Steiner Waldorf education philosophy
In the chaos of Europe after the first World War, many people hoped for and believed in a better future, based on new social forms. One of these was the industrialist, Emil Molt, owner of the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart. Molt was a friend of philosopher and scientist, Rudolf Steiner. Steiner had written books and given lectures on education and now Molt asked him to found a school for the children of the workers in his factory. Steiner agreed, trained twelve teachers in his method, based on a study of child development, and ‘The Waldorf School’ opened in September 1919.
The first Waldorf – or Steiner – school in the English speaking world opened in south London in 1925. Since then, this innovative form of education has continued to be popular and relevant and there are now around 1000 schools worldwide.
“From Play, through Beauty to Work. This is a golden path for education. In later life the most abstract tasks, the most difficult techniques, do not arouse antipathy if this path has been followed during childhood.” RUDOLF STEINER
Each of these schools, whilst being independent and part of its local community, shares an approach to education behind which stands a deep understanding of the human being in body, soul and spirit, which Rudolf Steiner wrote and spoke about in several hundred books and lectures during his life. He called this knowledge ‘Anthroposophy’ – literally ‘wisdom of the human being’ – and in it he described and characterised the different stages of development which can be observed in the journey through childhood (and also through adulthood). In his lectures on education, he gave many indications for suitable subject matter and approaches to teaching for different ages but always stressed that teachers must be free to interpret these indications in their own way. Indeed, he said, if they did not do so, Steiner Waldorf education would become a method as good as, but no better than, many other methods.
“The Waldorf School is not an ‘alternative school’ like so many others, founded on the belief that it will correct all errors in education. It is founded on the idea that the best principles and the best will in this field can come into effect only if the teacher understands human nature. However, this understanding is not possible without developing an active interest in all of human social life. Through a teacher who understands the soul, who understands people, the totality of social life affects the new generation struggling into life. People will emerge from this school fully prepared for life.” RUDOLF STEINER