What the Steiner Waldorf School Movement did not want you to read.

perra unadfiEarlier this month, Grégoire Perra was finally acquitted in a French court after the Federation of Waldorf  Steiner Schools in France decided to sue Grégoire Perra, a former Steiner teacher, for publishing a critique of the schools and the anthroposophy movement.

The trial appears to have collapsed as the court accepted that the account was not written out of malice but as an honest examination of the Steiner School system. It also looked as if the trial had its farcical moments:

The President of the Tribunal: Mademoiselle X., what did you found of defamatory in the testimony of Grégoire Perra ?

Miss X. : Everything is a tissue of lies and vile errors against Waldorf schools!

The Chairman: Yes, but what exactly did you find defamatory in the passages?

Miss X. I do not know, I did not read, I have just been flying …

The document is important as it is perhaps the most detailed personal account of what goes on inside a Steiner School from someone who is prepared to step back, be objective and open about those experiences. Today, we find out that yet another Steiner School in the UK is applying for state funding. Already two schools are state funded and a further couple are due to open. This document takes on an urgency and its English translation deserves to be widely read amongst all concerned with the direction of state education and the Gove’s Free School programme.

For that reason, and with Grégoire Perra’s permission, I reproduce his account in full on this blog.

I cannot account for the accuracy and completeness of what Perra has written. What makes this document remarkable is that it brings together many consistent accounts from ex-students, ex-Steiner parents of the experiences they have had. The commonalities cannot easily be dismissed or this ex-teacher’s experiences discounted as a one-off and unrepresentative. The complete failure of UK schools to acknowledge their anthoposophical connections and beliefs is consistent with Perra’a account. The alternative is that UK schools have undergone a very wide-ranging transformation away from Steiner’s philosophy but have failed to provide any evidence whatsoever that this is the case. For me, parsimony suggests that Steiner Schools are what they appear to be – the educational and recruitment wing of a strange and distasteful, Germanic, secretive and esoteric religious cult..

As a society, we need to be aware of that.

 

THE ANTHROPOSOPHICAL INDOCTRINATION OF STUDENTS IN STEINER-WALDORF SCHOOLS

By Grégoire Perra

June, 2011

Anthroposophy is the doctrine of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), philosopher, Theosophist, mystic, and teacher of the early twentieth century, from Austria-Hungary. The Anthroposophical Society, an association which has the mission spreading Steiner’s esoteric doctrine, is the result of a split that occurred in 1913 within the Theosophical Society. Rudolf Steiner’s doctrine has a large component of Gnostic teachings, with elements as diverse as reincarnation and karma, the solar nature of Christ, the various nonphysical bodies of man, etc. But Steiner’s teachings are not merely theoretical. Rudolf Steiner proposed them as the foundation for new activities, some of which have attained global success: among them are the cosmetics firm Weleda, biodynamic agriculture, and Waldorf education.

On the website of the Federation of Waldorf Schools, or on visitors days at these schools, no one will speak openly about the links between Waldorf education and Anthroposophical beliefs. You will hear about a form of schooling that places the development of the individual at the center of its concerns, taking into account the uniqueness of each human being. Rudolf Steiner is presented as a teacher and philosopher of the last century, while the Steiner-Waldorf schools are described as innovative institutions, comparable to Montessori schools. You will not hear about Anthroposophy as an esoteric doctrine constituting the theoretical foundation of Waldorf teaching, and certainly you will not hear about the human or institutional ties [1] that directly connect Waldorf schools and the Anthroposophical Society. [2]

 

And yet, these links between Steiner-Waldorf schools and the work of Rudolf Steiner, and the ties to the institutions that promote Steiner’s work, are quite real. I can testify to this in several ways: as a former student who received most of his schooling from Waldorf schools; as a former teacher at these schools who received “teacher training” at the Rudolf Steiner Institute of Chatou (as it were, the IUFM of Steiner-Waldorf schools in France); and as a former member of the Anthroposophical Society who, for years, worked closely with the directing committee. From 1979 to 1989, I was a student of Steiner-Waldorf schools of Verrières-le-Buisson and Chatou, near Paris. I was nine years old when my parents, disappointed by the schools run by the Ministry of Education, put me in a Waldorf school. At the end of that period, during my years of high school, I attended some lectures on Anthroposophical topics. [3] This is why, from 1990 to 1995, as a young student, I wanted to regularly attend public lectures at the Anthroposophical Society in Paris, where I became a member from 1995 to 2009. From 1992 to 2004, I was also, with some interruptions, a teacher in both Steiner-Waldorf schools in the Paris region. During that same period, and until my resignation in 2009, I worked closely with the President of the Anthroposophical Society in France, especially on the issue of young people, for whom I had been asked to design “Anthroposophic training.” An important part of this work was to contact Waldorf alumni who “have the karma to join Anthroposophy,” in the words of Bodo von Plato, a member of the directing committee of the General Anthroposophical Society, with whom I collaborated to this project. So I was an important member of the Anthroposophical Society, giving lectures, leading working groups, illustrating and writing articles in various journals, and co-authoring a book published by one of their in-house presses. [4] I occasionally had the “privilege” to meet with a member of the directing committee of the central Anthroposophical Society, which is headquartered near Basel, in Switzerland. Within the Anthroposophical Society, I was a member of the School of Spiritual Science — that is to say, I was included in the special category of Anthroposophists having access to higher occult truths that are withheld from regular members of the Anthroposophical Society. I participated in esoteric lessons, which is to say I participated in the secret cult of the School of Spiritual Science. [5] This cult also held meetings even within the school premises of Steiner Verrières-le-Buisson.

Today, with hindsight, it is clear to me that what led me to become an active and prominent member of this sectarian organization began with my enrollment in a Waldorf school at the age of nine years. The rest of my course in life was only the logical result of the indoctrination I had been subjected to.

I. An Insidious Indoctrination

1. Hiding Anthroposophy in the Subjects Taught

 

Based on my experience as a former student, a teacher at my old school, and an Anthroposophist, I would like to describe the subtlety of indoctrination that students in Waldorf schools are subjected to. In fact, its chief characteristic is its nonidentifiable form. I should state that the various ideas of Rudolf Steiner are taught to Waldorf students, but this is done without reference to their origin or their special nature. The teachers associate these ideas with their subjects as if they were objective facts and not part of a prescribed vision of reality. This is why Waldorf students can have the feeling that they are left completely free to form their own ideas. At the most, they may notice certain specific practices (that may seem very odd to some of them), which they may choose to ignore. Nevertheless, Anthroposophical ideas and practices form their psychic, cultural, and intellectual universe for many years, immersing them unconsciously in a worldview that will accompany them throughout life and that they are likely to return to on many occasions.

The invisibility of the indoctrination process depends primarily on the public’s ignorance about Anthroposophy. Anthroposophy is indeed very complex. Contrary to what one might expect, only a small part of it is what might be called its esoteric doctrines (teachings about the cosmic nature of Christ, reincarnation, the cosmic evolution of the Earth in several successive incarnations, the spiritual hierarchies, etc.). This esotericism is cultivated by Anthroposophists, often members of the Anthroposophical Society (but not always). However, the largest part of the Anthroposophical worldview does not consist of these ideas; instead, it consists of interpretations concerning all fields of knowledge and the arts.

Thus, there are multiple Anthroposophical interpretations of zoology, botany, pedagogy, physics, history, geography, literature, philosophy, diet, mathematics, etc. In art, there are specific Anthroposophical practices in painting, architecture, music, dance, theater, etc. Rudolf Steiner indeed expressed his views in all of these areas. When a teacher works in a Waldorf school, s/he has no need to make allusions to the subject of the “esoteric teachings” of Rudolf Steiner… and often s/he does not. S/he just teaches traditional subjects, coloring them lightly as interpreted by Rudolf Steiner or his followers. Because inspectors from the ministry of education do not know these interpretations — they are not the specialists in Anthroposophy — they have difficulty identifying them. To make my point clearer, I will give some examples:

In the fourth grade (CM1), Waldorf students study zoology and tackle the physiology of various animals, like the lion, the cow, and the eagle. At first glance, their class work appears to be an objective study of the behavior of these animals. At least that’s what an inspector will see in the students’ notebooks. But the teacher will also orally tell the students that the eagle must be understood in relation to the human head, the cow in relation to the human metabolic system and limbs, and the lion in relation to the human rhythmic system (the heart and lungs). Thus, the teacher conveys basic elements of Rudolf Steiner’s doctrine, namely that man is a tripartite being having within himself, in a latent state, the various animal kingdoms. [6]

Another example: In the early grades, Waldorf teachers tell the children a great number of legends or myths. At first glance, this is part of a traditional study of literature and mythology. But the teachers slip in Anthroposophical interpretations… They make subtle allusions to the contents of Anthroposophical books such as MYTHS AND LEGENDS AND THEIR OCCULT TRUTHS [7] or HIDDEN WISDOM IN GRIMM FAIRY TALES [8]. Most of these works were only recently translated into French (Waldorf teachers having access to them through German connections). National education inspectors therefore cannot detect the Anthroposophical doctrines slipped in by Waldorf teachers when they tell these legends and myths to the children.

One last example. In the 11th and 12th grades (high school), Waldorf School students study two works of world literature: the romance of PARZIVAL and Goethe’s FAUST. An inspector opening the students’ notebooks would find at first glance a study, scene by scene or chapter by chapter, of the two works in question, with various interpretations being considered. But if, knowing Anthroposophy, you look carefully at these interpretations, you will find that they encompass many elements of Rudolf Steiner’s doctrines. For example, the study of the character of Mephistopheles in FAUST always leads to the conclusion that he is a bipolar character. He thus becomes the representative of the “Forces of Evil” which, according to Steiner, are divided into the forces of Lucifer and the forces of Ahriman. [9] The study of a seemingly innocent work thus becomes an opportunity for indoctrination that is difficult [for outsiders] to detect. Indeed, no mention of Rudolf Steiner will usually be made by the teacher. It suffices for the teacher to take (artificially) these interpretations of the work being studied, and then present them as universal and timeless truths (since they are found in other works at other times, as the teacher will then show). The same thing happens with the interpretation of the chapters of the romance PARZIVAL. Each time, the ideas of Rudolf Steiner are presented without mentioning their origin. [10] But this subtle process is at work in all subjects from Kindergarten on! To realize this, it suffices to read Steiner’s TEACHING PLAN [11] or COUNCILS [12], and then connect what is said by Waldorf teachers with the esoteric teachings of Rudolf Steiner.

The hidden nature of these Anthroposophic ideas — in the form of interpretations presented in all subjects — makes it particularly difficult for students to become aware of what is happening. How indeed can they be aware of ideas that, in their original form, are mixed with traditional teaching, like spice added in a dish, and do not at first sight contradict but extend traditional teaching? I believe that those who undergo indoctrination in creationism are somewhat more fortunate. Probably, at one time or another, the ideas they are taught will clearly clash with the objective data of current science. This is rarely possible with Anthroposophic tenets when they are more or less blended with modern scientific data. Indeed, precepts about science are constantly updated by the Anthroposophical authorities, which then communicate them to teachers in Waldorf schools. [13]

One can imagine the impact of the Waldorf method when it is routinely used on the intellectual formation of children.

Students thus live with Anthroposophic ideas mixed with objective data in the subjects they are studying. And since the Anthroposophic ideas keep coming back in different forms, they eventually are regarded as objective truths, without their source ever being revealed. Only if you decide to become an Anthroposophist do you encounter these ideas openly expressed, with their origin made clear. But by then, this will not be an issue for you, it will be something you have joined and wish to propagate, since you will have become a disciple of the Master

 

2. Subtle Indoctrination of Students in All Subjects

Anthroposophical teachers in these schools thus always transmit their ideas to students in ways that are not easily identifiable. The ideas are almost never presented as those of Rudolf Steiner, but as interpretations of works belonging to the cultural heritage. So there is at first no study of botany that is specific to Steiner-Waldorf schools, but underneath are Steiner’s writings about Goethe’s botanical theories, which can be injected into a traditional teaching SVT. [16] There is not, at first sight, a view of world history specific to Steiner-Waldorf schools, but there are Rudolf Steiner’s comments about various civilizations. [17] It is the same for all subjects and disciplines, including artistic education. But only a person who has the vast literature of Anthroposophy at his fingertips will be able to detect this practice. Making this even more difficult is the fact that most works of Steiner were not fully translated into French until recently; previously, they were passed by oral education from Germany. This is why the doctrinaire character of Waldorf schooling had been able to escape notice, thus far, by inspectors of National Education. In some ways, you could say Waldorf schooling has a subliminal character.

When I received Waldorf teacher training, especially that given at the Institute of Chatou, I could ascertain that this practice is highly organized. Indeed, already at that time, I was struck by the gap between the rhetoric of our trainers — constantly stating that the teacher should be creative and never apply prescribed formulas — and the training that taught us decades-old methods that had not changed since the founding of the first Waldorf school in 1919. In fact, having taken this training for two years, I can testify that it is essentially doctrinal training, it is not aimed at developing teaching skills. We were taught how to instill, at each stage of child development, certain ideas and Anthroposophical concepts by surreptitiously combining them with traditional teaching (of course it was not described this way), and to see how in each of the disciplines taught, the ideas of Rudolf Steiner can be indicated. [18]

For example, the trainer specializing in the teaching of history taught us to identify, in the course of historical events, the polarity between Ahrimanic and Luciferic forces, and to teach history to students from this angle. Thus, the French Revolution was to be taught in terms of the polarity between Danton and Robespierre, one being the representative of Luciferic forces (Danton), the other representing Ahrimanic forces (Robespierre). Or the trainer specializing in chemistry taught us how to describe each of the elements of Mendeleyev’s periodic table as singular expressions of cosmic principles. Thus nitrogen and oxygen became, in our eyes, cosmological entities endowed with a kind of “temperament.” We were taught what chemistry experiments could be arranged in the laboratory to demonstrate to students the evidence of such temperaments in the periodic elements. I could give many more examples of how we were taught to teach students specific elements of Rudolf Steiner’s belief system — or rather to present reality in the light of this belief system — without telling the students that we were presenting a biased view. In fact, the training of Waldorf teachers consists of learning how to lead the students, without their knowledge, to see the world through the eyes of Rudolf Steiner!

At the time I was very surprised that nobody had written textbooks for Waldorf trainees, since Waldorf methods looked so old and firmly established. On reflection, I now understand that it is not possible for Waldorf practices to be written down, because this would run the risk of exposing the systematic nature of such indoctrination. The claim that Waldorf methods should be kept alive, not freezing them in writing, is in reality only an alibi used to assist concealment. However, in reality there are many Waldorf texts that are neither published nor distributed publicly. I remember that sometimes the trainers made ​​mention of one or another of these works to the most reliable trainees, making copies for their personal use. But the key information was given orally. One of these secret books was given to me when I was a teacher. On the first few pages one finds: “This document is the property of the Educational Section of the Free University of Science of the Spirit, entrusted to this college … [and] given until the end of teaching activity…” [19] The secret nature of the transmission of such material makes clear the shameful link between the esotericism of Rudolf Steiner and the education provided in Steiner-Waldorf schools. Such documents should obviously never be made public and should be returned to the Goetheanum [20] by their owners if they stop teaching.

The methods of instilling Anthroposophic references in the traditional teaching of students were introduced by Rudolf Steiner himself at the founding of the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart, in the 1920s, and have recently been published. Little known among Waldorf teachers, this large volume — dense, difficult to read — is a kind of dogmatic set of references touching on almost all areas of practical life in a Steiner school: repetition, internal rules, decisions to be made concerning left- and right-handedness, methods of teaching geography at different grade levels, ties displayed between Anthroposophy and Steiner pedagogy, etc. [In English, such books as FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS, and DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS present such material. They were published by the Anthroposophic Press. — RR]

One finds there significant questions and answers, for example:

• A teacher asks, “How can we, in the teaching of geology, link geology and the Akasha Chronicle?” [This is a celestial storehouse of wisdom accessible through clairvoyance. — RR] Concerning what Anthroposophy says about glacial periods, Rudolf Steiner answers: “…We must not be afraid to talk to the children about Atlantis. We should not omit that. We can even present it in a historical context. But then you have to disavow standard geology … The ice age is the Atlantean catastrophe. The ancient glacial period, and recent average conditions in Europe, are nothing other than what has happened since Atlantis sank. ” (p. 99-100)

• To a teacher who asks the question, “How can we draw parallels between what science says and the point of view of spiritual science [i.e., Anthroposophy] concerning the glacial period?” Rudolf Steiner replies: “You may well draw a parallel. You can of course identify the Quaternary period in with Atlantis and the Tertiary with what I describe as Lemuria [a lost continent that preceded Atlantis], if you do not fix things too precisely.” (p. 101)
• A teacher asks, “How should we treat the natural history of man? How should I begin this study in fourth grade?” Rudolf Steiner replies: “For man, you will find almost everything scattered throughout my lecture cycles in one way or another … Just fit [my teachings] to the school … So rely on what you know through Anthroposophy.” (p. 125)
— ADVICE; MEETINGS WITH TEACHERS AT THE WALDORF SCHOOL IN STUTTGART (The Federation of Steiner Schools-Waldorf, October 2005).

