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The school Movement
Our Three-fold Nature
Four States of Consciousness
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In 1919, Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher, scientist and artist, was invited to give a series of lectures to the workers of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. As a result, the factory's owner, Emil Molt, asked Steiner to establish and lead a school for the children of the factory's employees.
Thus the school came to be called a Waldorf School, however these days the educational philosophy is referred to either as Steiner or Waldorf Education.
Since 1919, the school movement has grown to over 800 schools and 1200 Kindergartens throughout the world, with over 50 in all states in Australia.
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Steiner education is a based on a holistic approach, balancing artistic, academic and practical work educating the whole child, hand and heart as well as mind. Its innovative methodology and developmentally-oriented curriculum, permeated with the arts, address the child's changing consciousness as it unfolds, stage by stage. Imagination and creativity are cultivated as well as cognitive growth and a sense of responsibility for the earth and its inhabitants.
Activities which are often considered "frills" at mainstream schools are central at Steiner schools: art, music, gardening, and foreign languages to name a few. In the younger grades, all subjects are introduced through artistic mediums, because the children respond better to this medium than to dry lecturing and rote learning. All children learn to play recorder and to knit.
Children are not rushed into adult consciousness but allowed to savour their childhood.
'Harking back to Plato, Steiner defined the task of education as that of awakening what is already in the learner rather than impressing facts or concepts on the mind from outside. For Waldorf (Steiner's first school) educators, the curriculum must parallel the ripening awareness of the child'. (Reinsmith, 1989)
Waldorf/Steiner schools are non-denominational and the philosophical and spiritual basis is not taught to the children - rather it forms the source for the teacher's understanding of human development.
Another unique aspect of Steiner education is that the teacher remains with the class throughout the duration of the primary school years from class 1 to class 7. The benefits of such a long; term commitment to the children means the teacher can use long-term solutions to correct academic, emotional and behavioral problems. Most healing and progress can be achieved by a teacher with intimate knowledge of the kind that can only be obtained by long association. Naturally, the students meet many other teachers on their seven-year odyssey; there is a healthy swapping of classes for various specific subject areas.
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Steiner focuses on childhood as being different in growth than that of adults and suggests children go through a different stage of development every seven years until he finally reaches adulthood at 21. During this time the 'body, soul, and spirit (willing, thinking, feeling) gradually come into tandem with each other.
As the words body, soul and spirit are used throughout Steiner's educational theories, an understanding of his definitions will help clarify his philosophies and their intent. The following statement describes our three-fold nature:
Thus the human being consists of body, soul and spirit.
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Steiner suggested that humans have passed through four states of consciousness since they first appeared on Earth. The child must experience within their own being the changing states of human consciousness before reaching adulthood and taking up their own place in the flow of human evolution. Thus in childhood, the human being also passes through four distinct steps or stages, that mirror the phases of human evolution.
The following annotations extracted from Nila Chamber's 'A Brief introduction to Steiner Education' succinctly outline the four states of consciousness that man has evolved through to this present day:
These are the four stages of human evolution which mirror the growing consciousness of the child at different stages of his life. Each epoch gives a clue as to what subjects and themes should be brought to the child at certain class levels.
Steiner suggests we nourish the human being with stories suitable for his age; "Food" for the first stage (age 1 - 7) is the fairytale and folktale world. We will see that the fairytale mirrors beautifully the consciousness of the little child. Fairytale characters live in two worlds at the one time, in an earthly world and in a magical metaphysical world. There are other theorists who support the telling of fairytales to children of this age: Elizabeth Kuble Ross says, 'the child, being like the fairytale character can readily relate to these personalities'.
As the child enters the second phase of human evolution he becomes more aware of his earthly surroundings and the animals that share his planet. The child of 8 is given Fables and Legends and nature study to help him understand his earthly neighbours and surroundings.
Around Class 3 (turning 9), a major event takes place which we can describe as the birth of the ego. Stories from The Old Testament are given here as they reflect the notion of nomadic people putting down roots and taking up a separate, individual identity. The characters depicted are simple, straightforward and pure. These stories inspire and sound a note of caution, pointing out the perils that lie ahead and the consequences of disobedience. Such stories are useful for the children to hear. They may then also choose to use their individuality to uphold the good.
In the following years up to the age of 14 the children are given sagas and epics that have a strong hero content; Norse mythology, Anglo-Saxon, Greek, Eastern and Medieval hero stories. 'By telling him the tales of the heroes, we seek to motivate and inspire them to journey on with courage and persistence, to overcome the inertia and illusions of earthly existence, to overcome their lower nature. Heroes and sagas reflect the struggles a child experiences during these years.
In the third seven year cycle (age 14 to 21), the intellect proper begins to blossom. We can demand intellectual responses from younger children, as is often done, but until this point is reached, such activity will be forced and unnatural. The student during this period begins to develop the ability to pursue abstract intellectual reasoning on his own
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|Dr. Rudolf Steiner was a highly respected and
well-published scientific, literary and philosophical
scholar who was particularly known for his work on
Goethe's scientific writings. He later came to
incorporate his scientific investigations with his
interest in spiritual development. He became a forerunner
in the field of spiritual-scientific investigation for
the modern 20th century individual.
Rudolf Steiner has written more than 50 books and has given over 6000 lectures to impart his Anthroposophical theories which relate not only to education but to science, agriculture and medicine.
Last updated on 08 June, 2002