Multicultural? Why Waldorf Education Works Around the Globe August 11 2015

Why Waldorf Education Works Around the Globe

The unique view of child development used in Waldorf Education as the road map or architecture of the curriculum is at long last verified by scientific research in a number of areas of specialization. Brain development, multiple intelligences, sensory development, child psychology, neuroscience, have all illuminated in the last two decades that the practices in Waldorf education support perfectly the healthy development in body, mind and spirit of young human beings. Without the stress of testing, with child observation as the leading source of information about correct approaches in the classroom, and with strong development of capacities for concentration and work, children grow into confident, clear thinking, and compassionate people.

One interesting aspect of the Waldorf approach often remains unseen but is a potent element in developing compassion in children, as part of their spontaneous response to the world is the social awareness inherent in every detail of everyday lessons. This could be called a moral element. It is based on the assumption that the fundamental principle of “self-interest,” defined by Adam Smith in the eighteenth century as the basis of a healthy economy, has long since passed its usefulness.

Waldorf Cieneguilla School in Lima

In our current times, the need to work on behalf of a whole community, a whole world is essential. One’s work when selflessness fulfills a human being in a way that selfish activity cannot. Working as a class organism from Kindergarten through twelfth grades helps a child to emphasize an innate sense of responsibility and caring that lasts a lifetime. Setting the table for the whole class, making bread and soup for everyone in the Kindergarten, clapping and walking in rhythm to words like, “We are all /One whole class/One by one/See us pass,” in first and second grades, working together on class plays through the grades, and designing lessons so that those with greater intellectual skill can assist those who struggle are all common practices that enhance a sense of community building, inclusion and caring.

A distinction in the Waldorf curriculum is including two foreign languages in the weekly rhythm of lessons from Kindergarten through grade eight. In high school students might choose focusing on a single language for greater mastery. This is on an obvious academic level, a fine element in a strong curriculum. However, its deeper impact lands in the child’s capacities of flexible thinking and sense of others.

Already in Kindergarten children realize that everyone does not put thoughts together in the same way. Some people put their verbs at the beginning of sentences, others at the end, still others in the middle. Through the language lessons and the stories heard, the students comprehend that different cultures celebrate, pray, eat, sing and write in different styles in myriad ways. Meeting strangers from strange lands becomes an expectation in a child’s heart and mind, and is never a threat or a fear.

Nania Waldorf School in Penang, Malaysia

Put in different way, Waldorf Education is multiculturalism at its deepest and finest. Rather than attempting to “teach tolerance” as an object lesson, appreciation for others who are different from us is a way of life, a path to comprehensive and varied thinking, a daily practice embedded in all the lessons of every year in a Waldorf school.

This is the way of Waldorf Education: to teach children about the whole world as a unity and to illuminate different aspects of this throughout the years. From the whole to the parts is the road to authentic analysis. Lumping like things together constitutes synthesis. Analytical thinking requires going consistently from the whole to the parts. So, in first grade we teach that one is the biggest number of all the numbers. In it is held everything: One universe, many stars and planets; one world, many people; one country many regions; one class, many children; one family, all the people of that family. In this, then, is also included interest and caring. It communicates our mutual connectedness and our inclusion in this world – together.

Waldorf in Israel near Beersheba

By the time the students in a Waldorf class have arrived at eighth grade graduation they have traveled the globe imaginatively in geography. They have experienced all the epochs of the development of their stream of culture from before the formation of the earth through to the present in stories and in history. They have experienced imaginatively the beginnings of almost all major religions of the world as they learn of these epochs in human development.

The consistency in this framework of the curriculum that has innate flexibility depending on which culture it is applied, makes it effective in every culture on earth. Its effectiveness is not limited to Germany where it began or to Europe in which its early schools were established. Waldorf schools now exist in the United Kingdom, in North America – Mexico, Canada, and the United States, in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Kenya, South Africa, India, Nepal, Israel, Iran, Russia, The Czech Republic, Japan, China, to name a few countries in which one can find Waldorf schools.

The Rudolf Steiner School - Mbagathi, Nairobi, Kenya

Families whose parents are involved in diplomatic service prefer Waldorf Education for their children because as they travel to different countries, the familiarity of the basic approach helps their children feel at ease, and helps their children miss fewer subjects as they go forward in the their education.

In this way, Waldorf Education works to raise citizens of the world, citizens of the universe, really, with love of one’s own country and appreciation for the love others have for theirs. They grow to be sensitive to the languages and cultures in all their glorious variety around the globe.

From setting the table for everyone (not just for ourselves or those we like) to recognizing that we are all together in a class and each has a place, to service practices in the community and in other countries into high school, Waldorf Education does not teach multiculturalism, it practices it with those close to us and those far away from us.

One more profound way that demonstrates why Waldorf works!