Very often Gandhi is the one quoted as saying “if we are to reach peace in this world…we shall have to begin with children,” but if you look carefully at this quote, he is paraphrasing another educator already mentioned in Daily Metta; that’s right, he’s talking to, and summarizing the thought of Dr. Maria Montessori.
I came to Montessori as a philosophy in nonviolence education in early childhood only after studying Gandhi and nonviolence for several years. I knew vaguely that they had met and admired one another, and that Montessori had put sincere thought into the meaning of constructive program, already that’s a lot! But I only recently discovered how deep that connection really was. Montessori felt that her teachers would best be formed and trained by learning from none other than Gandhi himself. Can you imagine how amazed I was at reading this, being drawn first by Gandhi and then into the works and practical constructive aspects of early childhood education through the Montessori system? Here’s a little gem I found in a small book on “Basic Education” where Mahadev Desai, Gandhi’s secretary, offers more documentation than anywhere else of their famous meeting. He begins by saying that when Gandhi and Dr. Montessori met, “it was the meeting of a soul with a soul.” (The more I work with children, the more I realize how much Gandhi prepared me to understand Montessori’s goals and vision, and it thrills me.) About Gandhiji, Dr. Montessori wrote:
“Gandhi appears to me as a soul rather than as a man. He had been in my thoughts for years and years. I have followed him with my soul. His gentleness, his sweetness was such that it was as if in the whole world there existed no such thing as harshness; he gave himself freely and fully, as if no limits or obstacles existed; strong direct as a ray of sunshine. It seemed to me that this venerable being might greatly aid the teachers whom I am preparing. The teacher should be open-hearted and generous, should change his [sic] own soul that he may come forth from the harsh world of the adults, that world full of obstacles thwarting the life of humanity. May his meeting with our teachers aid us in the spiritual defense of the child in humanity.”
And his legacy goes on and on. May he continue to inspire teachers (and parents and families and friends of children) to this day and beyond!
Reflect on the above description of Gandhi. What did Montessori see in Gandhi? What did she want her teachers to do and to learn from him?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org