Impressions of and Reflections on the Spring Conference of the International Forum in Italy from 25-28 May 2017
To be precise, we are the guests of the “Scuola libera Novalis” outside Conegliano. This small town can be found on the map north of Venice and once there we find ourselves surrounded by the fresh green of vineyards and vegetable gardens. The large school building is inviting and several staircases take us to the room where our conference is to be held. It is the eurythmy hall which provides ample space for us, 35 people from 27 countries, as well as many tables and chairs.
As I look at the group, it is a window on the world. Because each colleague provides insight to a continent, a country, a culture where Waldorf schools and kindergartens exist or are in the process of developing. And the big wide world comes closer as we learn about one another, about the pleasures, difficulties and worries with which each school lives every day.
It is the underpinning motif of this group to build a worldwide network in which there is an awareness of Waldorf education which is appropriate for our time. Such networking needs to be consciously supported, in part through an awareness of one another and an endeavour to obtain an ever new understanding of Rudolf Steiner’s concept of the human being and to put it into practice. Thus impulses arise through reciprocal support in many different tasks. A concrete example shows that colleagues together with the two Section leaders are already involved in conferences and training courses for teachers across all continents.
Another important concern of the Forum is that the work content of its meetings should truly reach schools and teachers all over the world. The newsletter of the Pedagogical Section reports four times a year about current issues in the Waldorf world, and it does so in English and German. That does involve some translation work!
Summary of some themes and contributions from joint work during the meeting in Conegliano
“We are living in Absurdistan” – with these words Nana Göbel painted a graphic picture of historical events from the last century to the present day. These events happened in the stream of time which takes us from the past steadily into the future. Nana drew our attention to the time intervals at which wars and other incisive events happened. One such event had also been Emil Molt’s question to Rudolf Steiner in 1919 about a school for the children of the employees of the Waldorf Astoria factory in Stuttgart.
The answer came from the future stream through Rudolf Steiner. The foundation of the school, the festive event in the spiritual world can only be understood and put into practice out of this discontinuous stream. Our understanding of the human being comes towards us from the future. That is also the reason why we can keep familiarising ourselves with it anew and it is not something we simply possess!
Nana further reported that schools were being founded all over the world out of such a future stream-perspective (a Kronos-perspective). But she did not stop there and ventured to take a look at the developmental perspectives of the next hundred years. In doing so, she described three fields in which humanity would face challenges.
First field: Loss of public space, terrorist attacks create fear. People close themselves off from common spaces, withdraw into their own world, a pseudo-private world.
Second field: The occupation of the world by a small number of giant corporations, concentration of power – the power of capital which citizens cannot influence. The desire for familiar things such as national borders and the nation state, anti-globalisation.
Third field: Attacks on the human capacity for imagination. This will be tied to the Net through an endless flood of virtual images, including violent ones. Reading and working on textual material will become increasingly difficult. The soul life will be controlled from outside.
Trends towards these possible scenarios can already be felt worldwide. In the discussion, the question was investigated as to how we can prepare our children to continue to develop their own feelings which enable individualised intelligence and independence. For this we require the courage to confront the mainstream.
What comes towards us from the future stream depends on our questions and initiatives.
Claus-Peter Röh deepened the subject of the two streams of time with perspectives from the ninth lecture of Study of Man [translator’s note: alternative translation of this volume: The Foundations of Human Experience]. He outlined the possibility of rethinking the human being in order to be able to experience how dead concepts and living thoughts act in and form the growing human being.
Claus-Peter put a research question to us educators: what can we change through our thinking if we let its power work as far as into the will and see what changes in our teaching as a result? We know from brain research that the teacher’s thoughts become tangible for the child before they have even begun to speak. Can we differentiate between the personal and worldly side in our thinking life?
The Forum has concerned itself for about two years with the subject of the upper school. Michael Zech used the theme of the streams of the past and the future as a starting point to share impressive research results from neuroscience about the changes in the brains of 12-year-olds. Looking back, I can see that I was listening with such rapt attention that my notes are insufficient for a detailed report. Fortunately the study has been published by Michael Zech in the German teachers’ newsletter (Lehrerrundbrief) and can be downloaded as a PDF. It may also be translated.
Other subjects also slotted suitably into the sessions. Thus Philip Reubke told us about the international kindergarten movement and action research on the value of sleep in small children.
Florian Osswald updated the practice field of consciously going to sleep and waking up. His texts on this subject have already been published in the newsletter of the Pedagogical Section (58, 59 and 60).
Henning Kullak-Ublick presented exciting scenarios and plans for events on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the Waldorf school in 2019. Thus, for example, a global postcard initiative: every school worldwide receives a bundle of postcards addressed to all other schools and then sends them with greetings and their own individual designs to all other schools across the world.
All the information about projects in planning are already underway, such as the bee project, can be found on the “Waldorf 100” website. The German Association of Waldorf Schools is vigorously and generously supporting these actions.
We all took away with us happy memories of the beautiful and well-cared for school buildings, of the hospitality accorded to us and the catering we enjoyed; of the conversations with staff and teachers at the Scuola libera Novalis as well as taste samples of lessons in which we could, for example, experience energetic Bothmer gymnastics and acrobatics.
So I take leave from the International Forum after 18 years of involvement and wish to express my thanks for a wealth of happenings and experiences.
Regula Nilo Schulthess