From the Executive Director’s Desk
– Guest Essay –
AMI/USA Human Rights & Social Justice Advisor
The Truths are Self-Evident
On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence to dissolve the connection between Great Britain and the thirteen colonies declaring the “United Colonies of North America” to be free and independent states. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This declaration embodies major ideas, people have certain inalienable rights including life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, all men are created equal, and as individuals we have a civic duty to defend these rights for ourselves and others. Also defined and protected in the founding document are stated freedoms.
The Declaration of Independence has given this nation a great legacy and at the same time achieving equality and freedom for all has been America’s greatest challenge. “It took the Civil War, which President Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address called “a new birth of freedom,” to vindicate the Declaration’s famous promise that “all men are created equal” (Rosen and Rubenstein). Still today, it is not unreasonable to adamantly question if equity and freedom has been realized for all. Some would say that our nation is more divided than ever. Yet, because of children, it is never too late to support and advocate for change.
We have time between the end of this unique and taxing 2020-2021 school year, and the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, to rest and reflect. The time around July 4th is prime time to determine how we will move forward to fully reimplement Montessori practices next fall. On this holiday I remember that Dr. Montessori “shed genuine light on social, political, scientific, and religious thought” (Peace and Education, p. ix). She was an activist. She advocated for equity within our human race. However, unfortunately, the Covid -19 pandemic showed us that equity can be an illusion. Many families and children did not have the resources needed to fully engage in the full educational process, Montessori or otherwise. As guides rose to face the challenges of the limitations of a virtual classroom, the children’s freedom of work choice, their freedom of movement, the freedom for them to work and collaborate with others, their freedom to socialize and build their social communities was interrupted.
As we prepare to welcome our children back to the physically open environments, we must prioritize her philosophy regarding freedom, and above all else, establish the conditions for it. As Dr. Montessori states, “freedom is a conquest and not a gift. No one can give freedom to anyone. It has to be conquered…” (Joosten). The Montessori concept of freedom means that each child, each person is navigating in our space and time under conditions that are favorable to their lives (Ramani). The fundamental freedom – the freedom of the individual – is necessary for the evolution of a species for two reasons: (1) it gives individuals infinite possibilities for growth and improvement and constitutes the starting point of man’s complete development; (2) it makes the formation of a society possible, for freedom is the basis of human society” (Education and Peace, p. 102-103).
Literally hundreds of July 4th holidays have been celebrated since the ideas of equity and freedom for all were birthed in America. Great minds have studied the concepts. Phenomenal orators have given speeches about them. The United States Supreme Court ruled on them, our Congress have written amendments to our constitution to ensure them, yet today many citizens are still marching and protesting to achieve it. It is truly time to look to our children. “Nothing can be achieved in the world of the adult that is not first achieved in the world of the child…” (Education and Peace, p. 74). From a very early age, [children] are capable of understanding and advocating for equity and justice for all. “It is not enough to preach and abstract principle or to attempt to persuade others. A ‘great work’ must be undertaken. An extremely important social task lies before us” (Education and Peace, xiii).
Rosen J. and Rubenstein, D. (2021) The Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. The Constitution Center. https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/white-papers/the-declaration-the-constitution-and-the-bill-of-rights
Montessori, M. Peace and Education. Montessori-Pierson Publishing. Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Joosten, A.M. Gateways to Montessori Theory (Chapter 6, p 70-80). Indian Montessori Center. Bangalore, India
Ramani, U. (2020) Freedom and Discipline Lecture. Montessori Institute of North Texas.
Debbie LeeKeenan, John Nimmo, and Filiz Efe McKinney “Reflecting on Anti-bias Education in Action: The Early Years”. Click here to view the film.
Sheri L. Bishop, M.Ed.
AMI/USA Human Rights & Social Justice Advisor
Ayize Sabater, Ed.D.
Executive Director, AMI/USA