June, 2018

INDICATIONS 7
 




Here is a collection of items that appeared on the Waldorf Watch "news" page in July, 2018. The items appear in reverse chronological order: newest first, oldest last. To find a specific item, scroll down the page.


I am the author of the Waldorf Watch commentaries, editorials, and explanatory notes you will find here. In them, I often generalize about Waldorf schools. There are fundamental similarities among Waldorf schools; describe the schools based on the evidence concerning their structure and operations in the past and — more importantly — in the present. But not all Waldorf schools, Waldorf charter schools, and Waldorf-inspired schools are wholly alike. To evaluate an individual school, you should carefully examine its stated purposes, its practices (which may or may not be consistent with its stated purposes), and the composition of its faculty. 

— Roger Rawlings







June 29, 2018



FAILURE AT RSSKL 

(CONTINUED)  



From the The Watford Observer [Hertfordshire, UK]:


Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley 
to shut before new year


A private school facing closure has issued a statement saying it will still be open for the autumn term but that parents may have to “develop longer term options” by next year.

The Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley announced its plans to close earlier this month having failed a safeguarding inspection last year that found staff “put pupils at risk”....

A spokesperson for the Langley Hill-based school said today that the “intention” is for the school to remain open in September for the duration of the term until the end of December, but that parents may have to look elsewhere in January 2019.

He added...“There are still some details to be agreed this week before we can confirm this timing, including insurance, enrolment and tuition cost. The trustees are continuing to progress these issues and we will provide further detail later this week...."

[6/29/2018   http://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/news/16321686.rudolf-steiner-school-in-kings-langley-to-shut-before-new-year/    This story originally appeared on June 28.]


◊ • ◊


Waldorf Watch Response


Actually, inspectors found many problems at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL). Safeguarding was an important area of concern, but inspectors also found deficiencies in the quality of teaching and in the management of the school.


An article in The Hemel Gazette at the end of May included this:


The [inspectors'] report says the school has failed to meet the necessary standards for safeguarding, handling of complaints, and quality of leadership.


And it says that the school’s leaders have “potentially put pupils at risk” with their recruitment policies. 


Criticisms include: “The lack of rigour and inaccurate recording amount to more than administrative errors. 


“They are indicative of leaders’ continuing failure to take their responsibilities seriously. 


“Despite intensive training and previous inspection findings over a long period, staff continue to make the same mistakes....”


An article in the same newspaper at the end of April included the following:

Ofsted [the Office for Standards in Education]...stated standards were not met in ‘Quality of education’, and in ‘Quality of leadership in and management of schools’.

About quality of education, the report says: “Not all teachers planned lessons in line with leaders’ expectations....

“Work was frequently unchallenging and teachers’ assessment of the progress made by pupils was still in its infancy.”

The section about ‘Welfare, health and safety of pupils’ adds: “Leaders have failed to ensure that all new employees have been thoroughly vetted prior to taking up their post. 

“They have accepted applications that fall far short of a professional standard and have not taken up appropriate references. 

“Once again, leaders have potentially put pupils at risk by not assuring themselves of the suitability of the staff they employ.” 

Finally, the leadership section said that the school was getting worse in some respects. It said: “Crucially, leaders have failed to sustain the improvements to safer recruitment practice.... "

For previous Waldorf Watch coverage of events at RSSKL, see, e.g., items dated June 26June 25June 23June 20June 19June 6May 31May 30May 9May 2April 28April 19, and April 14, 2018. 









June 28, 2018




◊ READINGS ◊



NATURE, TECHNOLOGY,  

AHRIMAN, AND WALDORF  





[SteinerBooks, 2018.]



Waldorf schools are sometimes lauded for promoting a natural, organic, technology-free mode of life. The schools are largely devoid of computers, televisions, movie projectors, and other technological gadgets. At Waldorf schools, the Internet and other electronic media are not considered valuable educational resources. Instead, they are generally shunned. Instruction in most Waldorf classes is decidedly a tech-free process, with nary a gizmo flashing or buzzing.


Families sending their children to Waldorf schools are often required to abide by a “media policy.” The essence of this policy is that rules against the use of high-tech gadgetry will be observed at home much as they are observed at school. Keep the TVs off, restrict access to computers, strictly limit the use of smart phones, and so on.


Waldorf schools are usually most vigilant about opposing technology in the lowest grades — preschool and elementary school. The youngest children are shielded most intensively from modern technology. The anti-tech shield is dropped a little in the higher grades.


What is the reason for Waldorf’s aversion to modern technology? A book published this year by an Anthroposophical press suggests the answer. The following is from the opening pages of SPIRIT-LED COMMUNITY: Healing the Impact of Technology, written by Anthroposophist Lisa Romero.


"[I]n our time, each generation is increasingly being educated more through the 'invented' world than through the natural world … A child who is raised on the invented technology of the internet has a different inner development … Technology that is designed to form unhealthy habits of thinking, feeling, and will impulses in the child in order to increase monetary wealth for others is immoral … We have entered the era where intentional immorality is raising the next generation." — Lisa Romero, SPIRIT-LED COMMUNITY (SteinerBooks, 2018), p. 2


There is much to absorb from these words. Romero posits a dichotomy: We can lead natural lives or we can fall into the trap of leading unnatural lives. Technology, which epitomizes unnatural impulses, represents a particularly treacherous form of this trap. "Invented technology" tends to be immoral. It is produced by people who are motivated by greed — they use their inventions to generate ill-gotten gains for themselves. Along the way, they lure people (especially kids) into “unhealthy habits” of thought, emotion, and will. High-tech gadgetry represents “intentional immorality.” Such gadgetry is leading generations of kids away from the right path through life.


This is a harsh indictment. We should dig into it a bit deeper. Why, fundamentally, is technology so immoral? Because, alas, it is demonic. Technology is “materialistic” in the worst sense — it diverts our attention from the natural and spiritual into dark alternative realities ginned up by immoral technologists. To put it bluntly, technology serves the purposes of the arch-demon Ahriman.


Here is a passage from another of Romero’s books, this one released a few years ago. I have added footnotes to help the uninitiated make sense of the Anthroposophical terminology:


"If we now turn our attention toward the consciousness that lives behind materialism [1], we find the activity of beings that come under the rule of Ahriman. [2] The ahrimanic beings [3]…wish to hold spiritual development [4] back, and allow us to experience only as far as the elemental world. [5] This gives the illusion that the spiritual world is similar to the physical world [6] … Ahrimanic consciousness and its minions overpower human progression through us [7] if we believe that all that really exists, or is important, is the physical world. [8] These beings wish to sever humanity by drawing it downward [9]…." — Lisa Romero, DEVELOPING THE SELF - Through the Inner Work Path in the Light of Anthroposophy (SteinerBooks, 2015), pp. 132-133.


Romero is certainly correct, according to Anthroposophical teachings. She echoes the master Anthroposophist, Rudolf Steiner:


"Everything that has arisen in recent times in the way of materialistic science and industrial technology is of an out-and-out ahrimanic nature." — Rudolf Steiner, GUARDIAN ANGELS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 55.


The danger of yielding to Ahriman and his temptations is that we will lose our souls. Waldorf education is meant to protect us from that terrible fate.


"We live in a time when people face the danger of losing their souls to materialistic impulses. This is a very serious matter. We now stand confronted with that fact ... Such things as the pedagogy of the Waldorf School can arise from a recognition that humanity must turn toward spiritual activity ... We [Waldorf teachers] should work out of that spirit." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 115.


Waldorf schools are essentially religious. The religion involved in Anthroposophy. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?" and "Schools as Churches".] Many parents want a spiritual education for their children. But they should select Waldorf schools only if they can embrace the Waldorf faith: Anthroposophy.


◊ • ◊


Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


[1] “Materialism,” as conceived in Anthroposophy, is not just excessive love of material objects or wealth — it is excessive immersion in the physical world. The chief danger of such materialism, according to Angthroposophy, is that we may fall for the illusion that only the physical universe exists and there is no spiritual realm.


[2] According to Anthroposophical belief, Ahriman is the demonic lord of materialism, technology, intellect, and material science. "Intellectuality flows forth from Ahriman as a cold and frosty, soulless cosmic impulse.” — Rudolf Steiner,  ANTHROPOSOPHICAL LEADING THOUGHTS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 98. [See “Ahriman”.]


[3] I.e., Ahriman and his minions.


[4] In Anthroposophical teachings, "spiritual development" is the goal of human life: We should develop or evolve to higher and higher levels of spiritual consciousness. [See the entry for “evolution of consciousness” in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]


"Our materialistic worldview does not recognize that the purpose of life is the evolution of consciousness." — Lisa Romero, SPIRIT-LED COMMUNITY, p. 105.


[5] I.e., Ahriman and his underlings want to confine our awareness to the elemental world — the sub-natural world. If nature is healthy and even divine, the sub-natural world is more problematic. It is the domain of “elemental beings,” also called “nature spirits” — gnomes, sylphs, undines, and fire spirits. These beings lack true spirituality and their behavior cannot generally be deemed moral. "What one calls moral responsibility in man is entirely lacking in them [i.e., gnomes]." — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), p. 62. [See “Neutered Nature”.]


[6] According to Anthroposophical belief, this is the first level of illusion produced by materialistic thinking. We fail to see the spiritual realm as it truly is.


[7] I.e., the false consciousness produced by Ahriman and his attendants blocks the spiritual evolution that we humans should embody.


[8] This is the second level of illusion produced by materialist (Ahrimanic) thinking: We start to believe that only the physical universe really exists, and thus we fail to recognize the very existence of the spirit realm.


[9] I.e., Ahriman and his minions, operating through such things as modern technology, drag us down from the spiritual realm to the elemental world. They try to sever us from truth and spirit.


— R.R.










June 26, 2018



CONTINUED COVERAGE: 

FAILURE AT RSSKL 


From The Telegraph [United Kingdom]:



‘Rotten to the core’ flagship Steiner school 

to close, as it emerges concerned parents 

were sent gagging letters


By Camilla Turner, education editor 


A flagship Steiner school is to close amid fears over child safety, after it emerged that parents who tried to raise the alarm about safeguarding lapses had been sent gagging letters. 


The Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) has told parents that it will shut down at the end of this term, following a string of damning Ofsted reports [i.e., reports from the government's Office for Standards in Education].…


Parents have accused the school of attempting to "cover up" the full extent of its failings by trying to intimidate those who sought to voice their unease about the goings-on at the school.


