What is the difference between Montessori's educational philosophy and other American Progressive educators like Dewey?
Dewey:American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose thoughts and ideas have been greatly influential in the United States and around the world
Dewey did not like Montessori’s teaching of reading. He felt that children should not be taught to read until 8; Montessori believed it was when they were ready for it, usually beginning around the age of 4 or 5.
Dewey believed in what they called “look-say” reading, the predecessor to “Whole Language”. Montessori believed in phonics.
Dewey believed that children should be allowed to do whatever they want with whatever they had, so they could build a house with the math blocks or pretend that books were cars. Montessori believed that her materials were designed for specific purposes and needed to be used for those specific purposes. Moreover, by allowing children to “play” with the materials, you lessoned the impact of the academics they were designed to impart.
Dewey believed that the was too restrictive and stifled creativity. However, he agreed with Montessori that the needs of each individual should direct their education and that the teacher was a guide that moved them through the process..
Kilpatrick: US pedagogue and pupil, colleague and successor of John Dewey
In 1913 Kilpatrick went to Italy to meet Montessori and observe her schools. After visiting several schools he met with her, but the meeting did not go well. Kilpatrick let it be known that he was dismayed with what he perceived as Montessori's lack of knowledge on the issues of formal discipline as well as her beliefs on memory, reasoning, and sensory discrimination. .
After this short meeting, Kilpatrick visited several more Montessori schools on his own, learning about the Method through his own observations rather than from Dr. Montessori herself. Upon returning to America, he lectured on what he had observed.
Although many important public figures of the time were praising Montessori’s work, Kilpatrick was highly critical. Through his lectures and 71-page dissertation entitled The Montessori System Examined, he denounced the method and philosophy. In fact many students of educational philosophy believe that The Montessori System Examined is one of the main reasons that Montessori Education did not have a strong toe hole in the American Education System until recently. Many also believe that his work is also partly to blame for many of the misguided myths that still persist to this day.
Although Kilpatrick commended Montessori on her ideas of child liberty and discipline, his criticisms were many. Among the most prevalent were:
Kilpatrick claimed that Montessori’s concept of child development was “inadequate and misleading” he believed her educational views had been created through unscientific observation and note taking
He insisted that the “three R’s” should not be taught before age six.
He argued that her teaching of arithmetic had little or no use in America.
He was upset with the lack of group work and instruction in her schools, feeling that there was more need for social cooperation.
He believed that Montessori discouraged play of all kind in her classrooms..
Kilpatrick alleged that Montessori’s didactic materials, although strongly attractive and compelling to children, were very remote from their social interests and lacked a connection to anything relevant in the child’s life. He also felt that Montessori’s insistence that these materials be used only for the intent in which they were designed stifled creativity, and that their self-correcting features were too rigorous and closed.
Kilpatrick did approve of the Practical Life activities, asserting that they “offer expression to a side of the child’s nature too often left unsatisfied,” and that “To do something that counts in real life, not simply in the play world, is frequently one of the keenest pleasures to a child,”
Froebel: Founder of Kindergarten
There are many beliefs in common between Montessori’s and Froebel’s education philosophies.
Both believe in the child's right to be active, explore and develop their own knowledge through investigation.
Both see activity as a guide to education and do not believe in repressing it.
Both believe the environment cannot create a human being , but it does give them scope and material, direction, and purpose.
Both believe that it is the teacher's task is nurture, assist, watch, encourage, guide, and induce, rather than to interfere, prescribe, or restrict.
It is in the practical application of their beliefs that we see the actual difference between Montessori’s and Froebel’s philosophies. Montessori children spend most of their time working with materials under the individual guidance of the directress, while kindergarten children are usually engaged in group work or games with an imaginative background and appeal.
Other similarities in the philosophies that are manifested differently in actual implementation are:
· Both agree on needing to train the senses; but Montessori's curriculum is more elaborate and direct than Froebel's. Using Séguin's apparatus as a guide she developed materials that teach sensory discriminating through steps and repeated exercises. Froebel on the other hand designed a series of objects for creative use, but these materials were not designed or adapted to the training of sensory discrimination. Instead, sense training is a side effect of imaginative activity in which the children are experimenting with the arrangement of forms or colors.
Both systems believe in the need for free bodily activity, rhythmic exercises, and the development of muscular control; but Froebel’s philosophy seeks much of this through group games with an imaginative or social content, while the Montessori philosophy places the emphasis on special exercises designed to give formal training in separate physical functions.
Both philosophies believe in teaching children social skills and empathy. In Froebelian philosophy this training is done primarily through imaginative and symbolic group games. (For example the children play at being farmers, mothers and fathers, birds, animals, knights, or soldiers; they sing songs, go through certain semi-dramatic activities–such as "mowing the grass," "a bird looking for seeds," with each child acting out his part. The social training involved in these games is formal only in the sense that the children are not engaged in an actual activity. In Montessori children often are, in a real social situation, such as that of serving dinner, cleaning the room, caring for animals, building a toy house, or making a garden.I must state here, that this is where the Montessori philosophy’s refrain from fantasy comes from. Most comments on fantasy were in regard to Froebels’s teacher directed fantasy play.
Both philosophers created manipulatives for their students to use. The Froebelian “gifts” concretely reveal of the concepts of whole and part, through the creation of wholes from parts, and the breaking apart of wholes into parts. This material may also used for counting and any number of things that the child can vision. In contrast the Montessori manipulative were designed for specific purposes and Montessori professed her belief that they needed to be used for those specific purposes only. She believed that by allowing children to “play” with the materials, you lessoned the impact of the academics they were designed to impart.
Neill: Founder of Summerhill Education
Steiner: Founder of Waldorf Education