I have to tell you, I put more effort into this episode than any other this season.
I really wanted to do this topic justice. As I mention in the episode, when I googled “Are Waldorf Schools Religious?”, way back when I was just starting Waldorfy, I found a lot of really confusing conflicting resources, articles, and blog posts. Based on my personal experience attending a Waldorf school, as well as my husband’s experience (he’s also a Waldorf alum) I knew that this wasn’t as hard a topic to tackle as some of those really challenging to understand resources made it seem.
I could not have asked a more perfect guest to speak about this topic with me than Glynn Graham. Glynn has 30 years of experience teaching in a Waldorf classroom. Glynn first found the study of anthroposophy which is what led her to discover Waldorf education. This eventually led to her becoming a Waldorf teacher. As we discuss in the episode, Waldorf teachers associate with anthroposophy differently. To be a Waldorf teacher one doesn’t have to be an “anthroposophist”. Since the study of anthroposophy influences Waldorf education, it is something that most Waldorf teachers become introduced to during their training, but studying it is not a requirement. In this episode I wanted to interview Glynn because her perspective is closely tied to her own personal study of anthroposophy. I think it’s an important point to make, which we bring up in the episode, that this is Glynn’s perspective. Not all Waldorf teachers would answer some of these questions the same way she did. I would recommend reaching out to a Waldorf teacher you know, or your local Waldorf school and asking them about this question to gain more insight.
At the start of this interview Glynn simply answers, no Waldorf schools are not religious.
However there are things that are similar to a religious education, such as the qualities that Waldorf education cultivates in a child. These include things like compassion, kindness, gratitude, and reverence. Glynn also gives examples of these, and how the Waldorf curriculum fosters them. Another area where there may be confusion about Waldorf schools being religious are the verses. There is a morning verse said at the start and end of each day, and a blessing at mealtimes. We explore the exact terminology and intention in these verses.
I asked Glynn about the association with Christ. There is a Christmas play performed around the holidays at most schools. How could one not deduce that there is a Christian influence here?? Glynn responds by speaking to the meaning of the Christmas play for the Waldorf School and community. She also touches on how Christ was viewed by Rudolf Steiner, (founder of anthroposophy and Waldorf education) it is not the same as we traditionally associate with most denominations of Christianity. This was one of the most interesting parts of our conversation. I really liked bringing more transparency to this association with Waldorf education.
I gained a lot of insight into this question during my conversation with Glynn. I loved how honest she was about the influence of anthroposophy and Steiner’s views on Waldorf education. I hope listeners gain clarity as well. Please comment and ask questions, I can refer back to Glynn or any of my other guests if there is something you’re still wondering about this topic. Hope you enjoy listening!
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Glynn didn’t have any specific resources that were clear concise aids in exploring this question. (The lack of such resources is one of the reasons I felt I had to create this episode!)
However I have my own suggestion. This is a great article and in someways goes even deeper into this topic than Glynn and I do in this episode. It’s a little long but I felt it was really clear accurate info.