maria montessori
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INTERESTING TO READ... august 2012

Discovery of the Child
 
”School has to allow the child to freely carry out his activities, in order for scientific pedagogy to develop inside it; this is the essential reform.
Some education specialists – starting Rousseau – formulated principles full of fantasy and vague aspirations of freedom for children, but the actual concept of freedom remained an undiscovered mystery to them.
The concept of freedom inspiring pedagogy is, however, universal: it is the liberation of the oppressed life from the numerous obstacles in the way of the harmonious development of the body and soul. 
There is no need to stop and discuss: proving is enough. Whoever claimed that the principle of freedom currently characterises pedagogy and school would most certainly cause laughter…..
A repressive line of thought, sometimes approaching slavery, mostly characterising pedagogy, was specific to the very principle of school.
One proof – THE DESK. Here is a clear proof of the errors of the initial materialistic scientific pedagogy…..
There was a dark and ugly desk where students huddled. Science came and made it better. To this end, it took into account all the contributions of anthropology: the child's age and the length of his legs, to properly adapt the height of the chair; the distance between the chair and the desk was calculated with mathematical accuracy, so as to avoid spinal deformation caused by scoliosis. Even chairs were separated (that is depth of intuition and power to adapt!). Their width was calculated so that the pupil only has the minimum hold and cannot stretch trough any side movements - so as to be separated from the neighbour. The desk is designed so that the child can be properly seen even when he does not move….
But science did not stop here, it went even further. Science developed the desks, so as to ensure full immobility of the child, or, if you prefer, the avoidance of all movements. Thus, in order for the pupil to stay put in his desk, and be forced to adopt a comfortable position in hygienic terms, the chair, the footstool, the desk are arranged so that the child can never stand. But because the chair raises upon a certain movement, the desk raises, the footstool rolls over, the child has the strictly required space to stand.
The further development of school desks continues….
This in example of literal application of science in the problematic of school.
The purpose of the desk was to prevent scoliosis amongst students. But because of the conditions they were subjected to, even though born healthy, students could deform their spine and develop a hunchback.
 
The spine, the first biologically fundamental part, is older than the skeleton, and hence, the most resistant, while the skeleton is the hardest part of the body. The spine – which could withstand the most severe (primitive and civilised) human struggles without bending - when facing lions in the wild, when defeating the mammoth, digging in stone, bending iron, took leadership over the Earth – gave in and bent under the yoke of school.
It is beyond understanding how it was that the so-called science could work for the further development of an instrument of slavery in school, without being even slightly touched by a ray of light coming from the line of thinking outside the school, as part of the social liberation work.
A while ago, a lady, believing that I was the adept of scientific innovations in school, enthusiastically asked my opinion on one of her inventions, i.e. a corset for pupils, to supplement the prophylactic work of the desk.
It is true that, we, the doctors use in the treatment of spinal deviations several means of physical therapy: orthopaedic instruments, corsets, and the hanging process, applied through periodical extensions, to which rachitic children are subjected. In school, the orthopaedic instrument mainly used is the desk; now, when someone wants to propose the corset, they're but one step away from proposing that we should go for the systematic hanging of the pupils.
It is obvious that the solution to prevent scoliosis amongst pupils is to change the way in which they carry out their activity, so that they are no longer bound to adopt a vicious position for several hours during the day.
It is not the structure of a school desk that we need, what we actually need is to conquer freedom”.
 
"Discovery of the Child” – Maria Montessori (1948) – ”Didactica si pedagogica” Publishing House, Bucharest, 1977