Buckminster Fuller, an actualizing genius, knew of the importance of making mistakes, of failure. In our era mistakes and failure are frowned upon, shamed, and even punished (though we could easily show that shaming is a barbaric form of punishment). So few educators sees the value of mistakes, no doubt because of the shaming they endured when making those mistakes as children.
Our guest on podcast 23 is Steven Arnold, Montessori educator, talking about his work with teens. During the conversation he returned time and again to the importance of mistakes. I am sure he would fully endorse Fuller’s words below.
Fuller recognized one of the few actualizing geniuses in education, Maria Montessori. Here’s his tribute:
AN APPRECIATION OF MONTESSORI
All children are born geniuses. 9999 out of every 10,000 are swiftly, inadvertently, de-geniused by grown-ups. This happens because human beings are born naked, helpless, and – though superbly equipped cerebrally – utterly lacking in experience, therefore utterly ignorant. Their delicate sensing equipment is, as yet, untried. Born with built-in hunger, thirst, curiosity, the procreative urge, they can only learn what humanity has learned by trial and error – by billions upon billions of errors. Yet humanity is also endowed with self-deceiving pride. All those witnessing the errors of others proclaim that they (the witnesses) could have prevented those errors had they only been consulted. “People should not make mistakes” they mistakenly say. Motivated entirely by love, but also by fear for the futures of the children they love, parents, in their ignorance, act as though they know all the answers and curtail the spontaneous exploratory acts of their children, lest the children make “mistakes.” But genius does its own thinking; it has confidence in its own exploratory findings, in its own intuitions, in the knowledge gained from its own mistakes. Nature has her own gestation rates for evolutionary development. The actions of parents represent the checks and balances of nature’s gestation control. Humanity can evolve healthily only at a given rate. Maria Montessori was fortunately permitted to maintain, sustain, and cultivate her innate genius. Her genius invoked her awareness of the genius inherent in all children. Her intuition and initiative inspired her to discover ways of safeguarding this genius while allaying the ignorant fears of parents. But the way was not always easy. Hers was the difficult frontiering task of genius.
Sunset, Maine - August 19, 1975
Forward from "Education for Human Development, Understanding Montessori" by Mario M. Montessori, Jr.
Podcast 23 is up and it’s a doozy! Renowned Montessori educator Steven Arnold talks with Ba about the Peace Experiment, a model for a teen sensitive innovative high school. Imagine the freedom to learn in areas of your interest and to keep your own schedule. And that all-important Montessori principle that mistakes are integral to learning, there is only safety and support to explore at the Peace Experiment, so valuable for a high school. And why “Experiment” and not “school”? Listen and find out.
Steven’s fundamental understanding? "...I want the teenagers to experiment. I want them to feel like this is their world and they can do whatever. I suppose, giving high faith, I trust in the teens..."