Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) and Anthroposophy
Rudolf Steiner, Austrian born and schooled in modern science and philosophy, was the founder of Waldorf Education. He wrote 28 books and held over 3,000 lectures, which led to a renewal in many fields such as: Art (eurythmy, speech, drama, music, painting, sculpting and drawing), Farming (Biodynamic Agriculture), Architecture (Organic), Social Work (Curative Education), Medicine (Anthroposophic) and Economics (Three-Fold Social Organization.) The word anthroposophy means wisdom of the human being.
“Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge aiming to guide the spiritual element in the human being to the spiritual in the universe.” ~ Rudolf Steiner
At the end of World War I, Emil Molt, the owner of the Waldorf Astoria Cigarette Factory asked Rudolf Steiner to develop a new education for the children of the employees at his factory. He wanted an education that would allow children to grow up to be clear thinkers who could work with social situations in a complex world in a way that would no longer lead humanity towards choosing war as a way of dealing with conflict between peoples. Emil Molt funded the first Waldorf School that opened its doors in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1919, with a full school program through the grades.
Central to Waldorf Education is a recognition of and a respect for the child’s unfolding individuality. The curriculum is designed to meet the child’s specific developmental needs from the early years through high school. Rudolf Steiner maintained that “all education is self-education,” and therefore the task of the teacher lies in creating a learning environment in which the child can find age-appropriate nourishment and challenge. In a world in which education is focused on normative, quantifiable outcomes, the uniqueness of the individual child’s gifts and challenges often has to take a backseat to the pressure of general societal expectations.
Waldorf Education values difference and strives to support developing children and adolescents in such a way that they can bring their gifts to fruition while, at the same time, learn to cope with their challenges. They should leave school with a strong sense of purpose based on a clear understanding of both themselves and the world. All of Waldorf Education is focused on challenging children in such a way that the emergent ability of independent thinking can lead to a true experience of meaning.
In our early childhood program, children are led to an experience of meaning through imitation of right action and a plethora of hands-on activities. In the grade school years, children are led to an exploration of meaning through awakening interest, enthusiasm and love for the subject at hand. In the high school years, students engage in a search for meaning through thinking as they approach an understanding of their unique individuality. As Steiner puts it, the earliest experiences that the world is good and worthy of imitation, followed by the cultivation of a deep sense of wonder for the beauty to be found in all things, will establish the foundation upon which the teenager will learn to discover truth in the world.