Unravelling the Truth
About the Steiner School Movement
[For reasons that will become apparent as you read,
the author of this essay prefers to withhold her name.
But her essay rings true.
Her experiences in the U.K. were much like those
of mothers whose children have attended Steiner schools
in the U.S., Germany, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand,
The fetishizing of nature and the promise of an unhurried childhood can be very appealing to the educationally anxious parent looking to be green and good.1 I had previously read about Steiner Waldorf schools in a glowing article in a national newspaper.2 It described an holistic creative education based outdoors using "nature as teacher." Intrigued, I began by taking my son to a Steiner parent and toddler group. So enchanted was I at the time, I managed to persuade my family to move 40 miles away to be near a bigger Steiner school where our son would be able to attend long-term. I remember attending the summer fair and whilst I stood in the queue to request a prospectus3, a woman in front of me asked the administrator the following question: "How will the school meet the needs of my psychic daughter?" He smiled and replied "We are all psychic here." I thought he was joking. [See "Clairvoyance".]
Once we had moved and enrolled our son, the teacher started to mention the word “Anthroposophy” and the existence of a study group for new parents. I felt foolish that I had to ask what Anthroposophy was (I had previously looked for the word in my dictionary and had not found it) and was told it was the study of human wisdom. The teacher didn't tell me a core belief of Anthroposophy is the concept of reincarnation of the soul through racial hierarchies from Black to Aryan as a consequence of a person's karma; or the classification of a child's soul according to their physiognomy, nor was I told of the Anthroposophical movement's history. I didn't question further at that stage. As one parent recently observed "You don't expect a school to lie."
Many alarm bells rang during our time there. I remember the intense gaze of the teachers that would continue far longer than was comfortable. There was little laughter, everything was carried out in a very slow and purposeful way with a sing-song voice, the lighting of candles, the wearing of strange hats, their infatuation with wool — I recall a felting session where the teacher spoke of the special energy of the wool, declaring it had come from a biodynamic sheep. I recall the time the teacher took both my hands in hers and explaining my son had "chosen me as his mother," on a further occasion she stated he had "chosen the school" and that children "get what they need" – ostensibly an innocent cliché until one understands it's particular meaning within Anthroposophy. I also recall politely refusing a teacher's offer, made during a parent and toddler group session, to lend me a copy of THE INDIGO CHILDREN and compile an astrological chart based on my son's birth date. Another time, when a boy enacted a scene from a Spiderman cartoon, the teacher asked his mother why he was behaving in this way. The mother explained that her son had been playing with children who lived on the same street — children who watched television and went to the cinema — the teacher replied, "It’s best to play with children from the school community."
I noticed that some of the Steiner school parents became progressively withdrawn from family and friends outside the Steiner movement . I remember being invited to various other self-development programmes including Landmark Education/Forum, Non-Violent Communication (also known as Compassionate Communication), the Amma movement, and Family Constellation workshops — programmes the school appeared to endorse with many of the Steiner teachers participating in them. I remember the school reception displaying numerous leaflets promoting homeopathy. Mention of vaccination was conspicuously absent. I remember asking many questions and being told I was “too in the head” and that I should “learn to think with my heart.” I recall parents asking the teacher's advice regarding well-meaning grandparents buying electronic and plastic toys, both of which are frowned upon in Steiner schools. The teacher directed them to a specialist Steiner Waldorf toy catalogue. I began to think this was more about control than care.
I remember looking around the school one Saturday and seeing a group of children performing a strange dance in long robes (eurythmy) which brought to mind certain unsought images from my degree-level studies involving mid-20th century European history. When the teacher noticed we were watching, she stopped the children and stared at us indicating we were not supposed to be witnessing the children's performance even though it was outside. I remember feeling quite unnerved at the time.
I recall going home and looking through the books I had bought on Steiner and being reassured by a statement in one of them that all Steiner Waldorf schools were closed during the Nazi era. I later learnt this assertion is incorrect and that the truth is far more complex, it is also worth noting that virtually all books on Rudolf Steiner and Steiner education are published by Anthroposophical publishers.
During one of the sessions we attended at the school, my son was violently pushed backwards off a play bridge. I understand this is not unusual, as it could happen in any nursery or school. However, as I sat there comforting my child, I noticed that the teacher who witnessed the incident didn't respond in any way or acknowledge what happened. Instead, she continued to sew in silence. I sat there in utter disbelief. The act of ignoring felt more violent than the original act itself. Seeing that I was somewhat baffled and distressed by the teacher's lack of concern, a parent later explained to me that the children were "working out their karma." [See "Karma".] I remember questioning her as I couldn't comprehend what she had just said. She explained that her sister was a Steiner Waldorf teacher in Germany and repeated that it was their karma — it was one child’s karma to push, and my child’s karma to be pushed. I later telephoned the school stating we didn't think the education was suitable for our son. They tried persuading us to stay, explaining that it can take up to a year for some of the children to settle.
