Centennial Celebrations of Waldorf Education

In 1919, Rudolf Steiner, the founder and visionary behind Waldorf Education, believed that society needed to take a new and more positive direction. The best ideas never just drop out of the sky for a lark…..When the first [Waldorf] School started in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919, it wasn’t a fanciful idea and somebody thought that he/she should start a school with a difference. There was indeed a great need, for to bring about a social change and transformation.

In the aftermath of World War I, Europe was in turmoil. Steiner envisioned a kind of education that would create Social Renewal. In the same year Rudolf Steiner gave a lecture to workers at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. His lecture made quite an impression. The workers wanted a new, more humanist education for their children in the wake of the World War I. They asked Steiner to start a school.

The movement began not with an educator but with a businessman. Emil Molt, owner of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart saw his employees, devastated with their society and political situation. They were desperate for a better way to educate their children that would heal them from within and make them strong enough to face the world. So on behalf of his workers, Mr Emil Molt approached Dr. Rudolf Steiner and asked for his help starting a new kind of school for the children of his factory employees. Steiner agreed to help Molt, as he was grappling with a similar perceived need for changes to the social order. Both agreed that working with children was the best way to move towards this new social order they desired, as children represented the future leaders of that society.

Dr Steiner came forward to save the situation and laid out several conditions for Molt’s new school: it had to be accessible to everyone (including girls) and the teachers needed to have complete autonomy to teach. No interference from the state authorities. Within months, faculty from Europe were trained and they opened the school.

Very soon after the founding of this first Waldorf School in Stuttgart, Waldorf schools were founded across Europe and America. Schools started in humble places- from farm houses, tin sheds, huts and in in fancy buildings as well. A Waldorf School was founded in The Hague in 1923, a school in London in 1925, then in Basel, Budapest, and Oslo in 1926. In 1928 the first Waldorf School was founded in New York – so it took less than 10 years for the movement to expand beyond the confines of the European continent. After the World War II ended in 1945, the Waldorf movement began to expand again. Over 300 schools were founded in 23 countries by 1985.

Then on, schools in Kathmandu, Nepal founded for orphans and the children of people with leprosy, a school in Bay Area for the tech guys children, a school in New York, a school in New Zealand that uses Maori principles to teach in the native traditions to its students, schools founded by a very diverse group of ethnicities in China because they felt the public schools were too highly regimented and had no respect for the individual or their background. This includes schools in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, Cape Town, Beijing, Seoul, Santiago, Reykjavik, Nairobi, Guatemala City, Tokyo, Singapore, Honolulu, Auckland, Sekem, Sarajevo, the Lakota Nation, and San Francisco Bay Area!

These schools serve families who wanted a holistic and meaningful education for their children.

A teacher who started a Waldorf school for Israeli and Palestinian children to learn and work together every day said that, “Waldorf Education is an inner education of compassion and humanity without fear of the other.” We know fear stems from not being able to see someone else’s humanity. At the heart of our movement is human connection, relationship, and community.

The display of Greeting cards, shows just how far Steiner-Waldorf education has travelled from its roots at the first school in Stuttgart, Germany to all across the world. In our school auditorium one can see the cards of 1200 schools. Every school has its own particular feel grounded in the culture and society it has risen out of. Every one of those schools was inspired by people who shared Steiner’s vision for a better society.

The concerns of the factory workers in 1919 Stuttgart are echoed today by parents around the world. With the Waldorf movement, a global shift was made away from fierce academics, towards fostering creativity, adaptability, empathy, and resilience. A Waldorf education prepares students to be leaders and thinkers and problem solvers in a future we cannot yet imagine.

100 years later we can see how Steiner’s vision has grown into a movement that has changed the lives of people around the world. Today, the Waldorf movement is the largest school movement in the world, and comprises 1,100 schools and 2,000 kindergartens throughout 100 countries..

This year we celebrate the centenary year 2019: 100 years of Waldorf Education. The school that began for the children of the workers of the Waldorf-Astoria factory, became a worldwide school movement,

Waldorf education is child centred, trying to understand who we are as human beings. How can education bring forth unique human capacities?

In our thinking life, we have the capacity to think critically and independently, and to have vision. In our feeling life, we have courage, compassion, and creativity. And in our will, we have perseverance and determination. An education for the future must not only call forth these human capacities, but it must also integrate them within the child if he or she is to meet the demands of an increasingly global culture. Most importantly for the future, that child grows into an individual who has an inner openness and interest for another person’s humanity. Through education, a space can been created for empathy. And empathy is the first step towards Social Renewal.

100 years celebration is an opportunity for feeling grateful and also for deep reflection.

  • How can Waldorf Education instil among students empathy for others?
  • Are our students prepared enough to face the outside challenges with inner strength and courage?
  • Are our students prepared enough to take on the academic expectations and find satisfaction in their chosen paths?
  • Do they respect global cultures and celebrate human uniqueness at the same time?

A 100 years later it’s now our task to-

  • Bring in regional and international connectedness.
  • Community building through activities that may be big or small, educative or entertaining.
  • Undertake projects that will enhance our relationship with the environment
  • Participate in worldwide activities like participating in seminars and workshops to be better equipped as teachers and as well, taking keen interest in Bee keeping.

As part of the Waldorf education centennial celebration, Waldorf schools across the globe are taking action by cultivating gardens, tending bees and establishing bee-tending programs to help support and rebuild the pollinator population. As a community, we at Prerana Waldorf School, are planting trees and gifting plants, adopting plants and trees. The activities on the school farm too are intensified. Our school farm cultivates vegetables organically, all of which is used in our school kitchen for lunch program. While students are introduced to principles of planting and growing.

Postcard Exchange Project initiative of Freunde Erziehungskunt – The idea of exchanging postcards is as simple as it is enchanting: When every Waldorf school in the world mails just one postcard to every other Waldorf school in the world, then 1,200 postcards will arrive in every school!

An educational impulse that started 100 years ago still holds good. Dr Steiner intended that students to acquire –independent thinking, empathy for others and develop a strong will so that they can meet the challenges, both contemporary and that which is to come from the future.

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