Monday, January 18, was Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. At MSO, we had the day off, but my high school Western Civilization teacher’s words ring eternally in my ears. Dr. King would’ve preferred to be commemorated by a day on.
I think that to limit the discussion of Dr. King to the Civil Rights movement is to misunderstand him. It’s not just a story of African-American injustice, but of all injustice, of intolerance in all its forms, and of fighting wrongs wherever you see them.
I’m not a crusader, but I do think that I do my part to make a difference in the world. This brings me to a second belief:
How does education establish lasting peace? I’m not sure all education does, but I do think that’s what Montessorians mean when we talk about teaching the whole child. We know that the role of the teacher isn’t simply to impart knowledge. Education isn’t a download of information. It’s comprehension, application…all that Bloom’s Taxonomy and Higher Order Thinking Skills. When students play an active part in their education, when they are encouraged to explain their thoughts, there’s less room for prejudice. It’s harder for intolerance to stand up against critical thinking.
In Montessori classrooms, children practice and learn lessons of patience, tolerance and peaceful interactions from the onset of their experience. They learn to take turns with the work on the shelves and respect their classmates’ efforts at the same time. This foundation exemplifies Dr. Montessori’s emphasis on establishing a strong foundation of peace education.
Conflict resolution and Peace Corners (or tables) are also important aspects of the Montessori classroom. In Early Childhood Montessori Classrooms children learn from their first experiences that peaceful interaction is a priority. The teacher models and practices conflict resolution with the children throughout the day. Additionally, the concepts of making, learning and reinforcing peace takes a physical form through the establishment of a Peace Corner or table. The children are encouraged to practice individually and with each other.
Communication skills are continually practiced in classrooms through all ages in Montessori Schools. But peace education continues
in a variety of forms through the rich curriculum. Cultural Studies are an integral part of any Montessori classroom. The more we learn about other cultures, the less we have to fear from the unknown–and the more tolerance we learn.
We also learn about peace through studying the work of the United Nations, participating in the Montessori Model UN program and celebrating the International Day of Peace.
Education about peace is not something that can occur once a year, it needs to be integrated as a way of life in order for children to emerge as peaceful citizens and leaders.
Written with the help of Liz Cossairt