Montessori and child

Alternative Education Theorists

  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    Jean-Jacques Rousseau
    French philosopher Rousseau conveyed his educational philosophy through his novel, Emile, the story of a boy’s education from infancy to adulthood. Rousseau believed that education should follow the child’s natural growth rather than the demands of society, which, he claimed, tend to thwart all that is organic, natural, and spiritual. He believed that children’s instincts and needs are naturally good (Palmer-Cooper, 2010, pp. 55 – 59).
  • Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi

    Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi
    Pestalozzi, a Swiss humanitarian, implemented Rousseau's philosophy in his schools for orphans. He believed children learned best if they followed their own interests, learning through experience, using their hands, heart, and head.
  • Friedrich Froebel

    Friedrich Froebel
    Froebel, German pedagogue and student of Pestalozzi, created the first kindergarten, where he believed children should learn through activity, play, and practical work, hence finding their place in the world. Froebel believed that young children’s innate qualities flourish with freedom, creativity, social interaction, motor activity, and learning by doing. This concept is evident in many preschools and kindergartens today.
  • Amos Bronson Alcott

    Amos Bronson Alcott
    A suffragist and an abolitionist Bronson Alcott sought an alternative to coercive rote education methods. Influenced by Pestalozzi he founded Temple School in Boston in 1834. Alcott encouraged Socratic dialogue with questions that engaged children’s interest. He also believed in the importance of play, storytelling, and an inspiring environment. The school’s success was short-lived because parents objected when Alcott allowed a black child to attend.
  • John Dewey

    John Dewey
    An important pioneer in Progressive Education, the American John Dewey had a profound impact on education philosophy. In 1894 Dewey founded an experimental elementary Laboratory School and in 1919 he co-founded The New School of Social Research. Dewey called for school reform to encourage free personalities and independent thought rather than rote learning. He emphasized learning to live in cooperative community. His famous dictum was "Learning by doing."
  • Rudolf Steiner

    Rudolf Steiner
    Steiner had no interest in educational reform per se; his influence is limited to his followers. Steiner began his now popular Waldorf schools in 1919 as an alternative to German state schools. The philosophy behind Steiner’s schools was his spiritual-mystical concept, “anthroposophy.” He believed in the inner experience of the spiritual world and cosmic unity of body, mind, and soul. He felt the child's internal rhythms should determine the school's curriculum.
  • Marietta Johnson

    Marietta Johnson
    Johnson founded the School of Organic Education in Alabama in 1907. A pioneer of progressive education, she was influenced by Rousseau, Froebel, and Dewey. She believed curricula should follow Oppenheim's stages of biological and neurological child development. She stressed no tests or grades, cooperation rather than competition, and respect for children, allowing them to develop the power to think for themselves and learn at their own individual pace.
  • Maria Montessori

    Maria Montessori
    Italy's first female doctor, Montessori opened her "Casa de Bambini" in San Lorenzo in 1907. In Montessori schools children are encouraged to choose their activities according to their interests and teachers observe them with respect for their natural ability to learn. Montessori believed in learner-driven education and designed innovative self-teaching apparatuses.
  • Bertrand and Dora Russell

    Bertrand and Dora Russell
    The Russells opened Beacon Hill School in Sussex, England, in 1927. The school reflected their belief that an academic curriculum should not be forced on children and that they should learn to cooperate, not compete. The Russells felt that given freedom, children would develop self-discipline and that in a democratic school they would learn to appreciate democracy. Very like Neill’s Summerhill, children at Beacon Hill were free to miss lessons.
  • Homer Lane

    Homer Lane
    Homer Lane was an American educator. He was superintendent at the Boys Home in Detroit in 1907 where he worked with boys who had police records. He introduced them to democratic self-government in order to build their self-respect and confidence. In 1912, he went to England, where he was superintendent of the alternative school, “Little Commonwealth.” Lane believed in non-coercive education, shared responsibility, and freedom of expression. He was a major influence on A. S. Neill.
  • A. S. Neill

