On leaving school young people confront a world whose complexity has become almost incomprehensible. Which faculties do these young people need in order to find their way and to be able to stand in the world in an independent, self-assured and responsible manner? It is the central aim of Waldorf education to accompany and support the development of the child in such a way that the individual faculties of self-reliance and responsibility progressively unfold. The Upper School pupils in particular have the opportunity – through their encounters with people, ideas, and through actual experience of real work – to sharpen their powers of judgement.
Adolescents need to take their bearings from a variety of educators. They need to experience that each of their teachers is a specialist in his particular field. They also need to realise that all these individuals are able to co-operate as a team and that each of them depends on what the others have to offer. Young adults are on the look-out for educators who are intensely interested in everything that goes on in the world. All subjects will therefore relate to current events and to the problems of the time which preoccupy those young people growing into it. Beyond what is offered during school hours, it is now important for them to have practical training and experience of real life. There can be further opportunities for such experience during stays abroad devoted to studying a foreign language in its proper environment, or to do work that is needed outside their normal walk of life, for example work with the elderly or young children.
Thinking for oneself – by means of an extended understanding of the nature of science.
Through in-depth study of suitably chosen examples, young people can discover a truly contemporary relation to all fields of modern scientific thought. Then, as adults, they will be able to take an independent stance and form their own individual judgement about complex problems (e.g. ethical considerations in bio-genetics). Scientific studies in the Upper School (age 14-18) stress a qualitative, phenomenological approach instead of committing a large number of facts to memory. Such scientific orientation is the basis of an environmental approach appropriate to our times. On this basis, the questions regarding human values in science can be tackled and thoroughly discussed without either relying on dogmatism or on a blind faith in science. In Class 12, a piece of independent work may well serve to show what abilities the young adult has acquired.
Modern Society and Social Problems.
The economic situation of our days demands a high degree of flexibility in every one of us. Neither a college degree or the completion of vocational training will guarantee permanent future employment. Independence and creativity are the essential qualities required in anyone looking for a job. People have to be prepared to put new ideas into practice in their place of work. In the modern work situation, everyone will have to find his bearings in a variety of new and unexpected situations. "Lifelong learning" has become a familiar phrase. Social processes need to be comprehended in their wider scope. A simplistic grading of the work force into sets or "classes" will not prove to be fruitful. In Waldorf schools, pupils remain together in the group in which they entered school for the whole of the twelve years the curriculum embraces. There is no "selection" according to abstract or one-sided criteria. Differentiation within the group can, however, take place without any rigid "streaming". The original group is kept stable, however. Apprentices and future academics form a learning and working community to the end of the school time proper.
Culture and Art – every human being is an artist.
Art is not reserved for the "gifted" or the "privileged" – access to it must be kept open in the education of every developing individual. At present, violence, brutality and superficiality all combine to annihilate the human quality of our lives. It is of the greatest importance for adolescents to tune their lives in accord with real and lasting values. There is a vital need for them to relate to aesthetics, to the pictorial arts, to music and poetry by discovering their own artistic potential and by putting it to work. A living, personal relation to the arts can enhance the quality of our day-to-day lives. It gives the modern individual a reservoir where strength can be regained and flagging energies revived.
A form of Spirituality Appropriate to Our Time – and a Holistic Image of the Human Being.
These days, openness to the events and problems of the world also means an openness to questions of spiritual values. In education, neither a false abhorrence of materialism nor any form of nebulous mysticism can be of value. What is required is access to a source of strength for everyday tasks in practical life, however daunting these may appear to be. No school can offer simple solutions to this problem. Young people demand orientation and expect answers to their questions: What is the meaning of my life? Who can I turn to for direction? The questions young people ask are really the questions of the future. Only by searching for the source of these questions can answers be found. The paths leading to the heart of the matter are to be found in an education based on a knowledge of the whole human being.