New Year’s resolutions

By Henning Kullak-Ublick, February 2014

I resolve to let one less child die of hunger this year. More than two-and-a-half million children under the age of five starved to death in 2013. The strength to feel what that really means is beyond me. But with a few euros enabling a single child to survive – that should be possible.

I resolve to enable a child to have a school education. While our governing parties once again make a great big German media song and dance about the clapped out “laptops for all” initiative, I intend to ensure that a child in Bangladesh or India can attend school for a year.

None of this is new. The Rio earth summit 22 years ago came up with the slogan “Think Global, Act Local” together with the hope: “Another world is possible”. Meanwhile the Internet has brought the globe to every home computer screen – but does that also awaken our thinking, our feeling and our actions to the world? According to a study of the Lower Saxony Criminological Research Institute, young people in Germany spend an average of seven-and-a-half hours in front of a screen – every day. Most of that time is filled with stereotypical role models, fashion trends, aliens and computer games. They may test lightning fast reactions – but what about empathy, initiative and independent thinking? It has been described as “poisonous pedagogy” when conditioning, training, punishment and reward prevent the development of free judgement. That is authoritarian, dogmatic and indoctrinating.

But why do so many people subject themselves voluntarily to such training? What do they seek and find in these clichés, reproduced a millionfold, which teach them from an early age that the human being is an egotistical animal which can only assert itself in the struggle for survival because it is faster, more ruthless and cunning than all the other global competition at the trough? Is it the yearning to follow someone else’s judgement? Is it the yearning for authority?

Rudolf Steiner had a completely different concept of “authority”. He spoke about an authority which can never be claimed as a right or, indeed, installed but which gives children the opportunity in their yearning for commitment and orientation to rely fully and completely on adults; and, trusting the worldly wisdom and authenticity of those adults, to develop and test their own judgement and then to penetrate the world with their thinking. He called that “beloved authority”.

Is it human commitment which these electronically high-powered ersatz authorities are replacing?

I resolve to do something this year so that a child does not die of hunger. And can go to school. And that we think and feel globally and then act.

For example here: www.freunde-waldorf.de

Henning Kullak-Ublick, class teacher from 1984 -2010 at the Flensburg Free Waldorf School; board member of the German Association of Waldorf schools and the Friends of Waldorf Education as well as Aktion mündige Schule (www.freie-schule.de)

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