Continuing on the topic of previous posts (the UK situation), I located, on my computer, some notes from a meeting that took place at the anthroposophical Crossfields Institute in 2008.* Many prominent waldorf educators, teacher trainers and officials working in the Steiner organisations attended. Among them Christopher Clouder, Kevin Avison, Jeremy Smith.
Christopher Houghton Budd is said to have given an ardent speech; looking at the summary, I can vividly imagine that. Here are a few points from it:
Are teachers clear enough about the place of the Pedagogical Section?
He means the one associated with the School of Spiritual Science.
The state has no business in education, and if we had a professional association that was self-defining and self-administrating, then there would be no need for the state.
The two issues of accreditation and financing should never be linked, for example when the state makes funding conditional on a particular curriculum.
He concluded his talk with an emphatic question regarding state funding: Is it right for a state to collectively collect tax and selectively distribute it?
Indeed, what he is saying is that the state has a duty to pay, but should not require anything in return for the financial investment. Is it right, I wonder, to ask the tax-payers to pay if the service provided is of little value? Should the state just blindly pay for whatever people want? I guess the answer, in this case, is a resounding yes. But this does not mean we shouldn’t ask the questions. (By the way, this is what many waldorf organisations and proponents in all countries feel — and sometimes express. We should at least be thankful when they do express it clearly. Even if I personally can’t agree with what they want.)
John Burnett spoke too; claiming, among other things, that we’re ‘stepping into post-modern uncertainty’. Trevor Mepham (Steiner Hereford Academy, nowadays — note that this meeting took place before the Hereford Academy had secured state funding or just around that time) spoke too, about teacher training and accreditation of teacher training and such things.
In essence, it is mostly about planning, recording and paperwork! They do not mention the children or the teachers as learners; there is no emphasis on ‘soft skills’ (i.e. reflection), or consideration of how a child learns and grows.
No consideration for… how the child learns and grows according to anthroposophy? No reflection? Well, now, the state of modern education sure is dire.
Mepham then finds guidance in Steiner (which is hardly surprising and, given the context, understandable… and I’m much happier when this guidance is stated explicitly). What teachers need, among other things, is:
Holy awe before the task and reverence for the child’s pre-earthly life
Moving away from Mepham, other issues listed as having been on the agenda during the meeting included:
Inspiration from the original source – Rudolf Steiner
How do we combine the esoteric background underpinning Waldorf theory and practice with the prevailing academic, economic and exoteric culture of contemporary society?
Later in the document, anthroposophy is also mentioned, for example in regard to training of teachers (a ‘body’ for ‘quality control’ of anthroposophical education needed). Interesting document, overall. But it should make people think.
* I don’t know if it’s available online, but you might try to search for: A Summary of the Steiner Waldorf Teacher Training Meeting – from a personal and organisational perspective 28 August 2008 11:00am – 4:30pm at Crossfields Institute’. Edit: I was too lazy, but my readers aren’t (thank Dog!), so here it is: pdf.