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Maria Montessori, Advanced Course

On the 29th of March, 1944, Maria Montessori gave her last lecture to the students attending her Advanced Course in Kodaikanal, India. In this lecture Dr. Montessori discusses two points which are fundamental to the advanced course and which must be borne in mind by an elementary teacher who wishes to help the children in their development.

I have come today, the last day of our Course, in order to express my feelings of gratitude, a gratitude which never ceases, the gratitude for having been with you through this Course. And I have to thank you for the feeling with which you have followed the Course. (…)

I want to say that we have touched on many points without having been able to finish them. But I feel that these will be as seeds sown into you and that you will be our collaborators in the accomplishment of our work.

The purpose of the Course, after all, was not to give you instruction (…) but to find a more direct way of giving the future generations a richer culture. We have persuaded you that the culture that is given to young people is inadequate and that much more can be offered. In other words, the culture offered can be of a vaster kind than that hitherto allotted to them. Only it must be given in another fashion, in another way. And his, indeed, has been the purpose of our Course.

Through practical experience, over a longer period of time than we have had at our disposal, I could have shown you better how this new approach is of the greatest benefit to the mind of the child: not only is it not a fatigue, it is an impetus to his psychic forces. This, I think, we have understood - you and I - that the child grows through effort.

Now, what is effort? Effort means expending much energy - psychic or other energy. Effort means to strive and to exercise one's faculties more than one thinks is within one's power to do - to go beyond one's strength.

And when the child is unhampered in his activity we see that he is ready to do, to accomplish, much more than we expect because it is through this intense mental exercise that he develops himself. And development is not a fatigue, nor is it inertia or rest. The vital activity of growth is continuous and never tires. (…)

Therefore it is necessary that all past erroneous ideas be revised. We must give the children, the young, the possibility of development with maximum effort. The phenomenon of maximum effort is itself a manifestation which is a guide for the whole of education. Everywhere, in all its phases and during every moment of its duration, growth has a tendency to the maximum effort. (…)

However, the law, true for all periods of growth, is that maximum effort must come from within as an inner impulse which leads to a maximum urge, a maximum drive. Therefore, our aim must be to foster this inner effort. (…)