Rudolf Steiner in the Jewellery Quarter

Ruskin Mill Trust is going to redevelop the Standard Works on Vittoria Street in Birmingham into a new college.The Trust is quite a large independent educational organisation and already runs Glasshouse College in Stourbridge. The college “supports day and residential students aged 16 to 24 through practical skills and therapeutic education, which offers a clear pathway for delivering progression and sustainable outcomes.”

So this seems like a brilliant organisation and a wonderful project, and perhaps both these things are true. But when you scratch the surface you read the following:

The Living Earth Course combined biodynamic agriculture in a market garden with the craft curriculum sourced from the Arts and Crafts movement, the insights into human development provided by Rudolf Steiner and a commitment to responsible stewardship of the land for future generations.

This curriculum, the so-called Descent into Matter, accessed the four elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire through the three Kingdoms of Nature:

– Animal – leatherwork, felt-making and weaving
– Plant – basketry, carving and green woodwork
– Mineral – pottery, stone carving, stained glass and metalwork

Students boarded with local families, and received additional support through anthroposophic medicine and associated therapies. Crucially, students were constantly immersed in the commercial activities of the Mill: the small craft workshops, cafe and other retail outlets.

This braiding of practical education, home-making, commerce and environmental awareness gave them the unique therapeutic experience of transforming their environment into useful commodities, for exchange within the market economy.

This vision has remained at the heart of the Trust’s work ever since.

Does the discovery that this and the Trust’s other colleges are actually Steiner Schools have any effect on your attitude towards this new development? And does your opinion depend on how much of their work is funded by the taxpayer?

If you’re interested in seeing what the building and college will be like, there will be a public presentation in the banqueting suite of Birmingham Council House on Thursday 12th February at 4.30 pm.

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