With this issue of our quarterly newsletter, we extend our reach around the globe – from consideration of “sacred cows” in India (as well as in Waldorf education) to brief portraits of the new cohorts of elementary and high school teacher trainees, who this year include representatives from all six of the world’s inhabited continents. In addition, we offer some photographic vignettes of other summer-time events and festivities.
Douglas Gerwin, Director
Center for Anthroposophy
In this Issue
Dateline Mumbai, India: Sacred Cows Roaming at Large and in Waldorf Schools
On the streets of major Indian cities such as Mumbai, the barriers that would normally segregate animals from humans are dissolved. Cows roam freely in the streets, feeding on hay supplied by the local citizenry, or by visitors from the West such as the three Finsers––Torin, Karine, and their son Ionas––pictured above. When a cow crosses the street, traffic comes to a snarling halt; when one of them takes to the sidewalks, pedestrians yield the right of way. Anyone who harms one of these creatures, even accidentally, can end up in jail.
The cow may be sacred to the Hindus––hence protected from harm amidst the bustle of city life––but it is neither worshipped nor especially revered. You may be surprised to see them walking unattended around the city, living on refuse and drinking from the gutters. But by transforming discarded scraps into rich milk and fat, these creatures are a living reminder of the potency of the divine spirit that metamorphoses the lowest and least valuable into the highest and most worthy. Hence bovine creatures are viewed––if not overtly venerated––as the creators of divine substance, and human creatures as their caretakers. Lord Krishna, founder of the Hindu tradition, is described as bala-gopala, “the child who protects the cows”. He is often depicted as a cowherd.
Like any mother, the cow is the source of new life and sustaining nourishment. In India cows are sometimes called gau mata, the eternal mother. The milk of a cow is believed to promote Sattvic (purifying) qualities. The ghee (clarified butter) of cow’s milk is used in ceremonies and for the preparation of religious food. Panchagavya, the supreme purificatory material, is a mixture of five products of the cow: milk, curds, ghee, urine, and dung.
Though very much a part of daily life, the cow is still a sacred symbol used to adorn the most holy of religious sites. Cows are honored at least once a year at Gopastami. On this “Cow Holiday,” cows are washed and decorated in the temple and given offerings in the hope that their gifts of life will continue. Because of their seeming indifference to their surroundings and their implacable sense of calm, cows remind us that the turbulence of daily life is a form of maya that obscures the greater reality of divine tranquility and lasting order.
What makes a cow sacred in India, and what constitutes a sacred cow in Waldorf education? Torin and Karine Munk Finser, founding members of the Center for Anthroposophy, returned from their odyssey to India with some pictures and reflections that, in conversation with their colleague Douglas Gerwin at the Center, inspired this brief captioned photo essay.
And what of the “sacred cows” that roam the hallways of Waldorf schools? They too range freely and unchallenged, disrupting the flow of pedagogical traffic and ignoring social agreements and conventions. They bring discussions to a crashing halt because they brook no challenge. And while they may not always be venerated, they are nonetheless protected for life.
At the same time, of course, they may remind us of the spiritual origins of our work and bring a certain calm and stability to our day. In this sense they present themselves as creators of rhythm and sustainability, and we are expected to be their stewards.
Sacred cows may sometimes be found in statements beginning with the phrase: “In a truly successful Waldorf school . . . [followed by]
. . . main lesson is the first class of the day.”
. . . class teachers complete a full cycle from grades 1 to 8.”
. . . each pupil makes a main lesson book for every main lesson subject.”
. . . the teachers run the school.”
. . . major decisions are agreed by consensus.”
. . . computers are kept out of the classroom.”
. . . television is banned outright in the lower grades, restricted in the upper grades.”
. . . eurythmy is a required subject in all grades.”
. . . the color black is omitted from chalkboard drawings.”
. . . each grade has its own class (none are combined).”
. . . elementary school children are seated by their temperament.”
. . . the main lesson begins with the same verse each morning.”
. . . the teacher shakes the hand of each student every morning.”
. . .the pentatonic, or mood of the 5th, is the only appropriate musical scales for younger children.”
. . . early childhood classes start a week or more later and end the year earlier in order to preserve the etheric of the children.”
. . . a Waldorf high school education is always the best alternative for an 8th grader.”
. . . early childhood teachers and eurythmists need to work fewer hours per week than other teachers.”
. . . grades school teachers do not teach reading until second grade.”
. . . board members who have not studied Anthroposophy are expected to take a back seat in decision making.”
. . . parents, though they pay tuition, are not ‘purchasing’ an education.”