That should have been the end of our association with Steiner Waldorf schools, but unfortunately we had bought a house near the Steiner school our son had attended and over the following four years many Steiner Waldorf families moved to the same location. Thus we unintentionally found ourselves living in a Steiner community. How my family dressed, the food we ate, how we spoke, how we moved, the type of toys our children played with, whether we watched television, whether we had our children vaccinated, what car we drove, even the fuel we put in the car — all came under intense scrutiny. I did try to discuss my concerns regarding Anthroposophy with some of the families, including my thoughts that some of the characteristics of the movement appeared to be cult-like. But I was told "that is what a novice would say" and that I didn't understand. I remember one day wearing a pink dress and one of the parents stating “You're wearing pink! You're becoming more spiritual!”
One time I had been invited by a new Steiner family to their housewarming party. The wife was Japanese and had asked that all the women dress up in her kimonos. I remember arriving late and some of the mothers selecting the only black kimono and wrapping it around me saying how much it suited me.
The behaviour of some of the children (and parents) became so worrying that it forced me to look further into Anthroposophy. It was the impression they gave of superiority, particularly the euphemistic new age language they used that produced disquieting echoes of my previous studies. I remember typing a search into google "Steiner and Nazism" and discovering the research of Peter Staudenmaier, and everything profoundly fell into place. [http://www.social-ecology.org/2009/01/Anthroposophy-and-ecofascism-2/] Dr. Staudenmaier has recently completed his Ph.D. at Cornell. The title of his thesis is "'Between Occultism and Fascism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race and Nation in Germany and Italy, 1900 – 1945." Any parent who is considering a Waldorf school should read Staudenmaier’s invaluable work.
We eventually moved away and I thought I had put the whole experience behind me until I was alarmed to read that Education Minister Michael Gove is keen to fund Steiner schools under his 'Free Schools' policy. I understand and share Mr. Gove's views that parents should indeed have choice, but what about the children's choice? Unless parents and inspectors are informed about the true nature of Anthroposophy, there is no real choice.
The existence of a leaked transcript detailing a meeting dated 17th November 2009 between Rachel Wolf, Sam Freedman (education advisor to Michael Gove) and the Steiner Waldorf Fellowship makes for alarming reading. The main subject was the possibility that Waldorf schools could receive state funding. Here's an excerpt:
"An observer asked Sam Freedman whether or not a Conservative government would consider intervening with Steiner teacher training to ensure that the racist aspects of Steiner’s writings would not be included. Sam Freedman replied by stating that if the issue becomes a big PR problem for Steiner schools, and the state is funding those schools, it will become a big PR problem for the state. He went on to say that in light of this, Steiner schools should seek to nip any potential problems with their teacher training in the bud, because if ministers feel under pressure from negative PR, this is likely to be problematic for the schools. Sam Freedman stated that the Schools should ensure that they can explain their position very clearly, so that they can counter the negative criticisms immediately.” [See "PR".] From my understanding Rachel Wolf and Sam Freedman didn't attend the afternoon session.
The public should know that little or no independent research supports Steiner pedagogy; praise for Steiner schools comes predominantly from within the Anthroposophical community. The notion that Steiner's emphasis on the delay in formal reading is in line with early years policy in many other European countries is misleading. Steiner's instructions for delaying reading were due to his stated belief that early intellectual development hampers the child's spiritual growth and that Waldorf teachers should await the birth of the child's etheric body, indicated by the cutting of the adult teeth.4
Steiner Waldorf schools state that Anthroposophy is not taught to the children, but this statement is disingenuous. Anthroposophy underpins every aspect of the pedagogy in Steiner schools. If I and others had known that the self-described "fastest growing education movement in the world" has given rise to a survivors group [http://www.waldorfcritics.org/active/survivors.html] and Waldorf critics across the world [http://zooey.wordpress.com/links/], we might have been able to make an informed decision before enrolling our children.
