Page 17 - Rudolf.Steiner's.Vision.for.the.Future.(Being.Human.magazine.debut.issue)
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the inner life of feeling matures into puberty and beyond, sciousness with archetypal myths and tales from many cul- 

the arts become the main door to knowledge. Steiner also tures. By the third grade, children have become in some 

understood that real learning is never linear, but always dy- real sense little monotheists; by the sixth, they have become 

namic. Rich experiences ripen in the unconscious, and then Roman jurists. As they grow into autonomy, children ex- 

emerge years later as quite different capacities. For example, perience their own inner Renaissance; Steiner identified 

Steiner taught that the sense of artistic proportion gained by this moment as the keystone of the entire curriculum. 

drawing and painting in adolescence will transform itself Adolescence is an age of Great Revolutions. Waldorf edu- 

into sound judgment in the thinking adult.
cation seeks the students where they live, and it knows that 

Steiner prescribed that the class teacher stay (‘loop’) with these recapitulated experiences will emerge later as a very 

the same group of children, usually from grades one through different, appropriately modern, set of capacities. By the 

eight, after which experts teach specific disciplines such as time they enter high school, students are ready for the most 

math, English, or biology. He wanted elementary and middle rigorous intellectual work we can give them, and they are 

school teachers to become, above all else, experts on the group able to embrace it with a rich array of inner resources. In 

of children entrusted to them. Waldorf education imposes this way, the Waldorf curriculum seeks to provide, as one 

many demands on class teachers, who must become ‘Renais- school describes it, a “contemporary classical education 

sance men and women,’ mastering new material each year, that engages not only the head, but also the heart and the 

and growing together with their class. He asked teachers to hand; not just ‘college prep,’ but ‘life prep’.”

reflect each evening on their students and on 
Social Renewal
Steiner’s social
themselves. Steiner’s pedagogy is as much about
and political 
the self-development of the teacher as the educa-
Waldorf education is currently the best- 
thought is difficult 
tion of the student. But the heavy demands of
known aspect of Steiner’s work, but few realize 
to characterize 
teaching also bring great personal rewards and
that it is only a small remnant of what was meant 
succinctly, not least 
deep relationships with students that can last a
to become (and could still become) a much larger 
because it cuts 
lifetime.
social program. Steiner called this in German, 
across conventional 
awkwardly, “soziale Dreigliederung,” and the con- Steiner gave the teachers of the first school 
categories.
ventional English translation, “the threefold social
a motto to guide them: “Receive the child in 

order,” is hardly more felicitous. Like so much of reverence; educate the child in love; send the 

his other work, Steiner’s social and political child forth in freedom.” Although it respects 

thought is difficult to characterize succinctly, not many religions, and has grown out of a reveren- 

least because it cuts across conventional cate- tial view of the world and the human being, the 

gories. Steiner’s critique of laissez-faire capitalism Waldorf curriculum is as little about inculcating 

parallels Marx’s in many important regards, such any specific religious or spiritual doctrine as hos- 

as his insistence that human labor is not a com- pitals are about teaching their patients anatomy 

modity that can be sold, and that industrial life and physiology. At the heart of the curriculum 

is alienating because it violates human nature it- is Steiner’s view that ontogeny recapitulates Steiner turns all

self. But Steiner looks more like a classic liberal in phylogeny – that the developing human being conventional social

his insistence on the separation of the political recapitulates in small the great, overarching evo- theory on its head

realm (which he called “the sphere of rights”)
lution of consciousness that humanity as a by claiming that

whole has undergone. For the youngest chil- altruism (fraternit́) from both economics and culture (including both

dren, the world is alive with magic; they live in should be the religion and education).

guiding principle in
Steiner’s role in the history of European
a deep, dreamy sympathy with animals, plants, 
the economic sphere. socialism has not been appreciated. (Hints: it was 
and stones. The curriculum feeds that con-


first issue 2011 • 15



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