As their name suggests, there may be some divine wisdom hidden in these “sacred cow” statements, and yet they need to be discovered anew, not simply tolerated or assumed. Why do we do the things we do? By asking this question over and again, these statements come to life because they come to consciousness.
Only then can they serve as the life-giving “Great Mother” who sustains development and maturation, something which is a sure sign of a “truly successful Waldorf school”.
Dateline Wilton NH: Record Renewal
Another record enrollment for Renewal Courses. Karine Munk Finser, Coordinator of CfA’s annual program of one-week courses, offers a scrap book of images from an eventful summer.
In all, 260 participants took part in Renewal Courses this summer, including a record 170 during the second week, which featured first-time visits by Frederick Amrine, professor of German studies from the University of Michigan, Gunther and Vivian Hauk and their research into the plight of bees. Returning faculty included Dennis Klocek; Laurie Clark and Rena Osmer; Jamie York; Iris Sullivan and Karine Munk Finser; Leonore Russell and Torin Finser; and Signe Motter, Hugh Renwick, Douglas Gerwin, and Elizabeth Auer.
Below we offer you some vignettes from our two weeks of study, reflection, rejuvenation, and sheer fun.
Dateline Wilton NH: Welcome to the New Cohort of High School Teachers
Each summer, the Center for Anthroposophy launches another cycle of its three-summers Waldorf High School Teacher Education Program (WHiSTEP). Douglas Gerwin, Director of the Center and chair of this program, outlines the new group.
They are getting younger! Just under half of the new intake of 14 high school teachers are in their 20s and none has broken the barrier of 50.
And yet, despite their youth, fully two-thirds of them are already working in a Waldorf high school somewhere in North America, from the Californian and Canadian Pacific to the Southeastern and New England shores of the Atlantic. Their homes are far flung: in all, they hail from 10 states of the Union as well as from Canada, Argentina, and Taiwan.
Indeed, as of this summer, all of the world’s six inhabited continental landmasses––Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, South America––as well as the Middle East are represented among the three levels of students of the high school teacher education program.
Taken together, the new group also populates the full range of the six subject specializations offered in the high school program: arts and art history, English language and literature (including modern languages), history and social sciences, life and earth sciences, mathematics and computer studies, physics and chemistry.
Of the 14 new trainees, just under a third are “second generation” Waldorf teachers (that is, their parents worked in Waldorf schools) and therefore experienced Waldorf schools also as students, some of them from pre-school all the way through high school.
During their first summer, the group began with a one-week intensive course entitled “Self Education through Intuitive Thinking and Artistic Perception”, led by Signe Motter from the Waldorf School of Princeton. In subsequent weeks they undertook pedagogical studies with high school teachers Michael D’Aleo and Douglas Gerwin, along with a variety of workshops in the arts and specialist subject seminars led by a team of experienced high school teachers: Meg Gorman (Santa Fe Waldorf School), Michael Holdrege (Chicago Waldorf School), David Sloan (Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport ME), Patrick Stolfo (Hawthorne Valley School), and Jamie York (Shining Mountain Waldorf School in Boulder CO).
Each summer WHiSTEP admits a new class of 10-15 students. The new group is studying alongside students in the second and third year levels of the high school program as well as trainees in the Waldorf elementary teacher education program of Antioch University New England. In all, these programs have about 120 teachers enrolled in training. All of these summer programs are held on the adjacent campuses of Pine Hill Waldorf School and High Mowing School in Southeastern New Hampshire.
Since its inception in July 1996, some 121 high school trainees have completed this part-time three-summers program. Overall, around 65% of current and graduated high school teachers are working full or part-time at some 55 Waldorf schools in the English-speaking world. As of this year, WHiSTEP students or graduates are active in 33 of the 40 Waldorf high schools extant in North America, from coast to coast and every region in between.
Dateline Wilton NH: A Fistful of Firsts for the Graduation of 2012
Three groups totaling 38 prospective and practicing Waldorf teachers graduated this summer from the Waldorf High School Teacher Education Program and the Waldorf teacher education programs at Antioch University New England. Douglas Gerwin, Director of the Center for Anthroposophy and convener of this annual ritual, reports.
For those who like to record “firsts”, here are several that marked the joint commencement exercises of the Waldorf teacher education programs at Antioch University New England and the Center for Anthroposophy, held each year in the auditorium of the Pine Hill Waldorf School.
For the first time, the commencement address was shared by a man-and-wife team: Frederick Amrine, professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Margot Amrine, director of the Waldorf Institute of Southeastern Michigan and high school teacher at the Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor. They extolled the virtues of life as a Waldorf teacher before a warm and enthusiastic audience including 38 students graduating from the Antioch and CfA teacher education programs.
