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Reflections on a weekend waldorf conference

post #1 of 63
Thread Starter 
Last weekend I was able to attend a "Waldorf in the Home Conference", offering three keynote speakers who talked about very different issues, and also dozens of various breakout sessions (which I had a hard time choosing between). The conference also brought together lots of excellent vendors offering books, toys, wools and silks, etc that are often hard for Waldorf parents to find locally. It was fantastic.

But I was amused by examples that appeared to me on all sides debunking some of the most persistent Waldorf "rumors".

* Rumor one-Waldorf forbids black crayons. Black crayons were right there for sale in the set with all kinds of other colors. (Lyra, the company that provides the colored pencils used in most Waldorf classrooms, also has a "skin tones" set of twelve additional colors to add to the basic browns, black, peach and pink colors already included in the 24 color set).

* Rumor two-Waldorf requires angels have blond hair. Toy angels were offered for sale that had every color of hair, though each I saw all had the same color body--bright sheet white. In fact, I think they probably were made from white sheets.

* Rumor three-Waldorf dolls are always caucasian. I probably saw a couple hundred dolls for sale, and they were a wide array of skin, hair, and eye color. As I browsed, the first family who walked up after me immediately chose a beautiful doll with very black, black skin.

* Rumor four-There's no ethnic or racial diversity in Waldorf. Judging by appearances only, the keynote speaker wasn't white. He looked to be African American to me.

* Rumor five-Waldorf educators are deaf and blind to any pedagogical influence except Steiner. A second keynote speaker talked almost exclusively complimenting four independent philosophies of education, none of them directly influenced by or from Rudolf Steiner. She made a point of saying that Steiner would appear somewhere below them on her own ranked scale, and [shock of shocks] nobody fainted or rushed up to eject her from the podium.

* Rumor six-Waldorf educators are gravely serious all the time and don't have senses of humor. All the speakers I saw used a lot of humor, including the conference presenter, Rahima Baldwin Dancy who was very down-to-earth and self-deprecatingly funny.

* Rumor seven-in Waldorf education, all the women are required to wear these 'odd' long dresses. I only saw one woman presenter in a long dress, and even that one didn't strike me as "odd".

* Rumor eight-Waldorf teaches that "the heart doesn't pump blood". Actually, one of the keynote speakers may have bolstered those rumors by discussing his own conclusions about the role the heart plays in blood circulation. He didn't talk about how this issue should or shouldn't be taught to children, (my children haven't been taught the heart doesn't pump blood), but instead more or less directed his comments to parents themselves, focusing on the role diet would play in proper blood circulation if the 'exchange' chemistry taking place in the capillaries, rather than pure power of pumping heart muscle, were more responsible for generating the coursing of blood through the body. This question about whether the heart is really pumping blood, as opposed to regulating and 'pulsing' the blood flow, has given some of the waldorf critics conniption fits for years, so I'm sure they'll froth at the mouth hearing this. However their position has been (as I've heard it anyway) that in Waldorf, students are taught "beings" living inside us cause the blood to circulate, which wasn't even remotely close to the scenario I heard described in this talk.

Unfortunately, there was no way for me to attend everything - including "Understanding Waldorfspeak" which I was really looking forward to. Luckily, it will be made available on CD so I can at least catch it there. I've often thought the topic would be a great subject for a feature article or pamphlet, so I'll be interested to see how it was handled in this conference.

BTW, it seems there's a kind of Waldorf philosophical 'advice for parents' television program about to happen. I'm going to hold my ear to the wind to find out more about the particular whens and wheres.

Linda
post #2 of 63
Wow that sounds like a great conference. Do you know if it's going to be held anywhere else?
post #3 of 63
Thread Starter 
I think the next one like this will be in Colorado next October. It will probably have different speakers and topics featured than the one I just attended.

I found this link where you can register to find out more:

http://www.informedfamilylife.org/contact-us.html

Linda
post #4 of 63
Cool I will check it out - thanks!!!
post #5 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaCl
BTW, it seems there's a kind of Waldorf philosophical 'advice for parents' television program about to happen. I'm going to hold my ear to the wind to find out more about the particular whens and wheres.

Linda

This kind of cracked me up! I don't usually think of Waldorf and TV together but it makes sense if you talking about adults. Makes sense also to go where the public is.

Glad you had a good time! It sounds like a wonderful conference.
post #6 of 63
Thanks for sharing your experiences Linda, it sounds like a great time! I enjoyed reading your 'discoveries' as well! I know in Canada we have a waldorf conference in Ontario, but that is about as far away from us as Colorado is!
post #7 of 63
Hey LInda your PM box is full! Empty some.
post #8 of 63
Thread Starter 
: All better now

Quote:
Originally Posted by lauren
Hey LInda your PM box is full! Empty some.
post #9 of 63
Thread Starter 
I thought of a couple more rumors that I saw dispelled at the conference.

Rumor: Waldorf doesn't want children to read before they're 14. I saw Waldorf Reader textbooks being sold for the second, third and fourth grade. They're written by a former Waldorf class teacher still very active in the Waldorf movement.

