Maria Montessori (1870-1952), an Italian childhood educator and world citizen, would have been pleased at the efforts of the United Nations and UNESCO to promote Global Citizenship Education1. Montessori argued for a child's dignity and autonomy and for the ability of the child to break out of the narrow bonds of nationalistic education. She stressed that children have a unique consciousness and a special sensitivity in the early years which must be nurtured and allowed to develop along its own course.
The world citizen spirit of Maria Montessori's teaching displeased the narrow nationalist leaders in power in the 1930s. The Fascist government of Mussolini closed the Montessori schools in Italy in 1934 as did Hitler in Germany and then in Austria when Hitler's troops moved into Vienna. The dictators saw that creative thinking among children was a danger to their authoritarian rule. She spent the Second World War years in India where her educational ideas influenced a growing number of Indian teachers.
She stressed education for world citizenship in both content and methodology for as she pointed out access to education and to various forms of learning is a necessary but not sufficient condition to world citizenship education. A comprehensive system of education and training is needed for all groups of people and at all levels, both formal and non-formal. The development of a holistic approach based on participatory methods is crucial.