wiechert on depression

Christoph Wiechert of the pedagogical section at the Goetheanum says that waldorf education offers a solution to the problem of depression and other social ills:

So archaisch seine Feststellungen daherkommen, Christof Wiechert begründet sie immer wieder mit neuesten Forschungen aus der Hirnforschung. Die jetzige Gesellschaft nennt er eine entgrenzte Gesellschaft, die zwar nicht alles erlaube, in welcher man sich aber alles erlauben könne. Die Folge des entgrenzten Ichs sei die Einsamkeit des modernen Menschen – zwei Drittel der Amsterdamer Haushalte seien Single-Haushalte, so der Niederländer Christof Wiechert. Er benennt die Depression als Volkskrankheit einer Gesellschaft, die individuellen Erfolg als Maßstab setze.

Dem setze die anthroposophische Pädagogik, die nachhaltige Erziehung entgegen. Der junge Mensch solle lernen, “die einzige Begrenzung in der Entgrenzung bin ich selbst.” Der Mensch solle durch die schulische Bildung einen ethischen Selbstwert erhalten, damit er die Freiheit, welche ihn umgibt, zu nutzen weiß.

That’s the opposite of real waldorf education, isn’t it? Wiechert lives in a dream, or a delusion, where waldorf actually accomplishes the things he hopes it would. (Besides, focusing on one-person households is a rather one-sided way to measure loneliness. Being among people surely is no guaranteed antidote to the feeling of loneliness, which can be more powerfully experienced in social settings than in states of voluntary solitude.)

In my opinion, waldorf is nothing but restriction, nothing but limitations, nothing but repression of individuality, nothing but suppression of self-esteem — for the good of the ‘community’, for the good of the group. It’s ok to sacrifice the individual child on the altar of collective progress (whether real or imagined). In addition, waldorf makes intellectual children depressed and lonely. They don’t fit in and they are not allowed to develop their own personality (it would corrupt the spiritual good of the group).

Freedom, not quite. Not if you don’t adapt to the ‘freedom’ they have on offer.

Wiechert also uses scientific research to support waldorf education or, more likely, his ideal image of what waldorf ought to be. I assume he’s picking and choosing, because I don’t think there’s any consensus on the benefits of late reading/writing, or of eurythmy, or of any other waldorf specific art form. Or, for that matter, Steiner’s theory of human — and child — development.

Waldorf isn’t an old solution to new problems, it’s an old solution to problems anthroposophists imagine plague the rest of the world. I bet there are as many depressed children, or children deprived of self-esteem, or lonely children, in the average waldorf school as there is within any other educational system. Possibly the situation is even worse in waldorf — because waldorf isn’t what Wiechert desires it to be. Everyone pretends waldorf is paradise and every child in waldorf is lucky — how would this delusion contribute to the well-being of the child who is unhappy or even suffering in waldorf? And eurythmy is no cure for depression. Forced intellectual stagnation isn’t either.

Nur bei der künstlerischen kreativen Arbeit würden alle Hirnregionen gemeinsam aktiv sein, so Wiechert …

Yes, but would this apply to monotonous copying of virtually the same wet-on-wet-painting, week after week, year after year?

“Jedes Kind habe ein Recht auf einen Überschuss an positiven Schulerinnerungen”, so Christoph Wiechert.

Avoid waldorf then. In particular if your child hates it.

What I dislike is the underlying assumption: that waldorf provides positive educational experiences and, in contrast, mainstream education is unable to provide this. This is an unfounded assumption, and it seems tenable to Wiechert only because he has devoted his life to waldorf — or the fantasy of waldorf, ideal waldorf, untainted by actual waldorf reality. Perhaps sympathetic, but very naïve. It works better if you think anthroposophy holds the truths — and that we’re only waiting for mainstream research to catch up.