Bedoeld is: antroposofie in de media. Maar ook: in de persbak van de wijngaard, met voeten getreden. Want antroposofie verwacht uitgewrongen te worden om tot haar werkelijke vrucht door te dringen. Deze weblog proeft de in de media verschijnende antroposofie op haar, veelal heerlijke, smaak, maar laat problemen en controverses niet onbesproken.

donderdag 1 december 2011

NBC Nightly News


Dit is nog steeds het Musée de l’Orangerie in Parijs, maar dan de kelderverdieping, waar allerlei werken van collega’s van Claude Monet hangen te prijken.

Het belangrijkste antroposofische nieuws van vandaag komt uit Amerika. Nou ja, het is natuurlijk hoe je het bekijkt. Maar dat NBC’s Nightly News gisteravond een reportage over de vrijeschool uitzond, is wel bijzonder. NBC is een van de allergrootste televisiekanalen in de Verenigde Staten. De aanleiding was het artikel in ‘The New York Times’, waarover ik op 23 oktober berichtte. Op de website van het programma staat een mooi artikel van Rehema Ellis van NBC News, getiteld ‘The Waldorf Way: Silicon Valley school eschews technology’:
‘From the moment you walk into the Waldorf School of the Peninsula there are clear signs that something different is happening.

Allysun Sokolowski, a third-grade teacher,  greets each one of her 29 students by name and shakes their hand as they enter the classroom. It’s easy for her because she’s known these kids at the Los Altos, Calif., school for a while.

“I’ve been teaching the same children from first grade, second grade and now we’re in third grade. And I will teach these children all the way through eighth grade,” she said.

It’s the Waldorf way.

Teachers establish a strong bond with students. As a result, Waldorf teachers quickly point out there’s no need for tests or grades.

“I don’t need grades to know how well they’re doing,” said Sokolowski. “I know their strengths, I know their weaknesses. I know what will be hard for them and where they will shine. I’m their teacher with a capital ‘t.’”

The intense student-teacher connection might help explain why students from elementary to high school are thriving. The school boasts a nearly perfect graduation rate.

Despite being in the heart of Silicon Valley, Waldorf students are not caught up in the gadget frenzy that has consumed so many other school children nationwide. Computers are not used in the elementary school and they are used sparingly at the high school level. Teachers say they’re not anti-technology, but, as they put it, they’re just in favor of healthy education.


“I’m concerned that if we say we need technology to engage students we’re missing the fact that what engages students is good teachers and good teaching,” said Lisa Babinet, a Waldorf math teacher.

I asked a group of high school students if they misssed having computers and iPads as part of their lessons they all emphatically said “No.”

The San Antonio Elementary School focuses on technology and feels it helps close the achievement gap in under-served communities by getting students ready for the digital age.

“I don’t think we’re gonna be left behind at all because it’s not like we’re not a part of technology at all,” said sophomore Isabelle Senteno. “We are a part of it, we just don’t incorporate it in the lessons.”

Jack Pelose, a freshman who transferred to Waldorf from a school that used a lot of technology, said he noticed the benefits of not using computers in class. “My cursive has gotten a lot better since I’ve been here,” he said.

“Everything about technology is so easy to pick up and use nowadays,” senior Zach Wurtz added. “The companies design it so anyone can use it when they choose to.”

The students talked about being annoyed sometimes when they hang out with friends who are not Waldorf students, who spend a lot of time on social networking sites and texting.


One Waldorf student said he sometimes has to ask his friends to put down the gadgets so they can just talk.

And if you’re wondering, like I did, how the Waldorf education translates in the outside world, Laila Waheed, a graduate now in her first year of college, offered some insight.

Waheed, 18, has a laptop but never takes it to lectures. She takes notes by hand – like she did at Waldorf – and she later transfers her notes into her computer. It’s a form of studying, she said.

“If you stood at the back of the classroom and looked at every screen, at least half of them would be on Facebook,” Waheed said of all the other students who are typing away on their laptops during lectures.

