it's really all about after all I guess.

9/12/2011 03:09:00 pm  

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