Steiner Academy Exeter: Misleading Choices

Once again, we see a proposed new state-funded Steiner School failing to be open about the occult nature of its philosophy and its spiritual goals.

The new Free School, the Steiner Academy Exeter, is confident it will be given approval to open this Autumn as a publicly funded school, and so is opening a formal admissions window on the 1st of April.

To this end, it has taken several full page adverts in the local paper,  the Exeter Express & EchoSteinerAcademyFromeAd

The advert makes no mention of the occult underpinnings of Steiner’s teaching methods. It emphasises the importance of ‘creativity’ underpinning the school ethos. And, the  principle designate, Alan Swindell, uses the advert to highlight how this new school will give the parents of Exeter a new choice. He says, “When the Steiner Academy Exeter comes in to being later this year, it will reinforce the simple moral principle that parents, not governments, should be making the important choices about their children’s education.

But by not disclosing the spiritual underpinnings of this new Anthroposophical School, Swindell is likely to put parents in an uninformed position, where in fact, important choices about their children’s education will be made by the followers of the esoteric movement that is Anthroposophy.

The School’s web site is no better.  The school advertises itself through a set of clichés describing the a Steiner education as focusing on,

That children learn as a whole person. Giving equal attention to thinking, feeling, physical and spiritual aspects of learning is essential both to their well-being as children and the successful outcome of their education.

You have to dig quite deep on the web site before you can see the word anthroposophy. Here though, we see a phrase that is common for Steiner Schools but is deeply misleading. It says,

Steiner schools do not teach anthroposophy, indeed some would argue that it cannot be taught in any conventional sense.

The implication is that anthroposophy is not too important for the school. Indeed the school goes to lengths to say how Steiner wanted his teachers to just engage with his ideas, not take them on as undisputed facts,

Steiner was at pains to make sure that people scrutinized his ideas and put them to the test; he did not want them simply to be adopted or `believed`, but he did invite people to engage with them. In his lectures on education he gave many indications for suitable subject matter and approaches to teaching for different ages but always stressed that teachers must be free to interpret these indications in their own way.

And in the local paper, Swindell again makes it clear that there is nothing hidden about his school,

Exeter is fortunate to be acquiring a Steiner Academy. It confirms the city’s position as a place of innovation and forward thinking. It will not be based on an “occult” or hidden philosophy.

So, are prospective parents getting the right information they need to make an informed choice to sign up for the new school in Exeter? The central question is the role of Anthroposophy. In a handbook for setting up new Steiner [Waldorf in many countries] Schools, it is made clear,

The link between Waldorf education and anthroposophy as a method of inquiry is inextricable. As such, a healthy Waldorf school needs to be very clear that it has taken on a task to cultivate a deep and conscious relationship to the wellsprings of Waldorf education. While Rudolf Steiner himself recognized the need to compromise on some issues in order for the first Waldorf school to survive, he was quite clear that some things were not negotiable. One of these was the absolute connection between the way of working in the school and the spiritual realities upon which this way of working is based. The teacher is not to teach anthroposophy to the children. But the teacher is required to use anthroposophy as a method of investigation and of understanding in order to properly meet the children.

If a parent is to make an informed choice, then a knowledge of Anthroposophy is essential. Let me try to run over the main points very quickly:

  • Rudolf Steiner saw the material world as only that part of reality that was available to our senses – there was a much bigger spiritual realm that was hidden to us. The occult realm.
  • Through clairvoyance and meditation we could become aware of the various spiritual entities in the world: the angels, archangels, spirits and gnomes.
  • Humans are composite beings consisting of body, spirit and soul. Our spiritual components reincarnate through lifetimes guided by karma – our acts in one life influence future lives, through events, illnesses and our physical manifestations. (see my post on Bill Roache.)
  • A spiritual hierarchy exists where different racial groups represent different levels of spiritual evolution. The white, blond haired, blue -eyed races represent the current pinnacle of human spiritual development.
  • Children’s spirits do not incarnate at birth but in seven year stages. Steiner schools exist to aid this spiritual incarnation process. Learning to read and write too soon, or engaging with technology may imbalance a child’s spirit, hindering incarnation and may even cause illness.
  • Two battling evil forces exist in the world – Lucifer and Ahriman. Lucifer is associated with creativity and imagination; Ahriman with materialism and technology. Schools must help children be balanced between these forces. We live in an Ahrimanic age so children must emphasise their creative sides to balance this. The Christ spirit will guide humans to this perfect spiritual balance.

And so on…

You can read a fuller account on my previous blog post, What Every parent Needs to Know About Steiner Schools.

It is important to understand that the entire curriculum of a Steiner School is guided by this esoteric and initiated view of the world – anthroposophy.

One would think, these beliefs of the Steiner movement would be quite important in helping parents decide if a Steiner School was right for their children. It would appear that the Exeter Steiner Academy do not think their spiritual underpinning is important for parents to know about.

What is even more worrying here is that there is a possibility that the new school will become part of Exeter’s capacity. That will mean that for some parents they will have no choice to send their children there. That is unforgivable.

As a letter to the Exeter Express and Echo said,

Nowhere, of course, does Mr Swindell deny that Steiner’s guiding ideas involve notions of karma, reincarnation, astrology, homeopathy, gnomes and a racial hierarchy of spiritual development. I echo his call for readers to find out more for themselves. I am sure that the more parents know about this bizarre cult the less likely they are to entrust their children to its followers.

There is now a distinct possibility that there will be parents having to entrust their children to people who are guided by the ramblings of a mystic and clairvoyant who believed the Aryan race was the height of spiritual development.

 

277 comments for “Steiner Academy Exeter: Misleading Choices

  1. cromercrox
    March 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    What alarmist nonsense. I went to a Steiner school at the age of 14. I was a veteran of much bullying from a conventional education. I grew up as an atheist and science communicator. Anthroposophy is NOT taught in the curriculum, except for a week in the very last year (which I walked out on as it was utter nonsense – nobody cared or minded.) True, Steiner education attracts its share of anti-vaxers and other nutjobs, but from this article you’d think that Steiner pupils engaged in black masses and played with ouija boards.

    • March 28, 2013 at 3:25 pm

      ‘which I walked out on as it was utter nonsense – nobody cared or minded’

      What a pity. But I must applaud the school for at least making some minimal effort to inform you.

    • Andy Lewis
      March 29, 2013 at 11:36 am

      I struggle to understand how being concerned that a school is not open about the spiritual intentions of their teaching is ‘alarmist nonsense’.

    • Andy
      April 6, 2013 at 3:26 am

      “I went to a Steiner school at the age of 14. I was a veteran of much bullying from a conventional education. I grew up as an atheist and science communicator.”

      I know several atheists who attended Catholic schools. They were taught a lot about Catholicism and religion in general but they went in atheists and came out atheists.

      But their parents were very clear about the background and philosophies of the schools. No one was trying to pretend they weren’t really Catholic. Why are Steiners not so open about their underpinnings?

      • Dr Richard Rawlins
        April 6, 2013 at 12:32 pm

        I’d be embarrased, wouldn’t you?

  2. Richard Rawlins
    March 28, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    What alarmist nonsense!

    Mr. Quack gave no intimation Steinerists engaged in Black Masses or Ouija. Please do not exaggerate. He did however point out that Anthroposophy is at the heart of a Steiner education – even if you did not notice being taught those beliefs as such. A more perspicacious student might have realised that Anthroposophy underpins the teaching.

    If that we’re not the case, why do the schools just come out and say “we reject Anthroposophy”? Why do they insist on using Steiner’s name – and thereby his philosophy, which has the name he gave it. And that is, anthroposophy.

    Wake up, smell the coffee. Watch the gnomes.

    May you remain in ignorant bliss.

  3. Badly Shaved Monkey
    March 28, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Whatever the qualities of Steiner education, competence in reading comprehension is not much in evidence.

    Anthroposophy is NOT taught in the curriculum, except for a week in the very last year

    And the steinerist source quoted by Andy says exactly that.

    realities upon which this way of working is based. The teacher is not to teach anthroposophy to the children. But the teacher is required to use anthroposophy as a method of investigation and of understanding in order to properly meet the children.

    Like every other defender if Steiner that has appeared here, you have dunderheadedly missed the point. It is not that the school teaches anthroposophy, but that its teaching is soaked in anthroposophy.

    You expect your doctor to practise medicine upon you. You do not expect him/her to teach you medicine.

    The major concern is that, unlike conventional religious schools, the religious background is obscured.

    To use my medical analogy, it would be like visiting a doctor who had secretly been indoctrinated in the Galenic humours as being a description of real biology.

    • March 28, 2013 at 10:16 pm

      ‘You expect your doctor to practise medicine upon you. You do not expect him/her to teach you medicine.’

      This is a brilliant analogy.

      • Badly Shaved Monkey
        March 28, 2013 at 11:01 pm

        Nice to be appreciated.

  4. Badly Shaved Monkey
    March 28, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Let’s get this out of the way early in this discussion. The name of the principal-designate is Mr Swindell.

    I think that was a comedy boil that needed lancing quickly.

  5. Mark Etherton
    March 28, 2013 at 8:53 pm
    • cyril
      March 31, 2013 at 5:39 pm

      “Waldorf education is the largest-growing alternative education movement in the world today”

      I guess a few of these parents/pupils might even have a reading-age high enough to peruse the kind of information produced here on Quackometer and its ilk. Lord knows there’s enough of it about.

      Supposed racism, karma, angels, and all that stuff seem to be a growth market. I mean, if you’re in one of these schools from kindergarten to 18 (even with a retention rate of only 50% as some claim), and your parents are possibly shelling out hard-earned dosh for the privilege, and putting up with frequent critical challenges from those around them; you’d think *someone* other than a few keyboard skeptics who’d never visited the place would notice all wasn’t what it was purported to be.

      Do you think they’re all that stupid! Or maybe cynical skepticism has had its day, and the product really is worth buying (for them at least) despite all the brickbats.

      • Dr Richard Rawlins
        April 1, 2013 at 2:33 pm

        In the course of history Human Beings have regularly ‘bought into’ a wide variety of practices which we would now find quite abhorrent.

        Please do not confuse popularity with plausibility or ethical validity.

  6. rita
    March 29, 2013 at 9:12 am

    I don’t give a toss about how people educate their children, but if the Steiner Schools teach them to come out spouting prose of the quality shown above: “The link between Steiner education…..”, replete with dead metaphor and even a split infinitive, they should probably all be shut down tomoroow.

  7. Badly Shaved Monkey
    March 29, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    I’m still trying to put this at the bottom of the thread. Sorry for the repetition.

    Mike the Giraffe

    You are walking a well-trodden path with your irrelevant meta-argument. Here again is what you have been asked and which any steinerista is free to answer;

    How and where is “MODERN” steinerist education defined and differentiated from Steiner’s teachings ? How is this reflected in the texts and manuals that underpin the teaching in Steiner schools ?

    • Grumpycat
      April 1, 2013 at 10:59 am

      Maybe today on April 1st you delusional spin merchants can celebrate the end of Steiner schools and the end of anything else you don’t approve of.

      I actualy don’t approve of state funded religous schools. Unfortunately though you lot are now on the case. So more publicity for Steiner schools in another backfiring campaign.
      Faint praise

      • Badly Shaved Monkey
        April 1, 2013 at 11:49 am

        Ah, Grumpycat, you return once more to share your snide nothings with us. Perhaps you’ll post on one of the discussions where you’ve been asked substantive questions but have declined to answer, but I think you’ll probably not.

        • Grumpycat
          April 2, 2013 at 9:13 am

          It is all about getting to the core of things BSM. What Andy has missed in his post is that all religous schools are a sell out. Steiner schools are a sell out like all the otrher religous schools. No Christian or Jewish school for example push the exact religous teachings to the letter. Otherwise would not these schools be teaching the enslaving of people ie Leviticus 25:44 ?
          So why pick on Steiner? Advocating the enslavement of oter nations is not great is it?
          Sorry about my snide nothings BSM.

  8. Luke Duncan
    April 2, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Hello sceptics! As a supporter of anthroposhical social initiatives, I would also like to see Steiner schools provide more upfront information on the anthroposohical ideas that inform their teaching, because I would like these ideas to reach wider audiences. However, in the same way as you wouldn’t expect Catholic schools to provide information on their websites about the Spanish Inquisition or Muslim schools to provide information about holy jihad, don’t expect Steiner schools to provide in-depth information on spiritual science. Steiner schools are offering a form of education not religious indoctrination.

    The argument that parents might unwittingly send their children to a Steiner school not being aware of the anthroposphical underpinnings of the teaching is a spurious argument. This is especially the case since every Steiner school is run democratically by a college of teachers. In contrast to other forms of education, every Steiner school/kindergarten is completely autonomous and every teacher is completely free to shape his or her lessons, at least in principle. In practice, most teachers at a Steiner school will be anthroposophists and will therefore base their teaching on the ideas put forward by Rudolf Steiner. The schools operate on a collegial basis, which means all decisions are made consensually by the college of teachers. There is no hierarchy, no mandatory set curricula, no head teachers, no directors and neither the state nor business sector dictates what is to be taught. Remember that state education is directed by government (the folks who like to invade other countries) and increasingly big business (the folks that view individuals as human resources). Steiner schools are free schools. There are also no exams (until GSCE/A-levels, which are tacked on so to speak). It is therefore best to talk to the teachers directly. Go and have a look around a school and talk to people there about your concerns. That way you will be able to make up your own minds.

    I suspect the real issue sceptics have with Steiner schools is anthroposophy per se. Anthroposophy is a spiritual path taken in complete individual freedom. To my mind, it is precisely this spiritual freedom and complete reliance on one’s own objective thinking, rather than any form of indoctrination, that frightens off the sceptically-minded materialist and/or atheist. However, it schouldn’t be. In his book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment, Rudolf Steiner clearly sets out where all the mumbo-jumbo (to use a sceptic’s term) comes from. The book is written in a style that is accessible to everyone and offers an excellent explanation of how it is that anthrosophists have been inspired by and come to appreciate the social health and validity of many of Steiner’s ideas. By the way, the ‘gnome’ thing is hugely exaggerated by sceptics, gnomes are just one of the many types of elemental spirits.

    • Dr Richard Rawlins
      April 2, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      Thank you for an excellent account. What a shame Steiner schools in general do not make these points clear on their web sites and in their applications for state funding.

      And I have to say I am not keen on my taxes being used to fund the teaching of children by folks who believe in any kind of ‘elemental spirit’ – whether technically a gnome or not. (Can you tell us about the other kinds?) And I say the same about church schools.

      I hope your belief system gives you joy, but please do not use my taxes for the purpose. Thank you very much.

    • Andy Lewis
      April 2, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      Luke,

      So much to say about your response. But to be brief.

      Equating the basics of anthroposophy with the ‘Spanish Inquisition’ is of course nonsense. Whilst most people have a good idea of the beliefs of Christians, few will have any idea about anthroposophy. That is a very good reason to ensure parents do know before signing up. That schools appear to go out of their way not to explain is deeply unethical, I would argue.

      If all schools are truly independent and run acsording to their own democratic wishes, then even more reason to explain to parents just how Steiner’s beliefs ‘inspire’ the school – what they have left out and what they practice. However, I do not believe for one second that schools opperate with as much independence as you suggest. All have to be anthroposophical in nature and follow the anthroposophical curriculum. All do eurythmy, follow the lesson structures, delay reading etc. This looks like another smoke screen to me.

      Yes, I may well object to anthroposophy’s so-called spiritual path. I think it is utter nonsense. I have read <i?Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and it is utter barmpottery. My point is this: parents need the chance to come to this conclusion too befire sending their kids to schools who believe clairvoyance has a role in teaching.

      Glad to hear about the gnomes. We look forward to hearing about the other elemental spirits too.

      • cyril
        April 2, 2013 at 2:50 pm

        Andy.

        No, “Knowledge of the Higher Worlds” – despite its odd title, is not barmpottery (a word, by the way, which I find the definition of as elusive as you find that of “Higher Worlds”, no doubt).

        It might be barmpottery to you, but not to thousands of level-headed, educated and socially useful people, who have read it and used it. In brief, from one persepctive it is merely a handbook of meditation. If you doubt the usefulness of meditation, try it.

        If you want a modern update on the book, try reading “Meditation as Contemplative Enquiry” by Arthur Zajonc, professor of quantum physics at Amhurst College, US. Or look into the inter-disciplinary conference held by Zajonc at MIT in 2006 between a bunch of academics and a bunch of Tibetan Buddhist monks led by the Dalai Lama.

        All of these works provide both subjective and scientifically objective evidence of the effects of meditation. Steiner goes one step further, and gives us a clue (barmpottery to you) as to what is really happening when one meditates. But he leaves us in complete freedom in this respect, saying that if you have no desire to explore that reality, that’s fine; but you still might find that meditation just helps you get along in life.

        Whatever “barmpottery” actually means, I doubt it falls into the
        category of reasoned judgment that you seem to be asking the rest of us to observe in this conversation.

        What I would like you to do to help this debate, are two things:-

        1. Stop having your knee-jerk visceral reaction whenever you meet a word like “spiritual” or “elemental being” or “karma”. Just try to imagine what these words might mean to someone who claims to
        experience a reality behind them. Like telling your mate the first time you fell in love.

        2. Stop wrongly (and I believe intentionally) associating
        Anthroposophy per se with everything that emanates from institutions connected with the wider Anthroposophical movement. So when you say “All have to be anthroposophical in nature and follow the anthroposophical curriculum”, you really mean the Waldorf curriculum because there is no anthroposophical curriculum. As related examples, I know a number of bio-dynamic farmers who have nothing to do with Anthroposophy, and there is the Freie Paedagogische Vereinigung in Switzerland where Waldorf school methods are freely adopted in State schools.

        • Andy Lewis
          April 2, 2013 at 3:35 pm

          I don’t expect anyone who believes in barmpottery to realise they believe in barmpottery.

          And as for your denial about anthroposophical education, I can only repeat the quote in my article,

          The link between Waldorf education and anthroposophy as a method of inquiry is inextricable. As such, a healthy Waldorf school needs to be very clear that it has taken on a task to cultivate a deep and conscious relationship to the wellsprings of Waldorf education. While Rudolf Steiner himself recognized the need to compromise on some issues in order for the first Waldorf school to survive, he was quite clear that some things were not negotiable. One of these was the absolute connection between the way of working in the school and the spiritual realities upon which this way of working is based. The teacher is not to teach anthroposophy to the children. But the teacher is required to use anthroposophy as a method of investigation and of understanding in order to properly meet the children.

          • cyril
            April 2, 2013 at 4:08 pm

            “And as for your denial about anthroposophical education”

            No, I denied there was an antroposophical *curriculum* – ie the stuff that gets taught.

          • April 3, 2013 at 2:42 pm

            Knowledge of Higher Worlds… yes, that’s required reading for Waldorf teachers… Let’s see what’s in it:

            Good children “have a respect that forbids them, even in the deepest recess of their heart, to harbour any thoughts of criticism or opposition.” [KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT, p. 10.]

            “From the stone there flows into the soul one kind of feeling, and from the animal another … Out of these feelings and the thoughts that are bound up with them, the organs of clairvoyance are formed.” [KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT, p. 29.]

            Here’s the good one…

            “For peoples and races are but steps leading to pure humanity. A race or a nation stands so much the higher, the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal human type, the further they have worked their way from the physical and perishable to the supersensible and imperishable. The evolution of man through the incarnations in ever higher national and racial forms is thus a process of liberation. Man must finally appear in harmonious perfection.” (Steiner, Knowledge of Higher Worlds p. 207)

    • April 25, 2013 at 7:43 pm

      Luke, you say, “The book is written in a style that is accessible to everyone and offers an excellent explanation of how it is that anthrosophists have been inspired by and come to appreciate the social health and validity of many of Steiner’s ideas.” when you say ‘everyone’ does that include those types of people whom Steiner believed to be incapable of higher spiritual thought or deed?

