|As consumers, Americans are provided more choices than anyone on the planet. We are presented with a cornucopia of pre-packaged products from pretzels to presidents. Everywhere we look - on TV, on radio, on billboards, newspapers, magazines - we are bombarded with reasons to select an infinite and endless stream of products.
As parents, we are not nearly as well informed about our choices regarding one of the most important decisions of our lives - the education of our children.
Isn't it odd that the one choice which affects not only our childrens' entire lives, but also the future of the world should receive such little attention? For nearly 100 years, the educational choices parents have been offered have been limited to only a few basics - public vs. private, and if private, the choices multiply - religious vs. non-religious with alternative emphasis on themes such as arts, Montessori or perhaps military. And these are for those fortunate enough to be able to afford educational choices at all. But of all the parents who have wrestled with selecting the type of school they will send their children to, how many have ever considered that there may be choices between teaching methods?
Eric Stacey has thought about it - alot. He made a documentary film about one method of teaching that is, according to one expert, "The best kept secret in America." Stacey's CINE Golden Eagle Award winning documentary is entitled "The Waldorf Promise," which, since its first release in 1998, has grown in popularity at over 1,000 colleges and universities with teacher education programs allowing student teachers an opportunity to see for themselves what Stacey was so excited about - Waldorf teaching Methods as used by 8 very enthusiastic teachers in as many U.S. public schools from California to New York.
In 1997, Stacey was so inspired by the teachers he had observed over the first 9 years of his daughter's K-8 (private/non-religious) "Waldorf" schooling that he loaded his pickup truck full of equipment and drove coast to coast filming teachers using the Waldorf methods in U.S. public schools in rural Washington, in Sacramento and San Diego, California, in Flagstaff, Arizona, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and on the West Side in Manhattan. The result was his award winning documentary, which has been selling to colleges and universities for $150 a copy since 1998.
The program is now available nation-wide at the more affordable price of $19.95 on DVD, providing parents of every social and economic level an opportunity to see what can be achieved when a community of like-minded adults decides to found a public charter school using Waldorf methods. The special features section provides contact information on a growing number of demonstration schools and key groups supporting citizens interested in starting similar schools in their own communities.
A look behind the scenes of "The Waldorf Promise" reveals some interesting background. The film's Consulting Producer, Joan Jaeckel, is the founder of a national group called CEED ("Citizens' Endowment for Education and Democracy") which is a national campaign to help bring K-12 education in America into alignment with 21st Century consciousness and today's values. Some of the CEED coalition include well known educators and thinkers - Dee Dickinson (New Horizons for Learning), Paul D. Houston (American Alliance of School Administrators), Elaine M. Lamy (Educators for Social Responsibility), Tim Seldin (Montessori Foundation), David Marshak (Seattle University), Arline Monks (The Waldorf Approach for Public School Teachers at Rudolf Steiner College), and Steve Bonchek (Harmony Education Center), among others.
So, although "The Waldorf Promise" was made by just one filmmaker whose most recent film is a low budget comedy horror movie, what his documentary points to is nothing less than a growing grassroots movement of schools in the public sector attuned to the way childhood works and how we think and operate in the 21st Century. The documentary is being offered as a tool to help America's parents and teachers make informed choices about what the school experience could be, as citizens about our public policy options, and as socially conscious investors about options in targeting philanthropic gifts. "The Waldorf Promise" gives us hope knowing that an important transformation in education is already well on its way to becoming a fact in the United States.
Noted author, Margaret Wheatley, Ed.D, suggests that "Every parent, teacher and adult who wants children to relish their education needs to see this video." She is not alone. The documentary has received praise from Library Journal, Booklist and Video Librarian. Even Waldorf graduate Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express, has endorsed the video. With "The Waldorf Promise" now priced at $19.95, pro-active parents, teachers and adults across America will become better equipped to take a more active role in re-enlivening public schools able to deliver primary education which produces children who love to learn and students who achieve.