Tory Free Schools Plot to Spin Away the Racism of Steiner Schools.

steiner

Rudolf Steiner’s depiction of the different intellectual characteristics of the races.

Last year, I wrote to my local MP, Lib Dem Tessa Munt, to raise concerns that the nearby opening of a state funded Steiner School raised a number of issues. Most importantly, that Steiner Schools are not open about the religious and occult nature of their philosophy and that this philosophy is based on an abhorrent racist view of human spirituality. Furthermore, children are likely to be exposed to pseudoscience, hidden spiritual agendas and nonsensical teaching philosophies.

Tessa Munt consulted with Education Minister, Lord Hill of Oareford, who today was promoted to Leader of the House of Lords, and wrote to me to say that “he would not have approved any school that raised concerns of the nature” I raised.  In short, what I was saying was untrue.

It has now come to my attention that Tory party strategists close to the Department of Education were well aware of the problematic nature of Steiner philosophies and discussed with the Steiner Waldorf Schools Federation ways of using PR to head off anticipated criticisms of new publicly funded Steiner Schools. It would appear that either Lord Hill, a former employee of Bell Pontinger, had been kept in the dark about these concerns and PR tactics or had misled my MP.

What alarmed me was coming across notes (see the excellent UK Anthroposophy website)  from a 2010 ‘pre-election’ meeting between Steiner School representatives and Tory educational strategists. Whilst, the notes have been public for some time, (see also here) it is worth re-looking at them in light of Steiner Free School successes and the denials from Lord Hill that there is a problem with Steiner Schools.

The attendees at the seminar were as follows. Sylvie Sklan represented the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship and is a Director at the state funded Hereford Steiner Academy. Also representing the Steiner movement was Emma Craigie, daughter of recently deceased Tory Lord, William Rees-Mogg and sister to Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Representing, the Conservative Party interests were Rachel Wolf, who was a special adviser to the incoming Education Secretary Michael Gove. Once in Office, Wolf set up the Free Schools Network with a government grant of half a million pounds to assist candidate free schools applying to the government. Also in the meeting was Sam Freedman, an education advisor to the Conservative Party. (Sam tweeted today that “It’s been a great pleasure to work with Lord Hill over the past 2.5 years. He’ll be an excellent leader of the Lords.”)

It is worth reading these notes from that meeting. What is most alarming for me was that there was a significant discussion about how Steiner Schools and the government would have to deal with the controversial nature of Steiner education and in particular the racist aspects of anthroposophy. The complaints from angry ex-parents were seen as an issue, but more importantly, the writings of  Rudolf Steiner were seen as the biggest  problem.

Sam Freedman responded to a question about anticipated problems with state funding of Steiner Schools as follows:

Not in terms of the way we want to legislate, but, I mean I’m sure this is something that you all know about anyway, there’s a big PR issue, and if a lot of Steiner schools open quite quickly in the state sector, I mean I’ve been, erm, I’ve had all sorts of people writing to me just because they found out that I was coming to this meeting. Attacking. Attacking the Steiner Schools… Anonymously. Through social networking. People find out who you are, find out your account number and bombard you with articles, negative articles… This was pointing out all the things they think are wrong with Steiner movement, link after link after link. And that’s just from me coming to this meeting, so you have to be aware, well I know you’ll all be aware anyway, but this will be on a much, much bigger scale.

[ Just to remind you, if you are not familiar with the racist aspects of Steiner philosophy, Rudolf Steiner believed there is a spiritual racial hierarchy with ‘spiritually lazy black people’ at the bottom and blond haired Nordics and Germans at the top. Through karma, you could reincarnated to higher levels of this hierarchy  The goal of Anthroposophy, and hence anthroposophical schools, was to help in this spiritual incarnation process.

Before Rachel Wolf and Sam Freedman left the meeting, they discussed how Steiner teacher training should ensure that no racist elements were being taught (misunderstanding the nature of the problem: as long as Steiner’s lectures are used, the racist, pseudoscientific and barmpot will be there.) and to ensure publicity images of Steiner classrooms were not filled with middle class white children. Freedman said the Steiner Schools should emphasise strongly that schools do not teach what Rudolf Steiner said. “He likened the situation to the fact that not all Christians believe every word of the Bible.” Again, this either fails to understand the issue or is disingenuous and complicit with a common and misleading anthroposophical response. Steiner Schools commonly say they do not teach anthroposophy – but no-one is accusing them of teaching Steiner’s words directly. What the problem is that the pedagogy is based on absurd and repugnant aspects of his clairvoyant visions – that his Steiner’s methods are used, not his words taught. Anthroposophy is the underpinning of all aspects of Steiner Schools. Without anthroposophy, Steiner Schools are not Steiner Schools.

Wolf offered to give the Schools “free media training to prepare them for tackling the PR problems.”

I find it astonishing that the response to a problem with the racist aspects of Steiner philosophy was to set up better PR rather than look at ways Steiner’s insidious racism could be better understood and how it should be eliminated from schools.

