JASWECE

Vision Statement

■Vision Statement:

*Adopted on February 7, 2010, at the Annual Conference

The mission of Steiner education may be expressed as an endeavor to support each individual child’s way to become at one with him/herself (freedom). This state of being at one with yourself means coming to feel the reason why you were born, to know when you are happy, or what activity makes you happy.

When Steiner education describes itself as an “education toward freedom”, there is a wish to accompany the child to the point where he or she starts living his/her life with joy, being at one with him/herself. In fact, one of the reasons for Rudolf Steiner to found a new school was, as he put it, “because there are more and more people who do not know what it actually is that they want to do,”

In our present-day society, there are also more and more children and young adults, who are lumped together under the categories of “NEET” (Not in education, employment or training), social withdrawers, and school rejectors. They can be understood as people who have difficulty in their process of becoming at one with themselves, or rather, as those who are more conscious of the fact that they are not at one with themselves.

In the background there is the reality that, with the widening gap between the rich and poor, living itself is becoming more and more difficult. The physical environment puts a hindrance to people’s living their own lives.

Rudolf Steiner laid the foundation for the first Waldorf School as part of the social movement he had launched in the chaotic situation after the First World War. His aim in this engagement was to provide such social conditions that make it possible for each individual human being to live at one with him/herself from childhood onward, because he envisaged that this was necessary in order for each individual to fulfill his/her task as well as for the humanity as a whole to progress in its evolution.

True human society should be an environment for each individual human being to live at one with him/herself. There the most appropriate vision seems to be that of a “living society”(that is, society as an organism where life principles are at work as in all living beings). This was the basic idea for Rudolf Steiner’s “threefold social movement”.

When we keep in mind the above ideas as the goals and background of Waldorf / Steiner education, we see that our aim in early childhood education should also be derived from the same source. We only need to realize that, in the case of early childhood education, we are dealing with the “root” of human development and, on the social level, with family and home as the heart of society, where one to one relationship plays the central role.

That is to say, it is important for a kindergarten or day-care center as a practicing field of early childhood education that, the human relationship is genuine and honest without any lies, just as this is of great importance in a family or home situation. We could say that it is in the field of early childhood education that the ideals of Waldorf education are most radically sought.

Therefore, the kindergarten teacher and care-giver should be able to really feel the spiritual origin of the human being. This does not mean to say that he/she should only “believe” or “swallow” Steiner’s ideas as a dogma, but rather a feeling for this spiritual origin should be naturally born and developed in each one of us, as we closely observe the child’s growing process, especially the manifestation of the most sacred human abilities of walking, speaking and thinking. Likewise, the main task of a kindergarten teacher’s training consists in nurturing each student’s sense for the divinity (irreplaceability) that dwells in every child. When we are convinced of this irreplaceability (divinity) of each child, we could instinctively act to protect our children and commit ourselves to the work for childhood. On the other hand, when there is no such conviction, whatever “knowledge” we might acquire about child development, the care and education we give would not be accompanied by genuine love, unable to provide the support that the child needs in its respective stage of development.

As Dr. von Kuegelgen called Rudolf Steiner’s anthropology “a science filled with love”, studying Steiner education should lead to the development of abilities of love.

In Japan, Steiner education was first introduced more than 30 years ago. Ever since, much has been accomplished through the endeavors of many pioneers. Sometimes, on the other hand, our Steiner education, which is supposed to bring about love as we study it, has unfortunately expressed the contrary characters of hardness and exclusiveness by rejecting other methods or by saying: “that should not be allowed in a Steiner kindergarten.” Although we own a great debt of gratitude to and feel deep respect for the efforts of our pioneers, we should be fully aware of the danger that ideas could tie people down.

In his “Philosophy of Freedom”, Rudolf Steiner emphasized the importance of the attitude to “face the idea in experiencing it, and not be a slave to it”. The same attitude should be applied to Steiner education and Anthroposophy.

How could we, then, “face the idea in experiencing it” in our Japanese Association for Steiner / Waldorf Early Childhood Education”?

Our future task will be twofold: On one hand, we will consciously try to “deepen” our inner attitude on the foundation of Steiner education, and on the other, to “open up” toward society. And as a bridge to connect these two directions, we have our practice and artistic activities. That is, hand work, circle games (Reigen), singing, music, painting and other activities with bodily movements should be regarded as elements that connect the inner deepening with the social opening.

Thus, we could summarize our association’s task in the following way:

  • Study and understanding of Rudolf Steiner’s anthropological ideas (inner deepening);

  • Interest for and sharing of current social issues and information (social opening);

  • Acquisition and sharing of methods and didactics, organizing of courses (the artistic between the internal and external).

When we grasp our task in this manner, we realize that there is reflected the threefold social principle, namely, the nerve-sensory system, the metabolic system and the respiratory-circulatory (rhythmic) system that mediates between the two poles, which constitute an important viewpoint also in the anthroposophic medicine.

These three principles form a basis on which the kindergarten day is shaped with its rhythms, and here we see the foundation for Waldorf / Steiner education, especially early childhood education as “preventive medicine”.

In the structure of our association, this threefold principle plays an important role. We can imagine the association itself as a living organism. What constitute this association are its member kindergartens and individuals. In other words, it is very important to realize that the association means its members. Its center, the board or the executive members play the part of the central organ of the rhythmic system, the heart. Rudolf Steiner did not see in the heart the mere function of a pump, but that of a perceiving sense organ (If it were a pump, it would lead to the image of a centralized state). The heart perceives through the ever-circulating blood, what is happening in different organs of the body.

Thus, the main task of our executive members should be seen in feeling and perceiving what is happening in our association. What kinds of problems are the kindergartens all over Japan are faced with? What is it that occupies the minds of our members. What activities are in progress? Ideally, all these topics should be reported and taken up in our newsletter. We will be exploring the possibilities for communicating our members’ voices among us in the years to come.

Then, having perceived the feelings and thoughts of our members, it will be our task to provide information, advice, or lectures and courses that might meet their needs, thus supplying nutrition to our association as a living organism.

In fact, each individual member of our association is living in the outside society. That is, turning our attention to the activities of our members is directed outward, and the inner, spiritual side of our association lies in the mind of its individual members. There are the spiritual resources for the association’s nutrition.

The mind or spiritual activity, in the organism, does not necessarily relate to the nerve-sensory system. Rather, the most spiritual side may be seen in our limbs and metabolic system. What we have learned and internalized supplies through blood, or invisible canals, the spiritual nutrition to our association.

In order that the above mentioned vision of our association should become reality, there needs to be within each one of us the awareness that we ourselves constitute this association, that our inner deepening gives strength to the association and also to the development Steiner early childhood education in Japan.

Thus, we have stated the vision and goals of our association that its representative and executive members share.

This vision statement was discussed on the 5th and 6th of February 2010 at the annual conference and adopted by those present (some eighty). With this vision, we have taken a step forward as association.

Japanese Association for Steiner / Waldorf Early Childhood Association

Representative: Kai Iruma

Executive members: Hajime Kira, Yoshiko Shimamura, Mitsuhiro Ariyoshi, Sachiko Uehara, Rieko Oka, Hiroko Goto, Mayumi Suzuki, Sono Matsuura, Atsuhiko Mori