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The basis for a school's administrative structure

 

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'In a diverse, locally controlled education system— where schools are free from the dictates of centralized bureaucracies and governments seeking to enforce their short-term political, social and economic agendas— such attempts to influence education may not be cause for concern. If schools, and their communities, are free to define their own curricula and to reject whatever is the latest bureaucratic grand plan or educational fad, then in diversity there would be strength.

The reality is, though, and notwithstanding the rhetoric of devolution and school-based control, that the system in Australia is highly centralized and subject to bureaucratic and government interference.'

Kevin Donnelly 'Education Reform' IPA

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Instead of laying out a school structure, let's first paint a scenario that may also explain where some of the major differences between Steiner (Waldorf) schools and others arise.

Imagine that a group of teachers, each with their own calling, come to meet. Or indeed, to reflect the historical event, imagine that an individual, seeing a need for the education of children in a locality, calls together a group of educators to establish such.

Their calling can only be honoured if there is a means by which they can be liberated from needing to participate in the economic social sphere – ie, if they are supported rather than having to engage in either the production or distribution of goods. The method by which we arrange this is through financial means: ie, wages.

Some have been called to work with a group of children who will undertake their first years of school (Class Teachers); others are specialists in their fields seeking to impart their passion and expertise (High School Teachers) to adolescents who will, in their ensuing years, form our social future.

One the necessities includes the establishment of facilities to enable this work to be undertaken, and so a school is formed. The teachers meet regularly as a collegial body (College of Teachers) who, amongst other things, share their work, their ongoing needs, deepen their insights into childhood and adolescence, discuss current trends compared to ideals, and effectively administer the changing needs of the school.

In considering whether a new teacher is to become part of the school, various things are taken into consideration, including the perceived calling of the teacher as well as his or her expertise. For also, once a new teacher is on board, they become part-and-parcel of the Collegiate. Ideally, the passions and expertise each teacher brings is accommodated in the ever-changing fabric of the school.

When special projects are called for – for example, building a new room(s) – the College calls upon those with greater expertise for support and advice. The decision still remains, of course, with the Collegial body of Teachers – in a similar manner that should an expert be called by a family to construct or alter a building or financial arrangement, the family still has ultimate responsibility to either take on or not the suggestions.

With growth, there comes a point where the College may desire to have permanent assistance with, for example, banking transactions, and so the College appoints (ie, employs) some person(s) to assist in undertaking these tasks. Given that in most countries, such bureaucratic tasks are often given undue weight, it is all too easy for positions created with such a view to be seen to be independent or above that of the College of Teachers – a situation that appears to have occurred in all but too many Steiner Schools.

It is in this light that comments by Rudolf Steiner, such as the following two, may more easily be understood:

“The administration of education, from which all culture develops, must be turned over to the educators. Economic and political considerations should be entirely excluded from this administration. [...]. No one should make decisions who is not directly engaged in the educational process. No parliament or congress, nor any individual who was perhaps once an educator, is to have anything to say.”

R. Steiner Basic Issues of the Social Question

“A healthy relation exists between school and society only when society is kept constantly supplied with the new and individual potentials of persons whose educations have allowed them to develop unhampered. This can be realized only if the schools and the whole educational system are placed on a footing of self-administration within the social organism. The government and the economy must receive people educated by the independent spiritual-cultural life; they must not, however, have the power to prescribe according to their own wants how these human beings are to be educated. [...] It is neither for the state nor the economic life to say: We need someone of this sort for a particular post; therefore test the people that we need and pay heed above all that they know and can do what we want. Rather, the spiritual-cultural organ of the social organism should, following the dictates of its own independent administration, bring those who are suitably gifted to a certain level of cultivation, and the state and economic life should organize themselves in accordance with the results of work in the spiritual-cultural sphere.”

R. Steiner The Threefold Social Order and Educational Freedom

This last statement is an important principle in education: 'the state and economic life should organize themselves in accordance with the results of work in the spiritual-cultural sphere'. In other words, the future state will be the outcome of individuals brought to their development. It is not for us to presume what kind of society the following generation may unveil, but rather to bring these people to as highly a development in various capacities to enable them to decide how to be.