The seminar then continued without Wolf and Freedman to discuss options. “Emma Craigie identified the key issues as being PR, accountability and assessment, admissions and funding, however PR was the main area of discussion.”

It was acknowledged that the Steiner schools Fellowship would need to initiate and fund a proper campaign to counter the “poison” on the internet. A representative from one Steiner school felt that the politicians were very aware of the problem and that they would “run a mile in the opposite direction if they have a lot of people coming at them saying you’re funding a weird cult that brain washes children.”

Now, if the claims of racism, pseudoscience and occultism were untrue then indeed PR might be a good response to get the proper message out.  But what happened next in the meeting was quite astonishing.

An observer was asked which Steiner quotes he/she had seen online and elsewhere. The observer gave the example of the spiritual hierarchy of the races. It was acknowledged that the Steiner schools Fellowship should give a clear and categorical rebuttal of these aspects of Steiner’s work. Clear statements should be made stating “We do not believe that human beings evolve through the races. We do not believe that blond hair bestows intelligence, etc…”.

This technique was seen as inadequate though as,

It was felt that there may be some difficulty in making a blanket rebuttal of all Anthroposophy because many people throughout the Steiner schools system, especially teachers, strongly support many aspects of that belief system. If teachers were asked to make a blanket rebuttal of Anthroposophy, many of them may not do this.

In other words, we cannot deny these anthroposophical claims because the teachers in the school are in agreement with them.

It was suggested that instead a rather bland ‘anti-racism’ statement should be used,

It was agreed that a message along the line of “The Steiner School is committed to equal opportunities and is opposed to racism and all forms of discrimination” should be placed on all Steiner school websites and promotional material.

How the Steiner movement can make such a claim when it is acknowledged that racial aspects are at the heart of the belief systems of many of its teachers is beyond me.

The meeting appears to be characterised by discussions about how to spin away issues, hide uncomfortable truths and give the appearance of distance from  anthroposophy and Rudolf Steiner. It was noted that other countries called Steiner Schools, Waldorf Schools, which helped dissociation. At no point did it appear to be acknowledged that there might be a serious problem at the heart of Steiner education.

Today, several years later, and with the Tories embarking headlong on their Free Schools programme, we can see many of these tactics now in play.

Obviously, Lord Hill’s refusal to acknowledge that there may be a problem in Steiner Schools left me very perplexed as to how he could come to such a conclusion when people around him were aware. We see Steiner Schools putting banal anti-racism statements on websites without acknowledging the specific concerns.  For example, Elmfield Steiner School says “Elmfield is aware that there are some concepts in the works of Rudolf Steiner that have been interpreted as nationalistic or racist.” This rather underplays the fact that Steiner’s writings were riddled with racism and that his racist spirituality underpins everything in anthroposophy. But to people who do not understand Steiner’s beliefs, statements such as this mask the problem and create a sense that all is now well.

We also see new school applications  masking the anthroposophical nature of their school. The Fullfledge proposal calls itself an ‘Ecology School’. The Proposed Haringey free school will be based on a “Steiner Waldolf ethos” without calling itself a Steiner School or explaining what Steiner’s ethos actually was.

We see the Camphill Communities, specialist communities for disabled adults, say things like “Camphill is inspired by Christian ideals and the ideas of Rudolf Steiner, accepting the spiritual uniqueness of each human being, regardless of disability, religious or racial background’. Steiner did indeed believe in the spiritual uniqueness of individual humans but saw aspects such as race and disability as being very closely tied to a person’s spiritual nature. This statement from Camphill is strangely disingenuous. Steiner saw disease and bodily imperfection as being closely tied to spiritual karma and a result of moral inadequacies in previous lives. The spiritual advancement of a person is also closely tied to their skin colour. Steiner believed humans arrived in Europe and India after the destruction of Atlantis. The Germanic peoples were the “Brahmin class” of Europeans destined to lead the continent to spiritual supremacy.

Today, The Bristol Post published an article about how the proposed Bristol Free Steiner School had ‘huge interest’. After a few dissenting comments, we quickly saw anonymous Steiner supporters post comments that are uncannily similar to those proposed in this meeting. The comments deny the issue, distance the Schools from Steiner and propose that Steiner education has progressed without saying how. It’s all misdirection.

Above all, the Steiner Movement and the Tories present at the meeting feared one thing: people discussing and criticising Steiner Philosophy. “If the issue becomes a big PR problem for Steiner schools, and the state is funding those schools, it will become a big PR problem for the state.”, said one participant. For nearly 100 years, the Steiner movement has been able to operate without much of a spotlight on it, hiding in its esotericism and Steiner’s instructions on secrecy. Now, with the plans to use public money to fund the schools and the easy access of people to find information on the web, it is inconceivable that concerns will not flare up. The BBC has started making small steps to uncovering the truth behind the schools. We can expect more. And we can expect a slick and rehearsed PR strategy to kick in very quickly.

