In the Absorbent Mind, Maria Montessori famously says, “There are many who hold, as I do, that the most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six.”
Her intuition was, and this was in the early twentieth century, that from a biological point of view children will learn more during these formative years than at any other period in their lives. As a scientist, she set out to prove this…
“Others,” Montessori states, “as a result of careful study, have come to the conclusion that the first two years are the most important in the whole span of human life.”
So, one might ask, over a hundred years later, “Why don’t we devote more resources to early childhood education?” It’s a really profound thought, especially juxtaposed against the backdrop of how much time and money we actually spend towards university studies.
Not only from an academic standpoint, trying to prepare our children to be ready for college, equipping them with a basic skill set and ability to memorize and take tests, which will be needed to measure success and evaluate prospective employment placement; but, also, from a financial point of view, making sure that we save enough money to send them to a good school.
Of course, with the advent of technology and other ideas about what education should consist, many of our standard assumptions of educational systems are being called into question. Yet how is it that this idea, the idea that the university is the pinnacle of education, is so deeply entrenched in the way we think?
I’ll leave you with a lovely quote from Maria Montessori, in 1949: “The studies which have been made of early infancy leave no room for doubt, the first two years are important for ever, because in that period, one passes from being nothing into being something.”
What do you think? Is early childhood education important? How can we make it more of a focus?
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