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  2. The Spiritual Ground of Education: 9 Lectures, Manchester College, Oxford, 1922
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Christianity as Mystical Fact. How to Know Higher Worlds. View All. Other Titles in this Subject We Recommend:. By Rudolf Steiner. Introduction to Steiner Education. By Francis Edmunds. See all Good Introductions. Rudolf Steiner. By Gary Lachman. See all Editor's Choices. Thinking leads the human being beyond himself and connects him to the content of the world.


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In addition to a number that follow on from them, Steiner characterizes two distinguishing features of thinking:. Individual executive function: thinking is, through and through, an activity carried out by single human individuals. This activity is completely under their personal control, and as such is not executed by any external agent for instance, by the brain but by the self as an act of pure will. Universality: although thinking must be brought about by an individual, it is nevertheless not purely subjective, but in its individual execution displays an inherent lawfulness, which, in contrast to the executive subject, is universal.

Upon this rests the possibility of human insight and communication. These are the two central characteristics of thinking: for it to happen we have to do it, and it occurs according to its own inherent laws. Thus, thinking involves a dynamic interplay between the individual and the universal, a constant reciprocal interaction. Rudolf Steiner calls this reciprocal relationship intuition.

This is one of the essential spiritual experiences anthroposophy speaks of as an aspect of knowledge: we experience a universal validity and intrinsic order in our own thinking. We are thus led to something beyond ourselves. In thinking we touch the source of universal truth. Now, it can be objected that this way of looking at things and this concept of thought is precisely what gives anthroposophy its mystical, pre-Enlightenment profile.

For to speak of a source of universal truth is an obsolete idea, from the perspective of empirical science. In answer to this objection it should be pointed out that although Rudolf Steiner assigned to thinking the qualities of correctness, accuracy, and veracity in principle, this in no way implies that we can designate any individual thought as valid and true.

Karl R. This, of course——in keeping with the spirit of the Enlightenment——would not preclude subjecting individual thinking to critical appraisal, nor would it imply relinquishing the possibility of error. Without such a healthy trust in thinking, however, we would have little chance of coping with our everyday lives. We would never get into a car or use a cell phone if we could not rely on the assumption that the thinking behind such technologies is in principle correct, even though it is always in need of improvement.

In what follows we will turn our attention to the consequences for Waldorf education of this concept of thinking. Rudolf Steiner introduces his lectures on The Foundations of Human Experience x which form the basis of his ideas on education by pointing to the special challenges any modern approach to education must face.

For education this means, for instance, that its content can no longer be conveyed to the students in a purely top-down fashion. Waldorf education rejected this pedagogical culture, as did the whole educational reform movement. Waldorf education would set about to change this. Autonomy in thinking and individual processes of understanding would be resolutely exercised. But unfortunately these methodological innovations are all solely concerned with delivering more or less fixed bodies of information more cleverly and easily, and rendering them reproducible for the purpose of examinations.

Similarly, the focus on competences——the latest object of educational adulation——cannot disguise the fact that even now education is ultimately geared to performance measured in terms of surveys of learning standards and graduation results on exams involving the regurgitation of fixed blocks of knowledge. The self-motivated activity of students favored by these teaching methods is thus merely the means to an end, namely, the processing of prescribed teaching content more quickly and efficiently.

In Waldorf education the reverse is the case: the self-activating quality of the power of human thinking and understanding constitutes the fundamental inner dynamic around which both teaching methods and content turn. How does this way of looking at things translate into actual classroom practice? The following are a few special examples:. In subsequent school years the focus on primary sense-experience gives way to more generally experiential, phenomenological teaching.

This approach is based on a conviction that attains its full significance within the context of phenomenological philosophy. It is the conviction that in every sensory experience, in every phenomenon, something of its intrinsic quality, its idiosyncratic nature can be experienced, but not necessarily put into words. What we are encountering here is the impassivity of things. We feel our way towards the true reality of the world.

