tool of the intellect

Chapel Hill waldorf school claims to be about learning, not iPads. Well. Unlike other school which are about iPad and not learning, presumably. Why?

“A computer is a tool of the intellect, and so we wait until the children developmentally reach that stage where they have concrete, abstract thinking before we introduce an intellectual tool,” said Jason Child, interim administrator at Waldorf Emerson.

The article is entirely uncritical towards the claims made by the waldorf school, it could be written by AWSNA’s publicity department. Everything is as usual, then. The only slightly unusual thing is how they explicitly admit they don’t think children are endowed with an intellectual capacity. (Does anyone know what ‘concrete, abstract thinking’ is?)


18 thoughts on “tool of the intellect

  1. Hi Alicia – An example of concrete learning would be using 5 objects that represent the abstract number 5. Children should learn math through concrete hands on materials before moving on to the more abstract numbers.
    What is so fascinating about Waldorf is that they totally take the child out of concrete thinking by introducing gnomes, fairies etc…

  2. Oh dear. Fascinating. Thank you. I first thought ‘concrete, abstract thinking’ was some kind of mess-up, some kind of confusion, really. It did seem rather strange, ‘concrete, abstract’, without any example to illustrate it.

    I guess it would depend on the child if that method is useful though.

    Of course, the gnomes and fairies take on quite a concrete shape in waldorf ;-)

  3. Concrete Thinking
    Thought derived from the senses, which reflects experience rather than abstract reasoning. Persistence or reappearance of concrete thinking in adults is abnormal and seen in those who are unable to generalise, linked to primary or developmental defects, or it may develop secondary to organic brain disease or schizophrenia
    a stage in the development of the cognitive thought processes in the child. During this phase thought becomes increasingly logical and coherent so that the child is able to classify, sort, order, and organize facts while still being incapable of generalizing or dealing in abstractions. Problem solving is accomplished in a concrete, systematic fashion based on what is perceived, keeping to the literal meaning of words, as in applying the word horse to a particular animal and not to horses in general. In Piaget’s classification this stage occurs between 7 and 11 years of age, is preceded by syncretic thinking, and is followed by abstract thinking.
    Abstract thinking
    the final, most complex stage in the development of cognitive thinking, in which thought is characterized by adaptability, flexibility, and the use of concepts and generalizations. Problem solving is accomplished by drawing logical conclusions from a set of observations, such as making hypotheses and testing them. This type of thinking is developed by 12 to 15 years of age, usually after some degree of education. In psychiatry, many disorders are characterized by the inability to think abstractly.
    They do not develop together. They have left out a stage (syncretic thinking) which I think happens before Concrete.
    syncretic thinking
    A stage in the development of the cognitive thought processes of the child during which thought is based purely on what is perceived and experienced. The child is incapable of reasoning beyond the observable or of making deductions or generalizations. Through imaginative play, questioning, interaction with others, and the increasing use of language and symbols to represent objects, the child begins to learn to make associations between ideas and to elaborate concepts. In Piaget’s classification, this stage occurs between 2 and 7 years of age and is preceded by the sensorimotor stage of development, when the child progresses from reflex activity to repetitive and imitative behavior.

  4. Ah. It’s what I would have guessed then — quite individual.

    I’ve seen some waldorfians refer to Piaget, I think, but I’ve never been able to determine how much they’ve understood (being too unfamiliar with Piaget — I remember coming across him in reading psychology, but that’s pretty much it).

  5. 1) Just because computers are technologically advanced, using them doesn’t require intellectual ability (I’ve been involved in research about how computers can assist people with demntia). The inability to see and use the fantasy, feeling, willing and social possibilities in ICT (and printed books) shows an amazing lack of creativity and open-mindedness.

    2) The Piaget model of child development has indeed some interesting superficial similarities with Steiner’s ideas (and some absolutely crucial differences!). You might wonder why anthroposophists doesn’t make more of the fact that Rudolf was a few years ahead of Jean? But the idea of not teaching in a too cognitive demanding way in the early years, is now already common in education, in part thanks to Piaget. And thanks to just common sense and practical wisdom of teachers. Waldorf has nothing new to contribute here, only something more limiting and extreme.

    3) Even if you notice (through observation or occult investigations) some general patterns in child development, does that mean that all children should be forced to CONFORM to these abstract ideas of psychological or spiritual scientists? Even if you have an increasingly outdated and uncritical view of development in discrete “stages”, shouldn’t the later stages be prepared in the earlier ones? In this area, waldorf contradicts the very idea of pedagogy, to help children reach higher levels of knowledge and wisdom than they could have achieved on their own.

  6. It’s Ahriman. And, anyway, if you allow kids to use computers, you cannot control what they might learn. They might actually read something that will nurture their intellect. When instead they should be knitting gnomes.

    They don’t admit they force children to conform, of course. They say every child is allowed to develop at his/her own pace. Only as long as it fits their scheme, but they don’t say that, because, according to them, that scheme is perfectly modelled on the development of children, which means it’s perfectly adapted to where each child is and should be in terms of developmental progress. Thus, every child is allowed an individual and child-appropriate developmental path! There’s something circular about this, for sure, but that’s how it is. I’m sure this is how it’s seen.

    ‘In this area, waldorf contradicts the very idea of pedagogy, to help children reach higher levels of knowledge and wisdom than they could have achieved on their own.’

    Yes, exactly.

    Of course, the ‘higher levels’ *they* reckon with may not be visible to people who look for evidence in a materialistic sense… ;-)

  7. “A computer is a tool of the intellect,”

    That’s perfectly silly, a computer can be a tool of the intellect but it’s also a tool for creativity and for artistic expression and enjoyment and for socializing, playing games, listening to music, keeping up with world events, writing to your grandmother, paying your bills or your taxes, learning a craft or hobby, sharing photos with friends and family, etc. I’m quite certain that most anthroposophists use it for all those purposes nowdays too. They just need to let go of their superstitions and admit that there’s no reason kids can’t use it for the same purposes from an early age, with appropriate supervision.

  8. Hey, everyone knows that the computer was created so that, via internet, we’d be able to see cute puppies on youtube all day long. In the end, this is what will bring peace and canineosophy to the world.

    Do they think that computer creativity and artistic expression and enjoyment (and so forth) are tainted by ‘intellect’ and thus ‘ahrimanic’ simply because a machine is involved?

    They prefer a limited set of creative expressions anyway.

    (Sorry, by the way, about the new nuisance with the comment box — it shrinks and goes bigger in a seemingly random way — t’s not my doing, it’s one of the inexplicable ‘improvements’ by wordpress.)

  9. >Hey, everyone knows that the computer was created so that, via internet, we’d be able to see cute puppies on youtube all day long. In the end, this is what will bring peace and canineosophy to the world.

    Actually, the internet was invented so that we could listen to the Grateful Dead (since we can’t listen to them in real life anymore). This would surely result in world peace if only everyone knew about it.
    (The puppies can’t hurt, though.)

    About the comment box … whew, I thought it was my eyes, or my brain (both rather glitchy these days).

  10. Ha! No, must be about the puppies. I’m pretty sure about that.

    It’s very frustrating — they implement one ‘improvement’ after another, very difficult to understand. This one benefits people whose readers only write two-lines long comments, I guess. Idiotic.

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