It seems you can’t turn around these days without reading or hearing about climate change. It’s a hot and divisive topic. No matter your own views, one thing is clear. Care of our home, our planet, is at the very heart of Dr. Montessori’s cosmic education.
Acclaimed Montessorian, Margaret Stephenson tells us that Montessori’s idea of cosmic education “means that form of relating the child to the universe and to humanity that will enable him to understand the law and the order underlying their existence and to realize in himself all the developmental potential that is his own particular birthright and to accept his personal responsibility.” (Stephenson, 2013) Stephenson explains that education isn’t just about facts and figures and that our task as educators is to guide the human spirit and free the potential of the individual to do great works. Our purpose is not to create identical workers who tout the current political agenda but to raise free-thinkers, who value peace and harmony in all things.
We often think of the child in the second plane of development seeking the answers to questions of “Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?” These questions are quite ego-centric and, therefore, do not necessarily align with Montessori’s cosmic education. Stephenson suggests that the final question should instead be “What is the task of man in this wonderful universe?” (Stephenson, 2013)
If the Montessori classroom is the child’s prepared environment, we can look at the earth as the prepared environment for all living things. Everything we need is here. It is the birthright of all living things. Humans have the distinct privilege of being able to transform the natural world and make it suit our needs. We have the freedom to use it as we wish. It is our responsibility to guide the child towards creating a better world for all.
From the beginning, the child has experienced the world through societal laws. There is the family, which is the child’s introduction to social order. He is then welcomed into the prepared classroom, where he learns what it means to be a contributing member of a community. Each social unit must operate harmoniously or there is disruption and chaos. The child learns that his actions play an active part in creating and maintaining harmony.
As the child becomes less ego-concentric, he becomes aware of the laws of the greater community or society. Where this is discord, there is injustice. He becomes a champion for those who suffer, eager to offer solutions and lend a hand. In short, he becomes an activist, with cries of “What can we do to help?”
The September 20–27 Global Climate Strike is one of the strongest cosmic education demonstrations we have seen, with millions of children and adults from over 150 countries participating. And whether or not you agree with global warming or the strike tactics, one thing is clear: These children are doing exactly what Dr. Montessori said they should. We have prepared them to take their place in society, to fight perceived injustice, and to be independent thinkers ready to not just talk about but suggest ways to be the change in the world. This climate strike is the ultimate cosmic “Going Out” activity as young people around the world organize as one united voice, crying, “The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say — we will never forgive you." (Thunberg, September 2019)
Learn more about the Global Climate Strike at https://globalclimatestrike.net/
Ly, Laura. Greta Thunberg: “Why should we study for a future that is being taken away from us?” CNN. September 20, 2019. https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/global-climate-strike-2019/index.html
Stephenson, Margaret E. “Cosmic Education.” The NAMTA Journal, 2013, vol. 38, No. 1. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1078016.pdf