  9. Luke Duncan
    April 2, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Hello Dr Rawlins

    Here is an article about the gnomes (written by a sceptical parent):

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/04/my-waldorf-student-son-believes-in-gnomes-and-thats-fine-with-me/274521/

    For info on other elemental spirits, try googling “undines”, “sylphs” and “salamanders” — representative of the other three elements water, air and fire.

    Education has to be funded somehow. I don’t see why parents should be forced to have their children educated by the state, with all the technocratic, bureaucratic, institutionalised, impersonal, unimaginative, soul-destroying, dehumanising, job-market-oriented, early-over-intellectualising pressure that is put on children in many cases. I’m no right-winger, but I thought the Conservatives’ idea a few years back to give all parents a voucher entitling them to send their child to any school of their choice was a good one. We need education to be free of dogma, whether it be state, market or religious ideology. Steiner schools give individual teachers the complete cultural freedom, as professionals, to shape and design their own classes – this is a revolutionary step in the right direction and should be welcomed, not put outside the financial reach of most parents by a one-size-fits-all, state-imposed cultural fascism.

    • Andy Lewis
      April 2, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      Luke

      It strikes me as completely dishonest to suggest that Steiner Schools are some sort of pedagogical tabula rasa completely free of dogma and spiritual intent.

      The exact opposite is true. Steiner Schools are the educational expression of anthroposopgy and Steiner’s views on karma and reincarnaiton. If what you said was true, then there would be huge divergence in methods and approaches in Steiner Schools making it even more important that each school set out its individual philosophy. As it is, I see a very high degree of uniformity – a compliance with Steiner education as set out by Rudolf Steiner.

      I still find it incredible that supporters of Steiner education continuously mislead people as to what they are doing. It really is quite incredible.

    • Dr Richard Rawlins
      April 2, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      He who pays the piper calls the tune.

      If schools want state funding (my taxes) they should comply with state curricula. A Steiner education IS based on dogma!

      So let us not sling and shout, but accept your views are controversial. Simply set up such schools as you may wish. But not using state funds – unless the state (and that means all prospective parents, politicians and taxpayers) really do understand, openly, unequivocally, and honestly that anthroposophy is at the heart of the educational principles at these schools.

      But in reality and practice, this important knowledge is hidden. I’m not surprised at that, but you should be ashamed.

    • April 2, 2013 at 9:32 pm

      That’s not a sceptical parent. That’s a parent who has not made sure he understands why the gnomes are there and the nature of the worldview the gnomes represent before choosing to write an uncritical article. He makes silly of something he ought to take seriously before he advertises it. That’s almost the opposite of sceptical, I would think.

      In any case, if the state is to fund a particular kind of education two things should be required: that the education is at least decent and that the schools are honest about their philosophy.

  10. cyril
    April 2, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    “I don’t expect anyone who believes in barmpottery to realise they believe in barmpottery.”

    One could equally argue that a denier of “barmpottery” is similarly afflicted.

    In one of your talks, Andy, you said that if the Waldorf schools were more up-front about their Anthroposophical underpinnings, that would satisfy you, and you’d move on to other targets.

    Okay, let’s imagine you could sit round a table with representatives of the British Waldorf schools, and agree on a document that appears on their web sites. What would it contain?

    Clearly “barmpottery” is not one of its keywords, unless they accept that Andy Lewis’ interpretation of Anthroposophy is the only valid one. Freedom of conscience is one of our most dearly held social rights, and I assume you agree.

    So I propose we try, together, to draft that document.

    • Andy Lewis
      April 2, 2013 at 8:50 pm

      I am not sure it is up to me to show the insight and clarity required to describe for schools what they should be saying. I have made the nature of Steiner’s beliefs and Anthroposophy perfectly clear in previous blog posts.

      The schools themselves should have the insight to understand what facts are important for a parent to make a decision to send their kids there. They should have enough evidence by now to understand how parents react when they find the truth. It is incumbent on them to ensure there are no nasty surprises for parents.

  11. Luke Duncan
    April 2, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Andy, in my opinion and experience, the “dishonesty” you perceive, while partly an admitted failure of the schools to provide sufficient information, does not stem from an intention of the schools or teachers to obfuscate or mislead. There are a number of factors, which in my opinion have led to this partial failure on the part of the schools. The first is that anthroposophy itself is an enormous body of knowledge that is very hard to summarise in a form that can be immediately understood simply by reading a page on a school’s website. An explanation, for example, of how and why children require different educational experiences at different ages, based on their stage of spiritual growth into adulthood, is a difficult thing to explain in a couple of paragraphs, as it requires a certain amount of anthroposophical background knowledge and experience. It is something that needs to be understood intellectually, but also, and more importantly, to be experienced and appreciated through the practice of doing it. As this applies to so many of the peculiarities of Steiner education (and anthroposophy generally), it is rather hard, if not impossible, to condense it all into a website of a school.

    Secondly, the schools wish to focus on what they actually do – which is the content of the education they deliver. The reason for the conformity or similarity between the pedagogy and the subjects taught at different schools is that individual teachers work with the same indications given by Steiner. These do not constitute a detailed curriculum that needs to implemented and complied with (as is the case with the National Curriculum). The teachers draw on their own individual understanding of these ideas and draw on best practice established by other teachers, including those ideas put forward within their own school’s college of teachers, so as to help shape their lessons in the most fruitful way possible. However, this is again something that arises out the individual teacher’s experience and contemplative work with the pedagogical ideas of Steiner. It is not merely a blueprint or a particular school’s philosophy that is put into practice. It could be thought of as a toolbox that is tested out through each individual teacher’s contemplation and classroom experience. In other words, it is not something that is easy to codify and set in stone.

    Education is an art, not a science. In this sense, we are talking about a pedagogy that is completely free from dogma because no outside force prescribes what can or cannot be taught or how it should be delivered. The classroom education is provided through the individual creative cultural work and contemplation of the teacher.

    • Andy Lewis
      April 2, 2013 at 8:56 pm

      That is nonsense. I would be believable if so many school web sites were actively misdirecting parent by using such phrases as ‘we do not teach anthroposophy’ or ‘we are broadly Christian in our ethos’.

      The basic dogma of Steiner is very simple:
      – That the spirit world is real but hidden from us.
      – We can access it through clairvoyance
      – Human beings are composed of body, soul and spirit.
      – Our spiritual aspects reincarnate through multiple bodies.
      – Karma drives our manifestations
      – There is a spiritual hierarchy of being based on race
      – Steiner Schools exist to help children incarnate in their current bodies.

      There not too hard is it?

      • Luke Duncan
        April 2, 2013 at 10:32 pm

        With a huge amount left out and plus or minus a few gross distortions, yes that’s a simplistic start. What is the soul? What is meant by the spirit? How do these two differ? How do individuals gain access to the spirit world? How can people who are not clairvoyant make use of spiritual insight and apply it in practical terms, if they have not acquired that insight themselves. How can people know that they are not being told a load of confused mumbo-jumbo of a “19th-century loon”? As a parent I would want to know what all this mean in terms of my child’s education. In particular, I would want to know in what way these ideas inform the teaching in the classroom and in the day-to-day life of the school … obviously, we are still a long way from explaining how a teacher might plan his or her lessons, but hopefully you appreciate the necessity of keeping things relatively straightforward on the school websites. A simple Q&A page is never going to suffice to answer all these questions in a satisfactory manner. However, Steiner schools offer parents a very great deal more interaction within the activities of the school and with teachers than is the case in any other form of education in the UK. It’s through this face-face interaction and participation in the school year that parents get to see for themselves and acquire an understanding of the more philosophical/anthroposophical underpinnings of the education. Again, it is impossible to acquire this experience, whether as a parent or as a critic, without talking to the individual teachers and experiencing what goes on at the schools and seeing the work the children do in their main lesson books, in their subject lessons, in the gardens and workshops, etc.

        • April 2, 2013 at 10:59 pm

          Some basic information is probably better than none at all. The fact that some of these thing might lead to more questions provides no excuse for waldorf schools not to mention anthroposophy at all. And it can’t excuse them from giving the impression that anthroposophy is not so important (which is what they so often do).

          They don’t have to go into detailed description or speculation about the nature of the soul, e g, in order to describe and inform about anthroposophy. They simply need to say that anthroposophy is important, even better also providing an accurate albeit succinct description of it (not at all impossible) — and leave people free to avoid waldorf education if they don’t want anthroposophy.

          It’s ridiculous to suggest that people who don’t want anthroposophy — and would know this right away — should waste time finding out from ‘face-face interaction and participation in the school year’ simply because the schools can’t be upfront. By the time they discover the truth that way — which might take years, if they even understand it then, since the ideas behind are not spoken about openly anyway — their child might already be facing difficulties transferring to a mainstream school.

          • Luke Duncan
            April 3, 2013 at 12:52 pm

            Andy/Alicia, as I said before, I agree with you that it would be a good thing if the websites of UK Steiner schools (especially those seeking government funding) gave more basic information about Steiner and anthroposophy. I was merely trying to give an explanation of why, in my opinion, they hadn’t already done so. On the one hand, the schools rightly do not wish to be seen as teaching kids anthroposophy, because that’s not what they do. They provide an education that benefits from anthroposophical insights. At least on the websites, however, they seem to have gone to far in this regard and, in some cases, do not even give a basic overview of Steiner’s thinking. As for red flags, I would like to see a health warning on the websites of state schools to the effect that an education directed by politicians and technocrats, rather than teachers, may have long-lasting negative impacts on childhoods and cause harm to society at large.

        • Andy Lewis
          April 2, 2013 at 11:19 pm

          Well, yes – there is a lot more information you might want to give to parents.

          I would suggest though that a few simple statements like this are enough to raise red flags for parents who wish a reality-based education for their parents.

          Those who are not alarmed by such statement may well then make a choice to send their kids there, but I would suggest that a government might want to reconsider its wholehearted support to such superstition-based teaching.

        • April 3, 2013 at 2:49 pm

          “What is the soul? What is meant by the spirit? How do these two differ? How do individuals gain access to the spirit world? How can people who are not clairvoyant make use of spiritual insight and apply it in practical terms, if they have not acquired that insight themselves. How can people know that they are not being told a load of confused mumbo-jumbo of a “19th-century loon”? As a parent I would want to know what all this mean in terms of my child’s education. ”

          As a parent, I think NONE OF THOSE should be questions I should have to ask a SCHOOL. Do you have any notion of what parents expect from education? Or are you in the business of telling them what they should expect?

          • Luke Duncan
            April 3, 2013 at 5:22 pm

            Pete, unlike Andy (author of this blog), I am not in the business of telling school parents what they should expect of Steiner schools. I am trying to correct the distorted picture and occasional slurs against Steiner schools propagated by this blog. Unlike Andy, I have direct experience of both Steiner schools (as a pupil) and state schools (as a former trainee teacher). I also have a much closer relationship to Anthroposophy than Andy appears to do.

            That said, in the above article, Andy makes what I consider to be a valid point. Namely, that the website of the proposed Steiner Academy Exter is currently not upfront enough about the anthroposophical underpinnings of the education it intends to provide. I asked the question “what is the soul?”, etc., because Andy helpfully suggested that Steiner schools should publish basic statements about anthroposophical concepts/ideas on their websites, such as “Human beings are composed of body, soul and spirit.”

            Like you Pete, I don’t think questions or statements such as the above are going to be of much help to parents who are deciding whether or not to send their child to a Steiner school. What on earth has the soul got to do with educating children? Just answering this one question might require a very long explanation in the case of a parent who has no prior knowledge of anthroposophy. To complicate things even more, each Steiner school teacher would answer such a question differently because concepts like the “soul” are huge topics in and of themselves. There isn’t just one simple anthroposophical definition or explanation of the soul. And how knowledge of a child’s soul life should inform pedagogical practice is an open question that each teacher (and school) answers differently in their day-to-day creative and artistic work as educators.

            I wanted to highlight this difficulty of relating general (non-pedagogical) anthroposophical concepts to Steiner school education, especially when if this has to be done in summary written form for prospective parents on a school website. I was also suggesting by harping on about the “need for direct experience” (rather than just reading about anthroposophy/Steiner schools) that to understand what actually goes on at a Steiner, you really need to experience it first-hand.

            “Yes… come visit the gingerbread house… where everything is exactly as it appears.”

            What do you know about Steiner schools? Are you suggesting something is being hidden? If so why and what evidence or experience to you have of this?

        • April 3, 2013 at 2:52 pm

          “Again, it is impossible to acquire this experience, whether as a parent or as a critic, without talking to the individual teachers and experiencing what goes on at the schools and seeing the work the children do in their main lesson books, in their subject lessons, in the gardens and workshops, etc.”

          Yes… come visit the gingerbread house… where everything is exactly as it appears.

          • April 3, 2013 at 6:09 pm

            “What do you know about Steiner schools?”

            I’m the world’s foremost expert on Steiner schools… hands down. Ask anyone.

            “Are you suggesting something is being hidden?”

            No, I’m SCREAMING IT at the top of my lungs. We can start anywhere you like… EVERYTHING about Steiner education is hidden from parents… every bit of it.

            “If so why and what evidence or experience to you have of this?”

            I have INSIDE experience… which is the best kind of course. I married into an Anthroposophical family… started a Waldorf school, tried to reform a Waldorf school for years (and gave up), and so on… Decades of experience both with Waldorf and Anthroposophy. They hide every aspect of what they’re doing and why – from parents. Exeter is a prime example.

            Feel free to read my blogs:
            http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/
            (mostly my experiences)

            http://thewaldorfreview.blogspot.com/
            (mostly the experiences of others)

            Waldorf critics have no reason to lie about Waldorf. Waldorf supporters have lots of reasons.

          • April 3, 2013 at 6:15 pm

            “And how knowledge of a child’s soul life should inform pedagogical practice is an open question that each teacher (and school) answers differently in their day-to-day creative and artistic work as educators.”

            Yes… it’s always creative fun when they suggest a child is a “demon” (in accordance with Steiner’s teachings). Not only suggest it, but publicize it to parents and children at the school. Such creativity is what we need more of, don’t you agree? Emotional bullying in the name of the “soul”…

        • Andy
          April 6, 2013 at 5:08 am

          “people who are not clairvoyant ” is rather redundant. You could just say “people”.

  12. Dr Richard Rawlins
    April 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    ‘Dogma’ Latin – ‘philosophical tenet.’ From Greek- ‘that which one thinks is true.’

    In what way is a Steiner education not domatic?

  13. Luke Duncan
    April 2, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    “Dogma — a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.”

    Not dogmatic in that way.

    • Dr Richard Rawlins
      April 2, 2013 at 11:21 pm

      So. A Steiner education is dogmatic. Thank you.

      (Or are you suggesting Steiner did not believe what he said was true?)

  14. Badly Shaved Monkey
    April 2, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    “The first is that anthroposophy itself is an enormous body of knowledge…”

    Where Knowledge = Fanciful notions extruded from the posterior orifice of a 19th century loon.

    This ‘knowledge’ results in teaching kids about gnomes and that aryan blooms is more highly evolved and farmers burying cow horns full of manure in order to make magic potions. I would say “you couldn’t make it up”, but Steiner did.

    This is like talking to homeopaths. One can too easily forget what your opponents really believe as the discussion spirals off in different directions.

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 2, 2013 at 7:33 pm

      Before we get too far with Nazi floristry, thanks to iPhone,

      blooms = blood

    • cyril
      April 2, 2013 at 9:41 pm

      “Where Knowledge = Fanciful notions extruded from the posterior orifice of a 19th century loon.”

      I think it’s time for you to calm your language.

  15. JimR
    April 2, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    In the US there are 127 Waldorf or Steiner schools or Steiner colleges in 34 states founded from the 1960s to present day. Source:
    http://www.whywaldorfworks.org/05_FindASchool/

    For the couple of the websites I looked at, there was only a vague reference to anthroposophy. Lots of gardening going on.

  16. cyril
    April 2, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    > The basic dogma of Steiner is very simple:
    > That the spirit world is real but hidden from us.
    > We can access it through clairvoyance
    > Human beings are composed of body, soul and spirit.

    Okay

    > Our spiritual aspects reincarnate through multiple bodies.
    > Karma drives our manifestations
    > There is a spiritual hierarchy of being based on race
    > Steiner Schools exist to help children incarnate in their current bodies.

    Nope.

    3/7 – not quite a pass grade, yet giving public lectures – hmm.

    • Andy Lewis
      April 2, 2013 at 10:54 pm

      I am confident in my answers.

      I am also confident anthroposophists will try to deny certain aspects of the initiated truth of their beliefs.

  17. Badly Shaved Monkey
    April 3, 2013 at 7:19 am

    “How can people know that they are not being told a load of confused mumbo-jumbo of a “19th-century loon”?”

    How, indeed.

  18. cyril
    April 3, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    “I am confident in my answers.”

    It’s not your confidence that concerns me, it’s your accuracy and understandability.

    We’re trying to condense a description of Anthroposophy into a few short sentences primarily for the benefit of potential school parents.

    As I commented earlier, your first three statements are okay:-
    – That the spirit world is real but hidden from us.

    This is fine.

    – We can access it through clairvoyance.

    To which I would add “which can be learnt”.

    – Human beings are composed of body, soul and spirit.

    This is fine. The body is what we can touch; the soul is home and reservoir of our thoughts, feelings, memories, dreams, sensations, intentions; the spirit (the ego) is what glues all this together as “individual”, as the “being” in “human being”.

    – Our spiritual aspects reincarnate through multiple bodies.

    I don’t get this. If you mean the spirit (re-)incarnates as a person many times, then okay. If not, it’s not clear what you mean.

    – Karma drives our manifestations.

    This sounds like a form of determinism over many earth-lives. If you mean that everything manifested in a person is driven by her/his karma without his/her participation, then sorry, no. If not, then again it’s not clear what you mean.

    – There is a spiritual hierarchy of being based on race.

    Absolutely not.

    – Steiner Schools exist to help children incarnate in their current bodies.

    Steiner schools exist to educate children. I suspect your use of the word “bodies” here, relates to the model of the human being that identifies those characteristics which distinguish the inorganic, the vegetative, the animal, and the human. Each of these characteristics is often refered to as a “body”, meaning an integral somewhat, not a physical somewhat (except in the case of the material “body”). If this is what you meant, then all educational models knowingly or otherwise, attempt to help a child adjust to being, growing, feeling, thinking, knowing, etc. The word “incarnating” is not magic. For example, just look at a pubescent child, rather suddenly finding itself living in a body that “doesn’t fit” anymore. Helping that child to adjust to this new body – to incarnate into it in a healthy way – is the role of all education. This is true of all our faculties at all stages of childhood – and beyond.

    • Andy Lewis
      April 3, 2013 at 1:11 pm

      cyril said,

      - There is a spiritual hierarchy of being based on race.

      Absolutely not.

      Are you disputing Steiner’s views on the spiritual hierarchy?

      Of course, thie difficulty in agreeing with you some text is that you really actually believe in this stuff and so you use words in ways that mean things to you and different things to people who do not believe. And you flip between meanings, such as how you have tried to defuse the word ‘incarnating’.

      A real honest approach would be to see an exposing from a Steiner School that explained what they believe, assuming the new parent does not believe and/or lacks the initiating, which emphasis on those areas that a prospective parent may find troubling or difficult. That would really give informed choice.

      But we will never get there, will we?

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 3, 2013 at 1:28 pm

      -We can access it through clairvoyance.

      To which I would add “which can be learnt”.

      Do you have reliable evidence for the properties of this learned clairvoyance?

      You only add to the depths of my concern over what Steiner schools teach.

    • rita
      April 3, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      I think you’d do beter looking up “Embodied Cognition” than these woolly concepts of incarnation.

  19. cyril
    April 3, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    “Are you disputing Steiner’s views on the spiritual hierarchy?”

    No, I’m disputing your interpretation of them.

    “such as how you have tried to defuse the word ‘incarnating’.”

    That was not my intention. What have I defused it of? What does the word mean to you?

