Waldorf bans iPads from elementary classrooms

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SAN DIEGO – In the education race for the newest technology, the Waldorf School has taken a different approach.

They have banned all screens in the classroom and tech executives all over the Silicon Valley have signed up their children to learn in a Woldorf environment, free of iPads and computers.

iPad TheftsSome Qualcomm executives in San Diego have also sent their youngsters to study at the tech-free private school.

While the San Diego Unified School District has spent $15 million on 26,000 iPads, Woldorf educators just shake their heads.

“We are training the students to control technology instead of technology controlling them,”said Waldorf administrator Johannes Lasthuas. “Why would we let the computers think for our students.”

Computer technology is introduced in the Waldorf School around ninth grade, but even then most of the work is done by hand.

Waldorf boasts a 92 percent college graduation rate and does not give letter grades. The cost for a student is $12,000 a year.


  • Pete K

    I'd love to see the figures pointing to a 92% college graduation rate. Can these schools provide these figures? Waldorf may "boast" but according to the word on the internet, not everything they claim is true. What is the REAL figure? Will there be any followup on this claim or is the reporter simply going to reprint it without checking the facts? This is nothing more than a puff-piece for a private school system that is failing its students. Where did the 92% figure come from?

    • MafaldaMay

      Our local public Waldorf school here, in Quebec, has a 93% graduation rate, compared to 79% for the non-Waldorf schools in the same school board. These are carefully analyzed and verified data. I cannot speak for all Waldorf schools. And there has been no research that I know of that provides answers as to why Waldorf pedagogy brings about a higher proportion of graduates than the typical regular school. However, it is my personal observation, and that of many other parents and teachers, that students in Waldorf schools really love to learn and adore to go to school on a daily basis. They are emotionally and intellectually involved in the learning process. Their creativity is seeked just as much as their rationality. In that way, it is a holistic, non-compartmentalized pedagogy, which is what is needed to create that spark in a child's mind to become interested in learning and to really be part of the world that he or she lives in.

      • Pete K

        Please see my reply below. Waldorf graduation rates aren't impressive since they are controlled, closed systems. Waldorf grads that do well in college would impress me. No figures for that however.

    • Bhagwan Mortimer

      I'd love to see the data that advocates a child's (K to 6 ) use of the iPad and similar technology in a classroom setting. What exactly does it do for them aside from grooming them to be the next generation of iConsumers?

      And why Apple? You think it's possible that Apple is better connected politically to get in line for your tax dollars? They have a very real, vested interest to be in front of your kids faces as much as possible.

      These devices will not last more than 1.5 years due to student usage, abuse, theft and obsolescence. A waste of 15 Million bucks if you ask me.

    • Doug

      Not sure what you mean by "failing its students". My daughter is a Junior at the Seattle Waldorf High School and has been in the Waldorf schools since age 5. There is no failure going on there.

    • Doug

      At what age and in what grade do you advocate putting the machine (Computer) in front of our students so they will not be failed?

    • Pete K

      College attendance rate? Am I the only one who actually read the statement? Here it is again: "Waldorf boasts a 92 percent college graduation rate"

      GRADUATION RATE! Where are they getting these numbers? Oh yeah… THIN AIR!

  • Hank Rawlings

    What would you like for your children and their development?

    The thousands of neurological pathways that are created in their developing brains by putting pencil to paper, doing handwriting, drawing, coloring inside and outside the lines, making mistakes, erasing, re-doing, starting over etc…

    Or, would you prefer them to have the most direct path to a correct answer by- mastering a limited number of swipes and gestures that correlate to limited number of possible outcomes? I guess the world will still need obedient button pushers in 25 years. (Or, high tech ditch digging if you will…)

    In all seriousness, this is a great dilemma for parents. How will families use technology and to what degree of exposure? Gradual? Immersive? Unfortunately, we won't have an answer until 25 years from now. Until then, it's a crap shoot. Technology changes so rapidly and the technology that our kids will be using in 10-15 years does not even exist yet. So, I sympathize with all parents on this. Schools are trying to do their best and their are some great charter schools that try to balance both pedagogies i.e. High Tech High.

