Today I explained Montessori’s theory about humans and potential to a 10 year old. It began as part of a sort of pep talk I was giving him as a response to his sentiments that he would never do well in Maths, and I went on to explain Montessori’s writing about the endless potentials of human beings. One of her examples are of movement. It goes something like this:
Man, unlike the animals, is not born with movement already co-ordinated; he has to shape and co-ordinate his own movement. nor has he even a predetermined aim; this, too,he must find for himself. How different from the young of most mammals, who walk, run and jump from birth, according to their species. Almost at once they can execute the most difficult manoeuvres; climb, for example, if that is what their heredity demands of them; jump over obstacles, or take rapidly to flight.
Man, instead, brings no abilities with him into the world, yet his gifts are surpassed in the learning of movements.Of skilled movements, he can acquire the most varied imaginable: those of the craftsman, the acrobat, the dancer, the musician and of champions in the many fields of sport.
Human beings are essentially limitless. Throughout history, nations destroyed by war and natural disasters are rebuilt, cures are daily being found for diseases, people described as mentally handicapped continue to learn. I am not describing miracles or just the persistence of human spirit. I mean our mind and our body, and all that make us up. Yet, imagine the child, told to sit and listen, to pass exams and become doctors and lawyers. Her whole life and future limited by our lack of imagination. How extreme varied, in reality, are the occupations of our friends and family, half of whom successfully (and probably lucratively) perform a daily function in some business you did not know existed.
We cannot help measuring one’s success by one’s income for it is the only quantitative measure, and one that assuredly tells us that we have done well. But I am sure, we wish differently for our children?