John Locke was born on August 29, 1632, in Wrington, a village in the English country of Somerset. He was baptized the same day. Soon after his birth, the family moved to the market town of Pensford, about seven miles south of Bristol, where Locke grew up in an old fashioned stone farmhouse . His father was a county lawyer to the Justices of the Peace and his mother was a simple tanners daughter. Both his parents were Puritans and as such, Locke was raised that way. His early life was spent at home in the country, where he was taught by his father; this explains why he favored the tutorial form of education.
In 1647, John Locke enrolled in Westminster School in London where he earned the distinct honor of being named a “King’s Scholar”, a privilege that went to only select number of boys and paved the way for Locke to attend Christ Church University, in Oxford, perhaps Oxford’s most prestigious school . He studied medicine, which played a central role in his life. After graduating in 1656, he returned to Christ Church two years later and received his Master of Arts. He graduated with a bachelor’s of medicine in 1674.
In order to fully understand Locke, it is necessary to realize that his aims and methods were largely determined by the place and time in which he lived, and by the schools in which he attended. John Locke’s theories center around the case that the human mind, at birth is a “Complete, but receptive, blank slate.” It is the experiences placed upon this blank slate throughout life that determine a child’s characteristics and behaviors. Locke rebelled against the traditional theories of original sin and did not agree that children were born into the world as evil beings but instead believed that things could only be added to a child’s blank slate through experience.
John Locke believed that “The well educating of their children is so much the duty and concern of parents, and the welfare and prosperity of the nation so much depends on it, that I would have everyone lay it seriously to heart.” Locke’s Thoughts concerning Education occupy an important place in the history of educational theory. He believed that “the minds of children are as easily turned, this way or that, as water itself.” For Locke, “Educating children, required instructing their minds and molding their natural tendencies. Education develops the understanding, which men universally pay a ready submission to, whether it is well or ill informed” Because children are born without a natural knowledge of virtue, early education greatly shapes their development, where even little and almost insensible impressions on their tender infancies have very important and lasting consequences!”
Locke’s method of education is meant to be observed by parents even from the time their child is in the cradle, long before the teaching that comes from books. He encourages parents to watch their children, for through observation, parents can understand their child’s distinctive inclinations. Specifically, they should pay particular attention to their child “in those seasons of perfect freedom” and “mark how the child spends his time” Once armed with such information, parents can better know how to motivate their children towards the right and can craft their methods of education accordingly. Above all, Locke believed that children could reason early in life and should be addressed as “reasoning beings” by their parents and not regarded as “only a simple plaything, as a simple animal, or a miniature adult who dressed, played and was supposed to act like his elders”…Their ages were unimportant and therefore seldom known. Their education was undifferentiated, either by age, ability or intended occupation.” Locke, on the other hand, thought of children as human beings and proposed the fostering of children’s education in a gradual manner.
Locke urged parents to spend time with their children and to plan their children’s education according to their individual characters. He suggested using “play” as the chief strategy for children to learn rather than rote memorization or punishment.
How did John Locke inspire Dr. Maria Montessori?
John Locke’s theories on education influenced many educational theorists among those was Dr. Maria Montessori. Locke’s theories inspired and helped her to develop the Montessori philosophy of education, over 100 years ago which is still the basis for how children learn in Montessori programs all over the world.
Maria was inspired by Locke’s belief that each Child is a Unique Person and believed that every child is different and has different skills and needs for development. She believed that if an adult watches and listens carefully, the adult can prepare an environment in which a child can thrive.
– Locke’s method of education is meant to be observed by parents even from the time their child is in the cradle, long before the teaching that comes from books.
Maria Montessori believed that each child possesses a unique individual pattern that determines much of the child’s personality, temperament, skill and ability. Montessori called this pattern, “a spiritual embryo”, as it is determined before birth. This pattern, she believed is revealed only during the process of development, so a great importance is placed on the quality of a child’s environment, activities and the freedom to develop. – Locke, “for through observation, parents can understand their child’s distinctive inclinations. Specifically, they should pay particular attention to their child “in those seasons of perfect freedom” and “mark how the child spends his time” Once armed with such information, parents can better know how to motivate their children towards the right and can craft their methods of education accordingly.”
While John Locke’s referred to a child’s mind being of that of a blank slate, Maria Montessori compared a child’s mind to a sponge that absorbs information. Children will absorb everything they see, hear, taste, smell and touch in order to gain knowledge. Every child has different life experiences, however all Montessori activities can build upon each foundation in an individual way to create memories, problem solving, reasoning, understanding and, of course, absorption.
– Locke also claimed that all ideas came from experience and that there were two aspects of experiences – sensation and reflection. Sensation informs us about things and processes in the external world. Reflection refers to a human’s internal sense that informs itself about the operations in its own mind.
Maria Montessori’s method focuses on the child’s environment and the teacher who organizes the environment and effectively outlined the six components to a Montessori environment as freedom, structure and order, reality and nature, beauty and atmosphere, the Montessori materials, and the development of community life. Maria Montessori set forth her philosophy and method as the way education should be presented to all children. She believed that in a Montessori classroom, children could achieve self-discipline and achieve freedom for their own development. Consequently, she saw her method of education as the way to insure that adults in the future would be thoughtful, independent, clear thinking problem solving individuals who contribute to society in a meaningful way.
– Locke believed that education “made” the man. He felt that the impressions made in infancy have important and lasting consequences. Any association of ideas made in childhood has a critical and life-long effect on a person. Hence, negative association would be damaging for an individual.)
Although John Locke influenced Dr. Montessori greatly, they did not always agree on everything for example. Maria Montessori believed that children are empty vessels and learn by sensory. John Locke’s point of view about children is that teachers play an extremely crucial point in teaching. Because of the “Tabula Rasa” (empty mind) theory, teachers become the only source of information for the children. He also stated that the teachers “pour” knowledge into the students. This point of view is exactly opposite to what Maria Montessori believed. John Locke believed that children never play an active role in learning, they are just receivers – traditional school system. Yet, Maria Montessori believed teachers or directresses’ are only helping the students by awakening their potential powers and that children are the active learners, teachers are only the helpers. John Locke believed that “play” has an important strategy in learning. Maria Montessori never used the term “play” as we always “work!
1. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Plato.standford.edu/entries/locke) 2. “John Locke,” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ISSN 2161-0002, http://www.iep.utm.edu/locke/, accessed December 27, 2012. 3. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke/
4. http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/en/locke.htm 5. http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/philosophers/locke.html