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The Montessori Mafia (wsj.com)
263 points by danielvnzla on Apr 6, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 151 comments

I went to a Waldorf/Steiner school, which shares some of these traits such as the lack of a focus on assessment and grading and the emphasis on creativity.

We weren't taught the alphabet until the age of about 6-7 and basic arithmetic at 7-8. We did begin learning foreign languages at age 6, however. In practice my older brother taught me to read and count well before the Steiner curriculum did, but I still think that the education was very valuable.

I think that creativity in adults is often stifled because they don't want to "get it wrong". People are afraid of trying their hand at a new skill or taking a risk on a new idea because they are "realistic" about their chances of success. Children just do it anyway. I think that Steiner schools encourage this attitude, and no doubt Montessori schools do the same.

There's a reason the really big hitters are often first-time entrepreneurs - they are naive enough to try. Creativity works the same way.

My then-girlfriend and I did some work to help start a Waldorf school in western Massachusetts, so I've had a bit of direct experience with Waldorf schools despite not having attended one, and I agree with most of your assessment: the focus on creativity / learning to teach yourself is a huge departure from the traditional approach, "here is how we solve this kind of problem, now practice on these other, nearly identical problems."

One problem I noticed with the particular school we were helping to start was that the majority of the parents were technophobic to the point of hysteria: they literally asked me not to bring my laptop to meetings. As far as I can tell, this isn't a necessary feature of such schools. The general lesson, for me, is that in settings like this (e.g., an alternative educational facility bootstrapped by a small community) the school can take on the pathologies of the community, with potentially undesirable results.

Actually that isn't unique to the school you worked at, it's a philosophical feature of the education system. I wasn't allowed to use a computer until I was perhaps 11 years old, and then only sparingly. I don't think it affected my later abilities, and I was incredibly excited once I got the chance to code at home!

I think this came about partly as an extension of Steiner's views on television as something that stunts imagination and creativity. The first 7 years of the education have a very strong focus on mental imagery, and there is probably a belief that viewing concrete depictions of concepts on a computer is harmful.

I happen to believe that a computer can allow increased exploration of the imagination when used for creative tasks, but in the 90's schools were mostly using them for looking at Encarta and so on. That's exactly what Steiner schools want to avoid for their younger children.

"I think this came about partly as an extension of Steiner's views on television as something that stunts imagination and creativity."

I wasn't aware Rudolph Steiner had any views on television, since he died in 1925, before even the earliest television sets were commercially available.

It's certainly true though that Steiner schools tend to be very down on TV, and I have to feel that if the alternative is some kind of creative or social or engaged-in-the-real-world activity then the alternative is almost certainly better.

Can confirm technophobia in the New Zealand Steiner system too. I believe things have improved somewhat, but TV was definitely the Antichrist.

As a counter-point, using computers was an essential part of my education when I attended a Montessori school. I agree with your conclusion though; schools like this might easily adopt the "pathologies of the community".

As an aside, I think the biggest benefits I received from attending Montessori were independence and self-motivation-- I was never forced to learned something, I had to want to learn it first and pursue it myself.

At my kids' Montessori school they begin using computers in 4th grade and are required to own one in 7th-8th grade, so my experience is the same as yours. However, I wouldn't call it a "counterpoint" since Waldorf and Montessori are different.

    I think that creativity in adults is often stifled because they don't 
    want to "get it wrong". People are afraid of trying their hand at a 
    new skill or taking a risk on a new idea because they are "realistic" 
    about their chances of success.
There is a fantastic TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson on this exact subject. By far one of my favorites.


That is an excellent talk. The dude is hilarious.

"There's a reason the really big hitters are often first-time entrepreneurs - they are naive enough to try."

I think it's often because they don't understand the difference between a good product and a good business, so their expected outcomes tend to be at the extremes. Some of them end up doing ridiculously well, but overall I wouldn't consider not understanding lead gen, sales cycles, margins, cashflow, lifetime customer value, etc. to be a virtue.

I don't understand, why exactly don't they understand any of those things? I would expect them to be exceptional at them.

>they don't want to "get it wrong"

I, thankfully, realized this pretty early on, with help from my siblings. Collectively, we quit caring about gold stars, and started to actually learn. IMO, the main problem is that we're taught that it's bad to be wrong, and not good enough to try to outweigh the risks if you're not already fluent in the area. Success is essentially all that's valued at both an educational and social level, which entirely ignores the value of actually learning something, improving your future attempts.

tl;dr: "Win or go home" is killing our minds.

> Success is essentially all that's valued at both an educational and social level, which entirely ignores the value of actually learning something, improving your future attempts.

Which I find quite strange, especially as our Western culture wouldn't have existed without Socrates, who championed the exact same ideas you're talking about :)

How's that Socrates championed these ideas on success? I'm curious. I never studied Socrates in detail and the closest I've come are hodgepodge collection of folklore. Do you have any quotes or references?

> I'm curious. I never studied Socrates in detail and the closest I've come are hodgepodge collection of folklore

First and most important thing, when reading Plato you always hear Socrates say again and again that one should "know himself" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Know_thyself#By_Plato). I don't have any exact citation at hand, you can find the exact links on wikipedia, but this theme seams to permeate all his speeches. Sometimes even if it's not said in plain words you kind of feel that that's what he has been after all along, i.e. a better understanding of oneself.

And there's also Socrate's mistrust regarding books, which isn't directed at the physical objects, but more at what the books represent, condensed wisdom that many of us already take for granted without questioning. In certain ways that's very similar to what the modern educational system does to today's kids, I mean we take lots of things for granted without bothering of thinking with our heads anymore.

My Mom was a Montessori teacher. For a couple of years when I was a kid, we rented a house from a Waldorf teacher who lived in the basement. The clash of pedagogical philosophies was epic.

I'm hooked. Please explain how?

Ok, take math. The Waldorf argument went something like this: "Little children can't absorb abstractions so we don't teach math until they're ready." The Montessori argument goes like this: "Little children can't absorb abstractions so we teach math by making it concrete. We don't introduce the abstractions until they're ready."

There was a lot of that agree-on-the-facts-but-reach-different-conclusions. The conversation would go "Yeah, sure. Yup. Yup. WTF?"

This, the Montessori view, is really accepted wisdom now. It was only in the crazy days of New Maths that any educators thought that the right way to teach children was to give them a "foundation" consisting of the most general abstractions possible that everything else could be built upon. Think Bourbaki for children.


I think it comes down to the fact that, considering the work involved and that the majority of startups fail, it's never an economically rational decision to work on a startup. Realistic to most people means in the "real world" you follow a safe familiar progression from school to entry level job to management to retirement. There are guide rails and evaluations along the way to make sure you're on track.

You found a startup because you wouldn't be happy doing anything else.

