“Maria Montessori and Gandhiji”–Daily Metta

August 31:

gandhi-21“I discovered that the law of Love could be best understood and learned through little children.”

–Gandhi (Speech at Montessori Training College, London, 1931)

Gandhi and Maria Montessori were great admirers of one another. In her interview with Gandhi, around October 9, 1931, Gandhi told her that his friends in India say that he should imitate her, and his response to them was not imitation, but to “assimilate the fundamental truth of your method.”  Dr. Montessori replied, “I am asking my own children to assimilate the heart of Gandhiji.” It is an interesting fact that Indians during Gandhi’s time were turning to her model of education, which was very much in line with the spirit of independence. Indeed, the goal of Montessori’s method is ultimately that great notion of ‘swaraj,’ self-rule.

Dr. Montessori was more than an educational philosopher. She was the first woman doctor in Italy, and she approached nonviolence, spirituality, and child development in society with a keenly scientific eye (no wonder Gandhi admired her!). And, what I find fascinating was that she had given a lot of thought to his concept of constructive programme; while it came down to the spinning wheel in the Indian Freedom Struggle, she thought that the ‘charkha’ could be something other than a spinning wheel for a worldwide movement (a question we return to at Metta Center on a regular basis). Her deepest intuition was that it was the child, and with that, the relationship between the adult and the child in society. If we want to create a peaceful world, we have to nourish its values inside of people, starting at birth. The work of society, whether it realizes it or not, is the creation of the human being, the grown adult. Will we raise children who become adults who submit to dictators? If they do, she maintained, it is because we teach them as children to submit to the dictatorial behaviors of adults. The child’s behavior is not in question here; it’s a matter of how we act as adults and how we treat children. If we want to see nonviolence come to life, we have to be better role models for children, wherever they see us and interact with us in society, whether we are parents or not. They will assimilate the spirit we embody.

In Montessori’s words,  “[When] we speak of education we are proclaiming a revolution, one in which everything we know today will be transformed. I think of this as the final revolution; not a revolution of violence, still less of bloodshed, but one from which violence is wholly excluded–for the little child’s psychic productivity is stricken to death by the barest shadow of violence.”


Experiment in Nonviolence.

If a child were watching our actions today, what would they learn from us?