Waldorf's Mulligans

Before today, I knew two things about the word "waldorf."

1. It is the name of a salad that has grapes in it. To make this salad, cookbooks suggest that you halve the grapes, which, for the record, is wicked hard to do if you have obnoxiously long fingernails.
And yes, I am admitting that my fingernails are obnoxious and that I obnoxious about getting them "done."

2. It is the name of a school in Lexington that has bushes that I sometimes pee in while I am running.

But, today, today, today... I learned about the Waldorf philosophy of education. In a nutshell, think Montessori school with more structure. As in, teacher maintains status as the alpha dog, but the kids learn with their "hearts, souls, and hands, as well as their minds," the kids start learning German and Spanish in first grade, there are no tests or textbooks (their main "log" is more of a journal thingy full of students' own notes and drawings... kinda like the "textbook" that the kid from high school in the trenchcoat who sat under the tree and drew dragons at lunch used), students are "graded" (Sarah Lawrence style) on moral integrity and ethical behavior, and physical activity is an integral part of the school day.

So far, I'm feeling 100%-game-on. At this point of my research, I'm thinking that if I ever -god help me- have a child, I would sign my kid up and bring in oatmeal banana clusters for snacktime every Wednesday (because you very well know that those mommies poo-poo refined sugar).

But, here's the thing:
The Waldorf policy on electronic media. Okay, this is going to be a long quote, but it's pretty crucial, so sorry.
[as excerpted from www.thewaldorfschool.org]:
At The Waldorf School, we have found that mass media works against the healthy development of sound thinking and seriously weakens a child's ability to deal with reality. Students accustomed to passively receiving impressions have difficulty making the inner effort necessary to sustain an imaginative train of thought or to follow a complicated mathematical process. Even so-called educational television programs have an intellectual bias that can permanently color a child's reaction to a subject.

Media exposure is particularly detrimental in a Waldorf school because it prevents the student from fully developing the creative thinking capacities that are central to our educational goals. We would like our students to view the world through their own eyes, rather than through the lens of someone else's camera. By delaying a child's exposure to mass electronic media until the student's will and feeling life have reached a certain level of maturity, we hope to encourage an enlightened, inquiry-based relationship to technology.

We ask, therefore, that before fourth grade, electronic media be eliminated from the child's life. After fourth grade, this exposure should be kept to a minimum (and not allowed on school days). With older children, it is important to review movies beforehand and discuss the content afterwards. We sincerely wish to support your family's efforts in this regard. Eliminating television from a child's life may seem like a radical step at first, but families who do it say that it significantly improves the child's attitude at home as well as at school.

And, with that, I may have to, if motor control allows, raise my left eyebrow. I mean, okay, I get it, I do. I see the motive; I see the method; but, in my side mirror I also see Little Kallissa Lynn having a freaking mental spin-out when she enters a mainstream high school or college. (Although Waldorf high schools exist, many feed into public or private high schools after 8th grade.)

Given my obsession with consumerism, media, and poppier-than-pop blather, you would (and even I would) assume that I would be opposed to this ban with every stubborn and self-absorbed cell of my body. I'm not. Although the wording seems a bit too Jonathan-Edwards-fresh&hot-from-the-pulpit for my taste, and the demarcation between high and low culture is far too drawn-with-a-fine-point-Sharpie, the reasoning behind it isn't total hogwash. In fact, I'm planning on going to an open house in January and checking all this shizzle out on a closer level. A mully for now until I investigate further. And no, I will not be pretending that I have a child just to fit in at the open house. In fact, I will admit to everyone that I am deathly afraid of babies unless they are inside of another woman... if, of course, that comes into play at the Q&A session.

In addition, hell yes, I will continue to pee in their bushes.


Anonymous thorny said...

So I'm admittedly new to the world of mass media critique and know nothing about how to educate a child (let alone raise one), but this got me interested: Why doesn't Waldorf ban Shakespeare before the 45th grade? We wouldn't want our kids to see the world through ol' Bill's pen would we? I guess that's your whole point of high culture vs. low culture, so I'm not really adding anything here. But the part that concerns me, and where Waldorf has some 'splaining to do in the next, say fifty, years before I'm even considering sending a kid their way is this: Aren't they in fact admitting an inferiority in their teaching ability vs. that of, say, Disney if the only way they can properly (I assume they won't argue with that w.c.) educate kids is to shut out all other streams of information? Wouldn't an ideal education teach a kid how to filter various sources of data and take a view towards what is acceptable, respectable, and ethical? I admit that t.v. and the internet are powerful media, and as I was saying the other day, I'm scared my kids will want to grow up sitting in front of a screen all day. But if there are truly merits in athletics, arts, personal interaction -- which I happen to think their are -- Waldorf must believe that either kids or too stupid, or adults insufficiently persuasive, if the only way kids can learn these merits are to silence all other forms of learning. If that's true, if I can't teach my kid how to filter information and make good choices, then you may as well remove my testies 'cause I ain't gonna need 'em.

8:49 PM  

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