It has been a while now, that I have been pondering over penning down my thoughts, but with so much talk over Steiner education suddenly in the air, I thought now is the time to finally pick up that pen.
I want to firstly begin by mentioning what, I THINK, is the most vital piece of wisdom we often forget:
"every piece of writing one finds, (especially on the internet), is but a projection of the writers own opinions".
Please always bare this in mind when reading anything!
For those of you who are pondering over education, I will below attempt to steer you, with getting your head around my thoughts regarding education. Hope it helps!
Let's start with Steiner Education; what is it, who is it for and what it entails, as my overview perspective. At the heart of every Steiner school is the philosophy, anthroposophy, that Rudolf Steiner has introduced to the world of human study. From this outlook, this school of thought towards education has stemmed.
Steiner education is an education for any and everyone, i.e. all walks of life, it may help someone who may feel a “misfit” in mainstream for whatever reason, just as much as it may help someone who also feels completely at home with mainstream as well. The question is not about whether this is a school for this group of people or that, its about what you want from an education, what you believe “education” and “educated” people to be. “Education” is the act of imparting or acquiring general and/or particular knowledge and skills, powers of reasoning and judgment. Therefore if you carefully reflect upon this, you will come to the conclusion that education does not need to be imparted or acquired in a certain form or be of a certain content for it to be considered "education", although sadly in our current society this is not to be the case.
In our modern world only the strict guidelines laid out by an "educating body" be it schools, colleges, universities or institutes are considered "education"; where the content imparted and acquired can be precisely quantified. This is all down to our ever growing obsession with "control", we want to have control over everything, keep it at a space and place were we can easily comprehend it, anything that we do not fully comprehend gets dismissed discredited and in fact, at times, demonised.
For example if we take a look at this whole “child labour” and help “educate” under privileged children in “third world” countries. This whole idealism, in it's current form, rather controversially no doubt, I find wrong on so so many levels. It is very arrogant of us to use the term “third world” it is very naive of us to consider knowledge that has been passed down the generations as anything less than knowledge past on in formally formed schools. Don't get me wrong, I am all for schools and formal education, I think it is a very nobel thing and at the time when it was pioneered it was meant for greatness and it has achieved it no doubt too, but somewhere along the way in recent years it seems to have been a bit neglected, its like that Encyclopedia printed at the turn of the 20th century that got put up on the top shelf of the book case to show off its pride and glory but treated so sacredly that it has never been touched and it has just sat there collecting dust and in need of a major reality check, as according it, women can't vote and the world has never seen any world wars!! Time to recalibrate our equipment I 'd say...
I don't want to undermine the hard work and beautiful knowledge that is spread in schools of all types; my argument is all types of knowledge should be treated and respected equally! Regardless of where the origins and teachings of it come from, Knowledge is knowledge it should not be sniffed at!
Without a shadow of a doubt children who are deprived of any education that they seek, should be helped in receiving it; but by the same token, people with more easy access to formal education, should be more positively exposed to knowledge that is not so abundantly found in formal schooling and allowed to gain access to it in a more honouring manner.
For example just as there may be a child born into a coffee farming family who is meant to be a budding heart surgeon, there may be a child born in to a family full of accountants who has a real knack of sewing. They should be equally encouraged and applauded.
This is my plea to everyone: Please help save highly specialised skills that have been perfected over countless generations from fading away out of our hands reach. Generations to come will be left with empty black holes in arts, traditions, cultures, practices and skills, if we don't make an effort to appreciate and preserve them while these last candles of wisdom still burn. It will be eons before we as a race can again through trial and error, recover knowledge that we once had but let slip through our fingers due to our ignorance and naivety.
Which ever walk of life you may hail from, which ever education structure you support, this one thing we as humans can and should unite in- endeavour to save from extinction, heritage, once it is gone, it really is gone and can not be brought back with a quick fix, stop it while we still can, from becoming extinct!
Coming back to the point at hand, Steiner education brings to the world a way of imparting knowledge in a way which is more in tune with what the child's natural growth cycle is on the physical, mental, emotional and social front. This approach therefore accomplishes the process of knowledge transferring in a more effective way, as you are working positively with the child's natural growth, leaving a greater impact and more rooted relationship with the knowledge.
The focus is on positively bringing knowledge to the child at the appropriate time, in the most effective and efficient way and not on seeing how well they can do in end of year exams. The theory behind no testing is not that they can not cope with it, but rather that the teacher who is teaching them day in day out in small groups, should already know exactly where the child is at, what their strengths and weakness are, what there temperaments are, where one needs to give more effort, or requires extra practice.