    • Matt
      April 4, 2013 at 9:01 am

      To me incarnation means a spiritual entity, like the ghost of Alec Guinness in Star Wars, taking command of a body, in the same way a pilot takes control aircraft.

      You have tried to make it sound like it’s just your word for child development.

      I think that’s disingenuous.

      • Badly Shaved Monkey
        April 4, 2013 at 9:28 am

        It’s interesting how this discussion has morphed.

        The initial complaint from Andy and others is that Steiner schools conceal their philosophy. We’ve been told that steinerism is not essential to Steiner schools. That’s a bit weird, but it’s a position that several respondents have tried to sustain. But now, with Cyril and others appearing, we see confirmation of exactly why their weird philosophy needs to be concealed or risk it being drowned in derisive laughter.

        • Matt
          April 4, 2013 at 10:32 am

          I think a free society has to make room for whimsy and silliness, if it didn’t I would go voluntarily to the madhouse.

          But a free society must also be able to critique beliefs and ideas that are put forward in the public sphere. If you want to sell services, or treatments or run schools or influence public policy with your faith you are entering the public sphere.

          I think you have a choice, if you want to have secret esoteric beliefs you are welcome to go off and keep them to yourself in some religious community somewhere. If you want to influence the rest of society, or take custody of our children or sell us potions you must put your ideas forward honestly for a fair hearing.

          A fair hearing may result in rejection, or ridicule of course, but that’s the flip side of a free society, since uncritical acceptance of all ideas is no freedom at all.

      • cyril
        April 4, 2013 at 12:09 pm

        > To me incarnation means a spiritual entity, like the ghost of
        > Alec Guinness in Star Wars, taking command of a body, in the
        > same way a pilot takes control aircraft

        That’s a fine example.

        > You have tried to make it sound like it’s just your word for
        > child development.

        I’m sorry you read it that way.

        I was using puberty as an example to illustrate where incarnating is visible; like you used Alec Guiness. But it is just one example. Because, as you say, the very word implies a spiritual (ie immaterial, hence invisible) element clothing itself in a material form, one has to use a degree of imagination, or appreciate a metaphor, simply to be able to grant the word any meaning at all.

        When I sit around with research (IT) colleagues trying “to put flesh on an idea” one of us has had, that to me is an example of the process of incarnation.

        By the same token, the process of being born and growing up is one where the self (an ideal entity) gradually clothes itself in real flesh with a real soul life (ie psyche).

        • Matt
          April 4, 2013 at 2:42 pm

          That’s a bit better. Although I find the vacillating about what’s metaphor and what’s literal truth a bit odd.

          As it happens I disagree with you about what it is to be human. That’s not what this is about. This is about honest presentation of ideas.

          If you want parents to send children to a Steiner school do you not think you should be honest with them about how your ideas of child development and learning develop from ideas about the way flesh seams together around an incarnating spirit?

          • cyril
            April 4, 2013 at 4:09 pm

            “If you want parents to send children to a Steiner school do you not think you should be honest with them about how your ideas of child development and learning develop from ideas about the way flesh seams together around an incarnating spirit?”

            If I were active in Waldorf education, I would do exactly as you suggest. It would certainly be dishonest to conceal these ideas.

            Whenever there is a suggestion of such concealment – whether intentional or not – such as fills the debate here, I try to feed these thoughts back to those of my acquaintances who are active in the Waldorf school movement.

          • Matt
            April 4, 2013 at 7:07 pm

            Well then I think we agree.

  20. April 3, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    ““Are you disputing Steiner’s views on the spiritual hierarchy?”

    No, I’m disputing your interpretation of them.”

    There is no mis-interpreting of these views, sorry. Steiner’s views that spiritual hierarchies are based on race are clear. His words speak for themselves… but I’d love to hear your interpretation of how they might not be racist. Have you read Sune Nordwall’s analysis perhaps? Are we going to break it down into “Theosophical” vs “Anthropsophical” terms soon? I hope so… I’d love to get into this discussion with you.

    Steiner absolutely was a racist – if you can’t admit that, we’re starting from a position of dishonesty on your part.

  21. JimR
    April 4, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Many people with a strong view about religion and/or mystical ideas only know what they have heard. Except for the “priests” of a movement, often the most knowledgeable about it are its critics. Too few adherents of most movements know/understand the fine details, origins and real ramifications of the belief system.

    • Luke Duncan
      April 4, 2013 at 9:07 pm

      Jim, you can argue all sorts of conspiracy theories about the anthroposophical movement and accuse it of being a cult, claim that there are insiders within it who are out to indoctrinate those who are not aware of its secret and evil machinations, etc., etc. Perhaps there might even be some valid grounds for doing so – I am not in a position to judge because I have been immersed in it since childhood and I am probably what you would consider to be too “brainwashed” to form an objective opinion – assuming it’s possible to have an objective opinion about Anthroposophy.

      However, when it comes to Steiner schools, the proof has to be in the pudding. You have to look at what the pupils actually do all day, you have to look at what they learn, the knowledge and skills they acquire and you have to assess whether all the arts, crafts and imaginative approaches to teaching in a way the engages both head and heart is something you approve of or not. This is what Ofsted does and, like many parents who are not anthroposophists but send their kids to Waldorf schools, they consider Steiner schools to be offering a valuable and in some respects an inspiring form of education.

      Surely it doesn’t matter where the recipe for the pudding comes from, or whether the person who came up with the recipe originally had wacky ideas about politics or whatever. What matters is the pudding itself. Where is the evidence that Steiner school kids as a group are any less successful later on in life or harmed by the education they have received? There seems to be quite a lot of anecdotal evidence that Steiner schools kids are noted for being enthusiastic, engaged, open to new learning, creative and thoughtful people etc., … not that I am claiming that of myself.

      • Matt
        April 5, 2013 at 9:06 am

        If you enjoy your nutritious frozen lasagne does it matter that it contains horse?

      • rita
        April 5, 2013 at 9:34 am

        Why aren’t you claiming these benefits for yourself (not but what some of them are traits, anyway), if you went through the process. Doesn’t it work, or what?

        • Luke Duncan
          April 5, 2013 at 5:30 pm

          Due to a false sense of modesty, of course ;-)

          Here’s a list of Waldorf alumni:
          http://www.diewaldorfs.waldorf.net/listengl.html

          More generally, “Steiner’s work has influenced a broad range of noted personalities”, see the Wiki page under “Reception”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolf_Steiner

          Matt, Steiner school kids are banned from eating frozen lasagna … veggie buggers made of genuine uniQuorn – now that’s a different matter and altogether more nutritious!

          • April 5, 2013 at 8:02 pm

            @Luke Duncan

            Thanks for that list. I randomly selected a name from it – Bella Freud – and with Google’s help found this interesting interview in which she mentions her Steiner education:

            ‘”Freud herself left the Steiner school at 16 with three O-levels. “You were only allowed to take four if you were really clever. What I loved about my education was that it was in a beautiful place and there was a lot of making and doing and stories. What I didn’t love was that I left with such huge, humiliating holes in my general knowledge.”‘

            http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/how-lucian-freuds-daughter-beat-dyslexia-and-rejection-6386088.html

            Funnily enough, she hasn’t sent her own three children to a Steiner school. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what everyone on that list concluded about their education? :)

          • April 5, 2013 at 9:29 pm

            Oh sorry! I said Bella Freud when I meant her sister, Esther. I’ve now googled Bella too and found this:

            “the children attended a Steiner school where their mother was a dinner lady. Bella hated it and at the age of 16 abandoned the home counties for a job working at Vivienne Westwood’s shop in Chelsea.”

            http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/news-features/TMG9658195/Bella-Freud-bares-all.html

          • April 6, 2013 at 1:21 pm

            While we’re on the subject, Wikipedia entries about Waldorf are written and edited by Waldorf teacher Harlan Gilbert (check it out). He has even deleted the archives (over protests of others) where critical discussion has taken place. Everyone would think Waldorf is just peachy if they read Wikipedia. (Andy should focus a blog on that side of Waldorf’s dishonesty sometime).

          • April 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm

            “Here’s a list of Waldorf alumni:”

            When you take out the actors and actresses (and circus performers), you have about a dozen people left… very impressive.

      • April 5, 2013 at 3:31 pm

        “However, when it comes to Steiner schools, the proof has to be in the pudding. ”

        Where’s the pudding then? 1000 Steiner schools world-wide… Steiner schools have been operating for 100 years… Where are all the graduates? No, sorry, movie starts don’t count. You’re making paste and calling it pudding.

        • Andy
          April 6, 2013 at 5:29 am

          “the proof has to be in the pudding”

          Actually, a properly educated person would know that the proof is in the eating. The pudding is just a reservoir of unknown ingredients. It proves nothing ;)

        • Ted Wrinch
          April 7, 2013 at 9:50 am

          “…Wikipedia entries about Waldorf are written and edited by Waldorf teacher Harlan Gilbert.”

          As well as several others, with different perspectives. As Waldorf is a contested subject, this means that there is an ongoing struggle (with occasional calls for arbitration) to ensure that the article conforms to Wikipedia’s policy of neutral point-of-view. The process mostly works well and the fault lines of dispute can be seen (with details on the talk pages).

          The reason you don’t like the article and think it is ‘dishonest’ and that critical discussion has been suppressed is that all the participants agreed that your viewpoint was extreme and banned you. As usual, when you claim ‘dishonesty’ outside you ought to first look at yourself.

          • April 7, 2013 at 2:35 pm

            “As well as several other ANTHROPOSOPHISTS, with different perspectives.”

            There, fixed it for ya Ted.

            “As Waldorf is a contested subject, this means that there is an ongoing struggle (with occasional calls for arbitration) to ensure that the article conforms to Wikipedia’s policy of neutral point-of-view.”

            Why is it a contested subject Ted? Other private schools aren’t contested subjects. Could it be that the article doesn’t reflect what Waldorf is? You usually see this on Wikipedia when some group has an agenda to push.

            “The reason you don’t like the article and think it is ‘dishonest’ and that critical discussion has been suppressed is that all the participants agreed that your viewpoint was extreme and banned you. ”

            That’s not even slightly true. You should read the arbitration documents Ted, and any archives Mr. Gilbert hasn’t managed to hide (over protests of other editors). From what’s left in the archives, readers can get the true story about what happened there. Your synopsis is, like most of your comments, way off!

  22. April 4, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    cyril: “Whenever there is a suggestion of such concealment – whether intentional or not – such as fills the debate here, I try to feed these thoughts back to those of my acquaintances who are active in the Waldorf school movement.”

    And what is their reaction?

    • cyril
      April 4, 2013 at 8:59 pm

      “And what is their reaction?”

      Several weeks ago, following up on Andy Lewis’ complaint that Waldorf schools appear to hide their connections to Rudolf Steiner and to Anthroposophy, I looked at a few Waldorf school websites. If these were the only windows through which the world could make contact, then I had to agree that Andy had a point.

      This bothered me because I am an admirer of both Rudolf Steiner and the educational movement that he founded. I am also the parent of, now adult, children who successfully navigated their way through this form of education. So I see every need to publicize the connection between Steiner, Anthroposophy, and the Waldorf schools.

      I know personally someone who is a member of the “College of Teachers” (ie the management) at one school whose website, I felt, did not say enough.

      I phoned him and explained both my and Andy’s concerns, and how this failure to connect might be viewed by a newcomer or a skeptic. He said he would raise the issue at the next meeting, which he did, calling me back afterwards to say that there was general consensus that the complaints were justified and that they would initiate steps to improve the website.

      • April 5, 2013 at 7:53 am

        Thank you Cyril, that’s interesting. It would be good know what happens with the website, especially if you can link to it for us.

        There was a discussion a while ago on Alicia’s blog on the ways in which Steiner schools could improve their presentation of anthroposophy. My contribution is here: http://zooey.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/hollowed-traditions/#comment-21822

        Note also the word cloud which represents the current state of affairs for UK Steiner school websites.

      • Andy
        April 6, 2013 at 5:32 am

        So the problem is that these people who seek to educate our children are simply unaware of the fact they aren’t being open about their philosophy?

        How can anyone in a senior position in a Steiner school not know there’s a controversy and do everything they can to publicise their side?

        • April 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm

          “How can anyone in a senior position in a Steiner school not know there’s a controversy and do everything they can to publicise their side?”

          Actually, their publications tend to be more about how to deal with voices that are critical of their movement. There’s a court case going on today (literally) in France, in which Waldorf is accusing a former pupil and teacher of libel for discussing what goes on there. It will be interesting to see what happens in this case.

    • Ted Wrinch
      April 7, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      “There, fixed it for ya Ted.”

      Seen your ‘fixes’ before, Pete. Nope, not ‘several other anthroposophists': have you read the talk pages? This is why when you shout ‘dishonest’ no one takes you seriously.

      “Could it be that the article doesn’t reflect what Waldorf is? You usually see this on Wikipedia when some group has an agenda to push.”

      You’re losing it. What don’t you understand about ‘neutral POV’, ‘dispute’, ‘talk pages’, and ‘arbitration’? Your own response here betrays your extremism, that got you banned.

  23. April 5, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    Seems to me there are two main issues at play here:
    1)Should religious/spiritual/occult based schools receive public funding?
    2)Do Steiner/Waldorf schools conceal the religious/spiritual/occult nature of their programs?

    Question #1 makes for good debate – especially as the majority of people on our planet believe in such things. Still, I vote “no.”

    Question #2 is simple. The answer is yes. Steiner’s odd (I’m being generous) beliefs are deeply connected to day-to-day activities in his followers classrooms; yet very little of what Steiner teachers learn during their training finds its way into the movements’ outreach material. In fact, more than a few teachers-in-training quit their new career paths prematurely while gasping with incredulity at the inner workings of Anthroposophy.

  24. rita
    April 5, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    Out of idle curiosity, I looked up teacher training for Waldorf schools here in Spain: there’s certainly some very strange stuff being taught (and recognised by the authorities): Anthroposofical medicine is well in there, and the ideas of child development are bizarre to say the least. Also curious is that many of the courses seem linked in some way to a catholic university, which is odd. They’re very expensive.

  25. rita
    April 5, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Mind you, I think they’re spot on with the TV.

  26. Luke Duncan
    April 6, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    For those of you who have never stepped foot in a Steiner school, here is a documentary film about Rudolf Steiner and today’s anthro initiatives, incl. schools. Hope it gives you at least some kind of minimal context.

    The whole documentary can be viewed in parts here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJcpDjTjlus&list=PLk_e9REm9bpwqAqTQm8L4Ngbrfn9q8kNr

    If you just wish to see a 6-minute trailer, see here:

    • April 6, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      And please don’t forget the video where master Waldorf teacher Eugene Schwartz mocks parent complaints about bullying:

      http://player.vimeo.com/video/56109384

      • rita
        April 7, 2013 at 5:26 pm

        Has anyone else watched this clip? This chap must be out of his mind!

        • April 7, 2013 at 7:32 pm

          “Has anyone else watched this clip? This chap must be out of his mind!”

          He’s a teacher of teachers… a professional Waldorf lecturer and master Waldorf teacher. I’ve met him. He’s controversial to say the least.

    • April 6, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      The only ‘context’ given by that film is the context the side of anthroposophy wants to give the audience. That can be revealing enough, but I don’t think anyone should be fooled into thinking this is somehow objective information or neutral in anyway. People who have never stepped foot in a Steiner school shouldn’t believe that this gives them what they need to know about Steiner education or any of the other anthroposophical initiatives portrayed in the film.

    • Matt
      April 7, 2013 at 1:16 pm

      One thing your video says is that Steiner was ahead of his time.
      I don’t think so; I think he was the epitome of the zeitgeist of his time.

      Here are some of his contemporaries, basically off the top of my head with minimal fact checking on Wikipedia:

      Occultists:

      Aleister Crowley
      Helena Blavatsky
      Arthur Edward Waite

      Gothic Novelists:

      Mary Shelly – Consider Frankenstein and its treatment of humanity and science
      Robert Louis Stevenson – Consider Dr Jeckle and Mr Hyde

      Music:
      Wagner – Operas that deal with Germanic rather than classical mythology
      Stravinsky – Work deriving inspiration from folk music

      Spiritualists:
      Arthur Conan Doyle – believed in mediums and the Cottingley Fairies

      Anthropology:
      Frazer – consider The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion

      It’s a feature of cults that the founder must be seen as a unique visionary, outside of his time, with special access to a reviled truth. In fact every aspect of anthroposophy I’ve heard about seems to be just a borrowing from elsewhere. It may seem out of time today, but that’s not because it’s ahead of its time, but because it’s a living fossil of early 20th century woo surviving into the 21st.

      • rita
        April 7, 2013 at 1:19 pm

        Excellent point, spelling notwithstanding: just shows that orthography is no bar to good thinking!

        • Matt
          April 7, 2013 at 4:27 pm

          I’m told that for those that can spell, a miss spelled word is like a slap in the face. I’ve never had occasion to experience this myself.

          • rita
            April 7, 2013 at 4:49 pm

            Sorry for my remark: I really think spelling is not that important, whereas the thinking is: my bad (as they say) for the comment.

          • Matt
            April 7, 2013 at 5:06 pm

            No worries

  27. Matt
    April 7, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Luke, I think the following thought experiment illustrates the ethical issues you are struggling to perceive or engage with.

    Let’s start with the Anglican Christmas Christingle ceremony which I took part in as a child. It takes place in a church, every child is given an orange, with a candle stuck in the top and sweeties and peanuts on cocktail sticks stuck round the sides. The children parade round the church setting fire to the sweeties and peanuts; the vicar explains the orange represents the world, the candle Jesus light of the world etc. Everyone sings a few carols and goes home feeling Christmassy.

    Now imagine taking that ceremony and putting it in a school during lesson time. We won’t tell the children or the parents what the candle orange and sweets represent but will intimate that making the Christingle is a craft activity promoting creativity and the orange encourages healthy eating.

    So now when the ceremony is conducted, the teachers have a very different appreciation of what is going on than the parents and pupils. The teachers see a symbol of Christ, the parents a candle, the teachers a symbol of the world, the parents a source of vitamin C.

    This is the same dissonance in perception that you see in the wet on wet painting, the eurhythmy and the faceless dolls. The parents are encouraged to see a lesson in craft and creativity; the teachers appreciate the spiritual nature of the exercise.

    It’s that carefully fostered dissonance in perception that I find creepy. But it’s more than just creepy. All professionals; lawyers, teachers and doctors, share a duty of care and transparency to their clients which this kind of duplicity breaches.

    This is also an example of the kind of internal contradiction common to many branches of counter cultural thinking. Your video talks about “putting the human back in the centre”, but you defend Steiner on a utilitarian basis of outcomes, and gloss over the way parents and pupils choices are manipulated and their autonomy subverted. In this way they are treated as a means to an ends rather than an end in themselves, they are commodified and their humanity is made subordinate to the goals of the cult.

    • Luke Duncan
      April 7, 2013 at 9:35 pm

      Hi Matt

      I agree with you that there is a “dissonance in perception” in some cases. Just to let you know that I’ve copied Cyril’s example above. I’ve emailed Steiner Academy Exeter asking them whether they would consider amending their website and/or making an official response to the points made by this blog about the lack of information about Anthroposophy on the Academy’s website.

      But you need to remember, Matt, that there are also plenty of parents who are themselves anthroposophists.

      I find it very hard to believe that there is any deliberate intention to mislead or withhold information that is requested, given the many anthroposophists and RS teachers I know personally. Yes, professionals have a duty of transparency towards their clients, but you wouldn’t expect lawyers to explain the entire English legal system before you hire them. You might ask your lawyer about a certain point of law. Similarly, you might ask a teacher about a certain aspect of their teaching. There is no reason why a RS teacher would not be upfront about any aspect of Waldorf education.

      • Andy Lewis
        April 7, 2013 at 10:32 pm

        No, I would not expect my lawyer to explain the English legal system to me, but I would expect her to disclose that she was going to rely on astrological charts rather than more mainstream approaches to the law.

