Book Review: From Mechanism to Organism: Enlivening the Study of Human Biology August 16 2022
At long last, a resource book for high school teachers, parents, and students that brings to life the experiential approach to the complex subject of human biology! Michael Holdrege’s decades of experience at the Chicago Waldorf School teaching middle and high school science and math shines on every page of this penetrating book. From Mechanism to Organism contains wonderful illustrations that demonstrate valuable ideas for teachers to use in bringing different aspects of the ninth-and tenth-grade science in a Waldorf curriculum to high school students.
In Waldorf schools, the approach to science is unusual when compared to mainstream approaches. Science study begins in kindergarten and carries through all eight grades of the lower school. Observation, keen awareness of our surroundings, quiet reverence for the beauty and complexity of our living earth, and appreciation for the relationship we have with all living things are all cultivated from early years onward. The goal is to bring to students the enriched capacity to think and experience what is happening in any given phenomenon. Rather than ask students to only memorize what previous scientists have developed, Waldorf schools want independent thinkers who might discover something new from the unique perspective each individual holds. The early-grades practices help students approach the sciences with appropriate wonder and respect while engaging in concentrated observation of phenomenon recreated in the classroom or in surrounding environments.
Michael Holdrege demonstrates the above beautifully in From Mechanism to Organism. As the title suggests, the book helps to inspire imaginative strength and is a celebration of the uniqueness of being human with the potential for growth, self-healing, and for seeing the ongoing rhythmic life of the human organism which is contra-distinct from robotic systems or artificial intelligence. The book holds deep and inspiring ideas for the young to comprehend the workings of their own body, and the moral force in treating that body with wholesome respect and dignity. While morality is never taught as a primary topic in Waldorf schools, it underlies the importance of correct perception, proper reverence for life, and appreciation for the interconnectedness of our environment for each of us.
This is a resource not to be missed! For anyone who always wished to understand the interior workings of the human being, this is the perfect book. For Waldorf teachers? This is a rich and illuminating resource filled with straightforward information that is imaginatively presented, and reassuringly simple in its presentation of the complex.