A Day of Gratitude

Why do we have segregation in Montessori?

Thanksgiving is turned into a day of gratitude. A mere symbol to be grateful for bountiful food, football, Black Friday shopping, and really celebrating the excess. However, nobody remembers or even thinks that when Pilgrims reached this New World in the Mayflower, it was followed by the annihilation of the Native Americans. They were slaughtered because they were different. Their way of living, their religion, their skin color, their language were different from the Pilgrims, so they felt like a threat. Apparently, being different is a crime.

Are we so different now?

Come to think of it, we are not so different even now. The death of Black Americans, Muslims, Asian Americans, the deportation of Hispanics, and keeping them away from their children doesn’t weigh on any of us as long as we are sleeping comfortably in our beds knowing our children are safely tucked in their beds. We do not care about these issues or sometimes we care but we don’t do anything about it. But, those are still major issues and sometimes require a different kind of courage and resources to stand up. However, we don’t do anything about the micro-segregation that most of us have faced in our society. We accept it sheepishly because we think speaking up will be too much effort.

Segregation in Montessori is as real as the air we breathe….

What about the segregation we often encounter in our Montessori world? It is sad to say but it is the truth that the Montessori world is a highly segregated world. The idea that it is for rich white people isn’t wrong. That stereotype is very true and not just in private Montessori schools but also the so-called charter Montessori schools. Shouldn’t Charter schools accept everyone?

Is this even developmentally appropriate?

Recently, we had an interview in a local Montessori school for my 2-year-old. First of all, the whole idea of a 2-year-old interview seems preposterous. My son was invited for an Open House which is basically vetting out the process of anybody that doesn’t fit their “Montessori Box”. He was invited along with 6 other children and they were asked to go to the classroom all by themselves with a brand new person (a teacher, an assessor). Everything about this process is developmentally and humanely wrong! A toddler is not equipped to be separated from their primary caregiver and judging them on how well they will separate from parents isn’t a realistic expectation.

My son passed this test but at the cost of what, I wonder. How much harm did I do? How did he feel? Did he feel that I abandoned him? His fears seem so real and I couldn’t help to think that something in our mother-son connection was broken that day. The shame and guilt that followed were so big for me to recover from. I felt helpless because if he doesn’t go through this process then he may not get in and our financial conditions require me to go back to work. The schools that prey on parents’ fears like this are NOT Montessori in my opinion.

He was invited to a second interview, this time in the full functioning classroom with students. The teacher didn’t come out of the classroom to greet my child or make him feel comfortable one on one. We walked into the classroom and my son totally freaked out to see all the children and this time a brand new teacher, not the teacher who he was with the first time. The trauma he felt was so visible on his face. He was anxious and wanted to get out and at this moment he wanted to be with his safe person, which wasn’t me. He wanted to be with his dad because he identified me as the person who dropped him in this strange place before.

It broke my heart and I don’t think I will be able to gain my child’s trust the same way again. My husband and I were interviewed and the series of questionnaires felt like a big vetting process. I was asked if I had any complications during pregnancy or if our family had any mental disorders, if my son was ever told to be diagnosed for special needs, if he needs speech therapy, and the list goes on.

The idea is to segregate any neurodiversity. Neurodiverse children are not welcomed. Everybody should fall into the category of their “normal”. Needless, to say that this particular Montessori school is 98% White population even though they claim to be a “Charter” school. There are other charter schools in the area but when it comes to diversity of any kind they are all the same more or less.

Nobody talks about desegregation in schools

How many times do you open Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest do you hear about segregation in Montessori? None, of the influencers or content creators, talk about the topics that really matter. What do we focus on, wooden toys, prepared home, things that we can just buy with a swipe of a credit card. And lately, there has been a trend of talking about “Risky Play” and once again completely ignoring neurodiversity. Not all children are into risky play and continuous posts about showing off toddlers rock climbing or independently doing things that may not be developmentally appropriate for all, leave parents feeling inadequate in themselves.

Segregation is happening everywhere and all the time. From the smallest world of Montessori in social media to Montessori schools.

We must speak up and start small. We must start with our Montessori world and stand up to schools that are practicing these unethical ways of choosing students. Only then we can honor Dr. Montessori’s work and bring the change. We must believe in our hearts, “All are Welcome, Loved, and Respected.” Honestly, the whole idea of “Normal” when it comes to children seems highly “Abnormal”.

Resources on Segregation in Montessori

https://journals.ku.edu/jmr/article/view/5848

https://news.ku.edu/2021/05/13/examining-racial-justice-and-equity-montessori-research

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