 

Further Reading:

What Every Parent Should Know About Steiner-Waldorf Schools

Steiner Waldorf Schools Part 3. The problem of racism

 

 

 

31 comments for “Tory Free Schools Plot to Spin Away the Racism of Steiner Schools.

  1. Cathy
    January 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    But look at the photo on this current webpage from Elmfield Steiner School
    http://elmfield.com/learning/
    (it probably will disappear now…)

    My feeling is that implementing anthroposophical beliefs come so naturally to the teachers, and the school communities are so closed, that the most difficult, strange and unpleasant ways of going about things can become “normal”. In my experience and opinion this happens within the even more closed communities of camphill too.

    That the government is aware and just wants to use PR gloss is scandalous. What are they thinking? And why? There’s not a great deal to gain is there? It’s time for someone to do as much reading and digging as you have.

  2. MR AC FONTAINE
    January 9, 2013 at 4:29 am

    let people do what they want to do if the law allows it! but do not stop some one from having there own opinion and raising there own children, with the values they see fit, fair play equal rights?
    as for religion its personal?

    • MR AC FONTAINE
      January 9, 2013 at 4:39 am

      as for Steiner you must be joking? I am not even going to bother to comment apart from! who ever took part in the yearly destruction of the earth and the extinction of many life forms on this planet, holds the title of the stupidest living thing that will ever exist? so who ever made the bombs that can destroy the world is the dumbest thing that ever lived are you in that exclusive elite club?

  3. Badly Shaved Monkey
    January 9, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    who ever took part in the yearly destruction of the earth and the extinction of many life forms on this planet, holds the title of the stupidest living thing that will ever exist?

    I don’t know. Was it you?

  4. MK
    January 20, 2013 at 12:47 am

    Thanks for putting this up – an excellent article !

  5. January 31, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    “In other words, we cannot deny these anthroposophical claims because the teachers in the school are in agreement with them.”

    The kettle’s on the boil and we’re so easily called away…

  6. Africa
    February 20, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    [edited as duplicate post]

  7. Africa
    February 22, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Andy, I see no inclusion of my very relevant post about racism. I take it you’re prepared to stand for the same level of transparency and scrutiny you place on those you criticise? I don’t think it being a duplicate post makes it less important to this discussion. Best regards

    • Andy Lewis
      February 22, 2013 at 4:52 pm

      Duplicate posting of exactly the same comment in multiple locations is spamming. Are you having a discussion or grandstanding?

  8. Africa
    February 23, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    If you’re interested in serious research about Waldorf have a look at the WREN website and in particular the paper (second one down) referring to recent research related to racism in Waldorf pupils (done in Germany). The link is here http://www.ecswe.org/wren/researchpapers_outcomes.html

    It shows racist tendencies in Steiner educated children to be lower (often significantly) than a ‘normal’ sample from other schools amongst other social indicators. It would be an odd move for a racist movement to open schools in all cultures around the world where in Kenya, for example, they have black Kenyan pupils with black Kenyan teachers.

    There is no evidence, that I’m aware of, that Waldorf schools employ a racist approach to teaching, in fact the evidence seems to suggest the opposite.

    Questions about what is behind an educational approach are quite reasonable and deserve answers. And the schools can sometimes be defensive – and perhaps not surprising under this kind of very personal attack. Most teachers or schools don’t have the resources to deal with this. There are however many such questions where someone has tried to provide answers on the ‘waldorf answers’ website. It can be found at http://www.waldorfanswers.com/Myths.htm. I hope these are helpful to people to get a more balanced picture.

    I have no interest in protecting poor teaching, of which there has been some in Steiner schools, but this is hardly different from almost every other school. Improving the quality of teaching is a very live debate in the maintained sector as anyone who is involved in this will know. Some of the practices used in Steiner schools are being adopted in the mainstream, not only in countries with more progressive education systems, like the Scandinavian countries, but also here in the UK.

    I would suggest that a proper debate about what goes on in Steiner schools will need to focus on what actually goes on in Steiner schools today and not from trying to interpret parts of Steiner’s lectures from 90 years ago. Most interesting should be a focus on the educational outcomes for the pupils. I will welcome any contribution to this debate that you can facilitate on this forum.

    • Andy Lewis
      February 23, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      Are you part of the PR programme to spin away the racism inherent in Steiner’s philosophy?

      Would you lie to declare any interests or involvement with the Steiner movement?

      • Badly Shaved Monkey
        February 27, 2013 at 5:27 pm

        Would you lie to declare any interests or involvement with the Steiner movement?

        Calling Dr. Freud, we have a slip.

        Even so, “Africa” has gone very quiet.

