clouder’s spiritual dimensions

This is an article by Christopher Clouder, the CEO of the Steiner Waldorf School Fellowship in the UK — that is, he’s leading the association which strives to gain state-funding for Waldorf/steiner education in the UK — and the European Council of Steiner Waldorf Schools. I’m not sure what to make of it. Do you have any viewpoints on this?

… the task of the educator is to make oneself a kind of prophet of the child’s future, leaving it free but helping it acquire that which will be of use later.

[…]

The spiritual dimension is that which ‘endures’ and must be developed in freedom and eventually becomes an individual moral yardstick and cannot be achieved by either confinement or commandment. It is an area for which ‘a curriculum’, in the standard sense of the word, cannot be written, and such an imposition actually runs the risk of denying its existence. Teachers, in order to be able to work in this field, need autonomy to explore their own spirituality as it is not a subject in itself that can be defined and codified as others. The spiritual lives in the complex area of human relationships and intentions. In spite of its non-material nature, it is nevertheless tangible for both educationalists and the children alike, but its use, as an educational concept, would involve a radical change in the prevalent view of the teacher as merely a deliverer of a pre-ordained curriculum. The knowledge needed for this task is a sense of evolution, not just a  biological sense, but also in terms of the human psyche, so that the needs of the child are met according to their own spiritual development and that they do not become objects within an abstract subject-centred programme. Attempting to turn the clock back to either narrow nationalism or outdated mechanistic concepts becomes less feasible with the recognition that there is such a thing as a ‘spiritual dimension’. It is indicative of the opportunities for a reappraisal of education that currently presents itself that the ‘Promotion of Pupils’ Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development’ has become an issue of debate that is likely to have profound effect on both practice and theory in the future.

What does he mean, and is this — whatever it is — what waldorf education offers? (I’m not sure he even mentions waldorf.) Why would waldorf not make students into objects? I know, the fact I felt it did isn’t enough; maybe I just subjectively felt I was an object forced to play in a sort of board-game with strictly confining rules, rules you were often not even allowed to know beforehand… before you made the wrong move. But you knew you were certainly not free. You were certainly under command, even if you couldn’t decipher the commands, as they were implicit. You just failed and failed and failed again. I guess that, too, is a part of spiritual development. How is the child’s freedom compatible with the teacher as a prophet of the child’s future? What is this prophetic gift? How is it supposed to be used — as not to interfere rather than help?

Are there any signs that waldorf is better — in any way — at promoting the pupils spiritual, moral, social, cultural development? And is Clouder, the waldorf proponent, using the term ‘spiritual’ in the same sense as other people would do in this context? Won’t many of the non-anthroposophical readers (if they exist) read it in a non-anthroposophical sense? (Without archangels.)

Please — discuss!

8 thoughts on “clouder’s spiritual dimensions

  1. There is something so presumptuous in this vision of a teacher’s role. The teacher is a priest – ‘a kind of prophet of the child’s future,’

    Why use this kind of language? All teachers need to help their pupils acquire skills which they’ll need later on. Spelling. Essay writing. Comprehension. The ability to precis. Mental maths. How to work in a group. But that isn’t what he means, is it?

    ‘Teachers, in order to be able to work in this field, need autonomy to explore their own spirituality as it is not a subject in itself that can be defined and codified as others.’

    More important surely, in a teacher, is the development of teaching skills. Who enters a teacher’s head and interferes with their spirituality? Does anyone do this – outside a seminary?

    What Clouder means is that a Steiner school should be left alone (by inspectors). As far as state funding goes It’s a case of take the money and hide.

    ‘Attempting to turn the clock back to either narrow nationalism or outdated mechanistic concepts becomes less feasible with the recognition that there is such a thing as a ‘spiritual dimension’.’

    Recognition by whom? Of what? Spiritual dimension as defined by Rudolf Steiner, or any old spiritual dimension? Anything, as long as it is not something that can be defined within the materialised natural sciences. Or the social sciences.

