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Brain, Education, and Inquiry - Fall, 2010: Session 14C

Paul Grobstein's picture

Brain, Education, and Inquiry

Bryn Mawr College, Fall 2010

Session 14C

Facilitated by jessicarizzo

Alternative Classrooms


Why Waldorf works ....




Your continuing thoughts about this and its relation to the classroom in the forum below ....





Ameneh's picture

Interestingly, the day after

Interestingly, the day after this class and discussion I met some one who went to a Waldorf school. We were studying together for an exam and it was interesting to see how differently we learnt and studied. She was quite comfortable and perfectly prepared for the exam just based on our discussions of the material. On the other hand, I had had gone to a learn-facts-and-spit-them-out school and wanted to obsessively go over everything till I had memorized it all. However, another interesting thing that she mentioned was that most of her friends from Waldorf didn't end up going to college and that how sometimes coming into normal colleges from Waldorf schools sometimes does present a challenge. 

ellenv's picture

 I think that it is

 I think that it is interesting that there are so many ways that education can be defined by including all sorts of alternative schools and styles of teaching. I feel like taking such schools and directly applying them to the public school system would not work at this moment, however. A lot of the schools that promote alternative curriculum also promote ways of thinking about education that dont necessarily mesh with the nationally outlined goals of public education. I certainly would love to experience one of these types of schools and see what they are really all about. I think that maybe if there is a creation of a space in which people are able to get this contact with these forms of education without fully committing to them initially, there would be more chance for understanding and adoption of similar educational styles. 

bennett's picture

my high school education

I went to an International Baccalaureate high school in Chicago that taught for the test, from start to finish. "The test" is actually a series of exams over two years, but all of the material that I learned for basically all of high school was intended to be used at some point in essays or problem sets contained in those tests. By senior year I was doing homework constantly to stay caught up; there was basically no question that there would not be time to learn about things that I was interested in that were outside the scope of the curriculum; I had to answer questions and write essays in a very particular way, and there was always at least a form of the right answer. 


I basically allowed it to crush me. It was totally set up based on punishments and rewards and I really fell for it; I did what I was supposed to do to get good grades and good exam results (which I did get, but which have never, ever "mattered" in really any way). I definitely learned some important analytical skills but it took all of the excitement that I remember feeling about learning and so compressed and distorted my experience of being educated that I came to really hate it. I came to have an attitude that was basically a kind of muscular focus on the bare minimum: I would just declare whole subjects or schools of thought irrelevant for me, either because I knew it would be challenging and wasn't worth risking the (very high, for me) stakes of doing poorly or because I assumed there was just nothing to it because I had reduced the substantive content of things so dramatically. 


Waldof schools seem really great because they at least try to provide an experience basically diametrically opposed to what mine was. Taking this class, talking about these issues and thinking seriously about how important education is has made me consider trying to get certified and maybe eventually teaching at my high school or another high school. I feel like I have a pretty good idea, now, that some of the things that my teachers did don't work for every student, and I would relish the opportunity to offer "an alternative" within that particular institutional context...

epeck's picture

Wow this article was pretty

Wow this article was pretty scary.  Although I agree that some of the points (really one of the points) make sense in terms of giving students a future that will support them, it seems crazy to wipe out entire fields of study just because they're not profitable...It takes away the whole idea of learning for its own sake, and for personal enjoyment/fulfillment.  I'm not really even sure how to seems so extreme.  Also, couldn't the idea of students paying for their education after they start benefiting from it be just a better loan repayment progra m?  This whole education as only a means to make money after school is pretty depressing. 

skindeep's picture


while the waldorf system of education does seem to be ideal, i can see why more schools havent been able to adapt it.

for one, most parents do not have the time to sit down with their children and review homework, in houses where the parents work full time or have other things to deal with, school is an aspect that they expect their kids to take care of by themselves. secondly, getting the teachers and the equipment and resources to make all the school is possible takes a lot of money that the school probably recieves through the students tuition - something public schools dont have. and if they try to do the same things without hiking up the tuition, students will have to pay extra to do the things they want to do - which will create disparity in the classroom.

that being said, i think aspects of the system can be implemented - getting passionate teachers for example, and paying attention to individual children, steps like that can alone change the system of eduation we presently have and can do it in a good way.

Angela DiGioia's picture

Why aren't all schools like Waldorf schools??

It seems that the Waldorf equation to success is passionate, well educated teachers + small classes filled with attentive students with access to resources outside of school= a well educated child and a successful adult who contributes to the advancement of society.  Knowing two different people who are products of a Waldorf-like school (and home schooling), this method does have great success and I'm unsure why it hasn't been adopted more widely since it's been around for a while.  Is it the expense of having small classes?  Is it finding passionate teachers?  Is it finding parents who will buy in to the Waldorf framework and continue their child's education at home by doing homework with them, reading, playing games, etc?   I'm obviously not quite sure of the reason but I would bet that aspects of this method could be adopted into more public schools to encourage more creative problem solving and thinking without extra cost.  Are school administrators unwilling to test new methods because they are so entrenched in old pedagogy?  A small scale test of change is very feasible but the Waldorf master minds would need to train teachers, parents, administrators, students, etc as to how their method works and why.  Maybe the Waldorf method works because it does take a village to raise a child and all of the children that attend these schools have access to those resources.  How can we encourage and instill this into public schools (and also many private schools)?  I'm not sure of the answer but it does seem like trying this method with one section of a grade and keeping the other section the same and comparing the children/parents'/teachers' opinions would be valuable in seeing whether this method could be adapted on a larger scale.

LinKai_Jiang's picture

It seems like one of the most

It seems like one of the most effective and maybe the cheapest ways of educating the students is to borrow from the wisdom of the ancient. Western philosophy is rich in resources to envision a more humane education. Virtue ethics advocated by Aristotle and other philosophers place the development of the whole character at the center of one's education. In this view education is integral to living a good life. In the Plato's Republic, the guardians of the city go through a series of rigorous training in music (temperament), gymnastics (strength), and philosophy. How people should learn is ultimately defined by what is necessary to lead a good life. This good life is not just about happiness but also justice.  Does it cost more to have kids follow a curriculum oriented toward creating workers of the capitalist economy or one that is centered around character development? I don't have the answer but implementing virtue-based education does not have to cost a lot. The most important pedagogical resources are students themselves and the familiar environments we have relative easy access to. Pen, crayon and paper do not cost more in the virtue-based education than in the capitalist education. But how we use those tools makes a difference.












epeck's picture

Watching this video, I kept

Watching this video, I kept thinking that the descriptions of these teachers don't really seem specific to a style of teaching, but should reflect characteristics of any good teacher.  Many of their descriptions brought about the same response for me, can't they describe any student, teacher or education?  (also, did anyone else notice that they sing a bryn mawr song?)  I agree with Simone that this style of teaching can be implemented in public schools, or that at least this quality of teacher should be a goal of public education.  I do think that the flute music, guitars in the background etc. may give some parents an idea that their kids will not learn what they need in order to succeed, but I think that going beyond the aesthetics, the basic philosophy would appeal to most parents and students.  It's funny that ideas like respect for individual children, passionate teachers, and valuing imagination could be radical enough to warrant an "alternative" sort of education...

simonec's picture


I just watched this video... its about how to be a Waldorf teacher. If you can ignore the creepy-flute music, you will see that at their core, all of these teachers identity passion for their work as what defines them as "Waldorf". Yes, the kids have access to expensive/hippie courses, but I think the most important part is that their teachers make real and impactful attempts to see each child, and their development, individually. This CAN be implemented in public school, and if their could cut the odd colors and music, it would be easier to relate to. 

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