When parents tried to raise concerns about the behaviour of Denis McCarthy, a teacher at the school, they were sent threatening legal letters.


In a letter from solicitors in 2014, the parents were told that they must agree to sign up to a series conditions and failure to do so would result in their child being removed from the school….


A parent told The Daily Telegraph that the school’s management presided over a “culture of secrecy” that was “rotten to the core”….


Another parent added: "The failures of the school has put children at risk and made our lives hell”.


The school’s most recent Ofsted report [i.e., a report from the government's Office for Standards in Education] noted that “the culture for safeguarding pupils at the school is not strong enough” and that leaders have “underestimated and downplayed these inadequacies”….


RSSKL was ordered by the Department for Education to close last year and had said it would fight the order at a tribunal. However, this week trustees wrote to parents to inform them that they the school will close at the end of term….


Georgina Halford-Hall, CEO of Whistleblowers UK, said: “This case exposes an alarming pattern of behaviour across education where the first reaction of the school is to deny all concerns. When parents rightfully pursued matters, they [i.e., the school] sent threatening solicitors letters.”


[6/26/2018   https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2018/06/24/rotten-core-flagship-steiner-school-close-emerges-concerned/    This story originally appeared on June 24.]



◊ • ◊

Waldorf Watch Response:

Although other accounts have indicated that RSSKL suffered from several important deficiencies (including poor teaching and poor management), the Telegraph account places special emphasis on the actions of Denis McCarthy and the school's protectiveness toward him. 

Here are further excerpts from The Telegraph's article:

When parents tried to raise concerns about the behaviour of Denis McCarthy, a teacher at the school, they were sent threatening legal letters....


Parents were warned not to make any further “unfounded allegations” about Mr McCarthy, with lawyers adding that if they did, their child would be asked to leave....


[Eventually] Mr McCarthy was dismissed for gross misconduct in January 2017 following a series of concerns about safeguarding, but the school did not inform parents of this until August. 


In the intervening months, Mr McCarthy continued to meet up with a group of RSSKL children outside of school….


A parent told how the school community were “left in the dark” about the reason Mr McCarthy left the school....


“Although he had actually nominally been sacked, parents were not told that, and many took their children to have lessons with him in his house, and some hosted his lessons in their own homes"....



The issue of student safety has been paramount, but inspectors found several other problems at RSSKL. The following is from a report in The Hemel Gazette on April 27, 2018:


Two weeks ago the Gazette reported on the latest visit from the school inspection body, which took place in February. At the time that report was not publicly available, but it was believed that only safeguarding was criticised.

However, it is now clear that Ofsted [the Office for Standards in Education] also stated standards were not met in ‘Quality of education’, and in ‘Quality of leadership in and management of schools’.

About quality of education, the report says: “Not all teachers planned lessons in line with leaders’ expectations. For example, they did not consider carefully enough the needs of pupils who have additional learning needs. 

“Work was frequently unchallenging and teachers’ assessment of the progress made by pupils was still in its infancy.”




For previous Waldorf Watch coverage of events at RSSKL, see, e.g., items dated June 25June 23June 20June 19June 6May 31May 30May 9May 2April 28April 19, and April 14, 2018. 

— R.R.









June 25, 2018



WALDORF GROWTH, 

WALDORF DECLINE 


Spokespeople for Waldorf schools often claim that theirs is the fastest growing independent school movement in the world. It is certainly true that new Waldorf schools are frequently opened here and there, in one form or another, in this country and in that.


On the other hand, some Waldorf schools collapse. They fall on hard times, they face tribulations, and they close their doors. The recently announced closure of the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) is only one instance. Here are a few more, occurring in recent years, here and there, in this country and in that.


(Bear a few points in mind. Leaders of RSSKL have indicated that they hope to resurrect Steiner education in their community somehow, in some form, sometime. This is typical. Some Steiner or Waldorf schools die, while others only undergo near-death experiences. Sometimes a Waldorf school comes to the brink of extinction, but then it revives. At least some of the schools mentioned in the following list may have been reincarnated or otherwise saved, in some form. Bear in mind, too, that the following list is by no means a complete wrap-up. I am providing only examples that happened to come to my attention. Nonetheless, the following list indicates the turmoil that sometimes roils the placid-seeming Waldorf waters.)




The Canterbury Steiner School is to close
July 11, 2017

A cash-strapped Kent school has announced its closure citing financial difficulties.

The Canterbury Steiner School in Chartham, which had for long faced the possibility of closure, is due to close at the end of the year.

A spokesman for the independent day school, which admits pupils from three and up, said the news would be met by shock and sadness by all concerned.…

Thanking parents, teachers, ex-pupils, families and friends for supporting the school over the past 41 years, it added it would continue to provide a "nourishing and inspiring education" for the remaining year….

[http://www.kentlive.news/cash-strapped-kent-school-announces-shock-closure/story-30434719-detail/story.html]


◊ • ◊

Norwalk school closes abruptly 
due to lack of enrollment

September 2, 2016

Plagued by inadequate enrollment and financial difficulties, officials from the Clover Hill School in Norwalk announced Friday morning that the early childhood center will shut down by the end of the year.

Officials said classes would not resume in September as they proceed to shutter the center, which currently serves students from two months to six years of age.…

The school opened its doors in Norwalk in 2004 by a group dedicated to the Waldorf Education method of learning, which encompasses a play-based educational philosophy.

It was not immediately clear how many students were enrolled at the time of the announcement.

Clover Hill officials did not return calls made to the school…..

[http://www.thehour.com/news/article/Norwalk-school-closes-abruptly-due-to-lack-of-9200673.php]


◊ • ◊

Citing long list of violations, Northwestern Lehigh 
moves to close Circle of Seasons Charter School

May 5, 2016

The Northwestern Lehigh School District has started the process of shutting down Circle of Seasons Charter School, alleging a long list of violations including discouraging special education students from attending and failing to do mandated background checks on all staff.


Circle of Seasons, a school for students in kindergarten to fourth grade in Weisenberg Township, was seeking to renew its charter for five years, but the school board voted 6-3 last month to start the non-renewal process.

After a comprehensive review, the board said Circle of Seasons, which opened in 2013, violated a host of state and federal laws….

Circle of Seasons follows a Waldorf educational philosophy....

[http://www.mcall.com/news/local/northwestern/mc-northwestern-lehigh-circle-of-seasons-renewal-20160505-story.html   Note: Circle of Seasons fought off the closure order.]


◊ • ◊

Where's Waldorf? Goulbourn Street School 
Could Find New Life as Music Academy

April 11, 2016

Tucked away to the side of the Trans Canada Trail and currently unoccupied, it’s a school many residents may not even be aware ever existed. It’s been almost two years since any classes were held at the old Ottawa Waldorf School on Goulbourn Street….

More than 30 years after it first opened, the Waldorf School shut down in June of 2014 because of financial difficulties. An archived school newsletter indicated it was running deficits and was unable to pay its teachers. Another newsletter said the board had decided to close the school after years of declining enrolment….

[http://stittsvillecentral.ca/goulbourn-street-zida-academy-waldorf-school/]


◊ • ◊

Taos Waldorf School to close next year
December 28, 2015

The Taos Waldorf School will shut down after the end of the 2015-16 school year.…

The school has been through rough and unsustainable financial troubles in recent years.

According to publicly available tax filings from 2011-2013, it is clear Taos Waldorf School suffered dramatic swings in funding and ended up short on cash more than once….

Teacher salaries also fluctuated over the years….

No one from Taos Waldorf School could be reached for comment.

[https://taosnews.com/stories/taos-waldorf-school-to-close-next-year,27968]


◊ • ◊

Independent Aberdeen Waldorf School to close
April 2, 2014

An independent Aberdeen school which has been at the centre of an investigation is to close this summer.

The Waldorf School, in Craigton Road, was founded in 1977.

Last month, the Care Inspectorate said it had received complaints about "staffing and the care of children" at the Waldorf School Kindergarten.

The school council said the "very difficult" closure decision came after reviewing the school's financial position.…

[http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-26842547]


◊ • ◊

Waldorf School Closes
August 24, 2013

The financially struggling Wellspring Waldorf School has informed parents it will not reopen for the coming school year.

The school’s Board of Trustees made the decision Friday evening following an “emotional” closed door meeting….

At the end of last school year, Wellspring had an enrollment of about 60 students, down significantly from prior years….

[http://www.vnews.com/news/8188101-95/waldorf-school-closes]


◊ • ◊

Vacant Spaces: Waldorf School to Close 
Green Meadow Branch in Tarrytown

April 3, 2012

After one quiet but enriching school year here, the Green Meadow Waldorf School Early Childhood Center at Tappan Hill School….will not sign on for another year here.

“It is with regret, but also with much gratitude and appreciation for your support, that we share the news that we are closing the Green Meadow Waldorf School Early Childhood Center at Tappan Hill School in Tarrytown on June 9, 2012,” said the letter that came from Administrator Tari Steinrueck to parents and staff.

“The governing bodies of our school made the difficult decision to close the Tarrytown school after a great deal of deliberation, because we do not believe, given the extensive analysis we have done over the past 10 months, that it can fulfill its mission as a significant source of applicants to our first grade," Steinrueck wrote….

[http://patch.com/new-york/tarrytown/waldorf-school-to-close-green-meadow-branch-in-tarrytown]


◊ • ◊

The music stops for Singing Winds School
October 27, 2009

A small private school that offered a radically different approach to education has shut its doors this year the victim of a poor economy and a small enrollment. The Singing Winds School, a Waldorf school that had been renting space in the United Methodist Church of Riverside for the past two years, did not open its doors this fall and has closed….

With an enrollment of only about 30 kids in a program that went from early childhood education through eighth grade the school could not afford to pay the $3,000 monthly rent to the church and to pay its four teachers….

[http://www.rblandmark.com/News/Articles/10-27-2009/The-music-stops-for-Singing-Winds-School/]


◊ • ◊



Overall, the total number of Waldorf or Steiner schools worldwide has apparently been increasing during recent years. In this sense, the Waldorf movement is indeed growing. But the process has not been nearly as fast, nor nearly as inexorable, as Waldorf spokesfolks like to say. 


It remains to be seen whether the events at RSSKL will affect the rate of Waldorf openings — and closings — in the coming months and years.

[For more on the phenomenon of Waldorf failures, see "Failure".]

— R.R.










