January 4, 2007 11:45AM

Maria Montessori

The Washington Post had an interesting article the other day about the popularity and success of Montessori schools. The ideas of Maria Montessori are not a trade secret and they have been around for quite some time. So … why has the education establishment been slow to adapt? University of Virginia psychologist Angeline Stoll Lillard has a stinging observation.

The psychologist Lillard was at first skeptical of Montessori’s ideas when she started her research 20 years ago. But she found that a strong body of evidence in developmental psychology supports Montessori’s major conclusions — among them, that there is a close relationship between movement and cognition, that the best learning is active and that order is beneficial for children. …


[Montessori] looked for what worked rather than what fit a theory. “If schooling were evidence‐​based,” Lillard wrote, “I think all schools would look a lot more like Montessori schools.”

Unfortunately, instead of letting parents match individual children with a variety of schools, including Montessoris, that are tailored to kids’ unique and infinitely varied needs, politicians like the new mayor of Washington obsess over controlling current, hidebound, one‐​size‐​fits‐​all public school systems. Such tinkering, however, won’t fix education. It will only put someone new in charge.