Setting a light to powder kegs or ideas

Henning Kullak-Ublick

In September, sixteen people died in Pakistan because a fanatic in the USA had insulted the Prophet Mohammed in a film. That led to angry protests in the Muslim world which escalated into bloody violence in several countries and which also claimed the life of the US ambassador in Libya. How things will continue is hard to say today; but one thing is certain, this is not the last “intercultural” powder keg which was made to explode by a single spark.

Our children are growing up in a world in which the differences between cultures, religions and a sense of justice are becoming increasingly pronounced. This is a world which is subject to a never-ending wave of emotional kitsch produced by gigantic media machines, in which financial speculators can drive whole continents into poverty with a few mouse clicks, information reaches every corner of the world in fractions of a second, and the life of increasing numbers of people no longer proceeds in rhythms but is electronically clocked. A global inner homelessness is closely connected with this, the emptiness of which is exploited by fundamentalists of every colour who fake an identity of their own through condemning every other one.

So far so bad. But this is the comfortable perspective of the uninvolved observer who thinks he cannot change any of the things he sees. But life speaks quite a different language: the world which surrounds us has long been a mirror of our inner world. So we are by no means powerless but directly responsible for the world which our children are growing up in. Our inner world is very readily comprehensible. It forms a space which we furnish with our thoughts, feelings and actions. For our children, the latter belong as much to the surroundings as the external environment and it is they against which our children ignite their own actions, feelings and perceptions. Education always acts through self-education – even where there is none.

Schools are not training fields for the alleged struggle for survival in later life. They are places in which children learn to know and use their human abilities in all their diversity. The interest they develop there for one another and the world is the foundation for an understanding of other cultures. Only someone who has experienced himself or herself as an active, feeling and thinking human being will also concede the same thing to others. Sparks will always fly; whether they ignite powder kegs or ideas is dependent on whether our children can develop something which we can only learn in childhood: intimacy of soul.

Henning Kullak-Ublick, Class teacher from 1984 -2010 at the Flensburg Free Waldorf School; board member of the German Association of Waldorf schools and the Friends of Waldorf Education as well as Aktion mündige Schule (