 

This form of teaching has been meant, from the beginning, to convey Anthroposophy to students, mingling it with traditional teaching and presenting Steiner’s assertions as facts, by no means as hypotheses. The fact that this book is published today by the Federation without any critical distance, either in the notes or in the foreword, shows that the teachers in Waldorf schools are not meant to ponder these things! For them, Anthroposophy represents the truth, and being necessary to the human soul, it must be communicated to children from an early age. Speaking to students about Atlantis or Lemuria is a “moral necessity” for a Steiner teacher. It is just a matter of not getting caught in the act of openly teaching Anthroposophy.

 

 

3. Making Cultural Works Sacred

I would now like to describe another aspect of the insidious indoctrination of students. It is to produce in the mind a sacralization of certain cultural works, as if they were printed in vibrant red. It is always the same, regardless of the ages of these works or the countries where they originated: FAUST, the TREATMENT OF COLORS, and the METAMORPHOSIS OF PLANTS, by Goethe [21], PARZIVAL, by Wolfram von Eschenbach [22], the enigma of Kaspar Hauser [23], LETTERS FOR THE ESTHETIC EDUCATION OF HUMANITY, by Schiller, and the Altarpiece, by Isenheim. Also included are a few minor markers such as the story of Gilgamesh, Manichaeism (the doctrine of Manes), the myth of Atlantis, etc. It is thus that during their university years, so many Waldorf graduates choose to address one or the other of these works as subjects for dissertations. Such works represent for them a kind of unsurpassable cultural horizon of leitmotifs to which they keep coming back unendingly.

But what is the purpose for making of such works sacred? By making Anthroposophical references “sacred” to the students, it is easy to attract them to the Anthroposophical Society. Simply offer them a chance, after graduation, to attend a conference on Goethe, or Kaspar Hauser, for example. When you know the Anthroposophical Society from the inside, you see that it is organized around a few charismatic figures who appear as specialists of various cultural works. Within the Society, there is always a specialist on FAUST,another on PARZIVAL, one on the Isenheim Altarpiece, etc. And these positions are held dear. These specialists are in a way intermediaries between the normal cultural world and that of Anthroposophy. This clever strategy was instituted by Rudolf Steiner himself. Indeed, Anthroposophic ideas are often presented under the guise of a study of certain works. The name “Goetheanum” for the seat of the General Anthroposophical Society is an illustration. Those interested in Goethe will be conducted through Steiner’s commentaries on scientific or poetic works of this great German writer, and thereby they will be introduced to Anthroposophy. The process is even more effective with alumni of Steiner-Waldorf schools, for whom these references were presented during Waldorf schooling as if they were absolute standards of excellence. Waldorf students are indeed introduced to these works at specific ages, as if their study were a sort of initiation ritual. Not having studied the “period of Faust” can thus feel tragic to certain other students of Anthroposophy, so they spend a holiday in a German Waldorf school to fill this abominable gap. These works are a kind of common cultural heritage that is holy to Waldorf students everywhere. Obviously, this contributes to actually closing the intellect, since the same works are returned to over and over, with the same comments (those of Steiner) being repeated from a bygone century. During my studies, I chose as the subject of my thesis the design of nature in Goethe’s FAUST, and I remember it was not easy for my thesis director to persuade me to study another author. I saw the same thing happen with other classmates from our Waldorf school. One did his thesis on the philosophy of Goethe’s METAMORPHOSIS OF PLANTS, another did his literature DEA on Wolfram von Eschenbach’s PARZIVAL, and so forth. Getting beyond this circle of restricted and sanctified references is not easy for a Waldorf student! It is not that he will have no interest in anything other than FAUST or PARZIVAL, but in his eyes no other works will convey the same literary or scientific benefits; these special works are not simply references, for him, but objects of devotion. Throughout the world, Steiner-Waldorf schools shape the mind of their students around a small number of cultural works that will pave the way for them to Anthroposophy.

4. Disguised Anthroposophic Rituals

Another element of the pedagogical practice of Steiner-Waldorf schools contributing to this insidious indoctrination is pervasive worship and religious practice. At first glance, this resembles traditional Christian ritual observance. Almost all Christian holidays are celebrated at these schools: The festival of Saint Michel, the festival of Saint Antoine, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Pentecost, the festival of St. John, etc. The schools’ leaders know and, if necessary, make use of Christian terminology … But behind ceremonies that superficially seem akin to traditional forms, in fact we find disguised Anthroposophic rituals “adapted” for children. [24] Indeed, Anthroposophy contains — in addition to many Oriental references — what might be called “Christian esotericism.” The Archangel Michael is deemed to be a cosmic entity, the god Christ is said to have been connected to the Sun and later he became the Spirit of the Earth, etc. Anthroposophists celebrate Christian holidays, but within these rituals are hidden Anthroposophic beliefs. In Waldorf schools, Anthroposophic rituals and esoteric teachings in the form of traditional rituals are carefully modified to reflect in the end the Anthroposophic interpretation of their content.

For example, students celebrate — every year, in late September — the victory of Michael over the Dragon. They enact the legend of St. George rescuing a princess. Little by little, through connections only students immersed in Waldorf education are likely to make, they come to understand that the Dragon is an allegory of the materialism of the modern era, and Michael is the spiritual force that can confront it, delivering the human soul (the princess) who was about to be devoured by the monster. This is in fact an implicit reference to a key element of the doctrine of Rudolf Steiner, which is that a spiritual battle took place in 1879 between the forces of darkness and the forces of light embodied by the Archangel Michael. Thus, this small pageant condenses doctrinal elements that Steiner describes at length in his books. [25] It is the same for all so-called Christian festivals celebrated in these schools: in fact, esoteric Anthroposophic teachings are presented as allegorical and symbolic form during ritual ceremonies integrated into school life.

In these schools, the number of rituals corresponds to the many Christian festivals and the observance of the seasons of the year. But we must also count prayers and meditations used in Waldorf schools, as well as “rites of passage.” In form and in content, these are even more specifically related to Anthroposophy. Indeed, at different times of the day, students recite words (according to their different ages) that are actually meditation texts written by Rudolf Steiner himself or by his disciples. [26] There are prayers for morning classes, for the afternoon before meals (a kind of grace), for the beginning of the week, for the beginning of the year, for the first grade upon entering the school, for leaving school upon graduation, etc. On each of these occasions, these readings or chorused recitations give rise to small ceremonies that are an integral part of Waldorf education. It even happens that teachers often advise parents of the words they should read to their children at different times of the day. Again, the teachers never say explicitly that these words are from Rudolf Steiner — these just words to be recited because of tradition. We should note in passing how cunningly teachers avoid using the words “prayers” or “mantras” near the students. Indeed, by designating these activities as merely cultural practices, awareness of their real nature is avoided. This trick comes from Rudolf Steiner himself, who in an interview with the first teachers of the school in Stuttgart said:

“In choosing your words, never say ‘prayers,’ say ‘words for opening the school day.’ We should not hear the word ‘prayer’ in the mouth of a teacher. Thus you will neutralize to a large extent the prejudice against Anthroposophic matters.” [27]

 

Students are thus led to repeat texts containing Anthroposophic ideas in simplified form, but without being able to identify their origin and without open acknowledgment of the Master who wrote them. These texts soak deeply into the mind by force of being recited continually. Take for example the morning verse that students from all Steiner schools recite in unison with their teacher from the 9th to the 12th grade (high school years):

I look into the world

In which the Sun shines,

In which the stars sparkle,

In which the stones lie,

Where living plants are growing,

Where animals are feeling,

And where the soul of man

Gives dwelling for the spirit.

 

I look into the soul

Which lives within myself.

God’s spirit weaves in light

Of Sun and human soul,

In world of space, without,

In depths of soul, within.

 

God’s spirit, ‘tis to Thee

I turn myself in prayer,

That strength and blessing may grow

In me, to learn and to work.

 

I recited these words almost every morning for four years. It is only by reading the work of Rudolf Steiner called THEOSOPHY [28] that I came to understand this is a digest of Anthroposophical precepts about the relationship between humans and the universe. Indeed, the first stanza shows the relationship between the four kingdoms of nature (mineral, vegetable, animal, and human) that Steiner connects with the four cosmic substances (the physical, the etheric, astral, and spiritual). The second stanza establishes an implicit parallel between God and the Sun, which Rudolf Steiner describes in OCCULT SCIENCE [29] asserting that Christ is the Sun God who descended to the earth at the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. The last stanza is an allusion to the strength of the Holy Spirit, the immeasurable cosmic entity that Steiner evokes by example in THE MEANING OF LIFE [30] and other books. I could also give the example of words we had to recite at the beginning of meals:

On the night of the earth,
Plants germinate;
By the power of the air,
Their leaves unfold;
And the strength of the Sun
Ripens their fruit.
So the the soul quickens
In the shrine of the heart,
And the power of the spirit
Unfolds in the light of the world;
Thus ripens the strength of man,
In the glory of God.

Again, far from being a simple poetic text on nature, this prayer condenses key elements of Anthroposophical doctrine concerning the relationship of the human soul with the different elements. For example, there is the belief about human temperaments [phlegmatic, sanguine, choleric, melancholic], each associated with an element [earth, air, fire, water]. [31] Or, likewise, the relationship between the components of the human soul and the elements. [32]

A final example: At the beginning of each afternoon, our class teacher made ​​us recite the following words:

 

Pure source from which everything flows,

Pure source, where everything returns,

Pure source, who lives in me,

To you I will advance.

 

Years later, I discovered that this poem was actually an adaptation of a mantra that Rudolf Steiner gave to his disciples in one of his esoteric lessons:

 

Original self, from which we come,

The origin that lives in all things,

To thee, thou Higher Self, we return. [33]

 

This shows how skillfully, under innocent appearances, Rudolf Steiner condensed and concealed his esoteric teachings in the words that students should recite in Steiner-Waldorf schools.

5. Some Effects Caused by the Artistic-Mythical-Religious 
Atmosphere in Waldorf Schools

The pervasive ritual practices in Waldorf schools are meant, I believe, to immerse students in a kind of permanent religious atmosphere that will fit in their psyches as an addiction. I remember having felt, as a teenager, that I was living in a kind of monastery, punctuated by daily rituals and recitations. But this religious atmosphere was consistently associated with pervasive artistic practices as well as the frequent recounting of legends, folk tales, and myths — it was an artistic environment generating a mythical-religious feeling, which in my opinion is not without consequences and perverse effects:

• At an age when they should be awakening, learning to reason and think critically, the children are mothballed instead — they develop a pronounced tendency to rely on emotion and imagination, which later may encourage credulity and impulsive behavior;
• Some alumni develop psychological blockages against facing psychological reality. I have often observed among them a propensity to hide and forget what could be disturbing, as if it had never existed. In particular, when they became aware of certain realities relating to the sectarianism of the Anthroposophical community, everything was as if their brains suddenly refused to integrate such disturbing information. I found this ability to play “ostrich” to be even greater among Anthroposophists and Waldorf teachers. I remember well the dysfunctional administrative operation of these schools, which were run collectively [34]: Often essential information did not circulate, urgent decisions did not get made, and essential tasks simply passed into oblivion — for example, steps that needed to be taken to assist students to enroll for baccalaureate programs! But teachers and leaders simply let things slip as the drama had not yet ended;
• Waldorf graduates feel a need to reproduce the ceremonies in which they were immersed throughout their schooling. They want to celebrate holidays as Rudolf Steiner led Anthroposophists to do, and to practice many Anthroposophical meditative exercises [35] as well as to meditate using numerous mantras [36]. Upon becoming a parent, one of my former classmates said about ten prayers to his children every evening, one after the other;
• There is a kind of inhibition and misuse of sexuality in adolescents. As a teacher of these schools, I often heard my colleagues say it was important to provide adolescents with a “strong spiritual content” and make them work hard to divert the powerful forces of sexuality into which they might “fall.” I believe this inhibition and this diversion promoted adhesion to the religiosity of the school, and later to that of Anthroposophists;
• There is an overemphasis on the ego and exaggerated exaltation of the mystic realm. Indeed, Steiner-Waldorf teachers place the highest possible value on dreamy and mystical attitudes. As a student, I indeed could see how our teachers showed the highest esteem for those who retained longest the attitudes of gullible children transported by imaginative stories. The student who seemed to be in a dreaming state was placed on a virtual pedestal in comparison to his peers. Later, as a teacher, I often heard teachers in faculty meetings praising the receptive qualities of students who were dreamy, naive, and enthusiastic. It was said of such students that they knew how to keep the soul intact and pure. We often even said that in principle a good Waldorf education should slow the maturation of students’ intellectual faculties as far as possible. In addition, teachers flattered and lavished praise on students for abilities they didn’t really possess, trying to keep them as long as possible in a sort of “floating” disconnection from reality. This is why the egos of students leaving Waldorf schools are so developed. At first sight, these students seem to have a self-confidence that could be considered a good quality. But looking more closely, we very often see that this colossal self-assurance is based on nothing but empty air. Quite often these students have done virtually no academic work for years: Rituals, religious chants, and preparing for holidays takes up so much time in Waldorf schooling that the time devoted to actual school work is literally reduced to a trickle.

Kept in a thorough artistic-mythical-religious atmosphere and expanding their egos, these students are accustomed to a state of laziness that will make them social misfits, unable to escape except through bluster and seduction. Because don’t people often replicate what they themselves have experienced? Having been in some way seduced by their teachers, these students may try to proceed through seduction. That is why their results for the baccalaureate exams in writing are so pathetic, although the same students can be tremendously good at oral presentations. Thus, in the school where I worked and tried to prepare students for the baccalaureate, hardly 40% of students were successful, and even they succeeded mostly due to the oral portion of the process. Of course, extension of the dream state greatly facilitates the ability to later become a Anthroposophist, as this mystical doctrine overwhelms those who plunge, as I did, into abstruse metaphysical speculations. Anthroposophical mysticism is a kind of natural extension of the dream state that is overdeveloped in Steiner-Waldorf institutions. Overdevelopment of the ego aids individuals who tend to arise in life lecturing or even becoming gurus. Later they may find, in the context of the Anthroposophical Society, the roles of spiritual guides, the roles they are in fact familiar with from their childhood. It is therefore common to find students in Steiner-Waldorf schools who systematically and blindly trust their own feelings, or hunches, sometimes up to the level of considering themselves apprentice mediums.

