Human places

By Henning Kullak-Ublick, May 2015

“We were born in war and we will probably die in war” – words which have not left me since I heard them in November 2014 from a Waldorf pupil in the Harduf kibbutz in Israel.

The conversation took place on occasion of a meeting of the international forum for Steiner/Waldorf education, the “Hague Circle” with class 11 pupils from the oldest of the 18 Israeli Waldorf schools. As all Israeli pupils, they knew that they would soon be called for military service which directly follows school. We watched the same pupils celebrating their cheerful monthly gathering in the morning and in an enchanting eurythmy performance of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite in the evening. 

Before that, the participants at the international forum, who come together twice a year from thirty countries from all over the world to work on fundamental contemporary issues and the global challenges they present to education, had visited several Waldorf schools and kindergartens in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and in the north of Israel. It was striking how wonderfully childlike and unselfconsciously the younger pupils behaved while we visitors were deeply touched by the intensity of this country in which it is not just its millennia of history but existential religious, social and political contrasts which are always present in the smallest of spaces.

Such topicality removes the cobwebs from our view of the mission of Waldorf schools. What are the important things in a time which is marked by growing religious and political fanaticism, in which ever growing areas of public and private life are made the subject of economic considerations and in which childhood is appropriated and instrumentalised? It is these things to which Waldorf schools have to give an answer. They have to become places in which

• there is resistance against any kind of usurpation of humanity;

• the mechanisation of life is opposed by living thinking;

• the encounter between people establishes human communities in which what is individual can grow in its individuality;

• we do not answer to anyone except to the soul and spiritual development of each single child;

• adults and children learn from one another because they take the spiritual individuality of each single person into account;

• freedom, equality and fraternity become lived experience;

• we see ourselves as part of a global impulse which is concerned with the common tasks of humanity.

Our discussions with Israeli class 11 pupils towards the end led to the complex relationship between the different population groups in their country. There was the occasional tear but in one point everyone was in agreement: “The most important thing we have learnt at this school for our life is that we see the human being in each person, be they Jews, Muslims or Druze.”

Henning Kullak-Ublick, class teacher from 1984 -2010 at the Flensburg Free Waldorf School; board member of the German Association of Waldorf Schools, the Friends of Waldorf Education and the Hague Circle.


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