I called waldorf education anti-intellectual. Then Steve Sagarin made a list of the later careers of his fellow waldorf students. That’s all good and well, but I don’t think it tells us anything. Well, at least nothing that negates my assessment. I didn’t claim that waldorf students, as adults, don’t go on to intellectual pursuits. Some undoubtedly do. I wasn’t talking about adults. I was talking about the waldorf pedagogical approach to intellectual activities during childhood, in particular early childhood. It is largely negative, as has been discussed here and in previous threads on Steve’s blog (in one of which I called waldorf anti-intellectual). I replied to Steve on his blog, of course, but I’ll post my comment here too, slightly extended.
Steve, for what it’s worth, that was not what I meant at all when I called waldorf anti-intellectual. I was referring to a school that discourages intellectual activity among children. You know, removing books or not even allowing books. Viewing early reading as a detriment rather than as an asset. Not satisfying children’s desire for knowledge and information (responding to them in a lallalala manner instead of engaging with their questions, especially if they are about facts). Delaying reading and writing for as long as possible (without getting into trouble with official regulations). And so forth.
I know that waldorf students go on to university. Remember — I was a waldorf student. I went to law school later and have a degree. Magic, huh? (No, I didn’t learn to read in waldorf. I taught myself.) Yet, I call waldorf anti-intellectual — because it does not appreciate children who want and prefer intellectual activities. It doesn’t encourage them. It can barely accept them. It frowns upon them. (They’re prematurely intellectual, sclerotic. Not good stuff.) It’s a fact that some of them do go on to uni. I wonder how many do it thanks to waldorf rather than despite of waldorf? I wonder how many do it because they grew up in academic homes, around books and all those things waldorf try to avoid? Considering how many waldorf kids in my school had at least one — often two — university educated parents, I would expect many of these kids to go on to uni. I don’t think that all that many of them did. (I frankly don’t know. I think someone got pregnant and someone worked in a supermarket and someone worked in a bar. But that’s pretty much the extent of my knowledge.) Of course, very few stayed all through kindergarten to 12th grade… and those few who did, are probably the most interesting ones to investigate. If somebody would bother.
Any school where you can’t have books and reading early is anti-intellectual in my eyes. Any school that denies children books is anti-intellectual. And waldorf schools distinguish themselves on this account.