Book Review of “Will-Developed Intelligence”

Book Review

David Mitchell and Patricia Livingstone, Will-Developed Intelligence: Handwork and Practical Arts in the Waldorf School. Elementary through High School (Fair Oaks CA, ASNA, 1999)

Review by Lindsay Myers

Waldorf education is characterised by its holistic and integrated approach to teaching and learning and Mitchell and Livingstone’s Will-Developed Intelligence: Handwork and Practical Arts in the Waldorf School provides an excellent overview of the role of handwork and the arts in elementary and secondary schools. The aim of the practical arts curriculum is to stimulate the creative powers through a conscious guidance of the student’s developing will, and the theoretical introduction to this volume describes in a detailed and highly informative how activity and movement enhance cognition in students.

Handwork and crafts are imaginatively and artistically taught in Waldorf schools, and the lessons in painting, form drawing, knitting, crochet, embroidery, felting, beeswax carving, sewing, woodwork, metalwork, weaving, leatherwork, basket making, bookbinding, and pottery are all introduced in an age appropriate manner so as to support and complement the other subjects in the school. The aim of the practical arts curriculum is not to create artists but to strengthen and harmonize the rhythmic systems of the body, and Livingston and Mitchell’s first-hand accounts of how they, as teachers, encouraged their students, regardless of ability or temperament to share and develop their aesthetic confidence is an inspiring read.

Divided into 24 chapters, each of which explains in a chronological sequence the various practical arts taught in each year of the Steiner curriculum. This book is easy to dip into, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the place and purpose of the practical arts in Waldorf schools. Practical subjects, artistic lessons and activities involving the hand should not be decorative factors in the school curriculum but integral components of a balanced education for it is only be experiencing the world first-hand that students can develop the security, confidence and self-esteem necessary to survive in our complex and changing world.