I can't imagine getting a real job. Ever. For me, the set of things I could be doing with my life is {startup}.

I remember seeing a quote from some very successful founder saying that the only reason he went into entrepreneurship is because he was completely unemployable.

It can be economically rational if you value things other than the expected value of your money-to-utility function.


People forget that economics takes into account things other than money. A lot of "economic" discussion would go a lot smoother if people remembered this.


Yeah, what's actually rational cannot all be put into a spreadsheet.

At the Montessori school my kids attend, children learn letters when they're ready/motivated, usually around age 3 or 4. Basic arithmetic starts around around age 4-5, typically. I don't think Waldorf/Steiner emphasizes materials the way Montessori does: http://ourdoings.com/brlewis/2006-01-21

I'm not actually sure how similar Waldorf/Steiner is to Montessori, aside from both shunning the same bad ideas.

I've researched this for my children, and there seemed to be significant differences. The amount of superstition in the Steiner teachings put me off big time ("Beware of right angles and potatoes!"). Montessori makes far fewer wild assumptions.

I went to Steiner school, and it's true that the theory is essentially nothing-but-crazy. But the practice of it can be utterly fantastic, and at least where I went the theory was entirely unmentioned. In the final half hour of school we had a lesson on "where did the last 14 years of your education come from?" -- we apparently (for example) literally have seven bodies, but you would thankfully never have guessed it from those 14 years of education.

If I had to pick a single strength of Steiner education, it would be that it genuinely believes that traditional academic skills aren't the only skills worth having. Lots of guff is spouted elsewhere along these lines, but at Steiner school people who were good at sport or art or whatever were genuinely just as valued as geniuses in writing and maths, which gave the place a lovely ethos.

If there's a word for "deriving effective practice from insane theory," it's probably something like "to rudstein." Biodynamic farming uses esoteric geomancy techniques like burying a cow's horn filled with powdered quartz, and when used in vineyards yields some truly excellent wines.

Say what?!

Can you elaborate more on this?

Plus educators at Waldorf schools tend to talk up Steiner's poisonous Anthroposophy.

For grading, I don't think much traditional preschools do grading. It begins usually with primary school. There may be more praises though, like drawing stars on hands, but until the age children buy such praises like 4,5.

Creativity is very important for Waldorf, but not the main issue in Montessori. For example, you must be presented by a teacher on how to work with a material (play with a Montessori toy) first. There is not much room to art, nor imaginative play in Montessori.

If Montessori has a remarkable effect on success, I think it's because it helps children the value of working hard at an early age. There are no programs to distract you. You pick something, play with it as long as you like, learn all you like from that one and continue with a more difficult one.

As there is no rush, you do your all work like wearing cloths, putting your dish to the table. Being able to do all work yourself, one very important skill that every entrepreneur must have :)

>We weren't taught the alphabet until the age of about 6-7

My daughter is 1.5 years old and knows almost all of the alphabet. Is this a good thing or bad thing?

It doesn't matter what she knows, it matters that you encourage her to learn more and follow where her mind takes her.

For my boys, (3.9 and 1.5 years) I looked into Waldorf and was actually completely turned off by the fact that reading was completely ignored until much, much later. (7 years) For my eldest, who is already reading 2 and 3 letter words and phonetically sounding larger ones, this would be such a set back that he would be discouraged.

I think it isn't important where he is right now, but more so that he is encouraged to continue learning and continues to have an enjoyment of learning. I think that's really where our schools fail and why a self-motivated Montessori child can be a high achiever.

Neither good or bad.

It is a clue that she probably is good at "symbolic thinking". More of this stuff to come in the near future. Just make sure she has plenty of chances to develop this (probably innate) ability.

On the other hand, as she grows up, you probably should keep an eye on her and help to mitigate any shortcomings that'd eventually show up. But this is the same with all children anyway.

It could be a clue about symbolic thinking, or it might be the result of the approach used.

I've seen an approach where letter-shaped toys are handed out as toys, which provides a concrete object to associate to the letter. Children using this seem to be able to pick up the alphabet around 1 year old fairly easily.

The important thing is that, as a parent, it's easy to fall into the trap of comparing milestones. There isn't the evidence that e.g. knowing the alphabet early means being a better reader later in life. Just like early walking milestones don't lead to 'better walking'.

Your comment resonated with me. My wife's very verbal niece could name 12 animals in a book of animals at 18 months. Her mother drilled her, and then they would take the book around to show how clever their daughter was.

I'd feel quite bad since my son was the same age and wasn't talking much, let alone identifying animals. The constant showing off and comparisons by my in-laws led to us taking him to a speech pathologist and to his pediatrician for an eval, to make sure he had no delays (he doesn't have any).

The other day, my wife realized that her niece (now over 2) couldn't identify the exact same animals, when they were in a different book, or using plastic models. She had learned the book, but didn't understand the concepts.

I've learned my lesson about comparing milestones. I suppose a professional may be able to do meaningful comparisons, but the average parent or grandparent cannot.

Right. And yet it's hard not to feel that swell of pride when your child 'overachieves' on some milestone. But often when a child hits a milestone early, it's actually because they are doing something differently than age-equivalent children or adults do it. And that something may well be an intellectual dead end. The niece in your story may be tagging the name 'tiger' to something like length of tail, or surrounding context. And I could write books on the need for serious investigations into what kids mean when they use certain words.

Yes, it could be... my comment was really more about the idea that any persistent advantage that may come out is going to be driven by the child's interests. As parents, I believe, we should encourage more than enforce.

I also think that drill down has its use, but it is reserved for cases where the kid is visibly falling behind some minimum standard. And the bar must be set really low for that. By definition, roughly 50% should be "below average" in any given skill. If the skill is important and the deviation from the norm is severe, you have to push the kid regardless.

As a personal example. At home, it is not acceptable to be unable to get yourself out of water. This is a life or death issue; so, my kids have been enrolled in swimming classes, from early age, whether they like it or not. They don't have to go in competitions, they don't even have to be fast or have a good technique... but it is not acceptable that they are not at least as good as myself. At this point, my 8yo is probably a better swimmer than either me or my wife (who was in an amateur team in her teens)... but I will never ask for more than an honest effort.

Making the Roman alphabet so ingrained may make very hard to learn other alphabets, like Greek, Cyrillic, Hiragana or the Chinese one.

My son knew the alphabet too at that age. He is now 5 and has forgotten and relearned it quite a few times since then. Knowing this, I wouldn't worry about it really.

> We weren't taught the alphabet until the age of about 6-7 and basic arithmetic at 7-8.

Is that strange? I started school (a "regular" one) at 7 (as is customary in Sweden) and I didn't know the entire alphabet or basic arithmetic then. None of my classmates did.

