school desks

January 18, 2010 § 4 Comments

from the museum of london's collection

in her book titled, the montessori method, published in 1912, maria montessori boldly states in her first chapter, “the principle of slavery still pervades pedagogy, and, therefore, the same principle pervades the school.  I need only give one proof – the stationary desks and chairs.”  an uncommon enemy – the school desk…

young students were expected to remain seated during instruction at school and as a result the scientific community at the time became concerned about the health of their spines.  the resulting innovation in education was the school desk.  optimal chair height, desktop to chair distance, footrest positioning & spacing amongst peers were all taken into account.  she writes that, “not a few nations have become proud of their ‘national desk,’ – and in the struggles of competition these various machines have been patented.”

but perhaps they missed the forest for the trees.  maria montessori seems to wonder – if children’s spines were not designed to support a seated posture in lengthy lectures, perhaps also children’s minds were not.  i wonder – what is our society’s school desk?  are we guilty of allocating our limited resources to answer tree problems, not forest problems?

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§ 4 Responses to school desks

  • Kelli says:

    so glad to see that biehus is back!!

  • Arwen says:

    Ironic that I wouls see this the same morning that I read this and post this.

    It has become painfully obvious that education is one of those areas in our society with no zero basis in evidence and a lot of perpetuation and compounding of harmful practices through the “that’s the way it’s always been done” mentality.

    • biehus says:

      How true your post is! When work is detached from its natural consequences (which admittedly, must happen occasionally) it has to rely on supplementary reinforcers. The trouble is that those supplementary reinforcers, if overused, may lose their efficacy. You have given me more to think on… I will try to post on this over the weekend. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

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