Making an informed decision is further obstructed by the Steiner Waldorf movement actively suppressing attempts by parents to make their concerns public. A recently discovered document from the Swedish Steiner Waldorf Federation states that they employ an individual to “monitor the debate” here in the UK. The individual has previously appeared on various forums including Mumsnet, the Times Educational Supplement forum, and the BBC education forum using a number of aliases including posing as a mother. He has previously used intimidating behaviour including threatening legal action unless problematic discussions of the schools were deleted. I am also told that he has published the names and locations of parents who have raised concerns, behaviour one would not normally expect from a school movement. It is a somewhat disturbing experience watching your words of support almost instantly disappear online due to the repeated misuse of litigation, especially the threat of litigation against any form of criticism. [http://zooey.wordpress.com/2010/05/29/supervising-the-attacks/]
As another former Steiner Waldorf parent has explained, “If Anthroposophy were only a church, our paths would never cross, but Anthroposophy does not restrict itself to its circle of True Believers. Instead it sets up schools where these disguised beliefs are foisted upon unsuspecting parents whose opinions can be disregarded because they don't ‘know the path.’ These parents are expected to follow unknowingly the requirements of a religion which denies to them that it even exists, and may be criticized in their ignorance for Anthroposophical incorrectness. No wonder so many parents initially feel bewildered and later angry for having been deceived.” [Foss, 2003, March, 16.Percedol; http://www.users.on.net/~tomandmarilyn/steiner/html/doublespeak.htm]
I strongly believe that those responsible at the highest level in education have a duty towards the children involved to undertake an urgent investigation into the Steiner Waldorf school movement.
1 Renowned scientist and author Richard Dawkins has coined the word "meme" for ideas and practices that pass into a culture as if by an evolutionary process. Waldorf schools have contributed to the burgeoning interest in organic agriculture and the rapid development of the green meme, and the schools have, in turn, benefitted from these trends. The Waldorf approach, however, is deeply occult. [See "Biodynamics".]
Worth noting: N
2 The word "Anthroposophy" was not mentioned in the article nor in the school prospectus.
4 For more about Steiner's thoughts on the change of teeth, see http://wn.rsarchive.org/Articles/EduChild/EduChi_essay.html
Waldorf or Steiner schools can be very attractive.
Superficially, they often have great appeal for parents
seeking educational alternatives for their children.
But if you are drawn to a Waldorf school,
be sure that you understand the occult doctrines
upon which such schools are founded.
[R. R. sketches, 2010 —
with thanks to Spirogiro.]
The religion behind Steiner schools, Anthroposophy, abounds with occult symbols,
some of which are derived from the Book of Revelation as interpreted by Rudolf Steiner.
Here is an interpretation of the fifth of seven Apocalyptic seals:
"The time will...draw near in which great changes will take place in the cosmos. When men will have attracted the sun power, the sun will once again be united with the earth. Men will become sun beings, and through the power of the sun, they will be able to bring forth suns. Hence, the woman that bears the sun in the fifth seal. Mankind will be so far along morally and ethically that all destructive forces resting in his lower human nature will have been overcome. This is represented by the animal with the seven heads and the ten horns. At the feet of the sun woman is the moon, which contains all those base substances that the earth could not use but had not tossed out. Everything in the way of magical forces that the moon still exerts on the earth at present will then be overcome. When man becomes united with the sun, he will have overcome the moon." — Rudolf Steiner, OCCULT SIGNS AND SYMBOLS (Anthroposophic Press, 1972), p. 55.
[R.R. sketch, 2010, based on the image in Steiner's MYSTIC SEALS AND COLUMNS (Health Research, 1969).]
If you subscribe to occult beliefs of this sort, a Steiner school may be right
for you and your children. But if not, not.
The wealthy Rees-Mogg family have been important supporters of Steiner Waldorf schools in the United Kingdom. UK education minister Michael Gove — who has opened the possibility for Steiner schools to receive state funding by becoming “Free Schools” — greatly admires the Rees-Moggs, in particular Lord Rees-Mogg, for whom Gove used to work. Gove is also acquainted with Lord Rees-Mogg’s daughter, Emma Craigie, who is an advisor to the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, which describes itself as an umbrella organization for Steiner Waldorf schools in the UK and Ireland. Emma Craigie sent all four of her children to Steiner Waldorf schools.
Here we see Michael Gove visiting the Meadow School,
On the left stands Emma Craigie;
in the middle stands Emma's sister,
The freedom allowed to Free Schools is the ability to establish their own curriculums, free of outside pressures. The process for becoming a Free School is shown here:
As of early December, 2010, eighteen Steiner schools had reached Stage 3.
Does Michael Gove understand the occult purposes of Steiner schools? [See "Spiritual Agenda".] It is hard to say. But he has made many strange statements that may hold clues, such as his claim that he is, spiritually, German. “Just as we have an inner age, we have an inner nationality. Whatever it says on our passport, most of us may find that we are spiritually something else ... [E]ven though I was born in Edinburgh, educated in Aberdeen and live in southeast England I am, in fact, German.” [http://www.michaelgove.com/content/dont-lets-be-beastly-germans-im-one-them-myself]
We can only wonder whether Gove’s spiritual Germaness entails a desire to spread the unique spiritual gifts that Rudolf Steiner attributed to Germany. Steiner education was created, at least in part, to further the German national/spiritual mission — the fulfillment of which, Steiner said, would redound to the benefit of all humanity. “[The German] must be educated to [his] mission...[which is] looking at the world from the most varied points of view. This is the special mission of the German people ... They shall take hold upon world culture from this side ... [C]ertain things that I shall touch upon today, for example, in the realm of knowledge, can be evolved only through the German people....” — Rudolf Steiner THE CHALLENGE OF THE TIMES (SteinerBooks, 1979), pp. 207-209.
