What do Montessori's words say to you about children's rights?
Rights are not something which should be given, instead we need to learn how to exercise our rights – these two things are not the same. Children need to be put into a position where they can learn how to exercise their rights. In Montessori education, children are given the capacity to be their own educators, and it is the role of the adult to manage the environment to allow that.
This idea that children are not just receivers, but are actors in their education, is becoming more and more accepted now. I view Montessori education through three values, these are: freedom; respect and solidarity. For example, freedom is about developing your own capacity to make decisions in a responsible manner. In Montessori classrooms we exercise freedom of choice, but it has to be done within the environment where others are also affected. The right to be free to choose means that you live up to your duty to make a responsible decision. Many adults today have not had the opportunity to develop this and they prefer others to make the decisions for them. Respect also comes from this freedom of choice. As a Montessori child you know your decision is limited by the decisions of the others around you and you have to make that decision with respect for others. For the third one – Solidarity, we discover from an early age that when we are more than one we are able to achieve much more – it's as simple as that. If the group work as a group, what we achieve as a group is often more than we can achieve by ourselves.
I believe if we were to read the Convention on the Rights of the Child with these three values in mind, we could achieve much more. It also means that we need to give much more attention to the convention when we are training our teachers and we need to offer more materials to our teachers to enable them to present the Convention , for example, giving a timeline perspective on the history of rights – which in my own research I go back to the Magna Carta in 1215 – which is the first place the word "rights" was used.