“Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.”
The path to world peace begins with education for the young child. The classroom is a microcosm of society at large. When children learn to be at peace with one another in this first environment, they can later be at peace as adults. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “If we are to create peace in our world, we must begin with our children.“
Children develop naturally and easily if they are allowed to follow their inner guide. Maria Montessori observed that if children are given an optimal environment where they can follow their own innate drive to learn, they then achieve a state of Normalization. This state is characterized by concentration, self-discipline and social grace as well as inner peace.
In a Montessori classroom, children as young as 3 years old are shown how to respect each other’s space and work. For example, a teacher will demonstrate how to observe another child working without touching or interrupting them. Children learn how to move in the environment without disturbing other's work. Children are given frequent lessons and practice on how to resolve conflict with others. They are coached on how to express their feelings and needs to others without violence. This gives the children the tools they need to resolve their differences and thrive peacefully.
Montessori education also emphasizes multicultural study. Children begin to see that people around the world have similar needs and wants – for family, shelter, friendship, education and security, though they pursue these in different ways. This study helps to diffuse fear and misunderstanding of other cultures. It also promotes that there is healthy variety in the world, that they do not need to conform to rigid ideals - children are supported to be individuals within a group.
These factors and experiences within the Montessori classroom begin to influence the children's interactions with people outside of the school and promote peace not only on the individual level but on the level of the community and beyond.
Marla Nargundkar, AMI Montessori Guide at Tree of Life Montessori School in Doraville/Atlanta, Georgia www.treeoflifemontessori.com