Through our quest for knowledge we open up this path more and more, but in doing so we always begin from what we sensed originally and not from some arbitrary abstraction or pet theory that takes us off track. Nature study: The teaching of nature study, particularly as it applies to animals, is conducted in such a way that the single creature and its ecological surroundings are treated as one whole. The animal cannot be thought of as existing apart from its ecological niche.

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The students develop an inner sense for the fact that the single animal always stands in relation to a holistic context. Nurturing of skills: A key aspect of Waldorf education is that it attaches a high value to the development of skills. Skills, if they are applied, give concrete expression to the direct connection between individual performance and a set of self-validating rules. Every acquired skill is characterised by the fact that its individual application occurs in full accord with the laws governing that particular skill.

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For instance, if someone wishes to play the violin, spending a year reading books on the subject and subsequently being able to talk about the instrument will be of no help. A skill can only be acquired by practice. When we practice something, we notice how our actions accommodate themselves with ever more smoothness and fluidity to the particular nature of the object for instance the violin, but it could equally well be a foreign language, etc.

In every skill there is a perfect overlap between individual performance and a self-validating order of some kind. Besides the importance of thinking and its various features for arriving at an understanding of the spiritual dimension of Waldorf education, there is a further spiritual element to which we will now turn our attention. In the academic discourse of today such a concept of the self has been abandoned. As a rule, the human personality is thought of as being compounded of disparate elements. It may contain inherited features, but it is said to be constituted almost entirely of experiences from its upbringing and influences from its environment, especially those associated with a peer-group.

According to this view, then, the human being is more or less a conglomerate of socialization experiences.


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As far as I am aware Waldorf education is currently, and also historically, the only form of education based upon and designed around a definitive concept of the self. True freedom is an inner experience. This statement in no way implies that Waldorf education brings about the formation of the self or that it culminates in some definite outcome.

The Spiritual Ground of Education: 9 Lectures, Manchester College, Oxford, 1922

Education has only a preparatory character. It prepares the ground for something that is only likely to occur much later, namely, at the right moment. The single most important aim of Waldorf education is to provide a pedagogical framework within which children have the chance to become acquainted with their own selfhood.

This means the educational process approaches each one as a person, an individual I-being. Class community: As far as I know, the Waldorf school is the only form of school world-wide which gives children the chance to be part of a single learning group all the way from the first to the twelfth or thirteenth grade.

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This is a central, systematic component of Waldorf education. What is the thinking behind it? If we work on the assumption that Waldorf education is the pedagogy of the self, then the question arises as to how the education of the self occurs.


  1. The Spiritual Ground of Education : Rudolf Steiner : ;
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  4. In a somewhat simplified and abbreviated, but nonetheless accurate, form, we can say: the self is educated through encountering selfhood. A form of education wishing to be effective as a pedagogy of the self would need to create for its students an appropriate framework in which this education of the self could take place.

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    Here it is worth pointing out, by way of contrast, that the three-tiered educational system in Germany simply tramples the self underfoot. Other countries have indeed criticised this state of affairs as unjust, pointing out that in this regard the German system is extraordinarily backward.

    This three-tiered system works by sorting children into an intellectual hierarchy by means of rigid selection mechanisms. The only thing this process pays heed to is intellectual performance.

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    Individual achievements in all areas not just in intellectual pursuits are honored equally, and individual rates of development are accommodated. It goes without saying that other problems and challenges arise in association with the decision to do things this way. But the crucial thing remains that the students see and experience themselves as a learning community, in which all have a place by virtue of the unique self dwelling in each one of them. A forthcoming title note publication date above Contact us: Phone us: from Vancouver area from elsewhere in Canada or U.

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    Community Reviews Login or Register to post a review. Other titles by: Rudolf Steiner. Christianity as Mystical Fact. How to Know Higher Worlds. View All. Other Titles in this Subject We Recommend:. By Rudolf Steiner. Introduction to Steiner Education. By Francis Edmunds. See all Good Introductions.