"When Barbara Walters, who interviewed Google founders Messrs. Page and Brin in 2004, asked if having parents who were college professors was a major factor behind their success, they instead credited their early Montessori education"

Ahem. I spy a latent variable in this correlation. Can you find it?

Hint: Montessori education may or may not have advantages. But unless you control for educational background and income of the family, your analysis has a problem.

"Montessori education may or may not have advantages. But unless you control for educational background and income of the family, your analysis has a problem."

This WAS controlled for. Correct analysis WAS done, peer reviewed, and published.

It's a shame this is so highly upvoted. Pointing out that correlation does not equal causation is the very first most obvious criticism to make of a finding, but don't sail in with that criticism until you've made sure that causation wasn't actually suggested by legitimate research.

"It's a shame this is so highly upvoted. Pointing out that correlation does not equal causation is the very first most obvious criticism to make of a finding"

What a shame.

The Science paper cited at the bottom of this article found that Montessori kids from one school in Wisconsin had slightly better performance on some kinds of academic tests. The story's "finding" is that Montessori kids are overrepresented amongst the creative/business/economic elite. Clearly, one follows from the other, right?

But yes, let's talk about the up-voting of comments that sound approximately correct, but actually aren't.

I think the dispute here isn't so much whether or not Montessori education has or doesn't have advantages, rather it's the confirmation bias inherent in finding famous people who had a Montessori education and then using them to hint that their success is primarily due to their education.

See for example statements from the article like "perhaps it’s just a coincidence that Montessori alumni lead two of the world’s most innovative companies...". To which I would say, yes, it almost certainly is coincidence. Look at the (non-Montessori educated) leaders of pretty much every other company in the world as counterexamples.

The description of Jeff Bezos's behaviour makes it sound like he was an exceptional example of children in that system (unless Montessori teachers routinely have to pick kids out of their chairs), so probably not a good example of typical results from that system.

I have a hard time believing that. Around here, Montessori schools are private and expensive. These school are all established is wealthy neighborhoods, so even if you forget that they are expensive, you still need a pretty good income to live in a place where it is convenient to get your kids to school everyday or be willing to go through important sacrifices for your children's education.

The cited study found improvements, not latent billionaireism. The broader claim is wild speculation.

I'm a parent, and I'm interested in improvement, not latent billionairism. So to me, such studies are useful, even without broader claims.

I have to agree, but my gut tells me the claim is likely to be true.

I am interested in what companies and technologies this leads to because so goes the fate of nations.

This is exactly right. I suspect that the parents of people who attend Montessori schools are more educated than average to begin with.

Go into an inner city Los Angeles elementary, and I guarantee you the great majority of parents wont have even heard of the name.

TL;DR: the parents of people who care enough about their education to enroll them in a montessori school, would have probably turned out pretty bright kids regardless.

The article mentions a study that shows the direct influence of a Montessori school. The study was published in Science. You can read it here:

http://www.montessori-science.org/montessori_science_journal... (click "see article full text")

An excerpt:

    On several dimensions, children at a public inner city Montessori school 
    had superior outcomes relative to a sample of Montessori applicants who, 
    because of a random lottery, attended other schools. By the end of 
    kindergarten, the Montessori children performed better on standardized 
    tests of reading and math, engaged in more positive interaction on 
    the playground, and showed more advanced social cognition and 
    executive control.
TL;DR: Montessori kids turn out better on many measures when controlling for "bright parents".

I understand that research into something as complicated as education can't control all variables. But I can immediately think of numerous other variables - what about the other children at the schools backgrounds? what about the level of funding the schools received? the level of training of the teachers?

I think Montessori and Steiner are far more dogmatic than sense dictates - but stay this way, despite the negatives, in order to give their system a magical quality. Determining the quality of a school is hard. So people are willing to cling to a belief because they don't know any better.

Just one example of negative; Montessori doesn't use imaginative play. It's been shown to be a great tool to give kids better concentration spans. But the writings of Montessori are against it and the dogma has to be followed.

Wouldn't that just mean that parents would add some imaginative play with their own kids?

What do you think about this? http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100311190247AA...

Yes most likely, believe me I think there are fantastic Montessori schools out there. I just think that they are dogmatic about these questions for the sake of dogma.

If we just looked at all schools like that study did, even with a lottery, we'd probably come to the conclusion that the stodgiest, most regressive kinds of top private schools is the way to go.

*Edit: Read the link more thoroughly. This answer is completely subjective but I can't really believe many people would agree with that characterisation of imaginative play and creativity who weren't rationalising their belief in a particular dogma. It doesn't ring true to me at all.

You can't control for "bright parents." You can control for parents' income, parents' education, parents' height and weight, but you can't control for the kind of attitude towards childrearing and towards life that would cause a couple to send their kids to Montessori school.

This is why so many social science results that are "controlled" for various variables actually don't make any sense.

Wouldn't accepting 1000 applications, and teaching Montessori-style to 500 of them and traditional-style to the other 500 pretty accurately control for all of those self-selection biases?

Only if you put the 500 non-Montessori children in a separate school, with the same level of funding as the Montessori school. From the little that I know about these studies, at least some of the differences could be explained by the mixing of the 'control group' into an environment that is less ambitious or focused as the Montessori group.

(I walk pass 2 schools on my way to work each day - one Montessori, one not, sometimes around the time where children are dropped off by their parents. Even not knowing anything about the relative merits of the systems, I can easily tell which school I'd want to send my daughter to in a few years time; at the risk of sounding elitist, it's like standing next to the exit of an opera performance vs a soccer stadium).

To add to this, The Steiner system places a lot of value in surroundings and buildings and a lot of time and effort (or is it money?) goes into making the "learning environment" inspiring and stimulating.... Etc etc. Basically the ones I've been to look fantastic.

Read the paper in full -- it doesn't say anything that supports the article's conclusion. It studies a small population of kids at one school, and finds a very slight average improvement on some test scores. That's it.

The Science article is fine for what it is, but it's hardly the evidence that Montessori schools produce disproportionate numbers of billionaires. Based on the data provided, you can't even rule out the possibility that the teachers at the one school in question were just better than average.

> the parents of people who care enough about their education to enroll them in a montessori school...

Really? You think it's just a matter of caring enough to make it so? I think I'd phrase this differently -- that the parents of people who have the means to send them to a montessori school probably would have the means to give them other advantages in life as well, so their kids are probably going to do pretty well regardless.

> the parents of people who have the means to send them to a montessori school probably would have the means to give them other advantages in life as well, so their kids are probably going to do pretty well regardless.

I disagree with the emphasis on the "means" of the family. Contrast the success of immigrant families who struggle to get an education for a child with the wastrel habits of many "rich kids".

Care is critical. Wealth may be helpful.

I don't think most immigrant families who struggle for the education of their kids do so by sending them to private grade school. More often they take maximum advantage of the public options available to them and augment it with good parenting.

