Political and social education at free Waldorf schools

The Upper School Colloquium declares itself in favour of strengthening political and social education in free Waldorf schools and of establishing it securely by means of its own subject in upper school. [...] In the context of the threefold organisation of the human constitution and alongside the many intellectual, artistic and social subjects and aspects of the upper school curriculum, young people need to consciously concern themselves with and examine e.g. the forces of economic activity, the provisions of the law and the vibrant expression of political will.

The teaching of this subject corresponds in particular measure to the founding impulse of Waldorf education as it was developed out of the threefold organisation of the social order with its openness to contemporary developments. A hundred years later, it is a necessity so that young people can develop their awareness in the ever faster changing time horizons of our time so that they can shape society with responsibility and strength. Not least, they themselves are demanding that this subject be taught.

The task of the school as a whole to develop a “living interest in everything that is happening in the world today”, which Rudolf Steiner gave to the school movement to take along at its foundation on 20 August 1919 can be strengthened by establishing a subject of its own. By this means subject teachers can tackle these issues to a greater extent and in this spirit also inspire their fellow teachers.

Setting up Waldorf-specific training and further training as well as encouraging basic publications on this subject are intended to support this goal.

Less than a fig leaf

Social studies has many names. Since its introduction after the Second World War, the subject has been given a variety of names in Germany depending on the region and school form: civics, theory of society, politics and economics or vice versa, politics-society-economics, political education or, as above, social studies.

But this subject is always about knowledge of and reflection on the current common circumstances and developments in society, the legal and economic sphere as well as politics in the narrower sense. That is no different in Waldorf schools. More than half of Waldorf schools designate this subject as social studies.

The lessons allocated to this subject in the timetable as a whole varies a great deal in the German school system. Only among the Waldorf schools are there many in which such lessons are not offered at all. According to a survey from the 2015/16 school year, about a third of Waldorf schools has such lessons in political education which are solidly or well set up in the lesson framework. The second third with one or two hours per week (or alternatively main lessons) throughout schooling offers no more than a fig-leaf. The last third has not provision in this field at all.