What’s up with Waldorf?

by Steve Sagarin


Last year I was asked to speak at the morning assembly for a few minutes to students at the Waldorf School of Garden City. I was a student there in the late 1970s, and I taught there from the mid-80s to the late 90s.


I decided to let the students interview me. But I couldn’t have them interview me in advance, so I imagined what they might ask and made up both parts of the interview – their questions and my answers. Here’s that imaginary interview, which I read to them. And then I answered any other questions they had.


Q:        Yo. Mr. Sagarin. What’s up with Waldorf?


A:        Um, it’s weird, but it’s cool, right?


Q:        Yeah. So what do I tell my friends who don’t go to Waldorf?


A:        You can say, “It’s weird, but it’s cool.” You’ve been educated by teachers who really care about you to be a complete human being.


Q:        Okay, but will I get into college?


A:        Yes. Colleges love Waldorf kids – they know how to think and how to work.


Q:        Are we alone?


A:        No. There are around 30,000 students in Waldorf schools in the U.S., not enough to fill Yankee Stadium, but more than enough to fill Madison Square Garden. And more than that number have already graduated, maybe as many as 50,000 more. There are about three dozen Waldorf high schools that graduate around 500 or 600 students each year.


Q:        My parents make me go here.


A:        That’s because they love you and want the best for you.


Q:        What if I don’t like Waldorf?


A:        Maybe it’s not the right school for you, but, maybe, if you can make it through the next year or two, you’ll begin to like it. Maybe it’s not the school, maybe it’s you—you’re changing pretty fast, you know. (One of my students started a graduation speech this way: “When I got here in 9th grade, I hated it. But, then, I hated everything.”) Most of the students who graduate from here love it. It sort of grows on you over time, and you can see more clearly what you got, what it means, and also what some of your friends who went to other schools didn’t get.


Q:        So what am I getting?


A:        At least five great gifts:

A source of ideas and ideals for your life.

Education according to your growth and development as a human being.

Acknowledgment of three different modes of being and knowing – cognitive knowing; aesthetic or heart knowing; and tacit knowing, or knowing in your bones.

The possibility of working toward social health and human dignity in the world.

And respect for the world around you, from the floor under your feet to the stars over your head.


Q:        Whoa. Dude. That’s deep. And maybe TMI.


A:        Yeah, but you asked.


Q:        What about eurythmy and stuff?


A:        Believe it or not, it’s weird but it’s cool. Would you rather have, like, more math? Sacred movement has existed in every culture and every civilization except ours in the last couple of hundred years. You don’t have to like it or believe in it. You just have to participate as well as you can. And the more you give it, the more you’ll get back.


Q:        Thank you.


A:        No, thank you.


About Steve Sagarin


I have worked in education for more than 25 years (since I graduated from college and throughout grad school). I currently have two jobs (well, they’re more than just jobs) in education: teaching and administering in the Great Barrington Waldorf high school, which I co-founded in 2002; and teaching teachers-in-training at Sunbridge Institute, NY.


I think about education and related issues. I write about it – sometimes for scholarly publications, and sometimes for school newsletters. Not everything I think and write suits these venues, however, and there has been nowhere, other than my mind and my conversations with others, that my “network of enterprises” has a focus. This blog is one attempt to synthesize and focus these disparate activities. If anything here catches your interest, I’d be pleased to hear about it and exchange views.


Also, although my jobs all involve a relationship to Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf Education, I am interested in education in the broadest sense, not in a narrow, cloistered, or sectarian version of it. When I read Rudolf Steiner on education, it’s clear to me that he speaks of the development and education of all children, not those whose parents can afford and would choose an alternative independent school for them.


More at http://ssagarin.blogspot.com/