Social Mission

Wider social purpose

Besides seeking to foster creative development of the "whole child", Steiner also started the Waldorf movement in order to help fulfill a social purpose: that education, while remaining fully accessible and available to all regardless of economic background, should eventually cease to be controlled by the State, and should instead come to depend on the free choices of families and teachers freely developing a highly pluralistic and diverse range of schools and educational options.

Steiner held that where the State administered education, culture was crippled in its ability to impartially distinguish good from bad in state action and in economic life. Without the capacity to make impartial, independently-based critiques, i.e., critiques not controlled by the state and economic interests, society would proceed relatively blindly. He also held that educators whose methods and work were determined by the State often had their competencies and creativity greatly weakened through the lack of full self-responsibility and independence.

Social health, he believed, required education to be a matter of freedom and pluralism. At the same time Steiner emphasized that compromises with the State would have to be made.


Intercultural links in socially polarized communities

Waldorf schools have linked polarized communities in a variety of settings.

Under the apartheid regime in South Africa, the Waldorf school was the only school in which children of both races attended the same classes, and this despite the ensuing loss of state aid. The Waldorf training college in Cape Town, the Novalis Institute, was praised by UNESCO as "an organization of tremendous consequence in the conquest of apartheid".

In Ireland, the Hollywood Rudolf Steiner School has accepted both Catholics and Protestants since its founding in 1975.

In Israel, when the Harduf Waldorf school attempted to include the local Arab community, the educational authorities threatened to withdraw funding; the school responded by beginning a joint project with that community to run parallel schools with rich contacts. A joint Arab-Jewish Waldorf kindergarten has also been founded in Hilf (near Haifa).

In Brazil, a Waldorf teacher, Ute Craemer, founded a community service organization providing training and work, health care and Waldorf education in the Favelas (poverty-stricken areas of the city).

The Imhoff Waldorf School in Cape Town, South Africa has a program which offers sponsored education to previously disadvantaged pupils.


Links to UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, known as UNESCO, has chosen many Waldorf schools to be associated project schools, including at least seven UNESCO Waldorf schools in Germany alone, as well as schools in Africa and Asia.

UNESCO also sponsored an exhibit about the Waldorf schools at the 44th Session of their International Conference on Education in Geneva. An exhibition catalog was published by UNESCO under the title Waldorf Education Exhibition Catalog On Occasion of the 4th Session of the International Conference on Education of UNESCO in Geneva.