Yes to an open society

By Wilfried J Bialik, January 2023

Dear Readers, it is not easy to formulate a position that describes the current situation in Waldorf and Rudolf Steiner schools in Germany.

Russia’s war against Ukraine is very much with us. Many Waldorf schools accommodate, educate and care for children and their families from Ukraine. Great solidarity in action is currently happening in many schools. The consequences of the war, but also the consequences of the climate crisis and a related inflationary trend in Germany are burdening the school communities with enormous cost increases, forcing them to take cost-saving measures and demanding even more voluntary commitment from teachers, parents and the many friends of Waldorf education. The Waldorf schools stand together, exchange ideas, strengthen their cooperation and help each other in the crisis.

Parallel to this, a development has emerged in recent years that is being observed with concern and particular vigilance on the part of the Waldorf movement. Initiatives to found schools, kindergartens and adult education institutions are attempting to use Waldorf education for their own, sometimes non-transparent goals. These initiatives, which often emerge from the right-wing ethno-nationalist settler movement, the Reichsbürger who deny the legitimacy of the post-war German state, but recently also from the Querdenker scene and other Covid deniers, and political groups such as die Basis, WiR2020, and others, openly question the community and the name rights of the Waldorf and Rudolf Steiner schools.

In the German Association of Waldorf Schools (BdFWS), we are all called upon to set clear boundaries against the right and to actively position ourselves against anti-democratic currents. Developing greater awareness of these issues was a focus of the Delegates’ and Members’ Meeting in November 2022.

No to racism, anti-Semitism, anti-democratic currents, right-wing nationalist tendencies and extremism in any form: not at the schools, kindergartens and educational institutions that want to call themselves Waldorf or Rudolf Steiner.

Let us say yes to an open society that sets an example of interculturality, open encounters, integration and moral courage – at every single Waldorf school in the BdFWS. Let us strengthen the transparent discourse about the questions of a child-centred education. Let us talk about the core qualities of Waldorf education, the freedom in shaping lessons and utilise the research results on current questions of education from the higher education institutions and seminars in the German Association of Waldorf Schools to this end.

Let us distance ourselves from conservative approaches to thinking and education and show society that Waldorf and Rudolf Steiner schools are an important, integral and active part of the current educational landscape in Germany. I am confident that this will contribute to the strengthening of Waldorf education and the positive development of Waldorf schools in the future.

Wilfried Bialik, born 1960, member of the board of the German Association of Waldorf Schools, chief executive and teacher at the Sankt Augustin Free Waldorf School.

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