tedium

The image of the pale child who knows everything but cannot do very much is therefore not just a caricature but based on observable reality. Before school, learning is always implicit, that is, out of the immediate context. Explicit learning is still too strenuous. Where the latter happens nevertheless, it has a negative effect on breathing, movement and digestion. Anyone who takes anthroposophy and Waldorf education seriously, should be clear that appealing to the reason of the small child weakens the body.

I tweeted the link to this article in Erziehungskunst a few days ago, but it has remained in my thoughts. It explains so well the tedium of waldorf education; it explains how the natural desire to learn is quenched. It explains how to make school boring for those children who won’t be content with not using their intellects.

A child who uses intellect and reason weakens its body and is spiritually at risk, it is thought. Hunger to learn — other than through intellecutally unchallenging imitation — is a cause of potential disease, of body and mind and of course of spirit.

But we shouldn’t bother that children are bored and deprived of intellectual stimulation. It’s all founded upon a true theory of child development. That is, anthroposophy. Nothing can go wrong. Nothing can be wrong about it.

Granted, the article is about children before the age of seven. That is, kindergarten kids. But the harmful, anti-intellectual influence will linger in waldorf education far beyond that age.

And to imagine that small children don’t need or want to know things. What bollocks. Anyway, here comes the worst part. If the child is of the type who wants to have things explained — they admit that such children do exist, which is actually not a bad start (some think it’s unnatural and shouldn’t happen at all) — then suppress the child’s inclinations by making it do even more wishy-washy watercolour paintings. Really. Even more. As if there isn’t enought of that already. Of course, this child will soon learn not to flaunt his or her leanings towards facts, reason and other spiritually detrimental pursuits. He or she will get the message that those desires are unwanted and will quickly shut up. Children do interpret the attitudes of adults. They know how adults feel about what they do and who they are. Besides, who would want to be punished with more mindnumbing tasks? Because that’s what it is: punishing a child who wants intellectual stimulation with even more activities of the tedious kind. They write:

It should not be denied, however, that there are also many small children who behold the world in a particularly alert way and find explicit explanations. Here the educational task consists of recognising such alertness with admiration, viewing it as a gift, and at the same time occasionally making the space available to give the child the opportunity to dream, be it in painting a picture with watercolours, playing with dolls or during a walk in the woods in which we can listen attentively, play and have fun. All the unwanted explanations, the constant questioning what kindergarten was like today, impede even the cleverest child in taking hold of his or her still incomplete body. It only drives the child further into the head. Heart and hands are left empty.

I don’t know why the assumption is that the explanations are unwanted. Anyway. If the child asks questions and won’t let go (so much for ‘unwanted’ explanations, in whose mind are they ‘unwanted’? not the child’s, evidently), you can tell him or her:

The meanwhile unpopular sentence “You’ll learn all about it in school!” then becomes a promise.

Unfortunately, if the child is going to go to a waldorf school, that promise might turn out to a disappointment. (Even in other schools, it should be admitted. Most things you learn, you learn outside school. Luckily.)