Austrian Rudolf Steiner was a poet, philosopher, educator, literary scholar, activist, and social innovator. He founded the Anthroposophical movement, meaning wisdom (sophia) of humankind (anthro), which was based on the idea that the spiritual world is accessible through a path of spiritual self-development. Practical applications of this movement included biodynamic farming, anthroposophical medicine, eurythmy (an artistic movement form), Bothmer gymnastics, and Waldorf education.
In 1907, Steiner wrote an essay, “Education in the Light of Spiritual Science,” in which he described phases of child development from an anthroposophical perspective and outlined how these could be the basis for a holistic approach to schooling. In 1919, the first Steiner school was founded to serve the workers’ children in the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. Over the past century, the Waldorf School Movement has established itself as the largest independent school movement with more than 1,000 Waldorf schools worldwide, including schools in the townships of South Africa; the slums of São Paulo, Brazil; and a shared school between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East.
Although Steiner’s views on multiculturalism are controversial, he was early in raising issues of the challenges of a multicultural society and asserted the need for a spirituality that could unite all people regardless of their culture or religious background. A progressive social theorist, Steiner’s threefold social order has served as the basis for a number of economic and philanthropic institutions, including the Rudolf Steiner Foundation for innovations in finance that is aimed at supporting the environment, financing social growth, and enriching human life.
- Childs, G. (1995). Steiner education in theory and practice. Great Barrington, MA: Anthroposophic Press.
- Steiner, R. (1928). The story of my life. London: Anthroposophical Publishing.
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