 II. A System Closed on Itself

1. Forcing Students to Adhere to Different Benchmarks,
Practices, and Terminology
Students at Waldorf schools are also led to join in a unique way of thinking because the schools embody many special characteristics, deliberately different from those found elsewhere in the society at large.
For example:
• The grades in Waldorf schools are not identified by the traditional nomenclature in France, from the CP to the Terminal, but are labeled 1 to 12. Even today, I have trouble getting my bearings when I want to compare the two nomenclatures,
• It is customary in Waldorf schools to have a one-year gap — that is to say, students of Steiner-Waldorf schools are enrolled in classes one year later than students in other schools, because Waldorf teachers believe that students will benefit if their intellectual development is postponed,
• Waldorf students draw in a different style, using special crayons (“pencils of wax”),
• Waldorf students practice an art that exists nowhere else (eurythmy, a kind of yoga dance invented by Rudolf Steiner),
• Waldorf schools attend special rituals,
• The same group of students remain together throughout their school years,
• The chief teacher for any group of students is called the “class teacher” and will be responsible for that group from first to sixth grade, sometimes even from first to eighth grade,
• At the end of their schooling, students create what they call a “masterpiece,” that is to say a personal work they must carry out autonomously, etc.
Although denouncing these facts, I do not advocate uniform education [for all students]. But I find it profoundly abnormal that Waldorf students are presented with these unusual practices as if these were the only legitimate approaches, to the extent that mentioning other practices or benchmarks immediately arouses the disapproval of teachers and even some students. For example, I always remember the teasing from other classmates when, coming from a public school, I dared to speak of “crepe paper” when the approved Waldorf term is “papier maché.” Or the dry disapproval of my handicrafts teacher when, urged by my mates, I offered to tell a story that was not a “true story,” since it was derived from standard youth literature of the 1970s and not from the Brothers Grimm, the only source approved by Anthroposophists. When we add up all these small, specific examples of special Waldorf terms and approaches — which in themselves may seem insignificant, or even pleasing — we realize that they constitute a veritable reference system that is closed on itself, to the extent that ultimately communication becomes difficult between students from a Waldorf school and those from traditional institutions. A former student recently told me how hard it was for him to make himself understood by others who have not had the same educational experience. Obviously, this prepares Waldorf alumni to send their own children to these schools, or it makes them more willing than others to embrace the sectarian logic of Anthroposophy. Having been trained in the peculiarities of Waldorf education, they find contending with different standards in the outer world a source of mental suffering.
2. Concealment Vis-à-Vis Institutions
I turn now to a subject other than the indoctrination of students. It is the recruitment of students into deceptive practices and concealment from authorities. Indeed, in these schools, misleading state officials is commonplace. For example, I witnessed that, when a teacher is scheduled to be inspected in class, s/he will commonly be replaced by another teacher who has the [necessary] skills or qualifications. [37] Then the students are asked to “play the game” in the presence of the inspector, and to act as if the teacher who conducts their class [this day] is their regular teacher. [38] Similarly, it may happen that there are health and hygiene inspections. I remember one time when the inspectors had to check how the children ate in the canteen. However, in this school, the children did not eat in a canteen, but in classrooms with their teachers who watched them and made them recite their prayers before meals. For this inspection, the teachers were notified 24 hours in advance, so we organized three successive meal services in a canteen for the students, so that everything appeared normal. In the evening, during a faculty meeting, teachers congratulated themselves that their students had “played the game.”
These various circumventions of the law make students participates in acts of defiance against perceived as hostile. They subtly teach the students that the rules and laws of the society at large are not so good … This is likely to strengthen their students’ feeling of living in a world apart. Anthroposophists view anything that does not belong in the “milieu of Anthroposophy” as “the outside world,”  so to the students the general society in which they live becomes, for them, the “outside world”!
3. Questionable Closeness Between Students and Teachers
 
One aspect of the insidious indoctrination in Waldorf schools is based on the establishment of a very close relationship between the teacher and his or her ​​students. Firstly, this proximity is enhanced by the fact that the same class teacher can follow the same group of students for six to eight years. This obviously contributes to the creation of relationships that are more familial than professional. In addition, measures are deliberately taken to create the conditions for increased closeness. For example, it is common that some students become babysitters or housekeepers for their teachers to make some pocket money. And I worked in a school where the students knew absolutely everything about the private lives of their teachers. Teachers’ private lives had become a common topic of discussion in the playground, due to the feeling of living in a kind of extended family. This is reinforced by the fact that in these schools, many teachers are also parents of their own students. In addition, the teachers in these schools are encouraged to tell students about their lives in order to “create more human contact,” as I was prompted to do as soon as I started to teach. This practice encourages communication that can be very intimate — the teacher is no longer only a provider of education, but a sort of guide for the souls of his students. He is not only an educator, but also a psychologist, family counselor, or a guru in many cases. I remember my class teacher recommending to my parents that I no longer watch TV, stop playing with Lego, switch to wooden toys, etc. Other students could tell how their class teachers had long telephone conversations with their parents until late at night, giving advice on the psychic and spiritual development of their offspring. I remember thus my history teacher talking to me at the age of fifteen, when he thought that I had “atheist” ideas, explaining that I should not entertain such ideas too long. Familiar relationships, even of an emotional nature, are established quickly between Waldorf teachers and students. This enforced closeness causes the subjugation of the student to the teacher. It is also common to find a teacher gathering around his “personality” small, private groups of his former students, introducing them himself to the Anthroposophic doctrine.

This continuing proximity of students with their teachers is such that it does not seem abnormal, unless significant missteps sometimes lead school officials to take some limited measures. Having been both witness and victim, I can say that unusual closeness is part of the rationale of these schools. This is why there is rarely any strong resistance against the excesses that may arise, but as much as possible they are tolerated. Some examples of these abuses that I have witnessed: It was not uncommon that some teachers went to a cafe with students for conversation and a glass of wine after school, or teachers invited students to come shopping with them. I also remember a high school teacher unashamedly distributing a postcard from her latest theatrical performance, where she was seen in a bathing suit. Yet this act amounted to distributing pictures of herself in underwear without realizing the trouble it could cause, encouraging developing adolescents to visualize the naked body of their young teacher. Another teacher went every week with her section to gay and lesbian bars in the capital, and invited some to sleep at her home if they had difficulty returning home. Some teachers did not hesitate to keep up with the students using familiar or even obscene language. I even knew a case of harassment of a student by a teacher for nearly two years, despite repeated complaints from the student. It had been in vain to complain to the school manager that, during gym class, the teacher was continually sending the student “sms” magnifying his legs or other parts of the body.

Here I must be very clear and also mention legally reprehensible behavior. Indeed, some ethical rules seem to be disregarded in the Steiner-Waldorf schools, and there are cases of sexual and romantic relationships sometimes occurring between students and teachers. For example, when I was teaching, I witnessed in one of these schools an illicit relationship that had begun between a teacher and a student of the upper classes. They started dating when the student was in 10th grade (Third) and the situation continued until the 12th grade (First or Terminal). All class teachers of the high school knew about it, including some who were members of the board of the school. How could they ignore it, since this teacher and this student had come to live together in the same apartment? When this teacher left school after completing certification to teach elsewhere, all teachers of the upper classes — except one who probably wanted to be cautious, but who like the others who knew what had happened — came to a party in the apartment. Among themselves, teachers and students pretended to ignore or hide what was an open secret.

 

I in no way seek to draw attention to the misconduct of a colleague or to throw stones at him; and if I mention this story, it is because it is indicative of the common pitfalls that occur in Waldorf educational institutions. I could moreover provide other examples. Basically, they are an integral part of the system of indoctrination. Because it is only at the cost of psychological closeness — with significant risk of misbehavior — that students can be fascinated and subjugated to their teachers, encouraging their indoctrination. To my mind, this colleague should be considered a victim who, like any young beginning teacher, merely applied the standards prevailing in the school where he had been hired, and he did not receive the benefit of the normal guard rails that would have enabled him to resist temptation. I also remember that when I entered this school and I discussed this story with a colleague, she replied: “Here, that was never considered a problem!” Myself, coming from such a Waldorf school where the rule of law was not really respected — as I explained above — I admit to not having seen a problem, either. The Federation of Waldorf Schools — to whom I mentioned this in a open letter that I sent them when I left this school — does not seem to have found any reason to be indignant or to react.

4. A Confusion of Roles

When I worked in one of these schools, I myself was quickly caught up in the whirlwind in which all lines of separation are erased. Very soon, our colleagues become a kind of family, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. Students become for us both our children and our friends and associates.  There reigns a sort of permanent “incestuous” atmosphere that can go haywire very quickly for everyone. A mantra recited by the teaching community at some faculty meetings reflects this total confusion of identities:

Me in the community,

And the community in me.

Far from being a saying designed to encourage healthy collegial solidarity, these words rather reflect the total confusion of identities prevailing in the Waldorf school system. Nobody there knows who he is or what exactly his role is. This confusion between an educational institution and a family structure is reflected in the language used in schools, where students must call the teachers who follow their individual work at end of schooling (the masterpiece) their “godfathers” and “godmothers.” Hierarchy officially is absent from the schools (since the teaching community is supposed to be self-organizing), but this produces power games and other profoundly unhealthy influences. Also, it is not surprising that this nebulous dissolution of personalities and responsibilities gives rise to stories of illicit relations between teachers and students. It is what often happens. When the leaders of a Waldorf school gain knowledge of misconduct, they often respond by using it as leverage to control colleagues. I twice heard the stories of colleagues who were directed to one of the members of the Internal College (steering committee) of the school, to whom they confessed grave professional misconduct in their dealings with students (the teacher dating a student since she was in third). No reprimand resulted, but they knew that the leaders of the school now possessed their secret and could use it against them if necessary. Criminal behavior by teachers was accepted within the pupil-teacher organization of the school, and it became leverage for the leaders. For what could be more intimidating than a fault that the leaders know about but choose to “keep under the table”?

III. The “Anthroposophical Movement” and Its Institutions

 1. Anthroposophic institutions
 
 The indoctrination of Waldorf students prepares them to move naturally toward the “Anthroposophical movement,” that is to say, all institutions, companies, and associations rooted in Anthroposophy. Like Steiner-Waldorf schools, these institutions are however only partially independent of the Anthroposophical Society as their ruling members are often Anthroposophists. As long as I was a member of the Anthroposophical Society in France (SAF), I often saw in the newsletter that meetings were held between the various institutions, at the request of leaders of the SAF. Moreover, these organizations can support each other financially. Weleda products, for example, are regularly advertised in Anthroposophic magazines. These institutions stemming from Anthroposophy are very numerous and affect all areas of everyday life. There is thus:
• A specific kind of cosmetics (Wala and Weleda products)
• A form of agriculture (Biodynamics, Demeter products)
• Some nursery schools and kindergartens linked to Waldorf education,
• Vocational training centers,
• Financial services (NEF bank in France)
• Anthroposophical pharmacology and medicine, with clinics and hospitals,
• A specific medical association (APMA, Anthrosana),
• The Institutes of Curative Pedagogy (Camphills and other institutions for the disabled and caregivers using the methods of Rudolf Steiner, The Allagoutes),
• Specific arts (eurythmy, Werbeck singing, Haushka painting, the art of the word, dramatic expression, architecture, etc.),
• Specific welfare methods,
• A specific form of gymnastics (the Gymnatique Bothmer),
• A specific form of Christian worship (the Christian Community),
• A special youth literature (Iona Editions),
• Camps (Colonies Iona),
• Specific retirement homes (notably in Ribeauvillé),

• Centers of specific vocational guidance (the Michael Foyer, located at St. Menoux in Allier), etc.,

• Some libraries (Solear-Triads, Pentagramm’),
• Some publishers (Triads, EAR, Pico della Mirandola, Iona)
It should also be mentioned, in addition to these institutions, there are specific leisure activities:
• A specific astrology,
• Specific tours (organization Idriart),
• Specific methods of meditation,
• A specific dietary regime [39],
• Specific psychological therapies (many Anthroposophists tend to become psychotherapists),
• A specific youth movement (NEOLOGOS site).
2. The School of Spiritual Science 
and Its Sprawling Network of Professional Sections
Questioning the current operations of Waldorf schools and exposing the insidious indoctrination process that is practiced in them is sure to provoke the wrath of the Pedagogical Section [of the General Anthroposophical Society] and, by its bias, all the Anthroposophical movement. Because it is a network with significant lobbying power.
To understand this phenomenon, it is necessary to detail the structure of the entire Anthroposophic milieu:
• Firstly, there is the Anthroposophical movement, which I detailed above.
• Then there is the Anthroposophical Society, consisting of branches (ordinary Anthroposophical groups meeting once or twice a month to study the works of Steiner).
• Above, there is the School of Spiritual Science, confined to those Anthroposophists who are allowed to hear the lessons of the First Class (the secret worship in which some lectures of Steiner are read, accompanied by mantras that are considered especially sacred — members have the duty to meditate on these regularly and not divulge them to anyone else).
• Finally, in the School of Spiritual Science, there are various Professional Sections (devoted to education, agriculture, arts, literature, eurythmy, social sciences, medicine, drama, etc.) … the members meet according to their professional activities.
We can say that the Anthroposophical movement is controlled by these various Sections. Indeed Waldorf schools are related to the Pedagogical Section, just as the social and banking institutions in the Anthroposophical movement are related to the Section of Social Sciences, and biodynamic agriculture agencies are with the Agriculture Section, etc. Behind a facade of independence, the various institutions of the Anthroposophical movement are actually woven in a kind of secret network via the Anthroposophical Society, which secretly coordinates all the Anthroposophic institutions and associations around the world. By “coordinate,” I intend to convey the secret solidarity of these groups. Because the cohesion produced by belonging to a secret cult (the lessons of the First Class) allows us to speak, in my view, of the “occult international fraternity of Anthroposophy.” Through the School of Spiritual Science, the Anthroposophical Society constitutes a sprawling network that is directly connected to the Goetheanum in Dornach, becoming a sort of secret government of the Anthroposophical movement. I remember one day Antoine Dodrimont [41] told me as an aside that the power of the Medical Section was such that the doctor at its head directed in fact a veritable ministry… So we can say that the independence of Steiner-Waldorf schools with respect to the Anthroposophical Society is only an illusion: Most of its key members actually belong to the Pedagogical Section. [42]
A concrete example will show how such a network functions. In a private conversation, I happened one day to discuss the school situation of the École Saint Michel de Strasbourg, about which I had heard negative reports. During a visit to the school, the mother to whom I entrusted these remarks carelessly mentioned what I had shared. Heavy mechanisms immediately went into action: School officials at Saint Michel de Strasbourg immediately contacted the Federation of Waldorf Schools, which in turn contacted the President of the Anthroposophical Society in France. He made ​​contact with me during a conference which I attended and enjoined me not to repeat such remarks. This shows how a private conversation can immediately be reprimanded in high places. I could mention other similar cases. This network is so narrow that in Anthroposophical circles everyone knows all of the private information about everyone else. This allows it to react swiftly to the smallest remark, to prohibit the dissemination of information of numerous scandals shaking the Anthroposophical movement internally (particularly the Steiner-Waldorf schools) so that this knowledge never reaches the ears of civil society.
It is wrong to describe the Anthroposophical Society as seeking to win the greatest possible membership for itself. Instead, restricting the organization to a small staff does not at all upset its projects. This enables it to remain discreet and not draw too much attention to itself. For what it really aspires to is not its own growth, but the growth of the general Anthroposophical movement, for which it is the central nervous system operating through the bias of the professional sections of the School of Spiritual Science. The growth of the Anthroposophical movement depends on how the network connects seemingly unrelated entities that promote each other. Thus, parents of Waldorf schools are regularly encouraged, on the occasion of various school festivals, to buy Weleda products. Weleda products in turn place advertisements in Anthroposophic magazines. These journals in turn develop some ideas that will be used by teachers of the schools: they seek to update the way we can extract Steiner’s old ideas from new scientific data. The NEF bank provides financially advantageous rates to the various other institutions related to the Anthroposophical movement: nurseries, clinics, biodynamic farms, etc. The biodynamic farms provide products to the canteens at Steiner-Waldorf schools. Waldorf schools send their students to do internships at the various associations and institutions funded by the NEF. And thus within the entire network, Anthroposophy will spread like a common doctrine that will awaken the curiosity of some people who may be drawn into Anthroposophy. Among the Anthroposophists, some become members of the School of Spiritual Science and eventually enter one or another of the Professional Sections. The Professional Sections then serve as links between the various disguised institutions of the Anthroposophical movement and the Goetheanum in Dornach. To repeat the concept of Gilles Deleuze in the THOUSAND PLATEAUS, one could say that this is not a branching tree (a development from a central trunk), but a spreading rootstock.

  V. Waldorf Schools and Anthroposophy: 

A System that Perpetuates
 
1. Paradox of a Pedagogy of 
Enlightenment and Indoctrination
  

These schools are frequently inspected by the Ministry of Education, so how would it be possible for indoctrination in the theories of Rudolf Steiner to occur there? It would be so conspicuous that long ago that the schools would have been revealed as sectarian institutions and the French state would have stopped subsidizing them.

And yet there is much indoctrination, but practiced so subtly that it escapes the vigilance of many: parents, students, and even sometimes even those who practice it, not to mention the institutions of the Republic. Only a person who was, like me, both an Anthroposophical student and teacher is unquestionably in a position to identify the inner workings of this phenomenon. But I am not alone in this. How is it possible to explain that relatively few alumni later call Steiner-Waldorf schools into question?

