Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), a philosopher and writer, created a holistic educational impulse that has become known as Waldorf Education. He emphasizes a balance of developing the intellect (or head), feeling and artistic life (or heart), and practical skills (or hands). The education focuses on producing free individuals, and Steiner expected it to enable a new, freer social order to arise, through the creative, free human beings that it would develop.

Waldorf Education is based on Steiner's philosophy, known as anthroposophy, and divides education into three discrete developmental stages; these stages predate but have close similarities to Piaget's stages of child development.

Throughout the education, a great importance is placed upon having free and creative individuals as teachers; thus, schools should have an appropriate amount of freedom to shape their own curriculum and teachers should have a corresponding freedom to shape the daily life of the classroom. In order for such a system to function, intensive work must take place both amongst teachers within schools and between schools to provide the necessary communication, training and development.

Waldorf education includes a respect for children's physical nature, rhythmic life (technical term: ether body), consciousness (technical term: astral body) and individuality (ego). Anthroposophy includes teachings about reincarnation and schools often try to foster an awareness that each human being - and thus each child - carries a unique being into this earthly life.

As both an independent educational model and a major influence upon other educators - such as Maria Montessori - Waldorf education is currently both one of the largest and one of the fastest growing educational movements in the world. Waldorf schools are also increasingly operating as state-funded (in the U.S.A. charter) schools or even state-run (in the U.S.A. public) schools.