In the words of Hermann Hesse, the human being “is not a determinate, finite entity, not a being completed once and for all, but a coming-into-being, a project, a dream of the future, a yearning of nature for new forms and possibilities.”
Of no period in human development is this more apt a description than of adolescence, that fluid time between childhood and full adulthood. By studying the ebb and flow of inner and outer influences upon the toddler, the child, and teenager, students come to understand how human beings develop and how – through the developmental structure of the Waldorf elementary and high school curriculum – they can be helped in their unfolding from earliest years through childhood to adult life.
Beginning with reflections upon their own teenage years, students explore the nature of adolescence – its physiology and spiritual aspirations – and the stages of human development leading up to and resulting from this seminal time. The course proceeds in seminar format, starting with lectures to frame the context for discussion. Students make individual presentations on various social and psychological aspects of growing up.
1 – Human Development from Toddler to Teen
Overview of the metamorphic phases of human development: growing up and growing down. The widening chasm between puberty and adolescence. Polarities of adolescence: falling into materiality (“the real world”) and rising into mental abstraction (“the ideal world”). Training powers of thinking and independent judgment in four phases of the high school curriculum.
2 – Adolescence and the Early Years
The infant as “sculptor.” The first three great achievements of uprightness, speaking, and thinking. Imitation as mode of learning. Development of four “lower senses” in the young years as the basis for the unfolding of four “higher senses” in the high school. The crisis of the third year. The grade school child as “musician”. Class teacher and the authority principle as mode of learning. The role of the four temperments. The crises of the ninth/tenth and twelfth years.
3 – The Heart of the Teenage Years
Transition of the thirteenth/fourteenth year into high school. The teenager as “actor”. Developing independent judgement as mode of learning. Themes of the high school curriculum in four phases of adolescent development. The crisis of “sweet sixteen”. Social and anti-social forces in adolescent life. The lure of the erotic and the lust for power. The appeal of sex, drugs, and technology. The mission of loneliness. Extra-curricular and social interests. Preparing youth for life after high school.