Ch.18 — Learning from 100 years of fruitful Waldorf K-12 education

Women’s Summer Conf., June 2031 — Days three and four

2,500 women attending live. 7,000 attending online worldwide

In the big effort to conceive of liberal arts colleges again, from the ground up, women wanted to feel supported. They wanted to hear, and learn from, the most experienced new-school starters available. Who were they? What wisdom could they offer?

The first speaker on this was John Morton, a US charter school expert, veteran of 20 charter school start-ups in five states. Charter schools are 90% K-8 schools, 10% high schools. John spoke about what was learned from the success and failures of various efforts.

John was also aware of and sympathetic towards Waldorf-methods schools. A summary of his remarks:

For the kind of holistic pilot colleges you want to found, the most experienced school-starters are the Waldorf folks. Even tho the vast majority of schools they set-up are K-8 schools, they have set up about a dozen, separate high schools. I know of no new colleges they have set up. The Rudolf Steiner College (roughly 1976–2015) and Emerson College in England (1962-on-going) are the closest experiments — https://Emerson.org.uk/ For the system of experimental colleges you plan to found, the people who founded and taught in these have a wealth of experience about what does, and does not work. They completely share your goal of colleges not as an information game; and, moving colleges into preparing graduates to navigate and succeed at the Game of Life and relationships.

With this introduction, the focus of days three and four was primarily introducing the treasure trove of Waldorf K-12 topics and speakers to a wider, national and international audience. This was not done by lectures or panels. It was done by:

- Ten minute lecturette set-up for interactive partner and small group exercises, and

- large group debriefs with Q&A.

Exercise sequences were built around each question of:

1) What is “real work” for children, age birth to age four?

2) What is “real work” for children, age seven to puberty?

3) What is “real work” for students, age puberty to age 29?

From out of attendees, these questions drew out their own wisdom, what they had learned from being a students in schools; and, from being parents of children in schools.

After each lecturette and exercise sequence, Q&A sessions created flow back and forth between facilitators and audiences. A large number of political and technical administrative questions were asked. Helpful materials on each question were mentioned.

In this way, attendees were drawn into a view of human development, spiraling upwards, in recursive loops. This view was not in opposition to conventional, male, one-sided intellectual education. It was its natural expansion, viewing ALL human capacities, unfolding — not just the intellect.

“Cultural Work” was then defined as anything and everything which facilitates this spiral of human development for each grade level, each individual teacher; and, each individual child.

Teaching As a Lively Art

The morning of Day Four, — A very experienced Waldorf teacher consultant came to answer questions on the short book, Teaching As a Lively Art (1985) by Marjorie Spock. A digital copy of the book had been sent to every registered attendee with the recommendation to read it prior to Conference 2031. Many in the audience had read and enjoyed TALA. The session quickly went into Q&A. A raft of challenging questions emerged which were eventually summarized and circulated afterwards:

- “Better teaching” is not the goal. It’s superficial to blame K-college problems on teachers. Too easy to make teachers the scapegoats, as in “The Dead Poets Society” movie. Reforming schools and colleges is NOT just a matter of making courses more lively and engaging. This is superficial, a dead end.

Much larger, bigger and deeper issues are present, multiple “invisible elephants” are standing in the living room, male K-12 experts know nothing about:

- Too much focus is given to what adults (men) think other young adults (men) should learn. Why this focus? The Patriarchy wants young men to grow up and take over from the old men and run things, so there is “continuity of the status quo.”

- For K-12, one missing thing was, consensus on a framework of normal-natural human development, K-12. Once a teachers in a school have consensus on this, then each can compose their own version of blocks for a yearly Grade Level.

- Another thing missing was too little attention to graduating life-long learners. To do this, the whole “apple cart” of conventional patriarchal schooling, from the 1880s, factory-style education, administration-centered ed, has to be dumped over.

Both are always true

It has to be replaced with this. Kids are both utterly unique and individual. At the same time, kids are utterly herd and flock animals. For each group of kids the same age, kids share so many developmental similarities, they can be taught in groups. Both are always true.

Another reason male-led conventional schooling, K-college, was losing respect from parents and teachers since 1965? Few teachers and virtually no administrators were interested in two crucial psych measures:

- The increasing meaning and significance of “plays well with others;” especially as it applies to adults,

- Second, the ease with which sociopath tendencies are uncovered early in life, before they cause havoc on others (see HEXACO Personality Inventory). This oversight was criminal; and decades ago, could have solved the problem of low-performing teachers school could not fire.

The “Waldorf worthies” continued with a PowerPoint slide deck of other “big rocks” to put in first:

Each year of K-12 and each year of year of college ideally offers a core curriculum, an inter-related suite of courses, synergizing each other, which:

- Inform young minds and hearts about the world they are inheriting,

- Invite students to “be all they can be,” reflecting to each student the length, breadth and height of their own talents,

- Educate them with stories of how others expressed their talents, thereby impacting the world they inherited,

- Invite students to create healthy boundaries on all levels,

- Educate them to shortcuts for navigating both the Outer and Inner Games of Life; and

- Show them the limitations of their own learning process, the value of teachers, the value of honesty and healthy humility

All these support students choosing what they can do with their life in the world after college.

Waldorf representatives, some of them extremely aged now, were again very impressive speakers, garnering standing ovations. They so clearly explained and articulated what kept the majority of colleges dysfunctional.

Eugene Schwartz, Waldorf teacher trainer

At the end of Day Four, world-famous Waldorf K-12 education teacher trainer and consultant, Eugene Schwartz, spoke. Now elderly and infirm, Eugene nonetheless banged on the podium and encouraged women to have the boldness to make their experiment and give into it, until it succeeds.

Four weeks after Conference, all recorded sessions were transcribed and distributed publicly online.

For many attendees, it was an unexpected surprise to meet the well-developed sub-culture of Waldorf holistic education reform, its literature, speakers and materials. In the USA, Waldorf had peaked between 1980–2005. This had taken the form of Rudolf Steiner Waldorf-whole-child methods schools, home-schooling and Waldorf-methods charter schools.

Women attending caught the vision of Waldorf expertise were able to spare Women In Congress years of time re-inventing the wheel; and, going down blind allies. Waldorf consultants demonstrated they had a firm grasp on which innovations were timely and effective now.

The Waldorf skeptics

Q: Wasn’t excitement over Waldorf methods dampened by a backlash of elite parents in San Francisco in the 1990s?

A: True. The Waldorf Skeptics archive can still be found online. The Waldorf Skeptics were overwhelmingly males, fathers fearful their own limited, male, one-sidedness would be uncovered and toppled over by the more feminine-friendly yet also highly intellectual Waldorf culture. Many of these fathers were tech workers in Silicon Valley with little exposure to holistic thinking of any kind. They fought back. Waldorf is naturally multi-sided, both Thinking and Feeling, more whole-brained.

1750–2020 many men were wedded exclusively to Thinking-over-Feeling. Anyone threatening this unconscious hegemony was attacked. By 2030, this dynamic was more understood and talked about.

Next ~ Initial Mandate, Vision, Mission Product statements

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