National Coverage of Waldorf Education on CNN
Recently, Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN did a segment on The Waldorf Way. For those who watch it, please note that the guest expert does not represent Waldorf education. A touch screen does not meet the definition of “engaging all the senses” but she does agree with how movement facilitates learning.
Enrollment up in no-test, no-tech school:
Waldorf education has long advocated for introducing ideas, concepts, and tools with great care and consideration in relation to a child’s natural development. Dr. Gerwin, Director of the Center for Anthroposophy and Co-Director of the Research Institute for Waldorf Education, wrote the article “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Mind Over Machinery” which addresses Waldorf’s stance on media and screen time. The excerpt below is taken from that article. Read the whole article here.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Mind Over Machinery | By DOUGLAS GERWIN, PhD
Herein lies the key: give a child a tool early on in life, and it will supplant the very skill it was intended to supplement. In other words, tools become prosthetics, or crutches, if introduced too soon. Their use also tends to become addictive.
The same case can be made about any piece of technology, to the degree that it enhances a human skill or way of doing something. Electronic media are no exception. The fundamental questions remain the same:
- Which human skill are these electronic “tools” designed to assist or even mimic?
- At which age will children have developed these skills sufficiently so that these “tools” can serve rather than subvert them?
Let’s take television, perhaps one of the more controversial examples. Television mimics the human ability to create pictures. According to Rudolf Steiner, children learn to think by inwardly creating mental pictures and mental images. If pictures are outwardly supplied ready made, they rob the child of the opportunity to build the “imaginative muscle” needed to become independent thinkers. Since the ability to think unfolds gradually, the age at which children can benefit from television, rather than become slaves to it, will vary. A general guideline, though, will be: the later, the better, recognizing that we cannot shut off our children from all exposure to these kinds of tool.
Indeed, Rudolf Steiner cautions against banning tools of technology outright. In a lecture given shortly after the outbreak of World War I [“Technology and Art”, Dornach 28 December 1914], he declared: “It would be the worst possible mistake to say that we should resist what technology has brought into modern life, that we should protect ourselves . . . by cutting ourselves off from modern life. In a certain sense this would be spiritual cowardice.” [emphasis added]
Instead, Steiner goes on to say, the more we expose ourselves to technology (rather than flee from it), the more we need to strengthen in ourselves––for instance, through the arts–– precisely those human capacities that technology mimics or supplements.
In our present time, attention is turning to the appropriate use of computers in schools. Paradoxically, we read about kindergarten teachers who are encouraging the use of computers and tweeting in pre-school while some university professors are banning them outright from their lectures and seminars. In this hotly contested field of enquiry, the same questions suggested above can be posed:
- Which human skills does the computer mimic or supplement?
- At which age will children have developed these skills sufficiently so that the computer can assist rather than hijack them?