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Under Construction I am not very organized or methodical in my reading. Web pages seem like a good way to keep track of the various threads I'm pursuing so I can find my way back to the main one--I'm trying to understand the context in which Montessori worked, so I can better understand what she wrote and where she got her ideas. To keep track of my reading, I write down quotes I find interesting and add thoughts in brackets as they occur to me. My goal is to one day have more notes than quotes on these pages, and maybe even develop something coherent and interesting. Until then, the "under construction" icon will remain as a warning for those who might mistakenly think there's something readable on these pages.

Historical Materialism

[Lots of quoted text and a few notes relevant to Italian historical materialism]

"To describe the dominant tendency in late nineteenth-century thought as materialism was obviously a crude simplification. Few serious thinkers of any period have been true materialists... 'Mechanism,' on the other hand, was a rather more accurate characterization: it suggested the prestige of explanations drawn from the Newtonian physical universe and in particular from the recently developed field of electricity. Similarly the term 'naturalism' evoked the biological explanations that had come increasingly into vogue as the nineteenth century advanced. This had been notably the case since the triumph of Darwinism in the 1860's." (Hughes, 1977, p. 36)

[Labriola was heavily influenced by Hegel and Herbart. See]

[The Spaventas were not only mentors and patrons of Croce, but of Labriola as well:

"When it came time for Antonio to go to the University of Naples at age 18, his family could not support him. Help came from Bertrando Spaventa (1817-1883), the university's most eminent philosophy professor. A teacher in Montecassino during the 1840s, Spaventa had come to know Labriola's father. In 1861, the year Antonio began his university studies, Spaventa found a high school teaching position for Francesco Servio in Naples, and the whole family moved there. The professor and his politician brother, Silvio (1882-1893), also managed to place the precociously brilliant Antonio in the prefecture of police. Money worries continued to haunt Antonio's father. In a December 1863 letter of appreciation to Silvio Spaventa, he lamented "the most meager fortunes" that obstructed his son's path."

Early in his career, Labriola adopted the conservative views of Silvio Spaventa. He gradually became moved toward socialism. In an 1890 letter to Engels, he credited his Hegelian education to his to turn to socialism" Though politically conservative (Silvio Spaventa was "the leading theorist of the conservative Historic Right"), the Spaventas were Hegelian.

(Drake, 2003, p. 57)

"Labriola had been probably the first professor in a European University to take Historical Materialism as a subject for his academic lectures, his first course on Marxism having been delivered in 1889." (Piccolli, 1922, p. 71)

"During the nineties the University of Rome was considered by many to be a seedbed of Marxist thought. Socialist philosopher-statesman Antonio Labriola was one of those who lectured there. A growing number of radical socialist periodicals appeared, and a survey of two hundred leading intellectuals in 1895 found that two thirds favored socialism to some degree--more than three quarters of the scientists among them expressing complete support. Among socialists deputies there was a high proportion of physicians and university professors, including a professor of anthropology. According to philosopher Benedetto Croce, to have been indifferent to socialism at the time was a sure mark of intellectual inferiority." (Kramer, p. 36).

"...The 'Rivista di filosofia scientifica' [from 1881 to 1891] under the editorship of the psychiatrist Enrico Morselli... remained predominantly positivistic, though often it gave manifestations of naturalism and materialism. An example of this was Giuseppe Sergi... A pure materialist was Cesare Lombroso who contributed to the diffusion of the ideas of Jacob Moleschott..." (Garin and Pinton, 2007, p. 990).

"In the autumn of 1902 [Montessori] enrolled for a degree in philosophy, in particular attending the lectures of Antonio Labriola, which had become a meeting point for young progressives within the university." (Babini, et al., 2000, p. 17)

In 1898, at age 28, Montessori "was sent to Germany as Italy's representative at the International Women's Congress where she was barred because she professed Socialism."

(Education: Return of Montessori, 1930, p. 1)

"The 'Children's House' is the first step toward socialization of the home. The inmates find under their own roof the convenience of being able to leave their little ones in a place, not only safe, but where they have every advantage...

"We are all familiar with the ordinary advantages of the communistic transformation of the general environment. For example the collective use of railway carriages, of street lights, of the telephone, all these are great advantages. The enormous production of useful articles, brought about by industrial progress, makes possible to all clean clothes, carpets, curtains, table-delicacies, better table-ware, etc. The making of such benefits generally tends to level social caste. All this we have seen in its realization. But the communising of persons is new. That the collectivity shall benefit from the services of the servant, the nurse, the teacher--this is a modern ideal.