“A Waldorf education gives you a foundation to say, ‘OK, I can put my phone in my bag. I can have a half-an-hour conversation with a person. I don’t need to be totally connected all the time,’” Waheed said. “And that’s more valuable for making personal connections that will last longer than the next text you’re going to get.”

It sounds like something a Waldorf student would say. But it’s also a sentiment echoed by her father, an engineer manager at Cisco.

“I don’t think anyone is debating the value of technology and the use of computers,” Muneer Waheed said. “There is no going back. This is the future.”

But he and his wife have been clear about wanting the mostly technology-free zone that Waldorf provides for their two children.

“They need the environment and the foundation to develop and get their core values – the love of education and their own passion,” he said. “That’s what’s going to stay with them. The computer is just a tool.”‘
Dat het een veelbekeken programma is, blijkt ook uit de nu al 165 reacties, 730 aanbevelingen van lezers en de 2534 stemmen bij de peiling of technologie de leerlingen op school zou moeten helpen. Het artikel in The New York Times had al eerder veel losgemaakt. Eerst op de ‘The Opinion Pages’ van The New York Times Sunday Review, met reacties van lezers in ‘Sunday Dialogue: Using Technology to Teach’ op 29 oktober. Maar er verschenen ook her en der soortgelijke artikelen, niet alleen pro, maar ook contra de vrijeschoolmethode. Pro bijvoorbeeld op 10 november op de website van het lokale CBS televisiestation in San Francisco, ‘Students Learn Unplugged At Los Altos School’, en het artikel ‘Waldorf Education in Public Schools’ door Laura Pappano in de ‘Harvard Education Letter’, Volume 27, Number 6 van November/December 2011. Contra op 1 november door mevrouw KJ Dell’Antonia op de veelgelezen dagelijkse Amerikaanse nieuwswebsite Slate, met ‘The Waldorf Way: No Tests, No Grades, No Shots?’, maar dat bericht gaat eigenlijk over inentingen, net zoals bij Felix Salmon (‘Salmon is a Reuters blogger’) diezelfde dag op de website van het internationale persagentschap Reuters, ‘Edition U.S.’, met The most dangerous school in Los Altos’. Dan is er contra nog vrijeschoolvader Raimond Gaita op 2 november op de website van de ‘National Times’ in Australië, in ‘Hard lesson in loss of trust and authority’. Dat gaat dan weer over een concreet geval van een vrijeschool in Australië. Het samengaan van een conventionele en een vrijeschoolstroom in één schoolsetting is daar een bekend en geaccepteerd verschijnsel, dat door de overheid wordt gestimuleerd en gesubsidieerd. Op één plek werd echter zonder duidelijke opgaaf van reden de vrijeschool van overheidswege gesloten. Jewel Topsfield schreef er op 23 november een eminent overzichtsartikel over op de website van ‘The Age’ (waartoe overigens ook de eerdergenoemde National Times toe behoort), een eerbiedwaardig Australisch dagblad, stammend uit 1854 maar inmiddels helemaal actief in het internetttijdperk, getiteld ‘Blocking the stream’:
‘An Education Department edict to end the Steiner program at an inner-west primary seems to contradict a state government push to make schools more autonomous.

LUCA Cernaz no longer wears his school uniform to Footscray City Primary School. It’s a small act of defiance. “They say to wear a uniform if you’re proud of the school,” Luca says. “Now I just think of all the negatives of the school and everything they have done to us.”

Luca, 11, is one of 120 students enrolled in the Steiner stream at the school whose lives were disrupted by a note in their school bags last month. The cryptic missive, which took parents unawares, announced the Steiner stream would cease at the end of the year.

The Education Department no longer considered it “in the best interests of student learning” to run a Steiner and mainstream curriculum at Footscray City Primary, the letter said. A new principal, Steve Warner, was appointed and the school council given a week to give reasons why it should not be sacked.

