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Montessori Method, Fascist government

Maria Montessori and the Memory Hole

By —— Bio and Archives January 25, 2008

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Modern political thought has been clouded by silly words like “conservative,” “liberal,” “progressive,” “radical,” and “reactionary” as well as the notion that there is a “Far Right” which ends up with Fascism and Nazism.  In fact, the Nazis and the Fascists were hostile to each other, like all other rival thuggish gangs of the Left.

Very few people even know why we (erroneously) call Nazis “Fascists,” instead of calling Fascists “Nazis.” Fascism and Nazism have been lumped together to help the Left make its rhetorical case.  Both Fascism and Nazism have also been placed on the mythical “Far Right,” because if all political evil was on the Left people would understand that the cure for political evil is a repudiation of the Left.  Is this muddling of language and thought deliberate?  Does the Left resort to Orwellian tactics to hide history?  Has the Left been burning books (destroying or concealing historical facts?)   Yes, blatantly: Consider the case of Maria Montessori.
 Maria Montessori was a remarkable woman. Her teaching system, the Montessori Method, always has been controversial.  Some people embraced her system in the first decade of the Twentieth Century as an open learning system but other people criticized its lack of discipline.  Whatever the merits of her system, the Left has always found Montessori appealing.  She was a New Age and “nonviolent” educator, who would be very much at home in the school systems of America.  The Left has a powerful interest in making Maria Montessori a heroine whose teaching should be accepted as valid in modern education and culture.  So what have we been told about the life of Maria Montessori?    
Read biographical notes about Maria Montessori and you will find a lot about her methods and her influence.  One standard library reference on the 100 most influential women in all of human history lists Montessori as number 65 and devotes four full pages to her life and work.  E.M. Standing wrote in 1957 the definitive biography of the life of Montessori, a book hundreds of pages long.  Search for information on Montessori, and you will find almost exactly the same words in different books to describe her and her methods.  About some things, there is no doubt.  She was world-famous by the second decade of the 20th Century.  She had established schools around the world.  She devoted the last years of her life teaching in India and other parts of Asia.  She lectured all over the world for many decades.  She led a very public life. 
Maria Montessori also lived for a dozen years in Fascist Italy.   What do her biographers say about the period of her life between 1922 and 1934?  The Dictionary of Women mentions nothing at all.   The 100 Most Influential Woman of All Time never mentions her involvement with Fascism and states blandly that by 1929 Montessori schools were banned in Fascist Italy.  The International Dictionary of Women’s Biography notes that she lectured and toured in the 1920s and 1930s and that her methods have become popular,  but it says nothing about her years in Fascist Italy.   The library reference, They Made History:  A Biographical Dictionary, says nothing about Montessori and Fascism, except,  in the second to the last sentence of a biography the editors note that Montessori  was appointed inspector of schools in Italy but left her native country in 1934 because she did not want to live under  Fascist rule.  The Encyclopedia of World Biography has a full page biography on Maria Montessori but it says nothing at all about her life between 1906 and her death in 1952. The last forty-six years of her life apparently vanished (just like a commissar in Stalinist Russia.)
The closest any reference comes to actually saying what Montessori did during these twelve years is the New Catholic Encyclopedia. What does it say about her years in Fascist Italy?  One sentence out of a very long biographical note is brief but says much.  She returned to Italy in 1922. She was appointed government inspector of schools in Fascist Italy.  She left Italy in 1934 because of her pacifism.   This short statement tells only people who know what they are looking for four important facts: (1) Maria Montessori returned to Italy in 1922, the  year in which Benito Mussolini seized power in Italy; (2) Maria Montessori was offered, and accepted, the position as chief educator in Fascist Italy; (3) Maria Montessori stayed for twelve years in Fascist Italy; (4) When she left in 1934, after having come to Italy when the Fascist came to power, after having served the Fascist government, and after remaining a dozen years in Mussolini’s state, it was because she was an “alleged” pacifist. 
This is the tip of the iceberg.  The real story of Maria Montessori is all about those twelve years.  She moved to Italy when Mussolini seized power in that nation.  Benito Mussolini met with Montessori.  He provided her schools with state funds.  Mussolini joined the Montessori Society in Fascist Italy.  He became the leading advocate of the Montessori Method and he recommended it to other dictators.  Because Fascism and the Montessori Method are presented as “polar opposites,” the unstated assumption is that Maria Montessori was an innocent lamb pursued by a clever Mussolini and that she eventually “discovered” the true nature of Fascism.  This is crazy.  The Montessori Method was established long before she willingly accepted the help of the Fascists.  Maria Montessori, like Benito Mussolini, was well-read.  She had traveled around the world for decades before embracing Mussolini.  She was in her early fifties when she chatted with Mussolini.  The results of the meeting were the first official recognition and widespread establishment of Montessori’s system by the Fascist government.
