Tuesday, 23 February 2016




Sometimes when I have nothing to do, I look through my old undergrad assignments. I know, what a nerdy thing of me to do. Last week I had one of my nostalgic academic sessions and came across a final paper from a fourth year course on Maria Montessori and her decision to work with Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini. You may have heard of and seen Montessori schools before. Her teaching methods are based on the idea that children should not be completely dependent on adults, but should instead learn through sight and touch. 

Maria Montessori. Source. 

Benito Mussolini. Source.

Now why would I write a paper on two very different personalities and why I am spotlighting them, (although I really want to focus on Montessori), in this month’s Walk of Fame article? 

Maria Montessori was a very influential and dedicated woman. She was determined to implement her teaching methods all over the world so that children everywhere could benefit from them. After she graduated from her technical studies, she decided to enter medical school. Although she was denied entrance into the University of Rome, she reapplied and became the first woman to obtain a medicine degree from that university. Still, in the classroom she was met with hostile attitudes and often faced discriminatory regulations. In 1897, she decided to work as a voluntary assistant at the university psychiatric clinic. There, she became interested in working with children with disabilities. In 1901 she and Dr. Montesano (Montessori’s lab partner whom she fell in love with) worked in a “Orthophrenic School,” where children with disabilities excelled in their studies. This would lead Montessori to establish a “Casa dei Bambini” (Children House) in 1907 where she would use her teaching method on children that did not have disabilities.

A Montessori School. Source. 

Although her work and schools gained international recognition, her methods were never really fully adopted in Italy, her home country. It was her dream to have this realized and it was Mussolini who offered to realize this dream. In fact, 74 Montessori schools were opened in Italy. Mussolini, however, had different intentions. He wanted to use her recognition to his benefit. Eventually, as Montessori realized what he was trying to do, she denounced Fascism. The Fascist Regime closed down all Montessori schools in Italy in 1934.   

It was very odd that two individuals with such different objectives were to work with one another. Mussolini was all about regimenting the children, while Montessori was about freeing their learning habits. What I argued in my paper is that rational people will often fall to irrational people and that is what happened in this case. In order to really understand and assess the situation, however, we really need to think about what the political, economic and social conditions were like.

I decided to dedicate this month's article to Montessori because I did some research and found out that the Association Montessori Internationale’s headquarter office, located in Amsterdam, has recently acquired the property attached to it. It will be made into the “Maria Montessori House,” which will be a museum, research centre and archive. It will need to be stripped down as it is an 100-year-old house. The head office is actually where Montessori last lived. If you would like to find out more information, click here

Until next time! 

Sources Consulted: 

Association Montessori Internationale. (2016). “Legacy.” Retrieved from http://ami-global.org/ami/what-is-ami/legacy 

Barbosa, Amanda. (2013). Final Essay: Maria Montessori. Unpublished Paper, York University.

Babini, Valeria. (2000). Science, Feminism and Education: The Early Work of Maria Montessori. History Workshop Journal, 49, 44-67.

Hall, Clifton L. (1953). The First Lady of Education. History of Education Journal, 4 (4), 124-128.

Kramer, Rita. (1983). Maria Montessori: A Biography. New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc.

Montessori, Maria. (1964). The Montessori Method. New York: Schocken Books Inc.

Thayer-Bacon, Barbara. (2011). Maria Montessori: Education for Peace. Journal of Peace Education and Social Justice, 5 (3), 307-319. 

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