Advocates of Steiner education think that modified versions of a distinctly Germanic institution offer potential benefits to all children everywhere, and Gove seems to concur, at least for the children of the UK. This raises two questions: 1) Can Steiner education ever truly be appropriate beyond the borders of Germany? Despite efforts made to adapt Steiner schooling to various cultures and people, Steiner schools worldwide generally conform to the original Steiner curriculum, including its emphasis on Nordic/Germanic mythology. [See "Curriculum", "Oh My Word", and "The Gods"]. 2) Should the government of the United Kingdom finance a form of education steeped in Nordic/Germanic values and mysticism, a form of education originally designed to serve Germany's occult mission in the world? Perhaps only a politician who considers himself s spiritual German would answer “yes” to these questions.
According to Steiner, people using ordinary perception can see objects such as the figure at the center of this image, but they miss the surrounding nimbus, the spiritual realities hovering beyond the reach of normal perception. Only clairvoyance allows us to perceive the higher realities, Steiner said. Indeed, all of Anthroposophy — including Steiner education — depends on the existence of clairvoyance. The spirituality that pervades Anthroposophy and its institutions stems from the spiritual "truths" disclosed by clairvoyance. Steiner was emphatic about the importance of clairvoyance. “Clairvoyance is the necessary pre-requisite for the discovery of a spiritual truth.” — Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1966), lecture 1, GA 99. More particularly, Steiner ascribed his teachings to his claimed use of "exact" clairvoyance, clairvoyance so precise and reliable that its findings can scarcely be challenged. [See "Exactly".] The exercise of clairvoyance is so central to Anthroposophy that, if clairvoyance did not exist, Anthroposophy would collapse and there would be no justification for Steiner education. And this presents a slight difficulty. There is absolutely no solid evidence that any type of clairvoyance — certainly including "exact" clairvoyance — exists. [See "Clairvoyance".] Hence, there is no justification for Steiner education. [R. R, sketch, 2010, based on the one in Rudolf Steiner's MATERIALISM AND THE TASK OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), p. 6.]
[Photo by the author, 2010.]
[R. R. sketch, 2010.]
These are typical, faceless, soft-cloth dolls of the sort approved by Waldorf schools. Sometimes facial features are indicated, very sketchily, but blank faces are preferred. In part, the goal is to stimulate children's imaginations, which Anthroposophists believe contribute to clairvoyance. The deeper reason is the Anthroposophical belief that young children are incompletely incarnated in the physical world — they still live partially in the spiritual world, where nothing has sharply defined limits, edges, or details. One problem, however, is that many children find faceless dolls creepy and unsatisfactory — they often take matters into their own hands and complete the dolls by drawing on facial features with crayons or other markers. Another complication is that the species represented by the dolls is unclear. Sometimes, indeed, the dolls come with pointed "elf" hats sewn on, suggesting that these are not human dolls by gnome dolls. Steiner taught that gnomes are real, and representations of gnomes are often present in Steiner classrooms. Many kids quite naturally tend to fear gnomes. By Steiner's own account, gnomes are hardly sweet playmates. "Many names have been given to [these beings], such as goblins, gnomes, and so forth ... What one calls moral responsibility in man is entirely lacking in them ... Their nature prompts them to play all sorts of tricks on man.” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 62-63. Gnome dolls or statues are sometimes used to maintain order in Steiner classrooms — when a teacher needs to step out for a moment, a gnome (i.e., goblin) is positioned prominently in the room, sternly staring at the children, silently insisting on their silence.
For more personal reports by
parents who sent children to Waldorf schools,
Also of interest are postings
by and for mothers who have sent kids
— or who are thinking of doing so —
to Steiner or Waldorf schools:
Fathers of Steiner students
chime in at "Pops".
Debra Snell has a unique perspective on Steiner or Waldorf schools. She once held a position of authority in such a school, but the dysfunctional behavior she witnessed led her to become an active critic of Waldorf education. She is now president of PLANS — People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools — an organization that works to reveal the truth about Waldorf education and to oppose acceptance of Waldorf schools into public school systems. Anyone with an interest in Steiner or Waldorf education should certainly become acquainted with the excellent PLANS website [http://waldorfcritics.org/].
