Proud of Themselves

Learning Through Experience by Angelina Lillard

Shunned and Admired: Montessori, Self-Determination,
and a Case for Radical School Reform
Angeline S. Lillard1
# The Author(s) 2019

School reform is an important national and international concern. The Montessori alternative school system is unique in that it is well-aligned with the science of healthy development and learning, has strong social emotional and academic outcomes, is virtually unchanged in over a century, can be applied across all the school years, and still attracts considerable attention and allegiance—yet it remains Bon the margins^ (Whitescarver and Cossentino Teachers College Record, 110, 2571–2600, 2008) of the bulwark educational system, as often shunned as admired.

Why does Montessori persist (and increasingly in the public sector) and why does it elicit such sharply contrasting reactions? This article reviews several reasons why it is admired, such as evidence of Montessori’s effectiveness, its alignment with educational psychology research, and its broad scope. The points of research alignment are presented as natural corollaries of Montessori’s central premise: independence, or self determination.

After discussing these extrinsic and intrinsic reasons why Montessori is admired, the article concludes with speculation as to why it is also shunned—namely its incommensurability with conventional education culture and what might be a consequence: frequent poor implementation.

The incommensurability of evidence-based alternatives with the conventional system is also posed as a reason for radical school reform.

Download Article >