A Waldorf Student Speaks out About “Media in the Classroom”

This article was written by Tony Gonzalez, a 12th Grade student of the Pangkat Maharlika homeschool, A Steiner-Waldorf initiative. It was published in the Young Blood section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer on January 28, 2016

Growing up in an alternative system of schooling means that I wasn’t encouraged to use and be involved with any form of the media as a child. Although it seemed impossible, and despite having my own share of music and television, I wasn’t as exposed to the media as other children. In school, we sang songs taught by the teacher, we drew without using lines, we listened to stories, we watched puppet shows, and we played in the mud. I had a childhood that wasn’t defined by whether or not I could read and use technology; I had a childhood full of imagination.

My school’s curriculum is based on the development of a human being, and addresses the growth of a child. It focuses on the role of imagination in education and learning, integrating the artistic, practical and intellectual nourishment of its students. The goal is for students and teachers to be free, morally knowledgeable individuals who know where they stand in the world. It is, in our country, what you would call a “nontraditional” practice of teaching and education. But it is what I grew up with, and so what you would call “normal schooling” is a whole new world to me.

When I worked in a traditional school for a week as an assistant teacher in the preschool, I was a little shocked. To begin with, it had music blasting through speakers so early in the morning, while the children arrived. And they started their day singing, like in Waldorf, except with a CD player. They had books about their lessons, and also story books in a corner of the room. They were taught what a circle is, had lessons on “above” and “under.” They watched videos about nature, and had quizzes on how to save it.

They also learn how to use computers, and this subject becomes heavier in grade school. My sister, who is in Grade 7, is required to edit images, print things for their “scrap books,” and use calculators for math.

I think that it is important for children to live in a physical world first, that they should listen to an actual human voice instead of something recorded, that they should be in nature instead of watching it from a projector, and that they must discover what a circle is through exploration of art. I believe that childhood is all about experience and adventure, finding out how things work by trying them out. I feel that if a child grows up with a mind full of imagination and possibility, there is so much more potential for self-discovery and a greater relationship with the world.

There are good lessons that children can learn from TV and the media; teaching is also made more convenient, since the material is just a click away. But is it worth it that children are being influenced how to think, and that they are being limited to books, iPads, radios, and TV screens? I didn’t use a calculator until I was in Grade 9, and I was never required to print things until I was in Grade 8. I was even using encyclopedias for research until Grade 6. I learned how to do things manually, and I wasn’t dependent on the Internet, which I think is one of the reasons I’m still a little ambivalent about things I see and hear online.

There are just so many things a child can do. The world is here for them to discover, and it is their playground. Why are we caging them in the world of adults that they will eventually enter anyway? We shouldn’t tie them to a chair to sit and watch. How will they learn to be free if it’s only their fingers and eyes that move? How will they learn to listen if they hear music from a gadget?

I understand that the children are our future, but their minds will not be exercised if they keep depending on technology, objects with no emotions. They need to feel, to be compassionate, and to have empathy. Although there are programs and movies that teach that, knowing is still different from understanding. In order to truly understand something, you must first experience what it is like to be in that situation, because it is not only the mind that learns, but the body and soul as well.