International Day for Tolerance: Peace in the Montessori Environment

NAMC International Day for Tolerance Peace in the Montessori Environment children in circle.

If we are among the men of good will who yearn for peace, we must lay the foundation for peace ourselves, by working for the social world of the child.
—Maria Montessori
International Montessori Congress, 1937.

In 1995, UNESCO declared November 16 as an international day for tolerance, declaring tolerance as a fundamental and universal human right. Tolerance, they defined, respects and appreciates the diversity of all world cultures and condemns injustice, violence, discrimination, and marginalization. (UNESCO)

Fighting Intolerance with Education in the Montessori Environment

Of the five tenets laid down by UNESCO, the second most important point in fighting intolerance is education. As Montessori teachers, we already know that this is a huge part of Montessori’s plan for peace education.

An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking: it involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live.
—Maria Montessori
Education and Peace

Montessori’s vision for peace education begins at birth. Montessori felt that peace and respect start at home, arguing against practices such as separating mothers and newborns and championing practices such as creating a calm and peaceful environment within the home. When children experience peace first hand within a loving and nurturing environment, they are capable of being peaceful at a very young age.

NAMC International Day for Tolerance Peace in the Montessori Environment girls walking.

The principles of peace and tolerance are also seen in the Montessori learning environment. Montessori children are not segregated in any way in the classroom. For example, the multi-age classroom allows children to learn alongside their peers who are both older and younger than they are.

Montessori’s educational philosophy promotes independence and self-actualization through intrinsic motivation. This strengthens moral character and creates critical thinkers, both of which are necessary not only for questioning the status quo but also for finding solutions to problems.

Peace and harmony are modeled by the adults in the Montessori environment, and children are encouraged to solve problems through peaceful communication and conflict resolution strategies.

NAMC International Day for Tolerance Peace in the Montessori Environment hearts on clothesline.

Peace is the ultimate goal of Montessori’s cosmic education. Throughout the Montessori curriculum, children gain an appreciation for the diversity of life on earth. By studying similarities and differences found in botanical, zoological, geographical, and cultural studies, children see that all living things are connected and that people rely on each other for our basic needs, regardless of our color, ethnicity, gender identity, language, family structure, and socio-economic status. Through cultural studies, the individual and community are celebrated for both their similarities and their diversity.

Visit the following for additional resources on teaching and modeling tolerance:
Teaching Tolerance
Montessori for Social Justice
10 Tips for Teaching and Talking to Kids About Race
“Never too early to learn”: implementing a race-conscious, anti-bias approach in early childhood education
Our Big Work: Reflections on being Anti-Racist Montessorians

Works Cited
UNESCO. International Day for Tolerance, Background.

Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate


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