Tuesday, June 23, 2015

All Advocacy Returns to Childhood: Education for a New World

Unlike any other area for advocacy, and unlike other areas of society that may learn to fight for their rights, the child will never learn to advocate for himself. Dr. Maria Montessori talks so much about the Social Question of Childhood as the focus for all intensive advocacy. In my training at the Montessori Institute of North Texas, we discussed Mr. A. M. Joosten's discussion of the Montessori advocacy for children, as a synthesis of Dr. Montessori's perspective on the needs for the society of the future. 

We arrive at the conclusion that the foundational being of the child is the most concerning social condition. The recognition of the child's human dignity, in its inalienable rights, is most essential in the early years, since the earliest form of the child will remain essentially unchanged. Yet, if the child does not find suitable conditions in life, in early life, the consequences will reverberate through all of society. The task of the child is the progressive actualization of human being. The child exists as becoming. Adults continue to develop, but it is only possible by formative self-construction which occurred in childhood. If we are to go on to further self-development, it is only possible because of potentialities developed in childhood. Without the conditions in early childhood, the adult does not arrive with a developed will and intellect, which will decide capacities for future development.

It is an important distinction, furthermore, that society does not make the child. The child makes herself-- yet we do not consider the tools that the child needs for proper development and task. She is the "forgotten citizen", according to Dr. Maria Montessori. What are the social rights of the child? They possess a sacred right to well-being. So many parents hold the rights of the child in their hands without knowledge of the proper needs of the child, and they do not recognize-- my partner in training, Katie, brought up the point that you must be licensed as a cosmetologist and a car driver and not as a parent. And as my other peer Talia said, even the parenting education efforts currently available are so remedial, although improving and expanding in some places. Where does a parent go to even find out about how to honor and support their children? The significance speaks to parents and to society on the whole. And how shall we come upon agreement about proper respect due to the child? According to Dr. Joosten-- and is this any surprise?-- "Society still lacks awareness of the autonomous value and function of man-the-child, of his power and strength, of his radical social importance," (Joosten, Toward Healthy Humanity, 68).

Joosten believes that one way of approaching the needs of the child is to stop considering the child a pre-adult, in a waiting room to become an adult. As we approach the child to help him, the priority must be the develop his own being as a child, not just to make him fit for childhood. This would be the revolution: to allow the child the freedom to develop his own personality as the foundation of society:

'Dr. Montessori did not 'invent' a new and more successful method to what we felt they should to learn, to make them behave as we felt they should behave, to make them be what we felt they should be. She did an could develop her method because she recognized in the child vital powers of development we no longer possess, capacitates that are no longer outs, attitudes not only potentially but actually superior to ours, needs… and dignity trampled on.' (Joosten, 70).

We need a new relationship between adult and child, a new paradigm, to consider that the child is the only source of re-creating a society for Peace. We focus on the problems in teaching and learning when considering education reform, but they are the resources of human nature and all they have to teach us. The child can give us much more than any other resource or point of research. The liberation of the human potential will come about through the respect and liberation of "The Forgotten Citizen", through supporting the proper development of the child.

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