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  • Roger Rawlings
    Hi, Neil. Here are a few indications of the relative roles of teachers and parents in Waldorf schools. You ll see that many of these indications can easily be
    Message 1 of 40 , Aug 18, 2011
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      Hi, Neil.

      Here are a few indications of the relative roles of teachers and parents in Waldorf schools. You'll see that many of these indications can easily be recognized as wedges, separating children from parents.

      Waldorf schools should be literally authoritarian, according to Rudolf Steiner. Students' "souls are open to consciously receiving what works on them from teachers on the basis of a natural, unquestioned authority." [1] 

      Naturally, teachers must be vested with authority. But note Steiner's precise phrase: "unquestioned authority". Steiner wanted students to look on Waldorf teachers as ultimate, unchallengeable communicators of truth: The kids should sit down and attentively, unquestioningly listen. And the parents of Waldorf students should support the teachers in this role. But wait. Who will the teachers replace as authorities? The parents themselves. Steiner put it this way when addressing Waldorf parents: "Much of what the parents can contribute to supporting this authoritative strength, to enabling their child's teacher to be the authority he or she must be, can have its source in something as simple as the fact that the school is taken seriously, with a certain ceremonial seriousness. A lot of sifting out goes into choosing teachers for the Waldorf School, and they are people you can have confidence in. And if you do not understand something, rather than wrinkling your nose at it right away, it is important that you trust in the great overriding principle [i.e., authority] in which you yourself believe." [2] 

      Steiner gives us a lot to chew over in this statement. 

      - A lot of "sifting out" occurs during the hiring process at Waldorf. Who is sifted out? Steiner knew that Waldorf schools might sometimes need to hire outsiders, teachers who do not subscribe to Anthroposophy. But the goal he had in mind is quite different. "As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling." [3] The careful sifting Steiner describes consists of hiring Anthroposophists whenever possible, and avoiding any teachers who would overtly oppose the Anthroposophical coloring of Waldorf education. One of my favorite teachers, long ago, slipped into our Waldorf school's faculty because no candidate more suitable could be found. But he was soon let go — the headmaster explained to him that he was too anchored in the physical, animal realm. [4] 

      - Parents should have confidence in Waldorf teachers. Why? Because of the sifting process, which produces a staff consisting, primarily, of Anthroposophists. Do the parents understand what this means? Those who do understand and who want an Anthroposophical education for their children should, by all means, feel confidence in Waldorf teachers. But all other parents should take warning. To paraphrase Steiner: Waldorf is a school of spiritualistic purposes where we will try to lead your kids down the pathways of occultism. Welcome in! (Now please don't interfere as we work over your children.) [See "Here's the Answer" https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/heres-the-answer ]

      - Parents should take the school seriously, which means approaching it with "a certain ceremonial seriousness." Please. Should parents approach their local public schools with "a certain ceremonial seriousness"? Isn't constructive criticism a wiser attitude? Not at Waldorf schools, thank you. 

      What sorts of schools should be approached ceremonially, with unwavering faith in the authority of the teachers? Religious schools, particularly those that espouse a religion that the parents embrace. Waldorf parents who are not Anthroposophists should be suspicious if they are required to show this high level of deference to a nonsectarian preparatory school (which is how Waldorfs often misrepresent themselves). [5] In reality, Waldorf schools are Anthroposophical religious institutions.

      - If parents do not understand something, they should not expect much clarification. Steiner told Waldorf teachers to keep quiet about what happens inside the school. To protect the reputation of the school, they should talk to no outsiders, including parents — with the sole exception that they may answer parents' questions about their own kids. "We should be quiet about how we handle things in the school, we should maintain a kind of school confidentiality. We should not speak to people outside the school, except for the parents who come to us with questions, and in that case, only about their children, so that gossip has no opportunity to arise...." [6] Students should sit down and keep quiet, and to a large extent so should their parents. *We are the authority figures. You believe in authority, don't you? So step aside while we work our magic on your children.* (And remember, we consider you an outsider.) 

      - Who impedes the children's moral/spiritual progress? Among others, parents: "Given the difficult, disorderly, and chaotic conditions of our time, it might almost be preferable from a moral viewpoint if children could be taken into one's care soon after birth." [7] Let that sink in. The "moral" thing would "almost" be for Waldorf teachers to remove children from parents' control "soon after birth". Few parents would accept such a proposition, of course. But only those parents who are prepared to accept the underlying tenet — that Waldorf teachers know best, embodying "authoritative strength" in ways parents cannot — should consider Waldorf schools for their children. All other parents should start looking for different types of schools

      In brief, Steiner said that Waldorf teachers should supplant parents, assuming the central guiding role in children's lives. This specifically means undoing the harm caused by the kids' foolish parents. Someday perhaps parents will become as wise as Waldorf teachers, but in the meantime Waldorf teachers must take control. Addressing Waldorf teachers, Steiner said, "You will have to take over children for their education and instruction — children who will have received already (as you must remember) the education, or mis-education given them by their parents. Indeed our intentions will only be fully accomplished when we, as humanity, will have reached the stage where parents, too, will understand that special tasks are set for mankind to-day, even for the first years of the child's education. But when we receive the children into the school we shall still be able to make up for many things which have been done wrongly, or left undone, in the first years of the child's life. For this we must fill ourselves with the consciousness through which alone we can truly teach and educate." [8]

      In sum, if we want to speak of wedges pushed between parents and their children, Waldorf schools quite clearly and intentionally insert such wedges.






      [1] Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 4. 

      [2] Ibid., p. 197. 

      [3] FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118. 

      [4] I received this account in private correspondence with the teacher and his wife.

      [5] "Waldorf schools are non-sectarian [sic] and non-denominational [sic]. They educate all children, regardless of their cultural or religious backgrounds. The pedagogical method is comprehensive, and, as part of its task, seeks to bring about recognition and understanding of all the world cultures and religions. Waldorf schools are not part of any church. They espouse no particular religious doctrine but are based on a belief that there is a spiritual dimension to the human being and to all of life." [www.awsna.org, Frequently Asked Questions, Are Waldorf Schools Religious? [I last checked this on Oct. 28, 2006.] 

      [6] FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 10. 

      [7] Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 69.

      [8] Rudolf Steiner, THE STUDY OF MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 16. 


      - Roger
    • petekaraiskos
      No worries Roger, I ve been burning the midnight oil lately and haven t had much free time to post but I intend to post on this topic. Your experience
      Message 40 of 40 , Aug 21, 2011
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        No worries Roger,

        I've been burning the midnight oil lately and haven't had much free time to post but I intend to post on this topic.

        Your experience describes my son's experience (so far after Highland Hall) perfectly (to me). It could have been my son writing it.

        PK
        Enough Already!!!
        http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/2011_01_01_archive.html

        --- In waldorf-critics@yahoogroups.com, "Roger Rawlings" <downfromfog@...> wrote:
        >
        > In its wisdom, the list has moved on to other matters. Still, I'd like to remain on the subject of "help" for at least one more posting, and I'll do this by discussing that infinitely fascinating and instructive subject: myself.
        >
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