Montessori Mafia Article Causing a Buzz

There is an article on the Wall Street Journal blog that is causing a buzz in Montessori circles.

In The Montessori Mafia, author Peter Sims suggests that “the Montessori educational approach might be the surest route to joining the creative elite, which are so overrepresented by the school’s alumni that one might suspect a Montessori Mafia: Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, videogame pioneer Will Wright, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, not to mention Julia Child and rapper Sean “P.Diddy” Combs.” An interesting idea.

Further along, Sims writes that “most highly creative achievers don’t begin with brilliant ideas, they discover them.” And what do you know? Montessori schools are places that are designed for children to engage in creative discovery every day.

Sims concludes his piece with “Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that Montessori alumni lead two of the world’s most innovative companies.  Or perhaps the Montessori Mafia of [sic] can provide lessons for us all even though it’s too late for most of us to attend Montessori.”

The good news is that it’s not too late for your children to benefit from the kind of education that involves “increased experimentation and inquisitiveness.  Those who work with Mr. Bezos, for example, find his ability to ask “why not?” or “what if?” as much as “why?” to be one of his most advantageous qualities.  Questions are the new answers.”

What did you think about the article?


  1. I believe that creative problem solving should be an integral part of a student’s academic life, so I liked what Peter Sims had to say about looking at things in different ways and asking questions. However, I wasn’t as enamored by Mr. Page’s recollection that Montessori was about not following rules. There are plenty of rules (Montessori is developmentally responsive—we know children need limits) and lots of order (think about all those lessons about respect and turn-taking, not to mention the inherent order in Montessori math materials). The secret of success in a Montessori school (and Inly) lies in the balance of freedom within structure.

  2. I suppose it might be preaching to the choir, but I can’t say enough wonderful things about Montessori education. It can seem hard to grasp on paper, but 5 minutes observing a classroom was enough to tell me that this was the way I was meant to teach!

  3. Freedom with responsibility is what allows Montessori children to be creative. They have the parameters of being respectful to everything and everyone in the environment, but after that, there is complete freedom to learn everything they can get their hands on at their own pace. I have been in Montessori education for thirty years and I am still in awe at how the children don’t just learn the most incredibly advanced academic skills, but they learn how to learn and also how to get along with others in this world. There has not a day that has gone by that I have not been proud to have had my own children go through a Montessori school and to have been teaching this brilliant curriculum.

  4. Every single day during my tenure at Inly I have reveled in the creative imaginations and delightful collaborations of our Montessori-educated children. Back in my days working with public school children, who knew I could spend an entire Phys Ed class working with children on their problem solving skills, cooperation and team-building, or good sportsmanship and have it be a foundation of not only our PE program but also of their lives?!!! No wonder Montessori schools turned out the likes of Page, Brin and Bezos!

  5. I have had the chance to meet and work with some of the people mentioned in the article. I would charactize the one trait they all share, outside of being very bright, as curiosity. They look at the world in a very different way from most other entrepreneurs, curious, creative, not bound by traditional norms. Excellent article highlighting the magic all of us at Inly see developing everyday. Thanks for posting

  6. As our daughter, Hanna, just started her Montessori experience a little over 3 months ago, I have been asked by many parents why we moved her from the Scituate Public Schools to a private school. I am quick to tell them that we did not simply move from public to private, we moved to a Montessori model of learning. They are curious and want to know the tangible differences between the two models of learning. I think this article captures a few of them such as creative discovery, experimentation and inquisitiveness. What it doesn’t capture is that the Montessori way of learning has intangible benefits that bring out the best in individual students. I think these intangibles (which are actually made very tangible in the Inly brochure!) and the focus on the individual child are the keys to Montessori student’s success. Hanna has found a love of learning because she is allowed to explore and express her curiosity about the world and how things work and have freedom in the answers she gives (vs. having right and wrong answers). I wish I could go back and go to school the Montessori way!

  7. Like most of us who grew up in traditional schools, the decision to put our children into a Montessori environment is actually somewhat Montessori—let’s try this and see what happens. And it’s not surprising that the approach has such great results. My kids do a lot of hard work for academics, but they also participate in things like spending a chunk of hours outside re-enacting the battle of Gettysburg, which is SO much better than reading about it!

    I think it’s great that in this time of reflection (and hopefully change) on what works and doesn’t work in the education system, the Montessori method is getting serious thought and exposure by the mainstream.

  8. Tests, tasks, rote memorization – those might have been important 100+ years ago in an agrarian economy, or even in the early/mid part of the 20th century when workers like my grandfather worked in the kinds of factories that covered the US. Today is a different day, however. More and more farming is done by large companies with equipment that can, in some cases, run themselves! Factory jobs are obviously being outsourced to other countries. The growth in the computing age has made obsolete many formerly critical US jobs.

    Now, we find ourselves in the Internet age, where the generation of ideas suddenly seem much more important than memorizing tasks. That’s why the business leaders listed in this article, as well as most other successful CEOs, are visionaries. Recognize that they are not all Montessori-trained, nor would we expect them to be. The defining trait amonst many is “creativity of thought.” So while the country will continue to churn out successful leaders from public schools, a strong claim can certainly be made that an early Montessori education provides a powerful head start for a child in the 21st century.

    Now if only the WSJ had asked a group of young Montessori students to come up with a better title for the article.

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