FondsGoetheanum: Education

News – November 2011

Art in education, the art of education

Art profits education. It stimulates children’s development, their mathematical intelligence, and their sense of space. Teaching in Steiner schools is understood and conducted as an artistic process.

Recent work in educational science shows that the artistic element is an important factor in training.

Manual skills stimulate mathematical intelligence

Art awakens the power of representation, increasing resourcefulness

Today, we know that manual skills – such as learning to knit – stimulate mathematical intelligence. It has also been shown that bodily orientation in space, for example in circle dancing, awakens the power of spatial representation, which is essential for all geometric operations.
The prominent role music plays in the development of intellectual faculties is also well accepted without reservation: in the practice of music, all brain systems are active and engaged.

Art is not a luxury

Today anyone who still thinks that art is a luxury is holding to a view long obsolete in the field of education. Ever since their inception, Steiner schools have included a great deal of art and artistic elements in their curriculum, not as an unnecessary luxury, but because it is imperative to the support of child development. Hopefully, this principle will be recognized and applied in an increasing number of state schools.

Education, art

But Steiner schools also put into practice another important basic idea, one that deeply permeates the unique relationship between student and teacher: namely, that education itself needs to be understood and organized as an artistic process.
Why is this so? What is art? According to a folk expression, ‘Art comes from knowing.’ How true is that! Every artist must know his art fully in order to master it. Whether in painting, music, sculpture or anything else. Artists master their craft. For the master is then ready to face the unknown, the unexpected. Does this not mean that the healing arts, lifestyle, the art of education – all stand to be renewed?

Creative teaching increases the power of attention

The joy of learning from life

What do students experience when they learn reading, arithmetic, geography and history from the unique creative dynamics of their teacher, rather than through rationalist approaches and methods? When the instruction is given by a person who teaches mathematics with examples he has created himself working with the students and giving plenty of scope for creativity and responsibility?
Creative teaching entails a relationship to life that results in integrated learning. Those who learn in this way develop no reluctance to learning. Indeed, they learn to be self-creative in life. Their whole life long, those who learn in this way will rejoice in the knowledge that life itself can be a teacher.

Aspire to an ideal

Of course, this is an ideal. But where would we be if there were no room in education for ideals? Steiner schools need not be ashamed of their high educational ideal, even if it cannot always be fully realized.
Without the pursuit of this ideal, no Steiner school would survive. That is why the teachers accept their financial restrictions. For this brings to the teaching process increased joy in the artistry of education.

Christof Wiechert

Erziehung zur Freiheit, Bilder und Berichte aus der internationalen Waldorfschulbewegung (Education for freedom, pictures and stories from Waldorf schools worldwide.)