    A. S. Neill
    A. S. Neill founded Summerhill in Leiston, England in 1921, a school as controversial today as it was then. At Summerhill children are free from coercion and have equal voice in democratic meetings. Neill was more interested in children’s happiness than in educational philosophy. He believed that coercion in the classroom was harmful, but felt giving the children the power to choose to attend classes or not would ensure good teaching and student engagement.
  • Lev Vygotsky

    Lev Vygotsky
    Soviet psychologist, Lev Vygotsky, like Piaget, believed children learn through experience, but felt that social and cognitive development work together. He believed observing children is important. He termed "Zone of Proximal Development” the space between what children are able to do independently and what they can do with help. He characterizes the help of another as “scaffolding,” or support to reach new learning. Vygotsky has been influential in Reggio Emilia pre-schools.
  • Jean Piaget

    Jean Piaget
    A Swiss psychologist, Piaget spent his life studying how children learn. His stages of cognitive development shaped much of current thought on preschool children’s needs. He believed that learning should be curiosity-driven. He felt that children construct their learning through their interaction with their environment and that learning through this interaction is more effective than being taught by adults.
  • Sylvia Ashton-Warner

    Sylvia Ashton-Warner
    New Zealand novelist and educator Sylvia Ashton-Warner published Teacher, about her “Organic” method of education. She developed a method of teaching writing when she worked with New Zealand’s Maori children. Warner felt that learning happens best when it is organic, or relevant to the child’s experience as in her “Key Vocabulary" method, which has been applied around the world.
  • Paulo Freire

    Paulo Freire
    Brazilian Paulo Freire is anti-authoritarian, believing in dialogue, interaction, and curriculum based in social and political critique. His method uses critical reflection and action to create not just a better learning environment, but a better world. Freire believes education should be cooperative and grounded in the students' lives. He calls rote learning “banking education” and feels it inhibits creativity, whereas exploration and reflection are liberating.
  • John Holt

    John Holt
    As a teacher, American John Holt observed that school causes children to lose self-confidence. He believed that grades, tests, and ranking get in the way of independent reasoning. When he dropped evaluation in his classes, he was fired. Holt then began to speak and write about his philosophy of education. His conclusion that children would do better outside of learning institutions led to promoting homeschooling, then unschooling, where children learn without coercion.
  • George Dennison

    George Dennison
    Dennison was an American philosopher of education, author, art critic, playwright, and Gestalt therapist, and worked with Bread and Puppet Theater. In 1969 he wrote The Lives of Children about working in the First Street School in New York City. He believed teachers should stand aside and allow self-motivated learning to happen. Dennison felt trusting relationships are of primary importance to learning. Herbert Kohl called his book ''an important contribution to the philosophy of education."
  • James Herndon

    James Herndon
    James Herndon’s three books, The Way It Spozed to Be, How to Survive in Your Native Land, and Notes from a Schoolteacher place him amongst the important writers and reformers in education in the twentieth century as an outspoken critic of the system. Herndon’s descriptions of his teaching experience with children in a poor segregated neighbourhood in California expose the injustice and flaws in the school system and the frustration of teachers who care deeply about their students.
  • Ivan Illich

    Ivan Illich
    Ivan Illich, was a priest, university administrator, professor, author, and social activist. He criticized formal schools as unjust and damaging to students who perceive themselves as failures, and proposed de-schooling society. The CIDOC, Illich’s centre for “de-Yankeefication” fought against condescending U.S. aid programs. His book, Deschooling Society, resulted from “Alternatives in Education” seminars held at the CIDOC with such notable speakers as Reimer, Goodman, Holt, Kozol, and Freire.
  • Jane Roland Martin

    Jane Roland Martin
    American feminist Martin has been a major contributor in the field of education for close to eighty years. She believes that children should try to solve real social problems and learn the democratic process. Among her works are: The Schoolhome: Rethinking Schools for Changing Families, Changing the Educational Landscape: Philosophy, Women, and Curriculum, and Cultural Miseducation: In Search of a Democratic Solution.
  • John Taylor Gatto

