Magazine article Montessori Life

From Peace Seeds to a Flowering Tree: A Brief History of the Work of the AMS Peace Committee

Magazine article Montessori Life

From Peace Seeds to a Flowering Tree: A Brief History of the Work of the AMS Peace Committee

Article excerpt

Since the beginning of time, seeds of peace have existed in the hearts of humanity. Whether the seeds germinate or remain dormant depends largely on the environments and climates surrounding them. Over the last century, there have been a few people who have nourished these seeds of inner peace and, as a result, influenced many others to do the same. Two of those people are Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Maria Montessori. These leaders had deep respect for one another. Gandhi expressed their shared thoughts about the establishment of a lasting peace in a speech he gave at the Montessori Training College in London October 28, 1931. He addressed Montessori, who was in the authence:

You have very truly remarked that if we are to reach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won't have to struggle, we won't have to pass fruitless idle resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which, consciously or unconsciously, the whole world is hungering.

Our work as Montessori educators is to keep children's innocence alive and consciously nurture peaceful living skills as well as academic skills. The work of the AMS Peace Committee is dedicated to this mission. In the 1970s, Ginny Varga suggested that AMS have a peace conference in Dayton, OH. Attendees shared their visions of peace through dance, art, and other creative activities. In the early 1990s, the AMS Board, under then-president Betsy Coe, sought to define the essence of peace education as it relates to classroom practice and approved a position paper entitled "Holistic Peace Education." Dr. Ruth Corey Selman volunteered to serve as the AMS representative to the United Nations for many years and has inspired many of us to include UN study in our classrooms. The late Ursula Thrush formed the first Peace Task Force in 1991 at the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE), which greatly influenced their decision to include peace education at all levels of Montessori teacher education.

In 1993, Ursula Thrush hosted a mini-retreat in San Francisco for members of the MACTE Peace Task Force. Out of that meeting came the idea of hosting a peace retreat to bring together people interested in furthering Montessori's work of educating for peace. In August 1994, my husband, Dr. Jim McFarland, and I facilitated the first retreat, entitled "Open Your Heart in the Heart of the Rockies." This experience was a turning point: the individual peace seeds that had been germinating within each person exploded in the amazing light and energy generated at the retreat. Each of us, feeling affirmed and empowered, was encouraged to continue and further our work of educating for peace.

Soon after the retreat, Aline D. Wolf completed her pivotal book, Nurturing the Spirit in Non-Sectarian Classrooms (1996), which clearly described the difference between "the spirit" and "religion" and included concrete activities to nurture the spirit of the child in the classroom. This book spoke to the essence of peace education and helped release fear of using the word "spirit" as it relates to Montessori education.

In 1997, the AMS Board saw the need to have a board member oversee and coordinate the emerging ideas and activities related to peace education in the AMS community. I was asked to assume this responsibility, and when a formal Peace Committee was established in 2001, 1 continued as its chair.

To support the emerging enthusiasm for peace education, the Peace Committee established a separate Peace Fund, which was followed in 2000 by the establishment of a fund-raising vehicle called 101 People for Peace. Sunita Prakash oversees this ongoing fund, whose purpose is to further the work of conscious education for peace.

Dr. …

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