SOME LAST REMARKS
That there is little prospect of an immediate adoption in United States [public] schools of Montessori ideas is apparent to anyone who knows even slightly the hierarchic rigidity of that system of education with its inexorable advance along fixed fore-ordained lines, from the kindergarten through the primary school, on through the high school to the Chinese ordeal of the college entrance examination, an event which casts its shadow far down the line of school-grades, embittering the intellectual activities and darkening the life of teachers and pupils for years before the awful moment arrives.
Teachers have found themselves required to “ turn out a more uniform product,” a process which is in its very essence utterly abhorrent to anyone with the soul of an educator. Our State system of education has come to such an exalted degree of uniformity that a child in a third grade in Southern California can be transported to a third grade in Maine, and find himself in company with children being ground out in precisely the same educational hopper he has left. School superintendents hold conferences of self-congratulation over this “ standardizing ” of American [public] education, and some teachers are so hypnotized by this mental attitude on the part of their official superiors, that they come to take pride in the Procrustean quality of their schoolroom where all statures are equalized, and to labor conscientiously to drive thirty or more children slowly and steadily, like a flock of little sheep, with no stragglers and no advance-guard allowed, along the straight road to the next division, where another shepherdess, with the same training, takes them in hand. There is a significant anecdote current in [public] school-circles, of an educator rising to address an educational convention which had been discussing special treatment for mentally slow and deficient children, and solemnly making only this pregnant exclamation, “ We have special systems for the deficient child, and the slow child and the stupid child . . . but God help the bright child ! ”
To advise teachers under such conditions to “ adopt Montessori ideas ” is to add the grimmest mockery to the difficulties of their position. All that can be hoped for, at present, in that direction, is that the strong emphasis placed by the Montessori method on the necessity for individual freedom of mental activity and growth, may prove a valuable reinforcement to those American educators who are already struggling along towards that goal.
This general state of things in the formal education of our country is one of the many reasons why this book is addressed to mothers and not to teachers. At present [public] school teachers can no more adopt the freedom and the reverence for individual differences of the “ Montessori method,” than a cog in a great machine can, of its own volition, begin to turn backwards.
A Montessori Mother by Dorothy Canfield Fisher