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Waldorf & Old Testament Stories

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
I posted a question in another Waldorf thread on this, but thought I'd also start a new thread as the other thread was quite long.

Does anyone have personal insight into just how Waldorf handles the teaching of old testament stories? The philosophy of why they are taught has been explained to me, but my concern is how they are taught. I am very interested to hear from anyone who attended a Waldorf school as to how it was handled and what they thought of it.

post #2 of 23
I understand your question. I'm not sure which way you lean on this question, I'm guessing it was the other way from my concern on this issue. Still I beleive that the answer is the same. I too had great concern over the teaching of the OT stories (and the Saints in second grade).
What I found was that these stories are taught just like all the other stories -- with reverence. My daughter heard fairly tales in the same way that she heard the OT stories and the stories of the saints lives and the Native American Indian stories and the Norse Myths. They are all taught as of value.None are taught as religion.

My concern was that, for our family, these are sacred stories and not just one set of myths among many. What I found was that the children came to these stories with thier own spiritual beliefs. My daughter heard these stories differntly than the little girl who shared a desk next to her. That little girl's parents were self proclaimed Pagans.

You stated that the explaination of why they tell these stories in this order has been explained to you, so I won't get into that.
post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your reply. I guess I have trouble with the fact that they choose to tell old testament stories and wonder how you separate the religious aspects of the stories. Don't know if I am explaining this well. For instance, if they tell the Adam & Eve story, which I read it was included at one Waldorf school. I understand they may be trying to tell a story of good and evil, but in this story and others God is a vengeful God. How is that, or is it, separated out of the story. Is God even brought into these stories?

There are various aspects of Waldorf education that I love and others that I'm not in agreement with, but the one most troubling to me are the bible stories and need to get a handle on the approach to them somehow.
post #4 of 23
Woah--Wait a minute.
Where did you get the idea that God is a vengeful God in the story of Adam and Eve? Is any parent who sets a rule and it is broken vengful when the consequences are applied? The Hebrew never states that God even became angry.

Anyway, my question to you is this, do you have a problem with Norse myths (much more vengence and violence) or Greek myths? Yes, God is mentioned in the OT stories, they are Hebrew stories about God. You can't have an OT story (except Esther) without mentioning God any more than you can have a Norse myth without mentioning Odin.
post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 
Well, I am not an expert on the bible, but isn't the story a metaphor for sex. Eve tasted the forbidden fruit and then weren't they aware they were naked and felt shame in that? So if it is not vengeful when God punishes all of mankind for their sins then what is it? And I don't think I am fond of the other myths either, but would be most interested in how they are presented. The context in which they are told would really matter to me as to how I feel about Waldorf or any school using these stories.
post #6 of 23
Never heard that one before.
Most orthodox Christian teaching (I won't speak for the Jews, although a Rabi friend says no) --
most teaching states that it was an attempt to "be" god. It is about "knoweldge". If you know what God knows you won't need God. You will have the power. Trying to elevate oursleves above God.

As far as waging vengence on the off spring. That's what happens when you sin. There are consequences and most often the "sinner" is not the only one who suffers. The passage of scriputre that says the "the sins of the fathers are waged on the children" don't mean that God punishes the child, but they live with the results. Take for example parents that use drugs, the children suffer. Or a man who sexually abuses his daughter. She lives with that the rest of her life.created sex

Back to sex -- God created it. And "God looked at all creation and called it good"

As to how the stories are presented. With reverence. Waldorf teachers just tell the story. They rarely discuss them. They let the children take in the truth of the story. What exactly are you concerned about? Moralism? Judgmentalism? Are you concerned that these stories will teach something that goes agaist your moral/spiritual beliefs?
post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 
Well, I've heard it argued that sex is associated with the fall out of the garden of eden, but if i remember correctly god tells them to "be fruitful and multiple," so I guess that would mean he expected them to have sex.

Although, they never had children while in the garden of eden and it was not until they ate the forbidden fruit that they were aware of their nakedness. I think that the sex/shame interpretation is probably more a Christian one and not a biblical Hebrew attitude toward human sexuality.

