Progressive role

Mathias Maurer

Every so often the question arises whether Waldorf schools can keep up with modern forms of life. They are thought of as spaces protected from the “rough and tumble of the world” out there, as “girly schools” where fairy tales are told, songs are sung, music is played, and where there is knitting and craftwork, where the tough sides of life are smoothed over. 

Boys in particular, people say as early as at kindergarten, are short-changed in their natural need for movement and the drive to win. They find it difficult to develop in such an environment; after all, our children are mainly looked after and taught by female pre-school teachers and teaching staff. If all of this were true, Waldorf schools would indeed be in thrall to a two-hundred-year-old concept of gender roles.

On the other hand it is not enough merely to try and keep up with the latest fashions, the redefinition of gender roles communicated in the media and politics, and bow down before their diktat: we are all the same.

We cannot simply negate the fact that I am a girl or a boy, a woman or a man, a mother or a father, a pupil or a teacher. The differences are a fact. And the first thing is to understand and accept this reality.

It is equally problematical to stick to roles when they become hollowed out. Nevertheless, negating roles altogether leads us into the permanent stress of following the sterile decree of the enforced neutrality of political correctness. A bland monotonous sludge.

For all the rhetoric and levelling down: there is no neutrality in life. A differentiated perspective sees that in every human soul there rests a part which is not lived: the princess in the boy, the king in the girl, the ruler in the woman, the “weaker sex” in the man, the unteachable in the teacher, the child in the adult.

Identities are always developing, addressed in different ways by space, time and circumstances. Roles are taken hold of, lived and acted out, modified and revised, sometimes changed. That includes the possibility of “arriving” at oneself, of finding one’s self, of error and also of losing them.

The standard is the self-aware I, not the role normatively ascribed to it.
A role should never replace the I, it should be filled by the I. Then the striving for the ideal of what makes us human is not a regressive but a progressive role. We are only equal in the spirit.