Book Review: Research Bulletin, Special Issue: Technology’s Rightful Place October 15 2018

Technology and Waldorf This new book from Waldorf Publications is a compilation of three consecutive issues of the Research Bulletin all devoted to examination of technology and the results of its use. The Research Institute for Waldorf Education (RIWE) held three international colloquia over as many years, expanded board meetings over several days, with presenters who prepared different aspects of technology, the element of silicon, and research on electronics. The book offers a handy reference to fine essays on the power, miraculous effectiveness, and devastation that result from technology’s defining of our culture.

Waldorf Schools have never wavered in insistence that children be kept away from electronic screens of all sorts. Waldorf teachers and children wish for authentic direct experience of life before mediated experiences are introduced to them. Children need to learn life skills before they learn digital skills. The unique view of child development held by Waldorf teachers and those involved with Waldorf education articulates the fact that young human beings learn differently at different ages. The curriculum is designed to address this very specifically.

Research Bulletin, Special Issue:  Technology’s Rightful Place holds clear explanations of these views of human development, with contemporary science to underscore their correctness and effectiveness. This collection of essays provides a rich resource of explanations, ideas, and research to help a culture beguiled by the dazzling qualities of electronics to comprehend the whole picture of what we are gaining with technology and what we are relinquishing.

The astonishing sweep of technology over the recent decade and a half (in 2002, 140.7 million people in America owned cell phones; in 2017, 224.3 million people, almost twice as many). The press downward in age of screen use and cell phone use has been remarkable: 69% of 11-14 year-olds have cell phones and 31% of kids aged 8-10, according to a 2010 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Fewer than half as many owned them at these ages age in 2004.

The question of why Waldorf schools don’t “get with it” and stop holding back progress with “old-fashioned” policies like “no TV, no screens, no cell phones, no computers, no iPads, no media until high school,” have haunted teachers for decades. Now, scientific research is finally being heard above the noise of technology advertising, and Waldorf schools are moving into a place of praise by many medical professionals, for foresightful protection of youngsters against addiction, loss of self-esteem, depression, slipping performance in school, and social disabilities, to name just a few results of screen use.

Rudolf Steiner predicted that science would catch up with Waldorf education eventually. Research Bulletin, Special Issue:  Technology’s Rightful Place is a book to prove it!