  • Michael

    Waldorf schools prepare their students to be original and creative thinkers. Besides the impressive curriculum, Waldorf pedagogy encourages reflection, contemplation, and deep consideration of the subject matter. Electronic media does exactly the opposite.

  • Pete K

    Yes, we know they graduate Waldorf… Waldorf schools benefit when they graduate large percentages of children. The statement, however, was that 92% graduate COLLEGE. Any data on that? Or just the usual Waldorf PR about Waldorf grads?

    • Hans Dellbruch

      Just to be clear, I believe the figure is:" 92% of Waldorf graduates go on to a 4 year college or university" and not a percentage of actual graduation from said institutions. I've seen that figure before, so this could be a miscommunication.

      • Pete K

        Well, that's a pretty serious mis-communication isn't it? How about a clarification from the author? I know, because I've been paying attention over the years, that Waldorf cooks these numbers. 92% started out as the percentage of graduates that had been *accepted* into college… now, that number has morphed into students that actually attended a "4 year college or university"… and I see here in this article, that it now represents students who have GRADUATED. I'd like some evidence that isn't fabricated regarding the numbers of Waldorf students that graduate college. Oh, and let's not forget the thousands and thousands of students who were drawn in, attended Waldorf, and didn't stay until graduation. How are they doing after having their education disrupted by Waldorf?

        • MafaldaMay

          Pete K., a few things in your message require clarification on your part. Firstly, what do you mean when you say that Waldorf cooks these numbers? Who is that Waldorf you're talking about? Waldorf is a pedagogy, not an entity in itself. Anyone can make mistakes. Even journalists are well known for intentionally twisting facts to be in line with the editorial point of view of the medium they represent. I wouldn't be so quick to blame anyone in particular, if the data mentioned is indeed not accurately reported.

          Secondly, what exactly do you mean when you say that thousands and thousands of students were "drawn in"? I personally know many, many, many parents and students in the Waldorf community around where I live, and no one was "drawn in". We're all well informed, perhaps enough to know that our school is not the evil establishment some people like to think it is.

          Thirdly, why do you assume that because students change school system, their education is necessarily "disrupted" by Waldorf? There are probably just as many students who go from a typical private to public school, or public to private, Montessori to regular, regular to Montessori, and public to Waldorf, etc. It's not a disruption, it's merely a change. Some adaptation is needed, but nothing that makes it a disruption in itself. Not all pedagogy is a perfect fit for every child. It's normal that a system for work with some, and not for others. And it's definitely a good thing to change school if there is better out there for your own child, whatever system it might be.

          • Pete K

            "I wouldn't be so quick to blame anyone in particular, if the data mentioned is indeed not accurately reported. "

            Ah yes, the other big problem with Waldorf schools… No ACCOUNTABILITY! Let's just put ridiculous numbers out there, without sourcing them, and hope people will continue to repeat them.

            "Secondly, what exactly do you mean when you say that thousands and thousands of students were "drawn in"?… "We're all well informed,"

            How do you intend to speak for everyone at your school – or for all Waldorf schools based on your personal experience? At least I went to the trouble of collecting the experiences of others.

            In any case, Waldorf schools are famous for hiding their roots, Anthroposophy. Don't believe me, just look at the websites of Waldorf schools… little or no mention of it – despite that Anthroposophy dictates EVERYTHING the teachers do there. Look at the turnover rates (huge) and then make the claim that people aren't "drawn into" Waldorf. The schools are definitely not what they claim to be – and parent/student turnover demonstrates this.

            "Thirdly, why do you assume that because students change school system, their education is necessarily "disrupted" by Waldorf? "

            If you knew the first thing about Waldorf, you would have to acknowledge that Waldorf schools teach at a slower pace than other schools. So, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that after a year at Waldorf, a child will be behind their peers at other schools. Again, the testimonies of hundreds of parents confirm this is a problem almost unique to Waldorf because of the slow learning.

