Education and Peace - by Maria Montessori

my notes:

It is quite strange in fact that as yet there is no such thing as a science of peace, since the science of war appears to he highly advanced, at least regarding such concrete subjects as armaments and strategy

We must conclude that humanity’s achievement of world peace is linked to complex indirect factors, which are unquestionably worthy of study and capable of becoming the objects of a powerful science.

Man’s investigations of his own inner energies have left a vast abyss, and his mastery of them has been almost nil.

There is no other term but ‘moral chaos’ to describe our spiritual situation, wherein a man who discovers a virulent microbe and the preventative serum that can save many human lives receives great praise, but wherein a man who discovers destructive techniques and directs all his intellectual powers toward the annihilation of entire peoples is praised even more highly.

The simple life- eating only as much as necessary and no more, choosing a diet of fruits, vegetables and even raw food, taking exercise, plunging into life-restoring, natural activities- has become the goal of modern pleasure-seekers, those who want to live a long life and conquer disease.

Greed- a vice that is the equivalent in the moral sphere of sloth in the physical sphere, for both represent a form of hoarding and illusory enjoyment.

We live, in short, in a state of moral paralysis, in dark and suffocating shadows, and we often allow ourselves collectively to be carried away by statements that feed our illusions.

The adult defeats the child; and once the child reaches adulthood the characteristic signs of the peace that is only an aftermath of war- destruction on one hand and painful adjustment on the other- remain with him for the rest of his life.

The child is simply NOT a miniature adult.

Let us suppose now that the characteristics and goals of the independent life of childhood are not recognized and that the adult takes those characteristics that are different from his own to be mistakes on the part of the child and hastens to correct them.

The child who has never learned to work by himself, to set goals for his own acts, or to be the master of his own force of will is recognizable in the adult who lets others guide him and feels a constant need for the approval of others.

In order to unite all men as brothers, we would have to tear down all the barriers, so that human beings the world over would be like children playing in one vast garden. Laws and treaties are not enough; what is required is a new world, full of miracles.

Man today lies slumbering on the surface of the earth, which is about to swallow him up. What will he do?

Preventing conflicts is the work of politics; establishing peace is the work of education.

The impoverishment of one nation does not make another nation richer; rather, all nations decline.

We have conquered our physical environment and overcome our purely natural limitations. We have mastered invisible powers and taken the place of the Jupiter Tonans of the Greeks and the gods of the Hellenic peoples. But we are not yet fully aware that we have done so, and this is precisely what prevents us from becoming brothers in order that this superworld may become the Kingdom of Heaven.

What can we say of the perils that threaten all humanity because man, the king of the universe, trembles with fear and is so overcome with depression that he is tempted to do away with himself?

Yes, the world’s peoples are disorganized, and each individual thinks only of his own immediate well-being.

Men can no longer remain ignorant of their own natures and the world in which they live.

Those who want war prepare young people for war; but those who want peace have neglected young children and adolescents, for they have been unable to organize them for peace.

Society must recognize the importance of the child as the builder of humanity and come to have a profound appreciation of the psychic roots determining whether the mature adult will seek positive or negative goals.

For thousands of years Christianity and, before it, the great philosophies of antiquity have appealed to the feelings of love and brotherhood buried in the human soul.

If we study past wars, we see that they were the result of man’s crucial need to conquer others and to defend himself, and that although other solutions to mankind’s problems may have been possible, these wars brought certain advantages to one side at the expense of the other.

There is NOTHING anywhere in the world that cannot be produced and put to use. It seems evident to me that it would be easier to live without so many anxieties and to procure needed products from their places of origin than it is to conquer others and acquire material goods by force.

How has it happened that our level of human morality represents a step backward along the road to civilization?

Why are we urged to be heros, just as in the past, without our ideas about heroism having changed in the slightest?

This is the most interesting problem of our time: all of us today feel gratified to be a little bit abnormal.

Mankind creates its own laws, and it evolves. And conditions for the child are worsening as conditions for the adult are improving.

The unhappiness of man is the most fearful feature of the reality of our times.

The real danger threatening humanity is the emptiness in men’s souls; all the rest is merely a consequence of this emptiness.

It is significant that in this age of progress man has discovered within himself that form of moral sickness that goes by the name of an inferiority complex. Man, the creature who flies through the heavens, captures the music of the spheres, who is possessed of a power bordering on omnipotence, complains of being weak, ineffectual, and unhappy.

The whole earth is his domain, but his true kingdom is the one within himself.

