An Evaluation of Montessori's Philosophy of Education by William Crane : Theories of Development - Concepts and Applications:  Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs,. New Jersey: 1992 (4th Ed.) ISBN 013955402-5 passages from pages 82-85


 Although Montessori's interests were more practical than theoretical, she did develop a definite theoretical position, one that owed much to Rousseau. She argued that we are wrong to assume that children are whatever we make them, for children also learn on their own, from their own maturational promptings.  And, as did Rousseau, she argued that children often think and learn quite differently form adults.

 A central component of Montessori's theory is the concept of sensitive periods.  Sensitive periods are similar to critical periods; they are genetically programmed blocks of them during which the child is especially eager and able to master certain tasks. For example, there are sensitive periods for the acquisition of language and for the beginning use of the hand. During these periods, the child works with all his or her might at perfecting these abilities. And, "if the child is prevented from enjoying these experiences at the very time when nature has planned for him to do so, the special sensitivity which draws him to them will vanish, with a disturbing effect on development."(Montessori, 1949)

 A cornerstone of developmental or child-centered education is a faith in the child - or, better put, a faith in Naturešs laws guiding the child from within.  Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Gessell, and others made this point. Adults shouldnšt constantly set goals and try to influence children; they should try to provide tasks that give children opportunities to pursue their naturally emerging interests. Before Montessori, however, no one knew how much children seem to need such tasks, or how much energy they will pour into them. In the Childrenšs House, 3 to 6 year olds freely chose certain tasks and worked on them with the deepest concentration. And when they finished, they emerged happy, refreshed, and serene. They seemed at peace because they had been able to develop themselves. The intensity of concentration seems to be especially great in the first 6 years of life, but Montessori believed that all education should consider what children themselves are most eager to learn. ...........................................................

................................If Montessori were to hear of this pattern of results (that children from Montessori schools donšt do as well on tests), she probably would be pleased.  For her primary goal was not high scores on achievement tests, but inner attitudes.  (But researchers have generally been more impressed by the attitudes that Montessori schools foster - concentration, confidence, and independence.).................She did not want to impose tasks on children just because adults are anxious that they learn them as soon as possible.  She care little about how rapidly children learn standard skills or about advancing them along the ladder of achievement tests. Rather, she was concerned with children's attitudes toward learning.  She wanted to unharness their natural love for learning and their capacities for concerted and independent work, which unfold according to an inner timetable.  As she once said: "My vision of the future is no longer of people taking exams and proceeding on that certificate from the secondary school to the University, but of individuals passing from one stage of independence to a higher, by means of their own activity, through their own effort of will, which constitutes the inner evolution of the individual."(Montessori, 1936)............. ........................She anticipated much that is current in developmental thinking.  For one thing, she was among the first to argue for the possibility of sensitive or critical periods in intellectual development.  Even more impressive were her insights into language acquisition.  Early on, she suggested that children unconsciously master complex grammatical rules and suggested that they must possess an innate mechanism that enables them to do this - suggestions that anticipated the work of Chomsky.

 Montessori also was among the first to call attention to the child's need for contact with nature.  She said children are especially attuned to nature and benefit from rich exposure to it.  She didnšt specify a precise sensitive period when this is so, but she believed that children need experience with nature to develop their powers of observation and other qualities, such as a feeling of connection to the living world.  Today we find such thoughts among researchers advancing the "biophilia hypothesis". ............... Montessori was among the few scholars ever to take the childšs tie to nature seriously.............Montessori might have given more recognition to young childrenšs social, imaginative, and artistic development.  I believe Montessori was also wrong about fairy tales.........

 Montessori, then, may have undervalued some components of the childhood years, such as play, drawing, and fairy tales.  But, whatever Montessori may have overlooked, her oversights are minor in comparison to her contributions.  Montessori, as much or more than anyone, demonstrated how the developmental philosophies of Rousseau, Gessell, and others can be put into practice.  She showed how it is possible to follow children's spontaneous tendencies and to provide materials that will permit them to learn independently and with great enthusiasm.  Montessori was one of history's great educators.