But look! Here’s a new doctoral dissertation on waldorf education! It’s written by Sara Fröden of Örebro University, a small university in a small town in the middle of Sweden. Here’s a glimpse of it, taken from the abstract:
The aim of this study is to generate new knowledge of the educational practice of a pre-school and of how it may contribute to the understanding of doing gender. The ethnographic study examines the place and practice of a Steiner Waldorf pre-school, and it focuses specifically on materiality, age, spirituality and the intentions of the pre-school teachers. Fieldwork has been conducted for a period of one and a half years in one pre-school.The methods used are mainly participant observation and interviews withthe pre-school teachers. The results highlight the importance of the material and spatial dimensions of the pre-school for the constitution of children’s gender. The concepts of performativity and ritualization have been used as the main analytical tools. The study draws on the scope of these concepts as understood by Judith Butler and Catherine Bell. / On the basis of the analysis of the empirical material, a theoretical concept, situated decoding of gender, is suggested. It is argued that what at first glance can be interpreted as a ‘female universe’, turns out to be a place where gender is made non-relevant through an unintentional, yet powerful ongoing process of naturalization. … [Spaces between words inserted to enhance readability. -a]
Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?
You can download the entire thing as a pdf-file here. Unfortunately it’s in Swedish, but once I tell you it’s got some stuff about reincarnation, the incarnation process, waldorf-anthroposophical rituals, and so forth, I’m sure you’ll enthusiastically decide to learn Swedish! Page 184 and following seem interesting. I’ve already been reminded of words that waldorf kids learn but probably no other kids — unusual colour words, like ‘cinnober’ (a kind of red, and a word almost never used by ‘normal’ people), which, according to the dictionary is ‘vermilion’ in English.
I’m not sure if this has something to do with the verses containing these words or more with the fact that the only reading material available was the text on the Stockmar crayon labels.
I wonder, though, if the dissertation author has discovered and discussed some interesting anthroposophical ideas on these things (such as incarnating alternately as physically male/female and when the physical body is male the etheric — that’s the one, right? — body is female), which, more than any contemporary gender studies perspective gained at any wacky course at the university, might perhaps explain waldorf kindergarten teachers’ possibly somewhat more gender indifferent attitude, by which I mean that both boys and girls, not yet fully incarnated anyway, are expected to take part in the same activities and so on. But I guess she hasn’t. If this is even a model of explanation worth taking seriously, I don’t even know. My impression so far is that although the author has done all the gender studies courses and learnt all the hip gender studies lingo, she probably only brushes the surface of anthroposophy (despite mentioning some central anthroposophical tenets).