The History of Waldorf Education by Ronald E. Koetzsch

Posted 5/5/2013

Hello Families,

  Last newsletter I gave an overview of what Waldorf Education is but where did this truly thoughtful way of educating children come from? Here is an condensed excerpt from "Waldorf Education, Schooling the Head, Hands and Heart" By Ronald E. Koetzsch. Enjoy!

  Waldorf Education was developed by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Born in Austria, Steiner was known primarily as a scientist and philosopher. Drawing from his own profound spiritual experiences, he examined such basic questions as the origin, nature, and destiny of the human being, the evolution of human consciousness, and the religious history of humankind.

  Steiner addressed nearly every area of life: philosophy, religion, education, science, mathematics, medicine, agriculture, architecture, social organization, economics, art, drama, speech, music, the movement arts, care of the handicapped and of the elderly and so on. A theme in all of Steiner's work is that modern humanity must discover and experience anew the divine spirit that exists in the world and within each human being and must transform modern culture on the basis of that spiritual reality.

  Steiner holds that the human being is ultimately a spiritual being, who incarnates out of the spiritual world and who returns there after death, and who is in an endless process of evolution and self-development. The modern scientific/materialistic view of the world and of the human being is both incorrect and disastrous. It is incorrect in that it is blind to the invisible spiritual world that creates, permeates and supports the physical world and blind also to the spiritual dimension of the human being. It is disastrous in that it has led to a secular culture that does not meet human needs and that has brought much human suffering. Modern humanity must renew its connection to the divine and create a way of life that supports the wholesome spiritual evolution of the human being.

  In 1913 Steiner established the Anthroposophical Society to spread his teachings, which he called Spiritual Science or Anthroposophy-"knowledge of the true nature of the human being." In April 1919, just months after the end of World War I, Steiner visited Stuttgart, Germany. There, a member of the Anthroposophical Society, Emil Molt, asked Steiner two remarkable questions: Is there a way to educate children that will help them develop into human beings who will be capable of bringing peace to the world? And if there is, will you start such a school?

  Steiner's answer to both questions was in the affirmative. Within a few months, he had selected and recruited teachers for the school and had delivered a series of lectures on the curriculum and pedagogy that was to be the basis of this new type of education. The first Waldorf school opened at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory, with 175 children (mainly consenting of the workers children) and eight teachers. The school was called Freie Waldorfschule-Free Waldorf School-free because it was totally independent of the state or other outside control. It was for its time a deeply radical school. 

  The Free Waldorf School, nurtured and developed all capacities of the child-physical, emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, moral and spiritual. The school welcomed all children, boys and girls, those destined for the university as well as those destined for the factory and shop, and educated them together and in the same way. The school's explicit purpose was to help children become creative, independent, moral individuals, able of themselves to impart meaning and purpose to their lives. Its task and that of all Waldorf schools that have followed it can be summarized as "Accept the children with reverence, educate them with love, send them forth in freedom."

  Interest in Waldorf Education spread rapidly. Soon there were Waldorf schools all over Europe. The first Waldorf school of North America, the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City, opened in 1928. During the National Socialist era in Germany, the Waldorf schools were closed down. They reopened immediately after the war and today Waldorf Education is a major force in German education with over 60,000 children in about 150 schools. 

Waldorf Education is the fastest growing educational system in the world, with over 900 schools worldwide. The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) is a membership organization that supports independent Waldorf schools, initiatives and teacher training institutes throughout North America. In time Waldorf Education may grow large enough to significantly influence the broader educational landscape. But even now it is fulfilling the original aim of Emil Molt and Rudolf Steiner-to educate free, self-aware human beings who are capable of creating a peaceful and ennobling life for themselves and for humanity.

  Sweet Waters Childcare, strives each and everyday to bring forth this incredibly rich education to our children and their families.

Peace and Love to you all!

Kelly Waters