Here are three statements by Debra Snell. The first is the message she has posted on the welcome page at the PLANS site. The second tells of her experiences on the board of a Waldorf school. The third is a response to a former Waldorf teacher who came away from his Waldorf years feeling battered and betrayed. (He has argued that Waldorf schools make one cardinal error: They do not openly reveal their spiritual agenda. The third section, below, begins with a comment by this former teacher, followed by Debra Snell's response.)
Welcome! People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools (PLANS) is a worldwide network of former Waldorf parents, teachers, students, administrators, and trustees who come from a variety of backgrounds with a common goal: to educate the public about the reality behind Waldorf's facade of progressive, arts-based education. Waldorf is the most visible activity of Anthroposophy, an occultist sect founded by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925).
Together, we have performed exhaustive research on Waldorf schools and Anthroposophy, the esoteric, occult religion that both guides and inspires Waldorf teachers. PLANS affirms the right of all religious groups to practice and to teach their beliefs. But we expect those groups — including Anthroposophy — to tell the truth about their missionary efforts.
My personal experience with Waldorf was very confusing. Instead of the progressive and liberal alternative school I was led to expect by the school's promotional materials and staff, I discovered a rigid, authoritarian environment that seemed to be rooted in a medieval dogma that I did not understand. When, in an effort to make sense of things, I asked questions about this, I found Waldorf teachers to be strangely defensive.
I was stunned to arrive at the conclusion that the education of children — at least as I use the term "education" — did not seem to be the school's most important focus and objective. But what was?
I began to ask questions. What is Anthroposophy? Why don't teachers allow students in the preschool through the early elementary grades to use black crayons in their drawings? Why do students use the wet-on-wet watercolor painting technique exclusively for so many years? Why is mythology taught as history? Where is the American flag, and why don't Waldorf schools teach civics lessons in America? In a school system that promotes itself as "education toward freedom," why do students copy everything from the blackboard? Why do Waldorf teachers talk in high voices and sing-song directions to their classes? Why must the kindergarten room walls be painted "peach blossom"? Why is learning to read before the age of eight or nine considered unhealthy? Why do so many Waldorf classes have problems with bullying, and what is the school's policy for dealing with this? Why are teachers always lighting candles?
What answers I received were not forthright, and the teachers made it clear that my questions were not welcome. They told me, "If you understood Anthroposophy, you wouldn't be asking that question." Yet before we enrolled, I was told that the school was non-sectarian and that Anthroposophy was not "in the classroom"! I was eventually invited to leave.
Thanks to PLANS' dedicated researchers, I now have answers to all of my questions, and many more that I had not even thought of asking! If the information on the PLANS Web site had been available nine years ago, our family would have passed by Waldorf's door, knowing that its sectarian, occultist nature was not what we were looking for after all.
My sincere hope is that the information contained in this Web site will help other families avoid a Waldorf disaster. I strongly believe parents have the right to make fully informed decisions about their children's education. Until Waldorf promoters start being honest, PLANS will be here.
— Debra Snell
I was new to our Waldorf school when I was asked to be on the board. I'd had plenty of community board experience but not with Waldorf. My first board meeting included a faculty grilling re: sexual preference, directed at a young gay teacher. She was afraid to say she was gay. I was blown away. I kept saying, "This is a violation of her civil rights. We cannot ask these questions." The young teacher kept saying that her partner was just helping her with her kids. I have never figured out why this was important. I still don't know what Steiner thought of gay people but this was the day I learned regular rules do not apply in Waldorf schools. Anthroposophy is more important than individual rights, laws, or common truths.
At the time, I thought the teachers just needed to get out in the world more. Volunteer to be a Big Brother or Sister, etc. The healthy teachers were eventually run out and the ill ones took over hiring. I don't believe ill people have the ability to hire people healthier than they are so the school began to implode. There was deceit everywhere. In the books. The financial statements were literally made up and had nothing to do with the true financial picture of the school. The Administrator was sleeping with the bookkeeper. Unpaid payroll taxes, marked as paid, were seized from our bank account without warning. The board was told we were operating at a low tuition assistance but it turned out to be almost 72%. Contrary to the baloney the board was being fed, the school wasn't making enough money to pay rent, salary, and the electricity bill. One classroom was red-flagged for sewage backing up in the tub, yet the board was unaware this had been an ongoing problem for months.
The school was like a train headed straight for the cliff and the faculty appeared to be worried only about how the table in the dining car was set. I forced my way into the files (I had to threaten a restraining order) and went through every single contract and bank statement. I called a meeting of parents and exposed our real financial situation, along with the apparent cover-up. The entire time, I remained calm and professional while I was being screamed at and subverted by the faculty. The day of that meeting, I earned the trust of the parents. Truth is a powerful tool.