This removal of unnecessary pressure and stress of exams at early ages also helps to build a more healthy and grounded relationship with knowledge, as you are not cramming in knowledge at the last minute to pass exams, you are learning for the pure joy of learning, for the inner human desire of learning. This builds a relationship with knowledge that will hopefully be one with the right foundations and hence stand the test of time.
In recent times I have noticed, more and more focus is on exam readiness in mainstream education; the teachers are just focused on getting through the curriculum in time for exams and then just practice exam techniques, practice ticking all those boxes that will get the child through exams. Exams that are generic and built for singling out a certain type of personality/intellectual group (the cookie cutter syndrome as I like to call it) who then further get refined in university and furthermore at work.
The system does not appreciate nor let appreciate diversity uniqueness, individual greatness and genius. We as a race have thrived and survived because of our diversity and versatility. In the past centuries, although we have achieved unparalleled heights in all fields due to formally formed knowledge institutes, sadly in the past decades the "standardization" of the formal education sector has really started to hurt our diversity. It is churning out one tone specimens of the human race and this will come back to bite us in a very unpleasant way, in the very near future I fear.
Steiner Education very specifically leave scope for diversity, there is no "fixed" set of strict instructions for teachers to teach in certain ways, it is all very fluid, allowing scope for moulding the "classroom" experience in a way that the teacher feels fit for that particular group of children. Scope for the teacher to: bring in, change, or remove topics that are taught, that and as and when they feel necessary for that particular class. That doesn't mean to say they have no plan! They have a year plan, as well as have a lesson plan, for every lesson they teach, but they have the flexibility and the confidence to also throw that plan out the window and make a new plan as and when they feel is essential. This approach allows the curriculum to be organic and grow and live and breathe with those individuals in the class in which it is being used for.
Naturally this approach as I am sure you may appreciate is not for the faint hearted. One needs to have a lot of faith in the philosophy, in the school, in the staff and most importantly in your child; let them come to everything is their own time and space, they might not be were you think you want them to be right now, but they surely will be far beyond your fathoming soon enough.
For one who suffers from "FOMO" and needs their entire life plan written out in stone; knowing that week 3 in term 2 in class 5, means the exact same thing for every class 5'er all over the country, this approach may shake them to a point beyond there comfort level. It really is no wonder that so many people see Steiner education in a negative light, not everyone has the confidence and strength to go against the tide, and truthfully not everyone should either. We really do need all types of people in the world to survive.
I am not here to sell Steiner education to you as something that is perfect, or that that it is the better or right way to go, no, that is not at all my intention. It is just like everything else out there, good for some and not good for some, perfect for others whilst very much so wrong for others. My point of writing today is to give a glimpse of my overview of how I understand Steiner education.
Steiner Education has recently been getting a lot of raised eyebrows in the UK, yes maybe there may have been issues of concern amongst a few and I applaud the schools who are looking at fixing their short comings- no system is perfect, but more importantly, I think one needs to carefully review who was being looked at, who is saying what and what is their outlook, what is their agenda and maybe most importantly do they really truly understand what it is that they are looking at? Is their measuring stick really set in the right units, does it even need a measuring stick to begin with, I wonder? Does everything really need to be quantified? Maybe we as a society, are getting far too involved in micro-managing things, to the point were things are no longer healthy? Yes by all means when things come to child safe guarding we must be going through things with a fine toothed comb, but when it comes to managing to keep up with documenting every moment in every child's day to justify "progress", if that is were these so called "major flaws" are residing, maybe then we need to rethink the paperwork just maybe?? FOOD FOR THOUGHT!
The question somehow is no longer, "is this right for me or not", the question now has suddenly changed to, "is this school right for anyone?"?? This is were I think we all must draw the line and not be by-sitters anymore, this is not a question which any one person has the right to ask and answer, it is very naive and arrogant to think that any one person or persons can answer it and seal the deal for the nation, especially when the decision makers have no real understanding of the ethos behind the education nor any genuine interest in anything that is not their standard of norm. It is stripping away the rights of all those people who choose to try something different with their children, the rights of all those people who believe in this philosophy, the rights of all those people who believe in diversity to be a good thing, whether they themselves take that different road or not is irrelevant.
Families who take there children to Steiner schools do not impose there beliefs on anyone else, they do not enforce that this is the route all should take, so why are we being put into a corner and bullied into forgoing our choice? I thought we are living in a modern democratic country which gives people the freedom of choice? Live and let live, I thought was the motto, so why is it that every time people feel threatened by something they do not understand the reaction is always to smother down that flame; yes a flame can burn the forest down, but a flame can also launch a rocket to the moon, give it a chance, guidance and direction and it will take you to the moon, if that is where you want to go!