Deep Dive on Social Organization
Submitted by Jenny Höglund
“Social organization” is spoken of in Montessori primarily at the adolescent level, since it is a central component of the work of that level; it is the thread that ties many other principles together.
The way in which a society is organized is going to change as children move through their development. The idea of social organization is a continuum. Ever-growing groups with an expanded feeling of belonging. It all begins with love between parents and child.
For the first plane (0-6) we speak of a ”society by cohesion”, where the group is bonded by love.
Children are parallel individuals working in the community. The young children work in their environments, side-by-side. They are kind and helpful. They do not work together but, rather, for their own development. Social cohesion in the first plane is focused on the inward construction of the self.
The second plane children (6-12) practice society, and the group is bonded by work still constructing themselves as individual. However they are group-oriented; they work best when they can work with peers. The work and the development of the intellect bonds them socially.
At the third plane (12-18) they need live society bonded by adult work of production and exchange. They develop a realization of their individual role within a community, and they experience of interdependence. Someone who knows their individual place within the context of an interdependent community.
It is a continuum. The 12 year old is not the same as the 18 year old but they are all adolescents.
Needs and characteristics are the same but they manifest themselves differently.
12-14 (period of preparation); 14-16 (period of blooming); 16-18 (period of perfecting) is one way Montessori describes the plane of development.
“The school of the erdkind covers all the period of puberty up to 18 years. During the last two years, it is necessary to assist the pupils in preparing for university…” -- From Childhood to Adolescence
Because of the needs and characteristics of the third plane, adolescents require a certain kind of living in society. In order for this society to function well and to provide the opportunity of adolescents to achieve social and economic independence, there needs to be some kind of organization or structure. All of that is their social organization. We prepare the environment according to the Plan of Work and Study. Various forms of activity should join this establishment -- half-hearted effort will lead to failure. Work in the store, hotel, and farm will complete the whole. This is the work provided to offer the key experiences of adult life. There is a birth of a new social being, that of the adult.
In the third plane, they are living society, they experience responsibility and consequences because of the level of the work. This work cannot be contrived; as soon as it is contrived, it is not real work, and there are not real consequences. Real work and real consequences.
One important aspect is that there has to be work for everyone, so that they know they are part of a community. They need to be able to get to know one another. Now, society is built up by various activities and not only by purely intellectual ones. The greatest element in its construction is the growing sentiment of the conscience of the individual, which develops through and by means of social experiences.
The fundamental mechanism of society, that of production and exchange, on which economic life is based, comprises the elements of social life.
There is a social practice of production and exchange (all the social components that go into production and exchange) are the key experiences. Inherent in production and exchange is morality, connections with others, interdependence. Production and exchange provide work through which the adolescent experiences interdependence and morality.
“We have reached a stage in our social organization that makes it impossible to live in nature. Of necessity, each and every one of us depends on the work of others and is obliged to work for others.” ( San Remo lecture p. 12)
What should be present is work that gives them the experience of working for others and depending on others. Our social organization must provide this experience of adolescents. Real work that implies division of labor. Food production as an example. They must do something that someone else depends on.
An ownership of accountability that is not imposed by adults, so that if someone does not fulfill their obligation to the community, the community holds that person accountable without the adults intervening. This must be a “measurement of life.” You are an essential cog in a working community. There must be sacrifice on the part of individuals.. Work is sacrifice for the community. Work should be experienced as a contribution to the community.
The freedom in the third plane is the freedom of the community to run their own community life.
The purpose of social organization in the third plane is a constructive activity that contributes to self-construction. What makes it distinct from adult social organization is that in the third plane social organization is still in a prepared environment. Adult life is an unprepared environment.
It has to be lived and cannot just be a lesson on morality and values. Morality has to be experienced; it can only exist in a social context. This fosters discipline and association and supports the need for personal dignity and justice.
Adolescents understand the strengths of their friends, and they do not ask more of them than they can handle. They are not looking for equality. They can respect the differences and the needs of others. Equity is more inherent in social organization - or should be.
Where the children live gives them the opportunity for social experience, organizing for comfort, order, maintenance, financials, etc. They need to be really doing it (freedom from family).
They have to have the experience of building supranature, of transforming the earth, so that they can see that they make a difference. Our hope is that they do make a difference when they go out into society. Adolescents need to have experience of shaping their environment, and we have to provide that for them.
The qualities/characteristics of social organization:
Morality, “a form of adaptation to a common life for the achievement of a common aim” (“Moral and Social Education”) Discipline
Interdependency (division of labor)
Work that contributes something to the community
Interaction with various adults, experiences adult life and work
Production and exchange - their economic independence lies in the fact that they, as a community, have a choice about how to earn and spend their money
Association -- individuals in association with one another (relationship)
Mixed age groups
Freedom and responsibility -- choice within the parameters of the organization
Duty -- because they are part of a community; duty to the community and to oneself
Self-discipline (the extension of joyful obedience within the social context)
“Adaptability -- this is the most essential quality.” -- p. 61 appendices -- have to be able to move along with the change of or within the elements of social organization (as explicated in the Plan of Work and Study)
Continuing progress to the world and the link to supranature -- we adapt to our changing environment by change it and changing ourselves
Build-up of love -- love of the community, love of the environment, and love of the self
“This man has genuine qualities -- love, which is something different from attachment; discipline, which is something different from blind submission; the ability to relate to reality, which is something different from flights of fancy.” -- p. 88 Education and Peace