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Waldorf School

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Waldorf Schools were developed for Emit Molt of the Waldorf Astoria Tobacco Company in 1919 by Rudolf Steiner. They employ a curriculum that addresses subjects on three levels: the intellect (as in lectures), the heart (as in the artistic and feeling aspects of the subject), and the hands (the practical application). The attempt is made to integrate art into all aspects of the curriculum, including the teaching of science. Waldorf schools' pedagogy and practice have often been widely hailed for their creativity and intelligent design, not only by satisfied parents, but by independent educational experts.

According to Willy Brandt, former Chancellor of West Germany, former Waldorf parent, and 1971 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate: The advent of the Waldorf Schools was in my opinion the greatest contribution to world peace and understanding of the century.

Kenneth Chenault, the President and CEO of American Express Corporation, who is African American: My parents...felt that the Waldorf school would be a far more open environment for African Americans...I think the end result of Waldorf education is to raise our consciousness...It taught me how to think for myself, to be responsible for my decisions. Second, it made me a good listener, sensitive to the needs of others. And third, it helped (me) establish meaningful beliefs.

The Waldorf approach to schooling, and the Anthroposophy movement behind it, have been criticized by a few as sectarian or cultish. Others dismiss this criticism and cite the rapid growth, strong cultural values and character building of the education as an exemplar of human values that are often lacking in mainstream and government driven educational systems. Defenders of Waldorf schools claim that the critics often come across as xenophobic, with strong reactions to any cultural pluralism or any system that might recognize the spiritual values that make humans truly human.

Todd Oppenheimer, a winner of the National Magazine award for public interest reporting, published this article in the September 1999 issue of "The Atlantic Monthly." It presents a picture of Waldorf education in practice and shows how some minority kids do in Waldorf.

From the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA)[1] ,

Waldorf Education ... An Introduction By Henry Barnes

When children relate what they learn to their own experience, they are interested and alive, and what they learn becomes their own. Waldorf schools are designed to foster this kind of learning.

Waldorf Education has its roots in the spiritual-scientific research of the Austrian scientist and thinker Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). According to Steiner's philosophy, man is a threefold being of spirit, soul, and body whose capacities unfold in three developmental stages on the path to adulthood: early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence.

In April of 1919, Rudolf Steiner visited the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. The German nation, defeated in war, was teetering on the brink of economic, social, and political chaos. Steiner spoke to the workers about the need for social renewal, for a new way of organizing society and its political and cultural life.

Emil Molt, the owner of the factory, asked Steiner if he would undertake to establish and lead a school for the children of the employees of the company. Steiner agreed but set four conditions, each of which went against common practice of the day: 1) that the school be open to all children; 2) that it be coeducational; 3) that it be a unified twelve-year school; 4) that the teachers, those individuals actually in contact with the children, have primary control of the school, with a minimum interference from the state or from economic sources. Steiner's conditions were radical for the day, but Molt gladly agreed to them. On September 7,1919, the independent Waldorf School (Die Freie Waldorfschule) opened its doors.

Today there are more than 800 Waldorf schools in over 40 countries. In North America there are over 150 schools affiliated with the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, and several public schools using Waldorf methods to enrich their teaching. There are also over 50 full-time Waldorf teacher-training institutes around the world; of these eight are in the United States and one in Canada. No two schools are identical; each is administratively independent. Nevertheless, a visitor would recognize many characteristics common to them all.

Revised for this publication, this article by Henry Barnes, former Chairman of the Board, Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, originally appeared in the October, 1991 issue of Educational Leadership Magazine.

External links

  • A list of Waldorf Schools Worldwide
  • A list of Waldorf Schools in the US
  • Starting a Waldorf School
  • 1999 Atlantic Monthly article on Waldorf Education
  • Waldorf Education Discussion List
  • "Audio McCarthyism" Six page article from "Stereophile" magazine about Waldorf critic Dan Dugan, whom the article presents as a user of McCarthyite deception and smear tactics. Dugan is Secretary of PLANS and moderator of the "waldorf-critics" internet mailing list.
  • Waldorf Critics
  • Waldorf-Survivors
  • Bob and Nancy
  • Steiner College
  • Waldorf Resources
  • OpenWaldorf
  • A more realistic look at Waldorf schools

Last updated: 02-10-2005 22:14:22
Last updated: 02-22-2005 02:38:43