Freeing the mind

By Mathias Maurer, November 2020

We don’t place our trust in anything much anymore today – and certainly not in our common sense and experience of life – if it hasn’t been rubber stamped by science, empirically backed up and based on facts.

And yet we know, expertise and a good feeling do not necessarily exclude errors.

Many parents ask themselves for example: which school is best for my child? They do the research, read guides, browse the Internet ... But what, ultimately, leads to a decision? The need to act now, I cannot just sit back and do nothing and thus surrender my responsibility for what is happening right now and wait till kingdom come for a future – final – insight. I can only act to the best of my knowledge and belief. 

The Corona crisis has hit schools like a hammer blow and threatens to lever out the basic school model – of analogue teaching – with accelerated digitalisation. Everyone knows the feeling when they  have sat in front of a screen for too long: overload. We have to free our head and mind of all the information, images and specifications in order to be open for the world once again. The lessons and meetings via chat, video and email suggest a social “connection” which in reality is only a prosthesis. And as is the case with prostheses – even if they fulfil particular functions: they lead to restrictions of sensory perception – with consequences for cognitive development, particularly in children.

That was most recently confirmed by an empirical study. Sebastian Suggate and Philipp Martzog from Ravensburg University were able to show that screen media negatively influence the imagination of children. The reason for this is that sensomotor activity in learning processes is restricted. The visual and auditory senses are addressed almost exclusively. Cognitive performance – that is the ability to produce independent and original ideas and actively generate own inner images, in other words thinking precisely and developing creative ideas – decreases with the increasing length of time spent in front of a screen. But those are precisely the abilities we are dependent upon in an increasingly technical and unstable society to be able to solve its problems and challenges, the authors say.

Children learn with their whole body and all their senses. Humans learn through relationships – and they do so all the more to the extent that they learn in a “fully human” way, that is through real experiences and stimulation.

That is actually clear to everyone who has a heart and sense for children – now we know academically. Waldorf schools are not opposed to digital media but with their media concept they refrain from the early use of digital media on educational grounds. It will in future be increasingly a case of defending the developmental spaces of children.

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