Joe Biden Can Inspire Young People — If He Listens to ThemRoundup
tags: education, Joe Biden, election 2020, Montessori, youth vote
Erica Moretti is an assistant professor of modern languages and cultures at the Fashion Institute of Technology–SUNY, and is currently writing a book on Maria Montessori's theory of pacifism and children's rights.
Joe Biden faces a crucial conundrum in his quest to win the presidency: How can he energize young voters, even as at 77, even though he is of a decidedly different generation and was not their candidate of choice during the Democratic primaries? Biden is also hampered by his desire to build the broadest coalition possible ideologically. And young voters have a track record of voting in lower numbers — even though polling shows they lean overwhelmingly Democratic. How Biden tackles this challenge may determine whether he wins or loses.
One possible answer: trusting and embracing young voters and their opinions. The Italian educator Maria Montessori, born 150 years ago, worked throughout her life to force politicians and governments to address children, whose potential as political actors was largely ignored. As a progressive educator, Montessori rethought the classroom entirely, putting the child at its center and regarding the teacher as a mere facilitator of the learning process.
Until the end of the 19th century, schools saw children as weak, feeble and dependent on adults for all their needs. Students were blank slates to be filled with knowledge by their teachers.
Montessori disagreed. She believed that even infants contributed actively and profoundly to the welfare of society at all levels. The early years of life are charged with what Montessori termed an immense creative power: children are builders of humanity, each the forger of their own character, physical health and intelligence. Youth, Montessori insisted, is the cornerstone of society.
In her view, a universal scientific, social and political commitment to liberating and focusing the power of children would prevent the formation of stunted, dysfunctional adults. To achieve this, the educational system would need to be radically reformed: the individual child would become central to the educational process, and his or her developmental needs were to guide the teacher in structuring everything else. All learning was to be self-directed by the child, under the supervision of the teacher.
Montessori herself designed specialized material that would help children identify, correct and learn from their own mistakes. Guided this way, the child would grow into a capable adult, with a strong sense of self, an ability to connect with others and the potential to be productive throughout his or her life.
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