The Simpsons gave a well-crafted, comic shout out to Waldorf Education during their Season 26 finale for 2015 — “Mathlete’s Feat”, which aired May 17, 2015.
After a scathing math competition defeat, tech bigwigs take pity on Springfield Elementary and outfit the school with all the latest technology. But Principal Skinner’s ineptitude leads to a server farm crash and the school loses all tech, which the students only used to watch Game of Thrones. This is when Lisa comes up with an idea that will save the school — “Learning while Doing.” Springfield Elementary becomes a Waldorf School!
From there the students learn by doing in tongue-in-cheek fashion — calculating the cubic feet of styrofoam to add to the sloppy joe mix, pouring pints of beer in fractions, wearing required sun hats, and singing songs of acceptance, love and diversity. In the end, their new Waldorf Education helps them win the mathlete rematch by transforming an M into nine non-overlapping triangles.
The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America was pleased with the level of in-depth knowledge The Simpsons writers clearly possessed about pedagogy and stereotypes associated with Waldorf Education, which made this fun caricature both lighthearted and flattering.
The Simpsons Writer Insight:
Math – Mathematics education is very advanced in Waldorf schools. Math is revealed to students as a useful and real part of everyday life. Numbers, processes and then mathematical concepts are introduced through doing — counting and holding, paper folding, musical interval training, and calculations to create rope and pulley systems are just a few examples of how math is taught in Waldorf schools. We are not surprised that the Springfield Waldorf School could answer such a difficult final math equation to win the math competition. The challenge of drawing the nine non-overlapping triangles mimics the lessons in form drawings taught in our curriculum — another intersection of math, art, and doing experienced in Waldorf Education.
Sun Hats – Why of course! Waldorf students are prepared for all weather, at all times. Why? Because, unlike many of their non-Waldorf peers, they still play outdoors for recess 3-4 times a day and also have classes outdooring such as science, physical education and gardening. Of course, hats for our adults are optional and they’re not required indoors. Nor is tie dye a requirement.
Technology – In the episode, Marge reads a pamphlet which says, “Waldorf Education: When you have Given up on the Modern World.” Considering the popularity of Waldorf Education among the children of Silicon Valley tech executives, this is clearly not quite the case, but it had been a stereotype of the past. Waldorf Educators simply feel there are better ways, more hands on and complex ways to teach young children how to learn. Technology is introduced to secondary education children, which as Skinner notes in the episode is “Not our Problem.”
Textbooks – There are no textbooks in Waldorf Education, it’s true. But there are many, many books. They are just not the ones provided to the state by textbook companies. Instead our students are presented material by teachers from classics and mainstream books on relevant topics, where they then take notes and reflect on lessons while creating their own “Main Lesson” books. These books become both catalogs and resources for learning.
We are honored to have been featured in such a positive light on The Simpsons Season Finale and wonder if the writers are Waldorf parents or alumni themselves.
Do you have questions about this latest press coverage of Waldorf Education or about Waldorf Education in general? Please contact Alexandra Borders, Director of Admissions, The Waldorf School of Philadelphia, Beverly Amico at the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, firstname.lastname@example.org or check this link for a school to contact in your area.