    John Taylor Gatto
    Winner of the New York State Teacher of the Year Award in 1991, Gatto quit teaching and began lecturing on what he sees as serious flaws in the American school system. Gatto says that school “dumbs down” children and makes them morally incomplete, stunting their ability to become mature and responsible adults. Gatto lectures around the world and has authored popular and hard-hitting books such as Dumbing Us Down, A Different Kind of Teacher, and The Underground History of American Education.
  • Herb Kohl

    Herb Kohl
    American Herb Kohl is the founder of the Open School Movement and the author of Thirty-Six Children, about the enormous challenges of working with children living in poverty. Kohl believes that a complete reconstruction of traditional schooling is needed. He feels that respect is an essential element in teaching and that an enriched environment is important in establishing a learning community that encourages creativity and curiosity.
  • Jonathan Kozol

    Jonathan Kozol
    Jonathan Kozol is a highly respected American educator and author of powerful, award-winning books, including ‘Death at an Early Age’, ‘The Shame of the Nation’, ‘Savage Inequalities’, and ‘Fire in the Ashes." Kozol’s books give insight into social problems such as segregated and inadequate schools, illiteracy and poverty. He is dedicated to providing equal opportunities in public schools for children of all races and financial levels.
  • Marva Collins

    Marva Collins
    Marva Collins, an American education activist, brought quality education to black children. The segregated South offered black students an inferior education and lack of resources. Collins started the Westside Preparatory School in Chicago, providing quality traditional education. The results made a significant difference in students' lives. According to Collins, “Kids don’t fail. Teachers fail, school systems fail. The people who teach children that they are failures, they are the problem.”
  • Len Solo

    Len Solo
    In the 1960s and 70s, American educator Len Solo was part of the movement toward school innovation and reform. His book, Education: Back to the Future, tells about his experience at Graham & Parks Alternative Public School, where he worked for 27 years. He revisits that heady, exciting time, making a plea to leave the current emphasis on standardization and inspiring us to make children the centre of their own education. Kozol calls him "One of the greatest educators of our time."
  • Peter Gray

    Peter Gray
    Peter Gray is the author of Free to Learn, Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. Gray's research in comparitive, evolutionary, developmental, and educational psychology, led him to place his son in Sudbury Valley School, a democratic free school in Massachusetts. Rethinking his assumptions about education, Gray now researches, lectures, and writes about non-coercive learning and the value of play in our lives.
  • bell hooks

    bell hooks
    The American social critic, Gloria Jean Watkins, known professionally as bell hooks, was a brilliant and feisty girl who became a brilliant and feisty woman, strong enough to take on the problems of racism and sexism. She was inspired by Paulo Freire, and calls him her “mentor and guide.” Hooks believes in engaged pedagogy, combining anticolonial and feminist teachings fighting bias in curricula and improving teaching to reach diverse students.
  • Alfie Kohn

    Alfie Kohn
    American Alfie Kohn writes and lectures about education and parenting. His many books include Punished by Rewards, No Contest, and The Homework Myth. Kohn lectures at Universities and to various groups. He believes that competition is counter-productive and thwarts self-motivation. He recommends classrooms where curiosity and cooperation are encouraged. For this reason, he frowns on strict curricula and standardized testing. Kohn also does not feel homework is beneficial.
  • Yaakov Hecht

    Yaakov Hecht
    Yaacov Hecht founded the Democratic School in Israel, the first school in the world to call itself democratic. Now he has helped to found democratic schools throughout the country. He founded the IDEC (International Democratic Education Conference), IDE (Institute for Democratic Education), a training program for democratic education teachers, and a program that focuses on improving schools in underprivileged neighbourhoods. Hecht lectures on democratic education in Israel and world-wide.
  • Matt Hern

    Matt Hern
    Hern, a Canadian activist, puts his energy and intelligence to work on radical urbanism, community development, ecology, and alternative education. His community projects range from a creative production co-operative for refugees to Purple Thistle, an alternative education centre for teens. He teaches at universities, lectures, and has published Everywhere All the Time, and Deschooling Our Lives. Hern encourages alternative learning communities that are democratic and child-tailored.