maria montessori
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INTERESTING TO READ... may 2012

The Secret of Childhood


 
”The adult has to be the inspiration for the child's actions, an open book where the child can find guidance for his own movements and learn to work properly.
In order to achieve this ideal, the adult should always maintain his calm, work slowly, so that his deeds can be understood in every detail by the child who is observing him. However, when the adult resorts to his own quick and powerful rhythm, instead of inspiring, he risks entering the child's soul, substituting him, by suggestion.
The very exterior objects, which are attractive in sensorial terms, can have a power of suggestion demanding for the child's action and leading it from the outside. In this respect, I will recall one of professor Levine's experiments with his psychological cinema.
His purpose was to observe how children with disabilities and normal children in our schools*, of the same condition and age, behave differently when exposed to the same items: a long table with special items, including some of our material**.  
The first group of children enters. They are attracted by the table and show their interest. They are lively and smile. They seem to be happy that they are surrounded by so many things. Each of them takes an item and works; then, they take another one, and so on and so forth, making a number of experiments. This is the first movie.
The second movie follows. Another group of children enters. They move slowly, they stop, they watch; they grab an item, observe it carefully, and then they seem to remain inert. This is the end of the second movie.
Which of the two groups is made up of children with disabilities, and which one is made up of normal children?

The children with disabilities are the lively, happy children looking everywhere, going from one item to another, wanting to try everything. They give the people the impression that they are intelligent children, because everyone is used to believing that lively, happy children, going from one item to another are intelligent.


Quite on the contrary, normal children move slowly; they maintain their calm and set on one item, as if they reflected. The calm, the rare and measured movements, the investigating attitude make up the image of the normal child!


The experience reproduced by the two movies contrasts with the general conception because, in a usual environment, intelligent children behave as the disabled children in the movie. The normal, slow, and balanced child is a new type; however, he shows that his EGO controls his movements, and that reason drives them. Consequently, the most important thing is not to manipulate many things, but to be able to control yourself. The most important thing is not for the individual to move anyhow and anywhere, but to be able to control the moving body parts. The capacity to move under the influence of reason and not pursuant to the simple attraction of things triggers a concentration that is an inner phenomenon.


This delicate and sensitive movement is the normal one: the synthetic aspect of order that can be referred to as inner discipline. Hence, the discipline of outer acts is the expression of an inner, properly organised discipline.


When this discipline is missing, discipline escapes the guidance of personality and can be influenced by another's will or can become prey to outer things: like a ship surrendered to waves.
Outer will rarely disciplines the acts, because it misses internal organisation.
 Individuality is crushed. The child whose development is disturbed could be compared to a man who is brought in the desert in a balloon and sees his balloon taken away by the wind: many possible directions, and nothing around to replace it.
Here is the image of man, as shaped by the struggle between the adult and the child: a dark, underdeveloped intelligence, whose disorderly means of expression are random.”
 

”The Secret of Childhood” – Maria Montessori (1936) – ”Tiparul Universitar” Publishing House, Bucharest, 1938
 

      *Reference to Montessori schools
   **Reference to Montessori materials