Establishing Peace Is the Work of Education
By Kalpu Shah, Upper Elementary Program Director and Specialists Program Director
“The science of Peace, were it to become a special discipline, would be the most noble of all, for the very life of humanity depends on it. So, also perhaps, does the question of whether our entire civilization evolves or disappears.” Dr. Maria Montessori
Our world is often a tumultuous and scary place. How can we help our children feel safe and cared for while preparing them to lead the way as adults? How can we cultivate empathy, kindness, gratitude, and the sense of community that helps people work together?
Montessori education has been addressing these issues for over a hundred years. Sometimes the lessons are direct. Other times they are more subtle. The mission is always clear – we want children to have a wide view of the world. We want them to appreciate the diversity of others. We want them to have the tools to navigate this world peacefully.
Maria Montessori recognized that children are the redeeming factor in the evolution of humankind. In order to bring about a world of peace and tolerance, it is important to focus on and teach peace early. As Montessori children get older, they are encouraged to give back to their community. These acts of charity will often be inspired by children’s ideas. By supporting children with logistics, we can encourage them to learn how to be active and supportive members of their communities at a young age. They learn the importance of volunteering and contributing to others.
Giving back is just one way a child begins their active role as a peaceful member. Dr. Montessori was a strong advocate for peace. She firmly believed that the education of children was the key to future peace. “Avoiding war is the work of politics, establishing peace is the work of education” is one of the basic tenets of Maria Montessori. Her vision was the reconstruction of society and the establishment of world peace through education. She believed that world peace could be attained if we teach peace to our students and children. We all have the same fundamental needs (food, clothing, shelter…..) but we as people obtain them differently according to our environments, not the color of our skin. Montessori education teaches peace as tolerance of other races, religions, and cultures.
This culture of giving and volunteering is embraced at MCS. It is indeed through that lens that we deepen our children’s understanding of the society we live in and the challenges that exist. Two ways MCS supports volunteering and prepares “the environment” of giving are through the yearly Book Harvest project and our Day of Service.
This January, we collected children’s books for Book Harvest, a North Carolina literacy nonprofit based in Durham. Book Harvest provides an abundance of books and literacy support to families and children across the state.
On Friday, January 17th, the students of MCS participated in a school-wide service project in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We made soup kits for the Catholic Parish Outreach, which is the largest food pantry in Wake County. CPO provides groceries, clothing, and baby items for people in need regardless of age, sex, gender, or religious preference. The food pantry gives hope to its clients by treating them with dignity and respect along with showing that volunteers come together with one purpose – to help them.
The entire school community participated in this day of service; parents by purchasing (and remembering to send in) their individual donation to the project and children by enthusiastically participating in putting the soup kits together. Toddlers loved bagging the rice while the Primary and Lower Elementary students mixed the beans and measured out the right quantity of beans. The Upper Elementary 6th-year students took their leadership role to heart and helped the younger students accomplish their task, while the 4th and 5th years painstakingly measured out fractional units of spices to complete the spice pack. The Adolescent students, besides contributing to the project, helped assemble the entire kit together. As a school community, MCS prepared 105 kits of soups, each kit feeding 4 people and weighing a sum total of 372 pounds!
This remarkable accomplishment of MCS, where Toddlers through Adolescents all worked towards a single cause of recognizing a need and contributing to society was a classic example of responding to Dr. Montessori’s calling for peace.