This level of intervention, taken without consulting parents, is extraordinary for a state government that has moved to make schools more autonomous. State Education Minister Martin Dixon has repeatedly told bureaucrats they need to lift their game when it comes to consultation. He has also indicated he would like to see more specialised schools.

The department refuses to give reasons for its decision, other than a lack of “harmony” between the Steiner and mainstream systems. Many parents are baffled. They say there is no longer any division between the two streams, although they acknowledge there have been tensions in the past.

So, what went wrong at Footscray City Primary?

Wide-eyed students at the school have heard many theories about why the Steiner stream was axed. ‘‘One of the things they said was that Steiner and mainstream don’t get along, but that’s not true,’’ says Ash Hoy, who is in year five in the Steiner stream. Children from both streams play soccer and go on camps together, the year fives point out, and everyone helped organise the school fete last month. Charlie Morris, 11, says you wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference between a mainstream and Steiner student. Finally, Luca shrugs. “They won’t tell us,” he says. “I just don’t think they want us there.”

If the children sound confused, parents are dumbfounded.

Anna Ritman learnt of the decision at the school gate. “I’m a school councillor and that’s the first I’d heard. It was weird – I looked around the school and parents were crying and children were obviously distressed and there were a whole bunch of strangers [from the Education Department] with their arms crossed. It was like they were expecting us to get violent or start a riot.”

Education Department acting deputy secretary John Allman does not agree that the intervention, which he concedes was “out of the ordinary”, could have been better handled. Nor will he go into any detail about the “disharmony”. It was a decision, he says, that was not made lightly and was taken after working with the school over a number of years.

What Allman will say is that the high turnover of principals – 10 in a decade – “was a clear red flag to us that something was fundamentally wrong”. But parents who spoke to The Age blame this instability on the department, saying most of the principals were only temporary. Some filled in for a day or a fortnight. They say the absence of leadership has been disruptive to staff and pupils.

Allman, however, is resolute. “At the end of the day we didn’t believe the school was in a situation where the future looked bright,” he says.

Footscray City Primary is one of seven government schools that offer Steiner alongside mainstream education. The first to provide it was East Bentleigh Primary School, which began with 17 preps in 1991. Allman insists the department is not opposed to Steiner education “per se” and this is not part of a plan to remove the alternative stream from the state system. The other six schools, he says, are “working very well”.

Indeed, many of the educational philosophies of Steiner echo the buzz words currently espoused by the department. Learning through immersion, engaging students, fostering creativity and developing a love for lifelong learning are all concepts back in vogue in education. The Steiner system is based on the teachings of 20th-century Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who believed a curriculum should be responsive to the stages of a child’s development. In most Steiner schools worldwide, children do not start reading until about the age of seven, when their adult teeth emerge, and television and computers are discouraged in the early years. This has been modified in Victorian government schools to align Steiner with the mandated state curriculum.

Ideally, the Steiner teachers stay with the same class throughout primary school, with specialists instructing in art, music, foreign languages and eurythmy, a form of movement. All students garden, knit and play the recorder, and a stringed instrument is taught from year 3.

There is also a strong spiritual element, with students reciting verses several times a day. While these verses may contain words like God or angel, they are spiritual rather than religious, according to Steiner Education Australia chief executive Tracey Puckeridge. She says children are taught about a range of world religions but there is no indoctrination in any one.

Every morning, the year 5 Steiner class at Footscray City Primary spends two hours on its “main lesson”, which allows a topic to be studied in depth over several weeks. The current topic is Ancient Greece, which according to Steiner Education is taught at a time when children’s intellect is awakening and their sense of fair play becoming obvious.

This holistic approach to learning appealed to academic Dr Charles Livingstone, whose daughter Karla was accepted into the High Achievers Discovery Program at Footscray City College after graduating from the Steiner stream at Footscray City Primary.

“Karla’s education was extraordinary,” Livingstone says. “What appealed to me was it actually gave her insight into whole different ways of thinking ... it’s like having a really rigorous classical education, which mainstream doesn’t provide.”