I believe there are several reasons for this. Firstly, you should know that a large proportion of the complaints do not rise higher than the Federation of Waldorf Schools. I knew, for instance, a student at Verrières-le-Buisson who complained officially to the Federation that in the 11th grade (Second), a teacher led a “period” (one month of continuous education) concerning the people of Atlantis. He had directly taught the content of a book by Rudolf Steiner [43] about the history of the different races that would develop from the Atlantean continent before it was submerged by the flood. Of course, the leaders of the Federation immediately made ​​sure to cover it up. This incident is far from being an isolated case: it is common that, abandoning all caution, a teacher starts to teach more openly than he should these concepts he believes in, which constitute his sole cultural universe. Many teachers do not realize that they thus indoctrinate. I remember one of my teachers telling me how sorry he was that one member of my class was not receptive to “progressive ideas” (so he called them) that he had wanted to assign him to work on, when the 12th grade (First or Terminal) was studying Goethe’s FAUST. Acting in good faith, this teacher wanted to indoctrinate the students in ideas he sincerely believed would promote their spiritual best interest. Only high-ranking leaders of these schools, the Federation of Waldorf Schools, and the Anthroposophical Society have a sufficient overview to realize the systematization of these practices and the recurring problems they cause. But their action is to obscure the possible impact from the public and not to treat the problem at its root, as should be dictated by a healthy moral sense.Another reason for the paucity of complaints from alumni of Steiner-Waldorf schools: This pedagogy could not function nor attract unless it incorporated genuinely innovative ideas and practices. Thus the method of teaching writing stresses the personal development of the student over artistic practices or initiative, etc. Such elements lead many students to enjoy being enrolled in these schools. And many teachers flourish there — despite everything — in their teaching practices. We would be lying if we did not recognize this, but still we have to wonder about some very problematic aspects of this flourishing. In addition, denying it could reinforce among parents who support this system the sense of being victimized if they are denied they free choice. They often opted for this pedagogy because they perceived its positive aspects and the “blessings” for their children.Some pedagogical innovations effectively promote the free thinking of students. I think this is particularly notable in the methods of learning to read and calculate, how to approach science through experiments and not pure theory, etc. In his first philosophical works, Rudolf Steiner was able to intuit practices that promote the development of free thought — he sought to describe precisely the essence of the thinking activity. As a professor of philosophy who taught for a few years in one of these schools, I must admit that I’ve met students with whom his effects were positive, because they had a real taste for reflection, and they dared express their ideas and opinions. They could often show original and profound thinking in their remarks.But these factors that promote the students’ thinking combine, in this pedagogy, with the insidious indoctrination described above. This puts students in a frighteningly paradoxical situation: They feel that they owe the development of their judgment and the awakening of their reason to a pedagogical method and a teaching team that also indoctrinate them. For many students, this contradiction will be a source of suffering throughout their lives, if they are able to become aware of it at all. Think of the logical alienation and psychological damage, for the mind to owe part of its blooming to a sectarian context! How can one later challenge the very thing that seemingly gave us our well-being? For my part, I know that much of my ability for analysis comes from educational elements which I enjoyed in the Waldorf school where I received my education. But I also know that the cost of my inner freedom was this hidden indoctrination that I suffered since the age of nine. And I also know that it led me slowly but surely into a deep and deadly environment (Anthroposophic) that was mentally confining.
  
2. Anthroposophy, a System Protected by Respect for Tradition, Isolation, and Intellectual Jargon

But how is it that the teachers themselves for the most part do not seem to be aware of their practices of indoctrination? In fact, I think that in their minds, there is no deliberate indoctrination. By injecting elements of Anthroposophical doctrine into their normal teaching, making the students recite prayers and mantras of Rudolf Steiner for all occasions, celebrating Christian-Anthroposophic rituals, establishing very early a distrust authorities — in doing these things, teachers at these schools do not necessarily realize that they contribute to a sectarian system. Personally, it took me a lot of thought and many adventures before realizing what it was. This is explained by the existence of a kind of cordon drawn around these schools to conceal the true nature from their own members. This is based on several factors:

• Intellectual saturation inherent in Anthroposophy

When you become an Anthroposophist, you must ingest the enormous work of Rudolf Steiner (thousands of conferences and dozens of books, not to mention the work of successors). There is thus simply no room for curiosity about something else, all the more so as long as this doctrine, covering every area of life, is so complex and difficult to assimilate. “We read nothing but Steiner!” I proudly declared one day to the leaders of an Anthroposophic journal to which I contributed. For Waldorf teachers, this attitude translates into a total lack of reference to other systems of thought and other pedagogies, all of which are discredited in advance.
• Respect for traditionElements of the Anthroposophical doctrine are considered by Waldorf teachers to be THE truth. I know from experience that it is absolutely impossible, in such schools, to consider aloud the possibility that Rudolf Steiner may have been mistaken. At most, one may concede that his successors have not have understood or applied his message properly. Teachers do not therefore use a critical eye to examine why they teach these “truths,” which form their whole cultural universe. The Anthroposophical community effectively ban any internal questioning, as I have often had occasion to realize, not only as a teacher but also as an editor in their various journals. [44]Respect for tradition is a vital constant in these schools: Rudolf Steiner is indeed regarded as a kind of prophet who gave a number of truths and methods. Waldorf teachers are only perpetuating the system that was developed by Steiner himself in 1919, at the first school in Stuttgart. They often operate by simple fidelity to a tradition they sanctify, without asking any questions about the inner freedom of their students. [45] How many times have I heard phrases such as, “Rudolf Steiner gave” this or that indication instead of “Steiner said” this thing or that. The founder is not considered an ordinary human being, or merely a thinker, but he is seen as a giver of eternal truths, an intermediary between the worlds of gods and mortals. He gave the world Anthroposophical Waldorf education in 1919 as a gift from Heaven! This has even been propounded by Serge Prokofiev, current leader of the Anthroposophical Society, who has said that the founder of Anthroposophy would be — when seen in the universal cosmic scale — a being belonging to the ranks of Bodhisattvas [i.e., enlightened beings, Buddhas]; that is, unlike ordinary mortals, Steiner holds such a high rank that he will soon no longer need to reincarnate on Earth. As to Anthroposophy itself, it is not considered a mere worldview, but the emanation of the Supreme Deity: Anthroposophia is an emanation of the Divine Sophia. [47]• A Pedagogy Intermingled with a Universe of Beliefs
When teachers Steiner-Waldorf schools state that their teaching is based on “a comprehensive conception of the human being,” you would think they work from a philosophical and anthropological understanding independent of any link to Anthroposophy as esoteric doctrine and religious practice. But there is absolutely nothing of the kind! Reading the reference books used by Waldorf teachers leads [48] you to realize that the concepts of reincarnation, karma, and even Anthroposophical Christology are inextricably mixed with Rudolf Steiner’s directives about the education of children. The educational precepts of Rudolf Steiner are inseparable from his Anthroposophical teachings about human beings and the cosmos. Besides, this problem is fully known to the Federation of Steiner schools in France, which tried a few years ago to grant itself academic legitimacy by forming a study group in collaboration with René Barbier, researcher in the sciences of education, the University of Paris VIII. In June 2007, an update on the value of the “action research” conducted with academics, Anthroposophists who participated concluded:”We are led as a provisional conclusion to reopen the question — which arose in the context of action research, but also elsewhere — of a possible transformation in Waldorf pedagogy.”It seems to us that we can encourage the dissemination of the spirit of our school in society and in the culture of our time, through a process of ‘benevolent transfer.’ Drawing from heterogeneous learning environments and transforming them expansively, we should disavow inflexible teaching methods that violate this underlying spirit — that is to say, methods that contravene the objective that we all share.” [49]

• Using a Wooden Language

To understand how Waldorf teachers very often do not realize that they practice an insidious indoctrination, you must take into account the widespread phenomenon of formulaic, empty assertions. Indeed, Anthroposophists and Waldorf educators have long said that Anthroposophy is not taught to students in their schools. An example is this statement of Antoine Dodrimont, affirming in a recent article on the blog Growing Differently: “We must insist on the fact that Anthroposophy is not a worldview to be taught to children. If this were the case, we would not respect their freedom nor that of their parents. Pedagogy is open to all children of the earth in accordance with the philosophical and religious choice of the families. Freedom is a sacred value recognized by Anthroposophy and the pedagogy based on it.” Contrary to the claims of Mr. Dodrimont, Anthroposophy is actually taught to students of Steiner-Waldorf schools, but in a form which can not be easily identified. I heard such statements again and again from the mouths of my teachers when I was a student, and after I became Waldorf teacher, I in turn repeated such denials countless times — a skillful process of autosuggestion preventing one from seeing reality. It would be absolutely impossible for a teacher in a Waldorf school to denounce internally the things I have mentioned, because it would stir up hostility from a vast network reaching far beyond his school. Indeed, various Anthroposophical institutions are independent of the Anthroposophical Society in appearance only. During their careers, most active members of the Anthroposophical Society work as Waldorf school teachers. Knowledge of the internal functioning of these schools disproves the words of Antoine Dodrimont, who declared: “With regard to the Anthroposophical Society, it is not involved in the operation of schools that are independent entities based on their own strengths.” In fact, the Steiner-Waldorf schools are run by a narrow and strict network and are woven into the Anthroposophical Society.

 

3. The Indoctrination of Parents

To complete the overview of indoctrination of which Steiner-Waldorf schools are one of the pivots, it is now necessary to say a word about the parents.

The indoctrination of parents is so ingenious. Many parents who send their children to these schools do so without knowing about Anthroposophy and without themselves being Anthroposophists. This was the case with my own parents. Firstly, the schools do not openly reveal the various elements of their underlying Anthroposophical doctrine. On rare occasions only will the teachers speak, a little cautiously, of such matters as the “reappearance of Christ in the etheric world” or reincarnation. But initially, we talked to parents only about our teaching methods. Later the parents are invited to attend, at least once per quarter, educational meetings. At these, while speaking to them of different materials and activities performed by their children to school, the teachers may gradually refer more and more openly to the “foundations” of this pedagogy. Still later, parents will be offered conferences where the themes are less about the pedagogy and more about the esoteric teachings of Rudolf Steiner.

The indoctrination of parents also goes to those who willingly accept it, by entering more and more deeply in the life of the school. We start by asking them to participate in the annual fair, just manning a booth or making cakes, then do the same at other fairs, then to collaborate at the trimester fairs by assisting the teacher. Then they are invited to become members of various school committees and to take roles in pageants such as the “Play of the Shepherds”, the “Play of the Three Kings”, and “The Paradise Play”, which are staged around Christmas, etc. They are also asked to participate in the school gardens, and serve as guides during various trips their children’s classes take, or of classes in which they do not have children, etc. Some parents end up spending their lives at school!


4. The Indoctrination of Teachers 

The indoctrination of teachers is itself even more perverse. Contrary to what one might think, the teachers in these schools do not all start as Anthroposophists, but many are just teachers seeking an alternative structure, or student-teachers looking for a job. Currently, these schools are indeed unable to recruit enough Anthroposophists to meet their staffing requirements, as the Anthroposophical Society is reduced to asmall group of the retired or the perfectly enlightened who are unqualified to teach. Therefore the schools must recruit applicants from outside. Most of the time this is done the same way students or parents are recruited, that is to say, without revealing the school’s true coloration. I was able to see how we recruited people who were only told only, to begin with, that they will become part of a “an innovative, alternative pedagogy.” Only gradually are the recruits eventually invited to accept Anthroposophical ideas.

It begins with the obligation to participate in many educational meetings per week (unpaid) where the talk is supposed to serve the students’ welfare, but in which many portions are designed to evoke the Anthroposophical foundations of Waldorf pedagogy. Of course, these meetings begin with the reading or recitation of prayers or words of Rudolf Steiner intended for the teaching profession.

They must also attend conferences that open educational meetings, where esoteric themes are discussed in. At first, the uninitiated do not understand much of what is happening nor the esoteric verbiage. I remember a disorienting first meeting during which a colleague of the Executive Committee of the school gave a speech, three quarters of an hour long, about iron “meteorites” (from meteors crashing into the Earth) which he said bring the forces of the archangel Michael down to humanity — this was meant to give courage to the teachers. In Anthroposophy, discussions are commonly meant to provide what they call “spiritual communion”. [51] A conference is not just a simple means for communicating ideas — it is an act of sacramental communion.
Each teacher is also encouraged to take an interest in some aspect of the doctrine of Rudolf Steiner: The Botany teacher will be invited to read the writings of Steiner or THE METAMORPHOSIS OF PLANTS by Goethe, the SVT teacher will be prompted to read Steiner on the zoological works of Goethe, etc. The teacher of economics and sociology will be directed to examine Rudolf Steiner’s teaching concerning the threefold division of society [52], the teacher of mathematics is invited to read THE FOURTH DIMENSION, MATHEMATICS AND REALITY [53]. The teacher of physics and chemistry is directed to read LIGHT AND MATTER [54], etc. The class teacher will, in turn, be urged to attend the Teacher Training Institute [55] (often at his own expense). However, during this “training,” the talk gradually shifts to the esoteric ideas of Rudolf Steiner; the group begins to practice mediation or prayer; they read books such as THEOSOPHY, which contains the Master’s teachings on reincarnation and karma, etc.
Teachers are also encouraged to participate in study groups from the Anthroposophical Society to cultivate the foundations of their discipline or their teaching skills.
5. Progressive Involvement Outside Teaching
Meanwhile, teachers are asked to participate in various tasks of school life: monitoring the canteen, preparing various gatherings, helping with educational exhibitions, helping with open houses, gardening the school’s green spaces, cleaning classrooms, doing small maintenance, undertaking administrative tasks, etc.
Steiner indeed specified that Waldorf schools should always be run collegially, that is to say all decisions should be taken jointly by the inner faculty and the management should come through the teachers. He even specified that individuals who no longer teach (former teachers) should not take care of the administrative affairs of a school. A Steiner school should have neither a secretary nor an accountant but a teacher who takes a little time from his educational work to manage the accounting and administrative activities of the institution.
“The management of teaching and education, which truly bear all spiritual life, must be entrusted only to those who educate and teach. No agency of the State or in the economy should interfere in the management or direction of education. Each teacher should devote sufficient teaching time to be able to become a director in his field. He will take care of the administrative side, as he takes care of education and teaching themselves. (…) No parliament, no personality — those who have perhaps taught but no longer teach — can be recognized.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SOCIAL PROBLEM (Ed., E.A.R.), p. 12.
Household and kitchen work are no exception. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the first Steiner school functioned in this way, but most of these schools have subsequently agreed to develop a few posts for secretaries, accountants, or housekeepers, whose numbers are however still held to a minimum, leaving a substantial load of work in the arms of the teaching community. An important point is that most of these schools do not recognize the principle of leadership: they have no principal or director of studies. At most, they have sometimes conceded authority to a management board (“Internal College”) consisting of a limited number of members. But this school management is therefore undertaken by unqualified personnel who are not paid for this work, which comes in addition to their teaching. This creates a slow, awkward decision-making process. We can describe this as a sort of autistic approach: Rather than deal with a problem, the steering committee of the school rather pretends it does not exist, hoping it resolves itself. In some schools, the entire teaching community debates for months to determine the color that a classroom will be painted! Steiner imposed the rule of unanimity rather than majority rule, saying the operation of a school should be republican and not democratic [i.e., not based on majority voting], so discussions are sometimes endless. This dogmatic precept wreaks havoc in the small world of a Waldorf faculty where belonging to the Internal College inflates the ego. On decisions as simple as a change in schedule or relocation of a workshop, I sometimes witnessed endless turf wars and trench warfare. I saw a physical education teacher burst into tears at the absurdity of a decision: After battling for weeks to obtain slots in a municipal gym, she was denied by the teaching community the necessary change of schedule, on the pretext that Steiner had written somewhere that in no case may a gym class take precedence over an academic course.
This constant inefficiency could make one smile if it were not caused by the over-investment by teachers in the management of their schools. After some particularly busy weeks, I ended up not going home, but sleeping for several days in the infirmary. But the moral and physical exhaustion is part of the logic of imprisonment I alluded to previously: resigned, discouraged, washed-out, Waldorf teachers only become more submissive to an institution to which they eventually sacrifice their lives and energy. [57]
Ultimately, the teacher is so much involved in the famous “school life” that he soon surrenders his personal life. [58] If the spouse does not adhere to the concepts and practices of the school, colleagues make the teacher understand that s/he probably is not living with the right person. [59] The teacher finds compensation, a kind of new family, in the school itself.