June 23, 2018



◊ EDITORIAL ◊


KINGS LANGLEY'S 

KARMA


What can we learn from the failure of the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL)? What does the RSSKL story mean for other Steiner or Waldorf schools?


Proponents of Steiner education will doubtless contend that the authorities mistreated RSSKL. They will say that the government's judgments about the school were unfair and uninformed. They will say the school was not guilty of all the shortcomings and faults attributed to it. They will say that the school did not deserve most of the censure it received.


Then again, if any proponents concede that there may have been a few real problems at RSSKL, they will argue that these problems were confined to RSSKL itself. They will say that no larger conclusions should be drawn about Steiner or Waldorf education generally.


The truth, however, appears to be different. The guidelines upheld by the UK government's Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) appear to be both sensible and fair. [1] Like all bureaucracies, Ofsted surely is imperfect, and its procedures — like those of most bureaucracies — may sometimes be maddening. [2] But virtually any well-run school should be able to satisfy Ofsted's requirements, which are by no means excessively prescriptive or onerous. Indeed, the UK government has gone out of its way to be accommodating to Steiner education, welcoming Steiner schools and Steiner initiatives into the "free schools" program. [3]


The problems found or alleged at RSSKL in fact reflect conditions that seem to be systemic throughout Steiner or Waldorf education.


The allegation against RSSKL that has received the most publicity is that the school failed to adequately assure the safety of its students. [4] This allegation must, at first glance, seem extraordinary. Steiner schools are known for their apparently warm and nurturing atmosphere; the students would seem to be secure within a protective embrace. And yet, over the years, there have been many reports of abusive and unsafe practices in Steiner schools. [5] Often, such practices result from a belief in karma — individuals must be permitted to enact their karmas, even if this means engaging in, or condoning, dangerous activities. [6] 


RSSKL has also been charged with mismanagement and faulty governance. This, too, appears to reflect systemic faults found throughout the Steiner or Waldorf movement. [7] The organizational principles laid down by Rudolf Steiner often result in various degrees of disorganization. [8]


To the extent that RSSKL may be considered academically deficient, this problem has often been alleged concerning other Steiner or Waldorf schools. [9] Steiner schools are not, in fact, primarily concerned with educating children in any ordinary sense; they do not principally endeavor to convey knowledge to children. The Steiner focus is directed elsewhere. [10]


There have been allegations that RSSKL has been secretive and deceptive. Again, such allegations have often been leveled at other Steiner or Waldorf schools. [11] Steiner education is based on Anthroposophy, the occult spiritual system developed by Rudolf Steiner. "Occult," in the sense Steiner used this term, means hidden or secret. [12] Anthroposophists believe that they possess deep spiritual wisdom that most other people cannot comprehend; indeed, they think they possess wisdom that must be kept hidden from the uninitiated. [13] Secrecy and deception are thus fundamental to the way Steiner's followers — including many teachers in Steiner schools — deal with outsiders.


Steiner's followers believe they are on a messianic mission. [14] Thus, for instance, Rudolf Steiner said the following to teachers at the first Waldorf school: 


“Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.


Because they conceive their task in such lofty terms, Steiner's followers are inclined to think that ordinary rules and regulations should not apply to them. They are above such things; they are on a holy mission. This sense of exceptionalism may easily lead to clashes or at least disagreements between Steiner representatives and outside authorities.


The collapse of the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley may pass without major consequences elsewhere. In retrospect, it may come to be seen as a minor blip in the history of Steiner education. But, on the other hand, the problems are RSSKL may shine a light into the dark recesses of many other Steiner and Waldorf schools. Anyone wanting to assess these schools — and any parents thinking of sending their children to these schools — would do well to learn the lessons provided by the demise of RSSKL.



◊ • ◊



[1] See, e.g., https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ofsted/about#our-priorities and https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-inspection-handbook.


[2] See, e.g., "How Would you improve Ofsted?"


[3] See, e.g., the discussion of free schools in "Coming Undone". 


Free schools are educational institutions that, in the USA, would be called charter schools.


[4] See Ofsted's description of its "safeguarding policy".


[5] See, e.g., "Slaps", "Extremity", and "Mistreating Kids Lovingly".


[6] See "Karma".


[7] See, e.g., "His Education" and "Coming Undone".


[8] For an introduction to these principles, see "Threefolding" and "Faculty Meetings".


[9] See, e.g. "Academic Standards at Waldorf".


[10] See, e.g., "Here's the Answer" and "Spiritual Agenda".


[11] See, e.g., "Secrets" and "Our Experience".


[12] See "Occultism".


[13] See, e.g., "Inside Scoop".


[14] See, e.g., the entry for "messianism" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.


— R.R.










June 20, 2018



RAMIFICATIONS OF 

FAILURE


The Hemel Gazette [Johnson Publishing, UK] has several stories today dealing with the collapse of the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL).


The impending closure of RSSKL will initially have its greatest impact in the local region of Hertfordshire. But larger ramifications will likely follow. RSSKL has been one of the leading Steiner schools in the UK. The failure of this school may have significant consequences for the Steiner movement generally.


Here are some excerpts from today's reports in The Hemel Gazette:



Three main factors have caused the closure of the school, although [the school's] bosses have not said which was decisive.


The school was appealing against moves by the government to close it, following a series of critical inspections which highlighted various failings, including leadership and safeguarding.


In addition the school had been unable to secure insurance for the next school year. 


Finally, the school was under significant financial pressures. Falling student numbers threatened the school’s viability, and there was also a six-figure pension deficit.… 


This week the school refused to say how many parents had paid their fees early, or made loans and donations, or how much money was offered by other organisations. 


The school also declined to say what would now be done with this money....


[https://www.hemeltoday.co.uk/news/rudolf-steiner-school-kings-langley-is-closing-the-full-story-1-8539979]



The SIS [School Inspection Service] visited in March 2015 and found that safeguarding requirements were “fully met”, although some other areas such as leadership, management, and health and safety did require improvements. 


An unannounced inspection by the SIS in November 2015 found that some of these issues had been tackled — but not the key issues of leadership, management, and health and safety. 


RSSKL was then told to create an action plan to deal with these issues, which was sent to the government. But the government rejected this plan, and then a second revised plan too.


[https://www.hemeltoday.co.uk/news/rudolf-steiner-school-kings-langley-is-closing-why-weren-t-the-school-s-issues-discovered-earlier-1-8540098]



Herts County Council say that there are “sufficient” school places “in the locality” that all 330 RSSKL students will be able to go to a Hertfordshire school next year. 


Unfortunately the very late closure, and a lack of places, mean that students may not be able to go to their nearest school or their preferred school.…


[https://www.hemeltoday.co.uk/news/rudolf-steiner-school-kings-langley-is-closing-what-next-for-the-school-s-students-1-8540089]



It is believed that the current school site will not see new homes built on it — but the school did not confirm whether there is a covenant placed on the grounds. 


In an email to parents the school has raised several possibilities, including “an early years Waldorf centre, possible home schooling, or a new school”. 


However, when asked by the Gazette the school neither confirmed nor denied whether a covenant or other legal restriction was in place.…


[https://www.hemeltoday.co.uk/news/rudolf-steiner-school-kings-langley-is-closing-what-will-happen-to-the-school-s-grounds-1-8540093]



A former RSSKL student told the Gazette of his sadness at the school’s fate.

Tome Morrissy-Swan, who works as a journalist for the Daily Telegraph, was at the school until 2011. His mother also works at the school....

He said: “What I liked most at the school, particularly when I was younger, was that I wasn’t force-fed academic subjects from a young age....

“I’d learned to read before I went to school, but I imagine that other students would have liked that experience to play a lot more...."

[https://www.hemeltoday.co.uk/news/rudolf-steiner-school-kings-langley-is-closing-former-student-praises-his-time-at-the-school-1-8540066]



One parent of a present RSSKL student, who asked not to be named, said there were many unanswered questions which had left her furious. 


She told the Gazette: “Why were parents not warned at an earlier stage about the potential insurance problem? This would have been especially important for all those who are now in the middle of their GCSE or A levels! 


“Why were parents discouraged from discussing the issue of law firms being employed by the school? And why were parents told that the school’s leadership was prepared for a tribunal when they did not have the resources to pay for it? 


“I feel betrayed and I am afraid that the school was NOT open and honest with parents....”


[https://www.hemeltoday.co.uk/news/rudolf-steiner-school-kings-langley-is-closing-parent-speaks-of-betrayal-and-unanswered-questions-1-8540102]











June 19, 2018




CONCLUSION IN   

KINGS LANGLEY   



The story of the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, in the UK, appears to be coming to an end. Here are two new reports:


From The Hemel Gazette [Johnson Publishing, UK]:


Rudolf Steiner School 

Kings Langley 

set to close


By Ben Raza


A troubled private school is set to close this summer. 


The Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley, which charges up to £9,857 a year, made the announcement to students on Saturday.


In an email sent to parents, the trustees wrote: “…[The school’s] Association has completed its extraordinary general meeting … A decision was taken to move towards a managed voluntary closure … [T]he school is likely to be closed at the end of this summer term. The trustees...are currently reviewing options for education alternatives in September … [T]he school will be closing….”


…The trustees say that the decision “balances the interest of pupils, parents and staff within the existing financial means of the school”.


[6/19/2018   https://www.hemeltoday.co.uk/news/exclusive-rudolf-steiner-school-kings-langley-set-to-close-1-8536995   This story originally appeared on June 18.]



From the The Watford Observer [Hertfordshire, UK]:


Rudolf Steiner School 
in Kings Langley 
to shut

A troubled private school is closing down.

Rudolf Steiner in Kings Langley failed its safeguarding inspection last year after it was found that stuff "put pupils at risk." 

Terry Douris, cabinet member for education, said: “Hertfordshire County Council is sorry to learn that Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley will be closing and we appreciate that this must be an anxious time for all families. 

"To this end, we have provided the school with a letter for all parents and carers to offer assistance in finding an alternative state funded school place in Hertfordshire for all those who require one. 

“We have assured them that there are currently sufficient school places in the locality to ensure a place for every child....”

The [school's] Trustees sent an e-mail to parents informing them of the closure.

It said it made the decision after its extraordinary meeting this morning.

"A decision was taken to move towards a managed voluntary closure of the current educational setting,” it said.....

[6/19/2018 http://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/news/16297156.Troubled_private_school_to_shut/   This story originally appeared on June 18.]


◊ • ◊


Waldorf Watch Response:


A long struggle seems to be finally ending. 


