Steiner & Montessori: Two complementaries

With the same roots of loving and child-centered education, the same goal of producing the compassionate, free and creative human, the two educators Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner chose paths that can be descrbied as opposite while complementary like yin and yang, like the moon and the sun.

Montessori first trained the child with all the knowledge and skills to build the material world, and from there to find peace for his soul. Steiner, on the other hand, created every opportunity and environment for the child to build a solid foundation: a harmonious soul right from the beginning, a strong foundation in order to later become an adult of peace, and afterwards the necessary practical knowledge and skills. She built and enriched the world in order to achieve peace, and he built his inner peace and then built the world in love.

This also relates to the life of Montessori and Steiner.

After initially studying mathematics and technology, Steiner switched to philosophy and received a doctorate in philosophy (Rostock University, Germany) in 1891. Steiner approached philosophical and spiritual issues at a young age, joined the Theosophical Society and became the head of Theosophical in Germany in 1902. Leaving this association, Steiner established his own school of philosophy: Anthroposophy, influenced by the philosophical school of Johann Wolfgang Geothe. After the birth of Anthroposophy, he wrote books, taught and applied Anthroposhopy in art and architecture. In particular, after the First World War, failed to be assassinated by Hitler several times, Steiner found it necessary to create a completely new education by establishing the first school where he worked as a teacher and a teacher trainer, a school for both workers’ children (of the tobacco factory owned by Emil Molt) and aristocratic children named after the town Waldorf in Germany. Steiner also continued to teach about the application of Anthroposhopy in health, ecological agriculture and sustainable agriculture.

Perhaps having been born, grown up, studied and worked in a highly masculine, materialist environment during period of First World War made Steiner clearly understand and feel the collapses of humanity, the destruction of individual as well as the destruction of humanity’s progress. Maybe then he tried his best to build what was sustainable, peaceful, and blissful, to return to the origins of man and nature, the origins which belong to Nietzsche’s heroes and superheroes rather than the primitive man who wants to return to the forest like Rousseau.

He tried to teach the applied knowledge in almost all areas of life, from dynamic and sustainable agriculture, to the education filled with feminine essence, architecture and health – all were close to nature including the nature of humanity.

Montessori was a neurologist. She started her first school, Casa dei Bambini, as part of a recovery project to help children with neurological disabilities and diseases such as autism, hyperactivity, and depression who found it impossible or very difficult to connect with the real world. Therefore, she emphasized REALITY, which was the physical world as adults saw and felt. Teachers need to provide knowledge as soon as the child shows signs of awareness of specific knowledge, scientific knowledge of the physical world, and essential life skills, and take advantage of critical periods of learning words and numbers to promote the learning of different kinds of knowledge in the most convenient and fastest way. Only after the child has learned enough to know fairies are not real should they be exposed to fairy tales and fantasies.

During the Second World War, Montessori came to India and due to her inability to return to Italy, she stayed there for six years and worked as a resident doctor; living a slow lifestyle in an environment imbued with spirituality inspired her to write her best books during this period, which began to discuss mental and spiritual development.

By then, however, the spirit of philosophy of Montessori education had shaped quite firmly. So there will be different Montessori schools resembling Montessori’s personal development: from a purely materialist scientist, she turned her attention to and wrote books on education related to spiritual development and the inner development of each child. The books she wrote in India were later published by Adyar Press and the International Theosophical Publishing House, a rather unsurprising connection between Steiner and Montessori. Steiner headed and left the Theosophical Society when quite young while Montessori had books published by the Society’s publisher near the end of her life.

Montessori was born and raised in Italy, a country that can be described as feminine, where she initiated a method and a masculine educational philosophy of Apollo. Children are motivated to become intelligent and strong to literally build the REAL world and contribute to the material wealth of the world we live in; then as adults, they will find inner peace for themselves.

With strong feminine energy, Steiner built a system for the goddess Aphrodite, beautiful and harmonious from outside to inside, the system which was not limited to education but covered many areas of life. From this beauty and harmony, he believed, they – the children of Aphrodite – would grow up with ideals, energy and vitality to build the world in love and with love.