There was an open thread discussing Ayn Rand on the Secular Right Blog this weekend, which attracted a remarkable number of erudite comments in a spirited discussion, which is already over 70 comments. If you are an Ayn Rand fan, you might enjoy perusing them. One of my early contributions was to offer a nexus between Ayn Rand and Maria Montessori, which is worth repeating here:
I particularly agree with the assessment that Rand’s epistemology is as or more relevant to the ills of our society, than her ethics at this point. I have been a devotee of Ayn Rand for over thirty years and an admirer, proponent, and practitioner of Maria Montessori’s Method of education for the past twelve.
Only recently, I discovered that there was a nexus between them. I was aware that many years ago, my partner was the Montessori teacher for the children of Leonard Peikoff and others at the Ayn Rand Institute; but I assumed that was just an accident. Then I stumbled across an article by Michael S. Berliner, Ph.D. entitled “Ayn Rand and Education,” which is remarkable for being 27 years old:
The revolution that Ayn Rand brought to philosophy has profound implications for education.
Since the purpose of education is to develop a certain kind of individual and society, education involves the practical implementation of philosophic ideals. Thus education has a specially close relationship to philosophy. Everything that goes on in a classroom rests on philosophic premises: education derives its goals from ethics, its methodology from epistemology and its administrative policies and political status from social philosophy.
Given the dependency of education on philosophy, it should be no shock that our schools are in chaos; they have derived their guiding principles from various forms of irrationalism, altruism, and collectivism. Only when educators turn to Ayn Rand’s philosophy, will sanity return to our schools. How would her philosophy rescue education?
He then offers eleven points for consideration. Among them:
6. Ayn Rand’s philosophic system can provide a theoretical foundation for the most promising educational method now available: the Montessori method. Despite the success of Montessori schools, there is amazingly little understanding of the reasons for that success. As a consequence, the method is either dismissed as nothing more than a series of clever techniques for teaching specific skills, or attempts are made to ground the method in Maria Montessori’s personal philosophy, a mixture of Catholicism and Indian mysticism.
At present, the supporters of the Montessori method are unable to defend it against either the educational establishment or compromisers from within Montessori ranks. Teachers and parents need to understand the real philosophic meaning of the Montessori method. Ayn Rand’s philosophy makes that understanding possible.
He is right about the confusion in the Montessori ranks, and regrettably I must report that the Montessori Method is being severely corrupted in America, by modern Montessorians’ ill-conceived quest for recognition by mainstream academia, and the attempts to shoehorn the Method into rigid public school curricula. Authentic Montessori programs are still available in the private sector; but the name is in the public domain and anyone can call their school a Montessori school, whether or not it provides an authentic Montessori curriculum. Caveat emptor.
At the end of the article, are some interesting quotes. I liked Peikoff’s:
Assault from the Ivory Tower: The Professors’ War Against America
by Leonard Peikoff
I wish I could tell you that your college years will be a glorious crusade. Actually, they will probably be a miserable experience. If you are a philosophically pro-American student, you have to expect every kind of smear from many of your professors. If you uphold the power of reason, you will be called a fanatic or a dogmatist. If you uphold the right to happiness, you will be called anti-social or even a fascist. If you admire Ayn Rand, you will be called a cultist. You will experience every kind of injustice, and even hatred, and you will be unbelievably bored most of the time, and often you will be alone and lonely. But if you have the courage to venture out into this kind of nightmare, you will not only be acquiring the diploma necessary for your professional future, you will also be helping to save the world, and we are all in your debt.
The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought by Ayn Rand, 206-207
Then, by Ayn Rand herself:
Ayn Rand on Education
The only purpose of education is to teach a student how to live his life — by developing his mind and equipping him to deal with reality. The training he needs is theoretical, i.e., conceptual. He has to be taught to think, to understand, to integrate, to prove. He has to be taught the essentials of the knowledge discovered in the past — and he has to be equipped to acquire further knowledge by his own effort.
“The Comprachicos,” The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 231.
The academia-jet set coalition is attempting to tame the American character by the deliberate breeding of helplessness and resignation-in those incubators of lethargy known as “Progressive” schools, which are dedicated to the task of crippling a child’s mind by arresting his cognitive development. (See “The Comprachicos” in my book The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution.) It appears, however, that the “progressive” rich will be the first victims of their own special theories: it is the children of the well-to-do who emerge from expensive nursery schools and colleges as hippies, and destroy the remnants of their paralyzed brains by means of drugs.
The middle class has created an antidote which is perhaps the most helpful movement of recent years: the spontaneous, unorganized, grass — roots revival of the Montessori system of education — a system aimed at the development of a child’s cognitive, i.e., rational, faculty.
“Don’t Let It Go,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, 261; pb 214.
Finally, if you are unfamiliar with Montessori philosophy and at all interested in exploring it, I recently published an essay entitled, “Spontaneous Minds,” which covers the way in which the Montessori Method nurtures the spontaneous process children use to create their own minds, by interaction with their environment, during the crucial preschool years. ◄Dave►