Montessori: Origin and reasons for the criticisms of one of the most controversial pedagogues of all time

Montessori: origen y razones de las críticas a una de las pedagogas más controvertidas de la historia

Catherine L’Ecuyer


Montessori is one of the most fascinating and controversial pedagogues of all time. On the one hand, the naturalists reproached her for the rigidity and artificiality of her method, as well as her rejection of productive imagina­tion and fantasy. On the other hand, progres­sive educators reproached the individualist and prescriptive character of her method. The mod­ernists reproached her for her religiosity. Some criticized her for accelerating learning or for not respecting the freedom of the child, others for the contrary. Christians branded her a sec­ularist, positivist, naturalist, and theosophist, while theosophists defined her as Catholic.

These paradoxical criticisms are due, among other reasons, to the context of the an­timodernist frenzy in which she developed her method, to her network of friends in Freema-son circles, to the numerous nuances of her method, to her resistance to fitting in with ex­isting educational currents, to the instrumen­talization of her method by third party inter­ests, to her sometimes entangled and not very clear language and to the lack of knowledge of her method in action.

Please, cite this article as follows: L’Ecuyer, C. (2023). Montessori: origen y razones de las críticas a una de las pedagogas más controvertidas de la historia | Montessori: Origin and reasons for the criticisms of one of the most controversial pedagogues of all time. Revista Española de Pedagogía, 81 (285), 251-270.

Boyd, W. (1914). From Locke to Montessori: A crit­ical account of the Montessori point of view. Henry Holt and Co.

Bruner, J. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Cárcel Ortí, V. (1999). Historia de la Iglesia [Histo­ry of the Church]. Palabra. Madrid.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (1930). Treviso, Rerum Variarum 1930, n.14, S.O. 3191/1930. Roma.

Corcoran, T. (1924a). Is the Montessori Method to be introduced into our school? Origins and gen­eral processes of the Method. Irish Monthly, 52 (611), 236-243.

Corcoran, T. (1924b). Origins and general process­es of the Method. Irish Monthly, 611, 236-243.

Corcoran, T. (1924c). Policy regarding religious in­struction. Irish Monthly, 52 (613), 342-349.

Corcoran, T. (1924d). Sensory processes; The lan­guage age. Irish Monthly, 612, 290-297.

Corcoran, T. (1924e). The liberty of the child and of the teachers. Irish Monthly, 52 (610), 176-182.

Corcoran, T. (1924f). The Montessori principles. Irish Monthly, 609, 118-124.

Darwin, C. R. (1859). On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. John Murra.

Dease, G. (1924). Montessori – “Audi alteram par­tem”. The Irish Monthly, 52 (615), 465.

De Giorgi, F. (2016). Prefacio de F. De Giorgi en Dios y el niño y otros escritos inéditos [Preface of F. De Giorgi to God and the child and other unedited writings]. Herder.

De Giorgi, F. (2018). Maria Montessori tra modernisti, antimodernisti e gesuiti [Maria Montessori among modernists, antimodernists, and Jesuits]. Annali di storia dell’educazione, 25, 27-73. https://hdl.handle. net/11380/1197585

De Giorgi, F. (2019). Il peccato originale [Original sin]. Scholé.

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. Macmillan.

Dewey, J., & Dewey, E. (1915). Schools of tomorrow. E.P. Dutton & Co.

Fynne, R. (1924). Montessori and her inspirers. The Educational Co. of Ireland.

Holmes, E. G. A. (1911). What is and what might be. A study of education in general and elemen­tary education in particular. Constable & Co.

Holmes, E. G. A. (1912). The Montessori system of education. His Majesty’s Stationery Office.

Kilpatrick, W. H. (1914). The Montessori system ex­amined. The Riverside Press Cambridge.

L’Ecuyer, C. (2020). La perspective montessorienne face au mouvement de l’Éducation nouvelle dans la fran­cophonie européenne du début du XXe siècle [The Montessorian perspective in the face of the New Education movement in French-speaking Europe at the beginning of the 20th century]. European Review of History /Revue européenne d’histoire, 27 (5) 651-682.

L’Ecuyer, C., Bernacer, J., & Güell, F. (2020). Four pillars of the Montessori Method and their support by current neuroscience. Mind, Brain, and Education, 14 (4), 322-334.

L’Ecuyer, C., & Murillo, J. I. (2020). Montessori’s teleological approach to education and its im­plications. Revista Española de Pedagogía, 78 (277), 499-517.

