Rudolf Steiner – Scientist and Original Thinker

Steiner Waldorf education was founded by the Austrian scientist and philosopher, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). By his late 30s, at the turn of the 20th century, Steiner was well known in the intellectual and artistic circles of the German-speaking world as an original thinker and scientist.

The First Steiner School

The first Steiner school opened in 1919, as the result of a collaboration between Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, and an industrialist Emile Molt, owner of the Waldorf Astoria group of companies. The widely used term Steiner Waldorf education is derived from the two elements mentioned above.

Emil Molt invited Rudolf Steiner to direct the formation of a new school for the children of the employees of his Stuttgart factory. Steiner recognised that generally, children and adults of those times were not particularly able to receive and evaluate new ideas. Concerned that contemporary public education did little to improve this capacity, Steiner took the opportunity to demonstrate how a school curriculum and teaching methods could best develop a child’s clarity of thought, sensitivity of feeling and strength of will. Steiner was keen to develop an education that would promote co-operation and inclusivity. The education was designed to promote and underpin positive development in society as a whole.

A Comprehensive Education

Steiner described his ideal of a comprehensive education as one that encompasses everyone regardless of social or religious background. The philosophical approach, or world view, described by Steiner in known as Anthroposophy,* literally:- knowledge of the human being. The philosophy behind Steiner Waldorf education can be applied to all walks of life. Teachers in a Steiner Waldorf school, have the anthroposophical understanding of the human being as the basis of their work, but philosophy itself is not taught to pupils. The anthroposophical view of the human being, at its foundation, involves is a deep understanding of the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs of the developing human being, within the broader context of a developing humanity.

Waldorf Education Today

Today, Steiner Waldorf education is the fastest growing independent educational movement in the world, offering the full range of education for children from 3 to 18 years of age. There are now over 1800 Steiner Kindergartens and 1150 Steiner schools in 80 countries across almost all continents of the earth. The education is effective with children of all racial and cultural backgrounds, and Steiner schools around the world remain dedicated to cultivating, realising, and developing the educational aims that Steiner saw as being increasingly vital for the positive progression of humanity.

*a formal philosophical perspective, or world view described by Rudolf Steiner that has been applied to; educational, medicine and therapeutic intervention, agriculture, visual and performing arts, religious renewal and architecture.

Rudolf Steiner’s Influence Beyond Education

During the course of his life, Steiner wrote many books, gave over 6000 lectures (many transcribed into books) and made significant contributions to medicine, education, curative education (Camphill Movement – communities formed around individuals with special education needs), agriculture (Biodynamics), performing arts (drama and eurythmy), sculpture, architecture, religion (the Christian Community) and philosophy (spiritual science).

"...in education and teaching you must address yourself to whichever system is predominant in man; thus between the change of teeth and puberty you must address yourself to rhythm in the child by using pictures. Everything that you describe or do must be done in such a way that the head has as little to do with it as possible, but the heart, the rhythm, everything that is artistic or rhythmic, must be engaged. What is the result? The result is that with teaching of this kind the child never gets tired, because you are engaging his rhythmic system and not his head.” Rudolf Steiner