2013 International Montessori Congress

The Montessori Observer has been offline for a while, loyal readers will have noticed, as the author moves across the country, settles back into the old house, and starts a new job.  But there’s something happening in Portland, Oregon that is too momentous to pass up.  That would be the 2013 International Montessori Congress.

Many—perhaps most!—TMO readers are here at the Congress in person.  But for those who couldn’t come, or curious as to what it’s all about, here’s a little context and background information.

The first International Montessori Congress was held in 1929 in Helsingör, Denmark, and the Association Montessori Internationale was founded by Maria Montessori and her son Mario at this event.  Since then, 26 Congresses have been held, including the current gathering in Portland.  Recent Congresses were held in Chennai (2009), Sydney (2005), and Paris (2001), and it last took place in the United States in Palo Alto in 1972.  (The complete list can be found at AMI here.)

The Congress features keynotes, breakouts, receptions, materials displays, school tours and more—in other words, much of what you will find at a typical AMI-USA, NAMTA, or AMS conference.  But historically the Congress has had greater significance than that.  As an international gathering of the Montessori movement, the Congress is intended, in the words of Congress organizers,

to cause movement and action in the international community; evoking the constant evolution of the Montessori movement by building on the intentions and accomplishments of the proceeding Congress.

Previous Congresses have marked turning points in the development of the international Montessori movement, such as the re-organization and revitalization of the Australian Montessori movement following the 2005 Sydney Congress.

Today’s challenge for Montessori is to greatly expand the method’s reach beyond its niche in classrooms of privileged children in Western developed economies, and to reconcile the differences which divide the Montessori world and prevent the movement from being a more powerful force in the world education crisis.  AMI President André Roberfroid spoke directly to these issues in his opening address, specifically welcoming the President of the AMS Board of Directors, Joyce Pickering, clearly stating that the Congress, although organized by AMI, was a Montessori event open to all, and challenging attendees to banish the idea that Montessori is only for those who can afford it.

There’s much more to share about the Congress: Brian Swimme’s inspiring keynote, the Glass Classroom in the middle of downtown Portland—and that’s just today’s events.  More to come as the event unfolds.

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