> Care is critical. Wealth may be helpful.

Certainly I agree if we're talking about raising a successful child but that wasn't the issue we were discussing. When it comes to sending your kid to private school, I think money usually goes a lot further than care.

I can't answer for the grandparent, but to me if you really, really care you make it happen.

Not having the means is an excuse, not a reason.

Definitely. You cannot assume causality simply because a few results turned out a certain way. Although I have to admit I want to since I would have enjoyed building stuff much more than listening to a prof lecture for an hour.

To your point though, you could also cite a number of people not educated in Montessori schools who were very creative and achieved big things.

Yeah absolutely, but the irony is if you spend all your time perfecting your scientific approach to decision-making about parenting, you are not necessarily more likely to make better decisions than if you paying very close attention to them and using your intuition.

It goes without saying I don't have a citation for that, but based on my personal experience as a child and a parent I strongly believe it be true.

I don't have the book handy to quote, but Freakonomics had a similar assertion about specific parenting styles not being a major factor in the educational outcome (test scores) of children. I can't remember what "styles" were part of the data though.

I have children aged 13, 10 and 5. The oldest spent 1 year in a traditional preschool, but they've gone exclusively to Montessori school since that time.

What strikes me about this article is its characterization of Montessori schooling as largely unstructured and free. I think it must be comparing it to a much over-structured methodology, perhaps like the public schooling I got growing up.

Styles vary somewhat among Montessori schools, but what I've seen is that in the early years, the age Montessori is most known for, there are specific materials children work with and specific ways they're expected to work with them. A child may not get out a work he/she hasn't been shown how to use. He must return the work to its proper place before selecting another one. The materials aren't tools for self-discovery. They're tools for letting self collide with reality until such time as the applicable real concepts are understood.

However, the one simple freedom of being able to choose a work does make it a sharp contrast from the lock-step style of education I grew up with. I hear public schools aren't always this way, according to relatives who sent kids to public school in Lexington, MA.

In higher grades the emphasis on materials fades, but the basic idea of letting children work within a structure remains. For example, in upper elementary (grades 4-6) the students develop their own classroom code of conduct. They're given some structure about how to do it, though. I see Montessori as a balanced methodology on the freedom/structure dimension, not an extreme.

I most important memory for me is that Montessori allowed me to excel. It was exceptional at getting out of the way and letting me learn if I was interested, and I most certainly was.

What I remember most from my Montessori education in my early years (preschool through elementary) was that we were allowed to progress at our own pace. Our teacher(s) set up various tracks of things to complete, for example we had math cards you could study and then do some problems on and eventually take a test to move on to the next set, or we had a series of books and you needed to select one from the set and answer some questions before moving on to one from the next set. About half of our time was allowing us to work on whatever we wanted. If you got ahead in a subject, the teacher would find more for you to do on it. If you got behind, the teacher would try to help you get over whatever hurdle of understanding you had.

As a result, I was a few years ahead of myself in math. Every time the teacher got a new set of math cards I would do them all as quickly as I could and I prided myself on being a few years ahead. However, my reading was a bit behind because I never really cared to do the in-school reading as I preferred sci-fi. There were other children who were just the opposite.

The benefit was that I didn't have to sit in a class room doing the exact same boring lessons as the rest of the class. If I could figure something out in 5 minutes I didn't have to sit through a 1-hour lecture on the subject.

Maria Montessori lived in Italy a 100 years ago, and no doubt she was a reformist. She was the first woman doctor, she worked with children with mental disabilities when children was not considered humans, and she noticed that, her approach is applicable to all children. She invented very useful methods and tools for teaching preschoolers. She made wonderful toys which are now called "Montessori Materials". Her method is spread to US, and "adapted".

Montessori teachers are certified largely by two centers in the world, in Italy (http://www.montessori-ami.org/), and in US (http://www.amshq.org/). As far as I know AMI sees itself as the "original" Montessori, rejects others, and more strict in many ways, like they don't allow any toys in classrooms, they don't have any books (just lapbooks produced by teachers or children).

I have real problems with strict, spiritual Montessori. Why would we be against to toys? Maria Montessori crafted wonderful toys for her students, and now they are called "Montessori Materials". What's wrong with Lego's? I think if Maria Montessori had Lego, she would use them.

Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, all have different methods to inspire for raising kids and even for start-ups (http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=10...). But, none is magic.

This is just confirmation bias. Page credits "part of that training of not following rules and orders, and being self-motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world, doing things a little bit differently." As a Montessori kid myself, I could see myself having differing opinions depending on how the future turned out.

Successful: go back and credit Montessori for making me a rebellious, curious nonconformist.

Unsuccessful: go back and partially blame Montessori for those same values, that make navigating this world of rules and structures difficult.

PG's writings would make me think that he leans more towards the Montessori side of things, and probably a lot of HNers are the same. I'm glad jsavimbi spoke about his need for strong discipline.

Montessori only looks like a "not following rules and orders" environment in comparison to an environment where you ask permission to use the bathroom, and are told every hour of every day exactly what to do. Montessori has structure, just a lot less, more comparable to the amount of structure I have in my day job.

Also, more progressive, experimental parents are more likely to send their kids to Montessori schools, but kids raised by such parents are likely to be more progressive and experimental anyway.

I really like the idea of Montessori, and if I have the cash I'd like to send my future kids there someday.

That being said, I see correlation here, not causation.

To be a little bit tongue and cheek, I could write the headline:

"99% of successful people do not attend Montessori schools"

The real meat is the 1996 study they mention:


Although they reference the study in a really odd way: "Neuroscience author Jonah Lehrer cites a 2006 study published in Science that ..."

What does Jonah Lehrer have to do with the study? AFAICT absolutely nothing. He appears to be a contributor to the WSJ, but he didn't write the study. And none of the links they present are even to the article where he apparently cites this study. I have no idea why he's mentioned here.

Tangent aside, I think that's the real meat.

You need to go through this link (http://www.montessori-science.org/montessori_science_journal...) and click "see article full text" to get access to the study linked above.

"Ironically, the Montessori educational approach might be the surest route to joining the creative elite, which are so overrepresented by the school’s alumni that one might suspect a Montessori Mafia: Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, videogame pioneer Will Wright, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, not to mention Julia Child and rapper Sean “P.Diddy” Combs."

"The creative elite" -> "so overrepresented" -> list of five names in tech, one rapper, one 20th Century culinary master

I stopped taking the article seriously at this point.

s/rapper/$475 million businessman

Which, when you realize that most working musicians make less from their music than they would make doing a full-time minimum wage job, is perhaps even more impressive. Even successful musicians are rarely rich by Silicon Valley standards.

Most Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are rarely rich by Silicon Valley standards.

The successful ones often are.

