UK newspaper The Telegraph has published an article entitled ‘Childhood being eroded by modern life, experts warn’. In addition to this article, there’s a letter that has been signed by a number of people, or as the paper puts it, it’s a ‘letter from more than 200 experts about how childhood is being eroded by a “relentless diet” of advertising and addictive computer games.’ Many of these experts are either active in the Steiner/waldorf movement or supporters of it. One of them is Richard House:
Dr House told the Telegraph: “The inexorable momentum of moderntechnological life is such that despite the awareness raised through the September 2006 Telegraph open letter on ‘toxic childhood’, matters have improved very little.
“We also live in an age of seemingly ever-mounting anxiety; and when the adult world is unable to contain and process its own anxieties in a mature way, they inevitably get projected on to children, resulting in countless well-intentioned but often highly inappropriate intrusions into children’s experience that leave children’s true needs misunderstood and neglected.”
I recommend reading this interview with House that Thetis posted earlier today. Presumably, House — along with the other Steiner/waldorf supporters and anthroposophists who have signed the letter — believe that Steiner education holds the key to rescuing childhood, whatever that means. I doubt that this is the case.
In the interview, House answers the question what fascinates him in the work of Rudolf Steiner:
What most fascinates me is the sheer, scarcely believable ‘life output’ of this extraordinary human being. Indeed, in the History of Ideas, one of the most abiding mysteries of the twentieth century is just how one of its most inspired, original and wide-ranging thinkers and seers – Steiner – is so comparatively little recognised, or even known of, in the range of disparate fields on which he has had, and continues to have, such a profound influence. The deliverer of over 6,000 lectures in his lifetime, his full collected works come to a staggering 350 volumes (Freud’s number about 40); and his lasting legacy includes uniquely innovative ‘impulses’ in fields as wide-ranging as [lots of examples /a].
The extraordinary neglect of his vast corpus has been attributed by some to his quite unashamed esotericism and explicit engagement with ‘the divine’ through his discipline of ‘spiritual science’, which perhaps led – both in his own lifetime and since – to his shunning by conventional academia. […] More likely, I think, is that his thorough-goingly and then quite unfashionable holistic approach to human experience was quite simply decades ahead of its time; and it is only now, when so-called ‘new paradigm’, post-modern epistemologies and cosmologies are thankfully beginning to undermine the Zeitgeist of modernity, that his remarkable insights, which both incorporate yet also transcend modernity, are beginning to attract the rich attention they deserve. Certainly, Steiner was a relentless scourge of the one-sided materialism that prevailed in his day, and he brought a spiritually informed perspective to his educational worldview, which viewed the human being as far more than a material body. […]
House also claims to have discovered ‘Steiner education as an intrinsically healing experience for children.’ He continues:
In other words, perhaps an urgent evolutionary task is for humankind to create cultural forms which help children to have healthy, empowering childhoods, thereby short-circuiting the need for remedial adult psychotherapy and counselling; and in this regard, surely education is the place to start – and especially as modern schooling systems are commonly moving in exactly the wrong direction!
Steiner education being the right direction, indubitably. As if Steiner education somehow magically removed psychological suffering or the need for therapy. (It does not. In some cases it just messes people up even more.)
He goes on to say:
The current fashion of ‘professionalising’ children’s difficulties can so easily miss the point. My own strong conviction, rather, is that it is a far better use of our creative energies to strive for the creation of natural schooling environments which are, by their very nature, intrinsically healing
That is, Steiner education. But what’s more ‘natural’ about that? Why does he think it is, by its very nature, healing? He then turns to the old crap about child-centeredness, as though anthroposophical education was more child-centered than mainstream education. (It is not. It is, it seems, centered around the spiritual and social needs of adults.)
Perhaps those of us whose practice and world-view are still informed by spiritual sensibility and child-centredness could profitably commit at least as much time and energy to the political task of challenging the cultural/political sources of the current malaise – in which ‘child abuse’ in routinely committed against children by and through modern technocratic culture – as we do to ‘therapising’ childhood problems once they have been created.
There’s an older post on Richard House here.