        • Luke Duncan
          April 8, 2013 at 7:01 am

          Your kid has eurythmy classes three times a week, is learning about astronomy, minerology, music and the Ancient Persians and Babylonians, hasn’t learned to read properly until age 8, draws pictures of elemental spirits as homework, doesn’t wear a uniform, the class is farming and tending a field in class 3, they are constructing a small building in class 4, they are doing lots of form drawing, painting and the children seem to be producing their own textbooks, you are told the teachers don’t use published textbooks, there are no computers used in the lower school, you hear constant choral chanting and singing coming from the different classrooms, there seems to be a play on every other week, you know that your child is going to have the same main lesson teacher for the first eight years, the schools’ parents seem to be a mixture of hippies, artists and rock stars, and the teacher has told you at the parents’ evening that you kid should not be watching TV … and yet still, you want a simple disclosure that the school is not teaching according to mainstream approaches? Seriously?

          • Badly Shaved Monkey
            April 8, 2013 at 7:45 am

            Luke

            The problem here is that when you defend Steiner schools against one accusation, you lend support to another.

            You say the unconventional peculiarity of Steiner schools should be obvious to even a casual observer. We shall pass quickly, this time, over the fact that for many people this seems not to be true and that Steiner schools seem to put quite a lot if effort into pretending they are not weird.

            Instead you are keen to tell us how obviously abnormal the education is. Therefore, we need to make the point that if the free school initiative succeeds, schools set up under that scheme become the default local school committing children to education based on Steiner’s batshit insane ideas. The government’s desire to spin away the problems of steinerism suggests they are keener to feed their ideologically driven shift to free schools than examine objectively what those schools actually offer. If there was intended to be an honest attempt to judge Steiner schools against conventional standards, then they wouldn’t need a special inspectorate.

            Discussing this topic with steinerists is like talking to homeopaths. Leave you to talk for long enough and you wind yourselves into knots of contradictions and internal inconsistencies.

        • Andy Lewis
          April 8, 2013 at 8:20 am

          Luke – what I see is that defenders of Steinerism consistently fail to put themselves in the shoes of prospective parents to one of the new Free Schools.

          Your description of a Steiner School may be accurate. How does that description compare to what is said on a typical school web site? I would challenge you to tick off your feature set against what is described. Vague associations using ambiguous language will not do.

          And then, even if a parent is happy with some of these odd approaches, where will that parent find out that these approaches are based on superstitious visions of a man who believed Great Britain floated on the sea?

      • April 8, 2013 at 10:35 am

        There are also many parents who aren’t anthroposophists, and waldorf/steiner schools actively try to attract parents who aren’t. They even insist that being an anthroposophist doesn’t matter. Of course, it’s not primarily the anthroposophist parents who need more honest advertisements and information.

        The comparison with law completely fails though. It would be apt if you wandered into a law firm that secretly worked with another kind of law than the one praticed in the rest of society. That is, that the conditions were totally different from what you would reasonably expect them to be. It’s like, you know, karma and reincarnation and ether bodies are really not what people normally expect from a pedagogical method. Which places an onus on those who practice these ideas to inform about them.

        I agree that there’s no reason why a steiner teacher wouldn’t be upfront about any aspect of it — but the problem is that they aren’t.

    • April 8, 2013 at 9:34 am

      I just wanted to highlight the importance of Matt’s ‘thought experiment’ here. It isn’t just a great analogy, this is a great description of my experience as a would-be Steiner parent.

      One day at the end of September at the parent/child group, we baked little bread dragons which when they came out of the oven were ‘slain’ with a butter knife and consumed with much relish. It was cute, fun and the bread was delicious. It was only much later that I found out we were celebrating Michaelmas and the importance of the Archangel Michael in the alternative Steiner universe.

      Was this information deliberately withheld from me? I don’t know and now it doesn’t seem to matter. The purpose of parent/child groups is of course to draw families into the school and you don’t want to do or say anything that might put them off. The schools just need to realise that parents are finding out what they need to know from critical websites such as this one. They need to take ownership of this problem and address it.

      • April 8, 2013 at 10:40 am

        Very well said, Mark. It would be much better for everyone if people find out sooner rather than later. Lots of people would probably not mind michaelmas or slaying bread dragons, but they might very well be less happy with finding out that information about anthroposophy has been withheld (on purpose).

      • Matt
        April 8, 2013 at 5:24 pm

        Thanks for confirming my analogy matches reality.

        I think if I was in your shoes I would feel a little bit used by the experience you describe; like I had been made a puppet in someone else’s play.

        Of course it’s a minor slight in comparison to the rough and tumble of everyday life, soon forgotten. But it’s also a long way from the super caring, especially human centric, image that Steiner tries to project.

  28. April 7, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    “So now when the ceremony is conducted, the teachers have a very different appreciation of what is going on than the parents and pupils. The teachers see a symbol of Christ, the parents a candle, the teachers a symbol of the world, the parents a source of vitamin C.”

    Spot on! Eurythmy is a good example. Parents are told it’s a form of “dance” or “poetry put to movement” or some other disingenuous description. According to Steiner, eurythmy embodies Anthroposophy.

    “I speak in all humility when I say that within the Anthroposophical Movement there is a firm conviction that a spiritual impulse of this kind must now, at the present time, enter once more into human evolution. And this spiritual impulse must perforce, among its other means of expression, embody itself in a new form of art. It will increasingly be realised that this particular form of art has been given to the world in Eurythmy.

    It is the task of Anthroposophy to bring a greater depth, a wider vision and a more living spirit into the other forms of art. But the art of Eurythmy could only grow up out of the soul of Anthroposophy; could only receive its inspiration through a purely Anthroposophical conception.”

    From Rudolf Steiner’s “Lecture on Eurythmy” August 26, 1923

    It is SO IMPORTANT that you cannot have a Steiner or Waldorf school without it. It is practiced in EVERY grade… as well as by the teachers. It’s one of those big deals that is played off as no big deal…

    Liars and other people’s children are a bad mix.

  29. rita
    April 7, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcCvcy0zAlM So this is eurythmy….I’m all in favour of dance movements being part of human experience, but is it me or is this all a bit sexist? The teacher’s remarks are really poor…

    The more I see of this stuff, the worse it seems, I would have never found out what nonsense was being pushed if it weren’t for this thread.

  30. Luke Duncan
    April 8, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Monkey man, education falls into what you might call the cultural sphere. You can’t prescribe “culture” without denying the cultural freedom that is necessary within this realm. If you try to legislate culture, you will end up with fascist or religious fundamentalism. Many teachers have “batshit” ideas (what’s with the obsession with faecal matter?). Whether in state or Steiner education, these ideas will have influence on the education provided. In the state system, many teachers have “batshit” ideas about the absolute priority of academic achievement, for example. And so, within this sphere, you ultimately have to trust the integrity and professionalism of the individual teacher. The choice is (should be) yours, which school you send your children too. If a Steiner school is ever made the default local school, forcing parents to send their children there, I will personally join you, monkey man, on the barricades to fight for the cultural freedom of those parents.

    • Andy Lewis
      April 8, 2013 at 8:42 am

      I would suggest that education falls within the ‘education sphere’ and, as such, our priority should be with what happens to our children – not necessarily the fanciful whims of parents. Just as, for instance, the state should intervene in the best interests of a child if a parent was insisting on treating a child with cancer with magic hocus pocus, so the state should ensure that when it is providing education that it is based on a transparent rationale rather than wishful thinking.

      Even more fundamentally, the state has a duty to ensure that education is is funded is properly represented and parents can make informed decisions about wht they feel is best

      • Luke Duncan
        April 8, 2013 at 9:00 am

        A good education for our children as future citizens of society is the aim. I therefore consider it “wishful thinking”, if scoring well in multiple-choice exams, an ability to use PowerPoint at age 6, detailed knowledge of current celebrities (used as examples in every class) and being able to compete in the job market with the far East are all considered fundamental to this aim. I disagree with the state about what constitutes a good education. This disagreement of mine is a cultural disagreement. Many parents who send their children to Steiner schools disagree with state for similar reasons.

        • Dr Richard Rawlins
          April 8, 2013 at 9:24 am

          Then please do not ask for state funding.

          You can do what you like, but don’t expect me topay for it.

          Thank you.

        • April 8, 2013 at 10:57 am

          Do you have any consideration for the rights of children? Or is it just about the rights of parents to follow their whims, spiritual or otherwise, at the cost of their offspring? In extreme cases, parents might be culturally opposed to sending their kid to any school at all. Or may choose some fundamentalist religious education which in no way prepares a human being for life outside a cult. Not a responsibility for society to look out for these children and to step up to defend their rights?

          I’m not saying this is waldorf education. What I am saying is that giving these parents, too, full freedom is the inevitable conclusion of your reasoning. Their schools, if they have any, and their educational choices belong, as much as your favoured brand of education, to the cultural spehere, in which the state, according to social threefolding ideas (I assume you’re a fan!), has no business meddling. So how to safeguard children against stupid, harmful and destructive decisions?

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 8, 2013 at 10:19 am

      Lukey boy,

      you ultimately have to trust the integrity and professionalism of the individual teacher

      But then we come back to this issue of integrity. While the schools misrepresent the system that they follow, or fail to disclose if not actively misrepresent, then the required integrity seems lacking.

      And as Richard has said, these schools are now to be funded with our money to spread the teachings of a man who, as Andy said, believed that Great Britain floats on the sea.

      You would do well to read this thread;

      http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/boundaries/

      Education has elements of “Diversity Smorgasbord”, so I will accept your comments about cultural freedom being elegant here, but that is not an excuse when issues that are clearly capable of empirical resolution are brushed under the carpet.

  31. Badly Shaved Monkey
    April 8, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Typo

    “freedom being elegant here”

    Relevant not elegant. I was certainly not complementing you on your prose.

  32. Luke Duncan
    April 8, 2013 at 11:44 am

    I don’t agree with the Pope’s view on abortion and gay rights, but I respect the cultural right of Catholic parents to send their children to a Catholic school. I do not agree with the UK government’s view of what constitutes a good education, but I respect the rights of parents to send their children to state schools. I acknowledge the right of religious fundamentalists to send their children to strictly religious schools, even though I do not respect the views of religious fundamentalists. I would draw the line, if teachers were preaching hate against other people. In this case, I believe the state already has a legal right to intervene in order to protect the child. Children are born into particular cultures and to particular sets of parents. For better or for worse, children have to bear this burden as long as parents do not neglect them or break the law. I respect the law. Where hatred is preached to children or where children are physically harmed, then the law has a right to intervene.

    Every child has a right to education. In my opinion, the state should fund whatever form of education teachers are willing to provide and parents are willing to have provided to their children. Yes, there probably needs to be some standards, e.g. the basics ( reading, writing, arithmetic, etc.) need to be taught, children need to be able to function within society when they grow up, their health and safety needs to be guaranteed at school. I think it is unethical of the state to impose its view of education on everyone. I do not share the skeptics worldview (dogmatic scientism) that their worldview is the only valid one and that every other view is just abnormal nonsense.

    The rightful authorities when it comes to deciding purely educational matters are teachers, who should be given the freedom to teach in the manner they consider best within the above basic legal framework above. If the Conservatives’ idea of giving vouchers to parents to redeem at the school of their choice had been implemented, then the funding issue would be resolved in a manner that would be acceptable to everyone in my opinion.

    • Dr Richard Rawlins
      April 8, 2013 at 5:39 pm

      If a child was not educated at a Steiner School, what is it they would miss out on, lack, that could not be provided in the home by parents who wished to inculcate them in anthroposophy (or whatever)?

    • April 8, 2013 at 10:21 pm

      ‘Yes, there probably needs to be some standards, e.g. the basics ( reading, writing, arithmetic, etc.) need to be taught, children need to be able to function within society when they grow up, their health and safety needs to be guaranteed at school.’

      Brilliant! Then, in fact, we agree that education is not entirely in a sphere with no interference whatsoever from the state. There are minimal requirements. For the sake of children, who sometimes need this protection.

      ‘The rightful authorities when it comes to deciding purely educational matters are teachers …’

      The problem is that the teachers are sometimes bad authorities. And the educational matters are sometimes more of religious matters than educational ones. That might — and should, I believe — make a difference at least when it comes to funding. If tax payers money is used, then the state is obligated to use it for proper education, not waste it on bad education or no education but religion. To put it crudely. Vouchers come from other people’s money — and other people have the right to demand that this money is used wisely. You won’t get away from having some kind of control mechanisms to ensure this. (If you were, it would be unheard of — we wouldn’t (I hope) accept that in other areas that are communally funded.)

  33. Badly Shaved Monkey
    April 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Luke

    I see you are continuing not to address the issue of Steiner schools concealing their real philosophical underpinnings.

    Yes, there probably needs to be some standards, e.g. the basics ( reading, writing, arithmetic, etc.)

    This is a moot point, especially given that they apparently need a special inspectorate to protect them.

    A Church of Englamd school has to satisfy normal inspectors and a church inspectorate. It’s more than a little odd that Steiner schools get to play a completely separate game and at the taxpayer’s expense.

  34. Matt
    April 8, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    I think there is some confusion sliding in again.

    Normal faith schools, whatever you think of them, acculturate pupils to their widely faiths widely held precepts, normally shared by the parents. They cover faith group history, taboos, ethics, festivals and ceremonies.

    Steiner schools are not faith schools for Steinerists. In fact your first line of defence was that Steinerism is not taught directly. Providing a Steiner education is instead the adult teacher’s way of manifesting their faith.

    Steinerists seem to conceive of their education as a kind of spiritual filter pump; purifying humanity as human spirits cycle through successive lives. The pupils are not being inducted into the congregation, they are themselves the sacrament.

    • Luke Duncan
      April 8, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      Matt, seen from the point of view of the teacher you could indeed describe education as a kind of spiritual tool. However, I don’t think that a filter pump is the tool question. The education is not done unto the children, rather the children learn themselves by means of the tools provided by the teacher. Furthermore, the word “spiritual” here can be replaced with the word “educational”.

      The children in Steiner schools paint, draw, learn to read, write, do arithmetic, do gardening, do gymnastics, act in plays, create things in handicraft lessons, produce artwork, sing, dance, do scientific experiments and learn to speak foreign languages, etc. They also learn about history, geography, religion and the natural sciences. In the lower school, Steiner teachers make use of ancient myths, stories and like that may reference, for example, Atlantis, the four elements, earth, fire, air and water, the Greek gods, the Knights of the Round Table and (for want of a better example) gnomes. However, the kids are never taught anthroposophical concepts, such as the Christology, the Akashic Records, reincarnation, spiritual evolution, ancient Saturn, karma, ether bodies, astral bodies, the ego, the four temperaments (sanguine, phlegmatic, melancholic, choleric) , the spiritual hierarchies, social threefolding, etc., etc.

      If, as a child, you are learning how to care for a garden and produce vegetables, does it matter whether the person teaching you how to do the gardening believes there is an etheric life force in the plants or not? Why is better for children to learn how to do gardening or arithmetic from someone who believes that all life, feelings and thinking has evolved out of some primal matter that came into being after a big bang? In what way does the latter have a more positive impact on the child’s ability to do sums or grow vegetables?

      • Badly Shaved Monkey
        April 8, 2013 at 8:51 pm

        You ask a number of “does it matter” questions, each of which is predicated upon Steiner teachers concealing their weird views while presenting an acceptable public face. Who acts as the gate guardian to ensure that these strange ideas do not leak into the teaching?

        You say that they do teach about Atlantis. Is its history taught as literal fact?

        With all of this Luke, you just worry me more and more about how cultish this whole movement is.

        • rita
          April 9, 2013 at 9:43 am

          Golly, I agree: the more stuff comes out about this lot, the worse it sounds: how on earth do they get people on board this gibberish?

          • Dr Richard Rawlins
            April 9, 2013 at 12:56 pm

            Lack of insight; denial; delusion; wishful thinking; flight from science; deception; gullability; failure to recognise logical fallacies; and, well, faith.

      • April 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm

        ‘In the lower school, Steiner teachers make use of ancient myths, stories and like that may reference, for example, Atlantis, the four elements, earth, fire, air and water, the Greek gods, the Knights of the Round Table and (for want of a better example) gnomes. However, the kids are never taught anthroposophical concepts, such as the Christology, the Akashic Records, reincarnation, spiritual evolution, ancient Saturn, karma, ether bodies, astral bodies, the ego, the four temperaments (sanguine, phlegmatic, melancholic, choleric) , the spiritual hierarchies, social threefolding, etc., etc.’

        There’s a VERY fine line here.

        And the point is — this has been dealt with several times in the thread already — no matter which concepts are directly taught to children, if any at all, the educational method applied to children, the way teachers explain how children learn and develop, the way they interpret an individual child — it is all coloured by the anthroposophical worldview, because that is what informs the pedagogy.

        It shouldn’t be difficult to see that THIS is the real issue here — not whether this or that concept is directly taught. Indirectly some of these anthroposophical beliefs are taught, as you so conveniently exemplified. Indirectly you have concepts such as reincarnation figure in tales and verses.

        You have eurythmy, the embodiment of anthroposophy (referring to Pete’s quote earlier in the thread). You have the spiritual significance of the kind of paintings, how history and myth is taught and so forth.

        And, the bottom line, the anthroposophical concepts you mention: they might not be taught, but they are applied. In the classroom. In the teacher’s work with the children. They inform this work.

        Why would it even be particularly important if a certain anthroposophical concept was taught directly and explicitly?

        • Luke Duncan
          April 9, 2013 at 10:09 am

          Alicia, you are right that there is a fine line and what is taught is certainly and inevitably “coloured” by the ideas behind why something is taught. This is only natural, as teachers are human beings, not programmable machines. The reasons why Anthroposophy per se is not taught is that, 1) kids wouldn’t understand it and wouldn’t derive any educational benefit from being taught it, 2) you don’t teach pedagogy to children, you give them an education, 3) it only relates indirectly to what is being taught (it might explain why children in the lower school do gardening at Steiner schools, but it wouldn’t help the children learn how to plant potatoes), 4) it’s not something that is taught in this way, 5) Steiner schools are not faith schools for Anthroposophists, as Matt has correctly pointed out.

          However, it would not and does not cause children any harm, if Anthroposophical concepts happen to “leak” out, whether inadvertently or deliberately. The vast majority of my former classmates are not anthroposophists or interested in Anthroposophy, as I am sure you will be pleased to hear.

          Can we leave the question of whether the schools are upfront enough about Anthroposophy to one side – just for a moment. I know this is the main question we are discussing, but I have given various responses to it above. My question here is, what’s wrong with having teaching “coloured” by a certain worldview, other than that you personally dislike or disagree with this worldview? All teaching is coloured by the worldview of the teacher, irrespective of the educational setting. Are you saying that people who do not share your worldview should not be allowed to teach?

          • Andy Lewis
            April 9, 2013 at 10:49 am

            The worldview that most matters to me is one of transparency, accountability, and a commitment to truth and reason.

            Steiner Schools appear to fail on all these aspects of their worldview.

          • April 9, 2013 at 2:13 pm

            ‘However, it would not and does not cause children any harm, if Anthroposophical concepts happen to “leak” out, whether inadvertently or deliberately.’

            Of course it does. If conceptions of karma influence how a teacher treats a child, it can certainly do a whole lot of harm.

            ‘All teaching is coloured by the worldview of the teacher, irrespective of the educational setting. Are you saying that people who do not share your worldview should not be allowed to teach?’

            I have never suggested that a teacher who holds a worldview I don’t share should not be a teacher. Just to clarify that. That would be a ludicrous idea. What matters, more generally, is that the teacher is a competent professional.

            The issue with waldorf education is *not* the personal worldview of the teacher. The issue is the worldview encapsulated in the pedagogy itself. The issue is not that a teacher is an anthroposophist, it is that the pedagogy is anthroposophical.

