Steve Sagarin says waldorf education is ‘deeply strange’:
For Waldorf education, deep strangeness arises from Rudolf Steiner’s request that we consider the questions of what it means to be a growing, developing human being and how those of us who choose to teach or who are called to teach can assist in the humanizing task we undertake. We are asked to take seriously ideas about angels, about existence beyond the bounds of this life, about human destiny, about human capacities that unfold across a lifetime, and about human consciousness. In a world that denies the value of questions of meaning beyond the personal, trivializes the humanities, and raises a caricature of science to the status of a new religion, these are deeply strange considerations.
I don’t think this part of the situation is even half as strange as Steve seems to think. Which education does not consider questions of growing and development? (Which pedagogical approaches do it in the most meaningful way? The most useful way?) By the way, I think waldorf education ‘trivializes the humanities’ too — that is, if humanities is to be taken to mean what it does to everyone else rather than spiritual science. I’d also like to ask: what meaning, beyond the personal, counts in waldorf? Not just any, right? And as for raising a caricature of science to a new religion… oh well! Should I even begin? Or perhaps we should, in that particular context, talk of ‘science’.
And, considering the rest of the text, which you can read here, that habit of clothing of yourself in a shroud of superior mystery and higher insights (that really aren’t anything more than regurgitated and often misunderstood ‘wisdom’) is not really very attractive. I guess it’s necessary, though, for many; it adds to the enjoyment and the self-contentment. The feeling of being special and different and a bit above the rest of the world and its trivial habits and beliefs. Much as nurturing a conception of being deeply strange does (with or without extra artificial strangeness added for flavour), one might say.
I’m not sure what’s with the wool socks and birkenstocks in Steve’s post, but those are quite normal and unmysterious things as far as I’m concerned. The rest of it, well, it could be discussed, but some of these things (e g, the water colour paintings) are deeply embedded in waldorf culture, and far from being superficially mysterious, albeit the extreme focus on this particular artistic expression is somewhat obnoxious.
If we live only what we know to be true, authentically, no matter how little this may seem, and trust that we can live in not-yet-knowing about many, many things, we can avoid joining a movement of superficial strangeness and begin to contend with the real strangeness, the real mysteries at the root of Waldorf education.
The problem is: Steiner didn’t leave mysteries and a ‘not-yet-knowing about many, many things’, he left answers, he left truths. Not just a path of ‘finding things out’ that can be found out and leaving the unknowable unknown, but definite, concrete, detailed answers to practically every question conceivable. And it’s no surprise to me that waldorf teachers act as though they do own these answers and that they try, successfully and unsuccessfully, to apply them even in the most bizarre of ways.