The child is the curriculum

By Mathias Maurer, November 2021

Initially there was no Waldorf curriculum, only Rudolf Steiner’s suggestions. Caroline von Heydebrand summarised them for the first time in 1925, EA Karl Stockmeyer systematised them by subject in 1955. Several editions of the so-called Richter curriculum followed, which is still in constant development as a project today. The information and recommendations on the horizontal and vertical curriculum have grown over the decades into a book of over 700 pages.

We might assume: every Waldorf teacher is best equipped. But plans do not yet make for good teaching – especially when the conditions of the culture in which we live have changed more rapidly within ten years than they used to in a hundred.

Nevertheless, the Waldorf curriculum is based on insights into the human being – not on fads or technological innovations but on insights into the human being – which in their laws have are almost timeless in character. They go far beyond the mere acquisition of skills and knowledge that any given time requires, whose topoi change and are reformulated according to fashion; they aim at deeper educational layers of the human being, which does not mean neglecting the so-called cultural techniques.

Waldorf education aims at a healthy development of the whole human being, not only with regard to their intellectual and rational, but also to their emotional development and, above all, their formation of will. What the human learns to understand should also be given a pair of hands that take hold of things, that actually change the world – for we have a need for action from one end of present society to the other. It is a characteristic and a problem of the present constitution of the human being that they know and understand a lot, but that this fails to lead to action.

One of the greatest challenges of the present is the digitalisation of the whole of everyday life. The last two years and the plight of teachers have shown the basic human capacity on which a “curriculum”, not to mention a “Waldorf curriculum”, must be based in order to remain fit for the future: what is needed now is the intensification of human relationships and perceptiveness in all learning situations. To find our way in the digital world, to learn to deal with it in a meaningful way, not to be dependent on it or to be governed by it, needs the concrete unfiltered human encounter as a “comparison”.

Waldorf education, like all good education, is a relational education. In the future, a curriculum will have to focus precisely on this quality. It may be possible to do without one or the other subject matter or to reduce it to the essentials, but not at the expense of the typical Waldorf relationship builders such as eurythmy, horticulture, art and art appreciation or class trips and work experience.

A curriculum is only a skeleton without blood and muscle, an inanimate, sophisticated construct in terms of general and teaching methodology, perhaps a good educational instruction manual. It is the pupils, teachers and parents who breathe life into it.

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