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Tag: learning disabilities

Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching from the Inside Out

This book by Jack Petrash, who has over 25 years of teaching experience, provides an in-depth yet easy-t0-comprehend guide to Waldorf education. The concept for Waldorf education was created by Rudolf Steiner, and Waldorf schools have been around since 1919. But mainstream education appears to be moving away from the three-dimensional approach that Waldorf encourages (artistic, physical and academic) and putting more focus instead on things like standardized testing and other external symbols of achievement.

Waldorf education encourages the development of the whole child, not just for their career or next level of education, but so they can give their own life direction and be economically and socially responsible. Some other important concepts taught through the Waldorf method include learning to separate emotion from action, learning to combine feelings with thinking (which results in idealism), self-discipline, and not specializing too early. Waldorf education also advises against introducing children to technology too early, without first allowing them to become accustomed to the world without it.  Waldorf education encourages children to “try some of everything” in the early years of their education and become well-rounded. Learning through imitation and leading by example is highly encouraged with Waldorf education, instead of simply instructing children what to do and hoping they follow suit.

One of the main principles of Waldorf education is to follow the rhythm of the learning of the child, and to try to align education based on where the child’s interests lie at any given stage of their life. Also, in Waldorf schools a particular class has the same teacher as their main instructor from first through eighth grade. This process is called “looping.” Also, with Waldorf education, grade school students make their own readers in bound books starting in first grade, and create their own textbooks and workbooks as well throughout grade school and high school. These concepts and more are covered in Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching from the Inside Out.

About the Author


Eric Utne, founder of the Utne Reader:

“Jack Petrash’s eloquent, wise, and deeply moving book gives me a new found appreciation for Waldorf education. Even though I have been a Waldorf parent for nearly twenty-five years and a Waldorf teacher for nearly two years, I found Petrash’s explanation of the curriculum’s three-fold approach fresh and illuminating. Whether you are a parent, an educator, a policy maker, or simply a person interested in human growth and learning, read this book. You will learn how relevant education through the “head, heart, and hands” can be for our children and for the future we hope to create.”

About the Author

Jack Petrash is an educator with over 40 years of experience in the classroom. He has written a considerable amount of insightful information on education and parenting. His other books include Covering Home: Lessons on the Art of Fathering from Baseball and Navigating the Terrain of Childhood: A Guidebook for Meaningful Parenting and Heartfelt Discipline. Petrash is also the founder and director of the Nova Institute, which encourages the convergence of Steiner-Waldorf education and mainstream education. He currently resides in Kensington, Maryland.

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, 25th Anniversary Edition

With over 100 years of mandatory schooling behind us now, we have seen the progression of issues such as illiteracy and learning disabilities in our children. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, which is John Taylor Gatto’s radical treatise on how the formal education system is damaging our children and families, is a true eye-opener. This New Society Publisher’s bestseller was originally published in 1992, had a 10th anniversary edition published in 2002, and the most recent 25th anniversary edition was printed in 2017, with a foreword from Zachary Stayback, who is an Ivy League dropout and cofounder of tech startup career foundry Praxis.

Gatto, who spent 30 years teaching in the public school system before writing this book, is an advocate for education being central to the family, instead of being used to separate children from their families. In the book, Gatto makes a strong case that effective education should promote individuality and privacy instead of conformity. Gatto is an advocate for home schooling, and points out how back in the 1800s children’s skill levels were developed much earlier than they are now, and far beyond what our school systems consider acceptable nowadays. The book also introduces the idea that genius is a very common quality that is being suppressed in our society, and we have been made to believe that genius is a rarity.

Dumbing Us Down, which opens with a speech given by Gatto in 1991 when he was named “Teacher of the Year,” is known to be a fairly easy read. In the book, Gatto explains how the modern public school system is driving out the natural curiosity and problem-solving skills children are born with, and replacing it with rule-following, fragmented time, and disillusionment. Gatto encourages children to be their own teachers and in charge of designing their own education. And he makes a strong case for why the mass education system that has developed in America does not support democracy or any of the values the United States was taught as a result of the American Revolution.

While Gatto explains how the school system itself is setting children up for failure, he also believes there are many humane and caring teachers in our schools that are just caught in a faulty system. Another key takeaway from this extremely valuable and timeless text is Gatto’s concept that “the teaching function, in a healthy community, belongs to everyone,” and that we should not just be looking to education professionals to define “good teaching.”

About the Author

John Taylor Gatto was born in on December 15, 1935, in Monongahela, Pennsylvania. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Pittsburgh, as well as Cornell and Columbia in New York. Gatto then served in the U.S. Army medical corps at Fort Knox, Kentucky and Fort Houston, Texas. After his military service, Gatto completed graduate work at the City University of New York, Hunter College, Yeshiva, the University of California, and Cornell.

Before and during Gatto’s teaching career, he served in various other occupations, many of which involved writing. He wrote scripts for the film business, wrote for advertising, was an ASCAP songwriter, and eventually founded Lava Mt. Records, which is an award-winning documentary record producer. Gatto’s record company has completed a variety of big-name projects, including presentations of speeches from Richard M. Nixon and Spiro Agnew.

Gatto’s teaching career garnered him quite a few awards. He was named New York City Teacher of the Year three times, and then held the title of New York State Teacher of the Year. After leaving his teaching career after 30 years, telling the Wall Street Journal that he was “no longer willing to hurt children,” he moved on to become a much-sought-after public speaker on the topic of school reform. His speaking engagements took him across all 50 states in the U.S., and to seven foreign countries.

Gatto had also recieved other awards, such as the Alexis de Tocqueville Award for his contributions to the cause of liberty. From 1996 on, he has been included in the Who’s Who in America. He has authored a handful of other books, including A Different Kind of Teacher and The Underground History of American Education.

Gatto passed away on October 25, 2018. His obituary on the website for the Foundation for Economic Education stated that after three decades in the classroom, “Gatto dedicated the rest of his life to repairing the damage done by the public education system.”



Meryn Callander, author and co-founder of the Alliance for Transforming the Lives of Children:

“Gatto presents a credible case for his belief that school is an essential support system for a model of social engineering that condemns most people to be subordinate stones in a pyramidal social order, even though such a premise is a fundamental betrayal of the American Revolution.”