In the spring of 1919, a few months after the end of World War 1, Emil Molt, the director of a factory in Stuttgart, Germany, asked Rudolf Steiner if there was a way of educating children so that they would be able, as adults, to create a peaceful world.
Steiner answered in the affirmative and with Molt's support created the first Waldorf School. The guiding principle of Waldorf Education is "Receive the children with reverence, educate them with love and send them forth in freedom.
Waldorf schools share a number of distinctive characteristics: the school seeks to educate the whole child, developing the intellectual capacities, but also the artistic, practical, moral and spiritual. Each child learns to read, write and do math, but also to sing, play a musical instrument, paint, draw, act in a play, knit, sew, model with clay and carve wood. Academic skills are allowed to develop slowly and are not pushed in the early
grades. Exams and grades are used only after the sixth grade and then sparingly. Ideally teachers stay with a group of children for the seven years of primary school. The schools are administered by the teachers and remain as free of all state control as possible.
In Waldorf high schools, students continue their artistic activities but also study the various academic disciplines in depth with
subject teachers. The Waldorf high school seeks consciously to nurture the idealism of adolescence, to help students see the
meaning and beauty in the world and to assist them in finding their true life path.
For Rudolf Steiner, the arts were crucial to human development. Creative artistic activity can be a path to the world of spirit.
Also, the artist may be able to manifest in the sensory domain some aspect of the spiritual world. Thus, the work of art
produced by a spiritually striving artist – a painting, piece of music, poem, or sculpture can evoke in those who view or listen to
it an experience of the spiritual world.
Steiner gave indications how each art might be practiced so that it will serve the spiritual development of humanity. These
suggestions have been applied, developed and passed on by countless anthroposophical artists. There are many schools and
institutes offering a professional training in a particular art, a training based on Anthroposophy and Steiner's view of art. These
include schools of painting, sculpture, artistic speech, music and eurythmy. The arts play a major role in Waldorf Education, and
all Waldorf teachers do extensive work in the arts as part of their teacher training. This is balanced by a lively engagement in
Goethian scientific observation. Uncoverning a fresh perspective an anatomy, biology, physics and chemistry by enabling
teachers to bring these subjects to life in the classroom.
In Eurythmy, the art of movement developed by Steiner and his wife, Marie von Sievers, the etheric movements that are
inherent in speech and music are made visible. Steiner referred to Eurythmy as "visible speech" and "visible music". Eurythmy
has an important place in the Waldorf curriculum and is also used as a curative tool in schools, anthroposophical clinics,
therapeutic homes and Camphill villages. Eurythmists do a full-time training that lasts a minimum of four years.
Even though Waldorf Education is based on Steiner's understanding of the origin and nature of the human being, Anthroposophy, as such, is not in any way taught in the schools. Likewise, though Steiner's worldview is essentially a Christian one, Christianity is not promulgated in the Waldorf schools. Waldorf students study all the major world religious traditions as historical and cultural phenomena and are encouraged to develop an appreciation and respect for each.
Today there are Waldorf schools in more than eighty countries. There are many schools throughout Europe and North America
but there are also schools in Japan, Nepal, Taiwan, Peru, Brazil, Kenya, Namibia, and of course, South Africa.