Learning to be social

By Mathias Maurer, December 2016

People first have to learn their social skills. The young child through imitation, the school child through role models, the growing young person through ideals.

Even adults never stop learning to become more social. And politics is part of our social life – be it in our immediate environment or worldwide. Seen in this light, social studies start in infancy and develop into an understanding of complex, indeed contradictory global connections.

How often do we hear the question out of the mouths of children why there are wars, why do people kill one another, why do they quarrel and cannot live in peace, why do politicians “allow” wars. This is something which cannot be understood without a developmental psychology which takes the long-term effects of early childhood experiences on our biography into account. Because anyone who has not experienced power, repression or revenge will also not seek to exercise them as an adult.   

Rudolf Steiner revealed for us an apparently mysterious transformation. In the lecture cycle Education as a Force for Social Change, given shortly before the opening of the first Waldorf school, he describes how the interest in the world awoken in the young person through lessons consolidates some years later into the ideal of global fraternity – the prerequisite for organising economic processes on the basis of social responsibility.

He goes on to describe how the experience of a beloved authority, to whom the child looks up, trusting in their inner maturity and humanity, leads to an elementary sense of the equality and dignity of all people at a later stage in life. It forms the basis for a healthy sense of what is right and justice. And finally, how the innate capacity of the young child for unconditional devotion and openness towards their surroundings is reflected in the adult personality in the possibility of shaping the social life individually and in freedom.

Steiner here describes a metamorphosis of the human soul forces into cultural virtues which – if it succeeds – leads from imitation to freedom with a sense of responsibility, from the beloved authority to equality in dignity, and from an interest in the world and people to empathetic fraternity. Current world events show us how endangered these cultural achievements are.

Against such a background of the way that human beings develop, Waldorf schools will embrace their educational and social task all the more by introducing the subject of social studies.


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