      • Africa
        February 28, 2013 at 10:10 am

        No I’m no PR programme. I can search the web like most other people so access to material is easy these days. I recognise also that material and knowledge let alone wisdom are different things. I can declare my interest which is I suppose as a searcher of the truth, as much as there are truths, so maybe a bit like you. I tend to pursue the positives in life and support them more than the negatives and attack them, so maybe different from you, or at least in your public ‘quackometer man’ persona. I’ve found this serves me well in my life which seems to reflect this state of affairs.

        I’m a great believer in the scientific method which is to construct a hypothesis around a question and test that through observation from which conclusions are drawn that can be ‘substantiated’. One beauty of this is one has not only to be proved right but also not proved wrong – isn’t that beautiful? I think I’ve read reference to Carl Sagan on your website. I like his description of pseudoscience as being uncritical analysis of unsubstantiated facts (if I remember it correctly). Using that description I could argue that what you present is pseudo-scientific. I say this because in my judgement, based on what I’ve seen on this website and of course I could be wrong, you do not have real knowledge or understanding of what goes on at Waldorf schools let alone the educational methods that have been developed over the past 90 years they use. As far as I can tell you’ve no direct experience of these methods let alone studied or researched them and perhaps never been in a Waldorf lesson and maybe never even been in a school. My judgement then is that an uncritical analysis of unsubstantiated facts is a reasonable description of what you’re presenting. If true this is an interesting platform to go speaking around the country!

        Which leads to my wider observation that education in this country is no longer fit for purpose. We have somewhat of a crisis with a system where many of our children are disenfranchised by the system, the very system that should be there to serve them. That would be an odd way to measure success by any ones book! And this is despite many good, caring, intelligent, well-meaning people in teaching. As the UK falls further back in the international comparators on education (PISA) which are the traditional measures like maths, literacy and science when it comes to social measures like the happiness of our children we were bottom of the table. Then you look at other indicators like sense of wellbeing and even diagnosed mental disorders and it is very shocking.
        And we hear that we need to encourage things like creativity and free thinking in our education and we don’t seem to know how to do it, as governments flip flop educational policy with no clear purpose or vision. Now I’m not suggesting that Steiner education has all the answers but it does have some and they’ve been developed, tested and demonstrated over 90 years and they’ve been right in front our noses without most of us even noticing.

        • Mojo
          February 28, 2013 at 5:06 pm

          One beauty of this is one has not only to be proved right but also not proved wrong…

          No, all that is necessary is for the hypothesis not to be proved wrong. In fact, they are never proven to be right.

  9. Luke Duncan
    March 9, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    Dear Andy

    The following is simply not true:

    “Most importantly, that Steiner Schools are not open about the religious and occult nature of their philosophy and that this philosophy is based on an abhorrent racist view of human spirituality.”

    Firstly, everyone (parents, teachers and pupils) at Steiner schools is fully aware that the classroom teaching is inspired by the anthroposophical (occcult) ideas of Rudolf Steiner. That the anthroposophical teachings of Rudolf Steiner are based on his spiritual insight is known to all. All the staff at all Steiner schools are open about this simply because it is fact known to all. Any prospective parent thinking about sending their child to a Steiner school would merely have to read the Wikipedia entry on Rudolf Steiner to discover this. Do you really think that a parent who had never heard about Rudolf Steiner or anthroposophy would send their child to a Steiner school without first googling “Rudolf Steiner” to find out what it is all about? There simply is no secrecy about the fact that the pedagogy at Steiner schools is based on and inspired by the anthroposophical writings and lectures on education by Rudolf Steiner. The clue is in the name of the school, for heaven’s sake! Most of Steiner’s translated writings, including all his writings and lectures on education, can be obtained via Amazon. A large proportion of his writings and lectures translated into English are available for free from this website: http://www.rsarchive.org/Lectures/. None of Steiner’s writings or transcripts of his lectures are kept secret. Prospective parents only have to google “Rudolf Steiner” to discover that there is a spiritual dimension to Steiner’s thinking. There simply is no hidden agenda.

    Secondly, Rudolf Steiner wrote and gave public lectures on an enormous range of subjects. “Steiner’s writings, published in about forty volumes, include books, essays, four plays (‘mystery dramas’), mantric verse, and an autobiography. His collected lectures, making up another approximately 300 volumes, discuss an extremely wide range of themes” (from the Wikipedia entry on Rudolf Steiner). The proportion of lectures that contain content that (without an understanding of the overall context of Steiner’s ideas, work and striving) might be interpreted as racist today in modern-day Britain is MINISCULE! Just a few paragraphs in a handful of lectures within the collected works comprising thousands of lectures and many books. Please just browse through the topics and titles of the lectures available at http://www.rsarchive.org to see my point. But far more importantly, teachers at Steiner schools are not racist people and there is no racism of any kind practised in the schools. If you have been to Steiner schools and talked to teachers and parents you will have seen that it is obviously not the case and that, as a group, the teachers who work at Steiner schools could not in any way be described as having any overt characteristics that might lead anyone to believe that they are racist. Quite the opposite, in fact. Most people on meeting Steiner school teachers would probably feel that these are the sort of people who one would least of all expect to be racist. There is no more racism at Steiner schools than anywhere else that recognises the equal rights, status and dignity of all human beings. To claim otherwise is just unfair. And if you haven’t been to Steiner schools and spoken to parents and teachers, then you had no justification for the ideas published this article, as in that case you were writing about something that you have no real experience of. Simply spreading the muck you read on the internet is simply not an empirical or justified approach to making assessments about the work of social initiatives, such as Steiner schools.