You too can cheaply imitate a Montessori school by

a)Taking your kid out of public school and

b)Encourage your kid to do things he finds interesting with you at home and take him to museums and crap

True, it requires a mostly unemployed parent, but Montessori has just discovered how kids learn naturally at a young age. Just like a kid learns a language without having to be formally taught, he learns other things without formal education as well. The older years it's a different story, but there's really no need to pay a ton of money for a Montessori pre-school. Any parent can do it.

This is a bit disingenuous. As mentioned in a previous comment, there is a method to Montessori. It's not "let the kids do whatever they want". It is a form of "formal" education and took years of research to come up with.

While parents can certainly homeschool, you can't claim it's an equal substitute for Montessori education.

I was challenging that; I think that the reason Montessori kids do better isn't because Montessori is genius, but because it's more in tune with how kids learn naturally. It's more that standard education is bad, not the Montessori is good.

But it's still so wrong.

Even if we can agree standard education is bad, that doesn't make everything else good by default. Including just "let your kid do things he finds interesting and take him to museums and crap".

How do you know that the Montessori method is what makes Montessori good, though, rather than the GP's theory?

It doesn't matter. It seems there has been a least one study that suggests Montessori is "better" than standard school (the premise of this whole discussion).

But to try to extend that to say that almost anything BUT standard school is good puts a huge burden of proof on the original poster.

If a>b, it doesn't automatically make c-z better than b too.

Your comment sounds like you don't know anything about Montessori education. The program of education you suggest has basically nothing in common with Montessori schooling, except perhaps for being different from traditional schooling.

Montessori's method is centered on structured, self-directed individual activities with materials prepared to focus children's attention on one or another particular skill considered important. Traditionally, it does not involve "doing things with you", "museums and crap", or just "doing things [one] finds interesting".

My wife and I are somewhat nervously heading this direction after one year of kindergarten with our autistic son. Homeschooling just seems to be a better fit.

> Any parent can do it.

Yeah, but it's easier to shift the responsibility to other, more "professional-looking" people, especially if you have the money to do that.

Which doesn't mean that I don't agree with you. One of my first childhood memories is of my father teaching me the letters of the alphabet, when I was 4 or so. He was on a lunch-break, I remember that, he worked on a construction site. After that it was easy to learn to read by myself at about 5, one day I just opened a kids' book and, as I had already knew what those letters meant, it was easy to start reading. He also taught me the first words and expressions in French ("ceci est une pipe" and all that), when I was 8 or 9. Nothing too fancy, he just taught me how to pronounce the words in French and we read a couple of simple phrases out-loud. That gave me a huge advantage over my school-colleagues a couple of years later, when we started to learn French in school.

It also mattered a lot for me that my parents' house was full of books, and the fact that I saw my father reading each and every day.

The correlation != causation problem was addressed in this comment: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2416781 .

Agreed, Black Swan and all.

I have two friends who have experience with Montessori, and like you, I'll put together funds to get my future kids in there some day.

One of my friends is an Aikidoka. He had started hanging out with some folks who turned out to operate a Montessori school. They liked him enough that they invited him to teach there -- more to expose the kids to different ideas. My friend tells me that there is a selection process involved for the kids, and not all kids can get in. They'd put them in the environment and see how they acted. My friend and those operators are pitching Aikido to the national board as a form of conflict resolution. Which, if you know anything about Aikido, is remarkable.

The other friend is the only old man I know who says things like, "I can't wait to see what will happen", and "Using predictive modeling is like driving by looking at the rear view mirror." Most old people I know are quietly staring at death looming in the future. This guy put his son through Montessori. His grandson is now in Montessori, though the daughter-in-law objected at first.

From the comments from these two, from the smattering of articles I've read about them, the key behavioral patterning related to startup is the development of gumption. That is, instead of using external reward-punishment and coloring-inside-the-approved-lines, these kids go out and do what they want, using their own internal sense of right and wrong. It's something I've been hacking my own mind with much of my adult life -- through things like playing Go. Does this guarantee these a Montessori grad to be wildly successful at building out a startup? No. But it will save a lot of misery from twisting yourself, cringing from Authority or staying trapped in a losing situation (a la Gervais Principle).

That is way better than recruiting Tiger Moms and Dragon Ladies.

Why does this result surprise anyone? Traditional US schools exist not to cultivate individuality, and make people more expressive and creative, but rather for different reasons.

Grade school is designed to teach people enough to read The Bible, and enough writing and arithmetic to not get cheated by the fancy, downtown shop keepers.

High school is designed to teach the bulk of the citizenry to work according to a fixed schedule, probably in a factory, along with a faceless mass of similary trained people.

It sounds inflammatory, but it's true.

I agree that it's unsurprising, but for different reasons. According to the Montessori website, there are over 4,000 Montessori schools in the US. It's expected statistically there will be some exceptional standouts coming out of these schools.

There may be problems with public schools in the US, but using a few successful individuals who went to an alternative school as evidence of problems seems disingenuous. I'm certain there are a lot of examples of wildly successful people who went through traditional public schooling.

That sounds like a bit of a stretch. American public education focuses on learning the basics so you can be then trained by either your occupation (ala factory worker, etc.) or by your next institution (university). On top of that depending on where you grow up, the school focuses more on one or the other. Grow up in the bay area, there is a higher chance your school will focus on getting kids into a university. Grow up in an agricultural community, you learn more skills associated with living on a farm (more focus on basic economics, biology). But then again, this is just what I observed. It's possible that if you grew up in the midwest, they taught you to read the bible. I know that's what they taught my mom in Missouri in the 1950s. No idea if it's still the case.

This comment is so absurdly wrong and offensive I had to read it several times fearing I was missing some sarcasm or satire. I'm sure you didn't mean it as such, so here is some information from someone who went to school in the midwest.

Schools in the midwest do not focus on "skills associated with living on a farm". Even in agriculture-centric Iowa farm labor is about 8% of the population, the other 92% of people are employed in offices/stores/factories/etc. For comparison, 5% of workers in California are employed as farm laborers for some part of the year.

The schools entire focus is on university preparation (often to a fault, many students would probably be better suited by a more vocational focus). No public school is teaching anyone to read the bible, and to my knowledge private Catholic or other religious schools are no more common in the midwest than in New York or California.

Ignorant stereotypes based on state/region are just as foolish as any other ignorant stereotype.

Yea, where I went to high school (rural Western, PA), kids would bring guns to school for demonstrating something for a physics class (real story), history / social studies was very pro-American biased, and there were many funded clubs and activities around hunting / fishing / outdoors. Oh yea, everyone got the first two days of deer season off of school too - whether you took advantage or not.

I don't know, I grew up in both the bay area, and a more rural part of California, and there was definitely an agricultural bend once you moved to an area where 60% of the graduating class ended up not going to college. There is a little bit of satire in there, but it is also something noticeable from my experience.

