After discussing (but not agreeing with) the dictum of another age (but still with us!!) that “children should be accustomed to eat everything” on the grounds that “thus…in the various circumstances in which he may be placed throughout his life, [the child] will be ready to eat whatever comes to hand, and will not be greedy and capricious,” Dr. Montessori counters and elaborates with:
Very similar methods are now adopted by those who insist that children should pay attention to things they dislike, in order to accustom them to the necessities of life. But as in the case of psychical nourishment hunger is never brought to bear upon the “cold and distasteful viands,” the indigestible and heavy food weakens and poisons the unwilling recipient.
Not thus shall we prepare the robust spirit, ready for all the difficult eventualities of life. The boy who swallowed the cold soup and went fasting to bed was the one whose body developed badly, who was too weak to resist infection when he encountered it, and fell ill; and morally it was he who, having a store of unsatisfied appetites within him, looked upon it as the greatest joy of his liberty, when he became an adult, to eat and drink to excess. How unlike was he to the boy of today, who, rationally fed and made robust of body, becomes the abstemious man, who eats to live in health, and combats alcoholism and excessive and injurious feeding; the modern man, who can defend himself by so many means against infectious diseases, and who is so ready for effort that, without any compulsion, he braves the arduous exertion of sport and attempts and carries out great enterprises, such as the discovery of the Poles and the ascent of lofty mountains.
So, too, the man capable of braving the icy wastes of moral conflict, of undertaking spiritual ascents, will be he whose will is strong, whose spirit is well balanced, whose decisions are prompt and steadfast.
And the more a man’s inner life shall have grown normally, organizing itself in accordance with the provident laws of nature, and forming an individuality, the more richly will he be endowed with a strong will and a well-balanced mind. To be ready for a struggle, it is not necessary to have struggled from one’s birth, but it is necessary to be strong. He who is strong is ready; no hero was a hero before he had performed his heroic deed. The trials life has in store for us are unforeseen, unexpected; no one can prepare us directly to meet them; it is only a vigorous soul that can be prepared for everything. (pp. 129-130, The Advanced Montessori Method – I (formerly Spontaneous Activity in Education) by Dr. Maria Montessori, trans.s Florence Simmonds and Lily Hutchinson, Clio Press, Oxford, (c) 1991 Montessori-Pierson Estates, ISBN 1-85109-114-9.)
This general idea applies also to Ms. Vance-Cheng, the PEG graduate we saw interviewed about a week ago. Ms. Vance-Cheng would not have been made stronger or been better off by being made to go to a school that had bad social experiences she had to endure.