Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Is your child the next Larry Page? Send them to Montessori school!

The WSJ has a puff piece today talking about the benefits of Montessori school:
 Ironically, the Montessori educational approach might be the surest route to joining the creative elite, which are so overrepresented by the school’s alumni that one might suspect a Montessori Mafia: Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, videogame pioneer Will Wright, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, not to mention Julia Child and rapper Sean “P.Diddy” Combs.
Correlation = Causation! You read it in the Journal, so it must by true. I personally can think of absolutely no other explanation for this pattern. Rich, smart, creative parents give birth to rich, smart, creative children, but it has to be the similar schools they're sending them to.

The piece talks about the effects of a randomised lottery on 5 year olds which is all well and good, but it's a far cry from the long term possibility that you'll turn into Jeff Bezos because of the pre-school you went to. But I also wonder greatly about the selection effects going on here by only focusing on smart people in the main discussion. Montessori school may produce wildly different outcomes depending on the child's natural aptitude. If you're as smart as Larry Page, learning at your own pace the things you find interesting is likely to produce great outcomes. If you're a child whose undirected ambition in life is to spend 8 hours a day on facebook (as Dragon Mother Amy Chua aptly put it), you'd probably do better off with a regimented lesson plan.

So the question is, do you think there are more children like Larry Page? Or are there more slowpokes who'd just spend their entire time playing outside and learn nothing?

The world is full of dullards, but wise men are few.

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