    I appreciate that you are probably an atheist and philosophical materialist who believes that there is nothing more to the world than physical matter. As such, I can understand if you feel it would be better if the UK government didn’t support movements that claim to be inspired by spiritual ideas. However, surely you would agree that people are free to hold their own beliefs, have their own values, and decide how they wish their children to be educated? Why are you trying to dirty the reputation of Steiner schools who are doing you no harm? The teachers at Steiner schools are extremely dedicated and idealistic people who, up until now, have been doing their jobs for less money than they would get in the state system. Most parents who send their children to Steiner schools do it for similar idealistic reasons and have paid for the pleasure. They like what they see goes on at the schools, which are not exam factories but are seeking a new healthier, more dignified and holistic approach to educating children. Why are you attacking these people by dirtying their reputations? The racism argument is a red herring and you know it. Anyway, if your goal is to prevent the government from supporting any movement with a spiritual basis, should you not be out attacking much bigger fish, such as organised religion and faith schools?

    Kind regards

    Luke

    • March 10, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      Luke, your comment is addressed to Andy, but I’ll bite…

      “That the anthroposophical teachings of Rudolf Steiner are based on his spiritual insight is known to all. All the staff at all Steiner schools are open about this…”

      If this were the case, why is Anthroposophy so rarely mentioned on the websites of Steiner schools? Where it is mentioned, it’s usually in the context of a disclaimer that it is “neither taught nor promoted”. Many parents might therefore assume it’s not important and this, anecdotally, is often what they’re told. In six months of going to a Steiner parent-child group, it was never mentioned to me.

      Instead, we have the rather curious situation where the critics do a better job of explaining Anthroposophy’s relevance to Steiner education than the schools do.

      Do you really think that the pupils at a Steiner school are fully aware of Anthroposophy? I’m curious as to what makes you think so.

      On the racism issue, you make the usual mistake of assuming that the racism inherent in Steiner’s work must translate into active discrimination within the schools. That is not the issue and I’d agree that it’s generally not the case.

      However, Steiner’s views on race are integral to his alternative view of human history. Did you know that until quite recently, the most egregious passages were simply omitted from the English translations?

      The most interesting thing is not that Steiner wrote what he did, but rather the reaction of today’s Anthroposophists to it. It is not that Steiner teachers may themselves be guilty of discrimination, but that some still genuinely believe that karma determines what race children are born into. See http://www.waldorflibrary.org/images/stories/journal_articles/GW3410.pdf
      You might not find that objectionable. I do.

      I refute your suggestion that Steiner schools do no harm. The major reason we left the parent-child group was not the risk of falling prey to a toothless cult but rather the risk of exposure to vaccine-preventable disease.

      • cyril
        March 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm

        MarkH, I’ve looked at the waldorflibrary link you referenced, and I don’t understand what is “objectionable” about the statement:- “Karmically we choose to be born into different races to have a specific environmental, cultural and racial experience”.

        If ‘karma’ is a meaningless woo-woo word, then the statement itself is meaningless. And if ‘karma’ is something real, it says we each choose the circumstances of our life, which sounds rather profound and challenging.

        Where’s the problem?

  10. March 11, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Hello Cyril,

    Although I do think the concept of karma is woo-woo, this doesn’t automatically imply it’s meaningless. Certainly it has enough meaning to make it worth discussing.

    “Where’s the problem?”

    Between consenting adults, no problem at all. :-)

    Being more specific, what I do find objectionable is that the concept of karma is used in advice to school teachers as to how to relate to the children in their care. What the author means by “racial experience” is open to interpretation, but it seems reasonable to believe she meant to include both positive and negative experiences.

    Overall, there’s the implication that the Steiner teacher is responsible for the spiritual welfare of the child’s soul, over multiple incarnations. Where this is without the child’s knowledge and quite often without the parent’s consent too.

    Is it not more desirable to learn about and enjoy the diversity of different cultures without also applying the idea that a child is born with skin of a particular colour in order to have a certain “experience”?

    • cyril
      March 11, 2013 at 8:25 pm

      What I understand by the phrase ‘racial experience’ is the opportunity to experience those qualities we associate with certain ethnic (or even national) groupings. There is no positive or negative, just qualities.

      When you say: “Overall, there’s the implication that the Steiner teacher is responsible for the spiritual welfare of the child’s soul, over multiple incarnations”, I don’t really understand where that implication comes from. If a teacher knows that every pupil brings with them a distillation of many previous earthly experiences, that is not the same as saying that the teacher is responsible for that.