During this crazy time, I used to watch the Waldorf teachers at parent gatherings (festivals).  The teachers would stand on the stage with their arms around each other, singing songs in rounds, while parents beamed. "How lucky we are to have this school," was the mantra. Personally I was amazed by the teachers' performance as they presented a "real" sense of unity between them. Amazed because behind closed doors, they were all backstabbers. Seemingly insecure people competing for the top position on the Anthroposophical dog pile. It was never pretty. There was a lot of acting out, both blatant and passive (aggressive). I thought it was just this school, these teachers at the time. Now I think it comes out of some very deep flaws that Anthroposophy is incapable of dealing with. At least so far.
Board meetings were always exhausting because you could cut the tension between the teachers with a knife. Words were always so carefully chosen but what was being left unsaid screamed way louder than what was actually being said. Two of the teachers had eating disorders, but that seemed like the least of their problems. Affairs seemed commonplace. There was an affair between two married teachers, and another (married) faculty member could not keep his hands off the pretty single moms. One teacher that was hired landed here to avoid the scandal he had created at his old Waldorf school. Seems he had a recent affair with a married woman and the husband was making a scene.
I think it's easier to walk away from Waldorf when Anthroposophy doesn't speak to your spirit, but it still isn't easy. I took 63 families with me to a new school, so we had a pre-made community that Waldorf had built on a false basis. My aim was to make a school like we were told Waldorf was but was not. Sixty-three families were ready to move, so I went back to work.
The new school was a perfect fit for all of us. Health was abundant and the school thrived. Real education. Real credentialed teachers. Real art. Real dance. Real health. It is a school centered around children, not a religion.
Flexibility, honesty, innovation, best practice teaching methods, and direct communication should never be thrown under the bus in a school setting. The new school would be different. There is way more to art than Steiner's prescription for color meditation exercises. No more copying things off the chalk board and every child's work came from within. Oh! Phonics is a very good thing along with early reading.
We (the families) wanted to raise smart kids who were educated — pre-awakened, well-balanced kids who could excel in school and life. Waldorf teachers made promises they had no intention of keeping. I am very proud of the school we built but I must give Waldorf credit where it's due. It gave us some great ideas. We took Waldorf's window dressings and made a school.
The article attributes missteps at these schools to naiveness, and that is certainly possible. Waldorf and Steiner schools are often run by well-meaning but unworldly individuals, people who have embraced occult beliefs. Such beliefs may sever contact with reality or, at a minimum, cause unfamiliarity with ordinary processes in the real world. Thus, good people may wind up doing bad things — misusing government funds and miseducating children.
— Debra Snell
[Comment by a former Waldorf teacher] I'm completely aware I was a victim. Working in Waldorf for 15+ years almost killed me. I battled stress depression for 3 years after I left. And I was angry for years afterwards. But now I can laugh at (most of) it. It was life experience. And I absolutely take responsibility for my role. I was never the easiest colleague to get along with, although I believe I was when community circumstances were healthy and happy. But I was definitely hard on those people I saw as dishonest and deceitful, sometimes rightly so and other times not. I could have handled my end of things better, no question.
[Debra Snell's response] Bruce, I cannot imagine the level of exhaustion you must have felt after 15 years inside. At our school, the self-proclaimed "Head Anthroposophist" was constantly being challenged in faculty and board meetings but he managed to win every battle, which was too bad.
Every time the board spoke up in support of the other faculty, all the teachers would stand against the board. It was amazing to watch. "Waldorf schools are faculty-led," they would explain. Well, yes and the board is in support, but the "faculty chair" must be someone who can work with people. It seemed like every teacher there knew their leader was unstable but they succumbed to his illness and there was no way out.
Teachers demonstrated an inability to think logically and seemingly acted out of pure, uncontainable emotion. There were frequent faculty crying sessions taking place in front of the parents. I had many a discussion about professional behavior, but I was unenlightened. "If you understood Anthroposophy, you would not be saying this." Bruce, you did leave. That is a huge signal of health, if your situation was anything like mine. The teachers were all control freaks but the faculty chair took the cake. He had no personal social skills whatsoever BUT he did know Steiner [i.e., Steiner's doctrines] and he was on top of the Anthroposophical dog pile. Yet he came across so odd that his classroom had only six kids. He freaked potential parents out and there were many closed-door discussions about this fact.
Anyway, here's a toast to you, Bruce: "Welcome back to normal. Hear, hear!" (Whatever that is. LOL!) People who aren't brainwashed are mostly good. The best revenge to being victimized is getting healthier than the perpetrators and the standard just can't be very high.