The Fascist government of Italy incorporated the Montessori Society and provided it with funds to operate.  By the summer of 1924, there were many schools throughout Italy that completely applied the Montessori Method of teaching.  By the spring of 1925, the Montessori Method was so strongly supported by the Fascists that Mussolini said people who objected to the Montessori Method of education “display their own ignorance.” In February 1926, Maria Montessori was given personal control over the six-month training course established in Milan for Italian teachers. Mussolini himself accepted the honorary presidency of the course and in June 1926 Mussolini donated 10,000 lire of his own money for the support of the Montessori Society in Italy.
The same year Montessori was made an honorary member of the Fascist Party.  In March 1927 Montessori was given a private audience with Mussolini, who expressed continued support for her work and interest in her successes in other nations.  A month after that meeting, the Fascist government asked the City of Rome to establish a Montessori training school.  The Fascist Minister of Education publicly tied Fascism to the Montessori Method. In December 1927, Mussolini prepared for the establishment of a training college for teachers in the Montessori Method.  By 1929, the Fascist government had not a Montessori training college, the Montessori Society, the periodical L’Idea Montessori, and seventy government-supported infant and elementary schools in Fascist Italy - all under the control of Maria Montessori. 
International periodicals noted the growth of the Montessori Method in Italy among Italian women in social service organizations.  Montessori had been running the Italian public education system for five years at this point and had been living  in Fascist Italy for seven years (as well as traveling all over the world during this period, so she could compare Fascist Italy with other nations.)  Going into the year 1930, what was the relationship between Maria Montessori and Fascism?  There was such enthusiasm among Fascists for Montessori that the Fascist government planned in the winter of 1930 - six years after Montessori and Mussolini began collaborating - an international Montessori training course in Rome.  Fascists boasted that their government was the first to support the Montessori Method in schools. 
In June 1931, Maria Montessori in Rome gave her international Montessori course not only to students throughout Italy but to students from all over Europe and Latin America. The first issue of Revista Montessori, a new Montessori review, was published in Rome.  In spite of the fact that all teachers and professors were required to take an oath of loyalty to Fascism in 1931, Maria Montessori stayed on as the director of the Montessori Method, which was now mandatory in Fascist Italy.  She invited Austrian educators to Rome in 1932 to assist in her work.  As late as 1934, the Fascists were supporting Maria Montessori, and Mussolini offered to appoint her as “Ambassador of Children.”  The International Montessori Conference was being planned in Rome.  The Montessori Method was practiced in neighboring Austria, where it was largely through the support of Dr. Ernst Bushbeck, himself a Nazi, who toured Montessori schools sympathetically with a Swastika armband, that the Montessori schools in Austria were able to stay open from 1934 to 1938.
But in 1934 this world famous physician and educator, who was in her early sixties and had been practical dictator of educational method in Fascist Italy for almost a decade and an intimate of Benito Mussolini since 1924, “discovered” that Fascism was a brutal totalitarian system not compatible with the Montessori Method.  Surely these years were the most historically fascinating parts of her life, yet almost no one has found it worth mentioning. Go to the public library and read the different biographies of Maria Montessori in the reference section. Read books about the Montessori Method.  Surf the internet for information on Montessori.  Go even to those websites that sell old books and enter “Montessori” as a keyword or title.  The books about her romance with Fascism have been burned.  A remarkable woman, a brilliant woman, a leader in the whole grand field of education and, in many ways, a decent and sincere woman who advocated open and critical questioning as a method of education has had a closed and uncritical dogmatic entombment of her life, so that those uneducated about her life are expected to accept by rote and rigid memorization the mandatory viewpoint that her life and her work were good and right.
This is how the Left works.  That crucial fact of her long life – the twelve year love affair that Montessori had for Fascism and that Fascism had for Montessori – has been blithely ignored.  The innocent seeker of truth, searching for the real biography of Montessori, will find a memory hole when he reaches the most important part of her life.  Her genuine biography is too destructive to Leftism, so the half the pages in her biography have been ripped out of the book and cast into the flames.  The Left is always indifferent to facts and to truth.  It is only interested in power.  Lying and concealing without conscience are an easy way to defeat an honorable opposition.  So the Left lies about nearly everything.  Maria Montessori is a perfect example of how the Left works. 

Bruce Walker -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Bruce Walker has been a published author in print and in electronic media since 1990. His first book, Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie, has been revised and re-released.  The Swastika against the Cross:  The Nazi War on Christianity, has recently been published, and his most recent book, Poor Lenin’s Almanac: Perverse Leftist Proverbs for Modern Life can be viewed here:

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