By: Anna Schwind (11/3/11)
A few days ago, my reality shifted. On October 20, 2011, a man who had been the tyrannical ruler of Libya for longer than I have been conscious of countries and rulers was killed. Throughout my life, Ghadafi was synonymous with Libya. It was a fixed point, immutable. But now that fixed point is a moot point, and another dictator has fallen. He has strutted and fretted his hour upon the stage and will be heard no more, as Shakespeare’s Macbeth would say.
This fundamental alteration in the status quo of global political reality has me thinking, of course, of Maria Montessori. Maria Montessori’s goal was not to teach children to start fabulously successful companies like Amazon or Google. It was not to produce Nobel laureate authors. It’s not even to give middle class American children an extra jump start on reading and math. That Montessori education often has this effect is coincidental and beside the point. Rather, Maria Montessori’s explicit goal, repeated often and even before the United Nations, was the elimination of war forever.
Peace is the goal.
Now I think of the days back in late 2004 when my family discovered we would be leaving Jackson, Mississippi and moving to St. Louis. My daughter had just started school that fall at a miraculous, wonderful Montessori school with a waiting list. We felt exceptionally fortunate to be a part of that community. I remember the framed picture of Anne Frank on the wall of the entryway, showing her in a long ago Montessori classroom. I loved that school, my daughter loved that school, and now we would have to leave that school.
I googled Montessori schools in the St. Louis area and was stunned to find there were dozens of choices. Jackson had only one. How would I know which school to pick?
I asked the directress in my daughter’s classroom. She listened lovingly and gave me some recommendations, then assured me I was fully capable of making the right choice.
“How will I know?” I asked again.
“You will know,” she told me, “because when you walk in you will feel the Montessori peace vibe.”
I dislike intangibles. I didn’t think “Montessori peace vibe” was an appropriately scientific tool for the discernment of the right school. I trusted her, though, and how right she was! The more classrooms I visit (and throughout my training I have visited many), the more I realize that the overwhelmingly common trait of classrooms that hew to Montessori’s standards is peace. It’s palpable (though perhaps not scientifically measurable) and transmissible. That slightly hokey but perceptible “peace vibe” is the gift we can give to the future. And someday our children will not be setting the fixed global political reality by the persistence of ruthless dictators and states who sponsor terrorism, but by the end of all wars.