One particular year in our early elementary community, I marveled at the gentle little talk the theology student who was our assistant gave when two fundamentalist Christian girls were having vicious arguments with the fundamentalist Atheist boy about the existence of God. Of course being second plane children they seated themselves in close enough proximity so they could exercise their reasoning minds against one another and sharpen their abstract thinking with these arguments.

The assistant sat down with them and admiringly and graciously told them they were having an age-old and deeply important argument. All that was missing, he said, was the graciousness and tolerance that should always accompany such a vital and passionate argument. He said many people don’t learn how to hold convictions fiercely and express them energetically while still loving and respecting one another.

Over the months he and I made sure to make reference to such matters as it related to the children’s particular work. He and I were sure to say from time to time that throughout history and across geographical space people who have failed to learn this most vital of human skills of the heart and mind have slaughtered one another in wars.

We made sure the children knew that in Montessori schools we have a special way of learning and practicing the understanding and tolerance that can make all the difference. We let them know that as a part of our studies of history and human cultures, we study one another’s religions, spiritual paths, and philosophies of life to understand each other better and to admire the best in each way. And we brought them to see those explorations as one of the essential elements in Montessori’s education for peace.