Rudolf Steiner was born in Kraljevec, a place in between the Croatian and Hungarian border in 1861 and died in 1925 in Dornach in Switzerland. Rudolph was a very influential philosopher whose work has played a significant role in influencing the present culture in the western world. Rudolph worked with various scholars such as artists, scientists, doctors, religious ministers industrialist and teachers to help transform what we can now term to as civilization (Childs, 2006). Most of Steiner’s contributions can be seen in the Steiner schools, architecture, medicine and Biodynamic. It is also believed that his famous studies of the spiritual investigations led to anthroposophy which is termed to as the wise man. When Johann and Franziska fell in love and they wanted to marry, the Count did not give them permission to do so, this therefore led to Steiner’s parents leaving their positions in the family of Count Hoyos to go and find employment somewhere else.
The departure of his parents from his birth separated him from other kids especially boys of his age. This separation led to the boy receiving a very gigantic yearning of books and study (Steiner, 2004). The rich historical background that Rudolph possessed together with his civilized ways of life gave rise to the Waldorf schools. The Waldorf schools are concerned with taking a very insightful look in the learning process especially on the humanity study and how it can be useful in developing consciousness of oneself and the world that surrounds us. According to Steiner, the external conditions presented to man are changing at a very high rate, however, despite these changes, the internal conditions of humanity are intact and they are not changing at all. Most importantly, the stages involved in human development from childhood are very natural and have not been affected by any changes in the society.
Rudolph Steiner’s Beliefs on Education and the Role He Played in the Creation of Waldorf Schools
In relation to the studies by Steiner & Seddon (2004), Rudolf Steiner was very committed to his studies and by the time he clocked twenty years old, he had accomplished himself as a distinguished mathematician, linguist, scientist, classical scholar and historian. While in university, Rudolf paid a lot of attention to chemistry, mathematics and physics. After writing a philosophical thesis, Steiner was awarded a doctorate and he decided to concentrate on the scholarly and literal circles. In addition, Rudolf had an interest in the rich political and social life in Vienna (Childs, 2006). In the 1890s, while working with the Goethe archive in Weimer, he edited all the scientific works of Goethe and he also worked in collaboration to complete Schopenhauer’s complete work edition. During this time while working at Weimar, he had an opportunity of meeting various prominent figures both in the artistic and cultural world. Steiner was able to publish his first significant work Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: a Philosophy of Freedom in 1894. This piece of scholarly article by Steiner is currently perceived as one of the vital works in Foundational Anthroposophy (Lachman, 2007).
Currently, it is estimated that we have over eight hundred Rudolf Steiner schools or commonly referred to as the Waldorf schools distributed around the world (Stewart Copinger Easton, 2000). The Waldorf schools are very well established in most countries in Europe, North America, New Zealand and Australia. In most of the other world parts such as Africa and Asia, successful reconnaissance have been carried out and it is expected that with time the schools shall be introduced in this regions. Rudolf Steiner’s beliefs and techniques in running and managing educational systems have made it possible for the Waldorf schools to become long time success and thus distinguishing them from the constant reforms being experienced in the educational systems of the 21st century (Lachman, 2007). As Rudolf was studying, he was tutoring privately and from this, it is believed he was able to form and understand the various ideas and methods that would be most appropriate in teaching. As the ninetieth century came to an end, Rudolf believed that the dawn of the twentieth century education was being overshadowed with the science discipline subjects; Rudolf believed that these science subjects should have a spiritual baseline instead of material facts (Wilkinson, 2002).
The objectives that Rudolf opted that would be found in the science subjects led to him founding a firm by the name Weleda which promoted and produced herbal and homeopathic medicines (Richards, 2009). Being a charismatic and intellectual person, Rudolf was always being burnt by the urge of setting up a government that was just, fair and compassion to its citizens. This urge led to him forming up the Threefold Social Order from which hew anticipated that the worlds of economics, culture and politics would receive noticeable significance and in this system, Rudolf believed that each person would be accorded the respect that he deserved. The movement was a success at first but with time he started receiving a lot of opposition from the opposition political groups that were far much well established than it.
Similarly, the Threefold Movement was riven by the internal divisions that arouse within the movement (Steiner & Seddon, 2004). This led to Rudolf ensuring that even if all his ideas were to die, the Stuttgart school would survive. It is in this school that he offered very special courses for teachers and he took upon himself to supervise the buildings within the school. Rudolf would meet the various children’s parents and he got to know the children in the school. It should be noted that while when Rudolf movement was a success, he met a group of Germany industrialists from Stuttgart who wanted their factories to be merged to form an economic unit that relied on the idealistic principles of Steiner. Among these industrialists was the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory owner who requested Steiner to establish a school for his workers’ children (Steiner, 2006). It is from this school established in Waldorf that most of the Steiner’s schools are referred to as the Waldorf Schools.