Following a series of mostly failed inspections, the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley had been ordered to close. The order came from the government's Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted).


The school fought to stay alive, hiring several law firms to protect its interests. But the effort came to little. Families began withdrawing their children from the school, there was turmoil and turnover among faculty and staff, a new Ofsted inspection confirmed earlier adverse findings, and eventually insurance companies refused to underwrite the school's continued functioning. The "managed voluntary closure" — hardly, in truth, voluntary — is the upshot.


The email message sent to parents indicates that the school's trustees hope to hold the local Steiner community together, and it raises the possibility that some new form of Steiner education may arise in the area. But all of this is, at present, nebulous.


For previous coverage of the situation at the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, see Waldorf Watch news items dated June 6May 31May 30May 9May 2April 28April 19, and April 14, 2018.









June 18, 2018




SHOTS, AUTOMATONS,  

AHRIMAN, AND WALDORF  



Waldorf schools have long been centers of vaccination denial. Many Waldorf students do not receive standard, medically advisable vaccinations. As a consequence, Waldorf schools are often potential contagion hotspots — and, indeed, some contagions have been traced to Waldorf schools.


Here is a brief roundup of recent news accounts from around the USA — east, west, and south — identifying Waldorf schools as having large numbers of unvaccinated students.



From Portland Press Herald [Portland, Maine]:


Vaccination opt-out rate rising 

among Maine kindergartners, 

along with the risk of illness


Maine’s vaccination coverage for students entering kindergarten worsened in 2017-18, making outbreaks of preventable diseases like measles, chicken pox and pertussis more likely. Five percent of kindergartners – about 600 students of the 12,500 in that grade – attended school this year without getting required vaccines because their parents opted out on philosophic or religious grounds … Private schools with at least 10 kindergarten students reporting high opt-out rates included Ashwood Waldorf School in Rockport at 60 percent and Seacoast Waldorf School in Eliot at 40 percent … In the 2014-15 school year, chicken pox outbreaks were reported at Seacoast Waldorf School, Lisbon Community School and others. 




From The Bend Bulletin [Bend, Oregon]:


Deschutes County has 

fourth-highest 

vaccine exemption rate


Four years ago, Oregon passed a new law intended to reduce nonmedical vaccine exemption rates … New data released Tuesday by Oregon Public Health showed the exemption rate reached 7.5 percent in 2018, surpassing the rate from before the law was passed … In Deschutes County, 12 schools had exemption rates of 10 percent or higher, and all 12 were either charter, magnet or private schools. Bridge Charter Academy had the highest exemption rate at 30 percent, followed closely by Waldorf School of Bend.




From ValleyCentral.com [Austin, Texas]:


Austin among 4 Texas cities 

with the highest number 

of vaccine opt-outs


Four Texas cities, including Austin, are among those in the country with the highest number of kindergartners not getting vaccinated for non-medical reasons … Houston vaccine scientist Dr. Peter Hotez co-wrote the study. He fears the trend of vaccine opposition could lead to a disease outbreak in Austin specifically. “Some of the private schools like the Austin Waldorf school has 40 percent not getting vaccinated and I’ve been writing about how I think we’re in for trouble in the Austin area,” Hotez said.




◊ • ◊


Waldorf Watch Response:


Few if any Waldorf schools have official anti-vaccination policies. Often, Waldorf spokespeople say that students' parents make their own decisions about medical matters, including whether or not to vaccinate children.


There is some truth in this defense. Yet the underlying reality is that the Waldorf belief system leans strongly against vaccination. Rudolf Steiner warned against the perils of vaccination. Here are a few of his warnings:



◊ "[I]f a child is treated with vaccine, it will later suffer a hardening of its organization. [1] One must therefore strive to replace vaccines with bathing treatment…. [2]" — Rudolf Steiner, FROM COMETS TO COCAINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), p. 242.


◊ "Certain circles in this materialistic age are striving to paralyse and make impossible all of humanity’s spiritual development [3] … Endeavors to achieve this will be made by bringing out remedies to be administered by inoculation...only these inoculations will influence the human body in a way that will make it refuse to give a home to the spiritual inclinations of the soul.” — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), pp. 90-91. [4]


◊ "[H]umanity approaches the danger of losing itself [5] … [T]here are all kinds of underground societies [6] that work toward things that lead in [this] direction … [They want to] find a substance, a material substance, that can be inoculated into a human being at a certain age; then he will develop his talents by inoculation. [7] This tendency definitely exists. It is right in line with the Ahrimanic development [8] … [T]he human being is made thereby into an automaton [9] ... There are already such substances that can be developed, substances that if injected at seven years of age, for example, [would have dire effects] ... [T]he human being would then become a thought automaton. [10] He would become exceptionally clever but would not have a consciousness of it. The cleverness would just run off like a machine ... By such an injectible substance, one would simply achieve a loosening of the etheric body in the physical body. [11] ... Out of the full consciousness that one faces when confronting the automization of the human being, the methods for the Waldorf School, the pedagogical methods for the Waldorf School, were discovered. [12]" — Rudolf Steiner, THERAPEUTIC INSIGHTS (Mercury Press, 1984), pp. 87-88.


Steiner said that vaccinations are sometimes warranted. But he warned that only true-believing Anthroposophists can safely receive vaccines. Everyone else is likely to fall prey to Ahriman:



"[W]hen you vaccinate someone and you are an anthroposophist, bringing him up in the anthroposophical way, it will do no harm. [13] It will harm only those who grow up with mainly materialistic ideas. [14] Then vaccination becomes a kind of ahrimanic power; the individual can no longer rise above a certain materialistic way of feeling. And that is really why vaccination causes us concern, because people are ‘garbed through’ with a phantom. [15]" — Rudolf Steiner, PHYSIOLOGY AND HEALING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2013), p. 238.


◊ • ◊


Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


[1] "It" is the child (he or she). The "organization" is the child's bodily constitution.


[2] Steiner was speaking specifically about diptheria. According to the Mayo Clinic, the proper treatments for diptheria are antitoxins and antibiotics. [See https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diphtheria/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351903.] "Bathing" is not a proper treatment for this illness. [For more on Steiner's medical teachings, see "Steiner's Quackery".]


[3] Steiner spoke of "black or grey magicians" who, along with other evildoers, want to kill humanity's spiritual capabilities. [See SECRET BROTHERHOODS, p. 90.] 


[4] Steiner was a conspiracy theorist. Here (and in the next quotation) he warns of the machinations of evil, secret conspiracies.


[5] I.e., losing its soul, it spiritual capabilities. (If evil conspiracies produce vaccines that can kill the soul, and if such vaccines are indistinguishable from other vaccines, then the only safe course would be to avoid all vaccines.)


[6] I.e., evil, secret conspiracies.


[7] I.e., the patient will then be controlled by the inoculated substance; his or her talents, etc., will be produced by the inoculated substance, not by his or her own soul or spirit. (Steiner taught the true human beings have both souls and spirits. A person who is not a true, full human being lacks these essential components.)


[8] i.e., it is under the sway of the demon Ahriman. [See "Ahriman".]


[9] I.e., a demonic robot — a human body that lacks a human soul or spirit.


[10] I.e., an automaton whose thoughts are produced mechanically. These thoughts would generally be untrue.


[11] The etheric body, Steiner taught, is an invisible envelope of formative forces that incarnates around the age of seven. [See "Incarnation".] Here, Steiner says that the inoculation would prevent the etheric body from incarnating properly; the etheric body would not fit the physical body.


[12] Here, Waldorf schools are described — by their founder — as standing in opposition to the forces that can cause humans to become automatons. One danger he has specifically mentioned is the use of demonic vaccines.


[13] I.e., an Anthroposophist can safely give a vaccine to an Anthroposophist (someone who has been brought up in the Anthroposophical way). An Anthroposophist, in other words, will not be harmed by a vaccine. (Steiner seems to contemplate Anthroposophical parents vaccinating their Anthroposophical children.)


[14] "Materialistic ideas," according to Steiner, are ideas produced by the physical brain. They are false ideas, he said. (True ideas come to us from the gods; they are accessible through trained clairvoyance. The chief materialistic idea is the proposition that only the material or physical plane of existence is real.) Here, Steiner is saying that people who accept his teachings — people who have Anthroposophical, spiritual ideas — are safe. But people who fill their minds with materialistic thoughts — people who are too deeply immersed in the material plane of existence — are in grave danger.


[15] I.e., a demonic, Ahrimanic phantom enters the human organism.









June 15, 2018



ROCKETS, STEM,  

AND THE SPIRIT REALM 




Four students at a Waldorf school in Australia have made news with a far-flying bottle rocket. The following is from The Newcastle and Lake McGuire STAR:



Newcastle Waldorf students blast off 

to national STEM title, placing first 

in junior division for rockets


[by] Isaac McIntyre


FOUR Newcastle Waldorf School students have blasted into national glory with their rockets, claiming top spot in the first national Aeronautical Velocity Challenge in Wollongong.


Darcy Crofts, Rowan Dale, Harry Miller and Patrick Scobie, all Year 8 students at the Hunter school, were accompanied by their teach Troy Bull to the national titles after securing victory in the regional division just two weeks before.


In the regional heats, students from primary, junior and senior categories competed to design, build and launch...bottle rockets.…


Crofts, Dale, Miller and Scobie claimed the top spot at the national event by achieving the furthest distance with their crafted rocket….




◊ • ◊




The students certainly should be congratulated for their achievement. Whether they managed to build an outstanding bottle rocket due to their Waldorf education may be uncertain, but this uncertainty does not diminish their victory.


“STEM” stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. Waldorf schools are usually weak in these areas, so they must be permitted to trumpet any suggestion of success. [For previous coverage of the Waldorf approach to these subjects, see, e.g., items dated June 9 and May 21, 2018.] A bottle rocket uses water and pressurized air as its "fuel". [See https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/rocket/rktbot.html.]



The homepage of the website for Newcastle Waldorf School begins with this:


About Rudolf Steiner


Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was an Austrian philosopher, literary scholar, architect, playwright, educator and social thinker. He is the founder of Anthroposophy, a movement based on the knowledge that there is a spiritual world accessible to pure thought through a path of self-development. Its practical applications include Waldorf Education, biodynamic agriculture, anthroposophical medicine, architecture, and new artistic impulses, especially eurythmy.  [http://www.newcastlewaldorfschool.nsw.edu.au]


The reference to “a spiritual world accessible to pure thought” is especially important. This, indeed, points us to the core of the Waldorf mission — and it is distinctly different from an emphasis on science, math, or other techie pursuits here on the physical plane of existence. The thinking that, according to Steiner, allows us to apprehend the spirit realm is, at its center, clairvoyance. [See the following news item, “Karma, Clairvoyance, and the Gods”.]



