Magazine article Montessori Life

Multiracial Family Seeking Multiracial School: One Parent's Perspective

Magazine article Montessori Life

Multiracial Family Seeking Multiracial School: One Parent's Perspective

Article excerpt

As parents, we all want our children to have the best education possible - stellar teachers, state-of-the art facilities, a supportive school community, and the availability of loads of extra services and programs. A strong diversity program sets the good schools apart: A child is best educated in an open and accepting environment.

For me, diversity is important because I want my adopted and African American son, his classmates, and his teachers to feel he is like any other child in the room. Other parents may seek a diversity program to enrich the child's education or to further enlighten the child's view of the world.

Many Montessori schools are certainly making that effort. I recently toured schools in our area and found them oozing with multicultural awareness - from the library books on the shelves to the marketing materials they provided to the classroom celebrations of a variety of holidays. These schools should be applauded for their efforts in exposing their students to an assortment of adtures.

Among all the images and activities, however, I observed that most of the students appeared to be well-dressed and white, and most of the teachers were white too-this is in Chicago, a city teeming with people from all races, creeds, and income levels.

If the parents and the schools recognize that diversity is an important component of education, why do our student populations reflect something else, and what can we do about it?

There exists a flourishing Montessori community in our country today. Once considered an "alternative" way to educate children, the principles of Montessori education are not only well recognized, but this form of schooling has clearly become a popular choice. The impact can be seen not only among the thousands of private schools but also in the growing trend of Montessori education in public and charter schools.

Unfortunately, Montessori education in the United States has evolved into an education primarily for the well off. The majority of Montessori schools are private; therefore, students who attend come from families with the financial resources for tuition. Because in this nation race generally cuts across socioeconomic lines, private school populations tend to be less diverse. Unintentionally, but not because of situations beyond our control, our schools often do not reflect the general population.

If Maria Montessori were with us today, I wonder what she would think.

Let us not forget that it was Montessori who helped "slow" slum children overcome the stereotypes of special needs and poverty, as each of them passed their Italian public school examinations. Let us not forget that she overcame the disadvantage of being a woman at a medical school attended primarily by men. Let us not forget that she overcame the disadvantage of bearing a child without being married.

Like many members of minority groups, Maria Montessori no doubt experienced feeling like an outsider. At the same time she had the courage and confidence to surpass UTe expectations of her society.

She taught her young students respect for self, respect for others, and respect for the environment. These are timeless and powerfid messages that are foundations for a lifetime. These are also messages that we can use as a guide today in creating a more inclusive and diverse classroom for our children.

Given the inspiration of Maria Montessori's ability to overcome disadvantage and her guiding principle of respect, Montessori schools are uniquely positioned to become not just actors, but leaders in applying diversity principles to education. The time lias come for us to take charge. …

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