Dear Montessorium Insiders,
Welcome to the inaugural Montessorium newsletter. Here we'll highlight one or two pieces, new and old, from Montessorium each week. But we'll also link to the best content we're seeing elsewhere in education, on YouTube and podcasts, in articles and on social media, and even in books.
The purpose of Montessorium is the pursuit of truth in education. Education we stand as support for human development broadly. The truth we emphasize here is especially philosophical truth.
While we are not allergic to the sciences—far from it—education is closely connected to questions of human nature, the good life, and the nature of knowledge. It is confusion and controversy on these questions that has driven confusion and controversy in education for millennia. And it is clarity on these questions that will at once ground a pedagogical research framework, help us sort through centuries of practical wisdom on raising youth, and provide an unwavering north star to the difficult work of education.
This newsletter is thus a survey of trends in education, with an intentionally philosophical slant. Feel free to forward or otherwise share, and definitely feel free to reply.
Philosophy of Education
The Most Precious Resource is Agency (essay) — Simon Sarris, from this summer, on how central human agency is to human development, and how casually we squander it in our default approaches to educating children.
“Gaining agency is gaining the capacity to do something differently from, or in addition to, the events that simply happen to you. Most famous people go off-script early, usually in more than one way. … But imagine instead if Carnegie or Da Vinci were compelled to stay in school for ten more years instead.”
Liberation, Montessori style (essay) — Richard Gunderman reflects on the connection between the freedom and dignity Montessori afforded children to wider moral and political liberty.
“Montessori had seen this kind of liberation firsthand in her early years through her work with poor children deemed by others hopeless. Such children, who had been ‘enslaved by their own inferiority,’ could experience a mental awakening, which she likened to the ‘liberation of the soul from extinction through spiritual poverty.’”
History of Education
The Struggle for the American Curriculum (book, 1986) — Kliebard’s history of US curriculum reform in the first half of the 20th century. A rare history of education that looks primarily at the substance of the curricula, philosophies, and learning theories, rather than primarily at policy. A compelling read that follows the threads of the development of progressive education, the rise of vocationalism in high school and higher education, and the recent historical foundations of schooling in America.
The Industrial Revolution and American Education (essay) — One of the most common narratives in education is that schooling today is in some way driven by industrialization—that we operate on the “factory model” of schooling. Kerry Ellard walks through the history, looks at the many candidates for an “industrial” influence on education, and argues that this is more myth than reality.
Technology in Education
Ana Fabrega on assessment, credentialing, and the blockchain (Twitter thread) — Web3, the internet powered by the same technology framework that enables cryptocurrency, is extremely likely to reshape our online experiences over the next decade. Here at Montessorium, the question of how this will occur, and how it might occur more fruitfully, occupies a not-insignificant fraction of our processing cycles. While our thoughts are still baking, Ana Fabrega of Synthesis offers a thread on one potential angle of attack: assessment and credentialing.
Will the University of Austin Succeed? (essay) — Justin Murphy makes a pessimistic bet on the University of Austin—(which you should definitely read about if you haven’t)—on the basis of their fundamental thesis. Agree or disagree, it’s worth reading Justin’s thoughts on how having a technology thesis in higher education is a non-negotiable.
Jason Crawford on Industrial Literacy (podcast) — Progress studies was crystallized from a general intellectual trend into something like a distinct movement in a 2019 essay by Tyler Cowen and Patrick Collison. It’s about understanding and valorizing industrial progress. In this Montessorium podcast, Jason Crawford at The Roots of Progress discusses his work connecting progress studies and education, with the aim of bringing “industrial literacy” to youth.
See you next week,
Matt Bateman, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Montessorium
More Montessorium Content
The baffling lack of substantive content in Dewey’s writings about education is often remarked upon. “What did he want?” people wonder. “No wonder his followers lost the plot.”
Thoughts on Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Probably this day just needs to be reformed and rethought in an educational context. But, in the meantime, here are some thoughts.
Enchantment and Social-Emotional Learning in Times of Strife
A Conversation with Chloé Valdary