Book Review: Emil and Berta, The Origins of the Waldorf School Movement August 06 2019

Emil and BertaWaldorf Education is named after the cigarette and tobacco company partly owned and completely managed by Emil Molt but named from family names, the Waldorf and Astoria families. The cigarette company was primarily owned by an inheriting family, the Giorgiis, who so trusted Emil that he was given 47% shareholding in the company and free rein in management. The company was remarkably profitable while Emil was the “CEO” and so the owning family was content to allow Emil free rein.

Emil and his wife, Berta, were earnest students of Rudolf Steiner. As you read this remarkable story of this generous pair, Emil and Berta, you will recognize that Emil had been in the practice of hearing Rudolf Steiner give a lecture on one idea or another and would immediately discuss with Berta how he could apply these ideas in the factory. His employees called him “Papa Molt” as he worked to enrich their lives.

When Emil and Berta decided on the idea of providing an education for the children in the families of the factory workers, they were delighted in the agreement from Rudolf Steiner to help with building a sensible curriculum that would address the future with a new form of raising children to think differently, finding ways to think in order to decide on more constructive ways to end conflict than the wasteful and destructive World War they had just survived. They had witnessed Rudolf Steiner’s tireless and unfruitful efforts to introduce his ideals of the Threefold Social Structure, designed to heal the crushed society of the German people. The idea of a school, for more than only Waldorf cigarette families, Steiner insisted, would generate new ways of thinking.

Rudolf Steiner could see the urgent need for human beings to view themselves as beings of body, soul, and spirit, to avoid the kind of brutal view of pure materialism that had led them into war.  Steiner could see that for a future worthy of human beings and of human endeavor, this inclusion of the spiritual side of all people must be accomplished. Most people think immediately of religion as soon as anything spiritual enters into worldviews. Steiner’s thoughts on spirituality transcended religion. He saw the spirit as an essential element in the human being’s organism. One need only think of aspirations, idealism, friendship, inspiration, and love, to understand this necessary spiritual side of being human.

Rudolf Steiner developed a curriculum for the new Waldorf school, made possible by Emil and Berta Molt, that introduced a unique concept of child development, and a plan for educating children so as to include the spiritual, emotional, social, and moral aspects of the young human beings, as well as the physical and intellectual elements already-dominant since the late 19th century and continuing into our own.

Buy the book here.