Magazine article Montessori Life

What the Race Really Meant

Magazine article Montessori Life

What the Race Really Meant

Article excerpt

This past April and May, I followed the exciting Race to the Top Commencement Challenge, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, with mounting exhilaration. The winning school would host President Barack Obama as its commencement speaker!

Of the 6 finalist schools (selected from over 1,000 applications), one was a Montessori school! Clark Montessori Junior and Senior High School in Cincinnati, OH, was the first public Montessori high school in the United States, graduating its first class of 22 seniors in 2001. Today Clark has 669 students in grades 7 to 12, and every member of the 2010 graduating class has been accepted to college. I was rooting for Clark. The entire Montessori community was rooting for Clark!

Now, wiririing (and its decidedly less illustrious counterpart, not winning), are not concepts we often address in a Montessori setting. Achievement and accomplishment are personally attainable goals that do not entail competition, and these are the outcomes and objectives we desire and envision for our students and the adults they will become.

So, what is it about getting caught up in an old-fashioned competition that feels so exhilarating? More endorphins are delivered to the central nervous system in the name of camaraderie and team spirit. These are very good things. In addition, one's sense of a team, clan, or tribe is heightened in direct proportion to the approaching conclusion of the challenge. It's a crescendo experience. In the case of good clean rivalry, everyone has his or her part to play. The competitors do what they do best, that which has brought them to the competition, and the rest of us show up and cheer them on!

In this instance, there were votes to be cast and support to be rallied for the Montessori favorite. AMS encouraged us all to send email encouraging friends and associates to visit the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge website and vote for Clark Montessori. Between April 26th and 29th, over 170,000 people registered their support for their particular candidate and the 6 finalists each submitted a short video and an essay. From the 3 high schools with the highest average ratings, President Barack Obama was to select the national winner.

The wave of solidarity peaked when the diverse, innercity Clark was named one of the 3 top schools. …

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