You can often tell whether Anthroposophists or Waldorf representatives are telling you the truth about Rudolf Steiner by considering the labels they attach to him. The lengthy list of labels used by Newcastle Waldorf School is breathtaking: "philosopher, literary scholar, architect, playwright, educator and social thinker." 


A far more accurate, and concise, label for Steiner is one he often used himself: occultist (meaning one who claims to possess occult — that is, hidden or secret — spiritual knowledge). Steiner was an occultist. He announced his allegiance to occultism in statements such as this:


[I]n occultism, we call the Moon the ‘Cosmos of Wisdom’ and the Earth the ‘Cosmos of Love.’” — Rudolf Steiner, THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL BEINGS ON MAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1961), lecture 6, GA 102.


"In occultism, we...." 


He made many other, similar, self-identifying statements. [See "Occultism".]

— R.R.










June 15, 2018



KARMA, CLAIRVOYANCE,  

AND THE GODS 



To understand Waldorf education and its premises, we need to dig into the doctrines of Anthroposophy. One way to do so is to follow the daily offerings posted at The Rudolf Steiner Archive and e.Lib.


Here is an excerpt from one of the Steiner lectures featured at the Archive today, June 15, 2018. I have added a few footnotes that may help newcomers work their way through the passage.



In concluding our studies of karma [1] we are led again to the realisation that while man faces the three kingdoms of Nature here on Earth [2], behind him are the spiritual kingdoms of the Hierarchies, one above the other. [3] And as here on the Earth his physical body encompasses him and prevents him from bringing to fulfilment by magic the moral forces of his soul [4], after death the world of the Hierarchies receives him and enables him to make effective magically for the next incarnation what he cannot achieve in one earthly life. [5] When a man passes over from one earthly life to the next he would in all circumstances, if his further evolution were to proceed consistently, develop clairvoyance with the head-system yielded by the former life; Archai, Archangeloi and Angeloi would lead him to clairvoyance. [6] Hence if a man is to have insight into spiritual reality — insight that without an iota of superstition or charlatanry can be called clairvoyance — he must be able to project himself with a certain cosmic consciousness into his previous life on Earth, although in the external world he has progressed to his present incarnation. [7]


— Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS - Esoteric Studies, Vol. VII (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), lecture 9, GA 239. [https://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/Dates/19240615a01.html]



◊ • ◊


Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


[1] The doctrines of karma and reincarnation are fundamental to the belief system underlying Waldorf education: Anthroposophy. [See “Karma” and “Reincarnation”.] This statement comes near the end of the final, concluding lecture in the book. Here Steiner summarizes the central message of these lectures.


[2] I.e., during our intermittent incarnations on the physical Earth, we are confronted by — and, to some extent, limited by — the three kingdoms of nature: the mineral kingdom, the plant kingdom, and the animal kingdom. (Above them is the fourth kingdom of nature, our own: the human kingdom.) In a broader sense, during Earthly life we are defined and limited by the laws and restrictions of physicality. [See the entry for “kingdoms of nature” in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Enyclopedia.]


[3] I.e., above the physical level of existence is the spiritual level, which Steiner said is defined by nine ranks of gods. These nine ranks are subdivided into three groupings that Steiner dubbed “hierarchies.” [See “Polytheism”.] In Anthroposophical discourse, the term “hierarchies” is often used as a synonym for “gods.”


[4] I.e., during physical life, the limitations of our physical bodies prevent us from fully enacting and discharging our karmas. (Karma is a matter of morality: Our actions in past lives present us with moral requirements that we must discharge in subsequent lives.)


The word “magic” should not be taken lightly. Anthroposophy teaches that various forms of magic are quite real and quite powerful. [See “Magic”.] Clairvoyance itself may be deemd a sort of magic — or a mere fantasy. [See "Clairvoyance".]


[5] I.e., when we live in the spirit realm between our Earthly incarnations, the gods enable us to more fully discharge our karmas. This prepares us for our next physical incarnations.


[6] I.e., if we were to evolve properly, we should attain clairvoyance as a natural consequence of reincarnation. Each Earthly life should lead us to develop a head, in our next life, that would be capable of clairvoyance. The gods of the three lowest ranks (Spirits of Personality, Spirits of Fire, and Sons of Twilight — more commonly called Archai, Archangels, and Angels) would help steer this process.


But in practice, Steiner taught, clairvoyance is not so easily acquired. Ancient peoples had clairvoyance as a natural birthright, but modern peoples have mostly lost this gift. To become clairvoyant now, we generally need to heed the guidance of Rudolf Steiner himself. Or so Steiner said. [See, e.g., the entry for “clairvoyance” in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Enyclopedia.]


[7] To have true spiritual insight (true clairvoyance), we need to see back into our prior incarnation on Earth. Ordinary understanding might indicate that you are merely the person whom you seem to be in your current form, but true cosmic (clairvoyant) awareness reveals that you are a spirit who is moving through a long, interlinked series of incarnations. [See the entries for “incarnation” and “evolution of consciousness” in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Enyclopedia.]


— R.R.








June 14, 2018



◊ READINGS ◊




MEETING AND TALKING TO 

INVISIBLE FRIENDS 



Waldorf schools place surprising emphasis on certain invisible entities known as elemental beings, or nature spirits, or fairies. Young Waldorf students are shown many figurines, and dolls, and paintings of these beings. And the kids are encouraged to make their own drawings and paintings of these beings.


This can all seem cute. But there are serious purposes lurking in the background. You see, according to the Waldorf belief system, elemental beings really exist. [For recent Waldorf Watch coverage of this subject, see, e.g., items from May 28 and May 26, 2018.]


A recent Anthroposophical book shines a peculiar light on this peculiar subject. Published in 2017, it is titled SCHOOL OF THE ELEMENTAL BEINGS.




[SteinerBooks, 2017.]



Here are a few excerpts from sections titled "How Can One Meeting Elemental Beings?" and "Speaking with Elemental Beings":



"One cannot really tell when and where the path begins that finally leads to a meeting with the elemental beings. It will, in any case, be a winding path, a path of tests and trials ... [T]he soul mood of a human being fashions the spiritual space through which the beings of the elemental world can meet the human. This space is the spiritual house in which the human soul and the elementals meet ... One can win [the elementals'] confidence if one simply remains where one is, and waits. They will recognize that one is serious ... Setting up burning wax candles, or burning incense or scented resins can be especially effective in such a case. It can also make sense to light a small fire. Then [the elementals] will come to warm themselves...." — Karsten Massei, SCHOOL OF THE ELEMENTAL BEINGS (SteinerBooks, 2017), pp. 47-51.


"The elemental beings wish for humans to come into contact with them ... We ought to overcome our shyness about conversing with them ... They would like to ask many questions of us. When we stop in a place in nature, then usually we are being observed by some elemental beings. Shyly they approach to see who is there ... The elemental beings hope that conversations [between themselves and us] become a habit. They would receive great strength through this ... [H]uman beings who begin to speak to them can be much more visible to them. The result is that they can support the work of human beings much better, and can stand by them actively with the great tasks they have to manage." — Karsten Massei, SCHOOL OF THE ELEMENTAL BEINGS, pp. 51-53. 



◊ • ◊



From a rational, modern perspective, the idea that we can meet fairies and converse with them is preposterous. Indeed, we might worry about the sanity of anyone who claimed to be able to do these things. Yet from an Anthroposophical perspective, these are perfectly sensible undertakings. Rudolf Steiner taught that elemental beings really exist, and his followers today still affirm this proposition. [See "Neutered Nature".]


The question for any parents who are thinking about sending their children to Waldorf schools is which of these perspectives is correct. Do you believe in elemental beings? Would you like your children to believe in them? If so, a Waldorf school may be just what you are looking for. But if not, you almost certainly should look for some other kind of school.


— R.R.











June 11, 2018 




CONSOLATIONS 

OF DEATH 




A new publication from Rudolf Steiner Press, available this month: 






[Rudolf Steiner Press, 2018.]




From the publisher: 



MEDITATIONS FOR THE DEAD 


Connecting to those who have Died 


[by] Rudolf Steiner 



As a spiritual teacher, Rudolf Steiner wrote many inspired and beautifully-crafted verses. Often they were given in relation to specific situations or in response to individual requests; sometimes they were offered to assist generally in the process of meditation. Regardless of their origins, they are uniformly powerful in their ability to connect the meditating individual with spiritual archetypes. Thus, the meditations provide valuable tools for developing experience and knowledge of subtle dimensions of reality. 


Matthew Barton has translated and selected Steiner’s verses, sensitively arranging them by theme. In this collection – for maintaining a connection to those who have died – Rudolf Steiner offers hope and consolation to the bereaved. The first section features words of wisdom on death and its deeper, spiritual meaning; the second part consists of verses which stress the continued links between the living and the dead, indicating how our thoughts can help those who have departed earthly life. The final section is devoted to verses which express something of what the dead experience in their new existence. 




◊ • ◊ 


Waldorf Watch Response: 


The "verses" written by Rudolf Steiner are, in reality, prayers. [See "Prayers".] 


Most of the verses or prayers written by Steiner are addressed to gods, but some are addressed to the dead. Several collections of funereal Steiner prayers have been published previously; they have borne such titles as LIVING WITH THE DEAD (Sophia Books, 2003), THE DEAD ARE WITH US (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2006), OUR DEAD (SteinerBooks, 2011), and STAYING CONNECTED: How to Continue Your Relationships with Those Who Have Died (Anthroposophic Press, 1999). The new collection, MEDITATIONS FOR THE DEAD, enlarges this roll. 


We should note that Anthroposophical prayers addressed to the dead are often meant to help, encourage, or strengthen departed souls in one way or another. Here is one such prayer, in this case addressed to a soul who committed suicide: 



"Your will was weak. 

Strengthen your will. 

I send you warmth for your coldness. 

I send you light for your darkness. 

My love to you. 

My thoughts with you. 

Grow, walk on." 


— Rudolf Steiner, LIVING WITH THE DEAD, p. 34. 



Presumably the dead are grateful to receive such constructive thoughts. 