 Of course, this life of isolation within the school is not without major problems developing in social behavior. In these schools, I have observed collective harassment of teachers by one or another of their colleagues. During my four years of teaching, no less than seven teachers were victims of severe depression following the Waldorf practice of persecution. Designating scapegoats is, in my opinion, part of the sectarian logic at Waldorf — the purpose is to break the individuals, who do not understand what is happening to them, to transform them gradually into docile creatures. In all these schools, there are sordid stories of teachers who have suddenly been harassed for longer or shorter periods, for very different reasons, and often with no good effect. These deplorable practices are made possible by the fact that there is no trade union structure in Steiner-Waldorf schools, Rudolf Steiner having been opposed to unions on the ideological level. Also contributing is the distrust of the laws of the “outside world” — an attitude that, quite often, the victims themselves do not think to challenge. Teachers of Steiner-Waldorf schools — who are both the indoctrinators and the indoctrinated, the persecutors and the persecuted — do not find fault in the system to which they are committed. They only follow a transcendent logic by which the same one person can be, in turn, a victim and then a perpetrator of the victimization of individuals. [60]

It is to such teachers — who have no personal or social life, and no interest in anything other than the Steiner-Waldorf pedagogy and its foundations — to whom the education of students is entrusted. How then pretend to be surprised by the frequent, improper romances that develop between teachers and students, in a context where additional heat is built into all emotional relationships? Only hypocrisy and a strategy of concealment explain the official blindness on this issue.
In Conclusion
It is essential to note that the practices I have described do not always lead to the complete indoctrination of all students immersed in this teaching. Few of the students will become, as was my case, members of the Anthroposophical Society. Most will only be impregnated with ideas that they will adhere to more or less consciously. For some, this will result in unconditional sympathy for Waldorf Schools. Others will work in the “Anthroposophical movement.” Only a few become members of the Anthroposophical Society.
But teachers can use a Waldorf school to identify those students who are most receptive to the ideas of Anthroposophy. Those students are approached at the time of adolescence, often through a teacher with whom the contact is already quite close. For me, this was my history and geography teacher who took me aside after class to pursue certain elements that could not be developed for the whole class. I remember that we talked directly about issues such as reincarnation, the incarnation of Christ, the Ahrimanic principle, etc. Students who do not have this potential affinity with Anthroposophy are not solicited. There is not, in fact, a recruitment effort so extensive as to be highly dangerous. Teachers unhesitatingly show less interest — even a certain contempt — towards those young people who “lack openness” to their message. My professor of history and geography and told me one day that a classmate, although serious and brilliant, received no more than an average grade of 12 in the study of FAUST because of his stubborn resistance to certain “progressive ideas” (as the teacher put it). Even if it is not said openly nor always consciously, students are sometimes rated more according to their degree of adherence to Anthroposophy than according to their school work, and they may feel this pressure accordingly. Those who rebel will be branded as bad students. Often, they will voluntarily leave Waldorf before the end of their schooling. They will flee because of the silent pressure from teachers, but also sometimes they want to escape the hostility of classmates who, feeling the animosity of their masters, become relays of their disapproval. Thus, at the school Verrières-le-Buisson, humiliations such as teasing, for example, were directed at those students who dared to use a different vocabulary than the school approved — they were quarantined, truly harassed. It was not uncommon for playgrounds to become theaters for systematic “manhunts” and “beatings” of students who did not fit the Waldorf mold. My sister, who attended Waldorf up to the time of high school entrance, remembers well the nightmare that recess became, where the entire class ganging up to chase and hit. How could teachers ignore the beatings that occurred, if they had bothered to monitor recess? Was it basically it suited their purposes? Verbal harassment of students could even take place in class, in the presence of a teacher who would not intervene. Once, when this became excessive, my sister stood up to say she would not longer accept such abuse. That’s when the teacher, feeling that perhaps this time things had gone a little too far and might lead to problems, was inspired to tell her to return to her seat, saying she must undergo this test stoically! For my part, I am now convinced that the teaching staff of these schools knowingly tolerate the harassment of those who resist the community, its lifestyle and its ideology — this is part of the logic of exerting power over the consciences of children.
I especially want to denounce how in these schools there is a gap between the appearance of a modern pedagogy that initially seems innovative — respectful of the freedom and development of students — and the hidden reality of the schools’ medieval character. One could compare these schools, when you know them, from inside, to genuine “teaching monasteries,” where submission to an esoteric doctrine and enslavement of body and soul in service to the community is the implicit rule followed by the teachers.
I hope my testimony will allow all those who so eagerly promote these schools — journalists and public figures — to be more cautious in their assessment.
Although progressive elements do exist in these schools, this doesn’t change the fact that these schools are at the same time the pool where Anthroposophists select, from childhood, those who are most receptive to their worldview and their modes of operation. They then introduce those individuals into their various circles, which are closed otherwise: the Anthroposophical Society and its School of Spiritual Science. This selection usually follows from the emotional bonds that are formed, which may seem natural but which are often part of a recruitment policy. For my part, I took some time to realize this about my personal relationship with my former teachers.
I would like to speak to the idea that Anthroposophy is a “soft sect” because its indoctrination is subtle and may even be experienced as progressive.
But what happens in these schools is a serious violation of freedom of conscience in children. This is not considered a significant phenomenon internally, for the Anthroposophical Society is so dogmatic and closed upon itself that the only method is has for renewing its work force is to gather individuals who have been pre-formatted for it. Without students from Waldorf schools, the Society would probably be reduced to a handful of individuals.
I think that without the support of National Education, it is unlikely that the Steiner-Waldorf schools could survive, financially or socially. The widening gap between the schools’ practices and ideas, on the one hand, and the reality of today’s world, on the other hand, should naturally lead to their natural extinction. [61]

 

92 comments for “What the Steiner Waldorf School Movement did not want you to read.

  1. June 14, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Hi Andy,

    Funnily enough Perra’s peice came up in discussions on Reading Skeptics’ email discussion list after you addressed our SitP in April. I looked through his essay and found this passage which I can directly compare with my experience as a Steiner parent:

    > 3. The Indoctrination of Parents
    >
    > To complete the overview of indoctrination of which Steiner-Waldorf
    > schools are one of the pivots, it is now necessary to say a word
    > about the parents. The indoctrination of parents is so ingenious.
    > Many parents who send their children to these schools do so without
    > knowing about Anthroposophy and without themselves being
    > Anthroposophists. This was the case with my own parents.

    Yup, me too.

    > … Firstly, the
    > schools do not openly reveal the various elements of their underlying
    > Anthroposophical doctrine.

    Ours has quite openly had Steiner study groups going since way back. There was no pressure to join, just the opportunity there if one wanted to.

    > … On rare occasions only will the teachers
    > speak, a little cautiously, of such matters as the “reappearance of
    > Christ in the etheric world” or reincarnation.

    I had none of that.

    > … But initially, we
    > talked to parents only about our teaching methods. Later the parents
    > are invited to attend, at least once per quarter, educational
    > meetings. At these, while speaking to them of different materials and
    > activities performed by their children to school, the teachers may
    > gradually refer more and more openly to the “foundations” of this
    > pedagogy. Still later, parents will be offered conferences where the
    > themes are less about the pedagogy and more about the esoteric
    > teachings of Rudolf Steiner.

    Ours has parents’ evenings once a term. Just like the mainstream comp our older son went to after leaving Alder Bridge except smaller and less boring. I don’t think I’ve heard one word about Steiner’s teachings.

    > The indoctrination of parents also goes to those who willingly accept
    > it, by entering more and more deeply in the life of the school. We
    > start by asking them to participate in the annual fair, just manning
    > a booth or making cakes, then do the same at other fairs, then to
    > collaborate at the trimester fairs by assisting the teacher. Then
    > they are invited to become members of various school committees and
    > to take roles in pageants such as the “Play of the Shepherds”, the
    > “Play of the Three Kings”, and “The Paradise Play”, which are staged
    > around Christmas, etc. They are also asked to participate in the
    > school gardens, and serve as guides during various trips their
    > children’s classes take, or of classes in which they do not have
    > children, etc. Some parents end up spending their lives at school!

    Yes, parents at our school help organise all sorts of events, and make cakes, and help teachers (e.g. accompanying the party on class trips out). Some parents are on school committees (the school practically runs on volunteer effort). Some take parts in plays. Many help maintain the gardens, some help as guides on open days. Some seem to spend most of their lives at the school!

    (This is different from some state schools how exactly?!)

    I wonder if, according to Perra, I am now indoctrinated?
    Presumably I wouldn’t know it if I was, but I wonder what the implications would be. Does it mean that some sort of Steiner illuminati are subtly controlling me?

    And does he say what the cure is? Is there some deprogramming I can undergo, or will it take a silver bullet or stake through the heart to stop me?

    • June 14, 2013 at 8:51 pm

      From online encounters with John Stumbles over the past few years, I have to say that he appears to be among the fervently proselytizing and more heavily indoctrinated parents.

      It’s true that many Steiner school parents do the things mentioned. It’s true, also, that some wake up to a reality that is different from the dream they believed in.

      This, by the way, is nothing short of tragic:

      ‘I don’t think I’ve heard one word about Steiner’s teachings.’

      Steiner’s teachings is what parents should hear about at parents’ evenings. After all, Steiner’s teachings are essential to the education their children is receiving.

      • June 15, 2013 at 4:58 pm

        Dear Alicia,

        You say:

        From online encounters with John Stumbles over the past few years, I have to say that he appears to be among the fervently proselytizing and more heavily indoctrinated parents.

        I’m curious why you think that. Would it be, for example, my saying “early in my association with Steiner education I came across Steiner’s esoteric “Anthroposphical” ideas and decided they were wacky nonsense”[1] that lead you to that conclusion?

        [1] from http://stumbles.org.uk/John/Steiner/skeptic/

        • June 16, 2013 at 2:29 pm

          Sure, that post* helps create an impression. But mostly your posts and your interaction with other people in blog threads.

          *which I read long ago. I have not reread it, so if you’ve changed it, I do not know.

          • June 16, 2013 at 7:42 pm

            Dear Alicia,

            I have changed my essay quite a lot over the years, often in response to discussions on blogs etc., and I would be genuinely interested to know what you think of it. (Please feel free to reply by email if you wish – there’s an address at the bottom of the page.)

            Please can you point to any posts and interactions with others in blog threads that that are “fervently proselytizing” and provide evidence that I am “heavily indoctrinated”. If one can “proselytise” for evidence and critical thinking I will accept the first charge, but I’m baffled what doctrine I am supposed to have been indoctrinated with.

            best regards

            John S

  2. June 15, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Perra: Many parents who send their children to these schools do so without
    knowing about Anthroposophy and without themselves being Anthroposophists. This was the case with my own parents.

    Stumbles: Yup, me too.

    Perra: … Firstly, the schools do not openly reveal the various elements of their underlying Anthroposophical doctrine.

    Stumbles: Ours has quite openly had Steiner study groups going since way back.

    Way back to when John? Obviously, from your own comments, not “way back” to BEFORE you enrolled your child. Lots of Steiner schools have study groups for existing parents – it helps to ensnare them when their kids are already committed to a school system they can’t easily leave. Where are the study groups for PROSPECTIVE parents – so that they can learn about Steiner schools BEFORE enrolling their kids?

    Those study groups are here at the Quackometer, and other sites like The Waldorf Review, Waldorf Critics, Waldorf Watch and the Ethereal Kiosk. Waldorf schools simply won’t discuss Anthroposophy with parents until they have secured their children into their system. Why not… if Anthroposophy is so neat?

  3. John Boxall
    June 15, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    The whole Steiner/Waldorf issue leaves me deeply troubled.

    My father & uncles fought fascism and now it seems supporters of Nazi racial ideas get public funds.

    The last time anyone with ideas like Steiners got anythingfrom the British taxpayer, the RAF delivered it every night using Lancasters

    • June 15, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      John,

      The evidence suggets that, whatever Rudolf Steiner’s unenlightened views on race, Steiner-Waldorf Schools and teachers do not necessarily share or follow them:
      http://www.waldorfcritics.org/articles/Racism_McDermott.html

      regards
      John Stumbles

      • hat_eater
        June 15, 2013 at 10:28 pm

        Why link to this article and not the whole section?

        • June 16, 2013 at 1:42 am

          Dear hat_eater,

          Why link to this article and not the whole section?

          Because we (Andy and I, at least) were talking about Steiner-Waldorf schools, and Professor McDermott’s report specifically addresses the question of whether, or to what extent, Steiner’s views on race are manifested in S-W education.

          The “whole section” you link to is “Racism and the Relationship of Anthroposophy to Nazi Philosophy” which itself is a fascinating subject, on which Peter Staudenmaier (the subject of many of the links there) amongst others has done a lot of scholarly work. However, useful ammunition as it may be for the Steiner-haters[1], it doesn’t tell us any more about today’s Steiner schools than the history of the churches collaboration with the Nazis tells us about today’s Catholic or Protestant schools.

          [1] amongst whom I do not include Staudenmaier: his work is undoubtedly critical of anthroposophy and many (but not all) anthroposophists but from what I see that is led by the evidence rather than prejudice.

          • Matt
            June 16, 2013 at 12:05 pm

            John, I don’t think your comparison works.

            I’m no friend of Christianity, but the churches have a cultural heritage over 2 k years old filled with divers perspectives from across the globe.

            Steinerism arose in Germany, at the same time and engaging with the same nationalistic, pseudoscientific racialist, crypto-religious folk-mystic and eugenic ideas that were subsequently drawn into Nazism.

            The church may be guilty of an inadvisable liaison with the Nazis, but Steiner, even if it isn’t a direct ancestor of Nazim, must share a very recent common ideological ancestor.Those ideas must be current to some extent in the current schools, or else why call them Steiner Schools at all? So I think it’s legitimate to ask searching questions on that point.

          • June 16, 2013 at 12:17 pm

            Dear Matt

            You say:

            … I think it’s legitimate to ask searching questions on that point.

            I agree. And McDermott does ask those questions and attempts to answer them, not only from Anthroposophical theory but from experience drawn from his team’s study of the inner-city Waldorf school they examined and elsewhere. Have you read his report?

            best regards
            John S

  4. rita
    June 16, 2013 at 10:04 am

    “However, useful ammunition as it may be for the Steiner-haters[1], it doesn’t tell us any more about today’s Steiner schools than the history of the churches collaboration with the Nazis tells us about today’s Catholic or Protestant schools.” – not does it tell us any less: anyone think the book has been closed on why the Catholic church had such a dodgy political history throughout the 20th century? One hopes the leopard had changed his spots, but these things need to be borne in mind when assessing such groups.

  5. a reader
    June 16, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Hello.

    I was a Steiner-Student for 13 years (Germany).
    It took me a long time (I´m in my fourties now) to allow myself to put the “waldorf-vail” aside, that was put over my view on the world.
    For long, long years I was defending “my school” against criticism.
    And yes, I loved it and we had a good time. This can not be taken away, and still I`m good friendship to several school-mates.
    On the other hand…we had nothing to compare.

    But my view on the underlying system has totally changed.
    When I started studying pedagogy on a state university, I had my first awakenings when it came to arts teaching for kids.
    Take any Steiner-school in the world, look at the childrens water-paintings and you feel like “oh, that looks exactly the same as what we did…decades ago!”
    Clone-art, yet very aesthetic, parents love it, not the usual kid`s scribblings (if they are allowed to).
    In my art-lessons with kids at state schools (6 to 8 years) we had so much fun with the individual creativity of each of them. They were allowed to use any kind of material, even trash or things made of plastic (*unthinkable* in my days at the Steiner-school…).
    Totally, totally different to my own experience of only emulating what the teacher showed us.
    So I started questioning the methods of “my school”, but still I was convinced, that, in general, we`ve had a “better” education.
    Well, we have been told that constantly, so one day you may believe it.

    A few years ago, my father became severely ill and died of cancer.
    The disease brought me again in deeper contact with Anthroposophy (my dad was convinced of their ideas) and their concept of a deeper, carmic sense of illness.
    And for the first time in my life, these ideas appeared to me deeply cynical, based on nothing but speculation and the “clairvoyance” of Mr. Steiner.
    My father was “allowed” to take the Chemotherapy, yes, but they made it very clear, that, without the anthroposophic remedies, he would suffer a lot more, and he should be well aware, that the “normal medicine” is “only working on the surface” and even worse, is poisoning him.
    The last point, certainly is true, Chemo can be hell and the side effects are often hard to bear.
    Some of the anthr. doctors even suggested him *not* to take the Chemo, because that would keep up the mental block he (supposedly) had built up against his “carmic duty”.

    For me, as sad as it was, it was an eye-opening experience, because I was confronted with my naivity and believing in hear-say (concerning the accusations against “normal medicine” for ex.) without looking for some evidence.

    Waldorf people do believe.
    They need to, because if they start really questioning Anthroposophy, they will never get satisfactory answers.
    They will (so was I) be tought, that they not yet have the full capability of understanding “the mystery” – only very few people can.
    One should not rely on rationality too much, or on the materialistic way of looking on the world – as done by “the scientists” (these were often presented as some sort of “bad guys”, who yet need to exist to have someone to fight against….)

    I started to read original Steiner texts on diseases, and I became more and more angry and sad.
    Nobody really knows if there is any deeper sense behind *anything*, or if there even may be a deeper sense behind a severe or deadly disease – that belongs to philosophy or religion.
    And maybe people can get help out of such ideas.
    But to say that it is a fact – no way.

    By working through all that, for the first time I fully got it, that Anthroposophy really is some kind of religion.
    Which is – in itself – totally NOT the problem.
    Religious belief is (or seems so be…) part of the world, and who needs it shall live happily in it (as long as nobody get´s killed…but that is another story).

    To deny religious/occult/esoteric content in Steiner Schools is ridicoulus and wrong.
    That means – for the parents who think about giving their kid to a Steiner-school, they need to be told what lies behind it.
    To let parents believe that the teaching has nothing to do with Anthroposophy, religion, esoteric, astrology…is simply unfair and should be questioned on every level – from the parent over the teacher up to governments who fund these institutions.