    Now if Clouder means that there is such a thing as an emotional dimension, a space in which to dream or read poetry or imagine what you would like to be, or how you would like the world to be – or altruism, a forgetting of self in concern for others, or a transcending of self as you dance or sing with a choir or contemplate a magnificent view – then he simply describes one aspect of the human condition. But Clouder means something specific – and occult – by the word spiritual. Meanwhile Ofsted and other writers of government guidelines have no real idea what they mean by it, except they have a belief that it ought to be there. Whatever it is. And that is the problem.

  2. Didn’t Ofsted employ a special team for checking the quality of Steiner schools? I think I saw that somewhere in the kiosk. If that is corect, it would be interesting to know what is different.

  3. Ulf – English Steiner schools are currently inspected by the School Inspection Service which operates, according to their website, jointly under the control of Ofsted and the Department for Education. The SIS inspects Steiner Schools, and Brethren schools, represented by the Focus Learning Trust.

    http://www.culthelp.info/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4221

    I’m not sure if the SIS has plans to inspect Montessori schools, although it appears that:

    ‘SIS has been nominated as the appropriate inspectorate to carry out Tier 4 inspections of Montessori, Steiner and Eurythmy FE Colleges.’
    http://www.schoolinspectionservice.co.uk/ukba.php

    Eurythmy FE Colleges. How many should we expect?

    It’s useful to note the lay inspector in each SIS school inspection: they’re representatives, in the case of SWSF schools, of the Steiner community. They understand the special nature of the schools in a way that Ofsted perhaps found difficult. Or perhaps the Steiner community decided the previous inspections were not producing the right results. At any rate, although the SIS Steiner reports do seem to be more favourable, there are some interesting observations in the notes.

  4. I felt like it was probably all coded and unintelligible if you didn’t know the details of the politics around these schools in the UK (which I don’t). I agree the talk of the teacher as “priest” or “prophet” is offensive. The teacher as a priest is a very dangerous vision, for ordinary schoolchildren.

  5. Here, Joan Almon says: ‘Rudolf Steiner gave indications that kindergarten teachers are like priests in the kindergarten… ‘

    http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/healingplayalmon.pdf

    And there’s another mention:

    ‘…but Margret had grown to enjoy the particular creativity of kindergarten work and was intrigued to continue finding out what Rudolf Steiner had meant by stating that the teacher of the young child is like a priest.’

    http://www.waldorfearlychildhood.org/articles.asp?id=1

  6. Some of them certainly behaved like they were priests…

    Good question re the eurythmy colleges; I’m absolutely thrilled to find out. I bet there will be thousands. (Hahahaha…)

    Now to:
    https://zooey.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/clouders-spiritual-dimensions/#comment-13837

    ‘Who enters a teacher’s head and interferes with their spirituality?’

    Nobody. (Not even SIS, even though they seem spiritually competent…)

    ‘Recognition by whom? Of what? Spiritual dimension as defined by Rudolf Steiner, or any old spiritual dimension?’

    Exactly — and why would the spiritual dimension need recognition? It’s a pity there’s no explanation of how his version of a spritiual dimension is related to anthroposophy.

    ‘Meanwhile Ofsted and other writers of government guidelines have no real idea what they mean by it, except they have a belief that it ought to be there. Whatever it is. And that is the problem.’

    I share this concern. Very well put. Goes for the entire comment.

  7. Clouder’s article is so full of bollocks one does not know where to start; I find such dishonest rubbish really offensive. “…an area for which ‘a curriculum’, in the standard sense of the word, cannot be written, and such an imposition actually runs the risk of denying its existence..” In other words, he makes it all up as he goes along, there’s no evidence and rational criticism is impossible. These phrases remind me of shampoo advertisements where the product “.. gives the impression of hair feeling healthier…” but it’s so much worse because it’s not just clean hair that is at stake. Feeding children this utter nonsense makes the society for which Steiner Schools claim to be an antidote look like bastions of common sense – I can’t stand consumerism but I’d rather children watched television while eating ready meals than be taught by Steiner spiritualists, quacks and self-appointed gurus.

  8. The problem is that such statements — as the one you quoted — are either empty or they have a content the author is not prepared to spell out. Sometimes it’s a combination. But the reader can interpret it in any which way he likes, and pretend he knows what the author meant. What the author has in mind can be — and in these cases often is — something else. It wouldn’t matter as much if this was just some literature in the spirituality section — but it is, indeed, about education.

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