      To your final question:- “Is it not more desirable to learn about and enjoy the diversity of different cultures without also applying the idea that a child is born with skin of a particular colour in order to have a certain “experience”?”, I think it is of ultimate importance to learn about the “diversity of different cultures”, except there isn’t such a ‘thing’ as culture, merely people, individual, marvellous people, who individually (but unconsciously) choose to represent the cultures you and I wish to enjoy.

  11. Luke Duncan
    March 11, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Dear Mark

    Thanks for sharing your experience (and thank you Andy for allowing me to post a counter-opinion). I’ve had a look at the websites of a handful of Steiner schools and I have to admit that, as far as the school websites go, they do not provide sufficient information on the anthroposophical background or Rudolf Steiner. I agree with you, the school websites should provide more detailed information and explanations to new parents.

    Kings Langley Rudolf Steiner School
    http://www.rsskl.org/AboutSchool/Philisophy.aspx

    Steiner Academy Bristol
    http://steineracademybristol.org.uk/about-steiner-education/

    Wynstones Steiner Waldorf School
    http://www.wynstones.com/index.php/joiners/steiner-education

    Michael Hall Steiner School
    http://www.michaelhall.co.uk

    Edinburgh Steiner School
    http://www.edinburghsteinerschool.org.uk/why-choose-our-school/a-unique-education/

    Based solely on the information provided by the above and, if I didn’t know about Steiner already, I would have questions too. But I am surprised the staff you spoke to were not more forthcoming. I think part of the problem is that Steiner schools don’t teach anthroposophy to pupils – it’s just that the pedagogy that was developed out of anthroposophical ideas. I realise that to someone who thinks it is all ‘woo woo’, there might not be any difference between anthroposophy itself and Waldorf school pedagogy, but it is true that anthroposophy as such is not taught to pupils.

    I received my entire school education at two Steiner schools (Kindergarten to Class 12). That’s a while ago and it is hard to remember what I thought as a kid. However, even at age six, my classmates and I knew that Steiner had developed something called anthroposophy and that our school was different because our teachers spoke about gnomes, elemental spirits and such like in our lessons.

    Steiner’s view on races are not integral to his thoughts on a enormous wealth of other subjects. See my argument above about the relative size of these few controversial passages within the collected works and lectures.

    What’s wrong with believing that karma determines what race you are born into? Karma, if you believe in it, determines everything about your situation, the tasks, challenges and joys you are faced with in life, e.g. your parents, the people you meet, the kind of experiences you have, the difficulties you learn to overcome, etc.

    The UK is a free country and it is entirely up to you to withdraw your child from Steiner education because of the risk of him or her being exposed to normal childhood diseases, such as chicken pox, etc. But this is a legal issue and the laws on vaccinations apply to everyone, whether their children are at a Steiner school or not. However. vaccinations have nothing to do with my criticism of Andy’s article above, which is misleading because even the title alone suggests by implication that Steiner schools are or might be racist.

    • Andy Lewis
      March 11, 2013 at 8:35 pm

      To quickly answer the most important point. You said.

      “What’s wrong with believing that karma determines what race you are born into? “

      Racism is the assumption that individuals can be characterised by alleged group characteristics based in skin colour. Steiner believed races had distinct characteristics and levels of spiritual development. To associate individual children with such characteristics based on the repugnant views of Steiner is simply evil.

    • March 12, 2013 at 3:03 pm

      Luke: “I think part of the problem is that Steiner schools don’t teach anthroposophy to pupils”

      I agree. If they did and they were completely up-front about it, much of the criticism would disappear.
      On the other hand, their appeal would be greatly diminished and state funding would be much harder to come by.

      “Steiner’s view on races are not integral to his thoughts on a enormous wealth of other subjects.”

      But they are integral to his view of human history, which is what I said above. Look at ‘The Mission of the Folk Souls’ or ‘Cosmic Memory’. Notably, Steiner seems to think it is an aberration that different races still exist in the modern day. It wasn’t meant to be like that – the ‘older’ races were meant to have fully evolved into white europeans.

      “What’s wrong with believing that karma determines what race you are born into? ”

      What’s right about it? What’s pedagogically useful about it?

      If anybody doubts the central importance of karma in modern day Steiner education, here’s Roy Wilkinson from The Spiritual Basis of Steiner education: “[T]he purpose of [Waldorf] education is to help the individual fulfill his karma. The teacher is an intermediary and his task is to guide the incarnating individualities [i.e., children] into the physical world and equip them for earthly existence, bearing in mind what they bring with them from the past and what they are likely to take with them into the future.”

      And here’s Steve Sagarin: “Steiner is clear that a teacher’s job is to intervene with whatever wisdom he or she can muster to assist the students in his or her care in overcoming their past karma and establishing ‘good’ karma for the future. Intervening in another person’s karma is a tricky business, perhaps off-limits in adult relationships, or permissible only in rare circumstances, but it forms the basis for part of our work as teachers, whether or not we acknowledge it.”