The financial irregularities Debra Snell found at one Waldorf school are not unique. Other Waldorf and Steiner schools have had similar problems. Here is an item from the Waldorf Watch news page:
"How 'Naive' School Failed Building Test": Shearwater, the Mullumbimby [Australia] Steiner School, asked to be placed under voluntary administration in March. The school, located in the heart of the alternative lifestyle movement of Australia, was collapsing under a $10 million debt and the problem of misappropriating part of a $600,000 Building the Education Revolution grant from the federal government ... The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations is investigating the use of BER funding at Shearwater and another Steiner school at Taree. Last week the Herald reported that the Manning River Steiner School also used part of its $250,000 grant for a library to patch up its working budget ... Chris Evans, the new minister responsible for the $16.2 billion building program, views the misuse of money by the Steiner schools as a serious issue. [9-24-2010 http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/how-naive-school-failed-building-test-20100923-15ow4.html]
Leaving a Waldorf school can be traumatic. Families often invest a lot of emotion, hope, confidence, energy, and work in the schools. Then, when things go wrong — as they often do — disengaging may entail a long, wrenching ordeal. Then again, the end can sometimes come with shocking suddenness — the school kicks you out. You may never learn the precise reason; you have violated some unspoken rule or preference, and you are history.
Here is a recent Net posting that touches on some of these matters. It begins by discussing the conflicting testimony that is often produced by the end of a Waldorf relationship: The school says one thing, the leaving family says something very different.
“[Y]ou would get conflicting testimony because you would get the lies spread around the school to counteract the damage that could be done if people knew the truth. I heard many stories as to why children and their families were to blame for situations that led to their leaving our Waldorf school. I sometimes heard the parents' side of the story but usually gave the school the benefit of the doubt because I was one of those people who thought the school was wonderful and could not believe that any school could be capable of some of the things parents claimed had happened . Then it happened to my family, and then I heard the lies that were going around the school. That's when I learned for the first time that truth and integrity — things I value — were not valued at our Waldorf school. Since then, I've heard many, many stories from parents around the world that indicate deception and lack of integrity are systemic in Waldorf education.
“... All schools have children who leave for one reason or another and switch to another school. Never, though, have I heard parents talking about switching schools based on the horrifying and outrageous situations that former Waldorf school parents describe. Nor have I heard of children leaving other schools in such great numbers as they leave our local Waldorf school.
“Waldorf schools have, among many other problems, an intrinsic problem with truthfulness and honesty. I warn any satisfied Waldorf parents to pay more attention when families leave the school suddenly or unexpectedly and to dig deep to find out what really happened. Do not accept the school's version at face value. Ask questions. See if your questions are encouraged or discouraged. See if the answers really make sense in the context of the real world, not just the secretive murky world of Waldorf, where everything has meaning that you don't necessarily fully understand. And most importantly, call or write to the parents of the children who left and ask them to tell you about the situation from their point of view.”
The following is excerpted from a letter posted online
by a father whose children attended a Waldorf school
in California: Highland Hall
There is no question that bullying and abuse have occurred regularly at Highland Hall since its inception in 1955. Back then, it was easier to cover up the occasional abuse of students by teachers (and sometimes parents) – and still cases of abuse at Highland Hall were documented throughout the years. Abuse of children is still acceptable today at Highland Hall. I have personally documented many cases of abuse and brought them to the Highland Hall Board’s attention without too much success (It was because of the combined voices of a few brave parents that a couple of the worst teachers finally left voluntarily). But the question remains, why does Highland Hall turn a blind eye to the bullying and abuse of children by its teachers – both on and off campus?
It may not come as a surprise to many who have been reading my previous letters about racism at Highland Hall, that it’s the same hidden philosophy behind Highland Hall and Waldorf – Anthroposophy, the philosophy that permits racism - which also permits Waldorf teachers to stand by while children bully children, and while teachers abuse children (and parents).
Where exactly does Anthroposophy say abuse of children is permitted? Well, first, it helps if one believes some children aren’t really “children” but “demons”.
"Demons are born through man's immoral conduct. Let us look at the difference between the demons that arise through immoral behaviour and the spiritual entities - spiritual in so far as they only achieve a watery existence on Earth - the spiritual forms that are created by moral actions." ...
"The demons created out of immoral actions also have an astral body, an ether body and a physical body, at the watery level of course, but they do not have the basis for developing an ego. They are born headless, as it were. They do not take up the basis for regular evolution to Jupiter existence but reject it. By doing so they condemn themselves to a fate of dropping out of evolution and adding to the hordes of luciferic beings, falling into their power. Unable to progress in a regular way they become parasites. This is what happens to all the spirits who reject normal evolution; they have to attach themselves to others in order to progress. Spirits who arise through immoral actions have a particular tendency to be parasites in human evolution on Earth under Lucifer's leadership, and to seize hold of the evolution of human beings before these make their physical entry into the world. They attack human beings during the embryonic stage and share their existence between conception and birth. Some of these spirits, if they are strong enough, can continue to accompany the human being after birth, creating the phenomena seen in children who are possessed.
