The child in Montessori, Gibran and Tagore

Alamgir Khan
Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017


Conventional thinking says children are weak, ignorant, unreasonable and unimportant. The elders are used to giving them instructions which they are expected to follow without raising any serious question. This culture is reflected in our education system too. Teachers regard children as pots or boxes that should be filled up with knowledge. They are not allowed to grow up freely but forced to go along the path dictated by the elders around them. The grown-ups try to fulfill their wishes through their children, but do not let children’s wishes be fulfilled. It is so ingrained in our culture that we fail to understand the full implications of it. This is the root problem of our teaching-learning method, which is almost wholly a one-way process: teaching the child.


Italian educationist Maria Montessori thought otherwise. In her view, “If an educational act is to be efficacious, it will be only that one which tends to help toward the complete unfolding of life. To be thus helpful it is necessary rigorously to avoid the arrest of spontaneous movements and the imposition of arbitrary tasks.”  She thought that children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.


Respect can be due to children is an unacceptable idea in our social setting. We think respect is only due to elders. We continuously fill up our children’s heads with this knowledge. We are habituated to think that this is the best of all child learnings. Maybe it’s because grown-up people are afraid of children, afraid that they can ask us questions we cannot answer. And as we cannot put up sound logic to them with regard to why something should be done and something not, we fear that they might not abide by our instructions and might go their own way causing harm to our interests. Our right to impose all our wishes on them emerges from the concept that they belong to their parents or guardians or elders. So they must be shaped by elders as if they had no life of their own.


Rabindranath Tagore remembered Jesus Christ who asked his disciples to let children come to him because Christ had deep respect for children. Tagore said, Children are living beings – more living than grown-up people who have built shells of habit around themselves (Chhatro Shashontantro). Our poets like Kazi Nazrul Islam and Sukanta Bhattacharya were also of the same view. But, unfortunately, our state ideals are far away from it.


Lebanese artist and poet Kahlil Gibran’s view in this regard is something that should be mentioned and discussed time and again to expand the depth and boundary of our vision. In ‘On Children,’ he wrote:


Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them,

but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children

as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,

and He bends you with His might

that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,

so He loves also the bow that is stable.


Clearly, the poet asserts that children belong to society and the state, not to me, you or her. They are no one’s personal property. Their development and growth into a whole human being is the responsibility of everyone in society. As Montessori wrote: “We are the sowers – our children are those who reap. We labor so that future generations will be better and nobler than we are.” Let our children be happier, better, nobler, more educated and more cultured than we are. For this, any modern state should adopt these poetic and philosophical ideals as its own and take proper steps to translate these into reality.

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