Rumor: Students are painting weird ritual "talismans" in their "wet-on-wet" paintings. A book I found there published for teachers went into thorough detail about how to teach painting, and these images which are rumored to be "talismans" are color exercises emphasizing color qualities and color relationships, for example the different qualities that come from placing complimentary colors side by side. I have a wonderful book on landscape design (completely non-Waldorf) which goes into beautiful detail about this very subject--how colors evoke different feelings in different combinations. The author has illustrated the landscape book with ...... wet-on-wet watercolor "talismans"

Linda
post #10 of 63
Thread Starter 
Cool!

I have a new quasi-Waldorfy "talismans" avatar! These weren't made by Waldorf students either .

Kandinsky made them.
post #11 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaCl
Cool!

I have a new quasi-Waldorfy "talismans" avatar! These weren't made by Waldorf students either .

Kandinsky made them.
I was wondering what that thingamajig was! Thanks for letting us know.

Kandinsky was undoubtedly doing some sort of weird meditation exercises and it just looks like paintings

[you know who will be really mad ]
post #12 of 63
Thread Starter 
:

Kandinsky called his talisman "Color Study". Hey!!! That's the same "lie" fed to us Waldorf parents.

The dots all connect!! Kandinsky is part of the same black magic cult as the landscaping book illustrator and the Waldorf kindergarten teachers!
post #13 of 63
Kandinsky was deeply influenced by Steiner and Anthroposophy.
post #14 of 63
And he is still a well-known artist? I thought all that anthroposophy stuff meant that only cult members would want to look at it, not mainstream museums. He must have somehow overcome his conditioning or something.

http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/kandinsky/

A link to some of his paintings, a brief bio and a bit of other stuff. No mention of Steiner or Anthroposophy.

Muse, do you have a link to the connection? Now I'm getting curious.

Deborah
post #15 of 63
Thread Starter 
Hi Deborah

Yes, I've heard this too, though Kandinsky absorbed many influences, including Bauhaus--which is about 180 degrees from Steiner in that it emphasized a materialistic direction for modern art. In those days, the modern art movement was pulled away from the académie establishment and were taking cues from anywhere and everywhere, including Amish quilters and factory designers. German Expressionism tended more to the Romantic self-expressive side of the modern movement, and Steiner and Goethe are part of that Romantic stream.

Many important artists in the modernist movement were interested in Steiner, including other Blaue Reiter artists like Jawenski, as well as Mondrian and Malevich (who painted "White On White"). Steiner gave many public lectures regarding Goethe's Color Theory. Kandinsky went on to become a very influential figure in both the philosophy and teaching of color theory in the arts.

But it's really art~and not a voodoo talisman.
post #16 of 63
post #17 of 63
Back to the OP, it's nice to hear that some of the "rumors" about waldorf no longer hold true or are unfounded. But I do think it varies greatly depending on the schools. I think here in England Steiner schools may suscribe to a slghtly more "dogmatic" version of anthroposophy. e.g. in our Steiner school black is absolutely not introduced until a certain age and all the women do wear long flowing skirts. Then again, individual tecahers may be flexible on certain issues. My DS's teacher just invited me in to the class to lead a percussion group with the kindergartners. I said I was surprised and pleased since I'd read that Steiner had some fixed ideas about how and when certain instruments should be introduced. She said, "Oh, he probably did but I don't care", and was inspired enough to start doing drum making and percussion groups with her class.
post #18 of 63
Thanks for the link, Muse. Sounds as though many artists were searching for spiritual paths in one way or another.

Deborah
post #19 of 63
The bit about the long flowing skirts reminds me of a conversation I had with one of the early childhood teachers at a waldorf school. She remarked that many years ago, when she had first started working there, the teacher who had hired her encouraged her to wear long dresses to work. The EC teacher tried and tried, but it just wasn't her, so she switched to slacks and a top--but she wore an apron whenever she was with the kids

She went on to be the lead teacher in the EC program for many years and has now started her own school in another part of the city. She is a super teacher, despite the slacks.

Deborah
post #20 of 63
Linda,

As a trained Waldorf teacher, I have to say that the information you've sited in your original post are not "rumors". They are actual facts about Waldorf Education, though there may be occasional exceptions in some conferences, schools, etc. Yes the black crayons come in the box, yes there are multicultural dolls, but...

However, Waldorf is Anthroposophy. Therefore it has earned its stereotypes by its own history of actions and pedagogical recommendations.

Stockmar crayon company is not "Waldorf" itself. It's a company Waldorf schools order from. When teachers get their crayon shipment, they pull out the black ones.

Waldorf teachers tell fairy tales having been taught themselves in Waldorf teacher-training that the blonde haired character is closer to Christ than a dark one! The Waldorf teacher has been taught this and knows she is passing this information on to the child. That is a Waldorf teacher's mission. S/he believes they will improve the world by passing on the "Mysteries" hidden in the fairy tales that only the child's soul can grasp, since they are so pure.

Therefore, in the Waldorf classroom, you will see the child gravitate toward the blonde doll in play because she or he looks most like "Jorinda and Joringal" or whatever characters from the fairy tale they've been hearing that week.

I am a trained Waldorf teacher, and none of what I saw you mention in the original post was rumor at all. It was fact, recommended to me in my training by the head honchos in Waldorf Education in the USA!
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