Of course, prayers and meditations for the dead are not meant exclusively to help souls who have gone on to the spirit realm. Many are also meant to bring consolation to the living. Steiner taught that we can sometimes receive messages from the dead, thereby maintaining our bonds with the beloved departed. Steiner consoled the widow of a German general, for instance, by conveying messages from him to her. [See "Steiner and the Warlord".] 



◊ • ◊ 



Young children in Waldorf schools are sometimes taught to recite prayers for the dead or to undertake other actions that will aid the dead. The children are taught to "serve" the dead by, for instance, celebrating "death days" — the days on which various individuals died. The following is from a volume written for the guidance of Waldorf teachers: 



"Should we foster ways to serve the dead with small children [i.e., teach small children to serve the dead]? ... Yes, celebrate the death day like an earthly birthday ... Children who become accustomed to celebrating from a very early age the birthdays and death days of people who are part of their social life, learn to accept the spiritual world of beings as real. Thus they gain a basis for religious experience." — Helmut Kügelgen, WORKING WITH THE DEAD (Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America, 2003), p. 2. 



◊ • ◊ 



(It is good, by the way, to see Rudolf Steiner identified as a "spiritual teacher," as Rudolf Steiner Press does in the promotional material quoted above. Often, for PR purposes, Steiner's followers call him a "philosopher," or a "scientist", or an "educational reformer." But, in reality, he was a spiritual teacher, an occultist, the leader of a new religion. It was in this capacity — not as a philosopher or scientist or educational reformer — that he wrote prayers for his followers to use. Writing such prayers is something that religious leaders do. It is something that Steiner did.) 


— R.R. 










June 9, 2018



WINNING MATH

AT WALDORF



From The Armidale Express [New South Wales, Australia]:



University of New England 

Year 8 Maths Day attended by 

Armidale Waldorf School



Mathematics students from high schools across NSW [New South Wales] travelled to The University of New England [an Australian university] on Friday, May 18 to participate in the annual Year 8 Maths Day.


Two teams of students from The Armidale Waldorf School attended the Maths Day for the first time and surprised themselves by winning first prize in the Central Schools category [i.e., schools in rural and isolated areas of NSW]. Their teacher Joanne Lowe said she thought the event would be a wonderful way for the school’s students to meet those from other schools in an engaging and stimulating environment....




◊ • ◊


Waldorf Watch Response:


Waldorf schools have typically had low academic standards. [See "Academic Standards at Waldorf".] But, of course, there have been exceptions, and many Waldorf schools today make a more concerted effort to shine. Moreover, while Waldorf schools have usually closed themselves off from the outside world, some Waldorf schools today participate at least occasionally in events held beyond the Waldorf walls.


Math holds a special place in the Waldorf curriculum. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, taught that math reflects the underlying laws and structure of the cosmos:


“[N]umbers and numerical proportions have a certain meaning for the cosmos and the world. It is in numbers, we might say, that the harmony that wells through space is expressed.” — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SIGNS AND SYMBOLS (Anthroposophic Press, 1972), p. 31.


Math leads us to apprehend truths that are not dependent on our physical senses. Therefore, Steiner said, math lays a groundwork for occultism (i.e., transcendent apprehension of the spiritual realm):


“Mathematical science teaches the way to become independent of sense-perception ... No one can become an Occultist who is not able to accomplish within himself the transition from thought permeated with sense to thought emancipated from sense-perception." — Rudolf Steiner, “Mathematics and Occultism”, THE ANTHROPOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT, Vol. V, No. 28, GA 35. [For more on Anthroposophical occultism, see "Occultism".]


One branch of mathematics, geometry, has particular spiritual power, Steiner taught:


“Basic geometric concepts awaken clairvoyant abilities.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOURTH DIMENSION: Sacred Geometry, Alchemy, and Mathematics (Anthroposophic Press, 2001), p. 92. [For more on clairvoyance and its place in Anthroposophy, see "Clairvoyance".]


Students studying math in a Waldorf school are unlikely to be taught Steiner's doctrines on such matters, even if the math teachers accept these doctrines wholeheartedly. Waldorf schools usually lead students toward Anthroposophy subtly, indirectly — they rarely lay out Anthroposophical beliefs in an explicit, open manner. [See "Spiritual Agenda" and "Sneaking It In".] Still, a spiritual, Anthroposophical mood is likely to permeate all instruction in a Waldorf school, including math instruction:


"It is possible to introduce a religious element into every subject, even into math lessons. Anyone who has some knowledge of Waldorf teaching will know that this statement is true. A Christian element pervades every subject, even mathematics. This fundamental religious current flows through all of [Waldorf] education." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD's CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 94.


The Waldorf-pervading religion, which Steiner sometimes misleadingly identified as Christianity, is in fact Anthroposophy — that is, it is the occult belief system promulgated by Rudolf Steiner himself. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?" and "Was He Christian?"]


For more about math instruction in Waldorf schools, see "Mystic Math".


— R.R.











June 8, 2018


◊ READINGS ◊

WALDORF - SUBTLETIES
AND INCARNATIONS 



The key to Waldorf education can be found in the book STUDY OF MAN, a collection of lectures Rudolf Steiner delivered to the teachers at the first Waldorf school. Waldorf teachers today still study this book intensively. Such study is often part of their training to become Waldorf teachers, and it is often part of the continuing study that Waldorf teachers undertake — individually and collectively — throughout their careers. 


To aid them in their study, Waldorf Publications has recently put out a book titled ENTRY POINTS - A Guide to Rudolf Steiner’s Study of Man.




[Waldorf Publications, 2017;
edited by Waldorf educator Elan Leibner.]


Because Waldorf teachers make use of this guide, we should peek into it ourselves. Here’s a sample, from early in the book. I have added some footnotes that may help you navigate your way through the Anthroposophical jargon:



“Rudolf Steiner describes that the task of education in the spiritual sense [1] is to bring the Soul-Spirit [2] into harmony with the Life Body. [3] He introduces the terms sentient or astral body [4], etheric body [5], and physical body. Gaining a background in what these terms mean is an essential part of early Waldorf teacher education and needs to be revisited over and over again. Working with these subtle bodies [6] is a bedrock of the Waldorf teacher’s understanding of human development….” — ENTRY POINTS - A Guide to Rudolf Steiner’s Study of Man, edited by Elan Leibner (Waldorf Publications, 2017), p. 17. [7]



This passage contains many intriguing constituents, most obviously the references to "subtle bodies" — the life body, the astral body, and so on. We will get to these. But first let's absorb the overall thesis of the passage. As conceived in the Waldorf movement, correct education in the spiritual sense differs markedly from what most people mean by the word "education." Spiritually correct education (which, from a Waldorf perspective, is Waldorf education itself) does not primarily aim to convey knowledge to children. No, the task of spiritually correct (i.e., Waldorf) education is to help harmonize the Soul-Spirit with the Life Body. 


Many people may be surprised to hear this, yet it is an absolutely basic Waldorf premise. Giving kids a real education (teaching them about the real world, equipping them with skills to make their way in the real world) is not a priority in Waldorf schools. Thus, for instance, a leading proponent of Waldorf education has written this: “The success of Waldorf Education...can be measured in the life force attained. Not acquisition of knowledge and qualifications, but the life force is the ultimate goal of this school.” — Peter Selg, THE ESSENCE OF WALDORF EDUCATION (SteinerBooks, 2010)‚ p. 30. 


Not knowledge. Not qualifications. Not, in other words, education — not as most people understand the word "education," anyway. If you send your children to a Waldorf school expecting them to receive a good preparatory education, you will likely be disappointed. Waldorf schools are concerned with other matters. [8]


To do their work well, Waldorf teachers must comprehend the “subtle bodies” described by Rudolf Steiner. These include the life body (i.e., the etheric body) and the sentient body (i.e., the astral body). These bodies are "subtle" in that they are invisible. To perceive them, you must be clairvoyant. [9]


Waldorf teachers must also understand the concept of the Soul-Spirit. Like the invisible bodies we have mentioned, the Soul-Spirit, too, is subtle — it, too, is invisible except through the use of clairvoyance.


The central question about all of this, of course, is whether any of it is real. Is the "life body" not just "subtle" — is it a mere fantasy? The same goes for the astral body, and the Soul-Spirit, and clairvoyance. Quite possibly none of these things really exists. Yet these are fundamental concepts underpinning Waldorf education. According to ENTRY POINTS (which means, according to Rudolf Steiner), teachers in Waldorf schools are expected to believe in these things. Working with these things is central to the task of education in Waldorf schools — working with these things, and believing in these things, is a central requirement for Waldorf teachers. Teachers in other sorts of schools do not face this requirement, but Waldorf teachers certainly face it. “Working with these subtle bodies is a bedrock of the Waldorf teacher’s understanding of human development….” [10]


In order to meet their Anthroposophical obligations, Waldorf teachers must study, and study again, and study yet again, Rudolf Steiner’s occult preachments. “Gaining a background in what these terms mean is an essential part of early Waldorf teacher education and needs to be revisited over and over again.” Teachers in other sorts of schools do not face this requirement. But this is a fundamental requirement for Waldorf teachers.


We should all let this sink in. This is how true-blue Anthroposophical teachers think, speak, and write about their aims and practices. This is what Waldorf schools are all about. 


And here's a troubling thought. If the subtle bodies, and the Soul-Spirit, and clairvoyance are mere fantasies — if they do not exist — then the whole point of Waldorf education is null and void. The efforts of Waldorf teachers to harmonize the subtle bodies with the Soul-Spirit are, in that case, a waste of time and effort. Which means the whole edifice of Waldorf education implodes. There is no truth in the Waldorf approach. It is a waste of time and effort.


This is a troubling thought. And yet it is the truth.



◊ • ◊

Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] From the Waldorf perspective, education in the true “spiritual sense” is education based on Rudolf Steiner’s gnostic creed, Anthroposophy. When a Waldorf school is run properly — that is, in accordance with Rudolf Steiner's teachings — then it provides education in the true “spiritual sense” as conceived by Steiner.


[2] This, according to Steiner, is the combined soul and spirit; it is often called the spirit-soul. Steiner taught that a human being has both a soul and a spirit. Your soul is your spiritual identity during one incarnation; your spirit is your eternal spiritual identity, which you carry through all your incarnations. [For further information about the various subjects we are touching on, see the appropriate entries in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia: "soul", "spirit", etc.]


