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Temperaments - Helpful Tool or Dangerous Stereotype?

We would like to hear from you:


In a recent handwork teacher training weekend discussion, we delved into the temperaments. Each small group was assigned a reading, and their assignment was to present – i.e., to teach everyone else – about the four temperaments. It was astonishing and exciting to see all the ways that emerged – beautiful paintings; a kindergarten puppet show; a paper marionette puppet show; 4 people wearing different hats (literally) to personify the different temperaments; a skit with one person speaking the ‘inner voice’ of the teacher (along the lines “oh no, what now?”), and another taking on the ‘outer’ voice mustering all the self-control and patience she could; ……. and so much more.


It was fun, informative, memorable, and extremely well received. And then came the questions, concerns, serious doubts and honest criticism. Are these stereotypes? Are they outmoded? Are these four aspects of a human being too limited? Have we learned nothing about human nature in these 100 years? Are we pigeon-holing and limiting our perception to these four ‘windows’ into children (and ourselves and each other)?


At Waldorf Handwork Educators, we welcome these probing and uncomfortable questions when based on a fundamental understanding of Steiner’s work. We acknowledge the high value of his insights and teaching, while also recognizing the need for renewal in many areas, 100 years from the founding of the first Waldorf school.


Here are some of the shared thoughts and reflections, in our students’ own words, but edited to maintain personal anonymity. We would like to know what you think.


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In its current form, I think it’s arguable the temperaments cause more harm in schools than good. For newer teachers, parents, families, administrators, etc., the language is off putting and used as kind of a shorthand in discussing what should be a complex individual

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The temperaments classification does not reflect the complexity of the world’s children today. We are, in fact, in the midst of an evolution of consciousness as evidenced by so many global events and movements in the present day. Waldorf education is not immune to these movements, and should in fact evolve to find its place within all this change and globalism. If the world our children are living in is changing, then we too must change to meet those children. Recent global events are a reminder