I am currently reading Rudolf Steiner’s “The Child’s Changing Consciousness As The Basis Of Pedagogical Practice” and thought the foreword by Douglas Stone would be particularly illuminating for parents new to Waldorf Education.
For those of you who don’t know the origins of Waldorf/Steiner Education, Rudolf Steiner was asked to give lectures in 1919 to the factory workers at the Waldorf Astoria Tobacco Company in Stuttgart, Germany and by April 1919 the decision was made to open the first Steiner school for the children of the factory workers. The original lectures where given to the workers “on the question of what new social impulses are necessary in the modern world.”
I like this description of Waldorf Education: “Based on a comprehensive and integrated understanding of the human being, a detailed account of child development and with a curriculum and teaching practice that seek the unity of intellectual, emotional, and ethical development at every point, Waldorf education deserves the attention of everyone concerned with education and the human future.”
The foreword mentions Dr. Steiner’s use of the terms body, soul and spirit ; how Dr. Steiner’s ideas about childhood development both overlap and are different than those of Gesell and Piaget; how Steiner’s view of the crucial preschool years of “play, imitation and activity” as the foundation for all subsequent knowledge is borne out by many developmental psychologists today. Please note that Waldorf Education can work whether the worldview of Dr. Steiner resonates with you or not; we are people of reason and we have discernment.
Stone talks about the foundation of the Early Years, the dominant feeling life of the primary school aged child and how this feeling, artistic approach to subjects leads to “strong conceptual powers in the adolescent and adult years.”
“Steiner stresses, therefore, the importance of an education during the primary school years that is thoroughly artistic in nature. In these lectures he [Steiner] explicitly criticizes any one-sided emphasis on emotional development that ignores the importance of intellectual development. He also criticizes as nonsense all notions that all learning should be play…..his chief concern is to bring together intellect, emotion, and the tacit knowing of will activity in integral unity.”
Stone also addresses the concern parents have today regarding teaching morals and values in school. Dr. Steiner himself grappled with the religious education requirements required by Germany in the early 1920’s. Steiner’s view of the true view of ethics in education included providing children with experiences of beauty, fairness, reverence, and the righteous conduct of the teacher. He was concerned that the teacher demonstrated a good world for the child through their actions.
Stone writes: “The truly ethical and religious dimensions of education have nothing to do with indoctrination, the teaching of empty concepts, “thou-shalt” attitudes, but with the actual experience of gratitude, love, wonder, a devoted interest in one’s life tasks and conduct, and a recognition of the worth of the developing individual.”
I thought those were some worthy thoughts to pass on and ponder today.