START WITH BIG QUESTIONS
This could be titled, How to Educate a Child.
First, ask the question, “What is a human being?”
A human being can be viewed as both 3-fold and 4- fold.
There are three realms to human beings: THINKING, FEELING, and WILLING, or, if you prefer, head, heart, and hands, and these have been outlined with corresponding and distinct stages of human physical and spiritual development.
It makes sense because we don’t come into the world with all of our powers of thinking ready and available to us at birth. A pony is able to stand moments after birth, but humans, the thinkers of the animal world, do not think right out of the womb. It takes many long years for our thinking to develop and mature. Humans develop these three realms of thinking, feeling and willing in distinct, SEVEN YEAR STAGES and this is important to the thought about how to EDUCATE a child.
From ages 0-7, we are developing our WILL, or the use of our hands, our limbs, and the ability to exercise our intent to “do,” “to act,” “to create,” out of our own volition.
From ages 7-14, we are developing our FEELING, or the ability to make meaning out of what lives in our mood life, our emotions.
From ages 14-21, we are developing our THINKING, our judgement, our abstract mind.
By age of 21, we have the ability then to focus on a fourth aspect of the human being, the entrance of the ego, or the “I,” the assertive, adult identity that can stand as one. The ego is not fully matured until much, much later, taking perhaps 3 seven-year cycles to emerge as mature, thus the age of 42 being an excellent age for someone to begin to have the ability to take office as President!
The four-foldness of the human shows through these four bodies: physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego – each of these is also the focus of successive seven year cycles.
During these stages, Steiner offers a particular area to serve as a focus for that stage. The focus tells what to emphasize and provide at that stage. It tells what to surround a developing child with during that stage that will enable the child to grow towards freedom and wholeness.
Age REALM FOCUS Explanation
0-7 WILL GOODNESS A young child must be shown goodness.
7-14 FEELING BEAUTY An older child must encounter beauty.
14-21 THINKING TRUTH An adolescent must encounter truth.
With this as a picture of “What is a man,” we can make some informed decisions about how to design an educational path for a growing child using the good, the beautiful and the true as headings.
A child is not an adult in miniature. This is a mistake that many make about children. A child is vulnerable and susceptible to so many influences of the adult world around them, until they are fully mature. They are depending on adults to provide what they need until they can provide it for themselves.
Out of this framework, Steiner set out to devise what has become known as Waldorf Education.
What every teacher should know about Rudolf Steiner is also what every parent should know about Rudolf Steiner and that is the list of main questions Steiner considered:
What is a man (a human)?
How does a child become a fully realized adult and how do we support that process?
How do we become a truly free society of fully realized adults?
How does humanity reach its potential and break out of its materialism and evolve?
This is what I think Steiner asked and sought to answer through his life work. It is through redesigning education and designing new forms of schools (and other supportive structures) that we come to a constantly evolving redefinition of ourselves as human beings. Note: I did not ask, “What supports our local industry?” Nor did I ask, “What supports our multi-national corporation, nor even our government?” Nor did I ask, ” How will my child survive and be competitive in the global marketplace?”
Governments are not in the best position to determine these things for us, thus I think the first step is being willing to step away from the herd mentality of government institutions altogether, in essence, get yourself free, get your child free. This seems required or at least it seems a given. It seems essential to make a clean break. Government has its necessary functions, but we should question its over-extension into the very core of human progress and evolution: the moral development of our youth. Our comfort level with that step of breaking free from the governmental control of the moral development of youth must be present in order to make possible the experimentation necessary that would move humanity forward. Elite, powerful corporations seem to be the cloaked controllers of a majority of forces effecting the world, including but especially government-provided education and the congenitally conjoined penal system, perhaps even more especially if you are a member of the “minority class” in the United States. Parents relying on the government educational system and using the government educational system for free daycare in the form of public schools are stuck in a debilitating and self-perpetuating cycle. Further, by having so many people stuck in this way, humanity as a whole is imprisoned in the cycle of degradation we are currently in, even if you personally don’t feel effected or degraded.
Those that can step away from free government-provided education, should be encouraged to, by all levels of society, from top to bottom classes. Homeschooling and other forms of private schooling could be the accepted norm, and the more that such alternative forms of living and schooling can be encouraged and be made available free of cost, without fear of punitive measures imposed by governments the better. The desperation and anguish that we hear on a soul level now is so telling and we cannot progress as a society without addressing it.
We cannot throw children into the streets or cut them loose without a place for them to go, without a plan for their development. They cannot be propped into a room with a laptop or be raised by a laptop and be expected to become healthy adults. No self-respecting parent would pull their child out of school and allow them to sit at home to rot their brains and/or rot their body, with nothing to carry them forward in life. No one wants to see children aimless, falling prey to decadence or poverty. This is the other danger, a total loss of the soul through neglect, and a total degradation of humanity due to lack of structure, morality, and form. This is what I would call the lack of a container, the lack of an incubator, the lack of an alternative and perhaps also, a lack of love.
This is the opposite of what I propose. We cannot create a yet another void for more vices and depravity to seep in. Humanity must create new possibilities that better match the highest definitions of what a human being is. Whether Steiner or anyone has a complete and accurate picture of that, anyone can decide for himself, but I hope to share in distillation, at least some of what I have learned through my travels into these questions and expore what it means in creating a better plan for education in general and what it offers to us as a picture of what a human being is and how to fix things.