Can’t figure out how to comment (and am just a tiny bit lazy) but I did want to comment on one of the comments on the Steiner guest post at DC’s Improbable Science. Namely the one written yesterday by MarkH, who is a Steiner school parent (in some kind of group for small children, that is, as I understand it, not even kindergarten). He writes:
The importance of play in early childhood is widely accepted.
In Steiner kindergartens and schools I assume. But really, who says play isn’t important in early childhood? This idea certainly can’t be unique to waldorf schools — more likely, it’s the most common stance pretty much everywhere. I regularly see groups of small children, even first and second graders, in the park or in the forest. They play. It looks like they’re playing. At least it doesn’t appear as though they’re busy cramming their heads full of facts.
An individual teacher staying with the class as they move up the school.
But that’s not necessarily a good thing. On the contrary, it could be a very bad idea.
“Holistic” teaching, by which I mean such things as illustrating the simple physics of motion in Physical Education/games lessons as well as the science class.
But that’s not what waldorf schools mean by ‘holistic teaching’. They’re talking about something else, although they don’t really get around to explain it to ‘outsiders’. It is, for example, about helping the child’s incarnation process.
I suspect that some Steiner schools take the more esoteric and barmy ideas of Anthroposophy more seriously than others.
The schools that don’t shouldn’t be called Steiner schools or waldorf schools. Either they take the esoteric and barmy ideas seriously, or they don’t. In the latter case, they aren’t Steiner schools — other than to their names. They could call themselves anything. It’s quite pathetic, in that case, to keep using the names Steiner or waldorf. But I suspect that this is a defence mechanism for some parents, they excuse a choice they’re having doubts about by saying to themselves: ‘the school I chose isn’t as crazy as those other Steiner schools’. If the faceless dolls and the gnomes and the wishywashy water colours are there, as MarkH tells us about his child’s Steiner school, then you bet that Steiner school takes the esoteric and barmy ideas very seriously indeed. (Even at the very dogmatic Steiner kindergarten I attended, (at least most of) the waldorf dolls had faces. They had tiny, tiny eyes and mouths. No facial characteristics at all — now, that’s fanatically barmy.)
I hope my son merely enjoys playing with the crayons (no black allowed!) and wooden toys and that I can teach him to think for himself.
Of course one can enjoy the crayons or the wooden toys. Though I suspect the parents are more enthusiastic about the wooden toys than the children. The children will long for plastic, because it looks so funny and colourful, whereas wood does not. Also, the children will risk becoming obsessed with black, since it is the forbidden colour, thus so much funnier than any other colour… I distinctly remember being fascinated with plastic and black as a child myself. On a serious note though, the school will not encourage children to think for themselves. The school will even actively discourage it, and for some children, this could have potentially have disturbing consequences. Being told off for thinking — and even worse, thinking for oneself! — isn’t beneficial for self-esteem. Thinking, in general, isn’t considered good in waldorf, especially not for smaller children. Children should imitate and revere, not think, not use their brains.