Madhuri Maitra
Madhuri Maitra
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Mark Scheel
Madhuri,

Good essay.  And I like both Dmitry's and Ken's comments, although I only partly agree with them.  I read Rand way back, but not that particular essay that I remember.  Also, I didn't attend a Montessori school--rather I attended a country school with all grades in same room.  So, for what it's worth, here's my take.

In general (coming from this libertarian's point of view) Rand is more right than she is wrong about government and society and the economy, but she is wrong in crucial areas like her atheism (but not about "religion," which may be what was really pissing her off).  She was a great writer, but tended to overload her narrative with political rhetoric.  The great threat is too little freedom from an oppressive system (which we're moving toward now in America), not too much freedom in a free market.  Remember, Rand was writing from an intimate knowledge of Communism and she was correct about its threat, something proven over and over and over.  The old school systems of the early 20th century produced "the greatest generation."  The sixties culture resulted from 1. the glut of youthful rebellious people coming of age at same time after WW II, 2. the influence of Dr. Spock's permissive child-rearing influence, and 3. an unpopular war in Vietnam the youth didn't want to go fight.  Absence those things, Montessori be damned, the sixties cultural revolution wouldn't have happened as it did.  Capitalism?  It's the only thing in the long run that will save the planet; remember "unbridled" is a misnomer as that's never the case because the free market has "natural" safeguards within it if let operate properly.  There's no substitute for the moral and socialization process of a two parent family environment, that can even compensate for a mediocre school system, but not the other way around.  The world today is backsliding, educationally in places, morally in many places.  While technology changes, human nature seems a constant.  We split the atom only to find a more efficient way to kill one another.  I realized that when in Vietnam. 

Thank you, Madhuri, for making us all think!

Mark
Dmitry Selemir
Hi Madhuri, this picked my interest, so I went and read the full essay.
I must admit that I was skeptical from the start and my skepticism only grew after reading the essay. I found it a rather rambling read. It was way too long for the point she was trying to make and ultimately rather poorly argumented. Most of her arguments are emotional and have absolutely no evidence to support them. Don't get me wrong  - I'm no proponent of Montessori method, I don't know enough about it (even though there was a point when we have considered it for our children). However one thing I can say is, it only started getting popular in the 60s, it was largely non-existent in the 40 years leading up to it, since the first publications by its founder. The article by Rand is written in 1971 and manages to blame the whole hippie movement on Montessori schooling. That argument stands no criticism, it certainly wasn't started by the 14 years olds. I would argue that hippie movement was precisely the reaction to the rather oppressive educational system that was dominant in the 50s and earlier — the very thing she was trying to argue for.
It is easy to draw the parallels — 50s education was very much the army style. Strict discipline, rigid rules, you were taught what to think, not how to think. The result — just like with young people leaving the army (or retiring from major sports careers) — they were completely lost in the real world, unless they managed to immediately find the same rigid system to guide them on ( I guess church played that role for many in the past). I find that a much more plausible explanation for the hippie movement — it was extreme, but that's what you get when you have a backlash against  something — you tend to go too far the other way. In many ways the rise of popularity of Montessori schools in the 60s was the result of that very backlash, not the reason for it.
Montessori method is still very popular (I would speculate that less than in the 60s and 70s, given the educational system has changed dramatically since then and I would argue it made great strides forward). In any case the first children who went through the system are now in their 50s. By now if Rand was correct — we should have an overwhelming amount of evidence of disaster 'the damaged' children were walking into. It should be easy enough to do the comparative research, the sample size is now certainly big enough. Something tells me that her fears did not materialise...
I actually did a quick search for well known Montessori graduates. In all honesty did not expect it but top of the list - Larry Page and Sergey Brin – founders of Google.
Ok, I know it's a silly argument, showing specific names, however I thought it was rather symbolic. She clearly thought the Montessori system was endangering her beloved capitalism...