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The first Waldorf education program commenced in 1919, in interwar Germany, after the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart invited Dr. Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) to help launch an autonomous grade school for the factory’s workers’ children—one as free from state interference as possible. This school, and those that followed, offered a curriculum rich in the arts, heavy on experiential learning, and light on summative testing.

Waldorf pedagogy has its roots in anthroposophy, a holistic philosophy that Steiner developed after contemplating the thinking of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Rosicrucian and Theosophist ideas. Often defined as “the wisdom of humankind,” anthroposophy offers a path to self-development resting on the assumption that a nonmaterial or spiritual universe interpenetrates and informs the material one.

Anthroposophy is not taught in Waldorf schools ...

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