The History of Waldorf Education
Developed by Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf education is based on a profound understanding of human development that transforms teaching into an artistic and health-giving approach to education. Waldorf education inspires a life-long love of learning in children and adults alike.
In April of 1919, the German nation, defeated in war, was teetering on the brink of economic, social, and political chaos. Rudolf Steiner visited the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany, at this time and spoke to the workers about the need for social renewal, for a new way of organizing society and its political and cultural life.
Emil Molt, the owner of the Waldorf Astoria company, asked Steiner if he would establish and lead a school for the children of the employees of the factory. Steiner agreed but set four conditions, each of which went against common practice of the day: 1) that the school be open to all children; 2) that it be coeducational; 3) that it be a unified twelve-year school; 4) that the teachers, those individuals actually in contact with the children, have primary control of the school, with minimum interference from the state or from economic sources. Steiner's conditions were radical for the day, but Molt gladly agreed to them. On September 7, 1919, the independent Waldorf School (Die Freie Waldorfschule) opened its doors.
Today, with more than 900 Waldorf schools in 83 countries, Waldorf Education is the fastest growing independent educational movement in the world. In North America Waldorf has been available since 1928, and there are now over 250 schools and 14 teacher training centers in some level of development. These schools exist in large cities and small towns, suburbs and rural enclaves. No two schools are identical; each is administratively independent. Nevertheless, a visitor would recognize many characteristics common to them all.