Curriculum Theory / EDUC-910 Week 4 Readings

Maria Montessori’s critical consideration of the “new” pedagogy

Montessori, M. (2013). A critical consideration of the new pedagogy in its relation to modern science. In: D. J. Flinders & S. J. Thornton (Eds.), Curriculum Studies Reader (4th ed.), pp. 19–31. New York, NY: RoutledgeFalmer.

A complete audiobook of the original publication is available for download at this URL—

Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori

Originally published in 1912, Montessori critiques the Scientific (New) Pedagogy of Italy in the early 1900s. She criticizes the so-called scientific method for having no rigorous definition and not focussing sufficiently on students and observers.

Talking Point: The problem of definition was, arguably, to be addressed by Ralph Tyler in 1949, but still lacked a focus on a human perspective—students, under the Tyler Rationale, were seen as little more than products of the system. Is this a valid comment?

In arguing her point, Montessori levels criticism at an over-emphasis on the instrumentation of pedagogy (and why not andragogy too?), the practicalities of teaching and learning, at the expense of what she believed to be (p. 23), a more critical spirit of learning.

Talking Point: Possibly something I could agree with—if some of the terms were altered. Instead of spirit, could we read motivational factors or something similar?

Montessori then went on to weave the theme of the spirit of learning throughout her argument. Arguing that the “free, natural manifestations of the child” (p. 25, emphasis in original text), were repressed by factors akin to slavery:

The principle of slavery still pervades pedagogy, and, therefore, the same principle pervades the school. I need only give one proof-the stationary desks and chairs. (p. 25)

Talking Point: When classroom furniture can actively harm the physical development of pupils, then it’s obviously a cause for immediate action, but slavery pervading pedagogy—possibly overstating her case?

Montessori went on to describe behaviorist means of providing rewards and punishments as “the bench of the soul, the instrument of slavery for the spirit.” (p. 28, emphasis in original text), which all ran contrary to her central tenet that the spirit of freedom to discover was vital to learning.

Montessori argued that educators should be enabling a “conquest of liberty” (p.27), fighting for “human regeneration” (p. 31).

Talking Point: More stirring oratory in the vein of George Counts (1932), and his enobling American Dream, but how much of a direct contradiction in motivating factors is Montessori’s argument? Would she have been one of Counts’ romantic sentimentalists?

And finally, an enquiring public wants to know…

Mrs. Doubtfire and Maria Montessori, were they by any chance related?

Mrs. Doubtfire and Maria Montessori, were they by any chance related?



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