[3] According to Waldorf belief, this is the etheric body; it is an envelope (a body) of formative forces. Technically, harmonizing the Soul-Spirit with the etheric body is the chief goal of Waldorf education only in the early years. Steiner taught that the etheric body incarnates at about age seven. Education before then is largely a preparation for this event, and education immediately afterward is largely a response to this event. Later, attention starts to turn to the astral body, which Steiner said incarnates at about age 14. [See “Incarnation”.]


[4] This is the second of the subtle bodies that children develop, Steiner taught. An envelope or body of soul forces, it incarnates at about age 14. [Again, see “Incarnation”.]


[5] This is the life body, mentioned previously. It is also sometimes called the formative-forces body.


[6] For "subtle", read invisible, gossamer, spiritual. (Steiner often preferred the term "supersensible" — meaning beyond the reach of our ordinary senses.)


[7] STUDY OF MAN has also been published under other titles, such as A GENERAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE HUMAN BEING and THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE. Under the latter title, the book is the first volume in the series Foundations of Waldorf Education, published by the Anthroposophic Press. [See "Oh Humanity".]


[8] Of course, Waldorf schools do not completely disregard education in the regular sense; kids are not utterly ignorant when they graduate from Waldorf schools. But providing a regular education is, at most, a secondary priority at Waldorf schools.


[9] Steiner claimed to be clairvoyant. Most of his spiritual teachings derive from his professed use of clairvoyance. Many of Steiner's followers — including many Waldorf teachers — think that they, too, are clairvoyant. This points to the emptiness at the core of Anthroposophy and Waldorf education. Clairvoyance is a delusion. [See "Clairvoyance".]


[10] Not all Waldorf teachers believe these things. But if we are to take Steiner and Leibner seriously, such teachers probably should not be working in Waldorf schools.


— R.R.











June 6, 2018



MANY PROBLEMS; 

CONSISTENT FAILINGS 



From The Hemel Gazette [Johnson Publishing, UK]: Here's the latest on the travails at the Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley. The UK's Office for Standards in Education has ordered the school to close following a series of failed inspections.



Rudolf Steiner School meeting: 

Parents told “Hope for the best 

but prepare for the worst”


By Ben Raza



Parents were told there are “lots and lots of problems” at an emotional meeting [sic] on Monday night at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley. 


At the special meeting parents were given an update on the £9,857-a-year school which could be forced to close. 


Around 150 people were at the meeting, where trustees discussed the government’s moves to close to school as well as the possibility that it will be forced to close if it cannot get insurance for the next school year. 


Chair of the trustees, Peter Harrington, told the meeting there was no single issue or member of staff which was to blame for the school’s plight, but that it was “consistent failings across a range of issues”. 


He said...“There are lots and lots of problems at the school.”


Trustees said that the school is “close to completion” on a corporate loan to secure the school’s medium-term future....


Parent trustee Laurence Chester...struck one of the most downbeat notes of the evening, telling parents to “hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” 


After admitting that school bosses had been “divided” he said: “We have a responsibility to be very clear about the extremely high level of risk that we feel the school to be at. To give any other impression would be to mislead you....”


◊ • ◊



For previous coverage of the situation at the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, see Waldorf Watch news items dated May 31, May 30, May 9, May 2, April 28, April 19, and April 14, 2018.


— R.R.









June 5, 2018



DOING HARM THROUGH 

A STRATEGY FOR GROWTH 

(CONTINUED)



Yesterday we looked at the conclusion of a talk given by former Waldorf teacher Grégoire Perra. In his talk, Perra discussed the efforts made by Waldorf schools to depict themselves as superb educational institutions for exceptional students, both gifted students and challenged students. Perra's concluding remarks dealt mainly with challenged students, but we should also consider what he had to say about gifted students.


Here is a passage from the middle of Perra's talk. (I have added a few footnotes.)



"A recurrent argument recently developed by the Steiner-Waldorf schools consists in saying that their curriculum provides a welcoming format for 'gifted' children. They thus try to attract pupils who are poorly served in the traditional school system because of their high intellectual capability.


".... [But] what is the reality?


"First of all, it must be understood that the teaching staffs of Steiner-Waldorf schools are, for doctrinal reasons, absolutely hostile to intelligence as such. [1] For them, the intellect is not a positive attribute, but rather it is a sign that some students are possessed by evil 'Ahrimanic' or Satanic spirits. [2] Waldorf teachers therefore take a very dim view of a pupil with great potential, and they will do everything, in accordance with their conceptions, to slow down the pupil's intellectual development, to put his/her reason to sleep for as long as possible, and to weaken his/her intelligence by immersing the student in the imaginary and the irrational. [3]


"Moreover, Steiner-Waldorf teachers would in any case have problems teaching such pupils, being themselves often poorly qualified and intellectually incompetent. Indeed, by their own admission, Steiner-Waldorf schools recruit teachers based more on the edifying character of their personal spiritual quests rather than on their mastery of particular fields of knowledge.... [4]


"Finally, it should be noted that Steiner-Waldorf teachers take a position that totally contradicts one of the main characteristics of gifted students, namely their insatiable curiosity. Steiner-Waldorf teachers, who are mostly Anthroposophists [5], adhere to a doctrine that purports to explain everything about everything, thereby extinguishing curiosity about anything that lies outside Anthroposophy. [6] Anthroposophy is a doctrine that restricts the minds of its followers. Hence, the curiosity of gifted Steiner-Waldorf students confronts teachers who have almost no spirit of inquiry, except about what Steiner and his disciples have said.


"When Steiner-Waldorf schools are able to recruit students with high intellectual potential, they do so by deliberately deceiving the students and their parents. Not only do these schools lack the means to satisfy the students' intellectual needs, but they actually have a deep aversion to intelligence, especially among those who possess it to an unusual degree."


◊ • ◊



Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


[1] The founder of Waldorf education, Rudolf Steiner, often disparaged the brain and brainwork. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Specific".] Here, Perra argues that Waldorf teachers today remain faithful to Steiner's teachings on such matters.


Steiner said that the most important knowledge is attained through the use of clairvoyance, not through the use of the brain. Steiner claimed to be clairvoyant, and many Waldorf teachers think they, too, are clairvoyant. Belief in clairvoyance is the fundamental fallacy undercutting the Waldorf enterprise. [See "Clairvoyance".]


[2] "Ahriman" is one of the chief demons described in the Waldorf belief system, Anthroposophy. Among Anthroposophists, Ahriman is often identified as the evil spirit otherwise known as Satan. [See "Ahriman".] Steiner taught that intellect and the products of intellect (such as modern science and technology) are under the sway of Ahriman. "Intellectuality flows forth from Ahriman as a cold and frosty, soulless cosmic impulse.” — Rudolf Steiner, ANTHROPOSOPHICAL LEADING THOUGHTS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 98.


[3] Waldorf education places great emphasis on spirituality and the supernatural, weaving many myths and other mystic tales into the curriculum. Norse myths — the ancient myths of Northern Europe — are given special prominence. [See "The Gods".] According to Waldorf belief, truth comes to us more through emotion (which is connected to clairvoyance) than through thought. [See, e.g., "Thinking".] Waldorf teachers generally try to retard the intellectual development of their students. [See, e.g., "Thinking Cap".] The emphasis Waldorf schools place on imagination and the arts, an emphasis that can seem highly attractive, leads back to clairvoyance and the supernatural. According to Waldorf belief, imagination is a precursor to — or even an early stage of — clairvoyance. [See "The Waldorf Curriculum" and, e.g., "Magical Arts". Also see the entries of "clairvoyance" and "imagination" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]


[4] According to standard Waldorf practice, teachers are hired mainly because they are Anthroposophists, not because they are well qualified to teach any particular class or subject. Steiner said that Waldorf teachers must be true Anthroposophists. “As teachers in the Waldorf School, you will need to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit and to find a way of putting all compromises aside ... As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118. This standard is still upheld today. "Waldorf teachers must be anthroposophists first and teachers second." — Waldorf teacher Gilbert Childs, STEINER EDUCATION IN THEORY AND PRACTICE (Floris Books, 1991), p. 166. [See "Here's the Answer".]


[5] The ideal Waldorf school, as described by Steiner, would be staffed almost entirely by Anthroposophists. In practice, this goal has been difficult to achieve. Waldorf schools often hire non-Anthroposophists, at least on a temporary basis, when no Anthroposophists apply for a specific post or when other factors become urgent.


[6] Steiner's followers believe Anthroposophy provides encyclopedic, all-encompassing wisdom about all levels of existence. Steiner outlined his body of teachings in the book OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE. [See "Everything".]


— R.R.










June 4, 2018 




DOING HARM THROUGH 

A STRATEGY FOR GROWTH 



Former Waldorf teacher Grégoire Perra has published the text of a talk in which he discusses a strategy used by Waldorf schools to grow beyond the limits of their natural constituency. He says that the schools strive to attract the families of exceptional students (both gifted students and challenged students), making promises to these families that the schools are unable to keep. Indeed, he suggests that the schools often have no real intention of fulfilling their promises. The goal is to enlarge the Waldorf movement, in the hope of eventually supplanting the regular school system for all students, exceptional or not. 


Perra argues that Waldorf schools are extensions of a mystical cult, Anthroposophy. He can speak with authority, having been himself a member of this cult for many years. He says that in the normal course of events, Waldorf schools would likely attract only Anthroposophists and their children, a rather small potential clientele. But, he says, the schools have striven to attract any and all families who are dissatisfied with regular public education. One subset of this potential pool of new recruits consists of families whose children struggle with learning difficulties of various types. Sadly, Perra says, when such families fall for clever Waldorf PR pitches, the children wind up in a school system that denies them qualified care. Instead, as students in Waldorf schools, these children become victims of quack "alternative" treatments. 


Perra writes in French. Anyone able to do so should certainly read his works in full. For English speakers, rough translations must sometimes suffice. Below are excerpts from the conclusion of Perra's talk, translated by myself. 



"Steiner-Waldorf schools skillfully target all those who have problems with the traditional school system, even though these schools have nothing to offer children who have learning difficulties — children who need the services of competent specialists, rather than being placed in the hands of Anthroposophists.