Anyway, the context in which such stories are told is my concern. I don't particularly like mixing schooling with religion and that is what it seems like to me. I mean, Waldorf is clearly a very Christian-based schooling in terms of their philosophy and celebration of holidays/festivals. So, it seems as though the inclusion of OT stories has more signifigance than just moral stories/good and evil. I don't know, but it concerns me a bit as I do not want a school teaching religion so to speak. I don't know if I am expressing myself terribly well, but hopefully you get my point.

Letting the children pull the truth of the story is one thing, but we are talking about 3rd & 4th graders and most likely what they hear they will think IS the truth and that concerns me too. So, it really depends upon the context in which the material is presented I feel.
post #8 of 23
One last thing on the "fall story". It IS NOT the traditional CHRISTIAN interp. to say it is a story about sex. There were some Fundamentalist typess in the Victorian age that made that argument, but it is not the interp. held by most Chrstians. The sex/shame issue is NOT what most Chrsitians hold as the sin that seperated us from God. Which is what the "fall" from grace is about.

Also, Waldorf is NOT Christian it is closer to New Age. Much of what they believe including reincarnation flys in the face of Chrsitinanity. The school we attended celebrated festivals whose root were mostly pagan even if the names were Christian. We also celbrated Jewsih festivals (not from a very religious point of view) and some out right pagan festivals such as May Day.

One last thing. From a faith teaching point of view, a faith development point of view -- children up until about 12 years of age balance everything on what they learn from thier parents. Basicly, they thow out everything that does not fit with what they have learned from Mom and Dad.

As to how it is presented -- you have to talk with the teacher becasue each teacher enters the story from where they are.
I don't think anyone else can answer this question. However, if you do not want your child to use the word God (captial or lower case) if you do not want an understnading of a Divine being Waldorf may not be for you. Most of the teachers I have talked to say that it is not a humanistic education.
post #9 of 23
This is an interesting thread. I am looking into a Waldorf education for my ds, and we will be starting parent toddler classes there soon.

I just have to comment that when I was in elementary school, we celebrated May Day (by dancing around the Maypole, it was great fun), we also celebrated Christian holidays and Jewish holidays, and this was a public school. I don't think that there is any school that is really completely secular, public or private. There is always some kind of festival for one holiday or another.

I don't have a problem with the OT being taught. I don't think that 3rd and 4th graders are going to analyze the stories, I just think that they will enjoy them. I don't see this as teaching children religon. The Waldorf schools don't strike me as religious schools at all. They do seem more new age like Reverendmother says, but I don't have a problem with that either.

The schools philosophy is based on anthroposophy. If you want to know more about the schools philosophy, check into that.

I don't think that the Waldorf schools are for everyone, just like any other private school, but the good thing is there is a lot of information out there to read before you send your kids there, and if you do sent them there and don't like the teachers or what they are learning, you can always pull them out.

The only thing I have a problem with is the tuition at the Waldorf school near me is incredibly high.
post #10 of 23

more on Waldorf..

Bible stories as well as the other myths mentioned taught in Waldorf schools are meant to serve as archetypal references and are meant to be 'ingested' by the child. Just as fairy tales which are introduced in the Waldorf education as early as kindergarten. No explaining or interperting is done. These archetypes, these myths, are part of the cultural inheritance which our children are receiving (the christian, jewish, pagan, greek, etc...). just by being a part of this culture. Later in the Waldorf curriculum, as the child grows, these myths are delved into deeper, also from different perspectives, ie; psychological, historical, politically etc... What was initially' injested' is then developed into a whole understanding and the symbolic meaning of some very profound symbols come into light.

This process can then be used and applied to all sorts of philosophies and deep thinking. I feel that it gives a being the tools to unravel profound truths. And it also gives a being the tools to think for oneself about what cultural archetypes they have inherited, whether this is verbally taught or not (unconscious), because I feel that just by being in this culture, one will inherit these archetypes. Better to have them come out and process and think about them over time, than be ignorant of them. I feel.
post #11 of 23
Great post. That's what I was trying to say (not very well
post #12 of 23



You made me smile.
post #13 of 23

OT stories, Brahma/Rama story in 5th etc..

I have to agree with you Revmoth and Sana (sp?). My husband is Hindu and def. didn't want our son to be in an environment where people were putting down his throat an idea that we don't espouse. We were very pleased to see the matter in which they represented the OT stories, Greek myths as well as the Indian/Hindu mythology story/creation story. (however one sees them). I was quite impressed with the curriculum and the manner in which they were presented.
I found quite humorous the posts that one of the mothering.com users wrote concerning what is in actuallity a Zoroastrian mythological story. The mothering.com poster presented it as if Waldorf curriculum "espoused" the zoroastrian belief and presented it as a fact within its schools. I found it also quite humorous that she actually thought that it originated from Anthroposophy. It is too bad that before posting, the poster hadn't actually researched the reference before as to realize that of which she wrote was actually a Persian legend presented as such in the 5th grade social studies curricula at Waldorf.
I know that at times what is presented at Waldorf may be unusual to many, but that is because we as a country in the US and as a people in the West (as in not asia or african etc..not wester US) are generally very lacking in our knowledge of Mid-east, African, and Asian mythology/legends.
I for one am quite content that my son will be exposed to ideas from diverse cultures, presented not as fact, but rather as differing ideas that exist in other parts of the world.
Hopefully, as a result of his exposure, he will be a more tolerant and understanding person.
PS excuse any akward sentences I am off to pick up my son at school! *L* Have a great day and discussion!
post #14 of 23
I am wondering whether your son goes to a Waldorf school now?

I find what you are saying about how the curriculum doesn't interfere with your own philosophies, but actually contributes stories/ spiritual truths from India to be a very positive statement.

I myself have studied some Yoga and yogic teachings. I have brought some of those teachings very deeply into my life. In fact, I deeply revere an Indian Saint by the name of Ammachi. Do you know of her? (She is currently alive).
post #15 of 23

ds and schools

DS will attend 3 cedars in the fall (a Waldorf school), I think there is another mom whose child already attends the same school who is part of mothering.com.
Actually,my ds attends a French-American School. When we were living in Wash DC there were several international schools that were very community orientated, pro-environment and very multi-cultural that we had wanted him to attend. When we moved to Wash State, I found that the people here are wonderfully diverse and open, but that the private schools and public schools were not as reflective of this as in DC/Virginia/Maryland area. I guess it is only a matter of time. DS speaks French, Spanish and English as I speak to him in Spanish and his Indian dad *L* speaks to him in English. He speaks French just as fluently, but I find that we aren't satisfied with the type of atmosphere, and over-all education he is receiving and we, as a family are involved, at the moment. Although it saddens me to know that ds will not be taking part in something that he enjoys so much, I can't keep on sending him to a school that professes community involvement, multi-culturalism and open-mindedness, but is actually severely lacking in those areas. I have researched heavily in this area and happily stumbled along the Waldorf schools in the area. I have to agree that each Waldorf school has its own personality and some are more "dogmatic" than others. I really like 3 cedars. The teachers are all certified teachers with at least BA's and also a Waldorf certification. They are a very diverse group: an asian-american 3rd grade teacher, a jewish-american 4th grade teacher, budhists, catholics, pagans,...hindus, you name it. Of course, not every school is perfect and there will always be a "core" group of more involved parents than others, but that is life. I really like the way the teachers deal with the students and how they really take to heart their duty as teachers in helping each child.
Anyway, I guess I have raved enough! I read all the posts on these boards, both negative and positive, read the links, and asked a lot of questions of all the Waldorf schools in the area. I also made a lot of long-distance phone calls, reverifying resources..etc.
But, I also had the advantage of living in Germany for awhile and knowing how even in Germany that Waldorf is a phenomena; albeit, it is viewed as a good one! *L*
No, I am sorry to say that I am not familiar with the Saint Ammachi. I liked to read a lot of Indian philosophers and I love Yoga. Plus, I really love Indian sithar music. I am hispanic, (puerto rican) and was raised in Spain. My dh is from South India.
Great sharing with you.
post #16 of 23

a side note of history...

Did you know that when Hitler came to power the first schools closed were Waldorf (because they taught children to THINK)?
Did you also know that when Eisenhower was trying to rebuild Germany the first school he ordered open was -- the Waldorf school (becasue they were the only ones who remebered how to teach children how to THINK).

We came across those facts while studying WWII.
post #17 of 23
I think that it's great that you are offering your son such a multi-cultural education! This being such a diverse world, one that is getting smaller every day. I was raised in Europe, speak french and German, some spanish (lived in spain too). When I came to the US, I received a tremoundous amount of prejudice from peers my age. It was an awful feeling. One thing good that came out of it, was that I now really know what it feels to be discriminated against (besides being a woman in a basically patriarchal/sexist culture).

My children have been to Europe to visit family, and hear alot of german and french through stories and songs. Did you know that according to Waldorf educational philosophy, that one should first teach the mother tongue to a child, and after age 4, introduce other languages? This they feel, creates a firm foundation, one of identity. Maybe that's why I am so confused! No truly, I still do come up with funny idioms, mispellings, etc.., But it kind of makes part of my character..

As much as I like the Waldorf educational model (even considering teaching german someday), sometimes I wish that I could just go back to the land, live simply, be part of a community, share a community garden, fell connected to the earth, and educate out of that. I am feeling that so strongly right now, In my heart I know that my children would be happy.

I guess that I feel overwhelmed sometimes by this culture, the pace, the politics, etc.., that I want to go in that direction. But then I question my ability to do this, I am such a culture- snob! I love all the offerings available in a Waldorf school for a child. My children love to take things in. My son (5 years old), is incredibly incredibly bright. My daughter as well (although she is more body-intelligent at this time, 2 1/2 years old). He loves to learn, and he loves nature. I need to find a middle ground, I feel.

Part of all the confusion, I'm sure comes from the fact that their dad (he's Italian descent), and I are splitting up. Not the kind of picture that I imagined for myself and the children.

I hear your challenge regarding changing your sons school, especially if he likes it. Change can be hard for kids. Especially after a move.

Revmother; I had actually heard that regarding Hitler & Waldorf! Thanks for posting that. Somehow some people get a feeling that Steiner was questionable regarding his politics. I do know that he was Euro-centric and a product of his times, no matter his 'enlightened' brilliance', but that view/ educational model can be expanded in this time, don't you think? A great point about thinking! It's true, so say many professors say when they have a Waldorf student come to college; that they can think! And that they have a love of learning. Something that is majorily wrong with the general ways of educating. Wondering how old are your kids, and are they in a Waldorf school?
post #18 of 23
This is a really interesting thread of special interest to me. I am Pagan Waldorf homeschooling mom who maintains a close relationship with our local Waldorf school (my son attended their first K class and we pulled out in 2nd grade-reasons are complex). My daughter and I also attend a Hindu temple (and I better shovel my driveway soon or we'll be late for Sunday school!)

I was a Waldorf class assistant for a 3rd grade class and have completed some teacher training and am fascinated with the Waldorf curriculum- especially the festivals and stories. I have to say I am generally quite pleased with much concerning the telling of the fairy tales, saints/heros, Norse, Hindu, Greek, Egyptian stories and the way they are told. But the Hebrew stories are more problematic for me.

What I have come to in my own beiefs is that all sacred stories are sacred, and I appreciate that they get this treatment in Waldorf schools. But to hold any group of them higher in the classroom is unfair to students who are being raised a different religion. Why I feel strangely about the Hebrew/Old Testament stories is because Jehova seems to be decribed simply as "God", when other deities of current or even "dead" religions are not accorded that esteemed and primal status. When Pagans hear the word "God" we think "which God?" Hindus may think "which aspect of God?" From a Christian, Jew or Muslim the answer to the Pagan or Hindus' question would be "God is God," but would not aggree on which God that was. What a dilemna!

The respect of others' beliefs and deities are paramount. I would *never* hope that the Hebrew/Old Testament stories would cease to be told at Waldorf schools and if my young daughter does not go to our Waldorf school for 3rd grade, I will read her the old Hebrew stories, light a Menorah and celebrete Purim with her- maybe visit a synagogue. However if she is in a Waldorf school I will make a request of the teacher that he/she call Jehova by name.
post #19 of 23
Excellent point Isis!

This is something that I felt, but had not fully thought out before. Thanks for bringing this up!
post #20 of 23
Thread Starter 
isis, very well said.
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