Outsider’s perspective of Waldorf education and how we can describe it in terms of the educational philosophies that we have studied.

What we can learn from Waldorf and can it be applied to a non-Waldorf environment?

Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able, of themselves, to impart purpose and meaning to their lives.

Central tenets and philosophies (in my opinion)



Humanism

children already possess intelligence (rose metaphor), but needs support and guidance to blossom-- an environment to allow what is inside to come out

childhood is valuable-- it's not just a means to become an adult

balanced development of cognitive, affective/artistic, and practical skills (head, heart, hands)

Individuality—opposite of Freire’s banking concept

Patience

Trust that the child will undergo the natural process of learning

Mirror historical progression of human literacy—oral tradition, visualization, written word, reading

Writing introduced before reading

Learn to write/read later—develop love of language first

Many parents panic when kids aren’t reading by the 3rd grade


The Arts

Visual art, music, dance, song—(not subjects)

Mediums for self expression and communication of one’s individuality

Learning THROUGH the arts

Eurythmy


Constructivism

handmade textbooks—interpret material artistically and critically as they discover it

—ask questions, draw diagrams,

explain the concepts to themselves through their own paradigms and perspectives


Perennialism

Universal view of child, childhood, and what it involves, regardless of time period.

Rejection of electronic media (videos, computers, recorded music)

Blackboard, wooden furniture

Connection with nature


Student-centered and Teacher-centered

Early childhood—teacher as storyteller/performer

Uses voice, movements to teach by imitation

Curriculum guided by teacher

Yet…

Students learn at their own pace, teacher is patient

Teacher adapts to different learning styles

Learning through the arts allows the students to learn in their own way

Teacher looping (elementary)—teacher follows students in their growth


Trust and Community

Safe environment—acceptance from teachers and peers (absence of competition)

Grow together, learn together

Trust in the humanness of each other

A feeling that “let children be children and everything will be ok”. Trust in them as human beings.


Criticism

1) A lack of multiculturalism—minorities are underrepresented in student populations and curriculum

Traditions have central-European foundation, classrooms have a central-European quaintness—meant to create home-like environment, but wont seem that way for all kids.

However, global Waldorf schools seem to take local culture into account.

2) Reliance on a single philosophical source: Rudolf Steiner

There do not appear to be many other significant voices within the movement and his vast work is seen as quite canonical. That lack of diverse voices and perspectives is unsettling.

3) Isolation from the rest of the world

Due to diametrically-opposed education model, separation and seclusion appear to be inevitabilities. I suspect that children may feel culturally disconnected and have trouble adjusting to society after finishing their Waldorf schooling. Waldorf proponents would argue that the strong sense of self and independence that Waldorf grows in its students allows them to feel comfortable and confident in the world.



Discussion questions:

1) Is there anything in the Waldorf approach to which you connect strongly?
2) What are some aspects that clash with your values?
3) What can we learn from the Waldorf approach, whether through positive or negative example?
4) What educational philosophies do you believe should be introduced to or strengthened within the Waldorf school?
5) How can we extract Waldorf elements we like and integrate them with a non-Waldorf environment, students, and curriculum? Do you think that it is possible?

Hi Dan,
Well done on your presentation. I had never heard of Waldorf schools before, so all of the information was new to me. Your applications of the fundamental theories was well done. You placed strong emphasis on humanism which I could totally see in the Waldorf method. I found the idea of using drawing a precursor to writing to be quite interesting.
Jenn