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 Attempting to turn the clock back to either narrow nationalism or outdated mechanistic concepts becomes less feasible with the recognition that there is such a thing as a ‘spiritual dimension’.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