Waldorf diversity

By Angelika Lonnemann, April 2023

When I took my youngest daughter to kindergarten for the first time, two girls, about four years old, came running up, pointed at her and called out, "We will never let you play with us!" My maternal heart bled. A short time later, another, older girl came, took my daughter by the hand and said "Come, I'll show you the playground".

Why do we actually have to be concerned about exclusion, racism, solidarity and cultural diversity? What psychological factors lead to the division of our surroundings into my world and the other? Rudolf Steiner pointed out that in the human being social as well as anti-social forces are at work. In every encounter, people oscillate between engagement and self-assertion. "The more we develop independent thinking, feeling and volition, the stronger the forces of self-assertion and self-experience become," writes Albert Schmelzer, professor of Waldorf education and interculturality. He writes that humans are not social beings, but can at best become so. A learning task, then, that is indispensable for us as part of society.

A great discrepancy between ideal and reality can still be observed in the Waldorf schools. On the one hand, there is the intent as found in the mission statement of many schools and also in the Stuttgart Declaration: "Waldorf schools are open to all children – irrespective of religion, ethnic origin, worldview and parents' income". This basic attitude is highly inclusive and one of solidarity, and logically fits the founding impulse of the first Waldorf school which was founded for disadvantaged working-class children. On the other hand, there is the reality – Waldorf schools are less diverse in terms of religion, origin and financial resources of families than the average in their surroundings.

Among the topics in this issue of Erziehungskunst we let a mother with a migration background have her say, who shares her experiences and observations. We look back at Rudolf Steiner's contacts with Jewish people, and show that in the wider Waldorf world there is still a lot to be done in terms of decolonisation.


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