But for all its passionate advocates, Steiner also has staunch critics. The immediate past president of the Victorian Council of School Organisations, Jacinta Cashen, believes it should not be part of the state system. She says Steiner schools are neither secular nor free – two cornerstones of public education – because they recite blessings and impose fees for activities such as music lessons and special materials like beeswax crayons. “There is no solid research around Steiner and its effectiveness as a pedagogy,” Cashen says. “It could be holding students back who are ready to start learning to read when they get to school.”

The Steiner program at Footscray City, in particular, has been dogged by controversy.

The Education Department opposed it from the outset. In a letter to then principal Laurie Krepp in November 2000, acting regional director Greg Gibbs said he could not support the establishment of a Steiner stream. Gibbs pointed to a department report that said Steiner education appeared to be the antithesis of the government’s program for the development of literacy skills from prep to year 4. It singled out the Steiner response to dealing with children who already knew how to read when they started school.

Information about Steiner provided to Footscray City Primary at the time, according to the report, had said: “Early intellectual awakening can result in the weakening of a child’s vital forces, manifesting in colds or other illnesses.’”

The government report added: “We fail to see how the Steiner stream of a school could align itself with the school’s early literacy plan.” Despite bureaucratic disquiet, Steiner was introduced at Footscray City in 2001. But within five years there were fissures.

In 2006, the Bracks government dissolved the school council, which had become factionalised along Steiner and anti-Steiner lines.

More controversy erupted when a parent, Ray Pereira, was told by a Steiner teacher his son should repeat prep because his soul was not fully reincarnated. “The evidence for this was presented in the form of a drawing which showed his soul hovering ... apparently looking down on the Earth,” Pereira told ABC TV. “As a parent at a state school, I would expect decisions about my child’s development be based on fairly rigorous education principles.”

In 2008, an independent review of the Steiner stream at Footscray City Primary recommended the department’s policy for specialised programs be strengthened. It said schools should be required to provide evidence of community and council support before they were introduced.

It is difficult to find current parents who publicly support the closure of the Steiner stream. But Jenni Lans, whose son finished year 6 in the mainstream last year, says parents are reluctant to say anything in case “they cop it”.

Lans says she found herself the victim of hate mail and 3am threatening phone calls when she began questioning why the mainstream was subsidising the cost of the Steiner music program. There were other sources of tension, she says, including a ban on discos, electronic music and movies because they were opposed by the Steiner philosophy.

The mainstream children were also expected to attend religious plays performed by the Steiner pupils. “This was a government school and there were all sorts of creepy, weird things going on. The thing about Steiner is it is not just about education, it’s about lifestyle. Steiner is overtly religious and spiritual ... there is still no proper investigation into what the hell Steiner is doing in government schools.”

Former Parents and Friends Association president Cornelius Chidlow, who had a child at the school until 2007, says the “aggressive and often hysterical behaviour” of Steiner parents towards staff and mainstream parents made fair and effective school governance impossible. “Footscray City Primary is well rid of this failed experiment and I hope never to see the like of it again.”

The present school council president, Tim Sharkey, readily admits to tensions in the school following the introduction of the Steiner stream. He says Footscray City Primary became a lightning rod for a vocal, politically active group called People for State Education. The group, which opposed Steiner in government schools, included a small number of Footscray City parents.

However, the critics have progressively left the school and Sharkey believes only a handful of parents still oppose the Steiner stream. Many of the old fault lines have healed, he says, with mainstream and Steiner students able to participate in the music program, for example. “From 2009 to 2011, the arguments that the communities were divided is a myth,” Sharkey says.

He says concern over the school’s leadership, such as the employment of first-year teachers with no Steiner experience, has been falsely characterised as a conflict between the two streams. Sharkey also sees the removal of the Steiner stream as part of a push to impose a homogenised curriculum on schools in the western suburbs to improve results in NAPLAN (compulsory literacy and numeracy tests).