    • John H
      March 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      That posting invoked a certain groinal tension in me – almost to the point of genital manual manipulative extensibility.

      Is it time to invoke Poe’s Law on this post – it really is difficult to tell whether he is taking the p*ss or means it.

      I can find no viable alternative in the 21st Century. It is as if I have been transported back to the Middle Ages.

      It seems almost a form of psychological child abuse to me to teach children about things like “gnomes, elemental spirits and such like” in lessons (as opposed to a fun thing like Scooby Doo). What on earth do their parents think when the offspring come home and say “we did goblins and zombies today Mummy, in science”?

      “Steiner’s view on races are not integral to his thoughts on a enormous (sic) wealth of other subjects” sounds to me a little too much like the sort of special pleading that Holocaust deniers stoop to (“Well obviously a few Jews died, as did loads of other people, but it wasn’t six million and it was mostly disease. And let’s face it the Nazis had smart uniforms and built some good roads”) . Steiner would probably have approved of their industrialised genocidal shortcut to racial purity.

      “What’s wrong with believing that karma determines what race you are born into? blah blah blah ad nauseum”. Yeah, OK, “Karma, if you believe in it” offers some sort of get out clause I suppose but assuming karma exists merely to move you up the scale from racially inferior (i.e black/brown/yellow) untermensch to Nordic superman is unbelievable. (I know there is a tautology there).

      And have I missed something with respect to chicken pox/vaccination? Are Steiner karmaphiles/racists Jabbophobes as well? Hardly surprising if they were. Believe one lot of garbage and you are open to believing anything.

      Come on, really? 2013. The Enlightenment. Poe’s Law surely.

    • March 13, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      “What’s wrong with believing that karma determines what race you are born into?”

      That you see nothing wrong with this is amazing to me. It is, indeed, the attitude of most Waldorf teachers I’ve encountered. Waldorf teachers treat children in accordance with their race, just like they do for the temperaments, large/small headedness, lefthandedness and so forth. The distinction of a child’s race is something Waldorf teachers “work with”. Seriously, people who believe these things should TELL PARENTS up front! In my opinion, people who hold such beliefs should have NO CONTACT with other people’s children.

  12. Luke Duncan
    March 11, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Andy, I agree with you. If you were to associate any group charactersitics (beyond the physical fact that someone has, for example, black or white skin) with an individual child, that would indeed smack of racism.

    But now you’ve moved the discussion to a whole different arena. We are now no longer talking about alleged racism in UK Steiner schools by virtue of the fact that some ideas its German founder had in the 1920s could be interepreted today as racist. Instead we are now talking about those specific ideas of the founder himself. In particular, his ideas in relation to spiritual development and what he meant by saying that different races were at different levels of spiritual development. You would have to define what you mean by spiritual development, or what you think Steiner means by spiritual development, in order for me to continue the discussion. As you might already be aware, Steiner used the term “race” to refer to stages in the evolution of humanity as a whole.

    “The theosophical — not anthroposophical — term “root race”, especially in the form “Aryan root race”, that in theosophy refers to the development of humanity through a number of phases during post-glacial times, is the first of three misunderstood terms and concepts incorrectly referrred to in allegations of racism in anthroposophy.

    The second misunderstood concept is one that is properly related only to the distant past. It is the theosophical concept of the “sub races of Atlantis”.

    And the third misunderstood concept is the concept of “five main races of humanity” as Steiner viewed it.”

    The above quote is taken from: http://waldorfanswers.org/ThreeConcepts.htm and for more information on the “five main races” see here: http://waldorfanswers.org/PastRaces.htm#Humanity

    • Andy Lewis
      March 11, 2013 at 9:35 pm

      The inability of Steiner supporters to accept Steiner’s inherent racism boggles me.

      Steiner wrote directly about races and physical characteristics including the supremacy of blonde hair and blue eyes. That he saw these as some sort of evolutionary progress matters not as he is quite clearly wrong.

      By offering these apologetics you do nothibg to convince me that Steiner Schools understand or can tackle the issues raised by such dangerous nonsense.

  13. MK
    March 12, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Wow !
    Well there we have it Cyril and Luke think there’s nothing wrong with the idea of karma sorting out what race we are born into.

    This is absolutely the Anthro view,’its not good or bad its just a different experience ,we all go through all races ‘

    And end up where ? Being white, blue eyed and blond haired !

    Which means … that you see white as the pinnacle of human kind !

    Thats racist !!!!!!!!!!

    Sorry to repeat myself from another of Andy’s threads but at our Steiner school the teachers were asked to fill in an ethnic monitoring sheet and a number of them ticked every box and when asked why they said they it was because they had been through all the races on the form – they were all white which means they saw themselves as being through all the evolutions and were superior. The Education Facilitator refused to answer when we asked if he believed in the reincarnation through races. Some Anthroposophists know these ideas are vile and try and keep it under wraps and others don’t understand they are vile and obligingly post on threads for the world to see how many of them think.

