Giving voice to an “expression of a common will towards cross-border, inter-cultural co-operation” is one way of describing the purpose and core task of the International Forum. The Hague Circle came into being 49 years ago, in 1970. At the time, war raged in south-east Asia, and political protest, turbulence and calls for social change rang out in Europe, North America and China and an international Waldorf movement barely existed. In more recent times, the Hague Circle has adopted its current name, The International Forum for Steiner Waldorf Education, and in the meantime, the schools’ movement has become a truly world-wide network spanning six of the earth’s seven continents.
In 2019, the members of the Forum number 45; they meet twice a year, over a period of 4 days. And so, in the gentle warmth of golden September days, the International Forum came to Berlin, a European city that has undergone waves of radical change, evolution and social transformation over the last 75 years. As part of the celebrations to mark 100 years, or 3 generations of Waldorf education, the International Forum commissioned a new publication consisting of articles from around the world, focusing on an understanding of the human being from a Waldorf perspective. Other areas of recent work for the Forum include the issues of digitalisation and screen-based media, the approach and arrival of forms of artificial intelligence and the implications of these developments for social life and education. An over-arching question that these technologies prompt us to ask and to share is that of our human identity and human purpose. From another corner, the primary ‘operational’ task for the Forum is how this body can support and assist the new, raw, spontaneous Waldorf initiatives that spring up around the world, in almost any location and circumstance.
In Berlin this autumn, alongside the extraordinary finale of the Waldorf 100 celebrations at the Tempodrom, the Forum colleagues were keenly aware that, while there are many steps and deeds that lie behind us, the world and, indeed, the human spirit are moving into an age of exponentiality, where possibilities, risks, opportunities and challenges are present and approaching at every bend in the river.
The Waldorf 100 strap-line – Learn to Change the World – has a worthy partner in a quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi over 100 years ago: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. Although they never met, Gandhi and Steiner were contemporaries. In a lecture given in Stuttgart on 16th October 1923, Steine referred to Gandhi’s closing statement before a colonial judge in his trial for sedition in 1914 as being the act of a “great soul”, in which inner truth collides with outer facts.
50 years later, in a court-room in Pretoria, in a witness statement to a court and a judge acting on behalf of the Apartheid regime, Nelson Mandela said the following: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Here again, the gap, or chasm, between inner truth and outer facts is starkly evident. After more than 27 years of captivity and as President of South Africa, Mandela stated his view that, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Social renewal, care and respect for each and every child and young person and the understanding that education is a universal need, a human right and an art – these are some of the ideas that flow from the well-spring of Waldorf education. These principles form a cri de cœur and a powerful binding agent for colleagues across the world’s diverse cultures. True understanding between people is a more potent force than tolerance for each other. The harmonisation of inner truth and outer facts is the imperative of our times. Being the change is a natural result of learning to change the world. Interest, enthusiasm and love are the human gifts that will get us there.