Torin Finser, chair of AUNE’s Department of Education, flew nearly 25,000 miles on his sabbatical this year, traveling to Australia and India to teach workshops on Waldorf education. It wasn’t all one-sidedâ€”he learned much along the way too.
In Australia, last January, Torin lectured at the Glenaeon Teacher Training Seminar at the National Teachers Conference in Sydney. He spoke on organizational development and research for his latest book, and met teachers from all over the country, some of whom had flown thousands of miles to attend. “People were open-hearted, interested in Antioch and in our national educational politics,” he said. “They have very few preconceived notions.”
Torin found it interesting that the Australian government passed a stimulus package in 2009 that focused on infrastructure and helping its construction industry. “They gave $2 million to each school in the country, including the fourteen Waldorf schools, to spend on renovation or new construction. And they did it,” he said.
Lessons from India
A trip to India in February, along with his wife, Karine Finser, affiliate faculty member in AUNE’s Department of Education, and their son, Ionas, taught him much about hope and possibilities. India itself was an eye-opener. “It’s oh so different from what we have here. It’s such a chaotic experience,” he said.
They spent most of their time in Auroville, an intentional community of about 2,500 people with a progressive educational system, with which AUNE has had a teacher exchange program for twenty years. The Finsers were met by AUNE faculty emerita Heidi Watts, an educational consultant at Auroville.
Torin taught a workshop for forty Indian teachers on Waldorf education, and Karine taught a painting workshop. Auroville was inspiring, Torin said. “There’s tremendous strength in collective action, if you get the right number of people in a room with shared ideals, and everyone contributes,” he said. ” I came away inspired about what we can do.”
“It’s truly possible for people of different backgrounds to work together if you have common ideals, Torin said, noting Auroville’s universal health care and a universal salaryâ€”everyone is paid the same, $200 a month, whether a doctor or a street sweeper. “We haven’t realized the full potential for collective action for grass-roots change in this country, despite progress.”
Torin also did research there, reading the sacred texts of India, research that has already led to talks and will no doubt find expression in articles and future books.