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Maria Montessori

  • The first idea that the child must acquire, in order to be actively disciplined, is that of the difference between good and evil; and the task of the educator lies in seeing that the child does not confound good with immobility, and evil with activity ...

  • No one can be free unless he is independent ... In reality, he who is served is limited in his independence ...

  • The greatest triumph of our educational method should always be this: to bring about the spontaneous progress of the child.

  • Environment is undoubtedly a secondary factor in the phenomena of life; it can modify in that it can help or hinder, but it can never create.

  • Order is ... the true key to rapidity of reaction.

  • Human dignity ... is derived from a sense of independence.

  • No one can help us to achieve the intimate isolation by which we find our secret worlds, so mysterious, rich and full. If others intervene, it is destroyed. This degree of thought, which we attain by freeing ourselves from the external world, must be fed by the inner spirit, and our surroundings cannot influence us in any way other than to leave us in peace.

  • No social problem is as universal as the oppression of the child.

  • ... all adults stand accused ... the society responsible for the welfare of children has been put on trial. There is something apocalyptic about this startling accusation; it is mysterious and terrible like the voice of the Last Judgment: 'What have you done to the children I entrusted to you?'

  • Adults have not understood children or adolescents and they are, as a consequence, in continual conflict with them.

  • ... adults look upon a child as something empty that is to be filled through their own efforts, as something inert and helpless for which they must do everything, as something lacking an inner guide and in constant need of inner direction. ... An adult who acts in this way, even though he may be convinced that he is filled with zeal, love, and a spirit of sacrifice on behalf of his child, unconsciously suppresses the development of the child's own personality.

  • One of the great problems facing men is their failure to realize the fact that a child possesses an active psychic life even when he cannot manifest it, and that the child must secretly perfect this inner life over a long period of time.

  • A child is a discoverer. He is an amorphous, splendid being in search of his own proper form.

  • ... in nature everything is transformed but nothing destroyed.

  • ... nothing is created or destroyed in nature ...

  • Deceit is a kind of garment that conceals the soul. It might even be compared to a whole wardrobe, so many are its guises.

  • Conventions which camouflage a man's true feelings are a spiritual lie which help him adapt himself to the organized deviations of society ...

  • A child is mysterious and powerful and contains within himself the secret of human nature.

  • ... A man builds himself through working. There can be no substitute for work, neither affection nor physical well-being can replace it.

  • The social rights of children must be recognized so that a world suited to their needs may be constructed for them. The greatest crime that society commits is that of wasting the money which it should use for children on things that will destroy them and society itself as well.

  • Society is like the guardian of a child who has squandered his patrimony. Adults spend money on themselves and build what they want, when it is obvious that a great share of their wealth should be destined for their children. ... Nature furnishes no examples of adults who devour everything themselves and abandon their own offspring to misery. ... When, because of its wastefulness, society has an urgent need of money, it takes this from schools, and especially from the lower schools that shelter the seeds of life. It takes it from these schools since there are no voices to defend them. This is one of humanity's worst crimes and errors. Society does not even perceive that it causes double destruction when it uses this money to build instruments of war. It destroys by preventing life and bringing death, but the two are the result of a single error.

  • The greatness of the human personality begins at the hour of birth. From this almost mystic affirmation there comes what may seem a strange conclusion: that education must start from birth.

  • The greatest step forward in human evolution was made when society began to help the weak and the poor, instead of oppressing and despising them.

  • ... if education is always to be conceived along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of man's future.

  • Love and the hope of it are not things one can learn; they are a part of life's heritage.

  • Education, as conceived today, is something separated both from biological and social life.

  • The world of education is like an island where people, cut off from the world, are prepared for life by exclusion from it.

  • We teachers can only help the work going on, as servants wait upon a master.

  • ... the greatest sign of success for a teacher ... is to be able to say, 'The children are now working as if I did not exist.'

  • The only language men ever speak perfectly is the one they learn in babyhood, when no one can teach them anything!

  • If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men.

  • The great constructive energies of the child ... have hitherto been concealed beneath an accumulation of ideas concerning motherhood. We used to say it was the mother who formed the child; for it is she who teaches him to walk, talk, and so on. But none of this is really done by the mother. It is an achievement of the child. What the mother brings forth is the baby, but it is the baby who produces the man. Should the mother die, the baby still grows up and completes his work of making the man.

  • Infancy is a period of true importance, because, when we want to infuse new ideas, to modify or better the habits and customs of a people, to breathe new vigor into its national traits, we must use the child as our vehicle; for little can be accomplished with adults.

  • Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.

  • If I am going up a ladder, and a dog begins to bite at my ankles, I can do one of two things — either turn round and kick out at the it, or simply go on up the ladder. I prefer to go up the ladder!

    • Maria Montessori,
    • in E.M. Standing, Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work ()
  • Order is not goodness; but perhaps it is the indispensable road to arrive at it.

    • Maria Montessori,
    • in E.M. Standing, Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work ()
  • The development of the individual can be described as a succession of new births at consecutively higher levels.

    • Maria Montessori,
    • in E.M. Standing, Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work ()
  • A vital force is active in every individual and leads it towards its own evolution.

    • Maria Montessori,
    • in E.M. Standing, Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work ()
  • It is easy to substitute our will for that of the child by means of suggestion or coercion; but when we have done this we have robbed him of his greatest right, the right to construct his own personality.

    • Maria Montessori,
    • in E.M. Standing, Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work ()
  • Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.

    • Maria Montessori
  • [On children's inner needs:] ... they say, 'Help me to do it alone.'

  • Education should no longer be mostly imparting of knowledge, but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentialities.

    • Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori, Italian physician, educator

(1870 - 1952)

Full name: Maria Tecla Artemesia Montessori.