    I wonder…if the Anthroposophists are so convinced and sure about Anthroposophy – why hiding it so desperately?

    I am so encouraged to read, that even members of the Anthroposophic Society are able to leave the circus and tell people what goes on inside.
    It is never too late to go and to let go…

    • June 16, 2013 at 2:51 pm

      I just want to say thanks for writing this.

      It is my personal experience, too, that waldorf school children are led to believe they’re getting a superior education and are privileged to be growing up in such a wonderful environment. All other schools are much worse. (Which sounds horrible for a kid who, like me, was unhappy in waldorf.) And you don’t have anything to compare with, if that’s where you’ve been all your life. (I left after 6th grade… and got something to compare with.)

      • a reader
        June 16, 2013 at 7:23 pm

        Thanks for your feedback!
        I had the comparison later by studying pedagogy at university.
        Working in a “normal” class-room was really a great experience, even though I didn`t finish my studies and made my way into the arts and crafts…
        *The* proof for some more-ore-less anthroposophic friends, that Steiner-school helps to evolve exactly these specific skills…however…I`ll never know, and it simply doesn´t matter ;-)

  6. JimR
    June 17, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Has anyone followed in Steiner’s way of communing with whatever from which he claimed to have read his revelations? Any follow-up prophets so to speak. There have been many translators and proselytes that have spread his message. If there have been no sub-prophets, then the WORD according to Steiner stands alone without corroboration and definitely without updates. This makes it easy to dismiss as simply ravings. I suppose this verification requirement may have application in other venues.

  7. July 15, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    A little more on the subtle but real effects of institutional racism – something that John Stumbles seems to think is perfectly acceptable. http://nicknakorn.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/a-culture-in-denial/

    • July 15, 2013 at 2:31 pm

      Dear Nick,

      What was it I said that gave you the impression that I consider institutional racism to be perfectly acceptable?

      Whatever it was I must have been expressing myself particularly incompetently to have conveyed that impression. I think racism — institutional or otherwise — is abhorrent and intolerable.

      In the context of Steiner education, in my essay on the subject at http://stumbles.org.uk/John/Steiner/skeptic/, I specifically flag up Steiner’s attitudes to race as an area of concern that the Steiner movement needs to tackle. I do however point out that Steiner’s views on race do not necessarily mean that Steiner teachers or schools are racist (any more than the Bible’s racist, misogynist, homophobic etc views are necessarily held by teachers in C of E schools). This is a matter discussed more authoritatively than I can by McDermott & Obermann in their report “Racism and Waldorf Education” (http://www.waldorfcritics.org/articles/Racism_McDermott.html) that resulted from an incident during their study of an inner city Waldorf school.

      best regards

      John Stumbles

      • July 16, 2013 at 3:08 am

        “What was it I said that gave you the impression that I consider institutional racism to be perfectly acceptable?”
        Could it be that you support Waldorf environments – environments that (if they have Anthroposophists – and you bet they do) have racists living comfortably among them – even promoting racism in Steiner’s format? Waldorf IS institutional racism – so if you consider Waldorf to be “perfectly acceptable” then that’s exactly the impression you are giving people. You keep pointing to Anthroposophists who don’t get that Steiner was a racist. BFD… EVERYBODY knows Anthroposophists don’t understand that Steiner was a racist…

        Let’s not even get into which McDermott brother has announced he is an Anthroposophist and which hasn’t. It’s literally splitting hairs when you try to make this distinction. Ray cites Robert right in the research paper… And Ida Oberman is also an Anthroposophist http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/ida-oberman?dref=397%2C2740%2C11666. This paper isn’t as neutral as you make it out to be so let’s just be honest about that.

        ” I think racism — institutional or otherwise — is abhorrent and intolerable.”

        Yeah, so do Waldorf teachers… but that doesn’t stop them from believing what Steiner taught about the races… and some pass his ideas along – right in the classroom. Why do you claim there’s no evidence of this happening? If it doesn’t happen, where’s the person from Waldorf claiming it doesn’t happen? Even Sune Nordwall – the Waldorf apologist before you – attributes this to young, inexperienced, enthusiastic teachers who might mistakenly teach what Steiner taught. Well, isn’t that what they do for everything else?

        More important than whether they actually teach Steiner’s racism, is how racism plays into the Waldorf classroom. Of course we know Steiner placed tremendous significance on an individual’s race with regard to their spiritual status. In developing Waldorf education, Steiner gave “indications” for many many things… some of them racist of course. Waldorf teachers today are, sarcastically speaking, thoroughly trained NOT to access those bits of Steiner’s wisdom. They, instead, focus on things like left and right-handed children, large and small headed children, eye color, hair color, and let’s not forget the temperaments, choleric, phlegmatic, sanguine and melancholic – each of which include body shape characteristics… then we have all the indications for the different ages, the significance of the changing of teeth and so forth. With so many other things to focus on, and despite racial spiritual hierarchies being the foundation of Anthroposophy, and notwithstanding that the child’s incarnation is the primary responsibility of the Waldorf teacher, Waldorf teachers pay absolutely NO attention to the skin color of the child or the skin colors of the parents when interacting with the child and the parents… again speaking sarcastically of course.

        • July 16, 2013 at 9:31 am

          Dear Pete,

          You say:

          Let’s not even get into which McDermott brother has announced he is an Anthroposophist and which hasn’t. It’s literally splitting hairs when you try to make this distinction.

          I don’t think it is splitting hairs (either literally or metaphorically) to make a distinction between Ray McDermott, Professor of Education at Stanford University whose engagement with Waldorf Education appears to be limited to one study over the last 20 years, and Roy McDermott who is an Anthroposophist and, according to Waldorf critic Dan Dugan, is the brother of Professor McDermott. You and I have already discussed this on the Wholefoods Market forum where I challenged you to justify your implication that Professor McDermott’s academic integrity was compromised either in principle or in practice by his alleged brother’s beliefs or activities. In that instance you seemed to rather grudgingly allow that Prof McDermott’s report might be “reasonably balanced”. Now, however, you are again claiming that his report “isn’t as neutral as [I] make out”. Which is it: balanced or biased? Let’s be honest about it.

          And Ida Oberman is also an Anthroposophist http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/ida-oberman?dref=397%2C2740%2C11666.

          I know that but I don’t think her Anthroposphical connections negate her work. The historian Peter Staudenmaier who specialises in Steiner and Anthroposophy seems to respect her, and even Dan Dugan acknowledges some merits in her work. Is that blowing your mind?

          regards

          John S

          • July 16, 2013 at 12:59 pm

            “Which is it: balanced or biased?”
            It’s reasonably balanced – considering it was written by an Anthroposophist. It definitely ISN’T unbiased.

            “I know that but I don’t think her Anthroposphical connections negate her work.”

            Duh…

            Two Anthroposophists write a document about racism and you come here waving it around as if racism somehow has ended for Waldorf schools. That is definitely NOT the case so stop pretending it is. Waldorf schools have YET to acknowledge their racism. Here’s hoping that time will come soon.

          • July 16, 2013 at 8:24 pm

            Pete

            It’s reasonably balanced – considering it was written by an Anthroposophist.

            Two Anthroposophists write a document about racism …

            You seem to be implying again that Professor Ray McDermott is an Anthroposophist. We went through this before and you produced no evidence that Ray is an Anthroposophist. If you have some evidence now please produce it.

            More seriously you are alleging that Ray McDermott’s report is biased. For a professional academic this would amount to professional misconduct. This would be an extraordinary charge to make, requiring extraordinary evidence to substantiate, against a professor at a small Mid-Western university let alone an institution with the prestige of Stanford University. I challenge you to produce evidence substantiating your accusation, or withdraw it.

            sincerely,

            John S

            PS I stand corrected regarding the name of the other McDermott.

          • MarkH
            July 17, 2013 at 10:39 am

            “Ray McDermott, Professor of Education at Stanford University whose engagement with Waldorf Education appears to be limited to one study over the last 20 years”

            He may or may not be an anthroposophist but besides co-authoring that study, he is (or was) a Waldorf parent: http://www.steinercollege.edu/waldorf

          • July 18, 2013 at 8:30 am

            Hi Mark,

            Thanks for the information.

            The first testimonial is also interesting in the context of the current discussion.

            best regards

            John S

          • July 17, 2013 at 1:01 pm

            ” I challenge you to produce evidence substantiating your accusation, or withdraw it.”

            When did this become a court of law? He obviously quacks like a duck… (apologies to the Quackometer). This is just another Anthro pretending to be mainstream. If the movement wasn’t FULL of liars, I might have an obligation to prove something. Has he ever officially denied being an Anthroposophist? Only YOU have denied he’s an Anthroposophist… why don’t you ask HIM?

            Unfortunately, the world of Anthroposophy is chock full of people who are willing to LIE about who they are or what they do or believe in order to promote Anthroposophy. Remember the Dutch Commission which reviewed Steiner’s statements… ALL Anthroposophists… every single one of them… but to hear Anthroposophists discuss it, this was an “independent” study.

            The Waldorf movement is a bunch of people in denial. There will always be people like me to remind them of who they really are.

          • July 18, 2013 at 8:40 am

            Dear Pete

            I admit defeat.

            You make assertions about, and allegations against Professor McDermott which you apparently cannot substantiate and then accuse him of being a liar?!

            Those of us who stick pedantically to verifiable facts are clearly no match for your intellectual rigour.

            John S

          • July 18, 2013 at 1:07 pm

            “Those of us who stick pedantically to verifiable facts are clearly no match for your intellectual rigour.”

            Yes, isn’t the abundance of “verifiable facts” what Waldorf is famous for? … Not lying, not racism, not child abuse… when I think of “verifiable facts”… I think of Waldorf.

            Two brothers, one a declared Anthroposophist, the other an “educator”… The “educator” writes a paper that cites the work of the Anthroposophist. And you have trouble making the connection? It doesn’t take a lot of rigor to smell something fishy. Again, it was a nice study, but certainly not unbiased.

            Why would you think bias never entered the study written by two Anthroposophists?

  8. July 16, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    And who the hell is Roy McDermott? Ray’s brother’s name is Robert.

  9. MarkH
    July 18, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    You’re welcome John.

    Ah, the infamous Kenneth Chenault! I can easily imagine a Waldorf
    school in 1960s America marketing itself to Chenault’s parents as a
    haven from the overt and widespread racism of the time. For all their shrewdness in appealing
    to those wishing to avoid the current prevailing culture (equally true
    today), the schools are notoriously bad at explaining the nature of
    the alternative they do offer.

    I’m not aware of any academic studies of Waldorf education that are
    authored by neutral, external observers with no personal investment in
    the movement. I’ve been looking for a while. My guess is that it is
    too small a niche, with overall unremarkable results to attract the
    attention of mainstream educationalists.

    The McDermott piece John links to above is a follow-up to his original
    1996 article “Waldorf education in an inner-city public school” in The
    Urban Review journal. Unfortunately this is behind a paywall but I
    have read it and will quote from it below. It’s full of glowing praise
    for the Milwaukee Urban Waldorf School and addresses racism only
    briefly at the end. He found that the background of racist tension in
    that particular community carries across in to the school. While generally
    moderate and positive in tone, McDermott has some reservations:

    “Staff members are not always better equipped than the children to
    handle the hidden injuries of racism. The staff and faculty at Urban
    Waldorf represented a wide gamut of opinions on race and the possible
    presence of racism at the school. Some were quick to point to what
    they thought were unquestionable cases of racism inherent in Waldorf
    philosophy and practice, and others were as quick to deny the
    possibility of racism at any level, in any practice.”

    “Sometimes, we were able to observe seemingly honest and engaged
    dialogue about the construction of race and the consequences of
    racism; at other times, stances were taken, and dialogue was perhaps
    discouraged.”

    “It is easy to imagine why there are disputes at the school about
    Waldorf educators’ insisting on teaching Norse tales and Greek myths
    to the exclusion of African modes of discourse.”

    “A gentle and loving curriculum may not be enough, and assuming so may
    itself be racist.”

    While positive about the particular case of the Urban Waldorf school,
    http://www.waldorfcritics.org/articles/Racism_McDermott.html is more
    strident in tone and confirms most of what I’ve heard from the
    critical side of the fence. What I find disappointing is that
    McDermott is almost a lone voice on the Waldorf side in his insistence
    on taking Steiner’s race legacy seriously and that in the almost 20
    years since he visited Milwaukee, the debate has not moved on.

    • July 20, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      Hi Mark,

      Thank you for your thoughtful and informative comments.

      Ah, the infamous Kenneth Chenault! I
      can easily imagine a Waldorf school in 1960s America marketing
      itself to Chenault’s parents as a haven from the overt and
      widespread racism of the time.

      I have a couple of questions:

      What is Kenneth Chenault infamous for?

      And is it possible that his school actually was a haven from the overt and widespread racism of the time? From what I hear in some parts of the USA that’s not setting the bar very high even nowadays.

      Thank you for your excerpt from McDermott & Co’s full report. As you point out one has to pay for it (I think Springer publish it at about 30 Euros) and my parsimony exceeds my curiosity. What you quoted seems roughly consistent with the separate (free) report in saying that Steiner-Waldorf has an issue to deal with the legacy of Steiner’s racist thinking[1] and sometimes they manage it better than others.

      However I think that all cultures derived from the Abrahamic religions[2] have a legacy of racist — to the point of genocidal — attitudes. We know there is racism in mainstream schools and if we do the maths Steiner schools seem no worse than mainstream and may be better.

      Our pervasive culture is also homophobic, religiously-intolerant and — arguably worst of all — deeply misogynist and (at the risk of launching the more extreme Steinerphobes on a cherry-picking expedition!) Steiner-Waldorf education seems to me to deal rather better than most with these issues.

      Lastly you say

      What I find disappointing is that McDermott is almost a lone voice on the Waldorf side in his insistence on taking Steiner’s race legacy seriously and that in
      the almost 20 years since he visited Milwaukee, the debate has not
      moved on.

      Leaving aside whether one wishes to position McDermott “on the Waldorf side” simply because he sees some good in some of it, one must acknowledge at least his collaborator on the Milwaukee project, Ida Oberman who (as I pointed out earlier in this discussion) is (unlike McDermott) and Anthroposophist but who has written critically about Waldorf Schools’ relationships with the Nazis.

      If the debate to which McDermott and Oberman contributed has not moved on much in 20 years it is certainly not to the credit of the Waldorf movement, but if sections of the Waldorf community have developed a bunker mentality rather than engaging with its critics, the purveyors of vituperative rhetoric amongst the anti-Steiner lobby may surely claim some credit for that response.

      best regards

      John S

      [1] Steiner’s racist views would seem not to have been confined to half-baked theories of evolution: if Staudenmaier is to be believed Steiner (along with many of his fellow-countrymen) supported Germany’s genocide in Namibia

      [2] which is not to let other religions off the hook

      • MarkH
        July 28, 2013 at 3:10 pm

        Hi John,

        “The infamous Kenneth Chenault”
        By that I meant he always seems to come up when the subject of Steiner’s racism is discussed. So often that it’s almost comical. As in: “Steiner schools can’t possibly be racist, look, even a successful black guy like Kenneth Chenault went to one!” Forgive me, but it’s not exactly a good line of argument.

        “And is it possible that his school actually was a haven from the overt and widespread racism of the time?”

        Yes, that’s possible. Equally possible is that the background of discrimination in the local community was reflected in the school, as McDermott found in Milwaukee.

        But we are in danger of conflating discrimination and racism and thereby missing the point. Nobody is suggesting that Steiner schools are hotbeds of racist discrimination.

        Instead of asking about the number of incidences of discrimination, let’s ask how they are dealt with when they do arise, as they inevitably will in any school. The critics position, as I understand it, is that when they aren’t dealt with adequately, the underlying philosophy of the school (Anthroposophy) and an individual teacher’s rigid interpretation of it may be the reason why. This is noteworthy because it would come as a nasty surprise to parents unfamiliar with Anthroposophy.

        There is some overlap here with the reported problems some Steiner schools have in addressing bullying more generally.

        This sounds academic and nit-picky until, perhaps, it happens to your family and you leave a Steiner school trying to make sense of what happened.

  10. July 28, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    “But we are in danger of conflating discrimination and racism and thereby missing the point. Nobody is suggesting that Steiner schools are hotbeds of racist discrimination.”

    Yes, they don’t discriminate when ENROLLING children – after all, children of all races have to incarnate into their bodies. It isn’t a *bad* thing that a child is born to a race other than white, it’s just something that has to be dealt with appropriately by the Waldorf teacher. They are very specifically trained to deal with children of all races for this very reason.

