In short: do we help them to identify without reservation with the mechanical world of things and dedicate themselves to a material existence; an existence which locates everything which in an earlier time was understood to be the action of the soul or spiritual reality in the fog of purely subjective mysticism which has long been refuted by science?
The most fundamental criticism of Waldorf education which was advanced in its anniversary year 2019 was that its education was based on an “esoteric” understanding of the human being – a term which, in view of its inflationary use, contributes little to our understanding but nevertheless gets to the heart of the matter. For indeed: Waldorf education is based on an understanding of the human being which sees as person equally as being related to nature and its inhabitants and participating in a spiritual reality in which their unique individuality, the core of their being, is founded. Anthroposophical education investigates as exactly as possible the interchange between the natural and spiritual active forces of our existence which meet in the soul life of us human beings in that we understand through our thinking, experience through our feeling and intervene in the world through our action.
Waldorf education counts on the capacity for development of each individual person, a development which arises not just out of the experiences of the past – what has become – but which in the course of childhood, youth and our further biography learns to grasp with increasing awareness what is not yet complete, what is still to become. Joseph Beuys, as so often, got to the heart of the matter: “The causes lie in the future.” And we ourselves are this future.
It is a paradox of our time that we have invented a machine world the results of which we often trust more than the cognitive powers by means of which we were able to invent it in the first place. We use it to draw conclusions back about ourselves and in doing so overlook that its magic is based on its command of precisely no more than a tiny part of our spiritual and mental potential, although it does so with breathtaking speed.
Machines are wonderful aids for as long as we programme them and not vice versa. To this end we have, however, to learn to let our thinking become so alive that it recognises what is in development in nature and in ourselves; to make our feeling so sensitive that it perceives not just our animal needs but can breathe with world events; and, lastly, to illuminate our volition in such a way that it does what the world really needs.