The bitter fallout from the department’s intervention has galvanised mainstream and Steiner parents. Hundreds protested outside the Education Department and circulated petitions. At school pick-up on Friday, parents and children held hands and circled the perimeter of Footscray City Primary in a symbolic hug.

Amelia Bartak, whose children are in the mainstream at Footscray City, has spearheaded the campaign. The manager of contemporary dance company BalletLab, she was attracted to Footscray City’s dual stream curriculum, its creative programs and dedicated art and music classes. Bartak says creativity has been a cornerstone of the British system for years as a means to improve children’s literacy. But she worries whether creativity will play any role in the future Footscray City Primary. “How did education get to be so old-fashioned and inflexible in the inner west?”

What becomes of the Steiner students? While principal Warner says they are welcome to stay, most plan to leave, scarred by the rancorous debate. They face a difficult choice: a mainstream education at a local primary school or the closest Steiner school, Collingwood College, an hour’s travel each way on public transport?

Parent Anna Ritman worries children are blaming themselves for what has happened. “Children are saying: ‘They’ve shut down my stream because I am dumb.’ A six-year-old child is having nightmares that a policeman comes into the classroom to remove her. They are asking: ‘Where do I belong if I don’t belong at my local primary school?’”’
Maar we zijn een beetje afgedwaald van ons oorspronkelijke onderwerp en zomaar aan het andere eind van de wereld terechtgekomen. Daarom nog een keer terug naar Amerika, of liever: de Verenigde Staten. Ik heb hier nog een interessant artikel van 25 november door Elisa J. Sobo, Tony Cirone & Bonnie Holden van de website ‘Sign on San Diego’, getiteld ‘What can slow schools teach us?’ Over de auteurs wordt vermeld:
‘Sobo is a professor of anthropology at San Diego State University. Cirone is director of development and a teacher at Waldorf School of San Diego. Holden is a teacher and director of pedagogy at the Waldorf School.’
Zij schrijven:
‘Kindergarten today asks more of our children than it used to, and so California’s Senate Bill 1381 increased the minimum age for entrance to five years. Four year-olds now will have pre-K training. Hopes are high that these changes will produce a better-educated population. However, early achievement may not in fact ensure later success.

Sebastian Suggate has studied the matter. He found that students from countries where reading is not taught until age six actually do better on standardized reading tests than those from countries that begin at five or earlier, as in the USA. Children who start even later catch up quickly: Suggate collected extensive data from about 400 students in New Zealand – some in public schools and some in private “Waldorf” schools, where reading teaching doesn’t even begin until age seven. Difference in reading achievement between the two groups disappeared by age 10.

Research comparing Waldorf school students’ academic skills to those of public school students shows even more encouraging results. In a report exploring the value of the Waldorf approach for public school reform, Ida Oberman found that second-graders from four Waldorf-style schools underperformed in comparison to 10 “peer-alike sites.” Yet by eighth grade, these students could match and even outperform comparison sites on state school achievement tests.

If nothing is lost from academic achievement when training starts later, and some competencies even may be gained, why then the rush to begin it? Why buy toddler flash-cards, fund pre-K academies, and start kindergartners on reading and math when children could be otherwise engaged, developing other kinds of skills and dispositions, such as empathy and creativity?

Sir Ken Robinson, who led a British inquiry into how education might better foster innovation, explains that today’s schools are organized according to industrialized manufacturing principles. But humans are not machines. Worse, standardized approaches fitted to an old-fashioned, mechanistic, conformity-demanding view of the world stifle creativity. They punish those interested in questions not on the tests, producing graduates less able to think creatively than they did in preschool. To counter this, Robinson promotes an ecological approach.

Ecological thinking means considering us humans as part of a larger system, and as complex systems ourselves. Fostering more active outdoor play among our younger students honors this viewpoint.