    • rita
      July 28, 2013 at 7:37 pm

      Oh now we’re really getting down and dirty: who says (pre-existing?) children “of all races” have to “incarnate” “into” their bodies? And what does “appropriately” mean? We know there us not enough genetic difference amongst races to count for anything: why should it give rise to something which needs “dealing with”? In what does the “training” consist? Sensitivity to culture, or some mythical notion of spiritual differences? Wow, the cloven hoof really peeped out for a moment there, didn’t it?

      • July 30, 2013 at 2:39 am

        Rita, I’m glad you asked. Firstly, Steiner says all children are in the process of incarnating into their bodies until age 7… so, there’s no question that this is true. “Appropriately” can mean many things… for one thing, it’s very dangerous for a child to think critically, or intellectually for that matter. Also, eating potatoes is bad for the developing brain. But there can be much more severe incarnation problems in children. Some children aren’t children at all, but demons inhabiting the bodies of children. These are sometime the most difficult children Waldorf teachers must “deal with”. Waldorf teacher training provides solutions for all these incarnation issues including dealing with children who are not white (for example, special seating accommodations for black children with regard to their proximity to the window). Steiner laid out these important ideas in his many books that are required reading for Waldorf trained teachers. There are many examples in this book that’s required reading for Waldorf teachers (the title keeps changing but it’s there).

  11. John
    August 4, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    This is a corker!!

    http://norwichalternativeeducation.co.uk/

    But what else can you expect??

  12. Waldork loather
    September 4, 2013 at 4:02 am

    I don’t even know where to begin, other than to say sending my son to that “school” was my worst nightmare!! I would highly recommend that if you feel it is the appropriate school for your child, make sure psychological tests of the teachers have been conducted and PASSED. Possibly, Not all walDORK schools are as incompetent as the one in Sarasota, FL but after my family’s horrifying experience I have lost faith.
    [edited: removed name]

  13. Peter Robinson
    September 20, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    To Mr Stumbles, and other defenders of the Steiner faith.

    It is not simply the racism of Herr Steiner that needs questioning, but the whole gamut of his nonsense philosophy. That’s one hell of a lot of questioning! He was clearly entirely barmy.

    Steinerism is like so many religions, in that, in order to try to survive criticism, it has to continually try to re-invent itself.

    • September 20, 2013 at 9:34 pm

      Dear Peter

      By all means address your comments to “defenders of the Steiner faith” (although I wonder how many you’ll reach on this site) but may I ask you to read my peice on Steiner Education (to which I have referred earlier in this thread and elsewhere on this blog) and let me know what words in that text suggest that I share that “faith”?

      regards,

      John S

      • September 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm

        John, I tried to read your article, but within the first few sentences, you convinced me I shouldn’t. I think it was the “Frankly yes” part. In the few exchanges I’ve had with you, I’ve discovered a Waldorf cheerleader who claims to be a “skeptic” for effect. Your arguments don’t hold water since you base them on Anthroposophist’s views of their own movement. Seriously, John, step back and have a look at what you’re doing. They don’t make grains of salt big enough to take with that article. I may give it another try sometime, but the “full of crap” factor seems way too high for me to get through it today.
        Always a pleasure to hear from you, though.

        • September 21, 2013 at 4:44 pm

          Dear Pete K,

          Thank you for your response to my recent message. To clarify, the “Peter” in my message was Peter Robinson, not yourself.

          As for your comments about a “Waldorf cheerleader” maybe you are mistaking me for someone else? Or, as you admit, simply haven’t read my piece.

          John S

          • September 21, 2013 at 8:28 pm

            Yes, I knew who you were responding to. If you didn’t want anyone else to read it, you should have sent it in a private email.

            You are John Stumbles aren’t you? Are you suggesting we haven’t had many interactions – in fact many have been right here on this blog. That you don’t see yourself as a Waldorf cheerleader pretending to be a skeptic doesn’t surprise me and I doubt it surprises anyone else why has read your apologia here.

          • September 21, 2013 at 8:51 pm

            Pete,

            That you don’t see yourself as a Waldorf cheerleader pretending to be a skeptic doesn’t surprise me and I doubt it surprises anyone else why has read your apologia here.

            No I don’t see myself as a “Waldorf cheerleader” and I don’t think most people who’ve actually read what I’ve written on the subject do either. That you do doesn’t surprise me since you have stated that you see Steiner Education in “purely black-or-white terms”, so I suppose you regard anyone who isn’t as dogmatically anti-Waldorf as you as being an apologist or “cheerleader” for it.

            regards,

            John S

          • September 21, 2013 at 10:44 pm

            ” That you do doesn’t surprise me since you have stated that you see Steiner Education in “purely black-or-white terms”, so I suppose you regard anyone who isn’t as dogmatically anti-Waldorf as you as being an apologist or “cheerleader” for it.”

            Well, a cheerleader cheers for the team, whether they’re winning or losing, or cheating, or mangling other players… that’s what a good cheerleader does. Despite TONS of evidence to the contrary, you continue to produce the same old apologia that critics know as the standard Waldorf line – that Waldorf schools are generally good but there are “one or two” odd schools that have problems once in a while. You pull the same deceptive gags the Waldorf federation and AWSNA and Wikiposophists pull, pretending Anthroposophists aren’t connected to Anthroposophy so they can give credibility to Waldorf education. It’s dishonest and disgusting… and it’s what you do, John. I’m certain, most people see your baloney for what it is… but hey, if you fool 5%, that’s 5% you didn’t have before, right?

          • September 21, 2013 at 11:26 pm

            Pete,

            … Despite TONS of evidence to the contrary, you continue to produce the same old apologia that critics know as the standard Waldorf line – that Waldorf schools are generally good but there are “one or two” odd schools that have problems once in a while. You pull the same deceptive gags the Waldorf federation and AWSNA and Wikiposophists pull, pretending Anthroposophists aren’t connected to Anthroposophy so they can give credibility to Waldorf education. …

            I invite anyone to read my essay on the subject and see if what you’ve just written bears any resemblance to what I’m saying in it. I don’t think it does but it’s hard to objectively critique one’s own work and maybe an impartial observer might get a different impression.

            On the other hand I and anyone who takes up my suggestion have the advantage that we have actually read what I’ve written, which you tell us you have not done, so it’s a bit like arguing about some controversial book with someone who refuses to read it because they “know” it is bad!

            Seriously: I am open to discussion and criticism of my my ideas based on evidence, reason and critical thinking. Several times when Steiner critics (and others) have presented evidence or analysis I had not been exposed to before I have revised my thinking (and writing) accordingly, and I daresay I shall continue to do so. I have been wrong about all sorts of things in the past, am probably wrong about many now and will no doubt be wrong about things in the future. For me the liberating thing about skepticism is the attitude that being wrong itself is not bad — it’s part of the human condition — but what is deeply wrong is refusing to accept when we are wrong and to change our thinking and behaviour.

            John S

          • September 22, 2013 at 4:31 am

            John, here’s where you are mistaken, once again:

            “On the other hand I and anyone who takes up my suggestion have the advantage that we have actually read what I’ve written, which you tell us you have not done”

            Trying to mislead readers again? Again, I suggest readers simply search for your name in these blogs (or mine) and see how many times you and I have discussed what you’ve written. They could go to the Etherial Kiosk blog and read our debates there too. Even the Whole Food’s forum has our discussions. To suggest I haven’t read what you’ve written is just plain comical. The suggestion that your opinion may have changed over these discussions isn’t born out by the discussions themselves. You’re a broken record begging for attention and wondering why somebody who has already heard your song wouldn’t want to hear it over and over again.

            Parents coming here are looking for the TRUTH, John, not apologia. If I thought anybody reading this was actually taking your link seriously, I’d go to more effort to dismantle your nonsense sentence by sentence (not here of course). You should be thankful I’m ignoring it. ;)

          • September 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm

            Pete,

            Earlier in this discussion you wrote:

            John, I tried to read your article, but within the first few sentences, you convinced me I shouldn’t.

            I took that as meaning you didn’t read my article, which is the substance of my thinking on Steiner-Waldorf education.

            Also, I don’t think I have ever posted any comments on Alicia’s blog (Google “site:zooey.wordpress.com stumbles”), so I doubt that I have had any debates with you there. Maybe you really are confusing me with someone else?

            Parents coming here are looking for the TRUTH, John

            Indeed, Pete

            regards,

            John S

          • September 22, 2013 at 5:33 pm

            “Maybe you really are confusing me with someone else?”

            I’m sure I’m not confused about you John. It’s not the same as your confusion about the McDermott brothers. You were on the DC’s Improbable Science blog too, weren’t you? That’s where I may have been confused because Zooey also engaged you there. You were defending Steiner’s racism there and the racist practices in Steiner schools. I’m pretty sure I’ve got the right guy.

          • September 22, 2013 at 5:54 pm

            Pete,

            I did indeed contribute to the discussion on David Colquhoun’s blog which must, as you say, have caused the confusion you suffered. You also seem confused when you state that I was “defending Steiner’s racism … and the racist practices in Steiner schools” when actually I said, for example:

            Racism in Steiner (or any other) schools is wrong and bad and any school where it happens should deal with it effectively, both in terms of addressing whatever incident has already occurred and doing whatever is necessary to ensure it is not likely to recur.

            I trust you are now less confused.

            John S

          • September 23, 2013 at 8:04 pm

            “I trust you are now less confused.”

            Your confirmation helped. ;)

      • MarkH
        September 24, 2013 at 12:50 pm

        Excuse me for butting in, John and Peter. I just (re-)read John’s article. I think it’s relatively thoughtful and well written, although naturally I don’t agree with all of it.

        I would like to pick up on one aspect: the “secrecy” around Anthroposophy. John, your phrase “one would barely trust the Steiner movement to organise a piss-up in a brewery” certainly rings true! Much less would one trust them to run a school…

        Of course there’s no global conspiracy to keep the cult of Anthroposophy a secret from gullible parents. But there is certainly a problem, as I illustrate with my own experiences just written up here:
        http://stopsteinerinstroud.com/2013/09/19/a-brief-encounter-with-steiner-education/

        I think there are several things going on here. Firstly, I suspect that some of the schools themselves are confused about the role of Anthroposophy. Secondly, no one person in many schools is responsible for their communications. When the advertising for our local Steiner school went from non-existent to barely literate, parents were rightly outraged. Thirdly, they struggle to survive and the more pragmatic ones realise that an honest attempt to explain Anthroposophy would simply not help their chances.

        • September 24, 2013 at 8:14 pm

          Great blog Mark. I’ve linked to it.

        • September 25, 2013 at 1:38 am

          Hi Mark,

          Thanks for your comments and the link — interesting piece (I’ve commented on it there).

          I would like to pick up on one aspect: the “secrecy” around Anthroposophy. John, your phrase “one would barely trust the Steiner movement to organise a piss-up in a brewery” certainly rings true! Much less would one trust them to run a school…

          Sadly they don’t have a monopoly on disorganisation: when our older son left the Steiner school and went to a local comp we found that it, too, had significant deficiencies in the area of arranging refreshments in fermented beverage production facilities. What have your experiences of the school(s) you subsequently sent your child(ren) to been?

          I think there are several things going on here. Firstly, I suspect that some of the schools themselves are confused about the role of Anthroposophy. …

          Quite possibly. Whilst I’m sure schools vary a lot I think many schools — and teachers — are more interested in the pedagogy than the deeper points of anthroposophy.

          … Secondly, no one person in many schools is responsible for their communications…. Thirdly, they struggle to survive …

          That’s certainly true of ours. As Napoleon said “Never ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence”; I doubt any (UK, at least) Steiner school can afford professional PR people writing their websites and prospectuses and other aspects of how they present themselves to the outside world, and the more involved and motivated people who take on these tasks are probably simply unaware how outsiders — particularly the more sceptical, let alone antipathetic ones — see them.

          … the more pragmatic ones realise that an honest attempt to explain Anthroposophy would simply not help their chances.

          Dunno. My limited experience of some (mercifully few) really dyed-in-the-wool Anthroposophists is they seem to think that if everyone else knew about Anthro they’d realise how wonderful it was and beat a path to their door! Certainly at our school there have always been people running Steiner study groups for anyone interested in learning about it (and advertising them on noticeboards and in the school newsletter). If they don’t publicise Anthroposophy on their website etc it may just be that the school (or those writing the website) think it is more important to communicate the practical side of the education.

          But I do think that schools should say how Anthroposophy fits into what they do, and how dogmatically or pragmatically they approach it and the words of Rudolf Steiner (as well as addressing other criticisms raised towards them).

          best regards

          John S

          • September 25, 2013 at 8:16 pm

            As Napoleon said “Never ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence”;

            Unfortunately, there’s malice there too. Do you think it’s really incompetence when Waldorf schools don’t call emergency services when a child is seriously hurt? We’ve seen many examples of this right here on this blog. Almost always, it’s someone ELSE who calls the authorities. All teachers are mandated reporters of abuse and violence – yet you somehow believe Waldorf teachers are simply incompetent when they don’t report abuse. It has nothing to do with their school’s reputation, right? You should market those rose-colored glasses John… since they apparently prevent you from looking at actual evidence when it has been presented to you.

          • September 25, 2013 at 10:03 pm

            Oh dear, Pete, you do seem to be confusing me with someone else again.

            I am the person who is suggesting that various aspects of Steiner/Waldorf pedagogy may have some merits and that overall Steiner-Waldorf education is neither wholly good nor wholly bad. I have never claimed that it is all flawless and perfect and that one cannot find any examples of incompetent or even malicious behaviour amongst its practitioners: you must be confusing me with someone else again.

            As someone who tries to maintain an open mind and to be reasonably well-informed about S-W E I confess I was surprised by your statement:

            Do you think it’s really incompetence when Waldorf schools don’t call emergency services when a child is seriously hurt? We’ve seen many examples of this right here on this blog.

            There is a long comment thread even on this post, let alone the total to all Andy’s posts on Steiner Education and I cannot recall everything that’s been discussed; but I confess I cannot recall any, let alone all the “many examples” of Waldorf schools not calling emergency services “when a child is seriously hurt”. And I am surprised: I would have thought that such outrageous behaviour would have stuck in my mind. I’m sure you, as a diligent reporter on the failings of Waldorf education, have references to these occurrences to hand: I would be indebted to you for refreshing my memory.

            regards,

            John S

          • September 26, 2013 at 12:30 pm

            “I am the person who is suggesting that various aspects of Steiner/Waldorf pedagogy may have some merits and that overall Steiner-Waldorf education is neither wholly good nor wholly bad.”

            Oh, so YOU’RE that person… Thanks for clarifying.

            This is getting old John. Every time you don’t agree with what you’ve said in the past, you pretend I’m confusing you with someone else. If you don’t stand by your positions anymore, why not say so? Why try to blame me? You don’t seem to recognize your opinions when they are related back to you. How come? You seriously think you’re the voice of reason, don’t you?

            Have you looked at the links I provided, or are we only supposed to follow your links? Try actually reading what people post sometime. You might try Andy’s blog about the cutting incident – the school didn’t notify authorities immediately did they? Then there’s the child who was severely burned, again the teacher didn’t get help, a neighbor called for help. How about the incident where the teacher duct taped the children to their chairs? It happened TWICE before the school took ANY action – and even then excused the teacher. There are more like this… but you have to pay attention John. I should invite you to read my blog sometime – if you haven’t already. There are lots of incidents listed there… from Waldorf schools all over the world. They’re all bad John… every single one… even the one you belong to. And it really will take Waldorf people to see this before they consider improving. That’s why cheerleaders aren’t helpful at all in these situations. Why not get out of the way so people who get it can actually motivate Waldorf to self-evaluate and improve?

          • October 3, 2013 at 10:40 am

            Pete,

            This is getting old John. Every time you don’t agree with what you’ve said in the past, you pretend I’m confusing you with someone else. If you don’t stand by your positions anymore, why not say so? Why try to blame me? You don’t seem to recognize your opinions when they are related back to you. How come? You seriously think you’re the voice of reason, don’t you?

            I try to keep an open mind on Steiner Education (as on other matters). If I come across evidence that challenges my opinions or beliefs I try to evaluate it fairly and, if necessary, change my beliefs rather than dismissing or distorting the evidence. Over time I have changed my opinions on Steiner Education (and no doubt will continue to do so). This is part of a practice which some people call “scepticism” (spelt with a ‘k’ in your part of the world)[1]. I recommend it to you with enthusiasm, though without much optimism of your adopting it. However if – as it seems – you are offended or outraged by it, it might be better if you avoided engaging with skeptics, and whilst you never know when you might encounter one, keeping away from sceptical blogs might be a good start!

            One principle of scepticism is that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and in my last reply to you I challenged you to produce evidence to support your claim that “Waldorf schools don’t call emergency services when a child is seriously hurt” which you said “[w]e’ve seen many examples of …right here on this blog”. So was asking for multiple instances where children were seriously hurt requiring emergency services to be called but the school didn’t do that.

