In her book, Tomorrow’s Children: A Blueprint for Partnership Education in the 21st Century, Riane Eisler describes a Partnership education system as one that nurtures flexibility, creativity and the ability to think critically - skills needed to meet the challenges of our rapidly changing, technologically oriented, world. The content of Partnership education consists of structure (the organization of decision-making and teaching roles), process (mutually respectful relationships that invite the child to engage in learning in their wholeness), and content (experiences and narratives that enable young people to deeply understand their place in culture, history and the natural world). Domination-based practices that preclude feelings of safety for students and that keep students striving to fit within pre-defined ways of learning are absent.
In this episode, Cherri Jacobs Pruitt interviews Tim Seldin about how Montessori Education is an international model of a thriving Partnership education system. This interview will leave you inspired and with a blueprint for embracing Partnership education as a key lever in creating a world that values caring, nature, and shared prosperity.
Inside Montessori documentary
Center for Montessori Research, University of Kansas
City Montessori School, Lucknow, India
Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future, Riane Eisler
Raffi, Tomorrow’s Children (song)
Resilience, Rising Appalachia
Support the show
Welcome to the Power of Partnership podcast. I'm Rihanna Eisler, president of the Center for Partnership Systems. This podcast brings you voices from the partnership movement People using partnership practices to build a world that values caring nature and shared prosperity. The Power of Partnership podcast is hosted by Cherry Jacobs Pruitt, a health policy and partnership scholar. Today, cherry interviews Tim Seldin, author, educator and president of the Montessori Foundation and chair of International Montessori Council. And now on to the PLP podcast showing how we can nurture the love of learning in all children.Speaker 2:
Welcome, tim, and thank you so much for joining us for the Power of Partnership podcast. I'd like to begin by asking you to share the difference between education systems that are really grounded in partnership ethos versus those types of education systems that really come from a very entrenched domination ideology or focus.Speaker 3:
Well, there are very few systems in the world that are not teaching children on the basis of domination. I mean, the assumption is that children are lazy and won't do what they need to do unless somebody either bribes them or coerces them. So there's normally a government involved and has ideas about what children need to know, and some of that has to do with literacy and skill with arithmetic, and some of it has to do with being a good citizen or patriotic and obedient, but I'd say domination is the norm. Now there are degrees. We don't see too many schools that cane children in public these days, although it does happen and I have seen it. We don't see the, the DUNTS-HASSes and the sitting kids in the corner, but sending kids to the office or suspension or, frankly, living in fear. I mean the average modern American public school has a security guard and has some kind of a metal detector and there are limited ways of getting in and out and they live in fear of someone coming in and shooting. I'd say that, see, I'm not suggesting we're creating that dominator culture, but the kids are certainly experiencing a culture that's not one of safety and security and freedom from fear and again, I don't blame the schools for that, but it is really sad that so many schools have to do it. I think also, just in a normal public school or many private schools, I imagine, there may be a PA system where you're hearing announcements throughout the day and you know, will Johnny Jones, please come to the office? Or remember today is hopscotch day and you all need to bring your tickets for the big game tomorrow to whatever, and this just interrupts children's concentration and sense of being able to just quietly do their work or to really attend. So it's always amazing to be. We're talking so much in education these days about executive function skills, which is essentially the ability to stay focused, to follow through, to organize your own time, to resist temptation and so forth. But we throw so many obstacles. There are schools that are child honoring and that very deliberately try to create a culture where we're not doing that. So I think in part you really got to go to the deeper question what does it take to create a partnership school? So again, rian Eisler, in her thinking, talks about needing three things A partnership structure, a partnership process and a partnership content. A monastery has all three. Specifically, a partnership structure means that the way the school is organized, its policies have got to be oriented to seeing each child as a universe of one and they recognize they learn in different ways and learn at different paces and they have different interests. And yes, there are things that in our society, at this particular time in history, there's skill, knowledge that we would expect a well educated human being to understand or to be able to do. There are also things that kids need to learn, but kids don't learn at the same pace and they don't learn the same way. And anyone who thinks you can teach a course day by day and you're going to actually achieve a reasonable level of knowledge across the board unless you stack the deck by gathering together kids who are good at doing school, it's really not thinking very clearly. It's just not what happens. You get a bell curb of achievement. In Montessori, we recognize kids are different. We recognize that whatever we do with kids, some of them are going to be absolutely in tune with it and they'll ring like a bell. They'll be excited, they'll be absolutely fascinated, they want to learn more. And there'll be other kids who are okay and other kids who really are turned off and or resistant or anxious or feel phobic about that. Recognizing that people learn in different ways and different paces. Part of what you're trying to do is create a relationship where the child is ready to learn. That means as much as anything else. They have to feel safe in front of their friends, because what causes them to be in a different way, what causes most stress in school, is not the teacher. It's not the teacher causing most of the pain. It's the other students in and outside of school bullying, whatever you want to call it the laughing, the snickers, the dirty looks, and so creating a culture where kids really don't do that to each other is essential. Obviously, to get to that culture, you need to have a system that really values that culture. Partially, we do it by having multiple ages together to first allow kids to learn from older kids, because every kid wants to do what the big kids can