Ernst von Glasersfeld's answers
April 1998



From: "Michelle K. Reed"
Subject: Question for Professor von Glasersfeld on Maria Montessori

Professor von Glasersfeld,

For the past several years I have been very interested in the work of Dr. Maria Montessori. Some people seem to misunderstand her extensive use of manipulative materials as a belief on her part of somewhat behavioristic notions. I believe her to be a constructivist, because she created the materials to allow children to experiment with their surroundings to spark their natural urge to learn and to reflect within themselves about what they experienced. She believed that children's environments should not inhibit their natural, inevitable growth (physically, intellectually, emotionally) by forcing them to conform in any way to the ideals of others, but that interesting materials should be displayed for "free" children to take up as their interest was sparked. (Of course, this is my interpretation of her words).
My question is: Have you read any of Dr. Montessori's works? If so, would you consider her to be a radical constructivist?

Thank you,
Michelle Reed

Ohio State University
Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education
253 Arps Hall, 1945 N. High St.,Columbus, OH 43210

ANSWER 1 ( for Michelle Reed): Montessori's pedagogy is indeed compatible with constructivism (I read her Self-generated learning (?) some fifty years ago) and even Piaget, who hardly ever cited anyone, had nice things to say about her. However, M. was a practitioner and did not spend much time on philosophical underpinnings. I don't know how far she would have agreed with the radical epistemology. The difference I make between "teaching", that fosters the experience of satisfaction and fun in learning, and "training", that aims only at performance, is, I think, very much how she saw it.



From:(Matthew Shapiro)

Question for Ernst von Glaserfeld:
You have said that radical constructivism deals with experience and whatever concepts individuals abstract from it; it does not deal with 'being' or what 'exists'. Would not an even more radical constructivism go a step further and suggest that we not only construct our knowledge, but in fact construct the solid world? That perception is not an act of seeing, but an act of ordering reality itself? In this case, one would not say "I perceive this floor to be hard because it is." Rather, one would say "this floor is hard because I perceive it as hard [because it is functional for me to make it hard]." From this it would follow that all subjectivity is reality (as opposed to saying that we cannot ordinarily know reality), the key variable being whether we are creating reality in a functional way or a dysfunctional way (the latter representing a pathological individual or society).

Matthew Shapiro

ANSWER 2 (for Matthew Shapiro) : From my point of view, perceiving is an act of ordering experience and experiential reality, which is the only "reality" we can know. We cannot say that it represents the ontological reality traditional philosophers want to talk about. At best we can say that the experiential reality we construct seems to be viable for our purposes; i.e., the unknowable "real" world seems to allow it.




From: Ricardo Ariza Urango
Organization: Familia Ariza Galindo

Dear Dr. Ernst von Glasersfeld:
Thank you for your interest in this mail. i am one oficcer of Colombia Navy, in this moment i am make one Master of Science in Industral Engineer in the Andes University in Bogotá - Colombia (Sur-America) and i am work in my thesis in the simulation of war games whith Dinamic system theory and i want used powersim, Vensim, Ithink or another simulation software, i thank you if your can send me information about.

Thank you for your interes and colaboration.

My Adress is:
Teniente de Navio Ricardo Ariza Urango
Carrera 50 Nº 15-31
Camara de Oficiales de la Armada Nacional
Santafe de Bogota
Colombia (Sur America)

ANSWER 3 (for Navio Ricardo Ariza Urango) : I regret, I know nothing about simulation software. You might try to contact (in Spanish) Prof. Charles François, e-mail: ; or (in English, German, or Italian)) Prof. Marco Bettoni, e-mail: .




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