Education: an introductory reader

7th November 2003 at 00:00
Education: an introductory reader. By Rudolf Steiner. Lectures selected and introduced by Christopher Clouder. Sophia Books. pound;8.95

Rudolf Steiner's career bridged the 19th and 20th centuries, and his writings ranged across the whole of culture and society. Here are some of his lectures on education in a series that also offers Steiner on science and agriculture.

Much of the text, translated from the German, is heavy going. Persevere, and you begin to see why there are now 550 Steiner schools and kindergartens worldwide (about 100 in the UK). The message is clear: education must start with the individual child's needs and faculties. The pouring in of knowledge must take second place to personal development. So play is important; handwriting, for example, should emerge from drawing and painting.

Sometimes a particularly acute sentence brings the reader up short: "If we are asked why a particular child has not developed a healthy ability to discriminate by the time he or she is 13 or 14, why he or she makes confused judgments, we often answer, 'because the child was not encouraged to make the right kind of physical hand and foot movements in early childhood'." Could there be a clearer harbinger of today's "new" understanding of the relationship between dyslexia and dyspraxia on the one hand, and gaps in early physical development on the other?

Gerald Haigh

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