The Bulletin

Waldorf In the News- The Atlantic Magazine

Friday, May 2013

Have you seen the recent Atlantic Magazine, (April 2013) opinion piece written by Noah Berlatsky, a Waldorf dad in Chicago's Urban Prairie Waldorf School (our sister school on the south side in Pilsen)?

Its clarifying to hear this insightful Dad's perspective on Waldorf education. He shares a balanced and considered approach to his son's experience in a Waldorf school, and a sage parental response to doubters and critics in the article:

My Waldorf-Student Son Believes in Gnomes—
and That's Fine With Me

It's not a bad thing for kids to grow up thinking differently than their parents do.
(Here is an excerpt:) "....No doubt some parents (or more likely, people who aren't parents) will find this mystifying. How can I entrust my child to a school that does not accord with my own religious and spiritual beliefs? How can I expose my boy to an ideology that I believe is largely nonsense? What, in short, is wrong with me?

In response I would say, first, that while I'm not on board with all of Waldorf philosophy, I am absolutely on board with parts of it—and those, are I think, the most important parts. I would rather have my nine-year-old learn about gnomes, by a long shot, than spend his school days preparing for a multiple-choice test designed by some distant bureaucrat. I love that recess and flopping about in the mud in all weather and movement (that's Waldorf for "gym") are considered not discardable extras, but central parts of learning. And I really love that his gym teacher is not encouraging him -- as my public school gym teacher encouraged me—to pick on the kids in the class who were weaker, or, in one case, on the kid who had to wear braces on his legs.

And there are plenty of other examples. I love the arts education—my son, in third grade, can really and truly draw in a way that I still can't, because no one cared to teach me. I love that he knows how to knit. I love that his school took him on a camping trip where he learned to tap maple trees and went ice fishing. I love that when he gets sick, he cries because he can't go to school. I love that, if he is ever having any problem in class or with other students, I call his teacher, and the teacher listens carefully—and then she fixes it.

Thus, on the one hand, I have a bright, kind, loving, cultured, energetic, active child who adores school and his classmates and his teachers. On the other hand, he sort of thinks gnomes exist. To me that seems a good bargain.

Part of the reason it seems like a good bargain is that I'm okay, in general, with my son learning things, or thinking things, that I don't think myself. After all, surely part of the point of education—or for that matter, the point of leaving the house— is to find out about things you wouldn't necessarily find out about at home. That can mean gnomes. It can mean ice fishing. It can mean knitting. It can even mean discovering that there are adults who will bully the weak if they can—though, obviously, while that knowledge may be valuable, there are other reasons for wanting to put your child beyond the reach of such people as quickly as you can....

Rather than focusing on topics covered, it seems to me, it would be healthier to look at whether a school is committed to learning, and committed to its students both as learners and as human beings—rather, than, say, as disciplinary problems or as potential test scores. I don't agree with Waldorf about everything, but I agree with it about the main things. My son will grow out of gnomes. And if he doesn't—well, I didn't send him to school so that he'd end up agreeing with me about everything, anyway."

See the full article at its source.