I just thought it was to provide daycare en masse so that women can work.

Only if your education differed from the so-called basket of techniques lumped together as "the Montessori method".

It's been my experience that a home environment with parents who read and care about expanding horizons will tend to offer the children guided "self-directed" learning, observation and indirect teaching, and productive routines of "focused" activities versus idle play, and these children will tend to outperform peers without that same desire to constantly learn instilled in them -- regardless of the formal education they acquire.

I agree. I'm planning to send my daughter to a Montessori school but only when she reaches school age (4/5). She can get most of the same benefits before then at home and even at "normal" nurseries (because the latter has no curriculum but encourages the self discovery and play). Age 5 through 11 seems more important for the Montessori concepts to sink in.

Could you detail your experience more so we can compare its statistical significance to the scientific study cited in the article?

My experience covers parents who make an active choice about where their kids go to school versus those who don't. Both my parents were teachers and youth group leaders. We therefore interacted with more parent/kid combos than most people do.

Pick a sizable group of kids selected to indicate strong parental interest in how the children learn. For example, kids whose parents at any point considered homeschooling them. You'll see above average scores, even if, in fact, the child in question ended up never being home schooled. The selected trait seems to be simply parental interest in the child's learning.

Curiously, the Wikipedia article on Montessori claims among randomly selected/rejected applicants, the selectees performed better. That would seem to eliminate other variables. But it also says any difference was gone again by age 12, quite a few years before the successes cited in the link.

I suspect that given the right home environment, it's not that Montessori makes your kid smarter, but that generic grade schools make your kid dumber until the age children manifest individuality. Also see "Outliers" for thoughts on how arbitrary performance and learning measurements seem in grade school as a function of birth month versus school year.

My kids (4 & 7) just moved from a traditional school to a Montessori school last summer because we moved house. I wasn't completely sold on the philosophy yet but my kids LIKE going to school a lot more now and it seems to work really well. Happy kids, learning a lot.

But it is very counterintuitive for the engineer in me who wants to measure progress by how much of the alphabet they know. It takes a lot of trust in the somewhat nebulous and touchy feely Montessori philosophy, if you read the wikipedia page about it you'll see that even the educators can't agree on what it is exactly. (Montessori did use scientific methods to arrive at her recommendations, but interpretations differ). There's things the type of educators in such schools do that makes us rational people cringe (kids are not allowed artificial flavoring in their lunch food...). But, well, it works (for my kids at least).

Since I am too rational to give up on measuring I conclude we are probably not measuring progress the right way by testing how much letters in the alphabet they know.

kids are not allowed artificial flavoring in their lunch food...

Why would that make you cringe?

It makes me cringe because there is no scientific evidence at all that artificial food additives are bad for kids. Quite the opposite actually, artificial additives are tested to death before they are allowed on the market. It has no relation to the Montessori philosophy, I was just giving an example of the "kind of person" the typically teacher is there, basing decisions more on feelings than rational evidence.

"I was just giving an example of the "kind of person" the typically teacher is there"

I was afraid to say something to this effect, but now that you've started it I might as well share this little anecdote ;)

Around the corner of my office is a small school for highly gifted children. They work together with a 'regular' Montessori school here and they follow the same approach - let children find their own interests, stimulate those etc. (disclaimer: I don't know much about Montessori, it's just what I understood from how it works).

Either way, back in 2008 most of a certain social class in Western Europe was infatuated with Obama, how he was going to change world etc. With 'a certain social class' I'm stereotyping, I know - it's relevant for the point; I'm talking about the Prius-driving, Fair Trade shopping salon socialist with cushy government jobs with near-100% job certainty who've never in their lives run a business or done any work that is not in one way or another funded by tax payers. (I'm including university teachers and professors here, they're overrepresented in my neighborhood).

Anyway, around US election time, this school for highly gifted children I mentioned hung out some drawing of the children on their window. One of them said (I'm paraphrasing here, I don't remember the exact wording) 'Obama will clean up the mess that Bush left behind him'. This in a hand writing and on a drawing that showed that the child could not have been much older than 6 or 7.

This is my impression of many of these schools - highly opinionated teachers and parents who live in a upper-middle class cocoon who preach the word of 'free exploration of ideas' and 'self-actualization' but only when it leads to the same type of thinking they themselves adhere to.

I guess it's logical - I'd be abhorred too if my daughter grows up to be a socialist or communist. Everybody wants their children to be at least somewhat like them. Still, indoctrinating children at that age with political propaganda - it gives me a bad feeling.

There is some evidence. Maybe not yet convincing, but if I was a daycare provider, I think I'd try to minimize hyperactivity induced by artificial colors. See:


Obviously not conclusive, but I don't think I'd cringe if a daycare instituted such a policy, especially since they provide the food anyways. And I'm not sure what "feeling" people get about artificial products in food. It's not the type of thing people get "feelings" about, is it? I suspect someone there read some studies about potential negative impacts of it, so they decided to play it safe. If there's virtually zero cost to such a thing, I'd hardly consinder that irrational.

I don't know why it bothers the original poster, but to me it seems like a cringe-worthy non sequitur. How is artificial flavoring related to education?

I am pretty skeptical of the Montessori approach.

Take kids from wealthy, well-educated families and put them in small groups with educators that also happen to be very well-educated and very passionate and you will get great results whatever the pedagogy.

Contrast this w/ poor kids whose parents had low educational attainments, stuck in giant classes with poorly-paid teachers.

If you put 6 well-off kids with 1 passionate, well-educated teacher, you will get good results almost every time.

Montessori approach may have its merits but I find it very hard to separate them from the demographics of its students and teachers. The study in Milwaukee does not seem sufficient to establish a link. Those passionate about teaching are probably more likely to be attracted to the Montessori school than the regular public schools because it has a distinctive approach and probably more liberal management.

I would love to love to know if the Montessori schools in teh Milwaukee school had the same teacher/student ratio as the other schools in the study. I am betting they didn't.

Is this even correlation? Is there any evidence to suggest that Montessori students are over-represented among the successful? Or are they simply proportionate?

Even if they were disproportionately represented, it wouldn't prove much -- only that parents of smart children are more likely to send them to a Montessori school.

I've been thinking about how I'd educate my own kids, and currently it's a tossup between the Harkness approach a la Phillips Exeter, the entirely home-schooled approach, and something like this which seems like a hybrid.

If anyone has experience with any of the above, I'd love to hear about it.

Homeschooling parent here. I need to get more personal experiences up on my personal website.


I've launched one child into adulthood (he is deeply interested in the start-up culture, which is one reason I hang out here on Hacker News) and have three more coming up. Interaction with other curious young people is crucial while growing up. Any school experience that encourages that is worthwhile at least in part, while any school experience that ends up discouraging curiosity (as a remarkable variety of schools do) is to be avoided.

