The following is taken from Principal Lazzaretti’s Waldorf 100 speech on 9/19/19.
The Waldorf approach to education was born out of a desire for social change. We don’t get social change when we simply mold the children into who and what we already are. We don’t get social change when we teach children what to think and what to do. We get it when we help them learn how to think and how to do, so they can meet the challenges of their times, which are going to be different than the challenges of our times. The traditional public education paradigm hasn’t changed much since it was initiated during the Industrial Revolution. This public education model shapes children into what society needs of them right now in terms of workers and consumers.
I think we can all agree that we’ve evolved beyond the needs of the Industrial Revolution. Sadly, our public education system has not. In fact, it has doubled-down on this approach with high-stakes standardized testing, pushing reading into preschool, and all but eliminating any subjects other than the 3Rs. It has become even more mechanized, standardized, and de-humanized, even though this flies in the face of 30 years of learning theory and brain research. And why?
The entity that’s been driving educational policy in the United States since the 1980s is the Business Roundtable for Education. Its current policy perspective reads as follows: “Better aligning educational and training goals with business needs ensures a stronger American workforce and a more productive economy.”
Not surprisingly, the roundtable is run by Execs from corporations like JPMorgan Chase, IBM, General Motors, Johnson and Johnson, Duke Energy, Lockheed Martin, Walmart, Cisco, and AT&T, among many others. Not a single educator sits on this board. Yet, they are responsible for education policy in our country.
Classical education, on the other hand, dating back to the early Greeks, Egyptians, and Arabians, was about our common humanity and values, about art and literature, about observing the wondrous phenomena that surrounded us: the stars, plants, animals. This type of inquiry led to some of the most lasting mathematical and scientific discoveries in our history. It led to classics in literature and astounding technological innovations. Of course, this classical education was historically accessible only to the rich and privileged.
Waldorf education is much like this classical approach to learning. You saw in the film how Waldorf has spread across the globe. Though the initial growth of Waldorf education in the United States was through the private sector, Steiner’s intent was always for this to become an education for all children. With the growth of the charter movement, this dream has become a reality for thousands of children. And in fact, after years of separate agendas, the private and public Waldorf associations are now joining forces to become one unified voice for Waldorf education to counter the growing corporate approach to childhood.
Sparrow Academy is one small drop in the larger ocean of the Waldorf movement. It started in 2011 with 42 students, 3 teachers, Neda, and no building. Neda, Alexandra, and I had worked together at another charter school where we had the freedom to experiment with Waldorf methods. That school closed. Dedicated to continuing this unique approach in the charter sector, Neda, Alex and I worked with the families to form a new initiative, and a new mission. I asked NUA to take our proposed program under their charter umbrella, and they agreed. That first year, I was the on-site administrator and the 2nd grade teacher. Alex taught 1st grade, we hired a kindergarten teacher, and Neda handled the office work with her personal cell phone. We taught our own specialty classes and we had no assistants. By the end of the year, we’d grown to 78 students and had a waiting list that far exceeded our capacity. Clearly, we were meeting a need in the community.
Today, we’ve grown from those quirky beginnings to 263 students, TK-8th grade, spanning two campuses, with our own charter and a talented and devoted faculty and staff. Our graduates are well-rounded, highly competent individuals enrolled in honors and AP classes at a variety of high schools in the area. (For more on what our graduates have experienced at Sparrow, click here.)
As we heard Christoff Weichert say in the Waldorf 100 film, the needs of our times call for fully integrated human beings. That is what Sparrow Academy offers our children and our society. I am so very proud to be part of this movement for social change, and I am so grateful that you have chosen this education for your children.