What is Steiner Education?


What is Steiner Education?

Steiner education, based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, is aimed at giving each of each new generation of children and education entirely free from partisan political, economic, sectarian and racial influences. Steiner schools strive to produce unprejudiced, well-informed, well-balanced and creative young people who are practical contributors to society’s renewal and evolution.
Educational Philosophy

Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was a European visionary whose life work enlightened areas such as education, agriculture, medicine, architecture, the arts and spiritual philosophy. Steiner trained as a scientist, editing Goethe’s scientific writings and collaborated in complete editions of Arthur Schopenhauer’s work.
(For a preview of Steiner’s life and work, go to http://www.rudolfsteinerfilm.com/)

Steiner aimed to create a holistic educational experience that enriched the life and development of the child on many levels, not simply through the development of the intellect. His aim wasn’t to inculcate in children any particular viewpoint or ideology, but rather to make them so healthy, strong, inwardly free and aware of their humanity that they could decide the course of their own lives based upon the integration of intellect and feelings.

The first Steiner school was established in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919 at the behest of Emil Molt, the owner of the Waldorf Astoria cigarette company (hence the name Waldorf Education). In post-war Germany, Molt (an advocate of Steiner’s approach) wanted the children of the company’s management and workers to be provided with a quality education which would encourage a broader engagement with society’s issues and opportunities. Steiner stated in an essay entitled “An Introduction to Waldorf Education”, written in 1919, that “Children must be educated and instructed in such a way that their lives fulfill demands everyone can support, no matter from which of the inherited social classes one might come.”

Steiner’s states in his 1919 essay “Introduction to Waldorf Education” that “Insightful people are today calling for some form of education and instruction directed not merely to the cultivation of one-sided knowledge, but also to abilities; education directed not merely to the cultivation of intellectual faculties, but also to the strengthening of the will. The soundness of this idea is unquestionable; but it is impossible to develop the will (and that healthiness of feeling on which it rests) unless one develops the insights that awaken the energetic impulses of will and feeling. A mistake often made presently in this respect is not that people instill too many concepts into young minds, but that the kind of concepts they cultivate are devoid of all driving life force. Anyone who believes one can cultivate the will without cultivating the concepts that give it life is suffering from a delusion. It is the business of contemporary educators to see this point clearly; but this clear vision can only proceed from a living understanding of the whole human being.”

Steiner’s philosophy is underpinned by the belief in an equality of human rights, liberty in cultural life and voluntary co-operation in economic life.

In 1921 Steiner was instrumental in the establishment of the pharmaceutical company called Weleda, which to this day makes natural medical products. In 1924, at the behest of a group of farmers, Steiner conducted a series of lectures on agriculture outlining Biodynamic Agriculture (or Biodynamics). Biodynamics is an ecologically sustainable and natural method of farming. One of the areas Steiner was concerned about was the degradation of the quality of food due to the extensive use of chemicals in agriculture, notably pesticides and fertilizers.

Steiner’s legacy is broad and many of his ideas have received scientific support; an example is the alignment of the method of education to the developmental maturity of each child. Almost all forms of Steiner’s philosophy have seen rapid growth in their practical use during the last few decades, notably in areas such as Steiner Education, Biodynamics, Anthroposophic medicine and ethical banking (an example being the Triodos Bank in the Netherlands).

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