P.S. I finally had a chance to tour Exeter this year while high school shopping. Exeter does have an interesting approach with the Harkness table for all classes and the problem-solving-based curriculum.

Here's what my wife and I are planning to do with our daughter: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1656756

Edit: here's a useful overview of alternative teaching methods - http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/25926

As in most things, people are more important than methods. Now, there is some correlation, as people who care about teaching kids to really learn will tend to be more involved in Montessori or other small private schools or magnet public schools.

But don't decide based on reading and abstraction, go meet the people in the communities you would be putting your child into (including home-school communities) and see if you fit in with those people and if they seem nurturing. And explore more traditional options to see if the people there are exceptional.

My wife works at a small Catholic school (who would have thought?) with an amazing community that fosters intergenerational, self-guided, scrape-your-knee-climbing-a-tree sort of learning. I'm sure most parents drive right by and think "pfft, Catholic school," and their abstractions are leading them to miss a real gem.

DO NOT do full time homeschooling, my mom tried it with me for grades 2 and 3 (as we were moving around) and the results were horrible socially. Do a private school.

DO full time homeschooling; my parents tried it with me and the results were great.

Two can play this game. :)

I have no problem with the Montessori method but if you're going to throw the names of a few very successful people as examples, you also need to show the full picture, i.e. for all these Montessori kids that became so successful, how many other successful people did not got to Montessori?

If anything, the fact that they only list 4-5 names tells me that at best, the kind of education you receive at that age is not that important after all (I think your parents and your environment are probably bigger factors) and at worst, the Montessori school doesn't really work that well after all.

Perhaps what is required here is a re-examination of the fundamental goals of what we refer to as "education." Is the purpose of school to teach a set of curriculum or to inculcate the habits necessary to become courageous explorers of the world and inventors of our own destinies? Montessori is just one alternative, but now, in a time of rapid change, is the time to begin and support multiple experiments. We need to explore the full range of functional pedagogies and see what new ways of teaching and learning can be developed. Looking for one "best" context or approach for learning is probably never going to work - the fundamental assumption is wrong.

An educational monoculture suffers the same vulnerabilities that a biological monoculture does. We should foster a diversity of approaches, supporting the sharing of techniques, approaches, and contexts.

This is why we are starting a new K-12 school, based on some new ideas (Tinkering School, and A Curious Summer) and incorporating some really old ideas (apprenticeship and mastery). We call it Brightworks (http://sfbrightworks.org). Have a look at our approach, share your ideas, join us at the edge of innovation in education.

Fascinating insight. But isn't this a classic case of of correlation, not causation?

Puffy did Montessori and he's doing pretty damn well for himself!

Jay-Z started in the projects and didn't finish high school, and he's doing even better!

Holy crap, I know where I'm sending my kids!

Extrapolating this out ... Lakeside School, Philips Exeter or perhaps Collegiate ;)

Why is the press so ignorant of basic statistics? It is really depressing. I wonder if reporters actually don't understand the difference between correlation and causation, or if they just willfully ignore it because it makes for catchier headlines and easier research.

Examine this carefully and the answer will become clear: http://www.desu.edu/curriculum-bachelors-degree-broadcast-jo...

(In fact quite a lot becomes clear.)

You can do your own search for "journalism curriculum degree" if you want more corroboration.

Interesting article, but what about Steve Jobs? Warren Buffet? Bill Gates? It's easy to pick a few examples of anything, but it doesn't make it a real trend.

For one, all the people you mentioned were in preschool before the Montessori craze really took over in the States and all the ones the article mentioned besides Julia Child were later. And of course, you will never find 100% success in one method and 0% success in all others.

But the Montessori method is fascinating, and does have a few studies backing it. On a personal level as a Montessori kid, I know it definitely gave me a head start over many of my peers (by encouraging my math fascination, I was able to do long division before I entered kindergarten and my sister had a similar experience with reading) and a much more enjoyable/inspiring early education experience. There is no one true way, but I know I will personally place any of my children in Montessori.

I don't remember most of my Montessori school experience (other than making baked apples and learning how to wrap a sari), but I know that despite going to a very competitive and exclusive K-12 school afterward, I was one of only two kids in my kindergarten class who could already read. I used to sit in the back of the room and read during nap time.

I also vaguely remember having a head start on math as well, which allowed me to breeze through the math games during computer time and play more advanced games like Rocky's Boots (a game where you assemble logic gates). Like the "January-born hockey player" thing in Outliers, I feel that going to Montessori school may have possibly given me a compounding head start in my computer education. Either that or it just gave me an inflated ego.

I was born and raised until age 12 in an eastern European country, and I will tell you that I was shocked when I first set foot in an American classroom in 6th grade - they were learning "longhand" division, something I did in grade 2.

What I take away from your anecdote combined with my personal experience isn't that the Montessori system is really awesome or that European schools rock, but that the public education system in America is really terrible.

> I was shocked when I first set foot in an American classroom in 6th grade - they were learning "longhand" division, something I did in grade 2.

I attended an American public school in the suburbs of New York 20-some years ago, and I very clearly remember learning long division in second grade. I remember it because I missed that day, and the teacher told me to learn it from a friend, which didn't work out so well.

The real trouble with public education in the US is that funding is almost entirely a function of where the school is located. Schools in wealthier neighborhoods will generally be good, and schools is poor neighborhoods will be awful. It's an absurd system.

Wow, you all must be genuises or something.

I went to a decent primary school in Australia and spend a year ( out of phase, so put forward into the second half of Year 3 and then Year 4) in the US at age 8. The thing that threw me at this age, that was part of the natural progression in that stage, was 'subtract with carry' (I'm pretty sure that was it).

I was 'put forward' past this interesting tidbit in my US school, assessed on a test that was almost entirely centeres around it, found wanting, and placed in the lowest class in school with about 7 streams. Each test I moved up a class. All up they regarded it as a triumph of American education :-)

Neither of these schools was terrible, either, and both had 'subtract with carry' around year 3. That's a far cry from longhand division.

No-one at my kids current school is doing long division in Year 2, either, although I have creeping doubts about its rigor.

I am hoping this pace continued for all y'all, so that you were doing calculus in Year 7, and proving exotic conjectures by Erdős in your first or second year of university, etc. :-)

I don't know about exotic conjectures by Erdos (nice one, btw), but in elementary school I distinctly remember in second grade my dad ripped my He-Man comic books because I failed a test in my math class. After that, two things happened: 1) I studied really hard for my final end-of-year exam and remember that we were dealing with simple algebra with variables (e.g. x - 5 = 3, find x), and 2) I never read comic books since (sad, I know).

