What do the interviewers at HKU ask

Courage to take personal initiative

Henning Kullak-Ublick. Photo: © Charlotte Fischer

Waldorf Education | The centenary is celebrated big. What is the central concern of this global event?

Henning Kullak-Ublick | Waldorf education has spread around the world from a single town in southern Germany over the course of 100 years. More and more people say, not least because of the total economization of all areas of life: We want to raise our children to be free people, they should be addressed as whole people. Your hope is that your child can become individual at the Waldorf School while at the same time expanding their social skills. All Waldorf schools share the experience and the ideal that the general human can be found in the uniqueness of each individual child. From the outset, Waldorf education is designed to be effective across all cultures. - What the Waldorf 100 is all about can be summed up in the following sentence: encounter, encounter, encounter, so that we have the courage to do what is right for our time, and with joy!

EK | The Federation of Free Waldorf Schools, the Pedagogical Section and the International Conference have called upon all schools to prepare for Rudolf Steiner's "General Human Studies". Why?

HKU | The "general human studies" is a training path that provides us teachers with a wealth of terms and instruments with the help of which we can first of all sensitize ourselves to characteristic developmental steps that each person goes through in his own way. With this deepened ability to perceive, we can then also approach the question: How is the general expressed in this child, and what is the signature of his unmistakable individuality? So it is not at all a question of postulating any finished human system and then somehow implementing it by »copy & paste«, but rather about looking impartially, from which original educational ideas can emerge.

Working on the “General Study of Man” can help us, also when dealing with modern development research, to distinguish which of our traditions are worth developing further and which are just conventions that can be safely left behind. In short: the "general study of the human being" is an enormous help in developing pedagogical imagination.

EK | With a forward-looking view, Rudolf Steiner speaks of the 100-year cycle of the fact that if we were not able to generate a similarly strong spiritual impulse in 2019, then Waldorf education would become more and more watered down. How does it look today?

HKU | For a long time in Germany we lived with the idea that Stuttgart was the world center of Waldorf education. But that has been completely reversed: Today every school in the world is a focal point and youth impulses flow to us from all continents.

When new Waldorf schools emerge in a country, a lot is of course first imitated because it has already proven itself elsewhere, but in the meantime the question is being raised everywhere, very intensively, including at the meetings of the international conference, how Waldorf education in other cultures is whose needs and, of course, can be further developed for the needs of our time. There are incredibly committed and enthusiastic people at work, just like here in Germany. The mind blows where it wants. That is why the question of the future is above all a question of whether we want to make ourselves fit for the challenges of the 21st century, especially for life in a digitized world.

A problem for this decision-making process is sometimes a weak point in our collegial cooperation, namely when the slowest one sets the pace. This can have a downright paralyzing effect, especially for young teachers, and has nothing to do with our claim to be educational pioneers. Therefore, after a long phase of consolidation of “Waldorf” as a brand, »Waldorf100« wants one thing above all else: Encourage teachers to take personal initiative, so that they can put their good ideas into practice, alone or together with others.

With the young colleagues who are coming to our schools today, I have the very strong feeling that they have made a very conscious decision in favor of this pedagogy and that they do not just want to be executives, but also want to build real relationships with the children. We can achieve a lot with these young people! But we have to trust them, protect them and strengthen them. Then our schools become internally flexible, our conferences become inspiring and people expect something from each other. Because encouragement is based on the fact that each individual has the greatest possible degree of freedom, while the school develops a culture of mutual perception and reflection, because freedom is more than arbitrariness or arbitrariness. For this, too, we need an ever new view of people themselves, and therefore also the »general knowledge of man«.

EK | What has changed in the public perception of the Federation of Independent Waldorf Schools when you raise an anniversary in such a large format as »Waldorf100«?

HKU | When I began to deal with this topic eleven years ago, journalists kept telling me that we weren't much better at communicating than the Scientologists, that we would completely isolate ourselves, proselytize and fend off any criticism. Today we are open to discourse and transparent. Above all, we noticed that it is only when we are interested in what others are doing that they also begin to be interested in what we are doing.

Public relations means noticing which social questions are in the air and how to find such vivid answers that they encourage people to judge instead of telling them what to think. »Waldorf 100« now appears with self-confidence: We are the largest independent school movement in the world. We owe it to our time that we raise our voices and make it clear that there is a globally functioning civil society, of which we are a really important part, because we have been able to gain experience for a hundred years with what pedagogy can look like focuses on how young people connect deeply with the world, how they make their innermost essence the guiding star of their biography and how they can create social togetherness in the process. This is one of the most important things our time needs.

EK | So has Waldorf arrived in the middle of society?

HKU | Yes. We are in a position that every marketing director dreams of: everyone has an opinion about Waldorf - whether it is true or not - and everyone associates something with the term. This is a sure sign that we have become a real social force. But it is up to us how we develop and whether what has brought us teachers to this profession and the parents to their Waldorf school can really have an impact in the world.

Mathias Maurer asked the questions