            It doesn't hurt to do some research outside of your own school sometimes. ;)

  • BKRees

    I have two grandchildren at Waldorf School, S.D. One in eighth grade and one in sixth grade, they are both growing intellectually and learning how to think for themselves. They are polite to visitors on campus and have real poise, "on stage" and off! Any child would be very fortunate to attend this school. Don't know about their college statistics but from what I know of the teachers and students at Waldorf, all of them will excel in whatever they pursue! A college degree isn't always a measure of success in this day and age!!!

    • Pete K

      "A college degree isn't always a measure of success in this day and age!!!"

      Yes, your grand kids could be the next Bill Gates!!! Or not. Why not give them a chance to go to college by putting them in a school that actually prepares them for college? You've already taken away that choice by sending him to Waldorf.

  • Alvarez

    It's sad to read that Pete feels that the Waldorf schools need to "cook" their numbers. He should feel the need to investigate why public schools are laying off thousands of teachers and investing on computers to teach our children. The data isn't out yet, but having worked as a public school teacher, I saw no improvement in the 2 years working on math problems on a computer verses me teaching it orally!!!!! And physically present!!!!

  • marie

    I teach an iPad class focused on vector art.

    Something of what graphic designers use to create all marketing materials you see in your food on your websites on your animations on your apps in your books and all types of media.

    iPad is a tool. We are in the 2013.

    I came from the generation of zero computers and is part of the era that created the very item in question.

    Its like TV. If you allow your child to watch it 24/7 that child may not do so good on a test the next day.

    If you allow a whole system to dictate what your child is best for them without knowing if it is indeed bad.

    Then you are limiting growth.

    My students know how to navigate with the latest technology.

    Some teachers barely know how to email! Now school systems have to spend tax dollars on training them how to use a computer.

    If you want to your future employee to be tech savy. In a world where time is money and money is time.

    Why would you take away. Progress in invention in schools.

    Its backward thinking.

    your very smart phone is a small ipad.

    Kids are smart allow them to be tacticle and expand their minds.

    These inventions came from bright minds that were created because a child was curious to improve upon the technology we use today.

    I bet those teachers have iPads and smart phones at home reading this very column.

    And you are reading this now on some sort of mobile device.

    • MafaldaMay

      On the other hand, you have no clue how to properly write in English, nor how to use punctuation. And you say you are a teacher? More than anything, I want my future employees to know how to write without an orthographic, grammatical or punctuation error every three word.

      We're talking about elementary schools here, where learning how to use an ipad shouldn't come before learning the proper foundations that will teach children not only to love to learn, but to become creative thinkers in a world that really needs it. Nobody debates that it is normal to learn how to write with a pencil before learning how to type on keyboard. Same thing with maths, art, science, etc. Learning in the real world, in interaction with what surrounds them, is what is needed to create the proper brain connections in children, so that they become interconnected with their world and involved in their life. In the Waldorf pedagogy, information technologies are indeed used, but only towards the end of middle school, sometimes at the beginning of high school, when it's definitely not too late to become tech savvy.

      And then, there is home and life out of school, where kids can definitely catch up on other things than what is taught in school. It's not like it's difficult to navigate an iPad… My 19-month old knows how to use many apps, and she's used my ipad only 3 or 4 times. My 4-year old is definitely ipad savvy, although she's barely used my ipad. It's that easy.

      I am not worried the least about my kids future abilities to find really good jobs at the end of their school years. In fact, I am less worried than if they went to a non-Waldorf school, because this pedagogy brings them what other systems don't: higher self-esteem, higher sense of civil responsibility, higher creativity and critical thinking abilities, things that help shape a better world and bring about happier human beings.

      • Pete K

        "I am less worried than if they went to a non-Waldorf school, because this pedagogy brings them what other systems don't: higher self-esteem, higher sense of civil responsibility, higher creativity and critical thinking abilities, things that help shape a better world and bring about happier human beings."

        There is NOTHING to suggest this happens at Waldorf schools… nothing at all… Especially not judging by their graduates. Waldorf grads are typically horrible at spelling, BTW? It's a frequent comment among critics.

        • Runonymousteiner

          Arguing, even logically and with good intention, with this person will get you nowhere but frustrated. It is his crusade to tear down Waldorf education and those people associated with it. The time when differing perspectives, experiences, and realities were respected by him ended long ago. Save your energy. He is a bully.

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