February 25, 2015

Happy Birthday, Rudolf Steiner!

Rudolf Steiner, c.1905
By Karen L. Totten
Ellie Klopp Librarian

Today, February 25, 2015, is the 154th anniversary of the birth of Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian innovator and genius who is the namesake of Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor and the founder of the Waldorf educational philosophy which underpins the curriculum and guides the faculty and staff.

Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner, born in 1861, in what is now Croatia, wore many different hats: educator, historian, lecturer, philosopher, scientists, writer, but as Dr. Frederick Amrine, University of Michigan Arthur E Thomas Professor in German Studies, explains “none of these labels begins to capture the scope and spirit of [Steiner’s] work.”

Among many practical initiatives for which Steiner was responsible was the educational philosophy of Waldorf education. He established the first Waldorf School, for the children of workers at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart Germany in 1919. The factory owner, industrialist Emil Molt, had heard Steiner speak to the workers and was interested in providing his employees’ children an education “more appropriate to their needs and humanity” (Amrine).

Only nine years later, in New York City, the first Waldorf School in the United States opened its doors. The movement has grown, despite opposition from groups like the Nazis and the Bolsheviks (Amrine), and now includes over 1600 early childhood programs and 900 schools worldwide, in places including China, Tibet, Turkey, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and of course, many in the United States.

According to Dr. Amrine, “Steiner understood that children learn very differently at each stage of development, and that real learning should be a gradual metamorphosis not just of thinking, but also of feeling, and of the will. As Steiner’s contemporary, the poet and esotericist William Butler Yeats put it so very well, ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.’ Young children learn principally through imitation and play, and they learn best when one appeals to their imagination."

Please see more regarding Rudolf Steiner and his contributions to humanity in updates of this blog.

You can read Dr. Amrine’s essay in full at: Discovering a Genius: Rudolf Steiner at 150, by Frederick Amrine.

Some of Steiner's written works, such as Rhythms of Learning (selected Lectures by Rudolf Steiner) are available in our Waldorf Collection in the Early Childhood Parent Library (at the Lower School) and Stone House Library (at the High School).

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