ERIC Number: ED355165
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1991-Apr
The Symbolic Order of School: Waldorf and College Prep.
Henry, Mary E.
Schools embody a "symbolic order" communicated through school rituals and social and symbolic relationships. Schools possess a moral vision, a system of values and norms that they wish to develop in students. This paper compares the symbolic order of two independent schools, one a traditional college preparatory school (preschool-grade 12), the other a less well known school, called a Waldorf school (nursery-grade 6). The focus was on the elementary grades, although attention also was given to the whole school program. Both schools are in a wealthy, middle-sized Southeastern community with a population of 100,000. The study utilized observations, interviews, tape recordings, videotaping lessons and events, and the study of curricular and other documents. Lessons, rituals, festivals, ceremonies, sporting events, parent and faculty meetings, open days, and other events were repeatedly observed, documented, and analyzed. In the discussion and comparison of each school, three areas of school life were considered: (1) organization of the school day and activities; (2) pedagogy or the teaching-learning process; and (3) the curriculum. The study revealed areas of school life that differed significantly between the schools. Each school's symbolic order embodied quite different conceptions of the world, relations to others, and the individual. Waldorf school's symbolism about the world sends a message of democratic, egalitarian values in an organic, interdependent world: knowledge is taught in wholes not parts, and through storytelling not abstractions. College Prep's symbolism conveys instead the school's belief in progress and a hierarchical conception of the world. Contains 46 references. (DB)
Descriptors: College Preparation, Cultural Context, Educational Anthropology, Educational Objectives, Educational Research, Educational Sociology, Educational Theories, Elementary Secondary Education, Private Schools, Public Schools, Role of Education, Sociocultural Patterns, Teaching Methods, Values Education, Waldorf Method
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Chicago, IL, April 4-7, 1991).