do. They're all fascinated by the big kids. Secondly, it's really good for a kid to be in that position of entering the experience, the middle of experience and the oldest in the experience. So we design our schools around children and our policies of, again, how we structure the day. We have kids in a community where there's minimal turnover from one year to the next and a, shall we say, development of a class culture or a community culture that doesn't get torn apart when we have the summer break. And, by the way, I don't know why we have a summer break because we're no longer sending the kids off to the country to help with the harvest, but we do do a summer break and everyone's used to it and that's what they think has got to happen. And then we've blown the lost of learning after three months of basically watching cartoons or doing whatever they do during the summer. Why can't those recreational things be built into the school day, the school year? I don't know. Why can't kids take vacation when they want to take vacation with their families? I don't know. You get a certain number of days of school, you accomplish a certain amount. So again, I think it's all about systems and to do this correctly you have to have a real plan for preparing your teachers, and you've got to overcome a lifetime, in most people's cases, of being indoctrinated into a totally different culture and a totally different idea of how children relate to each other and how children relate to adults and how school is done. And that's hard. I mean, we all swear to ourselves as parents when we've got kids we're going to do it differently than our parents did. And then we have kids and we get tired and frustrated. We hear our mother or father's voice coming out of our mouths and we realize, oh my God, I've become my mother, so helping teachers to learn how to do it in a totally different way, which is not only how to, how to evaluate learning and how to to report on learning, to the administration, to the family, to the student, but it's also on how do you facilitate a child's love of learning. How do you, how do you inspire a sense of wonder? How do you get them really interested? How do you get them? I mean, they need to move. Nice, the last thing that that Rand talks about, though, in addition to partnership structure, partnership process and we've only glanced on those two things is partnership content, and, for what it's worth, montessori comes the closest of anything we know now in terms of covering the content that Rianne speaks about in tomorrow's children, and we do it imperfectly, I mean. One of the reasons why I found her book really interesting is that she took Montessori. She mentions Montessori again and again and again as a point of departure and suggests other things that one could do, and as a Montessori teacher, educator and researcher, I certainly find what Rianne imagined back when she wrote that book to be exciting and important, and one of the projects she's asked us to begin at the Montessori Foundation is to try to get people from both within the Montessori educational community, which is pretty large 100,000 educators in the US and anyone from the outside who's interested, to begin to try to take the ideas that she wrote about in that book. We hope there'll be a second edition updating it sometime in the near future, but even if they don't, rianne, in her various books, most recently Nurturing our Humanity, really speaks about things that children ought to know. Children ought to have access to it, whether it's about the bonobo or about you, know the history of humanity and what archeology is revealing to us? As Margaret Mead was asked and answered once, you know when the civilization began, and she said it's when we find the first skeletal remains of a femur that was broken and healed, because for that to happen, the people of the clan had to care enough to bring water and to provide food for this person until they were able to heal, which would have been an extended period of time. That's an important example of what children need to know. Has there been violence in human history? Of course. Is there violence in the world? Yes, are we capable of something better? Yes, and that's what we're trying to do is teach children not just about it in theory. We want to teach them to live it, to do it every day, just as second nature.Speaker 2:
Can you speak a bit about the partnership based systems of education and the preparation that they're providing our youth our children and youth for being successful adults, for being able to be functioning adults in this rapidly evolving technologically oriented culture?Speaker 3:
Well, again, I have seen very few schools I would call partnership-oriented other than Montessori schools, but I have seen some and the common thread that I see across them is young people who look at those schools as the best educational experiences they had, whether they attended them only for a few years or all the way that they encouraged them to find their own voice, to think for themselves, to think deeply, to think outside of the box. So they're usually kids who feel like they have agency in their life, they were given choice, they were given respect. They seemed to have really good people skills. They certainly tend to be more oriented to thinking outside of the box and initiating projects and coming up with novel solutions. So if you Google, for example, the word Montessori mafia, you'll come up with many tens of thousands of articles, mostly from the world's financial press and business press, talking about the uncanny number of innovators and leaders around the world who attribute their Montessori education to what they are. Somebody suggested it's almost like it was a conspiracy, which is where the mafia came in, but I think that basically you see higher levels of mental health. They may or may not have the highest test scores, but the level of mental health and happiness seems to be much, much higher. So I think that's some of what I have sensed over my years I mean certainly running a Montessori school myself for almost 50 years now. I've rarely had to deal with the discipline problem of any significance, and normally when a child does do something inappropriate, that just becomes an opportunity for a real discussion and a moral lesson among the people affected, where they figure it out together instead of simply punishing somebody.Speaker 2:
So, tim, what next for policymakers, educators, parents, students? What needs to happen to transform education systems across the world to partnership-based models such as Montessori?Speaker 3:
