by Alex Beam, another excellent article about Montessori.
Succeeding at their own pace
The Montessori approach to education and some of its famous alumni have made great strides in recent years
August 26, 2011|By Alex Beam, Globe Columnist
One of my favorite writers, Steven Levy, has published a new book about Google: “In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives.’’ Cynics might call it a disguised ad for the cabinet of many wonders that is Google - as if the company needs promotion. It is also a heartfelt Valentine to the Montessori educational system, which, Levy writes, inspired the Google experience.
“You can’t understand Google unless you know that both Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] were Montessori kids,’’ one staffer tells Levy. “Montessori really teaches you to do things on your own at your own pace and schedule,’’ Brin says in the book. “It was a pretty fun, playful environment - like Google.’’
Maria Montessori was an Italian doctor who believed that young children could learn better and more quickly in a school environment that didn’t feel like a school. Hallmarks of Montessori schools include child-appropriate furniture, older children teaching younger children, and lesson plans that are invisible to the pupils.
Typically, Montessori teachers shepherd children into and out of learning experiences, at their own pace. If a 10-year-old girl is enjoying long division, for instance, she can do long division all day. No bell will ring. Spelling can wait, until next week if necessary.
I gleaned some Montessori background from Wikipedia, founded by - you guessed it - self-described Montessori kid Jimmy Wales. Wall Street Journal writer Peter Sims recently included Wales in a distinguished “Montessori mafia’’ that includes Brin, Page, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, and Will Wright, creator of SimCity and The Sims.
Forget for a moment what you think about Amazon (my friends in publishing hate its predatory price behavior) or whether you disdain Wikipedia as a sewer of error and confusion (I see it has corrected that mistake about my being born in Oakland) - both organizations are stupendous acts of applied imagination. I’ve raved, in a good way, about Google before. SimCity? I’ve been there. It’s wonderful.
You wouldn’t want to compete with Amazon, but it does keep adding fascinating new fillips to its business. My latest enthusiasm: Amazon Singles. I am dying to write one. It turns out that I’m too lazy. But I digress.
If Montessori was a stock, you would buy it. There are almost 4,200 private Montessori schools in the United States now, compared to 3,500 a quarter century ago. In the past 20 years, more than 140 charter schools have been founded on Montessori principles. A quarter century ago, 50 public schools used the Montessori method. That number is now 280.