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Research Bulletin

The Research Bulletin is published by the Research Institute for Waldorf Education, an initiative working on behalf of the Waldorf movement, with the following aims:

  • To serve as a newsletter announcing ongoing research and related activities
  • To carry brief but substantive discussions of fundamental research issues and questions
  • To describe research projects currently underway
  • To provide for the exchange of information and views within a growing body of readers

Contact the Research Institute for subscription information.

The Online Waldorf Library offers articles from all back issues of the Research Bulletin dating from 1996 to the present in pdf format.

An index of the most recent issues can be found on the first page, an index and articles in older issues can be found by scrolling down.

Spring 2009, Volume 14 #1: What Makes Waldorf, Waldorf?

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What is essential to the practices and understandings of Waldorf schools and Waldorf school teachers? If Rudolf Steiner’s work on teaching and learning is not to be seen partially, inaccurately, or superficially, how can it be seen?

In writing previously that “there is no such thing as Waldorf education” (“No Such Thing,” Research Bulletin, Vol. VIII, no. 1), I was alluding to Donald Winnicott’s famous statement that there is “no such thing as a baby,”1 which has been followed through decades by other healthy attempts to overcome the fragmenting, objectifying tendencies of our modern minds. Winnicott was at pains to show, in England after World War II, that a child alone—without a mother, at least (or, to use more contemporary language, a caregiver)—cannot survive. His research into the necessary, life giving, and life-sustaining relationship of child and parent added significantly to what we know about children and childhood. Clearly, he was
not actually denying the existence of children in any but a rhetorical sense. In fact, he devoted much of his life and career to them.

I stand by my statements about Waldorf education and the context in which we necessarily understand it. To try to see Waldorf education as a thing-in-itself is necessarily to see it partially and inaccurately. To believe in things as entities separate from context and the rest of creation is to participate in exactly the fragmenting, objectifying consciousness against which Waldorf teachers wish to stand. Further, to identify Waldorf education by its trappings, practices, or functions is to see it only superficially. (See “Playing ‘Steiner Says,’ ” Research Bulletin, Vol. XII, no. 2.) So, can we see Waldorf education whole, and, if so, how?

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Spring 2009, Volume 14 #1: Love and Knowledge: Recovering the Heart of Learning through Contemplation

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“Preventing conflicts is the work of politics; establishing peace is the work of education.”
– Maria Montessori

If I were to ask: What should be at the center of our teaching and our students’ learning, what would you respond? Of the many tasks that we as educators take up, what, in your view, is the most important task of all? What is our greatest hope for the young people we teach? In his letters to the young poet Franz Kappus, Rainer Maria Rilke answered unequivocally:

To take love seriously and to bear and to learn it like a task, this is what [young] people need. …For one human being to love another, that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but a preparation. For this reason young people, who are beginners in everything, cannot yet know love, they have to learn it. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered close about their lonely, timid, upwardbeating heart, they must learn to love.

Need I say it? The curricula offered by our institutions of higher education have largely neglected this central, if profoundly difficult task of learning to love, which is also the task of learning to live in true peace and harmony with others and with nature.

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Spring 2009, Volume 14 #1: Teachers’ Self Development as a Mirror of Children’s Incarnation

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by Renate Long Breipohl

In a lecture on self-education in the light of anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner differentiates between self-education in the realm of thinking and self-education in the realm of will. In educating our thinking, we strive to develop clarity with regard to ideas and ideals, the ability to discriminate between what is essential and what is not. Essentials can be of help in finding the big picture or strengthening such a picture within us. To identify these essentials is to find signposts in the vast spiritual landscape of ideation. In educating our will the situation is different. We place ourselves in the middle of life and are
as open as possible to whatever comes. We try not to retreat from what surrounds us, but to accept what meets us as the challenges of life.

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Spring 2009, Volume 14 #1: Of Seeds and Continents: Reliability, Predictability, and Scientific Knowing

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“I am not interested in what you think will work or what should work theoretically; build me a working model!”

This statement was repeated many times in the engineering career I had in the electronics industry prior to my teaching career. The owner and CEO of the company for which I worked had a Ph.D. in physics from Purdue University and had also served in the Navy. He had built the company from nothing, and the key to his success was that every product the company sold would work the first time, would be easy to use, and would be reliable for a long time. He knew all the reasons why something should work, but he was interested in spending time only with the designs brought to him for approval that were actually working models. A successful businessman and scientist, he wanted to see them, feel them, interact with the equipment; he respected the evidence of his senses.

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Spring 2009, Volume 14 #1: Work of the Research Fellows

Honest, Complete Assessment and Social Renewal: A Revolution by Patrice Maynard

We underestimate the revolutionary possibilities of Waldorf education. Constructive revolution was inherent in the ideas Rudolf Steiner gave the first Waldorf school teachers and asked the parents of those first classes to support. There are many revolutionary ideas inherent in the way Waldorf educators teach, but four are highlighted here:
1. To view a human being as an unfolding mystery.
2. To view human beings as unfolding in clear developmental stages.
3. To practice what we may call “practical altruism.”
4. To teach concepts imaginatively, aiming at rich, pictorial insight.

