Great Italians of the Past: Maria Montessori
- WTI Magazine #98 Dec 17, 2017
When Maria Montessori arrived in USA in 1913, she was greeted enthusiastically and with passion by the Americans thanks to the revolution she made in the child education system. In fact, the New York tribune dedicated to her a wonderful piece with the title: "Maria Montessori, the most interesting woman of Europe". Thereafter, the pedagogical method developed by the Italian scientist would have move forward to spread all over the North America.
She was born in 1870 in Chiaravalle, near Ancona, in the Marche region. She lived a happy childhood marked by the presence of her parents: Alessandro Montessori and Renilde Stoppani, both educated persons fond of the ideas of Risorgimento. But it was the abbot Antonio Stoppani, her uncle, who had a major influence on Maria. Stoppani was an exponent of the Scientific theory called Naturalism: and Maria, during her studies, considered him as her mentor and confidant.
When the Montessory family moved to Rome, Maria started to show the determination and the perseverance that made her one of the most influential Italian women ever. Supported by her mother, who shared Maria's innovative and – in a sense - revolutionary ideas, compared with the conservatism of that period, she fought against the rest of her family, that wanted her to become a teacher, and decided to follow the scientific studies.
This wasn't a simple choice! She herself later declared that she had many difficulties during his career, insomuch as she called for the help of Pope Leo XIII to get rid of the political obstacles put by the then Minister for Public Education, Guido Baccelli, who didn't want to sanction her admission to "La Sapienza" University of Rome. But her determination, passion and diligence repaid her big efforts: in 1896, Maria Montessori was the first Italian woman to take a degree in Medical Science.
The Montessori Method will be the reason why she will be famous and appreciated all over the world. She developed it in 1913, and it revolutionized the children education, by giving them the freedom to choose and carry out their own activities. For her, children are complete human beings and the childhood is a period in which the child develops a big creativity, absorbing what happens around him or her and is able to create his or her own structure and grow up with it.
What concretely makes her work come true is the foundation of the "Casa dei Bambini", or Children's House, born to take care of kids from low-income families in the San Lorenzo district in Rome. The "House of Children" - and not "for children", as she always pointed out – used to recreate a perfect environment for kids' creativity. The teachers oversaw and observed the classroom work, but they let the kids grow up according to their own inclinations.
More than 4500 schools in the United States have adopted, and still do, the Montessori Method. More than other countries, America recognized Maria Montessori's extraordinary strength. Personalities like Larry Page and Sergei Brin, the founders of Google; Jeff Bezos, the creator of Amazon; and Jimmy Wales, the inventor of Wikipedia, attended schools based on the Montessori Method.
The two creators of the most popular search engine of the world are convinced that that kind of school had a big influence on their careers: "We were educated and we learnt that we not necessarily had to follow rules and order; we learnt how to have self-respect and how to live in a different way".
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Anne Frank, President Woodrow Wilson, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison were educated according to the teaching of Maria Montessori.
On May 6, 1952 in Noordwijk aan Zee in Netherlands, she passed away at the age of 81. In her tomb writes "I beg the dear all powerful children to unite with me for the building of peace in Man and in the World."