How Waldorf Education Works
Childs (2006) asserts that Rudolph Steiner had a strong believe that a school system should be established in a way that it keeps pace with the constant changes that a child is faced with as he develops both physically, emotionally and mentally (Moore, 1997). Steiner believed that a school should be an instrument that assists a child to identify their full potentials but in doing so, a child should not be forced to fulfill those goals that were favorable to the society or the parents. A child should be left to participate in whatever he finds interesting, what the child is intrinsically motivated to do. Rudolph Steiner came up with a systematic approach that was entirely based on the extensive experience he had achieved while training as a tutor, and what he had studied in spiritual science or anthroposophy (Stewart Copinger Easton, 2000) and (Richards, 2009).
Some of the key points that Steiner ensured that the Waldorf schools followed in the elementary school included: encouraging the children under the age of seven to play, tell stories, draw, learning about nature and all the natural things and to stay and enjoy the home environment. Those children under the age of seven should not be taught to read (Steiner, 2004). Rudolph Steiner suggested that you should teach a child to write before teaching them on how read. Changing of a child’s teacher is discouraged by Steiner; a single teacher should be let to carryout teaching in a specific class for seven years. A link between the science discipline subjects and the art based subjects should be identified, in addition to this; Steiner suggested that a child in a learning process should be encouraged so as to make them enthusiastic about what is taking place in the class. The children should be given moral direction and certain beliefs should be discouraged from being taught. Lastly learning as a process should be encouraged fro the sake of it, we should not only encourage learners to learn and study because of the exams that they have to undertake at the end of the course (Steiner, 2003). Rudolph Steiner suggests various activities to be presented to the child at various levels of learning.
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According to Steiner, in the first seven years of a child, the child is forming and growing physically and most of their times are spent in an imaginary world. To inculcate a learning tradition in them, stories and pictures should be used. At this stage, the teacher should allow creative and imaginative play since it is the one that is considered to be the best weapon a child can be able to use in order to distinguish itself in the adult life to come. At this level, the teacher should ensure that the environment presented to the child allows the children time to play. The teacher should also encourage the children to play and exercise their imaginative abilities by learning to conjure ideas without being given any assistance. Steiner suggests that at this stage, homely chores and tasks are very essential in ensuring that a child’s mind develops adequately. In addition to this, activities that are artistic in nature and creative balanced with singing games, story telling activities and play times are very vital in a child.
Steiner believes that children within the six years bracket should be assigned chores that are garden and house based. Some of the chores include sweeping, cooking, gardening, building cubbies, modeling, painting and drawing (Steiner & Seddon, 2004) and (Steiner, 2000). From these activities, the child’s interest is molded and they manage to make their own constructive decisions in building and construction. From this study, Steiner education is after nurturing the senses of the children and the teacher is supposed to assist the child by providing the necessary rhythm and components of the duties and tasks being performed by the child. Steiner believes that this is the age at which the children are coming up with ways through which they can relate amicably and socially with each other and participate in fundamental tasks in life. Through meeting and playing together, children inculcate significant and interpersonal skills. The teacher at this stage plays the role that leads to encourage relationships amongst the children through various tasks and play (Wilkinson, 2002).
Steiner education lays an emphasis in what should be done once a child enrolls into elementary school (Richards, 2009). The teacher I expected to play a very significant role at this stage till the child graduates to the next learning level. The advantages of this commitment is very obvious since the relationship between the child and the teacher becomes noticed the same case with the child’s family. From this stage, the teacher together with the child is supposed to start together a long academic journey and this implies that the teacher is involved in the learning process as the learner (Steiner, 2008). One of the core roles that the teacher should play at this juncture is to ensure that the child’s needs are understood and the child is given the necessary assistance needed to nurture him appropriately presenting the spirit of community and sharing within the class environment. All these can only become possible if the environment within the class is structured in a way that encourages each person to work towards a set goal. Steiner suggests that the learning which takes place in this stage as significant as that which takes place in the academic world.
In the elementary classes, all the subjects being taught are given an artistic introduction. From this introduction, creative abilities, imagination and creative thinking are encouraged by the use of these different perceptions of ideas. Children are helped achieve greater achievement levels in all their academic disciplines by applying this method unlike while using lecture methods that are very dry and rote learning. Oral communication and its masterly is an integral part in the learning process. Re telling, hearing, illustrating and acting of plays enrich the imaginative mind of the child and assist the child in masterly of language. Writing and reading are taught in class one. The first step that a child takes is to write by the used of letters that are associated with meanings such as letter M representing Mountains, W fro waves etc (Steiner, 2007). On the other hand, comprehension of numbers in children is enhanced by the use of real and concrete life experiences and tasks such as measuring and counting out aloud. At this stage, the introduction of games such as chess is very healthy since it enhances the thinking of the child mathematically.
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Steiner believed that educators have a major task of preparing children for the days and the world ahead. This preparation is done by nurturing their development both from their inside to their outside and to provide a nourishment that can be termed to as right in all their stages physically, emotionally and mentally (Steiner, 2005). This is the right education and it is the education that was being offered to the first Steiner school built in 1919 for the cigarette factory workers’ children in Stuttgart. A lot can be emulated by our current school curriculums in order to make it fit for the children. Steiner developed a curriculum that was flexible which would fit any arising issue.