            Your first example was where children suffered cut fingers. It’s not stated in the report but I think it’s fair to assume that if the children had butchered their fingers with meat cleavers that might have been mentioned: instead it seems that the children had something equivalent to paper cuts drawing a little blood. Now I understand the US has a very litigious liability culture but here in the UK I think our hard-pressed emergency services would not be impressed at being summoned to deal with such minor injuries which the school’s trained first-aiders would have been quite capable of dealing with.

            I’m not aware of the duct tape incident you refer to but I am curious how the use or abuse of duct tape can lead to serious injuries requiring attendance of emergency services.

            So we have one instance of a child being severly burned and the teacher failing to summon help. Which I will have to take your word for because you don’t provide a link to the evidence and I don’t have the time to search for it myself.

            That’s one example, Pete, not the “many examples” which you claim.

            I totally agree the burns incident sounds horrific. I agree the other incidents seem bad. I’m not claiming that nothing bad ever happens in Steiner Schools. But bad things happen in other schools too. You can cherry-pick examples of bad things that happen in some Steiner schools, but you could do the same for mainstream schools. I’m not seeing evidence that all Steiner schools are consistently worse than all other schools.

            John S

            [1] There’s a pretty good guide to this practice written by the late Barry Beyerstein.

          • MarkH
            September 30, 2013 at 12:20 pm

            Hi John,

            It seems that your comment over on stopsteinerinstroud.com didn’t get past moderation. You didn’t really engage with what I wrote but merely took the opportunity to link to your own writing. Sorry, it’s not my blog and wasn’t my decision, but I thought it only fair to let you know what happened to your comment.

            > What have your experiences of the school(s) you
            > subsequently sent your child(ren) to been?

            This is of limited relevance, but we have had some minor disagreements with a childminder and a nursery that were resolved to everybody’s satisfaction. So far no problems or surprises with the primary school, although we’re only a month in.

            My point about Steiner schools is that the flat, collegiate management structure means that when problems do occur, as they inevitably will anywhere, no one person is ultimately responsible on the part of the school for resolving them.

            > Certainly at our school there have always been people
            > running Steiner study groups for anyone interested in
            > learning about it

            There are study groups at the school we looked at too. However, they’re not advertised to prospective parents or the general public. I’m curious, John: at which point in your relations with your child’s Steiner school did you become aware of Anthroposophy?

            Here:
            > I think many schools — and teachers — are more
            > interested in the pedagogy than the deeper points of
            > anthroposophy.

            and here:
            > If they don’t publicise Anthroposophy on their website
            > etc it may just be that the school (or those writing the
            > website) think it is more important to communicate the
            > practical side of the education.

            I think you make the fundamental mistake of assuming that the practical pedagogy and Anthroposophy can be separated. We don’t have to get as far as the deeply esoteric cosmology of Steiner or his alternative history of the world. At an everyday level, look at the symbolism of the festivals, Eurythmy and the biodynamic garden at many schools. Then look at the content of Steiner teacher training courses, which are essentially Anthroposophical seminaries. There is no practical Steiner pedagogy without Anthroposophy.

            > But I do think that schools should say how
            > Anthroposophy fits into what they do, and how
            > dogmatically or pragmatically they approach it

            Exactly. I think we can furiously agree on that!

          • October 3, 2013 at 10:01 am

            Hi Mark,

            Thanks for your message.

            It seems that your comment over on stopsteinerinstroud.com didn’t get past moderation. …

            Their loss ;-)

            Thanks for letting me know.

            My point about Steiner schools is that the flat, collegiate management structure means that when problems do occur, as they inevitably will anywhere, no one person is ultimately responsible on the part of the school for resolving them.

            Tell me about it :-(

            Management or governance (I forget which term they used) was one area the Woods Report recommended that Steiner schools could learn from mainstream practice. (And as Bing & “Lovelyhorse” have pointed out, and Andy reiterated, at least one of the authors of the report could be expected to be pretty favourably inclined towards Steiner-Waldorf Education).

            Although to be fair, governance of any organisation (right up to, currently, the most powerful nation in the world) is a hard problem and indecisiveness is not the only vice: there are many who quite decisively do the wrong things!

            There are study groups at the school we looked at too. However, they’re not advertised to prospective parents or the general public. I’m curious, John: at which point in your relations with your child’s Steiner school did you become aware of Anthroposophy?

            As I recall it was while our first child was in kindergarten. One of the other parents was a full-on Anthro and once bent my ear for several hours talking about different sorts of angels, biodynamic gardening and probably a lot else beside! But I take your point (and I know we “furiously” agree!) that Steiner schools should be upfront about where Anthro fits with what they do. Incidentally have you read Daisy Powell’s dissertation?

            I think you make the fundamental mistake of assuming that the practical pedagogy and Anthroposophy can be separated. We don’t have to get as far as the deeply esoteric cosmology of Steiner or his alternative history of the world. At an everyday level, look at the symbolism of the festivals, Eurythmy and the biodynamic garden at many schools. Then look at the content of Steiner teacher training courses, which are essentially Anthroposophical seminaries. There is no practical Steiner pedagogy without Anthroposophy.

            I know, and I know Anthroposophists think their symbolism and hand-waving nonsense has some deep profound effect on children (and adults, from what Gregoire Perra claims). I’m sceptical: I think they’re kidding themselves, like the tantrik who Sanal Edamaruku challenged to kill him using only his claimed magic powers. I’d rather they didn’t entertain such nonsense (and I don’t think all Steiner teachers have drunk so deeply of the kool-aid as Perra) but from what I’ve seen of the teachers I’ve known I think it’s pretty harmless – certainly no worse than teachers believing they’re being guided by some bronze-age sky fairy, which you can find in any school in the country.

            I’m more concerned at the reports of dodgy science and history etc being taught and I’ve watched out for it in what my current child at the school is getting taught, and what I’ve seen over the years of other classes’ teachers’ blackboard work but I haven’t seen anything iffy at our school. As to what happens at other schools, and upper schools (ours maxes out at Steiner class 8) I can’t say.

            best regards,

            John S

          • October 2, 2013 at 12:16 pm

            Hey John, We’re discussing your blog here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/27399

            And I’ve started picking the content apart for you here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/27401 and here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/27402

            But the good news is, at least I finally read your blog.

          • October 3, 2013 at 12:22 pm

            “I’m not seeing evidence that all Steiner schools are consistently worse than all other schools.”

            You actually need to look John. That’s something your rose-colored glasses hinder your ability to do. Follow the links on the stories… it’s that simple. Andy doesn’t have *that* many blogs about Steiner schools here… All you need to do is read the comments others have posted and follow their links. Can you do that big guy?

            That you don’t find cutting and duct-taping incidents problematic is very telling, BTW. Thanks for this!

          • October 7, 2013 at 1:05 am

            Pete

            I said:

            I agree the [cutting and duct tape] incidents seem bad.

            You replied:

            That you don’t find cutting and duct-taping incidents problematic is very telling

            I don’t know if you’re some bro’ in the ‘hood hipster for whom the word ‘bad’ means what old-school types like me would call ‘good’, if you have difficulty comprehending what I say, or whether you deliberately choose to take it as if I’d said the opposite of what I actually did say; whichever it is, it makes it extremely difficult to have a rational discussion with you.

            John S

          • October 3, 2013 at 12:30 pm

            Hey John,
            Just curious, but since I’ve listed SO MANY incidents of bullying on the Waldorf Critics’ site, (in response to your blog), I wonder if your rose-colored glasses will allow you to admit that bullying is a Waldorf problem – and that there are Waldorf-specific reasons for this – as many many parents have pointed out. Will your opinion change on this issue now that you have the evidence you have been asking for? Didn’t think so.

          • October 7, 2013 at 12:38 pm

            “I don’t know if you’re some bro’ in the ‘hood hipster for whom the word ‘bad’ means what old-school types like me would call ‘good’, if you have difficulty comprehending what I say, or whether you deliberately choose to take it as if I’d said the opposite of what I actually did say; whichever it is, it makes it extremely difficult to have a rational discussion with you.”

            You didn’t say they were bad John – READ YOUR OWN WORDS… you said they “SEEM BAD” – It SEEMS like you know what you’re talking about – but actually, you don’t.

            You SEEM to be the one with the reading (and writing) comprehension problems John. Seriously, try reading things carefully… like I do.

          • October 10, 2013 at 11:25 pm

            Pete,

            You SEEM to be conveniently forgetting that you still haven’t produced any evidence to support your claim that there are multiple instances of children in Steiner-Waldorf schools being seriously hurt requiring emergency services to be called but the schools didn’t do that. If you can’t justify this serious allegation please would you at least have the decency to withdraw it?

            John S

          • October 11, 2013 at 1:10 am

            “If you can’t justify this serious allegation please would you at least have the decency to withdraw it?”

            No, I won’t withdraw it, but I’ll reiterate it. There are multiple instances RIGHT HERE ON THE QUACKOMETER BLOG of children in Steiner-Waldorf schools being seriously hurt and that required emergency services to be called but the schools didn’t do that. Again, all one needs to do is look at the links to find them. The cutting incident is one… the duct-taping incident is two… the burning incident is three… additionally, there are other instances of this happening that are not conveniently documented on Andy’s blog but which have been documented elsewhere. Mr. Stumbles can’t be bothered to look for even the ones right here on this blog, yet he expects me to do it for him. I can only imagine how much effort he put into investigating Waldorf education before blogging about his wonderful experience of it.

            For anyone interested, I and others have discussed Mr. Stumbles’ blog and have provided extensive lists of complaints from parents of children who were bullied and abused in Waldorf schools. Those responses can be found on the thread here: http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/waldorf-critics/conversations/topics/27399

            Professor Peter Staudenmaier points out “I think that gets right to the point that John seems to be missing. Bullying occurs in all sorts of schools. Karmic rationales for bullying are a distinctive feature of Steiner education. That is why this feature is a consistent aspect of critical commentary on Steiner schools.”

            Coincidentally, that’s exactly what I’ve been saying.

          • October 12, 2013 at 11:15 am

            Pete

            No, I won’t withdraw it, but I’ll reiterate it. There are multiple instances RIGHT HERE ON THE QUACKOMETER BLOG of children in Steiner-Waldorf schools being seriously hurt and that required emergency services to be called but the schools didn’t do that. Again, all one needs to do is look at the links to find them. The cutting incident is one… the duct-taping incident is two… the burning incident is three… additionally, there are other instances of this happening that are not conveniently documented on Andy’s blog but which have been documented elsewhere. Mr. Stumbles can’t be bothered to look for even the ones right here on this blog, yet he expects me to do it for him.

            So, rather than you being bothered to provide links to the evidence you claim supports the serious allegations you are making, you demand that I should trawl through the reams that have been written on this blog (getting on for 30,000 words on this page alone) to find what you are referring to, and that I am at fault for not doing so? I must admit a grudging admiration for the breathtaking spin you put on this: it is worthy of some of our less scrupulous politicians!

            And, according to you, cut fingers and contact of adhesive tape with skin now constitute serious injuries and any school (sorry, I mean any Waldorf school) should call the emergency services when such things happen? How about grazed knees and nettle stings? You could add those to your definition of serious injury and prove to your own satisfaction that every Waldorf school in the world is guilty of the charge you allege!

            John S

          • October 12, 2013 at 1:06 pm

            “So, rather than you being bothered to provide links to the evidence you claim supports the serious allegations you are making”

            I ALREADY HAVE.

            ” you demand that I should trawl through the reams that have been written on this blog ”

            It’s called “research” John. It’s part of the effort required for actually learning stuff. Of course you are welcome to bypass that part and continue to speak out of ignorance. Nobody is stopping you (obviously).

            “And, according to you, cut fingers and contact of adhesive tape with skin now constitute serious injuries and any school (sorry, I mean any Waldorf school) should call the emergency services when such things happen? ”

            It’s hard to argue with logic like that. Considering you haven’t read the articles apparently – I’m wondering if you’re being obtuse on purpose again. I’m sure 1/2 the class pulled their children out of an expensive, private school that requires a HUGE committment (like Waldorf does) over a paper cut. People toss away thousands and thousands of dollars over paper cuts all the time John. A little duct tape on the skin… how could that possibly harm a child… I’m sure those wacky parents overreacted to children being bound to their chairs. It’s AGAINST THE LAW TO DO THIS, but hey, why should the school speak up… if the parents want to call the police – so be it, right?

            At Highland Hall, they didn’t report pedophiles. Hey, no blood gushing, right? Not an “emergency”, right?
            http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/2012/05/lynn-kern-highland-hall-waldorf-school.html

            Seriously, John, you need to LEARN about what you’re defending. If you can’t be bothered to do the research required, don’t expect people to take you seriously. This stuff isn’t easy… it takes a LOT of work to understand why Waldorf is the way it is. If you’re not going to do the work, then fine… but don’t waste my time asking me to do it twice.

          • October 13, 2013 at 7:03 pm

            Pete

            “So, rather than you being bothered to provide links to the evidence you claim supports the serious allegations you are making”

            I ALREADY HAVE.

            No, you mentioned the incidents which, you claim, support your serious injuries allegation but you did not give references to where independent reports on these incidents could be found.

            Although if you can arbitrarily define a cut finger as a serious injury I suppose you can define the mention of an incident as a reference to it.

            John S

          • October 14, 2013 at 12:13 am

            I wrote to John: “I’m wondering if you’re being obtuse on purpose again” and John confirmed: “No, you mentioned the incidents which, you claim, support your serious injuries allegation but you did not give references to where independent reports on these incidents could be found.”

            I acknowledge I could be wrong, and that obtuseness may come naturally to John.

    • rita
      September 21, 2013 at 10:49 am

      Well said: how is it that people swallow the mumbo-jumbo?

  14. Philip mirkin
    February 28, 2014 at 5:15 am

    ThANK YOU For such a thorough picture of waldorf practice and the depth of thought and insight behind it. I am a teacher and am aware that everything we teach carries importance and it seems you feel cheated by the waldorf substance. I feel that government education is mostly without real nourishment for my students so I am not as suspicious as you. I like the verses you quoted. As a scientist and Christian I find them both rational and affirming, and do not feel indoctrinated or threatened in any way. I’m left wondering what your real concern is. Philip mirkin

  15. February 28, 2014 at 6:06 am

    “I’m left wondering what your real concern is. ”

    Seriously? I’m left wondering if you’re real, Philip. You see no reason for concern here? This leaves me very concerned. Is there *any* criticism that the Waldorf movement will take seriously?

  16. Maryline
    March 11, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Whether pro or anti anthroposophy, one fails to look at the fact that this took place in France which is against any form of teaching that doesn’t fall under the criteria of National Education. It has, for many years, tried to close down Steiner Schools brandishing it as a Sect and organising raids in the schools themselves, back in the mid 1980′s, sending the police in the middle of lessons attended by very young children. The French government is currently trying to ban homeschooling which is seen as a dissident movement in order to eventually be able to ban any independent school which does not follow the national curriculum and hasn’t been vetted by the Inspection d’Académie. This in the name of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité… The fact that Grégoire Perra was “acquitted” is no brainer, the school was never going to win that one. If you speak to any French native (and I am French myself) and try to find faults with “Laïcité and its propaganda”, you will see how they foam at the mouth, isn’t that a form of indoctrination?

  17. March 12, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    “Whether pro or anti anthroposophy, one fails to look at the fact that this took place in France”

    The trial took place in France. Mr. Perra’s observations are common to all Waldorf schools. Confirmation that his testimony is truthful has been abundant.

    “The fact that Grégoire Perra was “acquitted” is no brainer, the school was never going to win that one. ”

    And still, they sued Mr. Perra. Why? If they knew they couldn’t win, then what was the lawsuit about? Punishing Mr. Perra?

  18. C.
    June 29, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    I know a lot about Steiner’s Philosophy and the guy was completely wacko. That’s all that needs to be said about him. However. I would still much rather send my children to a Waldorf school than any public school in the US. I have toured some and am still convinced that the majority of what goes on there will be good for my children. We don’t go all Waldorf at home and I don’t have a problem not incorporating the philosophy that I don’t like there. There is something wrong with every single school in this country and it is in this day and age absolutely a question of choosing the lesser evil.

    • June 30, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      “There is something wrong with every single school in this country and it is in this day and age absolutely a question of choosing the lesser evil.”

      That assumes you know which is the lesser evil. Waldorf definitely is NOT! Public schools have to abide by the law. Waldorf schools are private, and therefore, DON’T! Public schools fire bad teachers, Waldorf schools move them around (like churches move bad priests around). The only thing Waldorf schools are good at is collecting money. Imagine what could happen if all that money wasn’t diverted from the public school system. Waldorf’s goal is to keep children stupid for as long as possible – potentially for their entire lives. Why would you put your children into a system that doesn’t value intelligence?

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