"What is the purpose of this strategy? In my opinion, the primary function of capturing these particular target groups is to provide a first contingent of students to Steiner-Waldorf schools. These schools easily capture those who are already in a difficult or even hostile relationship with the traditional school system, people who have been pushed towards the margins of the traditional system. Thus, it has been possible to expand Steiner-Waldorf schools during the fifty years of their existence in France, adding to the base provided by the children of Anthroposophical parents. In the spirit of the rebellious 1960's, the children of those seduced by the prospect of an alternative education have been drawn toward Steiner-Waldorf schools. The representatives of National Education and the State closed their eyes to this reality, relieved to be rid of students who posed a problem for them, even if this 'waste population' was consigned to institutions that were suspected to be an outgrowth of an aberrant cult. It was only hoped that the phenomenon would remain sufficiently marginal and circumscribed so that it would not attract too much public notice.


"But with time, Steiner-Waldorf schools have grown stronger, patiently building for themselves a reputation of being a credible pedagogical alternative for those left behind by National Education, or even for all students in the general population. The schools' atmosphere of festive observances, of an alternative lifestyle, of warm and benevolent community has allowed a favourable reputation to be built up. This has been all the more possible because the schools have concealed the traumas that necessarily occurred because of the demagoguery and laxity with which they have treated difficult cases. Anthroposophists know how to erect walls of silence around their institutions.


"On the strength of their unearned reputation, the Steiner-Waldorf schools have for some years now posed not only as an alternative for children with problems, but also as a viable competitor to the traditional school system generally ... National Education has unintentionally allowed a monster to grow on its margins for decades, against which it has few defenses today and which could well pose a still greater threat in the future."




◊ • ◊




For translations of some of Perra's previous work, describing his experiences as a Waldorf teacher and, before that, a Waldorf student, see "My Life Among the Anthroposophists", "He Went to Waldorf", "An Intern at Charlie Hebdo", and "Mistreating Kids Lovingly". 


— R.R. 










June 2, 2018 



◊ READINGS ◊ 



WALDORF HIGH SCHOOL 

STEREOTYPES 





[Waldorf Publications, 2016; 

edited by David Mitchell.] 




Books created by proponents of Waldorf education contain many astonishments. Even when such book are meant to make Waldorf seem sensible and admirable, they may present modes of thought that, upon reflection, may cause you to goggle. 


Let's look at a recent book, published by a Waldorf educational association, that includes a year-by-year account of children in high school. In it, you may find a problem we have seen before: The Waldorf tendency to stereotype children. 



"Astral Storm Coming In: The Ninth Grader [1] 


"…Teenagers of this age are by their very nature extremists, swinging from giddiness to depression, from dreamy unwareness to acute attention with the space of seconds. However, it is important to differentiate between boys and girls at this age … The girls come into ninth grade ready to dive into and share their burgeoning inner world, while the boys seem somewhat bewildered by all the changes they are undergoing. [2] ... Ninth-grade boys can appear to be crude dullards when compared to their female counterparts, by whom they are often dwarfed, sometimes in stature as well as in sheer, overpowering emotional intensity.…" [3] 


— Waldorf teacher David Sloan, “Waldorf and Adolescence”, WALDORF EDUCATION - An Introduction for Parents (Waldorf Publications, 2016), pp. 57-58. 



"The Temptations of the World: The Tenth Grader 


"It is not hyperbole to say that dramatic, even radical change takes place between the freshman and sophomore years [4] ... [S]ophomores often return to school in the autumn much fuller of themselves ... Instead of seeing them as neophytes flailing about in the aforementioned ninth-grade swamp [sic], we might picture them as self-assured crew members of a sleep, Greek sailing ship [5] ... They seem more comfortable with themselves ... Yet we teachers have noticed another pattern ... Perhaps it can be traced to this newfound confidence that can border on brazenness. Whatever the reason, many sophomores go 'overboard' ... They get themselves in some kind of trouble — with drugs, sex, stealing, lying.... [6]" 


— David Sloan, “Waldorf and Adolescence”, WALDORF EDUCATION, pp. 58-59. 



"The Dark Night of the Soul: The Eleventh Grader 


"What happens to eleventh graders? Why do so many...find themselves stricken by a malaise that can be termed a 'dark night of the soul'? [7] ... During this dark night of the soul, it seems clear that eleventh graders suffer. One of the ways this manifests is as a deeply felt crisis of confidence ... Yet I really tried to resist the impulse to somehow make these students' struggles less difficult and less painful. Cruel as this sounds, all the angst in the eleventh grade may be both inevitable and, in a certain way, even desirable." [8] 


— David Sloan, “Waldorf and Adolescence”, WALDORF EDUCATION, pp. 59-61. 



"At the Grand Threshold: The Twelfth Grader 


"...As contracted and broody as eleventh graders can get, seniors [i.e., twelfth graders] often seem to acquire a new dimension ... They stand poised on a great threshold, straddling both the world of the school that they are rapidly outgrowing and the larger world they can't wait to take by storm ... Their vision seems to broaden as their thinking deepens ... These suddenly larger souls grapple daily with...the challenge, for example, of how both to express their ever-strengthening individuality on the one hand and at the same time to live in community. And they have a passionate yearning for a new brotherhood of humanity that transcends ethnic and national boundaries. [9]" 


— David Sloan, “Waldorf and Adolescence”, WALDORF EDUCATION, pp. 61-62. 



◊ • ◊ 



Waldorf Watch Footnotes: 


[1] Steiner’s doctrines often lead Waldorf teacher to stereotype children. Is there really such a thing as the ninth grader (singular)? Or aren’t there many, many — an infinitude — of different kinds of ninth graders (plural)? The answer should be obvious. Human variation is nearly limitless. Yet Waldorf teachers often speak and write of the three-year-old child, the fourth-grader, the ninth-grader, and so on. 


As for the "astral storm" — this is a tangential reference to the astral body. ["Steiner termed our feeling, or soul, life as the astral body." —Sloan, p. 57.] Steiner taught that three invisible bodies incarnate during childhood. The second of these is the astral body, which incarnates around age 14. [See "Incarnation".] Kids in the ninth grade — about 13 years old — stand at the brink of this momentous event. Or so Rudolf Steiner said. 


[2] Waldorf teachers recognize that there are differences between children, of course. One difference concerns gender. But on this important subject, Steiner’s doctrines can lead toward sexism. [See “Gender”.] Is it really possible to say that all ninth-grade girls are “ready to dive into and share their burgeoning inner world” and that all ninth-grade boys are (or seem) “somewhat bewildered by all the changes they are undergoing”? This is just another, more focused form of stereotyping. The individuality of students tends to disappear in such stereotypes. 


[3] Sloan takes a little of the sting out of this statement, saying that male ninth graders "can appear" to be louts. Nonetheless, the stereotyping nearly leaps off the page. And so does the negativity of the stereotyping. Thinking about children in these ways, slotting them in categories such as "the ninth grader" of "the ninth-grade boy" — that "crude dullard" — is invidious and potentially hurtful. It is wrong. 


[4] Again, a we find gross generalization being offered here. The tenth grader has undergone a "radical change." (Fundamentally, in Waldorf belief, this change involves the incarnation of the astral body, which — Steiner said — occurs around this time, when a child is about 14 years old.) 


[5] I.e., ancient Greek. In Waldorf belief, children move — more or less in lockstep — along a trajectory causing them to recapitulate the cultural evolution of humanity as a whole. [See, e.g., "Out in the Open".] High school sophomores have risen pretty high on this trajectory, but they still have a long way to go. 


[6] Because their thinking often includes categories and concepts propounded by Steiner, Waldorf teachers may fall into the trap of seeing only what they expect to see. Yes, many high school sophomores may get into trouble. But the same is true of many high school freshmen, and many seventh graders, and many fourth graders, and many kids (and adults) of all ages. What Sloan says here (the tenth grader often goes overboard) is essentially meaningless, since the same is true of people of all ages. Sloan's statement is null, except in terms of the false distinctions laid out in Anthroposophical theorizing. 


Sloan goes on to acknowledge that some kids "fall" before or after tenth grade, but he claims that "the general tendency is for this to happen, if it happens at all, in the student's sophomore year." [p. 59.] This is prejudicial stereotyping. Tarring eleventh graders are being particularly prone to "drugs, sex, stealing, lying" is surely unfair. And if Waldorf teachers except students of a certain age to be especially prone to these errors, their thinking may be biased and damaging to the kids in their charge. 


[7] The term "dark night of the soul" is often used to refer to the torment of a spiritual seeker or mystic who has lost any assurance of spiritual consolation. By extension, the term may also refer to a loss of faith in God. Eleventh graders may certainly go through such a period of doubt and soul-searching. But so may people of virtually any age. A thoughtful child of six may have deep, despairing thoughts. An elder approaching death may be tormented by spiritual doubt. Any human, at any age beyond earliest childhood, may have a dark night of the soul. Saying that eleventh graders are particularly prone to this condition is an unfounded generalization. It is another instance of Anthroposophical stereotyping. 


[8] The Waldorf belief system is fatalistic. Kids move along a predetermined trajectory, and they do so in fulfillment of karma. Importing the concept from Eastern religions, Steiner taught that each human has a self-created karma that must be played out. [See "Karma".] Preventing people from fulfilling their karmas is almost always wrong, Steiner indicated. So, if eleventh graders are in pain — tough. As Sloan writes, "[A]ll the angst...may be both inevitable and, in a certain way, even desirable." So a Waldorf teacher should "resist the impulse to somehow make these students' struggles less difficult and less painful." Sloan is correct that this may seem cruel. More than that, it may actually be cruel. If an adult can ease a child's suffering, surely s/he should do so. 


[9] This is indeed how Waldorf teachers often want to think of their work — this is the triumphant end of Waldorf education, as they conceive it. Yet is it anything more than wishful thinking? There is clearly an element of magical thinking it in. Seniors "suddenly" become self-assured and eager to "take [the world] by storm." They possess "ever-strengthening individuality" as well as strong social consciences (they yearn for "a new brotherhood of humanity that transcends ethnic and national boundaries"). Waldorf education must surely be praised if this is what it produces. But let's pause a moment. Is true individuality likely to come out of an education that so consistently stereotypes children, thereby suppressing individuality? And is an enlightened social conscience likely to come out of an education that has roots in occult racism? [See "Steiner's Racism" and "Embedded Racism".] 


Some children certainly thrive in Waldorf schools. But others certainly are harmed. [See "Who Gets Hurt?"] And even the self-confidence that fortunate Waldorf students develop may prove unfounded. [See "Mistreating Kids Lovingly".] The unrealistic generalizing — in a word, the stereotyping — found in the text we have been examining does not provide much assurance that Waldorf education will be successful, even according to its own lights.