News - October 2010

Good education; rich life

What is a good education? What does it entail? How is it understood? An anthroposophical perspective.

Roots and wings for later in life. Photo: Aljoscha Thomas

Am I a good parent? The question is painful, but also ineluctable. But how does one judge whether or not one is a ‘good’ parent?

Does one judge it by whether and how far it is enjoyable, or how well one applied the advice one received from books and newspapers, from friends and acquaintances? Or does one simply trust and stay true to one’s own judgement in such matters?

Does one judge the success of education by its ‘output’, its results, by how good a child turns out to be, or how successfully he takes his place in life?

Who knows today what will be successful tomorrow? The curative eurythmist/educator, Henning Köhler, speaks of ‘the drama of the obedient children’. According to Köhler, a ‘whole educated’, well adapted child that dares not rebel in puberty is ill-prepared for today’s ever more complex life. Witness, those apparently successful young entrepreneurs with an expensive car, a child and a chic life partner who suddenly throw it all up at 35 and seek lost ‘youth’ or find themselves doubting the value of their until now very ‘successful’ and easily-led lives.

In fact education must reckon with the breaks of later life. As modern human beings we are called on to take into account our own biography, becoming its conscious author. We must shape our lives.

Fit for life 

Goethe said “Children should get two things from their parents – roots and wings.” The neurobiologist and brain researcher, Gerald Hüther, says”: “Basically every child needs three things: relationships in which he feels supported; ideals to which he can orient himself; and challenges which allow him to grow.”

Neither speak of ‘school substance’. Nor do they speak of making children and young people ‘fit for the workplace’. Instead, they speak of making children fit for their lives, which means above all ‘fit for themselves’.

Rudolf Steiner schools aim for exactly that. Their curriculum is not primarily oriented to the needs and demands of society, but asks when and how education can lead the child, then the young person to freedom, self-worth and creativity? What do children need in order to solve the urgent riddles life brings to every age? What nourishes them? The stuff of school should be ‘soul food’. And a seed. 

Things often happen in life that at the time are strange, even disconcerting riddles to be understood later on and  in another light: Suppose one had not met a particular girl on holiday. Or one had never learned Spanish. Or might one’s current job lead to unexpected new perspectives?

Living knowledge

A well-known person once explained to me how a single sentence spoken during childhood by his father later on often rang true when faced with doubt at the difficult forks in life’s road: ‘Whoever has strong hands, can always find something to do.’

What we do today, what we occupy ourselves with today, both in and out of school, works on in us further, developing and growing. Education ought not be about  ‘dead knowledge’ or dumbed-down teaching. The first 20 years or so of life serve the up-building of the physical body. Until the mid 30s soul faculties develop. Then, one way or another, comes the moment in which one’s biography ‘tips’. The body begins to degenerate, though all the while setting free one’s spiritual faculties. Life is characterised by a ‘mirror axis’: Albrecht Klaus speaks of 31.5 years, Matthias Wais speaks of 35 years, but one can also think in terms of 42 years.

These approaches have in common the idea that early life is mirrored in later life. The first 7 years come to fruition in the mid 50s, or the early 60s if one reckons with 31.5 years. With 42 years much later, of course.

Only then does life show whether we have been ‘successful’. Because education is – in the truest sense of the word – a ‘life’s work’.

Jörg Undeutsch

Appreciating relationships, the key to a conscious sexuality

Instead of narrow, prejudiced explanations, we need a conscious education about relationships.

This was the experience of a conference organised by Rudolf Steiner schools in Switzerland and Lichtenstein under the heading of ‘Sex Education Today.’ Given that the question of sex education today poses a great challenge for parents, pupils and policy-makers alike, the task was to derive from teaching praxis curricula, perspectives, methods and teaching materials to promote appreciation of relationships. Coordinated by Christian Breme, a teacher in Basel Rudolf Steiner school, the project is entering its 4th year. To date, 28 Rudolf Steiner schools have taken part in the development of an independent concept.

Below are two examples taken from practical experience. They show how in normal subject teaching it is possible to integrate sex education with an understanding of relationships.

Picture caption: Plant study Class 5 (rising 11): After modelling many flower forms, each student creates a concave sphere as a picture of the flower ‘in which we grew like a fruit before birth. We call it the womb.’

Class 8 (rising 14): In the course of a three-week study of man each student drew a skeleton. His own body was measured. Differences between male and female skeletons were identified. The birth situation was discussed. Again this gave the possibility of linking to the question of human sexuality. In such ways sexuality loses the sense of something isolated and disconnected.

Christian Breme: Image of man and Life Study – Elements of a spiritually understood sex education. (Menschenbild und Lebenskunde – Elemente einer Sexualerziehung aus spirituellem Verständnis) AAP-Verlag. 

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