During our visit to New York, we had the opportunity to sit down with Jon McAlice at the Farm Store in Harlemville. We were interested in meeting with Jon after Elizabeth participated in a workshop with him at this summer’s AWSNA’s conference. During that week, he offered a host of questions around impulse and form for Waldorf Education. How do the forms out of which we work serve the deeper impulses guiding our pedagogy? Where have forms become models? Are we still meeting the true impulse?
Meeting in Harlemville, the question we have been holding of center and periphery came right into the beginning of our conversation. For many years, Jon was the co-chair of the Pedagogical Section at the Goetheanum along with Heinz Zimmerman. As one focus of his work, he shifted the funding to send more support outward. The task of the Goetheanum, he said, is to let it flow. We should be supporting the work on the periphery. Jon traveled all around and heard the questions that were living in the movement. During this time the funding available for the work increased from 90,000 to 500,000 Swiss Francs.
Around 1999/2000, Jon moved away from Dornach to the periphery. The future of anthroposophy, Jon says, is in the relationship between people. He is a self-described “ardent anti-institutionalist.” He has brought together gatherings of teachers where they need to come with honest questions without representing or carrying any association with an institution, which speaks to new forms coming forth out of the work itself.
The question we need to be asking ourselves is not what we should do, but how we should do. The true impulse of our work is a different way of knowing. When studying Steiner, we can approach him with a Kantian mind, a Wittgenstein Ian mind, or a Zen mind. To truly understand his work, however, we should approach Steiner with a Steiner mind. We need to develop a consciousness of our internal response. “The soul is a stage of real cosmic events.” When we understand this reality, we can change the cosmos. Let’s do it! Let’s create a new reality! We are in a process of world-becoming.
Education is at a crossroads. “Do we understand the impulse deeply enough to create new realities?” We can start with a consideration of Study of Man, for example. In the tenth lecture, Steiner man as sphere, microcosm and macrocosm. This is just one example of the work we can penetrate more deeply. This lecture can be found here:http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/StudyMan/19190901a01.html
It seems that it is the practice we’ve lost. Study itself is a piece of practice and is not always taken up as deeply or regularly as it needs to be. Meditative practices work! Thinking leads to development. As we move into the second stage of the Consciousness Soul, what will we create? There is a cultural impetus in our work. The classroom today can be considered a space of encounter. We are no longer merely preparing students for the “real world” that happens after graduation. The classroom is the real world. It is the space of the encounter. The future is in the present.
Kids today deserve more than programs. An example of current work that Jon finds exciting is Marisha Plotnik’s math lab at the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City. The combined math/science course is an integrated approach to a unified subject. This space is hotly loved by the kids.
We raised the question about re-imagining the Goetheanum to strengthen the work between center and periphery. Considering finances, Jon suggested, we could look to a one for one matching program, where for every dollar that goes to the Goetheanum stage, for example, one dollar goes to the anthroposophical movement at large. We need true movement for our movement before we need form.
Jon says it is time to create a new anthroposophical cultural reality. He has co-founded the Center for Contextual Studies, which he calls a non-center. It is a collaborative endeavor in anthroposophical research:
“The Center for Contextual Studies was founded by five teachers who have been involved in Waldorf education for many years, both nationally and internationally. The Center’s purpose is to engage in and support collaborative action-based research that can lead beyond the current boundaries of conventional knowledge to a quality of understanding that enables human consciousness to participate fully in the spiritual reality of our world and the forces shaping it.” Besides Jon, the other founders are Marisha Plotnik, Robert Sim, Michele Starr, and Beth Weisburn.
To read Jon’s work, Dear ‘Human-Centred Design’, meet ‘Child-Centred Education’…go here: