You may know my feelings about Steiner/Waldorf Schools*. Most importantly, that prospective parents are not being told about the occult foundations of the Steiner philosophy. You may think that the mystical, spiritual and esoteric movement behind Steiner schools might be a very important factor in deciding whether your children should attend such a school. But the schools obviously do not. Informed choice is not possible when you do not understand the school’s underlying philosophy.
As the current coalition government appear to be very keen to allow Steiner Schools to open under the Free School programme, I wrote to my Lib Dem MP for Wells, Tessa Munt, with my concerns. Her constituency will overlap with the catchment area for the first Steiner School opened under the scheme, in the Somerset town of Frome.
She consulted with a Minister in the Department of Education. The response took some time but the message was simple:
So, it would appear that I am mistaken to be concerned.
So, let me recount my concerns. You may then come to your own conclusions.
The Core Beliefs of Anthroposophy and Spiritual Science
Rudolf Steiner was a central figure of the occult revival at the start of the 20th Century. He believed he had access to a higher consciousness through a clairvoyant knowledge of the spiritual world. After splitting with Madame Blavatsky and Annie Besant, he took the German speaking theosophists and set up his own spiritual esoteric movement, Anthroposophy – the knowledge of man.
Anthroposophy blended ideas from astrology, spiritualism, Rosicrucianism, Christian mysticism and other gnostic and esoteric sources, to create a cosmology based on Steiner’s readings of the ‘Akashic Records‘ – the cosmic history of the past and the future that exists on a spiritual plane and available to the few through meditation and clairvoyance. Thus was born Steiner’s Spiritual Science – his belief that ordinary science was really just a capability to be able to “spell”, but to be able to “read” one had to have knowledge of higher spiritual existences. Without such knowledge, we cannot fulfill our potential as fully spiritual beings.
Steiner’s visions gave him insights into all areas of human life, including farming (biodynamics), art, dance, diet, architecture, biology, history, geology, finance, and, crucially for us here, medicine and education. These insights have led to thousands of anthroposophically inspired organisations including schools, farms, cosmetic and health companies (e.g Weleda), Banks, (e.g. Triodos) and spiritual communities (e.g. Camphill, Christian Community).
In order to understand Anthroposophy and Spiritual Science, we need to understand the core and basic concepts of Steiner’s world view. Steiner saw the purpose of Anthroposophy was “spiritual advancement through karma and reincarnation, supplemented by the access to esoteric knowledge available to a privileged few.” It is worth remembering that sentence as it is absolutely vital in understanding Steiner-Waldorf Schools. We shall now look at those concepts in a bit more detail.
Steiner viewed the spiritual world to be real and populated with many nature spirits, elementals and root spirits (gnomes). Steiner believed his clairvoyant techniques were a genuine scientific approaches to studying this spiritual realm. They were extra tools, not an alternative to science. We often see Steiner followers repeating the view that Steiner philosophy embraces and extends science. Of course, the reality is that science is undermined by the insistence of the reality of nonsense. This too is important in understanding Steiner Schools.
At the heart of Anthroposophy is the belief that humans are composite beings made up of our bodies and a number of spiritual entities that can be reincarnated. Our spirits enter into bodies each lifetime in several stages as we grow. At about seven years the etheric body incarnates. This coincides with the appearance of adult teeth and gives “strength to learn”. At about fourteen years the astral body incarnates as puberty comes about. Finally, at 21 years, the I, or ego, the divine selfhood incarnates.
The physical body that you are incarnated into will depend on karma. That is, the beneficial or harmful effects you have on the world will revisit you as you reincarnate and determine the sort of physical existence you have. Steiner believed there was a hierarchy of existence that souls could inhabit, driven by karma.
Nearer the bottom of the spiritual hierarchy we can find animals such as fish and reptiles. Those animals with good karma will progress to become apes, Indians and finally Aryans – white and fair Germanic-Nordic humans.
Steiner’s cosmology is inherently racist and abhorrent. Black people are spiritually childish. Jews should simply ‘disappear’. Disabled people somehow must have wanted to be disabled though actions in previous lives.
Steiner viewed the purpose of Anthroposophy was to prevent the human race from degenerating towards a black-brown “denseness”.
In time, however, blondness will disappear because the human race is becoming weaker. In the end, only brown- and black-haired people will be able to survive if nothing is done to keep them from being bound to matter. The stronger the body’s forces, the weaker the soul’s. When fair people become extinct, the human race will face the danger of becoming dense if a spiritual science like Anthroposophy is not accepted.
All of Steiner’s movement, whether agricultural, medical or educational, is designed to assist people through their current incarnation and into better future incarnations. Thus, the Camphill movement, helps disabled people overcome their karma so that they will not be so unfortunate in future lives. Steiner Schools are designed to assist the spirits to enter children’s bodies as they grow and to prepare their souls for better lives. We can view Steiner Schools not as educational establishments, but as places of spiritual midwifery.
In the 1920’s and 30’s, Steiner’s worldview resonated well with the political zeitgeist in Germany and the movement grew significantly. Anthroposophical agricultural practices were set up at Dachau by Himmler and medical supplies used for experiments supplied by the Steinerist Weleda company. (In more modern times, biodynamic agriculture is adopted in places such as the Duchy Home Farm at Highgrove where you can attend courses on how to please the elemental spirits whilst planting, through astrology, homeopathy and ritual.) Although currently presented as humanistic, Steiner’s philosophy is fascistic and reactionary. He recognised that amongst many people, the movements aims and beliefs would be seen as absurd and urged his followers to be coy.
This secrecy was a natural extension of the esoteric and occult nature of Anthroposophy. As is necessary with esoteric organisations, how it is presented to the outside world will differ considerably from inner beliefs. Although, ostensibly, secrecy was a necessary part of the how an initiate moved through the orders of the movement in order to prepare the mind for the next level of revealed knowledge, secrecy could also be used to protect Anthroposophists from outside scrutiny and criticism, and so further their aims undetected.
Steiner-Waldorf Educational Philosophy
Steiner started his first school for children of workers at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory. There are now many thousands of mostly private schools around the world based on Steiner pedagogy.
You may have heard of many of the rather different views of Steiner Schools such as delayed reading, eurythmy dance and focus on art. You may also have heard of their adoption of alternative medicine, such as homeopathy, in treating children. Steiner Schools are keen to stress that they do not teach Anthroposophy and they are merely ‘inspired’ by the ethos of Rudolf Steiner. It is worth looking at how the newly approved state funded Steiner School in Frome presents itself.
The education is based on an understanding that the young child learns primarily through imitation and doing; the pre-pubescent child largely through their emotions and feelings; older students primarily through abstract thinking and the application of cognitive skills.
The curriculum is interdisciplinary, integrating practical, artistic, and conceptual elements and is designed to be in harmony with the developmental needs of children. Learning materials are introduced at the moment of maximum pupil readiness rather than at the earliest opportunity. This allows pupils at all stages to be at ease both with their education and with the pace at which they are taught. This notion of child development is central to Steiner education and draws on Dr Steiner’s work on child development. The school, however, will neither promote nor teach the wider philosophy which is known as “anthroposophy.”
There is no mention on the site about the nature of ‘Dr Steiner’s work on child development’. Indeed, Steiner education is presented as a progressive, child-centred education based on an understanding of child development (What school would say they do not adopt such an ethos?). But this would only be true if you accept that childhood is a process of stages of spiritual incarnation. Whilst it is true that schools do not explicitly teach anthroposophy, their entire curriculum is guided by Spiritual Science. In the same way that Michael Gove will not want schools to teach the educational theories of English literature professor, E.D. Hirsch, he may want schools to have a curriculum informed by his ideas for political and social reasons.
Steiner was very clear about why delayed reading was a good idea – not because older children can learn to read better, but because memorising and reading interfered with the incarnation of the etheric body. It could damage a spiritual protective sheath around the child leading to illness and spiritual degeneration ‘Developmental needs’ in the Steiner world are to do with the incarnation of spiritual entities. Only after adult teeth have appeared is a child spiritually ready to learn to read.
People will object that the children then learn to read and write too late. That is said only because it is not known today how harmful it is when the children learn to read and write too soon. It is a very bad thing to be able to write early. Reading and writing as we have them today are really not suited to the human being till a later age – the eleventh or twelfth year – and the more a child is blessed with not being able to read and write well before this age, the better it is for the later years of life. A child who cannot write properly at thirteen or fourteen (I can speak out of my own experience because I could not do it at that age) is not so hindered for later spiritual development as one who early, at seven or eight years can already read and write perfectly.
Similar spiritual reasons lie behind Steiner Schools rejection of technology, computers and television watching. Such devices are embodiments of the evil spirit of Ahriman and can interfere with a child’s development. Steiner schools must be unique in their goals of actively trying to prevent children from learning. Parents are told not to read with them at home and to limit access to technology.
Schools portray themselves as “focussing on the wellbeing of the whole child” and “nurturing his or her creativity”. Again we must see what they mean by ‘whole child’ as being a reference to their incarnaing souls. Pupils undergo daily dance sessions called ‘eurythmy’, a type of stylised dance invented by Steiner where movements have spiritual significance and purpose. Dances help the child’s spirits develop. Art is practiced too, but in a highly restrictive manner where paper must have rounded corners and with restricted media and colours, such as washes and waxes. Again such media have spiritual significance. A parent wrote about surviving a Steiner School and show how restrictive such a regime can be,
My daughter cried at bedtime and in the mornings as she vehemently resisted going to school. When her accumulated wet-on-wet “artwork” came home, I was aware that, unlike her prolific creative drawing done at home, at school the self expression we had anticipated was actually being frustratingly suppressed.
As for ‘individual needs’, children are treated and taught according to a temperament, such as Melancholic, Sanguine, Phlegmatic or Choleric – a classification assigned to children based on their physical and behavioural characteristics. Steiner saw physical appearance and colour as determinants.
The fact that the curriculum of a Steiner Schools is driven by anthroposophic goals requires Steiner Schools to seek special statuses to avoid breaking the law. Steiner Schools in the UK lobby to remove themselves from the requirements of various government curriculum demands and targets, such as EYFS, so that they can follow their own programme. Steiner schools have also sought to be inspected, not by Ofsted, but by the specially created Schools Inspection Service which has staff that will understand their ‘special approaches and characteristics’. The School Inspection Service is based in Bruton, a Somerset town with a Steiner School. Martin Bradley is one of the key inspectors for SIS and a governor of Hereford Steiner School.
Until a few years ago, you could get a BA in Steiner Waldorf Education from Plymouth University. It was never clear why the University chose to axe the course, but Canterbury Christ Church University is picking up and filling the market gap. We can see from their required reading list what a prospective Steiner teacher was required to learn.
Far from Steiner’s views being seen as a historical anachronism, the text books are full of unreformed anthroposophical views on the world. The text books I have got hold of teach that the heart is not a pump but is forced to beat by the pulsing blood that is forced around the body by the spirit. We learn that humans are bipedal because it frees the arms to pray. Anatomy is treated as a spiritual subject and not a science. The British Humanist Association notes that the source of the curriculum at Hereford state funded Steiner schools is acknowledged to be based on a book by Martyn Rawson and Tobias Richter which teaches that Darwinism “is rooted in reductionist thinking and Victorian ethics and young people need to emerge from school with a clear sense of its limits”. Homeopathy, a most egregious form of quackery, is ‘a good example of an effect that cannot be explained by the dominant [atomic] model’. It is worth noting that Steiner stated that the British Isles floated on the sea held in place by cosmic forces. And he believed in the historical truth of the vanished continent of Atlantis,
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.
Steiner also rejected germ theory and embraced homeopathy – a situation that leads to Steiner Schools being sources of large numbers of unvaccinated children.
Which brings us on to medicine in Steiner Schools.
Anthroposophical Medicine in Steiner Schools
Many Steiner Schools have an Anthroposophical Doctor. These are registered and trained doctors, but extend their practice through Spiritual Science. As such they embrace forms of homeopathy and naturopathy. Unlike conventional homeopaths, who claim to consider the whole person, anthroposophical doctors need to also consider past and future lives. Whereas many alternative doctors use spiritual knowledge to treat the body, the role of the Anthroposophical doctor is to use spiritual knowledge to treat the spirit – the current physical body is secondary to this consideration.
The doctor may prescribe Anthroposophical or homeopathic remedies or therapies such as art therapy, massage or Eurhythmy therapy sessions for which the parents are administratively and financially responsible. Curative eurythmy is the name given to specific exercises that are given to help children with their physical and inner development. These exercises are undertaken with a specially trained Eurythmy therapist.
The school does not carry out dental checks, hearing or sight tests, nor does it provide immunisation boosters.
So, the GMC registered doctor may prescribe extra magical dance lessons, but not provide services that could help them with specific problems or even save their lives.
This spiritual attitude has perverse effects. Steiner believed that measles was an important disease for children to have as it aided their “spiritual development”. It is a disease that will kill and injure some of the children it infects. Indeed, a recent review entitled Anthroposophy: A Risk Factor for Noncompliance With Measles Immunization documents measles outbreaks in the UK after the virus was able to gain a foothold in anthroposophic communities. The UK’s Health Protection Agency views Steiner Schools as a ‘high risk population’.
Steiner was also against the eradication of smallpox by vaccination as he believed that this would only delay the spirit’s karmic destiny in other lives. Belief in reincarnation is not harmless. Steiner appeared to accept the death of a child as an acceptable part of helping spirits through their incarnations. Your child is just an expendable vessel. But their spirits will receive great karma. I hope you are happy with this.
How should we understand modern Steiner Schools?
So, we have a problem. The history of the Steiner’s movement would suggest it is at best barmpottery, and at worst, deeply unpleasant and racist nonsense that threatens the wellbeing of children through crackpot ideas about medicine and an absurd approach to education. Clearly, the UK government does not think there is a problem as I was told in my letter from Tessa Munt that the Frome proposal had gone through full due diligence.
Lord Hill of Oareford wrote to MP Tessa Munt as part of my enquiry saying,
Can we be confident that the Department of Education did indeed carry out a rigorous assessment? I understand no scientific specialists were involved and I doubt very much that civil servants familiar with the occult nature of anthroposophy would have been included in the review. An assumption in such reviews must be that applicants are being open and honest. Is it possible that the schools are pulling the wool over the eyes of civil servants? We should explore that now.
Misleading Parents and Authorities. Undermining and Silencing Critics.
We can start off by recognising that none of what I have talked about here is presented to new parents. You will struggle to find any mention of anthroposophical beliefs and its goals on school web sites. The new Free School in Frome is typical with is misdirection in claiming that it does not teach children anthroposophy. Steiner was very clear about how schools should present themselves to the outside world,
[W]e have to remember that an institution like the Independent Waldorf [Steiner] School with its Anthroposophical character, has goals that, of course, coincide with Anthroposophical desires. At the moment, though, if that connection were made official, people would break the Waldorf School’s neck.
Steiner was also clear that the spiritual and religious nature of anthroposophy should be disguised and told teachers,
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.
There are a number of ways we may view this contradiction between the Government’s belief that all is well and the stated intentions of anthroposophy. One explanation is that Steiner Schools have undergone massive evolution and have distanced themselves from the racist doctrines and the absurd goals of anthroposophy. They are now somehow just using Steiner’s ethos of creativity, spirituality and closeness to nature to create a different school atmosphere. Another explanation is that Steiner Schools are still guided by anthroposophical initiates who want to use them to fulfill Steiner’s goals and view an esoteric and occulted approach as vital for this to succeed. And if so they are being successful in fooling people.
So we need to look for evidence.
An obvious danger in researching esoteric organisations is that by definition source material may be hidden. We must be careful not to slip into conspiratorial thinking. And as such, ambiguity will always follow us. Original sources are most often in German. Translations have deliberately censored chapters that leave out sensitive material. Books have been written by sympathetic authors that steer clear of racial doctrines and other contentious issues. Also, anthroposophy relies on an oral tradition where initiates are led into the inner beliefs. All this makes collating sets of evidence somewhat tricky.
Let’s start by seeing how existing state funded schools respond to request to see their anthroposophical links. In April 2012, Hereford Steiner School, the UK’s first state funded anthroposophical school, set up by the last Labour government, was asked for staffs’ associations with anthroposophical organisations under Freedom of Information laws,
I would be grateful if you could provide details of the professional membership of any Anthroposophical organisations and societies held by the school principal, the school governors, all teaching and support staff, including the school doctor. This need not identify individuals by name, their role or job title would be sufficient.
The School refused. It stated it had no interest in their staff’s associations with anthroposophy and considered such information as private.
A request for an internal appeal was made with various objections including noting that their application form for staff invited “applicants to describe their awareness of Anthroposophy.”
The publicly funded school sought legal advice in order to prevent handing over the information and then denied holding the information. This was pointed out to them as being simply untrue. A complaint was made to the Information Commissioner. Finally, on the 31st of October 2012, the school relented and gave a very limited response, apologising for withholding the information.
The School has subsequently gone to pains to further remove text that describes its anthroposophical links from its web site and application forms.
The French Steiner School Whistleblower
Last year, an important document (translation) was written by the ex-anthroposophist and Paris Steiner School teacher, Grégoire Perra. In the document, Perra describes the French school’s systematic and subtle indoctrination techniques practiced on not just children, but parents and teachers. He describes how the school routinely misled authorities as to what they were doing.
The nature of their teaching, such as keeping one teacher with children throughout their school days was disguised for example,
“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.  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.  Similarly, it may happen that there are health and hygiene inspections.”
He describes the same sort of reluctance to be open about the schools anthroposophical founding,
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 Montessorri 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 that directly connect Waldorf schools and the Anthroposophical Society.
School inspectors fail to spot problems in the teaching content because they have no idea about how Spiritual Science subtly undermines established facts,
Because inspectors from the ministry of education do not know these interpretations [Steiner’s views on taught subjects] — they are not the specialists in Anthroposophy — they have difficulty identifying them.
Most worryingly, Perra describes how the closed world of the Steiner School leads to abusive relationships. Teachers are encouraged to form long lasting bonds with children, which in some cases turns in a very wrong direction,
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?
It would be easy to dismiss Perra’s account as a one-off account of a school that had gone bad. But when put in context of the knowledge of Steiner’s goals for anthroposophy, we see a coherent and deeply disturbing insight into the murky world of Steinerism.
Perra describes how the role of schools is not to explicitly turn children into anthroposophists, but to subtly indoctrinate – to “prepare them to move naturally toward the Anthroposophical movement”. Disturbingly, he describes how many of the teachers, maybe periphery to the inner circle, are unaware of what they are doing is indoctrination.
Perra’s document ought to be dynamite and throw Gove’s plans for Steiner Free Schools into disarray. In France, the anthroposophical organisation is worried too and are currently pursuing Perra in the courts.
Perra will not be the first person who has been intimidated or smeared for speaking out. One of the few academics who writes on the history of anthroposophy, Peter Staudenmaier, has been pursued online by supporters and web sites set up to question his credibility. Blogger zooey discovered that the Swedish Waldorf Schools Fellowship in Sweden paid Sune Nordwall to ‘monitor the debate’ on the web. However, his actions have included an alleged threat to Mumsnet with libel if they posted about Steiner Schools. He uses pseudonyms to post misleading information on articles such as this, and creates blog posts to attack Staudenmaier.
Professor Edzard Ernst found himself to be under attack from a German journalist who was under the pay of anthroposophical organisations Weleda and Wala. The newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, in an article, Schmutzige Methoden der sanften Medizin (The Dirty Tricks of Alternative Medicine), discovered that Claus Fritzsche was being paid €43,000 to run a set of web sites that denigrates Ernst for his criticism of anthroposophical and homeopathic medicine. Ernst has though been attacked by bigger enemies. In the past, Prince Charles tried to remove him from his Professorship at Exeter for expressing his views on alternative medicine.
The picture I have painted is one of a secretive and, perhaps, dishonest organisation that does not disclose its origins, beliefs and goals to prospective parents of its schools. The Steiner movement has of course responded to similar criticisms in the past. What sort of arguments do they use?
The first type of argument is to suggest my concerns are historical – that they do not apply to the modern Steiner movement. If this is true, then I would simply ask where is the evidence for this? Such a shift in the anthroposophical movement would surely have been historically documented and debated. I find no reason to believe this has ever happened. I see no evolution in the organisation’s purpose, practices and beliefs.
Indeed, there is every reason to believe this would be a very hard thing to achieve for anthroposophy. Anthroposophical beliefs are based on the revealed wisdom of the revered Rudolf Steiner. He claimed his beliefs had authority because the techniques were scientific in nature – repeatable and available to those who could reach the required level of spiritual development. If the movement were to question core beliefs, like the racial hierarchy this would obviously put into doubt all his teachings and undermine the very foundations of the movement. Just as within mainstream religions, there is a huge inertia against questioning core revealed beliefs and exclusion of those that do. In short, anthroposophy is irrational and pseudoscientific because it contains no self-correcting mechanisms.
The next sort of argument is that the schools must be doing good because there are plenty of adults who have been through the schools who have successfully been to university and are having good careers, often in technical or scientific areas. Well, yes. As almost all students in the UK have been through a private Steiner education, we are talking about relatively wealthy families who can afford the fees. Within such families, of course children tend to do well with educated parents and perhaps pushy parents. Also, within Steiner Schools you may well find good teachers who do the right thing for their children.
Finding excellence is no guarantee that excellence is the expected outcome. As Steiner schools move into the state sector, the ability of Steiner schools to fulfill their promise of excellence across a wider social demographic may be much harder to achieve and may well be truly damaging. Commonly , it is pointed out that state schools practice dodgy pedagogical philosophies and restrict creativity. The tactic is to assume the default position: that if there are faults in mainstream education, the answer must be Steiner. Of course, this is a fallacy.
A related argument often comes from Steiner teachers or their associates that says that they taught in the schools but ignored all the “mumbo-jumbo”. This argument reveals two things: that firstly all the mumbo jumbo is present, and secondly, the hierarchical and esoteric nature of anthroposophical organisations. People are slowly pulled into the inner circles. Not all are blue card carrying ‘First Class’ member of Anthroposophy, as they are known. Outside of the inner circle, goals and beliefs are systematically obfuscated. There will be teachers with little idea of the nature of anthroposophy, but have found the idea of such schools alluring.
We can see the sort of obfuscation that occurs in responses to other criticisms.
The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) works to support and promote Steiner education in the UK. Both the SWSF and its member schools are unequivocal in their condemnation of racism and in their commitment to the universal principles embodied in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and protected by the Equality Act October 2010.
The SWSF refutes categorically any statement, suggestion, implication or inference that any of its member schools would tolerate racism in any shape or form or that Steiner education is racist.
As writer Dan Dugen has noted, it is common for Steiner followers to “equate racism with overt hatred, and since they don’t feel that they hate anybody, they’re sure that they can’t be racists. They don’t understand that ignorance and paternalism are racism, too.”
It is true that Steiner schools have many black children and teachers in them. And it would appear that they would not refuse admission on grounds of race. But if they were to apply Steiner’s beliefs equally to all children, then differential treatment and attitudes may surface depending on racial characteristics. Of course, if one accepts Steiner’s racial hierarchy as true, then applying his teaching methods may not be seen as racist – just practical. Similar beliefs were at the core of South Africa’s apartheid – differential treatment was necessary due to different racial temperaments and cultures. Racism in South Africa did not occur just when police were brutalising protestors, but through the very fabric of the structure of society.
In short, it is not sufficient for Steiner Schools to say they condemn racism, they need to express how they now recognise Steiner’s anthroposophy was inherently and insidiously racist and how the movement has now rejected all such doctrine and taken steps to eliminate it from the many thousands of anthroposophically based organisations across the world. I have not seen that happen.
What to do?
The UK government looks likely to approve the many more Steiner Free School applications that are springing up across the country. The pattern is likely to follow the Frome example: applications are being made near existing private schools; when approved, the first intake will be from the private school which will then be promptly shut down, as happened at The Meadow school at Bruton near Frome in Somerset, under the guidance of Emma Cragie, of the Rees-Mogg clan (see image) . The Steiner Free Schools are essentially the nationalisation of a private school for existing children and offering no new choice to local communities.
How these news schools manage their intakes in future years will be interesting. The private schools have managed this through a network of Steiner kindergartens ensuring parents of new children have an aptitude for accepting the Steiner ethos. Children will find it difficult to transfer from existing state schools as they will have nasty Ahrimanic habits, such as wearing LED trainers, playing Gameboys and being able to read and write.
How Free Steiner Schools select children will pose challenges. They will not want to expose themselves to the ‘wrong sort of parents’. Much of what is available publicly on the internet about the inner goings on of Steiner schools has come from ‘survivor’ parents who may at first found Steiner Schools alluring, found something was not quite right, investigated and were subsequently horrified. Here is one such story and well worth reading. When the school is state funded, such horrified parents are be ticking time bombs under the schools and government policy.
The ambitions to create many larger publicly funded Steiner Schools will create staffing issues too. There will be too few Steiner trained teachers and it will take some time for Canterbury Christchurch University to get up to speed. Teachers will be uncertified, untrained or imported from overseas. This will create vulnerabilities for the schools – they may well be overstretching.
As Perra describes in his document, the closed and secretive nature of Steiner schools is an environment where the predatory or unscrupulous may take advantage of children. All environments with children risk potential problems, but the detached Steiner schools with a sense of their own spiritual superiority and unwillingness to allow outside scrutiny and criticism pose a dangerous habitat. I hope I do not have to point out that I told you so.
Media scrutiny of these schools is feeble. As I discussed recently, the Guardian’s attempts at shining some light resulted in a slightly mocking article rather than raising any serious concerns. The Guardian staff are full of people with associations with Steiner Schools. The BBC recently interview me and several other critics for a special programme on new applications for Free Schools. That story looks like it has been spiked – I have no idea why. (see updates below)
But light can be shone into this rather murky world. And indeed blogging is a good start. Earlier this year, writer James Gray investigated how Aberdeen University were going to set up a Chair in Anthroposophical Medicine funded by a donation of millions from anthroposophical organisation, the Software AG Foundation. The story ended up in the Guardian and the Times Higher Education suggesting how the University was supporting ‘pure quackery’ and its reputation would be shattered. The University decided against accepting the money and dropped its plans.
You too can shed some light. Our legislators need educating. Write to them, especially if there is a Steiner School proposed near you. Parent need to understand that Steiner Schools are not just cuddly tree huggers, but there is a distinct spiritual agenda behind the educational philosophy that is not being disclosed. Informed choice here is the key thing.
If the government is serious are providing choice in school types, that only makes sense if that choice is based on freely available, accurate and complete information. I hope my summary here suggests, at least, for Steiner Schools, that this may not be the case.
Sunday 4th November
Just a few days later and reports of sex offender unchecked at Glasgow Steiner Schools:
“Shock as it emerges serial sex offender was employed by private school to teach music to kids: STEVE BIRCH refused a check at The Steiner School in Glasgow and was allowed to remain in position for four years.” http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/serial-sex-offender-was-employed-by-private-1416155
Monday 5th November
The BBC has been in contact and the story on Steiner Schools has not been spiked as I stated, but is due to be aired later this month.
The excellent DCScience blog on “the curious Steiner Waldorf cult”.
Part 3 The Problem of Racism
and, in general,
https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/he-went-to-waldorf THE ANTHROPOSOPHICAL INDOCTRINATION OF STUDENTS IN STEINER-WALDORF SCHOOLS By Grégoire Perra
https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/coming-undone – A Parent’s story.
http://www.waldorfcritics.org/articles/Staudenmaier.html Anthroposophy and Ecofascism – Peter Staudenmaier
https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/mistreatment Mistreating kids Lovingly – Steiner Schools
* Anthroposophical Schools are known as either Steiner Schools or Waldorf Schools depending on which country in the world you live in. I have tended to stick to Steiner Schools as I live in the UK.