Montessori, Dewey, and Capitalism: Educational Theory for a Free Market in Education
TLJ Books (2008)
Reviewed by Vicki Landes for Reader Views (9/08)
As Americans, we see public education as a basic right of citizenship. The government ensures that schools are built, certified teachers are employed, and an appropriate program is followed in order to convert our youth into thriving and productive members of society. But according to author Jerry Kirkpatrick, education shouldn’t be a right and America’s public education system certainly is not a privilege. In fact, he sees it in a completely different light…and it’s not flattering.
Kirkpatrick’s new book, “Montessori, Dewey, and Capitalism: Educational Theory for a Free Market in Education” is a shocking, no-holds-barred look at the current U.S. educational system. He also provides a detailed and just-as-shocking philosophy on what the system could potentially become in a free market environment. He notes that in a competitive, capitalistic setting, schools could not simply sit back and pass underachieving students; they would have to continually prove themselves in order to maintain their clientele. Further, he utilizes the works of Maria Montessori and John Dewey to downplay the ‘traditional’ classroom setting of ‘sit quietly at your desk and pay attention’ while encouraging an open and unfettered learning atmosphere.
“Montessori, Dewey, and Capitalism” is a mixture of educational theory, human psychology, and the capitalistic ‘hands off’ philosophy meant to propose a better alternative to government-controlled schools. While teachers, school administrators, parents, and government officials may find the subject matter quite eye-opening, the book isn’t exactly light reading. Jerry Kirkpatrick writes in a high level, almost textbook-like tone, giving readers an organized analysis of his philosophy.
I did find “Montessori, Dewey, and Capitalism” to be a bit contradicting. For example he notes that in the days where the Catholic Church oversaw education, children were severely punished if they were not able to answer a question or quote something by rote. They were treated like little adults instead of like children. Later in his book, he criticizes rules and adult authority – “…adults do not say to other adults with whom they disagree, ‘You’re grounded! Go to your room!’ Why should such coercive techniques be used on children and students? Negotiation is the rational solution to adult conflict, so it should be with children and students.” So, which is it? If the church treating children like adults is wrong, why then is negotiation – the rational solution to adult conflict – Kirkpatrick’s more advisable way in dealing with children? He condemns treating children like little adults yet insists we put teachers/students and parents/children on the same cognitive level. Further, his absoluteness in rejecting rules and authority was disturbing.: “…parents and teachers must genuinely want their children and students to be freed from the servility of having to obey authority…adults must learn not to feel threatened when the young assert their independence and adults must reject doctrines that encourage obedience to authority, such as altruism, the worship of government as dispenser of justice, and religion.”
Author Jerry Kirkpatrick’s new book, “Montessori, Dewey, and Capitalism: Educational Theory for a Free Market in Education” is an exceptionally intelligent read. Kirkpatrick writes with deep conviction and with the students’ best interests at heart. Unfortunately, we do not live in a world where all people are mature, respect each other, and honestly see the worth of a good education. If that were the case, Kirkpatrick’s book would be an effortless application. Until that time, “Montessori, Dewey, and Capitalism” is a profound look into the problems of the American public education system.