"We have in the 'Children's Houses' a demonstration of this ideal which is unique in Italy or elsewhere. Its significance is most profound, for it corresponds to a need of the times. We can no longer say that the convenience of leaving their children takes away from the mother a natural social duty of first importance; namely, that of caring for and educating her tender offspring. No, for to-day the social and economic evolution calls the working woman to take her place among the wage-earners, and takes away from her by force those duties which would be most dear to her! The mother must, in any event, leave her child, and often with the pain of knowing it to be abandoned. The advantages furnished by such institutions are not limited to the laboring classes, but extend also to the general middle class, many of whom work with the brain. Teachers, professors, often obliged to give private lessons after school hours, frequently leave their children to the care of some rough and ignorant maid-of-all-work. Indeed, the first announcement of the 'Children's House' was followed by a deluge of letters from persons of the better class demanding that these helpful reforms be extend to their dwellings.

"We are, then communising a 'maternal function,' a feminine duty, within the home. We many see here in this practical act the solving of many of woman's problems which have seemed to many impossible of solution. What then will become of the home, one asks, if the woman goes away from it? The home will be transformed and will assume the functions of the woman.

"I believe that in the future of society other forms of communistic life will come."

(Montessori, 1912/1964, pp. 65-66)

"Social man is natural man yoked to society. But if we give a comprehensive glance to the moral progress of society, we shall see that little by little, the yoke is being made easier, in other words, we shall see that nature, or life, moves gradually towards triumph. The yoke of the slave yields to that of the servant, and the yoke of the servant to that of the workman."

(Montessori, 1912/1964, pp. 21-22)

"The picture of the laborer, extolled by Marxist theory, has now become part of the modern conscience. He is seen as the producer of wealth and well-being, an essential partner in the great work of civilized living. Society has come to recognize his moral and economic value, and to accord to him the means and conditions needed for his work, as a matter of right."

(Montessori, 1995, p. 16)

"In terms of external politics, she accepted official government financial support for her training centers and schools but would not accept government financial control or interference. While she took official government support, she would not lend her name, nor her method, to political party politics or ideologies. In Barcelona, she was supported by the municipal government and the Catalan regional government but stayed aloof from the politics of regional autonomy and separatism. In the Vienna of the 1920s, socialists operated the leading Montessori school, but Montessori did not espouse socialism. In Italy, she accepted Fascist support, met with Mussolini, and received official recognition from the regime; but she did not accept Fascist ideology, and she rejected political control. While Jane Addams served on the Chicago Board of Education and organized her ward politically and while John Dewey was closely identified with progressivism and liberalism, Montessori was not directly involved in partisan political activities. The Montessori movement was not directly involved in partisan political activities. The Montessori movement and method were not tied to a particular ideological or political persuasion. When she did get involved in political conflict, as in Italy in 1934, it was when she believed political authorities such as the Italian Fascists were interfering in the application of her method. She believed her method transcended and was above politics."

(Montessori & Gutek, 2004, p. 38)

"There is a pedagogy which I call individualistic and subjective, which, granted the generic conditions of human perfectibility, constructs abstract rules by which men, who are still in a period of formation, may be led to be strong, courageous, truthful, just, benevolent, and so on through the entire extent of the cardinal or secondary virtues. But... can subjective pedagogy construct of itself a social background upon which all these beautiful things ought to be realized? If it constructs it, it simply elaborates a Utopia.

And, in truth, the human race, in the rigid course of its development, never had time nor occasion to go to the school of Plato or of Owen, of Pestalozzi or Herbart. It has done as it has been forced to do. Considered in an abstract manner, all men can be educated and all are perfectible; as a matter of fact, they have always been perfected and instructed as much as and in the measure that they could, granted the conditions of life in which they were obliged to develop... Real morality always presents itself as something conditioned and limited, which the imagination has sought to outgrow, by constructing Utopias, and by creating a supernatural pedagogue, or a miraculous redemption...

From what intuitive elements of experience could the hog merchant of Chicago, who furnishes Europe with so many products as a cheap rate, extract the conditions of serenity and intellectual elevation which gave to the Athenian the qualities of the noble and good man, and to the Roman citizen, the dignity of heroism? What power of docile Christian persuasion will extract from the souls of the modern proletarians their natural reasons of hate against their determined or undetermined oppressors? If they wish that justice be done, they must appeal to violence; and before the love of one's neighbor as a universal law can appear possible to them, they must imagine a life very different from the present life, which makes a necessity of hatred...

Ethics then reduces itself for us to the historical study of the subjective and objective conditions of how morality develops or meets obstacles to its development. In this only, that is to say, within these limits, we can recognize some value in the affirmation that morality corresponds to the social situations, and, in the last analysis, to the economic conditions."

(Labriola, 1908, pp. 208-210)