imitation, no explanations

Grégoire Perra has written a post which rings so true to me. It’s about how waldorf students are supposed to learn through imitation. Things aren’t explained and never put in context, you’re supposed to imitate the teacher and that’s it. (And explanations in writing — forget that.) For the young child, there’s basically one way of learning and understanding things — imitation. If you’re no good at it, you’re screwed. Grégoire mentions flute-playing as an example. I still can’t play flute. At all. I can chew on a flute, but that’s where my knowledge begins and ends. This, I remind you, after six years of ‘practicing’ flute pretty much daily. One difference for me compared to Grégoire: I actually think the element of myths and tales are enormously worthwhile, albeit not as a replacement for history. I don’t think it’s necessarily potentially dangerous; I don’t know if it is at all. Not even if the boundaries between reality and fiction are sometimes blurred (perhaps they need to be). Myths are strong things, but they also have great value — one of them being the lesson that all stories are not literally true, even if they can be true in other senses. But I was a child who was never truly afraid of stories, not even the frightening ones, so perhaps it’s easy for me to say. I simply never believed in Loki literally. And I still don’t believe in the value of harmless and nice stories for children, same way as I don’t believe in harmless and nice fiction — it can’t excite, it’s pointless. (Have we not had this myths and fairytale discussion here on the blog before? Someone remembers? It feels so familiar.)

Anyway, here’s how Grégoire begins his post:

Un des procédés pédagogiques hautement problématique pratiqué dans les écoles steiner-Waldorf est la non-explication et la non-contextualisation des contenus d’enseignement. Dans le jargon des pédagogues anthroposophes, cela s’appelle « l’imitation ». Ils entendent par là le fait de faire entrer les enfants dans des pratiques ou des activités en sollicitant uniquement leur volonté d’imiter ce qui leur est montré. Selon eux, ce procédé correspondrait aux besoin de la « nature humaine » de l’enfant. En réalité, il s’agit d’une manière habile de court-circuiter chez les enfants toute possibilité de saisir par la pensée ce à quoi ils participent, pour en faire des exécutants dociles. Comment cela se manifeste-t-il concrètement ?

Read it here. (Or with the help of google translate.)


3 thoughts on “imitation, no explanations

  1. All of Grégoire’s pieces are worth reading. I hope he will compile them in a book.

    Meanwhile, FYI, I have revised my translation of his article “The Anthroposophical Indoctrination of Steiner-Waldorf Students” [at least that’s how I translate the title; see ] I still need to work on the endnotes, but…

    Also, I am nearly finished with a first draft of a translation of Grégoire’s supplementary essay, “Nearly Undetectable Influence and Indoctrination [ ]

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