"These Three Forces"
The public schools of
the early 1900s were not
satisfactory for craftsmen.
They were too limited
and thus too limiting --
designed to turn out
and not artisans.
The craftsmen had
their own system of
mentors and apprentices,
of course, which worked
very well for imparting trades
but not so well for academics.
They tried to adapt the methods
of public school to Arts and Crafts,
but that didn't work any better.
Besides, they were artists --
they argued about everything.
They had differing opinions
on what to teach, how to teach,
who should be taught, and
where to put the school.
They had difficulty
getting supplies and
they had to make do
with what they could get.
Of course they could make
things for themselves --
they were craftsmen! --
but first they had to agree
on what to make, and that
was easier said than done.
The Folk Mote in Rose Valley
bickered about it for years
without making much progress.
Then in 1920, Alice Barber Stephens
discovered that some fellow named
Steiner over in Germany had already
established an alternative school
that balanced crafts and academics.
"Listen to this," she said, and then read
a quote from Steiner. "Our highest endeavor
must be to develop free human beings who
are able of themselves to impart purpose
and direction to their lives. The need for
imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling
of responsibility — these three forces
are the very nerve of education."
Elenore Plaisted Abbott was
intrigued. "That's pretty much
what we're all about, isn't it?
We're free spirits, we make things,
and we care about our community."
"Exactly!" said Alice. "I don't
suppose it's practical for any of us
to visit Germany, but several folks
in Rose Valley have relatives there.
If we all write them, then perhaps
someone could connect us with
that school over in Stuttgart."
So they asked around town
and encouraged everyone with
family in Germany to write letters.
It took months, but eventually
they got through to Mr. Steiner,
who was delighted by the prospect
of opening a new school in America.
He gushed about how it would combine
handwork with reading and writing,
music and theater and eurythmy.
So the craftsmen of Rose Valley
built the Astoria School, which
taught through high school and
prepared students for a variety
of practical trades and fine arts,
free to all children in the town.
It even taught German, and
in later years taught classes
spoken in German, much to
the delight of residents who had
family back in the old country.
A year later, the Folk Mote
reviewed the year-end reports
and declared itself satisfied.
* * *
"Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility — these three forces are the very nerve of education."
-- Rudolf Steiner
View a timeline about the history of education in America. A lot changed in the 1900s. Schools were designed to produce factory workers, which is both harmful and unsuited to work outside factories. Fortunately, Arts and Crafts America found a better way!
The Arts and Crafts Movement spread around the world, with different iterations in different countries.
Rose Valley is an Arts and Crafts community in Pennsylvania.
Alice Barber Stephens (July 1, 1858 – July 13, 1932) was a painter, engraver, and educator who lived in Rose Valley.
Elenore Plaisted Abbott (1875–1935) was a book illustrator, scenic designer, and painter. She lived in Rose Valley and promoted education for women.
Waldorf schools began in 1919 -- ironically, to educate the children of factory workers. The school system supports the body, soul, and spirit. Its curriculum includes plenty of handwork and thus tends to mesh well with the Arts and Crafts Movement. Grading can be done in different ways, but often uses a year-end report instead of letter grades.
Language immersion is the best way to teach a foreign language for several reasons. There are pros and cons to offering only one foreign language at a school. Students lose the choice over a very significant thing, because language influences thought. But they gain a language community, and it is community that keeps language alive. In this regard, language support maintains immigrant culture so it doesn't get lost. Rose Valley likes the Waldorf school partly because it matches the locally-prevalent German ancestry.