    Thats the problem I and many others have with these schools ,do you honestly think we would have enrolled our kids knowing the teachers held these views ?

  14. MK
    March 12, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    Here is a letter which has just surfaced from a teacher who has resigned from teaching at an Arizona Steiner school-this is a teacher being OPEN about the true nature of the schools;

    To The Parents Desert Sky Community School and the Arizona State Board for
    Charter Schools:

    My name is Rachael Colley and I recently resigned from Desert Sky Community
    School. I am writing to inform you of the reason for my untimely departure. I
    resigned from my position as grade 3/4 teacher because I was unaware that I had
    been employed by what is, in my opinion, a religious cult and cannot in good
    conscience continue, despite my love of the children and my sincere desire to
    give them the best education.

    I love that Waldorf education has a rhythm, that there is a large block in the
    morning for children to really get into the lesson and that true unstructured
    play is encouraged. However,

    I cannot work in a place where lighting candles at a staff meeting and
    chanting a childs name (without the parents knowledge), as well as reading from
    the “Calendar of the Soul” is done and is seen as normal, and even called a
    “child study”.

    I cannot work in a place where the children are told to walk on the outside of
    the circle because the director is afraid they will “break the chalice”. Or
    where children say verses (prayers) to “spirit”. I am a spiritual person, but it
    should not be required of children in a publicly funded school. When this was
    brought up to my superiors, I was told that they “cannot imagine how I think
    religion is there”. Yet I was told that the chicken coop must be built in a
    certain way because it, “brings the childrens souls to the earth”.

    If you have not already looked up anthroposophy, please do. It underpins
    everything that is said and done at Desert Sky. Understand that you will be lied
    to, and some people at Desert Sky believe that they know more about your child
    and what is best for him/her than you do. Many (parents) are referred to in
    negative terms behind their backs, and your children are saying prayers with
    words that they do not know the meaning of.

    There are good people at Desert Sky, people who love your children and also
    want the best for them. However, someone needed to stand up and be the voice of
    what really happens and what is really expected. Sadly, that task seems to have
    fallen onto me.
    >
    > To all of the families, especially those with children in grades three and
    four I wish you all the best.

    Sincerely,

    Rachael Colley
    ( She has given permission for this to be in the public domain )
    You can read this on a site by another ex teacher-http://gregoireperra.wordpress.com/author/gperra/

  15. Terence
    March 28, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    Steiner’s theories relating to genetics, while discussing possible biological differences between races, were never intended to be used for racist purposes such as the practices adopted by the Hitler administration.
    It is worth remembering that UK scientists together with scientists from many other European countries led the field of eugenics back in it’s “heyday”. The UK was a strictly racist society for decades in the 20th century. It is not now.
    To say that current Steiner education is based on a racist philosophy is totally absurd and reveals a deep seated ignorance in the person who states such nonsense. Go to a Steiner school and make your own minds up without reading conspiratorial nonsense such as contained in this article.
    Finally, let me be clear. I am not a fan of Steiner education, but this is for totally different and rational reasons than outlined in the article.

    • March 29, 2013 at 12:07 am

      Steiner knew nothing of genetics.

      He talked about the races in terms of spiritual development. His purposes were indeed racist – the lower races must evolve towards higher races – the blond haired race.

      Whilst many other racist ideas existed in the 1920’s and 30’s, they have long since been abandoned. The question is: has anthroposophy managed to come to terms with its racist past and abandoned these ideas? Evidence for the far reaching examination required to do this does not exist.

      • May 31, 2014 at 4:01 pm

        One of the racist ideas that existed before, during and after Steiner’s time, and was popular was the idea of “eugenics” – a striving for the perfect human form. While Steiner primarily practiced a form of “spiritual eugenics” he was also well known for promoting the common themes of eugenics at the time. One example of bringing his spiritual eugenics into the physical was Steiner’s public disdain for the “mixing of blood” between races – even trying to suggest that Mulatto offspring could be produced merely by the reading of “Negro novels” by pregnant white women.

        I don’t think it can be a coincidence that Steiner’s perfect spiritual human form just happened to look EXACTLY like the perfect human the eugenicists of Steiner’s time were striving for.

        I also don’t think that it is a coincidence that “genetics” class in Waldorf schools is all about Mendel’s genetics – which just happened to form the basis for the eugenics movement.

        “The rediscovery of the scientific work of Gregor Mendel in 1900 led to modern genetics, and an understanding of how heredity worked. Mendel himself experimented on peas, and found that many characteristics of the pea plants, such as their colour or their height, could be turned on and off through heredity like a switch. For example, his peas could be either yellow or green, one or the other.

        When applied to humans, people thought this meant that human characteristics, like being smart or not, could be influenced by heredity.”

        https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics

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