            (Sure, the worldview — any worldview — of a teacher can be an issue in itself — if the teacher does not have a professional attitude about it. But this, as far as waldorf schools are concerned, is a side-issue. With waldorf schools, the anthroposophical worldview is in the pedagogy. And *that* is why we’re discussing it. It is self-evident that anthroposophists — or people of any other faith or spirituality — can have all kinds of professions. I’ve written before about how, in waldorf education, anthroposophy is not a matter of personal faith — only — so I won’t repeat myself. I’ll boldly link instead: http://zooey.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/not-merely-personal-beliefs/.)

          • Matt
            April 9, 2013 at 6:46 pm

            Luke:
            “Steiner schools are not faith schools for Anthroposophists, as Matt has correctly pointed out.”

            Thanks.

            But the difficulty people have in distinguishing:

            1: The right of someone to have their child brought up in accordance with their own believes

            and:

            2: Your right to bring up other peoples children up in accordance with your own believes.

            Is convenient for you no? You havn’t exactly gone out of your way to correct the confusion.

        • cyril
          April 9, 2013 at 2:40 pm

          “… it is all coloured by the anthroposophical worldview, because that is what informs the pedagogy.”

          It is not possible to be a teacher without one’s world-view informing the pedagogy. In fact I’d say it’s not possible to be a human being without one’s world-view colouring everything we say and do.

          If this were accepted, then this argument would contract to the problem of transparency, which I am doing my best to have addressed by the schools. I’ve already said a number of times that I think the schools’ websites should provide a summary of their world-view clearly visible.

          I do not believe the current situation of lack of transparency is intentional or intended to deceive. Only this morning, I showed MarkH’s proposal to the chairman of a school, who said he would be quite happy to see it on their website.

          I’ll try to keep you updated on this.

      • Dr Richard Rawlins
        April 8, 2013 at 10:56 pm

        Surely if ‘anthroposophical concepts’ have any validity whatsoever they should, indeed must be taught to children. Not to do so is to deprive them of great and important knowledge. They should not be deprived of the benefits of Steiners brilliant insights.

        You should be ashamed for accepting that children are not taught about Christology, the Akashic records, (were they by the Eurthymics?; ether and astral bodies. How are children to progress if they are not taught about social threefolding?

      • rita
        April 9, 2013 at 10:03 am

        I was all ready to agree that teachers’ gardening skills may not be too much affected by their beliefs in Atlantis, until I looked up the “500” mix used as fertiliser: this is the stuffed cow horn business to which some have referred:
        “Only cow horns are used, not bull horns. The cow horn differs from a bull horn in that it has a series of calving rings at the base and has a solid tip.
        The dung should be from a lactating cow which will bring in the calcium processes to the preparation. The cow should be fed with good quality fodder two days before filling the horns to ensure the dung is of good quality.”
        If this does not reveal a revolting callousness (as well as agricultural nonsense), I don’t know what does. So even in gardening, Steiner’s ideas appear ever more poisoned fruit of the poisoned tree. There was some excuse for him, in the times in which he lived and given the influence of theosophy etc., but there’s no excuse for such insensibility these days. Thos thread really has been a revelation: I had always thought of Steiner as a kindly old chap – some whacky ideas, but heart in the right plae: this may have looked so in the context of his time, but now the whole panorama is appalling.

        • Luke Duncan
          April 9, 2013 at 10:49 am

          Related to Atlantis, how? Revoltingly callous, how? To the cow? Please explain. Poisonous, in what way? What, compared to artificial fertilisers? Insensibility towards what? Appalling …? You must now a lot more about agriculture than I do, because I’m not following this.

          • April 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm

            Teaching biodynamic practices to children and teaching them that they are effective is basically to imply that homeopathic dilutions work — which is not exactly scientific. And, on the other hand, to teach children that these efects are on the spiritual level — well, you’d be teaching the children anthroposophy! The occult aspects of biodynamic farming certainly belong to the same group of beliefs as that in Atlantis, et c.

            I’m not sure it matters a whole lot; the farming and gardening part of the education don’t take a huge amount of time anyway, and still have some educational qualities (especially for city kids perhaps).

            Eurythmy, in my opinion, is far more pernicious, as it takes up so much time, is of so little use and holds so little appeal to children. Sowing and harvesting some carrots, e g, actually has some kind of point — biodynamics is at least farming, but with occult extras — and if nothing else, it can be a bit fun. While eurythmy is nothing but lots of wasted time and boredom — albeit supposedly very spiritual.

          • rita
            April 9, 2013 at 2:46 pm

            Well, yes,I may well: does it not seem appallinglingly callous to you to talk about how to use the horn of a lactating mother to carry out some dubious fertilisation scheme? The feeding schedule can only mean killing is contemplated. Poisonous in terms of humanitariansim to the cow…you may not care about animal suffering and death, but I do, as it happens: the more myths about the necessity of sacrificing other lives to maintain ours – like the necessity to kill lactating mothers to fertilise soil (which is better done by compost) the better. Golly, what does one have to do to raise human consciousness about suffering? If this is the level of sensibility exhibted by Steiner followers, I certainly think they’d be a dodgy choice for any educative process (not but what conventional education falls down here,too!). I’m stupified that the paragraph quoted does not raise anyone’s gorge. Or perhaps the cow incurred bad karma in another life and deserves everything she gets, like all the othr victims of human rapacity?

          • April 9, 2013 at 3:43 pm

            Rita,

            ‘does it not seem appallinglingly callous to you to talk about how to use the horn of a lactating mother to carry out some dubious fertilisation scheme?’

            As far as I can understand, the horns are taken from dead cows. Not lactating cow mothers with calves!

            As I said in my other comment I just posted, biodynamic farms have animals. For various reasons, some not even very occult. Getting manure. (Milk production and even meat production, too.)

            All animals die, eventually, even if you don’t kill them. That is not to say biodynamic cattle isn’t slaughtered — there is biodynamic meat, after all…

            I cannot imagine that biodynamic farmers kill lactating cows… eh, mothers… only to harvest the horns. If nothing else so for the reason that they wouldn’t have to, and it would be probably be financially wasteful. These are not cheap cows.

          • cyril
            April 9, 2013 at 6:10 pm

            Alicia:
            “Teaching biodynamic practices to children and teaching them that they are effective is basically to imply that homeopathic dilutions work — which is not exactly scientific.”

            “And, on the other hand, to teach children that these efects are on the spiritual level — well, you’d be teaching the children anthroposophy!”

            So Jenny’s plot of land produces many more carrots than Jimmy’s or Josie’s, and teacher shows Jenny that if she shares her carrots with the others, then everyone can be happy.

            Teaching social practices to children and teaching them that they are effective is basically to imply that anti-Darwinian ethics work – which is not exactly scientific.

            And, on the other hand, to teach children that these effects are on the spiritual level (love thy neighbour) — well, you’d be teaching the children … what? … how to be human perhaps?

        • cyril
          April 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm

          “The cow should be fed with good quality fodder two days before filling the horns to ensure the dung is of good quality.

          If this does not reveal a revolting callousness …”

          The fodder is for the cow that produces the dung, not the (previously deceased) cow whose horn is being used.

          • rita
            April 9, 2013 at 2:48 pm

            Oh, well….but the horn is going to be used eventually, isn’t it?Or does previously decesaed indicate a leisurely old age?

          • April 9, 2013 at 3:33 pm

            Rita, biodynamic agriculture presupposes the use of animals — the farms have animals to produce manure, for one thing. Ideally, in biodynamics, the stuff should be local, so you can co-operate with a neighbour, but you don’t buy fertilizer from far away. Although the best thing is if one farm is a complete unit. That’s basically what it is about. It’s in the philosophy. Biodynamic farmers, moreover, do not dehorn cows, as the horns are thought to channel some cosmic forces. All the cows have retain their horns. And when the cows die or are slaughtered, the horns are then reused to make the biodynamic potions.

    • April 8, 2013 at 10:24 pm

      ‘Steinerists seem to conceive of their education as a kind of spiritual filter pump; purifying humanity as human spirits cycle through successive lives. The pupils are not being inducted into the congregation, they are themselves the sacrament.’

      Haha! I love this. Especially the spiritual filter pump. That’s the way it felt — although some pupils are too impure to be purified or too reluctant. Like me.

      • rita
        April 9, 2013 at 6:25 pm

        Yes, I jumped the gun a bit there, I see: not that I approve of any use or ownership whatsoever of nonhumans for human ends, but there ya go.

        • April 10, 2013 at 9:03 pm

          Perhaps it would be easier to conduct a discussion if you chose to use only one name.

          • rita
            April 10, 2013 at 9:09 pm

            Sorry? I don’t get you.

  35. cyril
    April 8, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    As Anthony Norse has noted, there are number of threads to this debate:-

    A. Do UK Steiner schools reveal enough of their Anthroposophical underpinnings?

    I’ve already agreed that the schools could do more to describe Anthroposophy and its role in Steiner education. Andy and I tried to construct a brief definition that might appear on schools’ websites, but the process stalled because it seemed to me that Andy wished to be both judge and jury of what constitutes Anthroposophy.

    MarkH wrote a short description of what he thought the schools should say about themselves, http://zooey.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/hollowed-traditions/#comment-21822. Apart from a couple of small points, I would be happy to see this appear on the front page of a school’s website. I’ve sent it to a few Steiner school teachers I know, and so far – again with minor reservations – they agree.

    Would most of you accept that a definition like this would assuage your concerns about this particular difficulty?

    B. The importance of cultural freedom and the role of the State in education.

    Cultural freedom, or freedom of conscience, or however you might want to define it, for me is sacrosanct. Scientific materialism is a world-view, so is Anthroposophy. Either neither is a faith, or both are, depending on your … er .. world-view :-)

    The State does not endorse or prohibit any particular world-view. Its role is as guarantor of every citizen’s right to hold a view of the world free from persecution or favour.

    A parent also has a right to educate her/his children according to the parent’s world-view, so long as that does not infringe on the child’s rights. A child does not have a State-protected right to a world-view, only adults do. If this weren’t so, all parents could be sued by their children for providing or not providing a particular cultural context to the child’s life.

    Because every citizen has a right to an education, the State also has the responsibility of ensuring that all children receive an education. However the State is not a priori responsible for educating them. Many States do take on this responsibility. But wherever there is a rich choice of alternatives to the State system (as here in the UK), this is clear evidence that the State’s assumed responsibility for providing education is questioned.

    Andy believes that “the state should ensure that when it is providing education that it is based on a transparent rationale rather than wishful thinking”.

    Clearly this begs the question of whether the State should provide education, because in my mind the term “transparent rationale” used here, is merely shorthand for “conforms to the scientific materialistic world conception”. In other words Andy seems to be supporting cultural totalitarianism.

    So, naturally this then leads to the next topic:-

    C. The question of public taxes being used to support different educational models.

    I have an open mind on this one while the State continues to provide education. Some of you have expressed the clear opinion that you do not wish your taxes to be spent supporting an education system whose philosophical/religious underpinning – implicit or explicit – you do not like.

  36. cyril
    April 8, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    A clarification: In my last post, I wrote:- “The State does not endorse or prohibit any particular world-view. Its role is as guarantor of every citizen’s right to hold a view of the world free from persecution or favour.”

    This would be better put as “One of its roles is as guarantor …”

  37. April 9, 2013 at 1:06 am

    From the PLANS website (2001), an ex-Waldorf parent explains misleading Waldorf websites in the US:

    “Incredibly, at each school web site there was no mention of Rudolf Steiner’s connection or belief in Occultism, reincarnation, karma or soul work. In short virtually everything Steiner believed in and worked from and towards with regards to Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education – the essence of the man – is missing from these sites. Instead, from the sum of eleven Waldorf School web sites, we are told that Rudolf Steiner was a – teacher (mentioned 1 time), an architect (1), thinker (1), scholar (1), educator (5), artist (6) and a scientist (7).

    This misrepresentation of Rudolf Steiner and his work seems to be at the root of the Waldorf communication problem. We find a much more accurate portrait of Rudolf Steiner at other sites on the Internet. Only a few Anthroposophy sites are needed to find a completely different description of the same man.

    From the Anthroposophical Society of America…

    “Rudolf Steiner was born in Austria, and grew up with the clairvoyant certainty of a spiritual world . . . Rudolf Steiner shared the results of his spiritual research in 40 books, and in 6,000 lectures (approx.) now available in 300 volumes. He is increasingly recognized as a seminal thinker of the 20th century and one of humanity’s great spiritual teachers.”

    From the Rudolf Steiner Archives…

    “Foremost amongst his discoveries was his direct experience of the reality of the Christ, which soon took a central place in his whole teaching.”

    From the Rudolf Steiner College…

    “Fundamental to all of his work is the view that the human being is composed of body, soul and spirit, and that the Christ event is key to the unfolding of human history and the achievement of human freedom.”

    From the Anthroposophical Society, Dornach, Switzerland…

    “Born in Austria, Steiner was the leading esoteric researcher of the twentieth century, ground-breaking in the realms of the nature of the human being, karma research, spiritual cosmology, and the occult research into Christianity and European cultural history.”

    From the Anthroposophical Society in Florida…

    “Steiner (to the first Waldorf teachers) �we shall only be able to achieve our task if we see it as not only to do with the intellect and feeling-life, but with the sphere of the moral and spiritual in the highest sense.’ The task was the following: to help the soul-and-spirit being of the child, which has at birth descended to earth from a pre-earthly existence, to find its place in the physical world and to make it competent for life . . . . Rudolf Steiner shows how the developing human being on the long and arduous path into the physical world passes through a series of clearly defined stages, which make definite inner and outer demands. Both the curriculum and the methods of teaching of the new school, as he now described them, were designed to meet these demands as well as possible through the right pedagogical measures . . . This was Waldorf pedagogy. The campaign for a new social order had been especially well received in the big Waldorf Astoria cigarette-factory at Stuttgart.”

    http://www.waldorfcritics.org/articles/WhoIsRS.html

  38. Luke Duncan
    April 9, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Alicia, I think we might be getting somewhere.

    You are claiming that if the Anthroposophical worldview is passed on by the teacher to pupils (directly or indirectly), then this causes the pupils harm.

    I assume you are not talking about the kind of harm that would give you or those affected sufficient grounds to take legal action.

    The examples you have given above, suggest that in your opinion:

    1. People who believe in RS’s ideas about karma are likely to be racists or some kind of occult neo-Nazis.

    2. People who believe in the occult aspects of biodynamic farming are likely to believe in the efficacy of homeopathy and are therefore likely to endanger themselves and others by refusing conventional medical treatment?

    I assume you have many more of these killer arguments. If you do, I’d be interested to hear them.

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 9, 2013 at 6:22 pm

      People who believe in the occult aspects of biodynamic farming are likely to believe in the efficacy of homeopathy and are therefore likely to endanger themselves and others by refusing conventional medical treatment?

      That would be hard to prove, but people who believe in biodynamic farming should be kept a million miles away from the teaching of science.

    • April 10, 2013 at 9:01 pm

      Luke,

      We’re not getting anywhere — you’re digging yourself into a nasty hole. Somehow you must think I’m going to fall into it with you. I’m not.

      Your discussion technique leaves a whole lot to be desired. You deliberately — as far as I can see — misrepresent what I have said, then draw conclusion I haven’t drawn and present them as though they were mine. I do not find that charming, although I suppose that to anthroposophists it might be. Unless we were to practice the same technique on them.

      You write:

      “You are claiming that if the Anthroposophical worldview is passed on by the teacher to pupils (directly or indirectly), then this causes the pupils harm.”

      No. I didn’t claim that. Not at all. I claimed that when anthroposophical concepts are used — not the worldview passed on (I do not understand how you could misread it like that after my explanations! are you illiterate?) — in the teacher’s work with the children, then they may very well be harmful. In some cases there might certainly be grounds for legal action. Why not? It’s not like wrong-doing is exempt from legal consequences because it’s anthroposophically motivated. For me, however, I find it uninteresting whether there are grounds for legal action. There are plenty of inappropriate ideas, methods, traditions, actions that are simply not within the scope of the law — and are still inappropriate or harmful.

      You write:

      “The examples you have given above, suggest that in your opinion:
      1. People who believe in RS’s ideas about karma are likely to be racists or some kind of occult neo-Nazis.
      2. People who believe in the occult aspects of biodynamic farming are likely to believe in the efficacy of homeopathy and are therefore likely to endanger themselves and others by refusing conventional medical treatment?
      I assume you have many more of these killer arguments. If you do, I’d be interested to hear them.”

      They weren’t my arguments, you nitwit. You made them up. I’m not going to argue for or against your mock arguments which you present as though, somehow, they were mine. I hope you understand how utterly disrespectful and blatantly ugly it is to use such discussion techniques.

      I will however say that there is a risk that teacher who believes in karma chooses not to interfere in bullying situations. It is also possible that a teacher who holds Steiner’s ideas about races in some regard — or who is unwilling to challenge them — might let these beliefs influence his or her attitudes. I think and hope that this is rare. It is also true that to anthroposophists there is a karmic aspect to illness, which means that, yes, refusing vaccination is not uncommon. (But there is also another reason for that: childhood illnesses are essential to the child’s incarnation process.) One consequence is, indeed, endangering the health of children — including the health of others people’s children.

      But I’d like to say that as far as I’m concerned, the discussion with you on this is over. I have better things to do than engaging myself in your moronic misreadings.

  39. Badly Shaved Monkey
    April 9, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Luke,

    You may have thought that the following question, posed by me to you, was rhetorical. It was not.

    You say that they do teach about Atlantis. Is its history taught as literal fact?

  40. Matt
    April 9, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    So, let’s focus on the student directed learning.

    One exciting opportunity for student directed learning I can think of is if a pupil expressed an interest in digital photography. Think of all the jumping off points for exploration:

    Art:
    Light, shade, composition and history of photography

    Science:
    Optics, transistors and semiconductors

    Maths:
    Mathematical representation of a picture, computer algorithms

    History:
    Social history revealed through photography

    Personal development:
    Care of a delicate piece of equipment, planning of photographing expeditions.

    Only a few ideas, and I’m just warming up! But your pupils couldn’t pursue this kind of enquiry right? Because an evil spirit lives in the digital camera right? So in this case the prejudices of the anthroposophist teacher set bounds to the self-directed exploration of the pupil. Bounds that might surprise a poorly informed parent. It would obviously be impossible to enumerate the ways this might occur to a parent since the ways are presumably infinite, but should the fact and the manner in which it does so not be made clear?

    The thing is, if you decided to sit down and devise a system of student directed education for the UK, you wouldn’t come up with something that looked like Steiner. You probably wouldn’t get very far trying to design such a system, because you would turn to the academic literature on student directed learning, discover it didn’t work very well, and give up. But if you were really bone headed and persisted, you still wouldn’t arrive at something that looked like Steiner. So why Steiner at all?

    • Matt
      April 9, 2013 at 7:11 pm

      For completeness I think your honest answer would look like this:
      Only a Steiner education prepares a child for their spiritual tasks in this and future lives.
      Yes?

      Would you put that before prospective parents?

      • Luke Duncan
        April 9, 2013 at 7:24 pm

        Photography features very strongly in Steiner schools. We had our own dark room and photography classes, etc., although I don’t think we had photography until we were a little bit older. Steiner schools are not anti-technology and they certainly aren’t anti-science. They just try to prevent exposing children to technology when they are younger. Steiner education is all about what is appropriate to the age of the child. Later on, we did all sorts of elaborate experiments in physics, for example, and although our physics lessons were a lot more interactive, hands-on and colourful than what I believe goes on in many physics lessons in mainstream education, we did learn the same physical laws and maths as anywhere else. I did an A-level in physics (at Steiner school) and studied the philosophy of science as part of my degree.

  41. Luke Duncan
    April 9, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Ape man, I thought about your question, but it didn’t make much sense to me. Children (in the lower school) are generally unable to distinguish “literal” fact from “non-literal” fact. When a you tell a child a story, e.g. Cinderella, then even if you (as a skeptic) were to tell your child that the seven dwarfs are not real, they wouldn’t really know what that means. The child might repeat after you that the seven dwarfs are not real, but in his or her mind what that actually means would be a bit fuzzy.