I was really lucky to have a good math teacher in middle school who introduced us to logic and induction in seventh grade (in hindsight, he prepared me for linear algebra in college, and I haven't even heard the words "modus ponens" since middle school until I got to college, second or third year).

Unfortunately, in high school I decided to coast a little bit on my previous knowledge, so I didn't get good grades, but I didn't read comic books anymore anyway, and my dad couldn't just rip the computer apart because he is a techie too :)

Edit: the seventh grade teacher is in the US, he taught "magnet" (gifted) classes. So, not all hope is lost in the US. Good teachers and good classes exist even in public schools, we just need to bring up the standard.

I genuinely don't have a horse in this race, but I am far from convinced that learning concepts sooner is a recipe for long-term win. In many cases, I think you just get to the same place sooner at much higher levels of effort.

I think the GP's isn't to discredit the Montessori method via counter-example, but rather to show that people have been successful long before the Montessori method came about (as you mentioned) and will continue to be successful and productive long after the craze has died down.

At the same time, just because someone went to a Montessori school doesn't automatically mean they will be a successful person. My wife worked in a Montessori school a while ago and I can't say that I agree with their method of teaching - and this is coming from a guy who went to LAUSD from grade 6 and up.

I have a hunch (definitely not an assertion) that even if there are effects from Montessori school early on, they wash out over time, and the major factors afterward are socioeconomic status and habits of parents, and subsequent education (K-12). I guess I'm paraphrasing Freakonomics.

what type of people would be developed by combined approach of Montessori and Tiger Mom? :)

"You will stay at this desk and drill creative thinking or I will screech at you some more!"

wow my head just exploded at the thought of that :)

if you wanna write a blog post speculating on that, i'd gladly post it to HN

Are all of the examples male? Do Montessori schools help females too?

There are certainly some women on the list, but none of them appear to be founders: http://mariamontessori.com/mm/?page_id=571

I would attribute that to there being many more men founders, and that the vast majority of children attend other types of schools. Any crossover will be vanishingly small.

Perhaps creative minded people fit in better in Montessori schools and therefore credit the school with love of learning. Where's the proof that the Montessori method created the effect?

"Questions are the new answers" -- Socrates, 429 B.C.

I can't speak for the higher end of Montessori as I only attended when I was just starting out my career in education, but I found it to be rewarding for someone with a wandering mind, more so than the strict rote-based Catholic-influenced education I was subjected to further on. I also experienced British private school, and that was definitely better than public but without the scientific approach that I saw at Montessori.

It depends on the kid, I guess. I have an independent, creative side to me that also needs strong discipline to get anything done, so I'm grateful to have experienced both worlds. As far as current prices go, my divorced and randomly employed mother was sending both my sister and I there until we opted for the local public school as it fit better with our social lives, and I know there were some kids there in the same boat as us, but overall it was a good mix back then with the benefit of being in the hippy Cambridge of the '70s.

My advice would be to buy the best education for your kids that your money can buy, and unless your local school system is the pits, I wouldn't home-school them. There's a lot to be said for socializing at an early age and teaching the kids subjects in addition to the regular curriculum isn't against the law either. If the kids are smart, they'll put the regular coursework behind them and need the extra teaching anyways.

If the child is a dullard, don't waste too much money on them as you'll need it for later on for when they really fuck up.

>If the child is a dullard, don't waste too much money on them as you'll need it for later on for when they really fuck up.

In my experience, barring truly mentally challenged children, most children classified as 'dullards' by the education system just don't understand how to cope with the traditional model of teaching. Once someone takes the time to understand them and teaches them how to 'work the system' while still learning, or once they themselves realize that they can take things in their own hands, they shine. I have seen this time and again with cousins, friends and a bunch of kids my mom taught when I was growing up (She is a teacher).

So, if the public school teacher thinks your child is a dullard, it may be a much wiser investment in my opinion to consider educational institutes that will pay a bit more attention to the child's needs. In fact, it may not even take that, it may just take one good, concerned teacher to understand why the kid can't cope, gain their trust, and then teach them how to get the most out of the existing system.

All of this is IMHO, and I am not a teacher, just someone who has seen a lot of kids suffering because of how they were labelled as dullards and subsequently ignored for years by teachers AND given up on by parents. I have also seen 'dullards' change course and shine, once they had the right help.

I attended a pedagogical course in college.

This is exactly one of the topics of that course -- some children do not fit in.

Teacher gave an example of this one fat kid she had that was aggressive and obnoxious to everybody, while failing at tests and even skipping classes. She then began to treat him nicer and praise him for every stupid achievement of his, while talking to the other teachers to do the same -- the child had a miraculous recovery; as it happens he was being aggressive in response to how he was treated by other teachers and colleagues.

It's not that teachers don't know this, BUT the public school is overwhelmed by too many children. In my 1-4 grades I was in a classroom of 30 children (I'm not in the US, and that number nowadays is more like 20-25) ... how can you, as a teacher, attend to the special needs of 30 children, everyday?

Private schools have the resources and the capacity for smaller, more focused classrooms, with teachers that are better paid, and thus happier (well, at least in some cases). That's the only real difference that makes an impact, IMHO.

"most children classified as 'dullards' by the education system just don't understand how to cope with the traditional model of teaching"

Can't say I was ever classified as a 'dullard' but my grade school scores indicated that I was. Even when I went to college, after a stellar start, my performance deteriorated. After considerable time, I was able to go back to attend a world-class university and excelled, largely because I had learned what the goal actually was. When I was young, I mistook the 'traditional model of teaching' for learning, which was something I was quite good at. The goal of being the recipient of 'teaching' (ie, a student) is to achieve higher scores than everyone else. In fact, learning is potentially an impediment because it requires critical thinking, and you won't get far as a student with that. Some students understand the real goal and do quite well. And some may even learn at the same time. Many others are simply frustrated or turn off completely, as I did.

> In my experience, barring truly mentally challenged children, most children classified as 'dullards' by the education system just don't understand how to cope with the traditional model of teaching.

A classic example is dyslexia. One of the smartest women I know says she was classified as a special-needs student until her dyslexia was diagnosed. Since then she has become an accomplished lawyer, Oxford/Edinburgh masters student and an award-winning novelist.

I went too Montessori and I am sitting behind a damn desk administering systems...looks like I missed the awewsomness bus

I down voted you and the reason why is that I think your thought is a fair thought to have but you're not adding anything to the conversation. Please expand on why you missed the awesome bus, or tell us more about your experiences so we can be better informed about Montessori.

"What is 10 plus 1?"


"I'm sorry M'a'm, your son is an idiot"

Maybe I was too subtle. The message is: our yes or no school system fails to award perfectly reasonable thoughts such as that 10 plus one might be 101.

No, that's not reasonable.

Concatenation is not the reasonable answer to addition of numbers.

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