Education is enormously important today, because man possesses much more than he knows, and much more than he can enjoy. He has everything! He must learn to appreciate what he has, to enjoy what he already possesses.

Education as it is ordinarily regarded plays no part in solving important social questions and is believed to have no effect on situations concerning humanity as a whole.

At what age does a man become a man - that is, a human being, a social being, a being claiming to have certain human rights?

It is obvious that we demonstrate a lamentable lack of conscience when we fail to recognize that the child is a personality with great human value and sacred social rights.

Yes, of course, we all love children, we love them a great deal, but we do not appreciate them for what they really are. We do not understand them.

The adult commits a serious error when he takes himself for the child’s creator and believes he must do everything for him. The adult regards the child more or less as an empty vessel that he must fill.


Harmony between the child and the adult, the creation of a place in the world for human beings who at present do not have one are goals that point to the work of reconstruction that must be undertaken.

What is the task of confronting education? It is above all the task of mending breaches, filling in gaps that are vast and serious.

Let us say it straight out - The child wants to do everything all by himself. But the adult does not understand this, and a blind struggle begins.

When he has freed himself of the oppressive adults who act FOR him, the child also achieves his second goal, working positively toward his own independence.

Individuality is the basic unit, the fundamental building block of a society, which is made up of many individuals, each functioning autonomously but associating with others for a common purpose.

Children’s characters change by means of a calm, constructive activity that develops their intelligence.

It has been said that man’s greatest delight is to possess things. NO! Man’s greatest delight is using them! Using them to perfect himself and at the same time to improve his environment.

Love impels the child not toward the possession of an object, but toward the work he can do with it.

Two paths lie open in the development of personality - one that leads to the man who loves and one that leads to the man who possesses.

Man does not take one or the other of these paths through his own free choice; the one he takes depends on whether he has developed normally or abnormally.

When individuals develop normally, they plainly feel a love not only for things, but for all living creatures. This love is not something that was taught; it is the natural result of leading the right kind of life.

The child who has felt a strong love for his surroundings and for all living creatures, who has discovered joy and enthusiasm in work, gives us reason to hope that humanity can develop in a new direction. Our hope for peace in the future lies not in the formal knowledge the adult can pass on to the child, but in the normal development of the new man.

The child developing harmoniously and the adult improving himself at his side make a very exciting and attractive picture.

Today’s social organization involves mechanisms of which the majority of mankind has no knowledge.

Changing the way history is taught in schools is not so important as studying the present structure of our society - a structure of which mankind remains totally unaware.

The victor today is not enriched by his victory; rather, the vanquished are a great burden upon him.

Nations that have returned to nationalism have been forced to break off many ties with other nations.

“ The principles of nationalism make it necessary to prevent people from leaving their own country, to put restrictions on the exchange of money, to promote in men an artificial, exaggerated attachment to their fatherlands by training them from birth to go along with what are essentially narrow national interests.

Why has such a violently coercive movement arisen in several countries? Because the ties among nations have come about only through superficial mechanisms that have had no underlying moral foundation to sustain them. Political internationalism has been based on the interests of only one sector of mankind and tends to foster a unity based on the elimination of the rights of the remainder of humanity and the destruction of their particular moral features.”

Contemporary man, the victim of his time, must become the master of his era. If men were prepared for their conditions of life, they would be in a position to control events rather than becoming the helpless victim of them, and they would be well on the way to social health rather than being overwhelmed by a continuous series of crises and afflictions.

The education that will lead the way to a new humanity has one end alone: leading the individual and society to a higher stage of development.

Life therefore can be regarded as an energy that maintains life itself.

Human energy, too, has appeared on earth to undertake and fulfil a specific mission.

But we might now ask ourselves: if animals labor so joyously, why do men not also take delight in their work? Man should be much happier than animals. His unhappiness is proof that there must be errors inherent in human society and in the supernature that humanity has constructed.

Man is not conscious of his mission, nor of the heights that he has reached. Humanity has fallen sick, like an organism suffering from a circulatory disease; man is weak and unhappy.

It is not enough to love in an abstract way.

The mistake arises when the most intimate needs of the individual young person are not satisfied.

Young people can become passionately involved in doing calm, serene, beautiful work that enables their young personalities to develop and find worthwhile goals.

Man must be inspired to seek universality until the day he dies.

But it was Christ who showed us what the child really is, seeing in him something new and surprising - the adult’s guide to the Kingdom of Heaven, the model the adult must imitate in order to change himself.

