How did Waldorf education get started?
In 1919, Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher, scientist and artist, was invited to give a series of lectures to the workers of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany.
As a result, the factory’s owner, Emil Molt, asked Steiner to establish and lead a school for the children of the factory’s employees. Steiner agreed to do so on four conditions:
– the school should be open to all children;
– it should be coeducational;
– it should be a unified twelve-year school; and that
– the teachers, those who would be working directly with the children, should take the leading role in the running of the school, with a minimum of interference from governmental or economic concerns.
Molt agreed to the conditions and die Freie Waldorfschule (the Free Waldorf School) was opened on September 7, 1919.
Who was Rudolf Steiner?
Dr. Rudolf Steiner was a highly respected and well published scientific, literary and philosophical scholar who was particularly known for his work on Goethe’s scientific writings.
His background in history and civilizations coupled with his observation in life gave the world the gift of Waldorf Education. It is a deeply insightful application of learning based on the Study of Humanity with developing consciousness of self and the surrounding world.
Consistent with his philosophy called anthroposophy, Steiner designed a curriculum responsive to the developmental phases in childhood and nurturing of children’s imaginations. He thought that schools should cater to the needs of children rather than the demands of the government or economic forces, so he developed schools that encourage creativity and free-thinking.
Waldorf Schools Today
The Waldorf curriculum is based on over 100 years of successful practice worldwide. It is an interdisciplinary program that attends to the student’s intellectual and cognitive faculties, artistic and imaginative capacities, and practical life skills. At the core of our approach is meeting the child’s needs at every stage of their development.
Waldorf education aims “to produce individuals who are able, in and of themselves, to impart meaning to their lives”. We educate the whole child through the “head, heart and hands”. Teachers are dedicated to creating a genuine love of learning within each child.
Waldorf education is global. Waldorf curriculum frameworks have been developed in many different local, national and international environments. Despite these widely differing contexts, the underlying holistic and spiritual perspectives of the pedagogy ensure the maintenance of a core unifying element in the various curricula. Waldorf school teachers, educators, and curriculum researchers have developed the touchstone features of the Waldorf curriculum in a way that facilitates its adaptation across different cultural, linguistic and racial groupings in every continent, in as many as seventy nations as diverse as China, India, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, New Zealand, and in many countries in South America and Africa, the USA, United Kingdom, and the European Union.