The education that is inculcated into teenagers depends highly on the perception that has been given to the current tumultuous life phase. Some scholars have viewed the adolescence stage as the phase in which there is extreme rebellion among the youth which should be quelled or else it may get out of hand (Steiner & Seddon, 2004) and (Steiner, 2000). For some, the high school years are considered as a preparation period for colleges and careers in future. This is the reason as to why most of our high schools tend to have assembled treatment centers within their schools, armed camps and other facilities to prepare the children for the world outside. However, there is a different scenario in the Waldorf high schools; the teachers in these institutions attach the adolescence stage as something more than what just meets the eye (Moore, 1997). The stage is recognized as period that is very essential in the development of the human being and it is at this stage that a profound transition for the inner powerful forces takes place. It is at this stage in which the changes in children are more drastic than any other stage.
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The curriculum in the Waldorf high schools is structured in a very conscious manner and it is geared towards encouraging and nurturing the ideals in the adolescents and to ensure that there is satisfaction in the meaning in life and to view life as very important. The curriculum is very clear as it tries to avoid the habits of the mind that are considered destructive and fatal. To realize this, the Waldorf high school curriculum is set in a way that the minds of the children are sharpened especially in the terms of observation. For instance, in chemistry, the students are expected to give clear and precise comments about the happenings in an experiment (Childs 2006). In other disciplines such as English, the students should note the colors of the objects they are using in class etc. after the students have trained well in observation; this is expected to be transferred into the ideal world. For instance that student who is well trained in observation will notice when things are different, e.g. when his friend is no0t feeling well or when he is feeling down. According to Steiner, good masterly of observation as a concept is considered as the first step in creating a positive impact.
The Waldorf high school, a lot of concentration is paid to the adolescent as he is given all the assistance needed as he enters the adulthood life. The teachers recognize all the pressures and ideals at this stage and give the necessary support. The teachers help inculcate meaning into the young adult in relation to the world and himself or herself (Richards, 2009). The student is taught on the various things that can be done to change the world and make it a better place. Similarly, the Steiner high schools are used to prepare the students for the world ahead, a world of adulthood and career. This is done in a better and comprehending manner than what is done in the public and private high schools. It should be noted that the studies undertaken in the elementary level are magnified in the high school; this implies that those seeds that were sown several years ago are observed as they flourish into beautiful flowers (Richards, 2009).
The flexible curriculum has for a very long time now been adapted in all Steiner schools all over the world and in fact most public schools are trying to inculcate it into their systems. This is especially because Steiner education encourages a thinking that is specifically designed for a specific age (Steiner, 2004). The Steiner education teachers are geared towards forming and creating a learning environment that displays love towards learning to each specific child, this is a thing that can be incorporated into the public schools. Also of utter essence the Steiner system did not believe that the children should be rushed into learning, they should be given ample time to savor and enjoy their childhood. This is a thing that is unheard of in the public education systems. Adults want to force ideas and beliefs into the minds of the children instead of letting them develop slowly (Moore, 1997).
Steiner understood the adolescent age to be a very critical age; it meant that the students should be given the support and encouragement that is needed so as to go through the transition successfully. This has been adopted by public schools as they have come to realize that there is more than what they have for a long time assumed to be present in the adolescent stage. It should be understood if we are going to have a future that is bright and a generation that knows and understands the world we are living in. The adaptation of the Waldorf schools system is the way forward. It is evident that a number of public schools are collapsing because they do not look at the adolescent student as a person being faced with a lot of problems (Steiner & Seddon, 2004) and (Steiner, 2000). What they do is ignored the transition that the student is facing, at the end, we have students who are rebellious and arrogant since they were never made to understand what they were experiencing as normal and what they could do to pass through it successful. Teaching and understanding the students as they are prepared for the life ahead is the only solution to a lot of problems that are being encountered in the public schools.
Rudolph in ensuring that the schools became a success and their objectives were achieved came up with a curriculum specifying a number of suggestions that should be included in some of the subjects to be taught in school. Some of the specifications made were in geography, history, languages, mathematics, literature, sciences, gymnastics, music, handwork and various discip0lines that were being taught at the school in Stuttgart. As brought to our attention by Wilkinson (2002), some of the suggestions made several decades ago by Rudolph are very applicable in our present schools and have proved to be very fundamental in teaching some of these subjects to learners in schools.
Presently, there exist some of Steiner’s schools, and from their characteristic there are very different from the other schools. This at least remains as an exhibit of the work carried out by Rudolph Steiner. The Steiner schools as they are commonly termed to have very unique distinctive approaches to educating young children and learners. The aim of this approach is to ensure that each child at a specific stage grows and enjoys vividly the experiences he or she is presented with at the stage. A balanced mechanism and approach is presented at each level ensuring that the child develops holistically. The heart, academic and social perspectives or heart, head and hands of a child are given the complete facets of a program that ensures learning has taken place effectively (Steiner, 2003).