    In the lower school, the children are taught various creation myths in the form of stories. I remember being told stories about Odin, Thor and the Norse creation myths about the “world tree” (I think that’s what our teacher called the cosmic ash tree, as featured in Norse mythology). We weren’t taught this as fact but in the form of a story (being “taught something as fact” is not something I can easily associate with my experience in the younger years at Steiner school – things always seemed to be done a lot more artistically, which, as children, I think we found far more interesting than just being told stuff). I remember drawing a picture of the “world tree” surrounded by various Norse runes. I also remember drawing a picture of the “tohu wa bohu” when we heard about the Jewish creation myths. I honestly can’t remember hearing about Atlantis, although I have a vague memory that when we later learnt about the Ancient Greeks, Atlantis might have featured as something people in the legend of Hercules believed in. Hope that helps.

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 9, 2013 at 8:01 pm

      Interesting non-answer, Luke. It wasn’t meant to be a hard question. Certainly kids have a fairly hazy notion of where stories end and the real world starts, but I didn’t ask about how a child might receive the myth of Atlantis. I asked how it is taught.

      Is the history of Atlantis taught as myth or literal fact?

      • Luke Duncan
        April 9, 2013 at 8:04 pm

        As myth.

        • Badly Shaved Monkey
          April 9, 2013 at 8:53 pm

          By which you mean to say that the anthroposophical teachers understand that Atlantis did not exist as a drowned civilisation in the Atlantic?

          • Luke Duncan
            April 9, 2013 at 9:16 pm

            No, I didn’t say that. I said it is (might be, I can’t remember exactly) referred to when telling children about the creation myths. Steiner talks about an Atlantean age, by which he meant a certain period of human evolution. This is something that will probably be known to many Steiner school teachers. However, and whether they believe it themselves or not, they would probably not think of Atlantis in the literal sense that you understand it, as a civilisation drowned in the Atlantic, but as a civilisation that became spiritually degenerate at a time when the physical conditions of the earth, the physical bodies of human beings and the physical laws were very different to the way they are today. And, yes, that’s right. The physical laws of the universe have not been the same since time began … But why is this relevant to the discussion? Everyone reading this blog knows that anthroposophists believe in what has been variously described above as barmpottery. I’m denying that they have a different worldview.

          • Badly Shaved Monkey
            April 9, 2013 at 10:23 pm

            Steiner talks about an Atlantean age, by which he meant a certain period of human evolution

            And the evidence for this is where?

            The relevance of this is, once again, to highlight the utterly ludicrous nature of steinerist belief that seems to be accepted whole-cloth by anthroposophists and informs their approach to education.

            I will say it again, everything you say shows why these people should not be allowed near the educational system, or at least allowed nowhere near it without being required to be explicit and honest about what they really believe, which, as has been shown repeatedly, they utterly fail to do.

          • April 10, 2013 at 9:10 pm

            I thought I’d just add that teachers in waldorf schools will teach myth as history. They don’t properly distinguish these subjects. Myth is history. History is myth. Waldorf teachers generally cherish the myths Steiner cherished, and his versions of them. This will have an impact.

    • Sailby
      April 11, 2013 at 5:15 pm

      Just a note: by the time I would have been in school, an era from which I retain some memories, I was perfectly capable of distinguishing fact from fantasy. I am not and never have been (sadly!) Han Solo or Wedge Antilles; my climbing frame has never really been a spaceship; not even my imaginary mouse (I believe I partially acquired him from a Postman Pat book) was ever ‘real’ that I can remember, in any sense of the word beyond “an entertaining mental construct about whom I concocted many tales”. (Pardon the clumsy vocabulary: I am not entirely sure how to describe “the voices in my head”, as it were, without giving the very misleading impression that the phrase “the voices in my head” implies. Needless to say, there are not now nor ever have been real – distinct, independently verifiable, distinguishable from my own deliberately created mental constructs – voices in my head.) There was never any chance, however remote, that his cloud-top home actually existed. About the only time on record (I admit my memory doesn’t go back this far, but to the best of my knowledge) where I have made an erroneous statement of imagination-as-fact was a time that, as a very young child, I had an extremely high fever and was apparently hallucinating – I’m told that, while in hospital, I tried to reassure my father with the rather unhelpful “Don’t worry, Daddy; the snakes will look after me.” Yes, I didn’t have the background material and in-depth knowledge to work out without asking an adult or a history book whether a particular character from a mythical world might once have existed in history (if they weren’t claimed to have some kind of blatant superpower, anyway), but that’s a lack of knowledge, not a lack of capacity. To this day it’s perfectly possible to surprise me by offering a plausible historical construct that turns out to be false, or an implausible one that turns out to be true, since I’m no historian and my knowledge is still sketchy at best.

      In summary: please don’t talk down to kids or make sweeping assumptions about what they’re incapable of, it always offended me when I was one and still winds me up today. ;)

      By the way, what in the world is a “non-literal fact”? By the nature of fact, either a thing is true and thus a fact, or it is untrue and thus not a fact. Some things are complex, and require simplifying assumptions to be made, but the simple models based on those assumptions are not in themselves “true”, they are not a full, factual description of the universe. They merely give us a better picture of parts of it, which are easier to grasp. They are often a very handy shorthand, and offer a convenient way of approximating things that we wish to know about or to discuss. But we cannot (or rather, we all too easily CAN and thus should be very careful not to!) mistake them for fact.

  42. Luke Duncan
    April 9, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    Matt, your theoretical lesson above about digital photography sounds very much like something that would be taught in the manner you describe at a Steiner school. We had lots of lessons just like that. I’m sorry to hear that the academic literature has found that “student-directed learning” doesn’t work well, because it sounds very positive to me. Why bother with Steiner education, if you can have student-directed learning? That was your question. The fact is, state education is far too bogged down in box-ticking, preparing students for examinations and meeting the requirements of the National Curriculum to be able to offer much of this sort of exciting stuff. Furthermore, state schools lack the necessary pedagogical framework to be able to offer teaching of this kind across the board.

  43. Luke Duncan
    April 9, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    not denying

  44. Luke Duncan
    April 10, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Monkey man, evidence of the spiritual realities that Anthroposophy talks of is acquired through scientific spiritual research. For insight into how scientific principles and methods are applied to non-material realities, please see the book ‘Knowledge of the Higher Worlds’ by Steiner and quoted above.

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm

      Luke

      “scientific spiritual research”

      Excellent oxymoron.

      I have asked you for some evidence of the “Atlantean age” in human evolution. If it’s amenable to scientific research then you will be able to lay out the sequence of hypothesis-experiment-results that has been undertaken.

      More generally, there’s a lot of immaterial hokum in steinerism. Fair enough. Outside the realm of science. Take it or leave it. But, you and other disciples of Steiner make a number of quite specific assertions about the mundane world that are perfectly falsifiable and well within the remit of science.

    • Dr Richard Rawlins
      April 10, 2013 at 12:24 pm

      Are you able to enlighten us as to how Steiner came by his insights?

      Divine revalation, as a result of pathology, intense meditation, sleep deprivation, study of ancient texts (which ones?), inspitation from fellow travellers, or how exactly?

      Could he have simply made it all up? Might he have been having folks on? Not to say that Hubbard and Joseph Smith are in the same category, but how can we be sure he was not a fraud? And where his medical insights are concerned, a quack?

      Do you have any evidence which compells you in the direction of anthroposophy, or does it just appeal for indeterminate reasons?

      Thank you.

      • Badly Shaved Monkey
        April 10, 2013 at 12:40 pm

        Richard

        It really has been a revelation to me that there are people today taking this stuff seriously. I really thought it had been consigned to a past of drippy Edwardian ladies in floaty chiffon and pearls, lounging pallidly on chaises longues. But, no, they’re here today wanting to teach our children that cow-horns full of shit are magic.

    • Mojo
      April 10, 2013 at 4:05 pm

      @Luke Duncan:

      For insight into how scientific principles and methods are applied to non-material realities…

      Either “realities” are detectable and can be studied using “scientific principles and methods”, or they aren’t.

    • rita
      April 10, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      Why “higher”? In what sense?

      • Mojo
        April 10, 2013 at 5:17 pm

        Probably the “chain of being” thing again.

  45. cyril
    April 10, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Luke: “The physical laws of the universe have not been the same since time began”

    The notion that the laws of physics remain immutable is called the Principle of Uniformitarianism and was formulated by a number of geologists in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It’s often attributed to Charles Lyell.

    The Wikipedia entry for it says:- “Uniformitarianism is the assumption …”

    Note that it is an assumption. Where is the evidence for it? There isn’t any. It remains unproveable. It is therefore a spiritual (ie immaterial) notion. Where did Lyell and Co get it from? …

    Richard: “Divine revalation, as a result of pathology, intense meditation, sleep deprivation, study of ancient texts (which ones?), inspitation from fellow travellers, or how exactly?

    Certainly not from evidence”

    I’m reminded of something to do with pots and kettles. :-)

    More seriously, I would like to assert that there are a number of assumptions in the modern scientific world-view that are unproveable. This doesn’t make the world-view necessarily wrong (or right for that matter); but it does reveal that physically unproveable hypotheses, thought-forms, ideas, etc do contribute to our received “reality”. Their “truth” is often tied up more with their perceived utility than anything else.

    Steiner provided a recipe book which Luke and others have referred to. It can and does teach anyone, who takes the task seriously, how to validate Steiner’s so-called spiritual-scientific observations. This is not an oxymoronic term, because like all scientific observations, if the conditions of the observation – including the capacities of the observer – are adequate for the task, then the phenomena are reproduceable.

    This is fundamentally no different from attempting to validate Einstein without a knowledge of mathematics. One would first have to plough through a number of text books aquiring a skill one previously did not have, assuming one has both the intelligence and diligence to do so.

    If you acquire the skills, you get to prove or disprove the thoughts of the other person. If you don’t acquire the skills, the thoughts can still be appreciated for their utility, or rejected as “barmpottery” perhaps, but in either case with zero authority.

    • Dr Richard Rawlins
      April 10, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      But how did Steiner arrive at his insights?

      Did he claim a god revealed all to him? As it did to Moses, Smith,
      Mohammad.

      Did he claim he had developed philosophies of others? If so, which ones?

      Or were his insights simply a matter of his own imagination?

      In which case, why do other folks pay any attention to them? Any more than they would to any other work of fiction.

      Has anyone any idea what is going on here?

      • cyril
        April 10, 2013 at 4:45 pm

        Richard: “But how did Steiner arrive at his insights?”

        By similar – but not the same – methods to those that Pythagoras used to arrive at his.

        • Andy Lewis
          April 10, 2013 at 5:15 pm

          “According to Aristotle and others’ accounts, some ancients believed that he had the ability to travel through space and time, and to communicate with animals and plants.”

          How similar was Steiner?

        • Mojo
          April 10, 2013 at 5:15 pm

          Did Steiner arrive at any particular insights about beans?

        • Dr Richard Rawlins
          April 10, 2013 at 6:14 pm

          So, having suspected from measuring real objects, that the square…etc. – Pythagoras used mathematics to prove his theory. And do you know, no one has ever suggested he was mistaken.

          Now, remind me, what inspired Steiner?

          • cyril
            April 10, 2013 at 7:44 pm

            Richard: “So, having suspected from measuring real objects, that the square…etc.”

            You are making an unsubstantiated cultural projection here, namely that Pythagoras reached his theorem via many measurements, and then a process of (presumably) generalisation.

            What evidence have you that these were his methods, when there are at least 99 recognised ways to prove the theorem?

            Given the rudimentary nature of early Greek measuring instruments, it is more likely that Pythagoras first of all “intuited” the theorem (as eg. Kekule did the structure of the benzene molecule), which he then used his intellect to prove?

            Now imagine using the same process to discover “facts” some of which have no material counterpart. Corroboration can now only be a process of “re-thinking” what has been thought. And if that thinking uses methods which have been learnt, then the corroborator must learn those methods too. As I mentioned about Einstein and higher math.

            So what inspired Steiner? Something like what inspired a Pythagoras or a Kekule – certain ideas hovering if you like in the lobby of humankind’s consciousness, waiting to be thought. Of course those who cannot “think with” these ideas may put them aside or reject them. That doesn’t make them wrong.

            As a visitor to an exhibition of Whistler’s paintings said to him something like: “I don’t see the world the way you do”, to which he replied “No Madam, but don’t you wish you could”.

          • Mojo
            April 11, 2013 at 8:59 am

            So, having suspected from measuring real objects, that the square…etc. – Pythagoras used mathematics to prove his theory. And do you know, no one has ever suggested he was mistaken.

            About maths, maybe. But he had a lot of strange ideas about other things.

    • Andy Lewis
      April 10, 2013 at 5:17 pm

      Cyril – cosmology allows to examine physical processes that happened 10 billion years ago and understand then in terms of physical laws and processes that hold today.

      You were saying?

      • cyril
        April 10, 2013 at 6:04 pm

        Andy: “Cyril – cosmology allows to examine physical processes that happened 10 billion years ago and understand then in terms of physical laws and processes that hold today.”

        I don’t think that’s quite right Andy. What cosmology can do via assumption of the principle of uniformitarianism, is imagine events and hypothetical observers of those events in an imaginary past. The concept of “10 billion years ago” is predicated on the above assumption.

        • Andy Lewis
          April 10, 2013 at 6:32 pm

          cyril – We do not have to have hypothetical observers. We observe ancient events now.

          Of course, it is always possible to construct arbitrary stories to explain why we are not really seeing ancient events, but Ockham had a thing or two to say about that.

          • cyril
            April 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm

            Andy: “We do not have to have hypothetical observers. We observe ancient events now.”

            Once again Andy, not quite right. They are only “ancient” under the very assumption we’re discussing. I appreciate your reference to the razor, but that doesn’t make the assumption true, only efficient by some definition of the word.

          • Andy Lewis
            April 10, 2013 at 7:25 pm

            cyril

            The philosopher, Stephen Law, discussed your stance in his book, “Believing Bullshit”. Of course, you can make any observation fit pretty much any hypothesis as long as you are prepared to pile in arbitrary elements to your hypothesis.

            http://stephenlaw.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/believing-bullshit-chpt-2.html

            Of course, nature has a tendency to be frugal in the number of assumptions required to explain things.

            Since we know, as well as we can know anything, that light has a finite speed, we can be sure that we observe ancient events when we stare into the dark. To say otherwise, requires you to shovel in a lot of “Ad hoc manoeuvres”.

            You may be right – but odds are you are horribly wrong.

  46. Luke Duncan
    April 10, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Dr Rawlins, perhaps this might help. Think of yourself as an observation tool. Your feeling, willing and thinking are all means by which you are able to make observations of the world. In ancient times people were able to acquire insight into the spiritual (non-material) world by training their feeling and/or willing by means of a series of exercises that honed these capacities into instruments with which they were able to gain access into non-material/spiritual realities.

    These days we are generally no longer able to do this. However, we are now able to school our thinking through various exercises so as to acquire a similar capacity for spiritual perception. In order to train your thinking in this way, you need to carry out exercises over longer periods of time. There are preconditions for being able to undergo this training effectively. As well as developing yourself morally through a set of regularly repeated exercises, you need to be able to separate out your feeling form your thinking, your willing from your thinking, and so on. Conventional science is excellent in this regard because it trains us to think objectively without letting our thinking becoming coloured by our feelings and desires. Once you have developed yourself in this manner, you are then able, through a series of focused meditative exercises, to develop spiritual perception. These exercises are all set out in the book quoted above, which is also freely available online: http://www.rsarchive.org/Books/GA010/. Alternatively, you might prefer “Meditation As Contemplative Inquiry” which was written a couple of years ago by Arthur Zajonc, an American academic and physicist.

    Perhaps some demystification of what is meant by “spiritual” might also help. What is the essential difference between a plant and a stone? Well, one is living and the other isn’t. However, there is no conventional scientific measurement of being alive. Sure, you can measure the activity of living beings, but you can’t measure “livingness” itself – at least not with conventional physical instruments. This is because we have here entered a non-material realm of life forces, or what can be referred to as the etheric realm. Now, what’s the difference between a plant and an animal? Well, the one has feelings and can experience, pain, pleasure, hunger, danger, etc., and the other can’t. We are now in the astral realm. Here we share an astral body with animals, as we are also beings that are able to feel. But human beings have evolved to an even higher level still. We are able to exercise self-reflective thinking. Now, thinking itself is in this sense a spiritual activity.

    None of the Anthropospophical insight given by Steiner contradicts what conventional science tells us about the material world. It just goes beyond it. When you conduct spiritual research in the Anthroposophical sense, you are exploring worlds that lie beyond/behind/underneath the physical reality that we are all familiar with.

    This is all extremely condensed but, if you are interested, the above two titles are probably the best place to start. They are also worth reading from a skeptical point of view because they give you some idea of how seemingly rational people today can come to accept what we’ve have been calling barmpottery.

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 10, 2013 at 5:46 pm

      Blah, blah, blah…

      But after all that guff, steinerists would still claim that a cow’s-horn full of shit then diluted away in water will make a whole field of crops grow better. And this they teach to children as objective fact not a immaterial goings-on in the spooky realms of the astral plane.

      Is that amenable to scientific proof or not? If not, why not?

      [Others may see a pattern here. The monkey gets hold of an awkward question and will not let it go, while the woo flails and struggles on the other end. It seems we have reached this point again.]

      • cyril
        April 10, 2013 at 6:15 pm

        Monkey: Others may see a pattern here.

        We do, Monkey, we do.

    • rita
      April 10, 2013 at 5:59 pm

      There’s that “higher” again. Does anyone else find these hierarchical terms totally unhelpful and misleading?

    • rita
      April 10, 2013 at 6:13 pm

      http://wn.rsarchive.org/Articles/EduChild/EduChi_essay.html
      Here is an article from one of the sites given above, Steiner on precisely the education of children. It’s not long, and I think a read through of this article would be profitable. Whether after reading this, any parent would want their children educated following these principles is up to them: perhaps putting the article in the schools prospectuses would solve a lot of doubts all round?

      • cyril
        April 10, 2013 at 6:30 pm

        rita: “perhaps putting the article in the schools prospectuses would solve a lot of doubts all round?”

        It’s already on the websites of at least two of the British Steiner schools – Holywood (NI) and Edinburgh. It’s also on the website of SWSF, the umbrella organisation of UK Steiner schools. I’ll ask SWSF to encourage other schools to raise the profile of the link to the article.

        • rita
          April 10, 2013 at 6:42 pm

          Well, there we are, then: if parents still want their children to go to a school where their education will be based on these ideas, let them go right ahead: it might not even be worse than the class system as taught by public schools (in the british sense). It’s patently clear that those of us who don’t think along these lines are not going to be convinced, as the anthroposophists are presumably already inspired by Steiner’s world view: when I was teaching, I was frequently amazed by the different aims parents had for their children and the strange ideas (as they seemed to me) about child development. If parents want their offspring inducted into this system, I don’t see how anyone can stop them, or even if they should try: if the Steiner education article is indeed on school prospectuses, what more could be said to put them off?

          • cyril
            April 10, 2013 at 6:54 pm

            Thank you Rita; that is indeed cultural freedom as I have been trying to represent it.

          • Andy Lewis
            April 10, 2013 at 7:27 pm

            But back to the central point. This ‘cultural freedom’ can only be meaningful if there is full and frank disclosure.

          • cyril
            April 10, 2013 at 8:07 pm

            Andy: “This ‘cultural freedom’ can only be meaningful if there is full and frank disclosure”

            I think I’ve written enough already on this subject to suggest that anything Rudolf Steiner may have written about the educational system he helped to found should, and I hope will, be more clearly advertised on schools’ websites.

            However I do not believe that “full and frank disclosure” can consist of Andy Lewis’ interpretation of the above.

    • Dr Richard Rawlins
      April 10, 2013 at 6:17 pm

      Ah! I get it!

      Steiner used his imagination!

      Now, do you think he was serious but deluded and expected folks to take it all in, or do think it more likely he knew he was a fraud?

      • cyril
        April 10, 2013 at 6:34 pm

        Richard: “Ah! I get it! Steiner used his imagination!”

