As I mentioned in my last posting, I am among a group of parents setting up a new Waldorf kindergarten in Budapest’s notoriously proletarian Újpest district. And I also mentioned that some of the neighbors are hostile to the idea. Reasons vary. Some people just hate little kids. Others resent what they see as prissy middle-class families moving in on their turf. Others bear their teeth at anything “alternative” (“Why can’t you just send your kids to the same state-run kindergartens that warped us?”).

Whatever. We don’t have the time to stick each and every one of them on the couch and heal their neuroses. We have a job to do. And an important job, at that.

Waldorf education is hard to describe to people who know nothing about it. And even if you are involved with it as a parent, it takes years to really understand what the teachers and the schools are trying to do. It’s not just another alternative education system (like Montessori, or parochial school). The easiest way to describe Waldorf education is to say that its aim is to aid a child in unfolding its true nature as a human being. This is the exact opposite of standard education, which treats the child as a tabula raza. Standard education strives to make the child into a “product”. In centuries gone by they wished to create the perfect bureaucrat. Now they want to create the perfect corporate employee.

Rudolf Steiner started his education theory on the basis of the Menschenbild, i.e. a nuanced spiritual, mystical understanding of what a human being really is. Going from there, his intention was to create an education system that aided the child to realize itself and to unfold all the phases of its being, and not to mold it into a product that happens to be what the Powers That Be want at that particular moment in history. I have half-jokingly (which means half-seriously) referred to it as “initiatory education,” because it emphasizes teaching subjects at that particular time when a child’s development is ready to assimilate it, rather than arbitrarily deciding when the system wants the child to learn something. This way of education, along with the emphasis on learning through doing and learning through creating, gives the child a series of awakening experiences, which build the learning into its being, rather than than just remaining intellectual concepts.

Waldorf graduates are truly a boon to any society. They are reflective, self-confident individuals who are not afraid of rolling up their sleeves and getting involved in a hands-on way wherever they find themselves. And they have self knowledge.
I’ll be so bold as to say that Waldorf schools, like a proper esoteric school, bring more light into the world (please read that sentence carefully and understand that I did not say Waldorf schools are esoteric schools). And there are always opponents to the bringers of light: the forces of darkness. Now, the forces of darkness are not anything as romantic as Black Magicians weaving their evil spells to take over the world and enslave mankind. Darkness is simply ignorance. Ignorance is startled and threatened by the appearance of light. And it will often fight to keep things comfortably dark.
And I think this is a great deal of our problem. There are people who don’t like what we are doing because… well… they just don’t like what we’re doing.
At board meetings and in conversations between parents, I sometimes noted a tone of exaggerated fear when we were talking about the neighbors and other obstructionists. “To what lengths are these lunatics willing to go?” I could tell people were especially nervous because their children were involved.
After wracking my brains for a more “magical” solution to this problem, it hit me: we should build a shrine to St. Michael! I pitched it to the board and to the kindergarten teachers and it was approved. I commissioned an artist friend to make an image. And this is what she finally created. (Click on it to see it larger.)
Yesterday I installed a shelf and hung the picture in the teachers’ new office. I burned frankincense and performed an invocation of Michael, asking him to protect our project to bring more light into the world: to protect the kindergarten, to protect the teachers and parents, and especially to protect the children. There was a palpable hum in the air when I finished.
Here’s how the altar looked when it was finished. (Also clickable)

If you wish to see what the just-finished kindergarten looks like, you can see pictures on the kindergarten blog (But the text is all in Hungarian.)