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Crises in the Kindergarten Why Children Need to Play in School by Joan Almon

Kindergarten has changed radically in the last two decades in ways of which few Americans are aware. Children now spend far more time being taught and tested on literacy and math skills than they do learning through play and exploration, exercising their bodies, and using their imaginations. Many kindergartens use highly prescriptive curricula geared to new state standards and linked to standardized tests. In an increasing number of kindergartens, teachers must follow scripts from which they may not deviate. These practices, which are not well-grounded in research, violate long-established principles of child development and good teaching. It is increasingly clear that they compromise both children’s health and their long-term prospects for success in school.

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Henry Barnes and Waldorf Education A Personal Tribute by Douglas Sloan

It was my good fortune to meet Henry Barnes just at the time when I had joined the Anthroposophical Society. I discovered Rudolf Steiner relatively late in my life; I joined the Society in 1978, the same year I met Henry. The occasion for this first meeting was initiated by Eckehard Piening, another of the many accomplished teachers with Henry at the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City. 1978 marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Steiner School, the first Waldorf school in North America. At the time I was an associate professor of history at Teachers College, the graduate school of education of Columbia University.

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Autumn 2009, Volume 14 #2

Autumn 2009, Volume 14, Number 2

Articles in this issue include:

Report from the Co-Directors by David Mitchell and Douglas Gerwin
From the Editor by Stephen Sagarin
The Social Mission of Waldorf School Communities by Christopher Schaefer
Identity and Governance by Jon McAlice
Changing Old Habits: Exploring New Models for Professional Development by Thomas Patteson and Laura Birdsall
Developing Coherence: Meditative Practice in Waldorf School Colleges of Teachers by Kevin Avison
Teachers' Self Development as a Mirror of Children's Incarnation, Part Two by Renate Long-Breipohl
Social- Emotional Education and Waldorf Education by David Mitchell
Television in, and the Worlds of, Today's Children: A Mounting Cultural Controversy by Richard House
Russia's History, Culture and the Thrust Toward High-Stakes Testing: Reflections on a Recent Visit by David Mitchell
Da, Valdorvskii! Finding an Educational Approach for Children with Disabilities in a Siberian Village by Cassandra S. Hartblay
One Hundred Meters Squared by Michael D'Aleo
Basic Schools and the Future of Waldorf Education by Peter Guttenhofer
When One Plus One Equals Three: Evidence, Logic and Professional Discourse by Douglas Gerwin
Progress Report on the Waldorf Parent Survey by Martin Novom
News from The Online Waldorf Library by Marianne Alsop

Autumn 2009, Volume 14 #2: Report from the Co-Directors

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To be sure, this has been a demanding year for the Research Institute. On the one hand we have enjoyed unprecedented growth in our connections to research around the world––from Australia and New Zealand in the west to Europe and Russia in the east––with new overtures and offers of research; on the other hand, we find ourselves restrained in launching new projects because of a decline in philanthropic funding.

The Research Institute has been able to sustain its ongoing activities––such as the Online Waldorf Library (OWL) and the publication of this Research Bulletin––thanks to the steady backing of the Waldorf Curriculum Fund as well as schools that have remained loyal "Supporting Members" of the Institute. At the same time, we will have to limit our activities in the forthcoming year to completing projects already underway while we seek funding for new projects. In short, we feel much of the uncertainty of the current economic climate. We welcome both advice and support!

Read more: Autumn 2009, Volume 14 #2: Report from the Co-Directors

Autumn 2009, Volume 14 #2: From the Editor

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Reflection will show that consciousness is not a thing, not a configuration of neurons or electrochemical activity-although it may require these for its manifestation in us. Consciousness can most clearly be conceived, I believe, according to the polarities favored by the Greeks, and, more recently, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Rudolf Steiner, and Owen Barfield, among many others.

The Greek view of courage provides a good example. For the Greeks, courage wasn't a thing, wasn't a hormone level, for example. It was that which mediated the polarity of fear and foolhardiness. A coward, through fear, will not act when he might. A fool, through foolhardiness, will act rashly when reflection might save his life. A courageous person balances the tug of fear and the force of foolhardiness to find a middle way.

Of what is consciousness the mediator? Well, it is clear that we may perceive the world and that we may think about the world. (Even those who deny the existence of consciousness do not deny the thinking that goes into their books and the perceptions of those who read them.) Perception and conception form the polarity that consciousness mediates. This is clear enough as a thought, and it was Owen Barfield, I believe, who first put it this way. For Rudolf Steiner, we may call consciousness the spirit. From at least one point of view, consciousness and spirit are one and the same.

Read more: Autumn 2009, Volume 14 #2: From the Editor

Autumn 2009, Volume 14 #2: The Social Mission of Waldorf School Communities

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In many years of working with Waldorf schools, I am often asked why it is so difficult, why so many meetings, why work with consensus or, more pointedly, why doesn't the Board just appoint a principal or director and have this person run the school efficiently, without all this participation and complexity. Somewhat tongue in cheek, I say, perhaps it isn't a question of efficiency, but of liveliness, of engagement, of juiciness. Yet the questions are valid. Why is it that we struggle with new social and community forms in developing Waldorf schools in North America and around the world?

Read more: Autumn 2009, Volume 14 #2: The Social Mission of Waldorf School Communities