A few months back, Papa Bradstein and I were chatting and he inadvertently dropped a bomb in my mind: he asked, what is the spiritual background of Waldorf education?
I say it was a bomb because at the time I stammered out a few lame sentences, and then we went on to some other topic. And I've been thinking about me stammering ever since. Why can I not explain the background of something that I've been working with for almost 10 years? Is it just too complex, or have I not tried to make enough sense of it?
In either case, I decided to give it a try. Now, in discussing this with Anthropapa, he pointed out that to reduce something like spirituality or child development to a few bullet points is automatically ridiculous: you can't take something organic and interconnected and break it down in a materialistic, reductionist way. But anyway, I'm still doing it! OK now, deep breath as I dive into the pool of decidedly woo-woo stuff that may lose me most of my loyal 5-6 readers...
- Human beings reincarnate. Therefore a child is not a tabula rasa to be filled with knowledge; on the contrary it is our task to lead them to their own inherent wisdom. Viewing children in this way leads to a profound respect for them as individuals, and acknowledges that intellectual development alone is not the sole reason for education.
- The human being is comprised of a physical body, an etheric body, an astral body, and an immortal spirit. Waldorf education attempts to bring these bodies into balance through healthy development; mainstream education (and indeed mainstream culture in general) is seen as overly materialistic and intellectualized.
- Humans develop in seven-year phases starting at birth. The first, birth-7, is linked with the will and learning via imitation and physical activity. The second, 7-14, is linked with the feelings and learning via imagination and the arts. The third, 14-21, is linked with the thinking and learning via abstract concepts. Waldorf curricula seek to educate the child in accordance with these developmental stages: for example, there is no "intellectual" teaching in Waldorf kindergartens because the child needs to learn about the world through the senses and in movement.
- To be continued...