La Civiltà Cattolica. (1908). Il primo Congresso delle donne italiane [The first Congress of Ital­ian women]. La Civiltà Cattolica, 59 (2), 513- 532.

La Civiltà Cattolica. (1919). La «Casa dei Bam­bini» della Montessori e l’“autoeducazione” [Montessori’s “Casa dei Bambini” and “self-education”]. La Civiltà Cattolica, 70 (2), 219- 229, 430-436.

Leo XIII. (1879). Encyclical Aeterni Patris. https:// html

Montessori, Maria. (1912). The Montessori Method: Scientific pedagogy as applied to child education in “The Children’s Houses”. Frederick A. Stokes Co.

Montessori, Maria. (1914). Dr Montessori’s own handbook. Frederick A. Stokes Co.

Montessori, Maria. (1917). Spontaneous activity in education. Frederick A. Stokes Co.

Montessori, Maria. (1931). La vita in Cristo [Life in Christ]. V. Ferri.

Montessori, Maria. (1932). The mass explained to children. Sheed and Ward.

Montessori, Maria. (1937). El niño: El secreto de la infancia [The child: The secret of childhood]. Araluce.

Montessori, Maria. (1948a). The discovery of the child. Mandras.

Montessori, Maria. (1948b). De l’enfant à l’adoles­cent [From child to adolescent]. Descles.

Montessori, Maria. (1949). The absorbent mind. The Theosophical Publishing House.

Montessori, Maria. (1958). Ideas generales sobre mi Método [General ideas on my Method]. Editori­al Losada.

Montessori, Maria. (1972). The secret of childhood. Ballantine Books.

Montessori, Maria. (2007). The formation of man. Montessori-Pierson Publishing Co.

Montessori, Maria. (2016). Dios y el niño y otros escritos inéditos [God and the child and other unedited writings]. Herder.

Pius IX. (1864). Encyclical Quanta Cura and Syl­labus Errorum. 8-decembris-1864.html

Pius X. (1907a). Decree Lamentabili sane exitu.

Pius X. (1907b). Encyclical Pascendi Dominici gre­gis. pascendi-dominici-gregis.html

Pius X. (1910). Motu proprio Sacrorum Antistitum. proprio/documents/hf_p-x_motu-proprio_ 19100901_sacrorum-antistitum.html

Pius XI. (1929). Encyclical Divini Illius Magis­tri. encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_31121929_ divini-illius-magistri.html

Röhrs, H. (1994). Maria Montessori (1870-1952). Perspectives: Revue Trimestrielle d’Éducation Comparée, 24 (1-2), 173-188.

Rusk, R. R. (1918). The doctrines of the great edu­cators. Macmillan and Co., Limited.

Sanchidrián Blanco, C. (2015). Introducción a El Método de la pedagogía científica aplicado a la educación de la infancia [Introduction to The Method of scientific pedagogy applied to the ed­ucation of young children]. Biblioteca Nueva.

Standing, E. M. (1966). The Montessori revolution in education. Schocken Books.

Stoops, J. A. (1987, October 30- November 1). Maria Montessori: An intellectual portrait [Maria Montessori: un retrato intelectual] [Paper pre-sentation]. Convention of the American Mon­tessori Society, Boston, MA, EE. UU.

Stoppani, A. (1915). Il bel paese [The beautiful country]. Casa Editrice L. F. Cogliati.

Van Gorp, A., Simon, F., & Depaepe, M. (2017). Frictions and fractions in the new education fellowship, 1920s–1930s: Montessori(ans) vs. Decroly(ans). History of Education & Children’s Literature, 12 (1), 251-270. https://www.research­ fractions_in_the_New_Education_fellowship_ 1920s-1930s_Montessorians_vs_Decrolyans

Wagnon, S. (2017). Les théosophes et l’organisa­tion internationale de l’éducation nouvelle (1911–1921) [The theosophists and the in­ternational organization of the new edu­cation (1911–1921)]. REHMLAC+, 9 (1), 146-180. v9i1.28629

Catherine L’Ecuyer. Doctor of Edu­cation and Psychology at the University of Navarra and bestselling author of The Won­der Approach, It Looks Better in 3D, Montes­sori ante el legado pedagógico de Rousseau [Montessori in the face of Rousseau’s pedagogical legacy] and Conversaciones con mí maestra [Conversations with my teacher], among others. She currently col­laborates with the Mind-Brain Group, a research group of the Institute of Culture and Society (ICS) of the Universidad de Navarra.


Data collected by PlumX Metrics. More information on the metrics collected can be found at