As the majority of the Waldorf world moves online, Christopherus Homeschool Resources stands ever more firm in rejecting the notion that computer-use is something that is just fine for children or is in some way a modern path that ‘new Waldorf’ must embrace. As far as I am concerned, ‘new Waldorf’ should be about alternatives to computer use by teachers and children, going ever deeper into Waldorf’s therapeutic basis to offer real assistance to people looking for healthy ways of educating and parenting children.
The challenges parents face are huge—working from home combined with educating one’s children—and not being thrilled by either. How to cope? It is odd to me when people say that being against zoom calls with children means one has no sympathy with the needs of the working parents. That is a very strange assumption to make—for surely folks realize that one does not simply plonk a child down in front of the screen and say ‘stay here for 5 hours while I work’! (or even 1 hour—or less with a very young child!) So the parents are involved no matter what they do if the children are at home so then the question becomes, what is the best way to empower the parents to deal with the reality of being home with their children? Screens are not the solution and can cause more problems than they supposedly solve.
And of course part of the reason for that is the actual effect of screen-use on children—my mind cannot quite grasp how so many Waldorf teachers are forgetting all they have learned and experienced of healthy ways of educating children and why they are actually Waldorf teachers. It’s not like I—and other brave Waldorf teachers and many, many parents—have some sort of perverse anti-tech thing going on!! Not by a long chalk! It’s all about the effect of screens on children. Full stop. Period. Have folks forgotten how antsy and discombobulated many children become when exposed to screens? Or, on the other hand, how sucked in many become, unable to separate themselves? Have folks forgotten abut the importance of nurturing the twelve senses, of working via imitation for little ones and through the arts for older children? Have they forgotten whole-body experiential learning? Does anyone actually think children can learn in a meaningful way via a screen—even conventional educators have grave reservations about how much children ‘learn’ on-screen. And considering that most conventional educators regard learning success as something which is quantifiable, measurable, that is saying quite a lot. We in Waldorf who know that true education is not quantifiable, is all about developing the purpose of the incarnating child and her capacities as a human being, cannot in any way think that screen learning is real learning.
Let us especially not forget those children with any sort of disability or learning issue who are especially vulnerable to the bad effects of screens. I do not see much anywhere about how the needs of children on the spectrum and those with other learning or developmental issues are being met during this challenging time.
As for the poor—those whose children are already subjected to long hours of child care, to too much screen use, to poor diets and the toxicity that life in poverty means, are also especially at risk. All this nonsense about making sure we don’t discriminate against those sections of the population who cannot afford computers—mainly, but not in any way totally, Black and Latino communities—are barking up the wrong tree as far as I’m concerned. It is exactly the children of those communities, especially the urban poor, who need LESS screen time and more time in Nature. The well-to-do can always escape to the country to mitigate screen use or leave it behind—the poor cannot. The children of the poor do not need screens—they need meaningful teaching, beauty, artistic experiences, play, and access to Nature. Having worked in outdoor education with deprived communities in the UK and US, one specifically having to do with gang prevention, I can speak to the truth that meaningful whole-body education is a much needed and little recognized pillar of equity and justice for large segments of working class and poor children.
In terms of Waldorf education, the ‘Waldorf world’ has, by and large, missed the boat. What an amazing opportunity to press for LESS computer time for all children—and to offer creative ways that parents, including those who have no knowledge of Waldorf, can use to meet the real needs of their children.
Having said that, I am pleased to say that I know of a number of groups working with rogue Waldorf teachers who are not towing the line, who do not think zoom is any solution for children and who also reject the absolutely appalling specter of mask-wearing children—including the very tiniest. I stick to my guns: if the disease is that bad, children should be at home. And if it is not, then masks can create more problems than they solve, especially for children. As for children wearing masks out-of-doors---well, I am sorry. I know I will alienate many of you but I must speak out of my knowledge and experience: children need to strengthen their immune systems and their lungs; they need to intimately connect with Nature through their senses; they need to feel and smell and touch and taste….and having what is in effect a damp, warm Petri dish slapped across the face does not help the situation.
Last month I wrote an open letter to Waldorf teachers to see if they could delve into their wonderful creativity and flexibility to find non computer-based ways to support parents who have been forced to homeschool. That created a bit of a stir. You can read some of the responses here.
We now have two free videos called No Computers for Children—part one is an overview and part two has practical advise for how one can actually do this. They are both available to view here.