wool horses

To anyone who thinks waldorf offers education without pressure and allows children to develop at their own pace: you have no idea what it’s like for children like me. You don’t understand what it’s like to get detention in kindergarten because you’re not able to sew hairs and ears fast enough on a wool sock horse mounted on a wooden stick.

Detaining a small child, aged five or six, over recess because that child cannot do what you require him or her to do or what your dogmas prescribe for a child of this age — that is to put pressure on that child. Over something which, moreover, doesn’t matter one bit. I’ve never sewn hair and ears on a wool sock horse again in my life, and will never do it. Waldorf education saw to it that I had had enough of stupid tasks like that in my life; these tasks are nothing but meaningless shit, really, teaching you that being alive is tedious, going to school a waste of time, and that resisting authority is futile. (As far as I’m concerned those may very well be the intentions of waldorf education.)

You may not think that demanding skills at crafts is a kind of pressure — as an adult, you may think handwork as a fun and relaxing hobby — but this is, nonetheless, precisely what it is. For the child it’s definitely not fun, not in the least. It’s not relaxing, it’s not a hobby. It’s a pain. It’s about constantly failing to meet the demands of the grown-ups, the teachers. And you’re certainly aware of your failings. All the time.

Why do waldorf education proponents keep insisting that waldorf lets children be children without pressure? Sure, they don’t want children to be intellectual, thus, the children who are, are taught to hide it. (Another kind of pressure right there!) Stupid children might be happy, because they fit right in. Not being able to read or do maths is, after all, a positive thing in the world of waldorf. There is no academic pressure (other than of the negative variety — the pressure to suppress academic inclinations).

But, honestly, does anyone believe that the child who sucks at crafts, who cannot do eurythmy, who cannot master the flute, who cannot find wet-on-wet painting or form drawing meaningful, et cetera, won’t feel pressure? I suppose adults like delude themselves about this. The no-pressure waldorf childhood is an illusion they cherish and need to keep — not for their children’s sake, but for their own. There’s no paradise of childhood.

If there were one, it certainly wouldn’t involve forcing children to sew useless wool horses.

waldorf tales

once, many years ago, when I was a small child, three years old, my mother decided to send me to an anthroposophical school. It took 9 years until reason prevailed and I was finally allowed to leave. My mother probably still, to some degree, believed in waldorf education, despite its massive failures. Perhaps she continued to believe it to be a blessing — not just for us, or for me — because that was how it was touted and she didn’t know much about the reality I was living in. I had eventually given up protesting. I thought I was going to die there — that I was going to die before I was able to break free (I’d stopped believing in ever being free, so mostly it was a non-issue — I endured it, I didn’t live, I was living like a dead).

Waldorf was like being in a corked up bottle, like being behind glass, it was suffocating and restraining; not fitting in, you’d have to have your limbs severed. All the while you’d be told — untruthfully — that you were in the best place in the world and that the world outside would treat you even more callously. That ripping your own self away — smothering your soul, stifling any remaining individuality — was a small price to pay for being in paradise. You should learn to love the restraints placed upon you. You should learn to love your abusers or you’ll deserve even more abuse in your next life due to your inability to resolve or endure the present interpersonal conflicts.

The foundation of the philosophy of freedom is the ability to tolerate — even to desire — these restrictions. In practice, freedom means learning to love your subordination, and thereafter continuing to choose it voluntarily; because subordination is a noble desire, you subordinate freely. The philosophy of freedom is an excercise in living restricted, to raising walls that limit your capacity, staying within and loving those walls being there — it is to be conscious of there being something else outside, and yet have no desire for it. To fear the outside is noble. To fear being forced to remain within boundaries — physical and mental — is ignoble. It is to be a materialist (in both senses of the word). Subordination is freedom only in that it absolves everybody from responsibility. Continue reading “waldorf tales”

a waldorf tale

This text of mine was published on Life before death as a guest post on Jan 14th 2008, see Guest blog: A waldorf tale, for a nicer layout with pictures (that may include less crazy typos and mistaken english as well) ;) I think the text should be here too, since many of the readers of this blog share my experience of waldorf and anthroposophy.

So, here it goes.

The atmosphere is so much nicer in waldorf schools,” is a frequently occurring argument put forth in the defense of waldorf pedagogy, waldorf schools and their organization. Another argument often repeated is that waldorf schools offer more acceptance towards ‘odd’ or ‘different from normal’ students.

What is it that they mean with this talk about ‘a good atmosphere’, I have always wondered. As bad an atmosphere as the one I experienced in waldorf during my years spent there, I’ve never encountered anywhere else. Neither was the attitude towards the critics, the unconvinced or the quitters particularly amiable. In the waldorf school I attended (Kristofferskolan, Stockholm), the general atmosphere was so bad that I dare call it abusive to keep children in such an environment, under such lack of responsible adult supervision and with such an attitude towards group dynamics and the role of the teacher as the responsible adult in charge of the kids’ well-being. Continue reading “a waldorf tale”