by Margaret Venema, Upper Elementary co-lead and Sarah Danielski, Admissions
War and the Lesson of Peace
As we approach this year’s International Day of Peace, let us stop to recognize and honor one of the world’s foremost proponents of peace, Dr. Maria Montessori.
Dr. Montessori was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949, 1950 and 1951 for her unrelenting efforts on behalf of children around the world. Having lived through two world wars and all the horrors that entailed, including being held under house arrest as an enemy non-combatant in India, she worked tirelessly for peace.
She was specifically lauded for her fight against facism, the fast-growing threat to civilizations around the globe at that time. She famously rebuffed Mussolini’s requests for her pupils to recite state-mandated propaganda and refused to order her teachers to take the facist loyalty oaths.
Consequently, her schools were closed and her books and lectures were burned. She fled Italy for India in 1934, after the threats and harassment from Mussolini’s regime became too much for her. But she did not stop her fight against tyranny. Rather, this incident strengthened her resolve to implement change on a global scale…through the unlikeliest of agents.
Children Are the Only Hope for Humankind
Through her observations of children and her increasing disappointment in world leaders, Dr. Montessori came to the realization that the only hope for true peace was through children. She found that through purposeful work, children educate themselves, learn self-discipline, and acquire skills to function independently.
In the classroom, they are given the words and the opportunity to resolve conflicts and they learn how to function in society. They develop independence and initiative. This experience then translates into their interactions with others as they mature into peaceful adults.
Montessori Classrooms: Bastions of Peace
In a Montessori classroom, children are free to move, socialize within the limits set by the community, and follow their interests. At Stepping Stones Montessori School, we actively work to develop a culture of peace.
We foster independence by giving children the opportunity to choose their own work and their own partners.
We encourage questions.
The children take responsibility for managing the classroom by collaboratively solving problems that arise.
They share in maintaining the environment and caring for plants and animals.
As guides, we are always aware that the child’s overarching work is the most difficult task they will undertake, that of building the peaceful adult to be.