It is time to highlight our final Intelligence in our Educating the Whole Child Series. Howard Gardner took heat for adding Naturalistic intelligence to his Theory of Multiple Intelligences. When it came to Spiritual Intelligence, he said it was best kept as a subset of a Naturalistic Intelligence: “It seems more responsible to carve out that area of spirituality closest ‘in spirit’ to the other intelligences and then, in the sympathetic manner applied to naturalist intelligence, ascertain how this candidate intelligence fares.”
For Waldorf’s founder, Rudolf Steiner, Spiritual Intelligence was the most essential unfolding of educational development. In fact, his educational pedagogy is founded in Anthroposophy, sometimes referred to as a religious philosophy.
Steiner says in his 1924 book, Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts, “Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge, to guide the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe…. Anthroposophists are those who experience, as an essential need of life, certain questions on the nature of the human being and the universe, just as one experiences hunger and thirst.”
Waldorf educators do not teach Anthroposophy to young children, but they do incorporate questions of human nature and the universe into the curriculum. Religions within different cultures are introduced and studied in different grades. By providing opportunities for students to examine major religions around the world, they are able to develop their own understanding of the deeper questions considered throughout human history.
Here at Spring Garden we begin with fairy tales and Saints in the young grades; moving on to Hebrew and the Old Testament in Grade 3; Norse mythology in Grade 4; Indian, Egyptian and Greek culture and belief in Grade 5; Roman, Christian and Islam studies in Grade 6; the Reformation and Renaissance in Grade 7; and an understanding of how all these relate to current culture and recent history by Grade 8.
Not all Waldorf schools approach spiritual curriculum the same. As an example, a Milwaukee Waldorf school was highlighted in The Waldorf Impulse in Education by Freda Easton for adapting its curriculum to incorporate African American and Native American spiritual heritages.
Are Waldorf Schools Parochial?
No conversation about teaching Spiritual Intelligence would be complete without addressing some parent’s concerns that Waldorf schools teach a doctrine of religion or that Anthroposophy is a religion. We understand this concern, considering the spiritual ideas within Anthroposophy, which has its roots in Steiner’s interpretation of Christianity.
According to Waldorf Answer.org, “Anthroposophy is not a religion, nor is it meant to be a substitute for religion. While its insights may support, illuminate or complement religious practice, it provides no belief system.”
There are currently 44 public Waldorf schools in the United States and lawmakers in California agree that the Waldorf schools in its state are not religious. The court most recently ruled: “…the evidence suggests that Anthroposophy is a method of learning which is available to anyone regardless of their religious or philosophical persuasion. Stated another way, Anthroposophy is more akin to a methodology or approach to learning as opposed to a religious doctrine or organized set of beliefs.”
Heiner Ullrich tackled this question in UNESCO’s 1994 Quarterly review of comparative education and noted, “We assume that the systematic basis for the surprisingly stimulating and effective educational practice of the Steiner establishments must not be sought in the simple truths of Anthroposophic doctrine, but rather in the versatility of the related educational views, metaphors and maxims. …This classical educational dogmatism is an area of consensus between the teachers, educators and parents involved in the practical aspects of education in Steiner establishments.”
If you have any more questions about Spring Garden Waldorf’s curriculum for fostering Spiritual Intelligence or Anthroposophy’s role at our school, please contact admissions. We welcome all inquiry!