Slate Magazine Calls Out Grades, Cites Montessori

An article today from The Case Against Grades, by Michael Thomsen, spells out everything that’s wrong with   the 116-year old A-B-C-D-F system, in no uncertain terms.  I’ll quote liberally from the article because it’s so good, but please, click though and read the whole thing.  A sampling:

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the rigid and judgmental foundation of modern education is the origin point for many of our worst qualities, making it harder for many to learn…

With data:

I was all set to comment about Montessori, as the largest (by far) organized pedagogy which explicitly rejects grades, when I got to this in the meat of the article:

The most famous example are Montessori schools, noted for their lack of grades, multiage classes, and extended periods where students can chose their own projects from a selected range of materials. The schools have educated many of today’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, including Google’s Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Wikipedia creator Jimmy Wales, business management legend Peter Drucker, and video game icon Will Wright.

It goes on, citing Angeline Lillard’s widely cited 2006 article Evaluating Montessori Education:

A 2006 comparison in Milwaukee found that Montessori students performed better than grade-based students at reading and math; they also “wrote more creative essays with more complex sentence structures, selected more positive responses to social dilemmas, and reported feeling more of a sense of community at their school.”

But isn’t Montessori just for those who can afford it?  Thomsen is way ahead of you:

Some contend that Montessori schools attract more affluent and successful parents, who give their children an inherent advantage, but the Milwaukee study was built around a random lottery for Montessori enrollment. All the children in the study came from families with similar economic backgrounds, with average incomes ranging between $20,000 and $50,000.

He goes on to describe Summerhill and free schools modeled after it, and I think that’s just fine.  That’s the company we want to be mentioned among.  Go ahead with the full free school philosophy if you’re ready to go that far.  If you’re looking for something equally progressive, a touch more accessible, and quite possibly in your neighborhood or coming soon, check out a Montessori school.

8 responses to “Slate Magazine Calls Out Grades, Cites Montessori

  1. Reblogged this on Tree Feathers and commented:
    Excellent observation contrasting the “traditional” educational model against the Montessori pedagogy.


  2. Interesting though, at the end of the article the author discusses some of the problems and challenges faced by trying to change a society steeped in an A -to-F system, including the sentence below:

    “There is a whole new world of challenges and complications in a classroom without pedagogy and rank. ”

    Perhaps here he is referring more to the Free School/Summerhill model, but Montessorian’s must disagree, we are not in any way proposing a classroom without pedagogy! Rank, maybe. Even in the Summerhill/Free Schools though there is some form of pedagogy, some thought has been put into how to best guide the students to learn. I can’t imagine any teacher in any system who truly felt they had no pedagogy whatsoever.


    • Montessori Observer

      True. Rank, definitely not, for Montessorians. As for Free School pedagogy, I imagine (without any real data) that the pedagogy tends towards what each teacher is comfortable or develops.


  3. Nice work…and great blog!
    The Montessori Mad Men


  4. Heya i am for the first time here. I came across this board and I find
    It really useful & it helped me out much. I hope to give something back and aid
    others like you aided me.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s