Gandhi encountered racism, prejudice and discrimination against Indians in both South Africa and in India. It was in South Africa where Gandhi had his first success in uniting the Indian people against those who discriminated against them. He called upon and challenged his fellow Indians to defy authority through non-violent protest rather than by using violence.
Read on for inspiring information, as well as a class discussion topic and classroom activity idea.
Montessori Peace Education: Mohandas Gandhi History and Activity
When Gandhi returned to India in 1915, he rallied the nation with his methods of satyagrah, or devotion to the truth. He spoke of and modeled non-violent non-cooperation and peaceful resistance. He organized workers to clean-up villages, and build schools and hospitals. He helped farmers regain control over their farms. He led the nation in the boycotting of foreign-made goods that were impoverishing and starving the Indian workers. He organized a protest against a salt-tax which concluded with thousands of Indians marching 248 miles (400 km) to the sea. For his efforts, Gandhi was arrested and imprisoned several times for his non-cooperation efforts and many attempts were made on his life.
Gandhi focused on obtaining complete individual, spiritual, and political independence for India, and urged the Indian people to boycott British institutions such as schools and courts. He called for a complete separation from Britain and a return to Indian rule. When civil war threatened to break out, Gandhi went on a “fast-unto-death” hunger strike asking for the violence to end.
Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948. Though nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize, it was never awarded to him due to the fact he was not a true politician or humanitarian relief worker.
The Teachings of Gandhi in the Montessori Classroom
The teachings of Gandhi are easily presented and discussed in the Montessori classroom. In fact, Gandhi and Montessori often saw eye-to-eye, especially when it came to children and education.
Truth – Gandhi’s life was dedicated to the discovery of truth. To achieve this, he believed in learning from his own mistakes, a practice that Montessorians teach their students.
Non-violence – Gandhi envisioned a world at peace, where governments, police, and armies were peaceful and non-violent. He said “Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than power derived from fear of punishment.” How often do we teach our students how to solve conflicts peacefully? We ourselves model peace in all that we do. Gandhi would have loved to see a peace corner or peace rose in every classroom!
Simplicity – Gandhi renounced foreign made goods and wove his own cloth. He encouraged all Indians to do the same. He spent one day a week in silence and meditation. He embraced a simple lifestyle and believed it would lead to spiritual and practical purity. Our classrooms are much the same way. The simplistic beauty of our materials and classrooms lend themselves to a more spiritual environment. It is through this purity that children can find the peace within themselves to learn and to concentrate.
Gandhi on Education
- The function of Nayee-Talim [New Education] is not to teach an occupation, but through it to develop the whole man.
- By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in the child and man-body, mind and spirit
- Experience gained in two schools under my control has taught me that punishment does not purify, if anything, it hardens children.
- The law of love could be best understood and learned through little children.
- The greatest lessons in life, if we would but stoop and humble ourselves, we should learn not from the grown-up learned men, but from the so-called ignorant children.
For younger students, begin by sharing a large picture of Gandhi with your classroom. Ask the students to share what they know about him. You may prompt younger students by asking:
- Do you know who this is?
- How would you describe him?
- How would you describe his clothing?
- What part of the world might he come from?
- How does this picture make you feel?
Discuss the quote by Gandhi: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”.
For more on our Peace Series:
- Montessori Peace Education: Peacemakers of the World
- Montessori Peace Education: Martin Luther King Jr. History and Activity