Well short. I can tell you that most colleges of education in America from what I have been told and from what I've heard from attending meetings with the deans of these schools of education they're well aware of modern brain research. They know that the way schools are traditionally organized are not logical. They're inconsistent with what would be best practice. They're desperately trying to help teachers to learn how to make change and what they say is we send these young people out into the classrooms and they very quickly become disillusioned because they get there and they're told this is what you're going to teach and this is the pacing guide you're going to follow and this is the test you have for the pair of kids to take and this is the consequence if your kids don't look good. It's very, very difficult. I think that Go ahead. We work on it in multiple ways. We look at it from the point of view of trying to help the people who are making the decisions at schools the people in the state legislatures, the people in the state departments of education, the local school board, the principals. We're trying on the one level to help them to see there is another, better way. There's a very interesting documentary that was made about Montessori for that purpose just a few years ago, called Inside Montessori, and I certainly recommend anyone who's listening to this, who's seriously interested in learning more, get a hold of that documentary. It can be streamed online. Inside Montessori attempts to explain Montessori to non-Montessorians and it does so in a way that's oriented to the inner cities and the rural poor and to underserved populations, showing how Montessori is being used around the country in public and private settings to make a real difference in the lives of children. So first you have to get people to at least be aware. Something else might be part of the answer. Secondly, we've got to get more research. We've got some good research out there, but it's usually done by people who have a direct connection to Montessori, which is obviously going to be suspect. So we need more and more research done on fully implemented Montessori programs by people who are dispassionate and objective outside evaluators, and that's beginning to happen. There's a research center at the University of Kansas, for example, that has a national journal of research done in the United States. Other countries have been doing this far longer than we have. Thirdly, we need to try to influence our universities, our schools of education, to help them to understand that if they really want to help their teachers to learn how to do it, this may not be the only thing they can do, because most of the programs their teachers, teacher graduates, will go into will not be Montessori. But increasingly we're seeing universities setting up or affiliating with Montessori teacher education programs to give them a holistic systems approach, because if you train teachers correctly, there's a reasonable chance they'll know how to create and sustain these kinds of programs. Another thing we have to do is we have to reach parents, because you know our public schools are really run at the will of the families. If we really want to do something, we've got to reach parents to help them to again begin to understand that really are time tested, globally tested. Every different culture I mean every country in the world except North Korea has Montessori schools. Some of the biggest schools in the world are Montessori schools. Next, look up the Guinness Book of World Records the city Montessori school. The lockdown in India is 46,000 students, I think, now under one administrative control. So this is something that the rest of the world is really running with very quickly, and it's America that's the most resistant, or it's certainly among the most resistant. We'd like to see it grow faster than it is now, but the more parents understand it, the more likely we are to get the kind of change. And whether they call it Montessori or they unpack it and say these are things we want in our schools, again, there's no one right way to educate a child. The best schools design for differences and the best schools see each child as a unique human being. So we're not suggesting that one thing is right for everybody, but we do think that if we're going to survive as a species, we better be teaching children how to live together in some kind of peace and mental health.Speaker 2:
Wow. Thank you so much, Tim, and thank you again for being here to share all your wisdom and expertise. I wondered do you have any additional final words you'd like to share with our audience today?Speaker 3:
Well, graffie the musician children's musician had a song called Tomorrow's Children. You can see it on YouTube and in it he wrote it in honor of Reanne and her late husband, david Lloyd. And in this song, tomorrow's Children, he talks about a world in which children are sitting on the beach, living in harmony and reading Eisler. My advice would be one read Reanne Eisler, try to understand that. This is a very practical set of ideas. It's not just scholarly. It can be applied in your family, it can be applied in your business, you can be applied in your life. It's not just port noise complaint, it's not just an awful. It's a tangible attempt to look at the true history of the world, of evidence that humans might be able to find a way forward. And she uses examples of not only research but tangible instances where people in the real world are making it different. I think the reason why you had me on at Reanne's request is because she found, over her own experience as a mother and then as a grandmother, that, of all the schools in the world, the Montessori schools seem to be incredibly well in harmony with her ideas, and we agree. She explains Montessori in my opinion as well, if not better, than we do so. In last, I would say to anyone who's listening, who's interested, not only go see the movie inside Montessori or stream it on your computer. Find a good Montessori school and see if they can arrange a time for you to come and sit and quietly observe and just see if you like what you see and, as I said, if you like what you see and you want to learn more, I'm sure that the local school would help you. Or go to the Montessori Foundation. Our website is wwwmontessoriorg and we have a real telephone number and we're here to help.Speaker 2:
Wonderful. Thank you so much. Before we end the episode, I want to make sure that our listeners know that all of the resources that Tim has shared and links and documentaries that he's mentioned will be provided in the show notes for today's episode, and with that I want to thank you again, Tim, for joining us.Speaker 3:
My pleasure.Speaker 2:
Thank you for listening to the Power of Partnership podcast. We're grateful to Rising Appalachia for the use of resilience as our power of partnership theme music. If you would like us to feature your partnership story or if you would like to be a proud sponsor of the Power of Partnership podcast, please contact us at center at partnershipwayorg. We hope you enjoyed this episode and will leave us a review on your favorite podcast channel. And don't forget to subscribe to be notified when new episodes are released every other Tuesday. I'm Cherry Jacobs Pruitt. See you next time on the Power of Partnership podcast.