Thursday, September 19, 2019 is the 100th Anniversary of Waldorf Education worldwide. As we reflect in gratitude on the beginnings of this educational model, we ask earnestly about the future of the Waldorf School movement. What are the urgent needs in Seattle, Washington in 2019, and how does this education address them? How do we prepare students for a future that extends beyond what we can reliably predict? What do we value and preserve from the wellspring of Waldorf Education? A movement that stems from a socio-spiritual awakening needs both continuity and new impulses.
In his early twenties, Rudolf Steiner was tutoring a special needs child in 1884 to support himself as he pursued his advanced educational degrees. In his autobiographical writings, we learn that it was here that Steiner began to develop his understanding of human development and education. His earliest published essay on the subject came in 1907, and can be found in The Education of the Child. The educational process is grounded in the understanding of the child as a spiritual being and aspires to the realization of the highest potential of each individual. A very personal encounter with a child stirred these ideals in young Rudolf Steiner.
As he stepped into the work of his early adulthood, the political and social climate of the first World War drove Steiner toward the challenge of creating a more cohesive social order. His philosophical reach seemed unlimited as he lectured on topics ranging from economics to agriculture to medicine and more. He sought to nurture communities in which children were educated in a way that led to freedom in their thinking.
These lofty ideals could never have been realized were they not grounded in practical life. That was the deed of Emil Molt. Emil Molt had attained success, even in a strained economic environment, with his Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Factory in Stuttgart, Germany. Orphaned at age 13, Molt attended several schools, landing eventually in an apprenticeship program. With the support of a caring mentor, Molt began to find his way in the business world and also to the teaching of Rudolf Steiner. Molt’s workforce was struggling as the end of the War neared, and he felt compelled to offer adult education programs to his employees — but he yearned to offer more support to these families.
Ultimately, Emil Molt dedicated himself to addressing the enormous challenges of a war-torn society and opened a school for the children of his workers. A school to educate these children to become leaders of a healthy future. He worked side by side with Rudolf Steiner to bring his vision into reality. In addition to the resources of his factory, Molt donated significant personal funds to this endeavor. The first Waldorf School was to be a Threefold Awakening:
- To the higher self behind each student, teacher, parent, and contributor to the school
- To the wisdom of a collaborative circle that worked to guide the school
- To the contemporary challenges of the times that asked for unique responses
A century later, as we continue to develop a strategic vision for the Seattle Waldorf School, we seek our own great awakenings. We mark this moment in history — celebrating Waldorf Education worldwide alongside more than 1,100 schools and almost 2,000 kindergartens in 80 countries around the globe. This anniversary is an opportunity to inspire mindful action and build connections regionally and internationally between schools. SWS has participated in a worldwide postcard exchange with other Waldorf schools around the world, supported the establishment of honeybees in our school environment with the planting of pollinator gardens on our campuses, and joined in an international countdown on Instagram (hashtags #Waldorf100Windows, #Waldorf100, #SeattleWaldorfSchool). Throughout the year, SWS will feature compelling and world-renowned speakers and host a regional alumni picnic for Waldorf graduates. Watch our website for updates and more information.
Bonnie Freundlich, Grade School Pedagogical Chair