Fri 27 Apr 2012
Sir Ken Robinson, the charismatic education reformer featured in Issue 31, is standing on the shoulders of giants: Montessori, Steiner and Holt. We see Sir Ken up there, arms flailing and mouth shouting, turning eyes and ears to such alternate forms of education, but what do the shoulders on which he sits look like? And more importantly, the bodies and minds attached? We may know Montessori, Steiner and Holt as ominous shapes that occasionally appear in dinner party conversation, but can we make out their faces? Recite their philosophies? After this overview, we most certainly will!
Reader, we’d like you to meet Dr Maria Montessori. You may think it rude of Sir Ken to sit atop the shoulders of a lady, but Maria was, and continues to be, one powerful figure in the educational sphere.
Upon graduating as a doctor of medicine from an Italian University in 1896 (the first Italian woman to do so, may we add), Maria became the director of a school for intellectually disabled children. The improvement that Maria observed in her students led her to ponder whether such methods of education could be transferred to intellectually able students.
Through opening Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, Maria discovered that yes, indeed they could. Maria welcomed preschool children residing in the slums of Rome into her Children’s House, and observed as they, under her supervision and facilitation, taught themselves. This observation informed Maria’s philosophy, namely: placed in the right environment, and provided the right tools and materials, a child will, compliments of natural development, teach themselves.
Although this philosophy rubs up against modern day educational rigor in the precise wrong way, it certainly cannot be discounted. The emphasis on independence, respect for individual development, and encouragement of creativity and playfulness in learning certainly does seem to make for more well-rounded, curious little learners.
To discover more about the intricacies of Dr Maria Montessori’s educational system, visit http://www.montessori.org.au/
Now that you’re somewhat acquainted with Maria, we’d like to introduce you to the second set of shoulders that Sir Ken likes to ride atop, belonging to none other than Rudolf Steiner, born 1861.
Rudolf’s approach to education is based on balance. He professed that the academic, the social and the artistic—or as he said, the “head, heart and hands”—should be given equal weight throughout the entirety of one’s education.
Like Dr Maria Montessori, Rudolf’s educational philosophy deeply respects a child’s natural developmental. As such, children are nurtured according to their specific and individual needs, and educated according to their rate of development, rather than having the generalised government approach to education thrust upon them.
In his Dumbo Feather interview, Sir Ken said, “Education is what happens between teachers and learners, and if that isn’t happening, then there’s no education going on”. This directly aligns with Rudolf’s “three golden rules” for Steiner school teachers, namely: “To receive the child in gratitude from the world they come from; to educate the child with love; and to lead the child into the true freedom which belongs to man”.
To learn more about Rudolf Steiner’s educational philosophy, visit http://steinereducation.edu.au/
The third and final set of shoulders that Sir Ken rides atop belong to John Holt.
John coined the term ‘Unschooling’ in the 1970s, and thus started the ‘Unschooling Movement’, in which children learn from home on their own accord, unbounded by the regiment of institutionalism.
Unschoolers differ from Home-schoolers in that they do not endeavour to replicate conventional schools: textbooks, deadlines, examinations, set curricula, class times, school bells and suchlike are non-existent. Rather, unschoolers investigate what they feel compelled to investigate, consume whatever form of literature and media they wish to consume, construct and/or express what they envisage in their minds, and spend as much or little time on each activity as they feel fit.
The Unschooling Movement relies on a child’s innate curiosity to work as a formidable educational system. Holt believes it to be one of the basic human capacities, and as such, trusts that it is enough to drive an individual’s education. He posits, “The human animal is a learning animal; we don’t need to be shown how or made to do it. What kills the processes are the people interfering with it or trying to regulate it or control it.”
Do you know of any more alternate and effective means of education? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!