The ceremony ended with the first performance of “No Coward Soul”, a choral piece written for the event by Noe Venable, a professional singer and current student in the Waldorf program at Antioch. Carol Kelly, who is responsible for the music courses in both Antioch and CfA programs, conducted the chorus, which was comprised of faculty and students––including graduates––of both the Antioch and the CfA high school programs. Noe received a rousing ovation from the audience of friends and relations of the graduates, as well as from the students on stage.
On a side note, this performance marked the final appearance of Malcolm Hawkins, who has accompanied the chorus, as well as eurythmy classes and demonstrations, of both CfA and Antioch programs for well over a decade. Malcolm is returning to his native England to pursue his career as composer and pianist.
Finally, this was the first time these commencement exercises were held on a Saturday. (Previously they were held on Fridays, much to the inconvenience of the graduates’ family and friends, since many of them worked on this day.) The graduation was moved to the weekend not only to accommodate guests, however, but also to allow another full day of classes before the final ceremony.
In all, the 38 graduating students received their certificates and stoles in three groups: 4 high school teachers from the Waldorf High School Teacher Education Program sponsored by the Center for Anthroposophy; 17 elementary school teachers from Antioch’s Year Round Teacher Education Program; and 17 from the University’s Summer Sequence Program.
Dateline Atlanta GA: Building on Firm Foundations
Angela Foster sent us this lively retrospect on what it was like to be a member of CfA’s newly-formed Foundations Studies cluster at the Academe of the Oaks outside Atlanta.
It was with joy and a strong sense of camaraderie that we wrapped up our final class for Year One in Atlanta. Eleanor Winship from the Waldorf School of Atlanta served as our guide through Anthroposophy in Everyday Life and in each of our four sessions together she shared with us her expertise in Werbeck singing. Many of us discovered beautiful voices that we never knew we had! Some even experienced at firsthand the curative properties of the Werbeck exercises.
To celebrate the culmination of our first year together, we were invited each to offer an artistic expression of something that was meaningful to us from this year in Foundation Studies. Some students brought an artistic rendering of a favorite verse, others brought prose to read aloud, one made a video slide show that was played in her absence since she could not attend class. Another student drew her insights in the form of shapes on the chalkboard, another teased out the running theme of cycles and numbers that she felt calling from within her own biography. A sun catcher was made by another student from recycled materials to hang in the Academe garden, in hopes of inspiring others to seek the light that we all grow towards.
And finally, we were gifted with an original song written by a student and played live, accompanied by guitar. It was an homage to the “Plain Style of Grammar” which Rick Spaulding introduced us to in our very first session of the year. And I would be remiss if I did not mention that we had a surprise visit from Sara Walsh, administrator of the Atlanta school, who had led us through How to Know Higher Worlds during the fall. Sara shared some ideas for a summer reading list, which I could tell by looking around the room, sparked people’s imaginations.
As a group, we took a few moments to reflect on how we had been blessed with so many wonderful teachers this year (besides the ones already mentioned, we also were treated to classes led by Douglas Gerwin, Director of the Center, and Jim McClurkin, a class teacher from the Atlanta school), and we realized how fortunate we were to have practiced Eurythmy with three different eurythmists––Laira Covert, Brigitta Balzdun, and Barbara Richardson––all in one year! With a Year One program so rich and rewarding, it is quite exciting to consider what Year Two might bring –– an inner experience of anticipation that Eleanor Winship characterized as what in German is called Vorfreude, “the joy before”.
I think I speak for all students in the Atlanta cluster when I say we are grateful for this year’s foray into Foundation Studies, we are ready for the rest and breath that summer allows us, and we look forward to our journey into Year Two.
Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy and the Arts
Fall 2012 – Spring 2013
New Year One Cluster Programs Forming Now!
Bethesda, MD – Washington Waldorf School
Charlottesville, VA – Charlottesville Waldorf School
Kingston, RI – Meadowbrook Waldorf School
Wilton, NH – High Mowing Waldorf High School
Interest is being shown for Programs in:
Beverly, MA – Cape Ann Waldorf School
Clearwater, FL – Suncoast Waldorf School
Lexington, MA – Waldorf School of Lexington
Year Two Programs
Atlanta, GA – Academe of the Oaks and Waldorf School of Atlanta
Chapel Hill, NC – Emerson Waldorf School
Hadley, MA – Hartsbrook School
Quechee, VT – Upper Valley Waldorf School
St. Louis, MO – Shining Rivers Waldorf School
For details contact Barbara Richardson, Coordinator of Foundation Studies, at