This happens because human beings are born naked, helpless, and – though superbly equipped cerebrally – utterly lacking in experience, therefore utterly ignorant. Their delicate sensing equipment is, as yet, untried.
Born with built-in hunger, thirst, curiosity, the procreative urge, they can only learn what humanity has learned by trial and error – by billions upon billions of errors. Yet humanity is also endowed with self-deceiving pride.
All those witnessing the errors of others proclaim that they (the witnesses) could have prevented those errors had they only been consulted. “People should not make mistakes” they mistakenly say. Motivated entirely by love, but also by fear for the futures of the children they love, parents, in their ignorance, act as though they know all the answers and curtail the spontaneous exploratory acts of their children, lest the children make “mistakes.” But genius does its own thinking; it has confidence in its own exploratory findings, in its own intuitions, in the knowledge gained from its own mistakes. Nature has her own gestation rates for evolutionary development. The actions of parents represent the checks and balances of nature’s gestation control.
Humanity can evolve healthily only at a given rate. Maria Montessori was fortunately permitted to maintain, sustain, and cultivate her innate genius. Her genius invoked her awareness of the genius inherent in all children. Her intuition and initiative inspired her to discover ways of safeguarding this genius while allaying the ignorant fears of parents. But the way was not always easy. Hers was the difficult frontiering task of genius.
Sunset, Maine – August 19, 1975
Forward from “Education for Human Development, Understanding Montessori” by Mario M. Montessori, Jr.