Nothing can be achieved in the world of the adult that is not first achieved in the world of the child.

We think the child is happiest when he is playing; but the truth is that the child is happiest when he is working.

The greatest delight of these children is doing tasks perfectly, and they busy themselves doing something all the time.

The child has his own way of working, a way different from ours that we must understand and respect.

The child must always be given work to do with his hands as he works with his mind, for the child’s personality has a functional unity.

We must investigate and discover the limits of the difficulties the child can handle and discover the level that keeps him most interested.

Children find it very hard to concentrate on spoken words, but they have no difficulty concentrating on objects.

It still is not widely recognized, however, that all schoolchildren in the traditional classroom are painfully bored, because their teachers set them tasks that are too easy and therefore fail to hold their interest.


The child alone can reveal to us the secrets of the spiritual life of man. And in order for this revelation to be received, it is necessary for adults to cease to exist, to empty themselves completely so that the child may enter the void and fill it.

Love is the instinct that guides our actions...Man’s errors stem from hatred.

Man must conquer the earth. If he has not developed normally, he must do so by means of violence and hatred. If he has developed into a truly normal man, he will find the happiness of healthy life in his effort. Man must obey the laws that rule his life and, because they are hidden, he must look for them.

In human society only religion, in which we find a summary of many mysteries, of factors unknown elsewhere, gives proof of any lofty concern for the human species, and that is why we often feel the need to call on religion to help.

Living creatures create a universal might say that life is the force that creates the world.

How then could man the intelligent being, the being possessed of a hand that is a free tool, an executive organ of his mind, not have a goal to fulfil in the world?

Man has a higher end, which is neither the enjoyment of material well-being nor even the survival of the species.

The fundamental goal of human existence is the creation of the environment.

Our observation of children has made us realize that work is man’s fundamental instinct and that the child can work from morning till night without ever feeling tired, as if his labor were part of the order of nature.

The child does his work without getting tired and proves to us that we have immense untapped energies.

Through his efforts to accomplish all this, man has transformed himself...He is more intelligent now, but the feelings that should accompany this increase in intelligence are still missing, and they cannot stir within him because his way of life is wrong. He is overcome with hatred and does not obey the laws of nature. Nobler feelings - awareness of the unity of all living beings, for instance - are very slowly appearing in him. But harmony has yet to be achieved.

The child must therefore find a teacher able to develop his higher instincts.

The single treasure of man, the raw material that promises to yield man everything, is human intelligence, an inexhaustible treasure.

The child has shown us the basic principle underlying the process of education, which he has expressed in the words “Teach me to do things by myself!”

Secondary school should be the gateway to a development of personality and social organization.

The school curriculum will always be an aid in education, but it must not be forced on mankind in the name of some unconscious goal.

Man today pays no heed to human personality and regards human society as a colony without individuals. He knows only dependence and submissiveness, which kill personality.

We adults live amid absolute disorder, and we have succeeded in making frightful chaos the basis of our organization of society.

A human being who cannot carry out his vital functions becomes sick, and we often find that children who are not allowed to develop normally suffer psychic illnesses.

Those who know how to do nothing else but amuse themselves fall victim to depression.

Religion should be presented in terms of God’s protection of the individual. The child has a guardian angel always watching over him, an angel who is definitely not a tyrant.

This conception is shared by adults who have not fully matured intellectually and who seek in religion only protection. In adults it represents a form of arrested development.

Schools do not prepare young people for social life but rather for earning a living.

We cannot keep a society that is threatening to fall to pieces intact with men whose only training is in a trade that will earn them a living. We need WHOLE PEOPLE.

Young people at present cannot acquire social experience because they are forced to devote all their time to studying.

The human personality must be given a chance to realize every one of its capabilities. Men are better than they appear to be.

In ancient days the philosophers, men who knew how to rise above their narrow personal concerns, were aware that men can call one another friend, can understand one another, and can be at peace with one another.

Let us remember that every family has children and that in every family this principle of love is therefore at work. When a child is born into a family, his mother becomes a more beautiful woman and his father a better man; and if the child already creates this atmosphere of love simply by coming into this world, he then goes on to disclose those laws of growth that reveal the roots of human personality and human greatness to those who observe him carefully. The child possesses immeasurable abilities and unsuspected powers of intelligence. His heart is so sensitive to the need for justice that we must call him, as Emerson also did, ‘the Messiah who forever returns to dwell among fallen men, to lead them to the kingdom of Heaven’.

We see the figure of the child who stands before us with his arms held open, beckoning humanity to follow.