        And so did you Richard to see the connection.

  47. Luke Duncan
    April 10, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Monkey man, I see that you’re back to talking about faeces and bullshit. Yes, it is amenable to scientific proof. Why do you think that biodynamic farmers go to all this trouble, especially when they have to make money out of running their farms? These are hard-working people who do it because it works – and for no other reason.

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 10, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      Luke, it’s not me introducing the faecal matter, it’s BD farmers with their faith in its properties.

      At least you agree that this aspect of AS (I’m going to give up writing that long word. Life’s too short and my abbreviation is self-evident in this context) is amenable to scientific proof.

      Where is the objective evidence? Farmers’ anecdotes don’t count for reasons that should be obvious to you (but I suspect are not).

      • cyril
        April 10, 2013 at 6:18 pm

        BSM: “Farmers’ anecdotes don’t count”

        No but oenophiles’ money does.

        • Badly Shaved Monkey
          April 10, 2013 at 10:06 pm

          Always good to see another logical fallacy being deployed. Thank you, Cyril.

        • Badly Shaved Monkey
          April 10, 2013 at 10:08 pm

          By the way, Cyril. It would be really interesting to see you explain in your own words why your oenophile comment was fallacious. Over to you…

        • Badly Shaved Monkey
          April 10, 2013 at 11:11 pm

          Cyril

          As brachiating bipeds go, I can be pretty generous so here’s a possible last line for your next post;

          “…and, by a similar argument, it is obvious that the persistence of professional astrologers is no proof of the efficacy of astrology.”

          All you’ve got to do is provide the first part.

    • Mojo
      April 11, 2013 at 9:02 am

      @Luke Duncan:

      Monkey man, I see that you’re back to talking about faeces and bullshit.

      Which would seem to be on-topic…

      Yes, it is amenable to scientific proof. Why do you think that biodynamic farmers go to all this trouble, especially when they have to make money out of running their farms? These are hard-working people who do it because it works – and for no other reason.

      No, they do it because they think it works. That is not the same thing.

  48. Luke Duncan
    April 10, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    Monkey man, here’s some scientific evidence:

    In May 2002, the results of a 21 year study comparing organic and biodynamic farming with conventional agriculture were published, also in respected journal Science. A group of Swiss researchers, led by Paul Mäder of the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, showed that while biodynamic farming resulted in slightly lower yields, it outperformed conventional and organic systems in almost every other case. The biodynamic plots showed higher biodiversity and greater numbers of soil microbes, and more efficient resource utilization by this microbial community. http://www.wineanorak.com/biodynamic9.htm

    See also:

    Soil fertility was greatly enhanced on biodynamic and organic farms, as indicated by numbers of earthworms, number of mycorrhizae and a number of biological activity measurements. Diversity of organisms was increased in organic and especially biodynamic systems relative to conventional systems. Soil organism activity continued to increase in organic systems for more than 20 years after conversion to organic. System performance continued to improve over this time. http://www.organicagcentre.ca/researchdatabase/res_switzerland_long.asp

    By the way, instead of you going around saying that this and that is a load of nonsense and demanding evidence, why don’t you do the legwork yourself? Before you say something is nonsense, why don’t provide the evidence to show that you are justified in calling in something nonsense?

    Would it not be more scientific to have an open mind about things until you have hard evidence to the contrary?

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 10, 2013 at 10:19 pm

      Luke

      That paper does not answer the question of whether a cow’s-horn full of shit and then rinsed away with large volumes of water confers benefits. Do you understand why?

      I think you misunderstand the way that proof works. It’s BD and AS people making the claims.

      So, try again. Evidence, please, that cow’s-horn manure concoctions work in defiance of any reasonable understanding of chemistry.

  49. cyril
    April 10, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Andy: “You may be right – but odds are you are horribly wrong.”

    Thank you Andy. You seem now to have accepted that there may be more than one way to represent the world around us.

    I’m not claiming rightness on my side, and wrongness on yours, nor vice versa. But you have – at least for the moment – stopped saying words like “barmpottery” and, I hope, conceded that my position is – while unlikely to you – all the same, not ridiculous.

    • Andy Lewis
      April 10, 2013 at 8:38 pm

      No. Just because it is possible to construct an arbitrary number of hypotheses to explain observations, it does not mean that all but a few are likely to be mere barmpottery. I would urge you to read Law’s essay and take not of the ‘Dogs are venusian spies’ hypothesis.

      It is easy to stray from rational explanations into barmpottery. Invoking the supernatural is a pretty good way. In general, as Law argues there are good explanations in the world and there are pseudoscientific and superstitious explanaitons.

      I would hope all schools stuck to the former.

      • cyril
        April 10, 2013 at 8:49 pm

        Andy: “It is easy to stray from rational explanations into barmpottery. Invoking the supernatural is a pretty good way”

        Except that “reason” itself is supernatural (ie immaterial) – you can’t prove logic, you can only experience it. And experience is supernatural. Gravitational accretion may make the world go round, but so does love. Which is more real?

        • rita
          April 10, 2013 at 8:57 pm

          Supernatural=immaterial….”love makes the world go round” just which discourse are we using here? Musical comedy?

        • Andy Lewis
          April 10, 2013 at 9:18 pm

          Ah, we have now strayed into “explain love, science boy’ territory.

          • Dr Richard Rawlins
            April 10, 2013 at 11:24 pm

            So Cyril, are you saying Steiner simply had these heuristic thoughts (derived from his imagination)?

            In other words he simply made up these ideas without having any evidence for their immanent reality, nor any rationale at all. Fair ehough. But did he really expect folks to believe him or was it all a big laugh?

  50. Luke Duncan
    April 10, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    supernatural (lit. above nature) = of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe, i.e. immaterial.

    love makes the world go round (common expression) = love is the principal force behind human life.

    • rita
      April 10, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      Well, the OED is not with you on the first definition, and the second proposition is pretty doubtful too….not really clear definitions, perhaps? Still, a sideline…I meant to refer to the registers of discourse being used, as in the relentless use of words like “higher” earlier on in the thread.

  51. Luke Duncan
    April 10, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    How about, explain thinking?

    Cyril’s points above might be seen in the light of the following:

    “If mental phenomena are not physical phenomena and if there is mental causation, then the realm of physical phenomena cannot be regarded as a causally closed system. If, however, it is causally closed and if mental phenomena are non-physical phenomena, then, contrary to all appearances, there can be no mental causation. And if there is mental causation despite the causal unity of the physical world, then it cannot be held that mental phenomena are non-physical phenomena.”

    Or in other words:

    “If one explains consciousness as nothing but a physically caused and determined appendage of the physical organism, then cognition and freedom are an illusion. What we think and how we act are then not the results of free, logically grounded insight, but rather, all our thoughts and actions are determined by physiological relationships within the brain.”

    i.e. if it is just all in the brain, then there is no such thing as “reason”, just unconscious physical determinism.

    http://www.philosophyoffreedom.com/node/4270

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 10, 2013 at 10:47 pm

      Yeah, maybe.

      Your point being?

      • cyril
        April 10, 2013 at 11:42 pm

        BSM: “Your point being?”

        That either one accepts that mental life, including consciousness and reason, is real and not wholly determined by physical causes (ie is above nature == supernatural), or the whole of this blog, and a lot more, has no more meaning than dogs barking at each other.

        • Dr Richard Rawlins
          April 11, 2013 at 7:37 am

          Cyril, I sense a Nobel Prize winging on its way to you through the ether!

          All you have to do is provide evidence, even a tiny drop will do, in support of your assertion that ‘consciousness is not determined by physical causes i.e. is above nature.’

          Unless of course you have ambitions for the Prize in Literature.

          • Luke Duncan
            April 11, 2013 at 8:45 am

            Dr Rawlins, why don’t you think about what you are saying? Either what you just said was causally determined and an inevitable response that was triggered automatically by the physical make-up of your brain (which forced you to write these few sentences, whether you thought you wished to do this or not) – or there is actually some logical reasoning and understanding going on in that sneering mind of yours. If the latter holds true and you are capable of rational thinking independently of physical causation, then you are experiencing mental phenomena that are precisely that, mental phenomena, i.e. non-material phenomena. Your reasoned thinking operates according to self-justifying logic not contingent material causation. Non-material means not subject to physical causation, for which another term is “supernatural” or “spiritual”.

            To turn your demand for proof on its head, you will never be able to prove that thinking is causally determined by the brain because that argument or thought itself would then therefore be causally determined, i.e. not a logical argument but one determined by the physical constitution of your brain. Up to now you have just reacted to everything that was said by jeering at it, so perhaps you are just physically determined to respond rational argument with a sneer. Happy sailing indeed, Professor!

          • Dr Richard Rawlins
            April 11, 2013 at 11:18 am

            Luke,

            You have your definitions of what is material. Most folks find chemical neuro-tranmitters, and associated neurons, pretty material. The patterns they produce of course vary in individuals, but just what is going on to make you believe there might be another ‘world out there’.

            And I still cannot get to the bottom of why Steiner came to believe that was so.

            Did he speak directly with a god as Moses did at the Burning Bush? Did he receive a god’s word directly through the agency of angels as Mohammad and Joseph Smith did? (Funny that they were different ‘words’. Written on gold plates for Smith. Over twenty three years of recitation for Mohammad). Did he fantasise about a galactic overlord called Xenu, and Thetans as Hubbard did? Did he simply concentrate very hard over a very long period as Gautama Budda and Guru Nanak did?

            How do you think Steiner came to his opinions about reincarnation, racial progression, spiritual realms…and Atlantis? I take it gnomes are a metaphor – or do you believe they are really ‘out there’?

            Is there any possibility he was having folks on? He must have had some reason for arriving at the conclusions he did surely? ( Other than he wanted to break with Theosophy). Or you would not be taking his opinions seriously. Would you?

            Any help you can give on this would be appreciated. I appreciate this discourse will not cause you to change your mind, but I would like to know what your mind is. And why it is.

            And of course, I do hope intending parents of Steiner schools will be able to appreciate your insights in the light of full and open knowledge of just what Steiner did believe, and why he believed it.

            Many thanks,

            Richard

          • Dr Richard Rawlins
            April 11, 2013 at 12:16 pm

            Luke,

            I must correct a misunderstanding you have.

            I never ‘sneer’ at persons of faith. I do ask what the basis of that faith is. (Including faith in any scientifically established knowledge. Which of course can never be absolute.)

            An ad hominem attack is unworthy of discussions on this forum.

            Thank you.

          • Badly Shaved Monkey
            April 11, 2013 at 10:26 am

            Either what you just said was causally determined and an inevitable response that was triggered automatically by the physical make-up of your brain (which forced you to write these few sentences, whether you thought you wished to do this or not) – or there is actually some logical reasoning and understanding going on in that sneering mind of yours.

            False dichotomy.

            I’m going to start awarding points.

            To turn your demand for proof on its head, you will never be able to prove that thinking is causally determined by the brain because that argument or thought itself would then therefore be causally determined

            Simple experimental observation. Destroy brain–>Thinking ceases. Back over to you.

        • rita
          April 11, 2013 at 8:56 am

          I think you might mean “supra-natural”, rather than “supernatural”, which has a whole lot of extra baggage.

          “no more meaning than dogs barking at each other” – and no less, surely: although in the education article Steiner implies that nonhuman animals don’t actually have feelings (later in the same article he seems to change his mind about this), surely he (and you) should realise that dogs communicate very effectively with their vocalisations and with none of the painful misunderstandings we see (here, for instance) amongst humans, with their slippery use of words.

        • Badly Shaved Monkey
          April 11, 2013 at 9:41 am

          That either one accepts that mental life, including consciousness and reason, is real and not wholly determined by physical causes (ie is above nature == supernatural), or the whole of this blog, and a lot more, has no more meaning than dogs barking at each other.

          Holy non sequitur, Batman!

          Is this intended to be some kind of illustrated tour of logical fallacies? I’ll get some more popcorn.

        • Badly Shaved Monkey
          April 11, 2013 at 10:11 am

          either one accepts that mental life, including consciousness and reason, is real and not wholly determined by physical causes (ie is above nature == supernatural), or the whole of this blog, and a lot more, has no more meaning than dogs barking at each other.

          I don’t share your problem with dogs. I rather like the idea of consciousness lying along a spectrum. If you require that consciousness and the ability to reason is an all-or-nothing phenomenon uniquely present in people, it poses all sorts of problems for you. When did it appear? Were Neanderthals conscious? Homo habilis? Did the mumbling automaton Mrs Brenda Homo-Erectus give birth to her fully conscious self-aware son, Brian? Tea-time conversation must have been a bit strained.
          Mum, could I have a scone, please?
          Mmnnhh
          A scone.
          Mmnnhhnhh
          One of those things. [points]
          Mmnhnnhhh
          Yes, the thing you’ve just stuck in your ear, but I think I’ve gone off the idea.

    • Dr Richard Rawlins
      April 10, 2013 at 11:33 pm

      Welcome aboard! Let’s set sail for Atlantis.

  52. April 11, 2013 at 12:20 am

    “or the whole of this blog, and a lot more, has no more meaning than dogs barking at each other.”

    As it turns out, dogs barking had a tremendous amount of meaning for Steiner. He wrote about the phenomenon here:

    “It is well known that if dogs are removed from conditions where they
    are in contact with human beings to places where they have no such
    contact, they forget how to bark. As a rule, the descendants of such
    dogs cannot bark at all.”[From “A Vision for the Millennium” – Rudolf
    Steiner – Rudolf Steiner Press – 1999]

    It’s hard to imagine a bunch of people collected in a room listening to someone tell them that his bullshit “is well known”.

    • rita
      April 11, 2013 at 8:59 am

      That nonsense (for it is nonsense) about dogs is consistent with the appallingly anthropocentric version of the world Steiner seemed to espouse: if humans are not the focus of all activity, the activity ceases or has no meaning.

    • rita
      April 11, 2013 at 9:39 am

      Ah, I see Steiner thought nonhuman animals do not possess memory: this and other gems here: https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/steiners-blunders.

      There is also a guide for parents considering Waldorf schools for their offspring on these pages.

      • Mojo
        April 11, 2013 at 10:21 am

        Ah, I see Steiner thought nonhuman animals do not possess memory

        That explains why dogs cannot be trained.

      • Badly Shaved Monkey
        April 11, 2013 at 12:52 pm

        I’ve just read some of that Blunders page.

        Steiner got a lot very wrong. This does rather disqualify him as an infallible revealer of truth. As we have seen here, this causes great problems to his disciples who flounder about trying to sustain belief in things that are just flat-out wrong. Again, it’s like disputing with SCAMsters. They cannot concede any individual component of their scheme to be erroneous because the whole thing is an arbitrary human invention. If they agree with one criticism, it’s a slippery slope and the only way to resist the slide is to keep digging in their heels.

      • JimR
        April 11, 2013 at 10:59 pm

        The Steiner Blunders bespeak a man wrapped in his own thoughts, weaving fantasies w/o any external grounding. Absolutely nothing he claims can be taken as “TRUTH” w/o extensive fact checking and frankly the man’s ideas are not worth the bother. In fact the racial ones are downright scary.

        • Dr Richard Rawlins
          April 12, 2013 at 8:00 am

          Dear Jim,

          Many thanks for your web link which explains all and which I highly recommend!

          It was even written by a chap called Rawlings – albeit my name has no ‘g’.

          The site is required reading for those who need the references, and goes a long way to elucidate the answers to my central question – why did Steiner believe what he claimed? (Assuming he was not a fraud). He claimed this was due to his ability to enter the spirit realm (and predict the future). A likely story.

          The answer is of course that he was deluded. End of.

          More interesting to us is why so many other folks have taken to joining him on his Karmic journey. They must account for themselves, but where attempts are made to secure public funding for schools founded on these bizarre spiritual principles are concerned, the public must be provided with transparent information as to what these beliefs are. And here, Steiner Schools seem to be inappropriately coy. Although I can’t say I blame them.

  53. Matt
    April 11, 2013 at 9:25 am

    The following is a summary from training I have received, not the opinion of an expert.

    The problem with student directed learning is that pupils, in the immortal words of Donald Rumsfeld, don’t know what they don’t know. They also don’t know what will be valuable to learn, and haven’t developed the skills for effective independent study yet.

    These fundamental problems can be overcome by highly skilled and experienced teachers. However, teachers come with a range of skills and inevitably only develop experience with time. Done well student directed learning could be brilliant, but it is unforgiving of less than perfect implementation. Practical logistics make it impossible to supply sufficiently skilled teachers in sufficient number to deliver it across the entire state school sector.

    As a point for Steiner parents to consider, the feature of having a single teacher for many years does sound nice, but if student-directed learning depends on a good teacher, then parents are making an all or nothing gamble on the quality of that one teacher. At least a succession of teachers would let variable quality average out.

    It’s also a slightly odd thing to just assume student-directed learning will work well. Encountering a new academic discipline is a little like visiting a foreign city, some things are familiar, but the language is a different, there are new ways of doing things and it can be a challenge to find your way around. Would you rather go to a new city and meet a guide who’s lived there for years, and has planned a trip to see all the important sights and will take you to their favourite coffee shop; or direct your own exploration, stumbling down side streets, struggling to interpret local signs and finding the worst coffee in the city?

    It’s only just occurred to me, and this is really cynical, but is it rather convenient for the occult business of developing souls, to have pupils staggering around slightly lost and struggling to piece things together?

  54. Badly Shaved Monkey
    April 11, 2013 at 9:49 am

    A lot of words have been written again, and we have no answer from Luke or Cyril to the following questions;

    1. Where is the evidence that cowshorn/poo water enhances crop production?

    2. Why can farmers and wine-lovers think that specific BD agricultural methods work, but be wrong?

    Luke/Cyril, it is an oft-repeated pattern for advocates of woo to wander off into vague wiffling abstract discussions when we have found a testable point of concrete intersection between their woolly ideas and the observable world.

  55. Luke Duncan
    April 11, 2013 at 11:12 am

    @Monkey/Mojo, did you not see my post above with info on the 21-year study on bidoynamic farming reported in Science, on of the world’s top peer-reviewed science journals?

    @Matt, yes you do have a point about the risk of having the same class teacher for eight years. Just to qualify though, the class teacher teaches two periods in the morning (known as “main lesson”). The rest of the periods are taught by subject teachers. The class teacher only teaches the majority of the main lessons (on the same subject for a period of about 4-6 weeks) in the lower grades. From about class 4 onwards, these are taught by alternating subject teachers (with qualifications in their respective subjects) in addition to the class teacher. Also, Steiner education is not in anyway purely about student-directed learning, it’s a healthy mixture of input and presentation from the teacher, followed by tasks (mostly teacher-directed) carried out by the children. You have to compare this to mainstream education, where in my experience (secondary education), subject teachers can easily teach around 150 students per day and hardly know more about the individual student than their name and latest test result. Much of the attention of these subject teachers in mainstream schools is focused on the students who are most unruly because the time allocated to the individual lesson is so short. While discipline in Steiner schools is an issue like anywhere else, there are also advantages to having a much closer relationship with the pupils.

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 11, 2013 at 11:26 am

      @Monkey/Mojo, did you not see my post above with info on the 21-year study on bidoynamic farming reported in Science, on of the world’s top peer-reviewed science journals?

      I did. I’m sure Mojo did. I have not read the original full-text. Maybe you have, but let’s assume that the summary you quoted is correct, it shows that if you do different things on farms then different things happen on those farms.

      I’m happy to accept that if we returned to medieval farming practices then yields would drop and biodiversity would recover. No hocus pocus required. We’re questioning the validity of the hocus pocus. I’ve mentioned repeating patterns before. Another one is for woos to publish studies that careful fail to answer the questions that are actually interesting. It’s always good to see things that fit a recognisable pattern.

      What we want to do is tease out the components of those different things and find out which make a difference.