Time spent outside protects children against what author Richard Louv of San Diego has termed “nature deficit disorder,” in which children less exposed to nature grow to fear and disrespect it, and cannot see themselves in connection with the larger world. Louv has reported that students at schools that hold classes outdoors show significant gains in social studies, science, language arts and math achievement. Studies also show increases in self-esteem, problem-solving abilities, cooperative play, and motivation to learn as well as reductions in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms when children spend more time with nature.

Moreover, fully embodied activities that can be engaged in outside, like running, gardening, catching grasshoppers, or even rolling sideways down a grassy hill can help children develop better body awareness, stimulate sensory integration, increase manual dexterity and foster visual capacities that may be hampered by too much indoor or screen time. In this way, more play can help ready the body to hold a pencil productively, form letters and numbers, orient them from right to left and grasp their meaning.

In many cultures and back in time, children were not sequestered in schoolrooms. They spent their days playing actively and carrying out chores that were essential to household and community survival. We should take a cue from the cross-cultural record, just as we should attend to (and fund more) research regarding schools that take a slower approach.

The effects on school achievement of more playtime and less academic work in pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade could be substantial. Keeping all children home until the age of seven is an economic impossibility. But what if, instead, our schools relaxed a bit?

The route to academic success is not early exposure to letters and numbers. Rather, schools must engage our youngest students in activities that foster brain and body development more generally so that, when the time does come for literacy and numeracy, all can succeed.’
Laura Pappano had al even wetenschappelijk in de eerdergenoemde ‘Harvard Education Letter’ (een echte ‘must read‘) geschreven over het aantal scholen in de VS:
‘Once a private school model chosen by mostly middle- and upper-middle-class families for its child-centered, developmental approach to schooling, the number of Waldorf-inspired public schools has risen quickly, from a dozen in 2000 to 45 in 2010, with another 30 expected to open this year, according to the Alliance for Public Waldorf Education, a non-profit membership group for public Waldorf schools. Many are charter schools.’
Om dit bericht compleet te maken, geef ik hier de homepage weer van ‘Why Waldorf Works – Everything you need to know about Waldorf education’:
‘Welcome to the home of Waldorf Education in North America. The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) is proud to bring you Why Waldorf Works, a definitive source of news and information about Waldorf Education. Here you can explore this remarkable approach to educating children that boasts an 86 year history in North America.

Waldorf Education has grown from its humble beginnings in North America to include more than 160 schools across the continent, 250 early childhood centers, 17 teacher training institutes, 1 school entirely adapted for children with special needs, 1 school adopted by Native Americans and 8 schools with educational programs designed in partnership with farms practicing organic or biodynamic agriculture. So as you can see, this independent school movement has grown to have a huge reach and influence across the continent and remains as exciting and challenging as the day it started.

The following pages contain a lot of rich news, information and resources about Waldorf Education. Here’s just a snap shot of some things you will find.

For up to date news about Waldorf Education around the world click on News & Events in the drop down menu. You can read about Waldorf graduates, information about conferences, teacher education, or educational trends. And if you want to stay current on Waldorf news, be sure to sign up for our Email Alerts on the left-hand banner.

If you want to learn more about this association of independent Waldorf schools click on any of the AWSNA buttons above. The Find A School button will help you search for schools by name, continental region, or internationally.

If you like history and are interested in knowing how Waldorf Education came about click on the Waldorf Education button.

Teacher Preparation will tell you everything you need to know about how to become a Waldorf teacher.

And if you love books and want great reading material the Books&More button will take you to our on-line store where you can buy books about Waldorf Education as well as quality books for children.

And if that’s not enough you can always subscribe to Renewal magazine. This magazine has great articles about all aspects of Waldorf Education. It is published twice a year and is well worth the read.

This web site was made possible through the vision and generosity of Antonio Elmaleh, an alumni Waldorf parent who understood, with gratitude, how much Waldorf Education enriched the life of his children and family, his own parenting, and his journey as an individual.’
En dit laatste is weer zo typisch Amerikaans, dat ik daarmee graag besluit!
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