I eventually decided to close down a 350+ comments thread that had slipped out of my hands long ago. Late in the thread, Frank Smith made a comment that started a new discussion, and I don’t want to kill that discussion if someone wants to continue it. So in this post I’ll quote the comments made so far, and will add something at the end. Should anyone want to continue this discussion, you’re welcome to do so.
Tom reminded us: ‘“…Rene Querido, who used to love quoting this rather radical and enigmatic statement of Steiner’s about the future destiny of Waldorf schools. It goes something like this: “Waldorf schools will exist as separate independent schools only until the time arrives when the deeper impulses living within Waldorf education permeate ‘education-at-large’ — at which point, separate independent Waldorf schools become unnecessary.”‘
Looks like der Doktor is right again, or at least on the road to being right – although we’re not there yet. I don’t know about Sweden, but in Germany there’s so much demand that there’s no room for my grandchildren in Berlin, where there are several Waldorf schools. Also the schools are springing up South America all around – without state financing. There would of course be many many more if they weren’t so damned expensive, something which makes then essentially elitist. HOWEVER the charter school phenomenon in the U.S. looks like the path Steiner meant. Public(state financed) schools without state control. I understand that they are already causing problems for private Waldorf schools where they are close to a charter Waldorf school. Who wants to pay a lot when it’s free around the corner? Frank
“Public(state financed) schools without state control.”
Dream on. Sums up the whole anthroposophical mindset. Everything belongs to us, or should, and nobody should ask questions.
The ‘problem’, however, is that state funding comes with state control, to varying degrees, but still; it would be reckless to hand out tax-payers’ money without assuring there’s some value in the services the money buys. (Not that politicians aren’t often too happy to hand out money for misunderstood nonsense. But they shouldn’t. People should ask where the money goes.)
It used to be like that in Sweden — unbelievable really (in my opinion), but when I was a child there was a lot of demand, at least for kindergarten and early grades. Now they struggle to fill the schools, especially the smaller ones. I suspect that the problem is that they have tried to expand too much — there aren’t enough competent teachers (oh, laugh) and not enough interested families to fill up all these schools. Regardless of them being entirely free of charge (the same applies to all schools, and other schools offer a more attractive education). So the schools, in turn, have to tone down their character. If you don’t have enough customers, it’s even more important not to repel anyone. It didn’t so much matter that waldorf schools were odd and weird and anthroposophical when I was a kid, there was demand anyway. (There were almost only state schools back then.) But there were less than ten schools then, if my memory is correct; today there are 40 (or 39, as one just closed).
Sure, you can have a bland, diluted version of waldorf. At one point, though, it ceases to have a point. It’s just (not a very good) school without any special character. People have no idea why they should choose it. Unless they really like knitting and pink walls. But then… you have people choosing it for no good reason. It’s quite boring and meaningless. But seriously, you do have proponents of waldorf saying that things like extra knitting are the point. Extra knitting is how waldorf is different. It’s all about promoting the stupidly superficial differences. I think it’s waldorf’s downfall. A major one, almost on par with providing an often bad education (parents might accept academic deficits if something else is offered instead, but when it isn’t… they have no reason to).
Alicia wrote: “Sure, you can have a bland, diluted version of waldorf. At one point, though, it ceases to have a point. It’s just (not a very good) school without any special character.” That’s what the anthroposophical purists say. Shame on you, Alicia, getting in with that crowd.
Frank — I think they have a point, these purists. Not that their approach is necessarily better — that would depend — but blandness is only temporarily successful, until you entirely lose your identity. The only thing that could attract masses of people — as waldorf schools in some countries, if not all, would want to do — is a bland, diluted version of waldorf. I honestly wonder what the point of that would be. Ultimately the result would be what I mentioned: identity loss.
But — in theory, at least (practice is a whole other matter), it should certainly be possible to keep a lot of special character without anthroposophical puritanism. In theory.
Why would the choice be between blandness (and pointlessness) and puritanism (and fundamentalistically applied anthroposophical ideas)? If those are the two options — perhaps it’s waldorf proponents who lack competence and fantasy to envision something else!
Sure, the options seem to be blandness and puritanism. I wonder if that’s not too simplistic, though.
The most important raison d’etre for Waldorf schools, Alicia, is to serve as models for public education (imho). So there is no reason why Waldorf pedagogy, which is, after all, a method, cannot be taken over in toto by public schools, as is the case with charter schools (I’m told). If in Israel or Japan, or even the USA, they don’t do a Christmas celebration, fe, that’s OK – whatever works there. That doesn’t mean that all schools would be obliged to use Waldorf pedagogy. We’re talking here about freedom in the cultural sphere.
“We’re talking here about freedom in the cultural sphere.”
Get this through your THICK skull Frank… there can be NO FREEDOM as long as Waldorf LIES about its nature and its intent. Freedom would require freedom FROM Waldorf’s dishonesty. There is NOTHING Waldorf can offer the world of education through dishonesty! Waldorf started out dishonest and it has remained that way. The “Waldorf model” is what NOT to do.
To my earlier viewpoints, and in reply to what Frank wrote, I’m going to say: what is the method without the ideas behind it? If you remove the core — which you would have to do, with the model Frank’s proposing, i e waldorf introduced into the public education system — what will be left of waldorf education? What will be left that even reminds of waldorf education? Extra knitting and nice colours on the walls? The child development model according to anthroposophy would have to go, to name just one example. If the ideas are gone, you have the remaining (mostly superficial) pieces of an empty shell. It really is about more than what festivals are celebrated and how. What is left of the waldorf ‘method’ without the ideas behind it, without the core around which it is built?