      So now, and in bold;

      1. Where is the evidence that cowshorn/poo water enhances crop production?

      2. Why can farmers and wine-lovers think that specific BD agricultural methods work, but be wrong?

    • Matt
      April 11, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      You raise some issues with mainstream education. Which might be fair. But there is still no reason why Steiner is the BEST answer to those problems.

      Class sizes could be made smaller with more resources. Why is keeping 99% of pupils in under resourced schools whilst handing 1% to an occulist group a sensible schools policy?

  56. Luke Duncan
    April 11, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    @Monkey, in order to grow crops you need soil that is fertile. The fertility of soil is a measure of its nutrients, minerals, moisture, aeration, acidity, soil structure and the micro-organisms that it contains. All of these are dependent on the amount and type of organic matter (dead plants, animal waste and micro-organisms) that flows into the soil. Traditionally, farmers fertilised their soil by spreading manure (typically cow dung) on the fields. With the advent of artificial fertilisers, many farms all over the world switched to synthetic (inorganic) fertilisers (typically made from fossil fuels). This resulted in an increase in crop yields and led to what is known as the Green Revolution. However, it soon became apparent that the effect of these new synthetic fertilisers was to deplete the soil of its nutrients. Farmers had to increase the amount of fertiliser they put into the soil into order maintain these higher yields. Along with soil depletion, there was also a massive decline in biodiversity, due also to the use of monocultures, chemical herbicides and pesticides. As a result, the surrounding eco-system, necessary to support both the quality of the soil and the growth of crops became impoverished. The toxic output killed off many of the species required to grow crops and has also had a negative impact on human health.

    In search of a more sustainable approach, one that doesn’t require all the expensive and energy-intensive synthetic inputs, some farmers are now turning to organic production. Decades before all of this, Steiner had already given a range of practical indications of how one might approach farming holistically – in a way that recognises that the soil, plants, animals and the natural environment surrounding the farm constitute an interrelated and self-sustaining organism. But, as you might expect with Steiner, he also gave indications about celestial factors that influence agriculture, which BD farmers take account of through the use of various biodynamic calendars. The heavens and times of year have played a significant role in agriculture since times immemorial. BD farming also provides a number of interesting social benefits by returning the local farm and the food it produces to its local community. One of the indications Steiner gave concerned the Cow Horn Manure that we are discussing. The scientific research I referred to above has shown that, apart from slightly lower crop yields, biodynamic farms outperform both industrial and organic farming on all other counts, including in relation to soil fertility. Cyril’s oenophiles (wine lovers in particular), and those who believe there is more to food than merely the chemicals and ingredients that can be measured by conventional science, will also argue that food produced biodynamically is of higher (spiritual) quality.

    I don’t know of any scientific studies that have been carried out specifically to test the efficacy of Cow Horn Manure – it’s probably hard to measure, given the holistic nature of the BD approach – but then I don’t know much about agriculture. So feel free to dismiss it all as hogwash if you like, but just remember that there are consumers and farmers across the world who know an enormous amount more than you do about food and agriculture, and who all swear by it. You might also think about the damage being caused by industrial agriculture before you start bad-mouthing BD.

    • rita
      April 11, 2013 at 1:42 pm

      Yes, I note that BD sysytems and organic are lumped together in the exisiting studies, so it’s rather hard to see why the esoteric BD ideas are ncessary: simple organic techniques would be enough, (for those who wish to take that route) without introducing cosmic forces and cow horns.

      • Badly Shaved Monkey
        April 11, 2013 at 3:19 pm

        But, Rita, how might we separate the effects derived solely from mundane organic practices from the souped up esoteric benefits of BD methods? It’s quite a conundrum.

        Not.

        I wonder whether Luke or Cyril can solve this tricky problem. [An answer to my question might show that they have done insight into the problem. Sadly, as yet, the question just sits and dangles]

        • Badly Shaved Monkey
          April 11, 2013 at 3:20 pm

          An answer to my question might show that they have SoMe insight into the problem. Sadly, as yet, the question just sits and dangles

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 11, 2013 at 1:44 pm

      Luke

      1. Where is the evidence that cowshorn/poo water enhances crop production?

      You have nothing useful to offer. Fairly straightforward principles of chemistry allow me to “bad mouth” BD’s magic manure in the absence of any evidence.

      This is not a discussion about the supposed evils of industrial agriculture though I might even agree with a lot of the criticisms of modern agriculture, but I’d do so on the basis of evidence not because I’d like to substitute belief in magic potions for the requisite evidence. This, is a discussion about the concealed magical beliefs of people who presume to teach children about agriculture.

      2. Why can farmers and wine-lovers think that specific BD agricultural methods work, but be wrong?

      You have made no attempt to answer this one.

      • Badly Shaved Monkey
        April 11, 2013 at 4:58 pm

        @Monkey: 1. Fine, you win, 2. Perhaps they’re deluded – dunno, ask them.

        It seems to me that you do not wish to engage with the many reasons why the prolific Steiner and his enthusiastic followers may be earnest but utterly mistaken in their beliefs.

        As I have tried to point out, your problem is that in taking everything that your guru has written at face value, you cannot afford to look critically at any part of it.

        Just to be clear on this, do you really think that homeopathically diluted cowshorn/poo alters crop yields?

  57. Luke Duncan
    April 11, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    @Monkey: 1. Fine, you win, 2. Perhaps they’re deluded – dunno, ask them.

    @Matt: Sorry, I’m not claiming it is the BEST answer, but I do think it is the best approach that is currently available – in my opinion. I’m not saying people should agree with my opinion or be obliged to send their kids to Steiner schools. Class sizes are non-issue in my opinion/experience. Steiner schools and other independent schools should not receive more of the cake per child than normal state schools, but there is no reason why they shouldn’t be equally funded, provided there is a demand from parents/teachers for the provision of alternative forms of education.

    @Dr Rawlins: Sorry for getting annoyed. No, there is absolutely no way that Steiner was a fraud. You might want to claim that he was delusional, but the evidence would be against you. People accept his ideas because they work. This is a man who gave 6,000 lectures on a huge range of subjects, influenced a whole range of prominent personalities, wrote 40 books, designed two of the greatest architectural buildings of his age, created various new art forms, and introduced ideas that professionals and noted individuals have regarded as revolutionary in their respective fields: anthroposophical medicine, education, Camphill education for people with special needs, farming, architecture, economics (associative economics), political science (social threefolding), art (eurythmy and speech formation), art therapy, religion (the Christian Community Church), science (he established the Goethean or phenomenological approach science, he also edited Goethe’s scientific writings), drama (influence on Michael Checkhov), literature (he wrote four mystery dramas, mantric verse, meditation exercises, a history of philosophy) and spirituality (all his esoteric writings and lectures on Anthroposophy itself). We are talking about a colossal figure here who has attracted a worldwide following.

    If none of this is convincing, then read some of his books, the Philosophy of Freedom and the title already mentioned, which will show you how these ideas were not given by him as things for people to “believe in”, they were given to people as working hypotheses for them to try out and test for themselves. Furthermore, he explained the means by which you can “see” these things for yourself. You asked whether I believed in gnomes – it’s not about “believing in” it’s about taking these ideas and seeing whether they are of any use to you, whether you can incorporate them profitably into your worldvie. I’ve never seen a gnome, I’m not clairvoyant (yet :-) ) – Steiner was. But I can see how the world is a living organism and I find the idea that different elemental spirits are helping to sustain that organism satisfying. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe everything science tells us about the natural world.

    • rita
      April 11, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      But I’ve been reading Steiner’s works ever since this thread started and it’s precisely why I have lost all the respect I might have had for the stuff: Lemuria, Atlantis, soft material, astral bodies, etheric bodies, child development notions….some of the stuff in the links put up here….in its day and given the theosophical background, I can see people might have gone along but now?

      It’s an interesting question just why certain folk find this sort of thing convincing and others don’t, and there seems to be a great gulf fixed between them.

      That Steiner was a prolific author is hardly the point, most esoteric writing goes on at interminable length, mesmerising its readers, perhaps, thus: his prowess in other fields may have been as productive as you say, but a lot of your list indicates that he was an expert in his own fields: after all, what does making a contribution to anthroposophical medicine amount to? And we can’t appeal to architecture for authentication of the Lemurian tales, and so forth. So the “deluded” possibility has to be open still for me, at least, Im afraid.

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 11, 2013 at 5:00 pm

      Of course, you do realise, don’t you, that if farmers are deluded in believing that cowshorn/poo is magical then so are you.

    • Dr Richard Rawlins
      April 11, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      Thank you for a courteous reply, though I fear you might, just might, be wrong.

      And I still have no idea as to how or why Steiner came to have the valuable insights he had.

  58. Luke Duncan
    April 11, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Rita, just on anthroposophical medicine. We are talking about anthroposopohical clinics across the world, run by doctors who are trained in conventional medicine — i.e. people with a certain amount of higher education. European universities have professorships in AS medicine, AS medicine has been a recognised specialty within Swiss governmental health policy and there are about 30,000 physicians worldwide (Wikipedia). Then there’s Weleda, a large and successful pharmaceutical company. The “deluded possibility” implies that all the above are deluded as well. It might be reasonable to dismiss RS’s ideas within a specific field in which you have experience and knowledge, but just to dismiss him as deluded across without any justification or explanation …?

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 11, 2013 at 5:15 pm

      I think I know enough about medicine to dismiss The role of AS in medicine. We come back to the fact that people delude themselves with this tosh for all sorts of reasons and being medically qualified, sadly, does not guarantee protection from this.

      (Argument from Authority, by the way. That’s another 10 points to me)

    • rita
      April 11, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      Boiron is a large and successful pharmaceutical compnay, too, and thousands of people go for homeopathy: unfortunately, popularity is no guarantee of worth (11 million voters plumped for Mariano Rajoy in the last Spanish elections!)

      I think you’ll find that I have not dismissed Steiner as deluded without any justification or explanation: it is his own work which adduces nothing but his own clairvoyant insights for us to accept, and his own works are ample justification for at least considering delusion as being an explanation for what he says.

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 11, 2013 at 5:20 pm

      Luke. Re: AS Medicine

      1. Is the heart a pump?
      2. Does vaccination interfere with the workings of karma such that conventional vaccination schedules should not be followed?

    • April 12, 2013 at 5:39 pm

      ‘We are talking about anthroposopohical clinics across the world, run by doctors who are trained in conventional medicine’

      Yes, the conventional methods they use have an effect in the material world. The anthroposophical ones are only efficient so long as you take into account spiritual factors, which, curiously enough, are not possible to observe with the usual scientific methods.

      Weleda’s successes have hardly anything to do with the pharmaceuticals at all (and nothing to do with their effect — which has never been proven, see my reasoning above; they’re spiritual meds). In fact, the losses on the pharmaceutical side was a problem for Weleda as a whole — the cosmetical side being brought down by losses on the pharma side. As far as I know, anthroposophists have made some reorganisations recently to sort things out.

      Anyway, I’ll give it to you that Weleda’s soaps work. They take care of the work as good as other soaps do. The problem is with the medicines.

      As for the information from wikipedia about the Swiss government and the number of anthroposophical physicians, well, I sometimes doubt wikipedia (because it’s written and guarded by anthroposophical propagandists). I don’t believe there are currently 30000 anthroposophical physicians in the world — it’s a seemingly absurd number. There are barely that many anthroposophists.

      The European universities you are talking about are surely anthroposophical universities. I do not know why you’d think this would impress skeptics, but I guess you knew it wouldn’t and left out the little word ‘anthroposophical’. Whether they have ‘professorships in AS medicine’ at these universities are beyond my knowledge, but they do have medical faculties and definitely (this is obvious) emply anthroposophical doctors there.

      Has it occurred to you that anthroposophical clinics are more impressive to anthroposophists than to other people? That they exist where there are anthroposophists (ie, ‘across the world’) is hardly surprising.

  59. Luke Duncan
    April 11, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Monkey, I don’t know enough about biodynamic farming or agriculture to make an informed judgement about the Cow Horn Manure (Preparation 500). I don’t take everything that RS said at face value – I was responding to Dr Rawlins question of whether Steiner might be dismissed as a fraud by highlighting the sheer range of (intelligent) people and areas of human activity that he has had an influence on. This suggests that RS can’t just be written off as a quack without engaging in some detail with his ideas and the initiatives he has inspired. But to your credit, you seem to be following up on your argument about the preparation and so I’ll accept your verdict that it’s nonsense for the moment. Until I am convinced otherwise, I will agree with you that Preparation 500 has no beneficial properties.

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 11, 2013 at 5:32 pm

      Hooray! So you will accept that at least some parts of Steiner’s work are erroneous. How should we proceed with testing the rest? Do you accept that all parts that claim effects in the work around us are amenable to scientific testing?

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 11, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      the worLD around

  60. Luke Duncan
    April 11, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Rita, by engaging, I mean that you explain precisely why you believe something Steiner said is nonsense. Monkey dismisses the use of Preparation 500 because he hasn’t been given scientific evidence that proves its efficacy. What is it about the bits of Steiner’s work that you have read that causes you to dismiss him as deluded? Just saying that you’ve read bits of Steiner and can’t make heads or tails of the terminology he is using doesn’t prove anything about whether Steiner was delusional or not – you just tells you that it is meaningless to you. If you find what you’ve read disagreeable, then why do you find it disagreeable? Does your disagreement prove that Steiner was deluded?

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 11, 2013 at 5:53 pm

      Monkey dismisses the use of Preparation 500 because he hasn’t been given scientific evidence that proves its efficacy.

      No, not mainly for that reason. I reject on grounds of basic chemistry. If you had evidence then we could discuss it, but it would have to bd extraordinary evidence to sustain the extraordinary claim.

    • rita
      April 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      No, what I mean is when I read an unsupported assertion that something has been arrived at through clairvoyance I cannot see why I should respect it: again, I have not “dismissed Steiner as deluded”: I have said that we cannot, on the evidence so far before us, dismiss that possibility: the chain of thinking that goes “Steiner realised something through clairvoyance, he wrote it down and we must consider it as a serious contribution to thought because it came through clairvoyance to Steiner” does nothing to convince me that I should consider cogent stuff about Atlantis or astral bodies – or dogs forgetting to bark, or karma, come to that. Whether the texts are “agreeable” or not hardly comes into it: that sounds a bit as though you’re looking to proceed along a sort of Freudian “you don’t like it because subconsciously you’re resisting it” road.(I may be wronging you here, but I find many parallels between the sort of credence afforded Freud and that given to Steiner, and, as I said, I think one of the interesting aspects of this thread is just why some people find these figures authoratative and compelling, and others don’t).

  61. Luke Duncan
    April 11, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Monkey, you are the one making the case against Anthroposophy, so I suggest you decide on how to proceed with the testing. Yes, I think the physical world (the only world that you believe in) is amenable to scientific testing, but I also think that scientific principles can be applied to research into non-material aspects of the world around us. But don’t let that stop you, please fire away …

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 11, 2013 at 5:55 pm

      I also think that scientific principles can be applied to research into non-material aspects of the world around us.

      How? Give an example.

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 11, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      P.S. It’s not a matter of believing certain things. AS makes claims about the physical world. These are testable. If you choose to believe in things that science cannot test then it places no limits on them, except that they cannot affect the physical world in any meaningful and reliable way. This still leaves the field wide open to believe in an infinite variety of things, but it does rather constrain their actions.

  62. Luke Duncan
    April 11, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    OK, I can only give you an example from my own experience. By imagining the character I wished to play as an actor in mind I was able to present the emotions of that character on stage. When I just tried to force the emotions without imagining the character to myself, I was much less successful at performing the role. I repeated this a number of times in rehearsals and in different performances. Whenever I was imagining the character to myself I was more successful at portraying him to the audience. My fellow actors were doing the same exercise and came to similar findings.

  63. Luke Duncan
    April 11, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Rita, you still haven’t said what particular points you know for a fact are nonsense in Steiner’s writings. I’ve gathered that you personally don’t like the terminology he uses. You mentioned something he said about barking dogs. According to this researcher “Wild dogs yip and squeal and whine, but rarely produce the repetitive acoustic percussion that is barking.” http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/06/dog-bark-origins/

    Do you, Rita, know lots about dogs and are you able to prove from your experience or otherwise that Steiner was mistaken on this point?

    This, just to give you an example of what I mean.

    • rita
      April 11, 2013 at 10:26 pm

      We’re going round in circles here: again you refer to whether I “like or “dislike” Steiner’s terminology: I dealt with that already,nor did I say I know for a fact that anything in these writings is nonsense: it looks like nonsense, but that’s not the point: the point is that what is said is totally unsubstantiated, except by Steiner’s clairvoyance: take a page like this, for example:http://www.hermetics.org/pdf/steiner/Rudolf_Steiner_-_Cosmic_Memory.pdf – no attempt is made to validate these visions except by refernce to the akashic records, also only available to clairvoyance.

      As it happens, I can say without boasting that yes, I do know a very considerable amount about dogs and correspond with folk who know far more, if you have any questions. The remark I was referring to was one already mentioned about dogs “forgetting” how to bark (here, I’ve looked it up for you: “It is well known that if dogs are removed from conditions where they
      are in contact with human beings to places where they have no such
      contact, they forget how to bark. As a rule, the descendants of such
      dogs cannot bark at all.”[From “A Vision for the Millennium” – Rudolf
      Steiner – Rudolf Steiner Press – 1999]). It’s not clear from the report you cite of Molnar’s study what is meant by “wild dogs” – feral or actually some species, but his point is that humans selected for dog characteristics, not that dogs “forget” barking. I could point out that if dogs are removed from human contact, there’s no-one around to say whether they bark or not, but we’ll allow that.

  64. Matt
    April 11, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    I think this is where I get off.

    I just want to thank Luke for the effort he’s taken in answering questions. The words “curiouser and curiouser” spring to mind. Still I’m pleased he came out to play.

    • rita
      April 11, 2013 at 10:41 pm

      I think I’ll join you in getting off now: we’re all beginning to repeat ourselves and there seems to be little hope of a meeting of minds….still, it’s been informative!

  65. cyril
    April 11, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Because the subject of this blog is Steiner education, I don’t believe that it is the appropriate place to discuss bio-dynamic farming in detail.

    I am not qualified to defend this method of farming except with arguments that seem to be generally unacceptable to many of its critics. An example is that many wine producers are converting to BD because their customers like the taste of the resulting product.

    However if you wish to pursue the subject, one of the most commonly quoted research articles is:-

    L. Carpenter-Boggs, A. C. Kennedy, and J. P. Reganold; Organic and Biodynamic Management: Effects on Soil Biology; Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 64:1651–1659 (2000)

    While a little old, it is still quite a good source of peer reviewed literature. So please feel free to have a – possibly ill-informed – debate over it.

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      April 11, 2013 at 8:31 pm

      An example is that many wine producers are converting to BD because their customers like the taste of the resulting product.

      And their wine might taste just fine but this has nothing to do with BD.

      Or their wine might taste indifferent, but BD has become an effective marketing tool that allows mediocre products to distinguish themselves in the marketplace.

      I think your problem, Cyril, is that at a fairly fundamental level you just don’t get how to draw sensible inferences from evidence.

  66. April 25, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Anthroposophists either don’t understand racism and are not racists or they are racists. Or they don’t understand racism and they are still racists. I tend to hope against hope hope that they are innocents who don’t understand racism and that they are not racists; but the skill shown in their avoidance of actually discussing the institutional racism, as written by Steiner, leads me to believe they are racists who understand what they are doing.

    A non-racist would never, ever, ever knowingly support an organisation founded on a racist doctrine unless forced, inculcated, brainwashed or otherwise coerced.

    • April 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      “Anthroposophists either don’t understand racism and are not racists or they are racists. ”

      They don’t seem to understand that their beliefs constitute racism – by definition. They don’t seem to get the difference between talking about racial differences and ranking races by their differences.

      “but the skill shown in their avoidance of actually discussing the institutional racism, as written by Steiner, leads me to believe they are racists who understand what they are doing.”

      Well, certainly, nobody is going to convince them that they are racists… they hold the ultimate truths after all. Their weasel-worded denials of racism should be a clue for anyone looking at these schools.

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