Jul 29, 2011

Was Drucker a Montessori Mafioso?

Any parents who’ve had to endure multiple hagiographies of Maria Montessori while touring prospective schools for their tot may find themselves wondering if the “Montessori method” really merits all the fuss. If famous alumni are anything to go by, the answer looks to be yes.

“Everyone thinks it would be great if we could better teach students how to innovate,” MIT’s Andrew McAfee wrote this week on the blog at Harvard Business Review. “So shouldn’t we be paying a great deal of attention to the educational method that produced, among others, Larry PageSergei BrinJeff BezosJimmy WalesPeter DruckerJulia ChildDavid Blaine and Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs?”

[EXPAND More]McAffee linked to an April Wall Street Journal article that identified a “Montessori Mafia” and suggested that “the Montessori educational approach might be the surest route to joining the creative elite.” The article lauded Montessori for having “a collaborative environment without grades or tests, multi-aged classrooms, as well as self-directed learning and discovery for long blocks of time.”

Although numerous Montessori sites (and McAfee’s piece) claim Peter Drucker as the product of a Montessori education, we don’t believe he ever actually attended. Rather, he went to Vienna’s Schwarzwald School as a little boy.

Nevertheless, Drucker did express great admiration for the work of Montessori. “For thousands of years people have been talking about improving teaching—to no avail,”Drucker wrote in his 1973 book Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. “It was not until the early years of this century, however, that an educator asked, ‘What is the end product?’

“Then the answer was obvious,” Drucker added. “The end product is not teaching. It is, of course, learning. And then the same educator, the Italian physician and teacher Maria Montessori (1870-1952), began to apply systematic analysis of the work and systematic integration of the parts into a process.”

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What do you think: Is the Montessori method all it’s cracked up to be—or, if not, what educational approach do you favor?

A typical Montessori classroom

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