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The Miseducation of Maria Montessori

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The Miseducation of Maria Montessori

Her method was meant for the public. Then it became a privilege.

The New Yorker,

5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Only the parent of a preschool-aged child can know the desperation of looking for a fairly-priced Montessori program…

Editorial Rating



  • Eye Opening
  • Overview
  • Engaging


If you’ve ever wondered about the Montessori approach to early childhood education, Jessica Winter’s account – historical, current and often funny – is a good place to begin. She outlines Maria Montessori’s start in Rome’s insane asylums to the commercialization of her methods, to the modern parent’s conundrum where even the cheapest Montessori classroom is beyond financial reach. If it’s any consolation to the cash-strapped parent, Montessori’s methods are now an inescapable part of most preschools and kindergarten classrooms, and if Jeff Bezos has any say, it’ll be a bigger part of public education in the future.


The Montessori approach to education suggests that given the right environment, children are attentive, self-directed and disciplined learners. 

You’re probably familiar with at least some aspects of the Montessori approach to education, because almost every preschool or kindergarten incorporates the Montessori approach into its classrooms. These include child-sized furniture, hands-on learning and free-choice periods where the child can choose from among art, music or block-building stations. Even “circle time” – that memorable hour when kids sit cross-legged on the floor for a group lesson and sharing – started with Montessori. At its core, the Montessori approach suggests that children ought to have some degree of autonomy in their classroom investigations because the hard work of learning comes naturally to children.

In the late 1800s, schools were more like “prisons for children”: full of punishment and...

About the Author

Jessica Winter is a Brooklyn-based writer and an editor at The New Yorker. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Slate and Bookforum.

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