AMI President's Message 2024

Saturday 6th January 2024

Sitting in the study at Montessori’s house on Koninginneweg, all is calm and serene, as I set course for this New Year’s message.

On the desk lie Maria Montessori’s 1929 London course notes, meticulously documented by her student, Ruby Woodford.

Recorded in the same year that Montessori founded AMI, its vintage 95-year-old pages represent a meticulous record of her rigorous pedagogical formation under the Dottoressa. This entry, on the educator’s power and responsibilities, is revealing: 

“Dr Montessori has a different idea of these powers. First we must consider: how can we intervene without damaging the child? The butterfly does not break open the chrysalis of its young. We must be restrained. Every help and intervention which is useless brings about an arrest of development. We must not undo. Every individual must grow for himself. The child must carry out this difficult, serious work of growth by himself: the work of becoming an adult. “The child is father of the man” (underlined in the original, italics added).

Montessori used this last italicised sentence, originally penned by William Wordsworth, widely in her writings, as can be evidenced in The Absorbent Mind, The Secret of Childhood, What You Should Know about Your Child, Education and Peace, and The Child, Society and the World. This expression, evidently a mantra for Montessori, reflects the key importance of childhood experiences to directing the path of later adult life. 
In this warmly lit room, full of family portraits and memorabilia, with the snow falling gently outside, it is easy to slip into a cozy, but false, sense of nostalgia. Many children and families are separated right now, destroyed by conflict, dislocated by natural disasters or displaced by the fast-burn phenomenon of global warming. Amidst violence and chaos, uncertainty and unheimlichkeit abound. People simply do not feel at home, or don’t even have a home.
How might we as AMI respond? Montessori herself was a lifelong advocate for peace, rights and justice. Last year, inspired by this, I suggested, “If you want peace, prepare the child”. If the child truly is the father of the man*, then we must take seriously the preparation of children. Violence, hatred, injustice and abuse are perpetrated by unprepared children, who go on to become ill-prepared adults. Instead of radiating grace, courtesy and respect, their credo is force.
How can we intervene without damaging the child or adult? There are intentional and well-prepared environments in recognised Montessori schools, but these require prepared adults, who have the formational possibilities to unlearn unhelpful ways and re-learn how best to serve the child. We are excited to share some breaking news on these fronts. 
First, AMI has received a grant to pilot our Emergency Response Initiative for children living in desperate circumstances. We are actively exploring our contribution to the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action and hope to use our highly trained educators and global network to help. The promotion of Community Rooted Education (CoRE) in distressed communities can empower adults, especially women, living in challenging situations to help themselves as well as children. This is consistent with our social mission.  Secondly, if we wish to continue preparing adults to prepare children and other adults, we rely critically on capacity. Another grant provides invaluable support as AMI strengthens our capacity with an eye on sustainability. Long-running projects such as Global School Accreditation can now be finalised, as we look to our centenary and beyond.

Finally, how might we unlock, and not arrest, development? If we want peace, prepare the child, appropriately. If we want justice, likewise. No poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality or any other SDGs? Ditto. The pivotal words prepare appropriately can only arise from wholesome values shared by prepared adults, committed to promoting the independence of each precious and unique human life. If anything, the lifecycle of a butterfly reveals that life is vulnerable, in need of care, beautiful in its unfolding fullness and always fragile. Let us treasure the gift of life, and work together to sustain it, in a more peaceful, caring and enduring world.

On behalf of our Board and the entire AMI family, I wish you peace, love and understanding.

Alain Tschudin
Association Montessori Internationale

* Editorial Note
Maria Montessori studied and pioneered her revolutionary approach to education in a male dominated world, a world in which recognition of female achievement did not come easily. Being trained in the traditions of academia, Montessori naturally adopted the language that was customary in her fields of research. In her time gender-fair language was not on the agenda: male words were often used to denote the universal concept; Montessori would use the Italian il bambino—the male child to refer to all children. The same observation can be made for her use of man (l’Uomo), men and humankind, by which words she of course refers to all human beings: the human individual as representing the species, the human race without reference to gender.

AMI President, Alain Tschudin, sitting at desk in Maria Montessori's study