So, last week, the Economist ran an uncharacteristically wrong-headed and glib piece titled Montessori Management about what a bad idea it is to run businesses like what the (unsigned) author sort of thinks a Montessori school looks like, complete with slides, “learning-through-play”, and “Kum-Bay-Yah style togetherness.” One reader said the article has been taken down, but I found it at the link above.
Poor Schumpeter (the Economist’s Business and Management blog) took quite a drubbing in the comments: 30 so far, pretty much all critical and spot on. That’s an impressive number: recent Schumpeter columns picked up 12 (a post about the Twitter IPO), 5 (electric cars), 7 (crowdfunding) and 74 (the new iPhone). So if that makes Montessori almost half as exciting as Apple, we’re doing OK.
But here’s where it gets interesting. Nationally recognized educator, speaker, and advocate for progressive education Rick Ackerly picked up on the piece and posted about it on his blog, The Genius In Children. (He’s got a book out as well.) He pretty much nails it on what’s wrong with the original article and what’s right with Montessori. Example:
When you observe a Montessori class, you see all 20 to 30 students increasing their own authority in mathematics, literacy, geography, biology and the disciplines of being a responsible member of a community. They are working hard, but no one is making them! How do they do that?
Now, Ackerly is a friend of Montessori, but he’s an outsider, not a cheerleader. If you search his blog for “Montessori”, you get seven articles, of which four (including the one I read today) mention Montessori—and three do not. The ones that don’t? They talk about happy, independent, responsible children, about hands-on, student-directed learning, and schools where teachers respect children’s natural paths of learning and discovery. Ackerly doesn’t think this can happen only in Montessori schools. But he gets it. And he knows it when he sees it.