Our world is running out of time. Or at least it feels that way to me. There is a sense of urgency that is putting all of us on perpetual heightened alert. A hopelessness, a deafening call or cry of humanity to wake up seems to echo from the hilltops and skyscrapers. But what are we to wake up to? What is it that is calling us?
I know I don’t have the whole, complete picture and that essentially, none of us hold that, even those of the best thinkers in their respective fields. But we each have a small a part to contribute to the ensemble of understanding and for me, I feel compelled to tell the story of what I have heard and seen and to tell it as truly as words can allow me to define it. I am a person who sees education as both a problem and a solution to the crisis we are in. I helped form two very different independent non-profit schools modeled after very different forms and approaches since 2001 and have been part of 4 or 5 other, small non-profit private schools in addition to homeschooling.
Many parents I have met know in their hearts that the school system is broken and needs fixing but feel helpless and don’t know what they can do other than attend PTA meetings. I was one who was not willing to turn over my own children to public school, especially having started my own teaching career in Texas public schools. I felt helpless and hopeless, but instead of submitting to it, I extended my hand to my community, seeking others to walk with me in forming our own schools. This was a huge experiment and I had lots of doubts. We struggled to organize, to get financial backing, and much more. I also can’t say that it has done good things for my personal financial outlook. In the end, many of my friends turned to homeschooling, or homeschooling together with others. Some turned to creating community around the need for educating our children free from the violence of traditional structures. What I have learned through the process has been largely about the power of real community.
Tempting though they may be, the latest trends in curriculum development, school programs, or self-development tools are not the answer. These are quick fixes, or band-aids. There has been a long addiction to quick fixes in our government schools and in our culture at large for centuries. Tempting though it may be, the legal system is also not the answer. The charter system has failed to produce substantive results, as has school voucher programs, and other legal solutions. These have not truly transformed our ways of educating. I have taken to wrestling with the bigger questions that others have asked for millennia along the way:
Who and what is a man or a woman in essence?
How do we nurture our own humanity based on that definition?
A school could be one way to answer the question, but so could a farm, a community, a business, a person’s way of living, or any organization, really. In summary, the answers to this deeply philosophical question could take many different forms quite effectively.
Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf Education might not be to everyone’s liking politically or spiritually, but Steiner offered me some interesting ideas about this question of “What is a man?” In practice, Steiner’s ideas do seem to work in terms of the education of children in my opinion. AS a person who founded both a democratic free school and a Waldorf school, I can see that his ideas have relevance and coherence , and application potential in many areas. My hope is that through my own journey in self-education about schools and the process of creating schools, that others who read this blog and what I hope to develop into a body of work, may find help and be inspired and empowered to make bold new decisions, to break away from the most toxic forms of mainstream mis-education. This is what I hope to achieve through my writing, of what I have learned, namely, to free children, thus the title of my blog Free Your Child. It is not as lofty as an intent to start a revolution, but I wouldn’t be unhappy if a generation of children could be made free to become truly human, I would feel I have truly completed my mission if such a grand thing were to come about in my lifetime, yes, I am an idealist.
What every teacher should know about Rudolf Steiner is also what every parent should know about Rudolf Steiner and that is this:
What is a man?
How does a child become a fully realized adult and how do we support that process?
How do we become a truly free society of fully realized adults
out of that never-ending educational process from
one parent to one child and from one teacher to one student?
How does humanity reach its potential and break out of its materialism and evolve?
How do we know ourselves as humanity and what supports that human evolution?
That is the real question when it comes to life and living. This is what I think Steiner asked and sought to answer through his life work. It is through redesigning education and designing new forms of schools (and other supportive structures) that we come to a constantly evolving redefinition of ourselves as human beings. Note: I did not ask, “What supports our local industry?” Nor did I ask, “What supports our multi-national corporation, nor even our government?” Nor did I ask, ” How will my child survive and be competitive in the global marketplace?”
Governments are not in the best position to determine these things for us, thus I think the first step is being willing to step away from the herd mentality of government institutions altogether, in essence, get yourself free, get your child free. This seems required or at least it seems a given. It seems essential to make a clean break. Government has its necessary functions, but we should question its over-extension into the very core of human progress and evolution: the moral development of our youth. Our comfort level with that step of breaking free from the governmental control of the moral development of youth must be present in order to make possible the experimentation necessary that would move humanity forward. Elite, powerful corporations seem to be the cloaked controllers of a majority of forces effecting the world, including but especially government-provided education and the congenitally conjoined penal system, perhaps even more especially if you are a member of the “minority class” in the United States. Parents relying on the government educational system and using the government educational system for free daycare in the form of public schools are stuck in a debilitating and self-perpetuating cycle. Further, by having so many people stuck in this way, humanity as a whole is imprisoned in the cycle of degradation we are currently in, even if you personally don’t feel effected or degraded.
Those that can step away from free government-provided education, should be encouraged to, by all levels of society, from top to bottom classes. Homeschooling and other forms of private schooling could be the accepted norm, and the more that such alternative forms of living and schooling can be encouraged and be made available free of cost, without fear of punitive measures imposed by governments the better. The poor are trapped there. It is their plea, their desperation that we hear on a soul level now and we cannot progress as a society as a result.
But we cannot throw children into the streets or cut them loose without a place for them to go, without a plan for their development. No self-respecting parent would pull their child out of school and allow them to sit at home to rot their brains and/or rot their body, with nothing to carry them forward in life. No one wants to see children aimless, falling prey to decadence or poverty. This is the other danger, a total loss of the soul through neglect, and a total degradation of humanity due to lack of structure, morality, and form. This is what I would call the lack of a container, the lack of an incubator, the lack of an alternative and perhaps also, a lack of love. That is not what I propose. We cannot create a yet another void for more vices and depravity to seep in. Humanity must create new possibilities that better match the highest definitions of what a human being is. Whether Steiner had a complete and accurate picture of that, I trust you can decide for yourself, but I hope to share in distillation, some of what I have learned through my travels into his philsophy and education in general and what it offers to us as a picture of what a human being is for your own consideration.