"The criminal demons attached as parasite to unborn children cause deterioration in the succession of the generations; this eats into human beings, making them less good than they would be if these demons did not exist. There are various reasons for the decline of families, tribes, people and nations, but one of them is the existence of these criminal demon parasites during the period mentioned.
"These things play an important part in Earth evolution as a whole, and we are here touching on deep secrets of human existence. People often acquire certain prejudices and points of view even before they are born because of this. They are then tormented by doubts and uncertainties in life, and all kinds of other things, because of these demonic parasites.
"These spirits cannot do very much once human beings develop their ego, but they prey on them all the more before they are born or in their earliest years." (from "Future Jupiter Existence" (Dornach, 3 January 1915), reprinted in ANGELS: Selected Lectures by Rudolf Steiner; London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996 reprinted 1998). (pp 167-168)).
Here is an excerpt from
posted at DC's Improbable Science
So why are parents asking for these schools? Steiner Waldorf schools offer an apparently creative, ‘unhurried’, authentic childhood experience free from our dominant exam culture and from technology. They stress the ecological and holistic. They are alluring. The distinct aesthetic within the Steiner kindergarten: natural materials, wool, washed peach-coloured walls and gentle voices creates for some parents a lost garden of childhood, in contrast to which the brash plastic of the average nursery becomes an affront to the senses. There’s no reason to suspect anything odd, so Michael Gove can hardly be blamed for his positive reaction to the Bruton Steiner School, which appears to have been his moment of zen.
But the Steiner dream ends for many families with the realisation that their child is academically far behind his or her peers. Susan Godsland, an independent reading intervention expert, has helped many ex-Steiner children learn to read at 8, 9 and 10. Though she acknowledges that some children can blossom in Steiner school, that a percentage will learn to read earlier in spite of the pedagogy, she believes it’s cruel to deny a child the chance to read until so late. In the last paragraphs of her Room 101 she explains why early reading isn’t encouraged. A child is ‘blessed’ with not being able to read and write, since Steiner says early reading will hinder the later spiritual development of children. She adds: ‘this is simply mumbo-jumbo and should be treated with the contempt it deserves.’
While it is evident that this failure in basic teaching could cause low self esteem, the influence of anthroposophical medicine within Waldorf schools is an added concern (for example, mistletoe as a ‘treatment’ for cancer). In addition the measles epidemics linked to European Waldorf schools are an indication of an anti-vaccination culture. In the US Microbe Magazine, Bernard Dixon states:
...Anthroposophy...is a belief system which is essentially anti-scientific. Peter Staudenmaier, a historian who has written extensively about Anthroposophy, explains that: ‘like other esotericists, anthroposophists regularly view themselves as privy to special knowledge which distinguishes them from the unenlightened — and an aggravated resentment against ‘intellectualism’ and critical thought and the ostensibly materialist cast of modern science and scholarship.’
These beliefs mean that the emotional and physical health of children is potentially being put at risk. We cannot agree that the satisfaction of lobbying groups or parent choice is enough to justify the public funding of Steiner Waldorf schools.
The following passages come from
posted at DC's Improbable Science
The only state-funded Steiner school in the UK [i.e., the United Kingdom] has already caused controversy. Francis Beckett wrote in THE GUARDIAN [newspaper] in 2008 that former director of education Eddie Oram had turned down initial plans submitted on his watch because “he did not think the Steiner staff had the right expertise to deal with pupils with individual needs.”
...The Hereford Steiner Academy site does mentions Anthroposophy, although to find it involves a little searching. The assertion that “Anthroposophy is a developing body of research”...should rightly be disputed. Essentially Anthroposophy is dogma, gained through "clairvoyance," inherited by studying Steiner’s words, comprehended by those ascending the ladder of esoteric Knowledge. But something has to be said about it, now the Movement is forced to do so.
In the New Schools Network document cited in our previous post, Free School hopefuls are advised how to advertise their projects: “Post something on mumsnet, netmums, or facebook.” If the NSN had done their homework, they would know that mumsnet Steiner threads have been so controversial (and incomprehensible to those not involved) that in 2008 parents were asked by mumsnet’s co-founder Justine Roberts not to post about Steiner education at all. Indeed the forum was threatened with legal action by Sune Nordwall, (also known as Thebee, Tizian, Excalibur, Mycroft, etc.) a Swedish Anthroposophist; since discovered to be in the employment of the Swedish Waldorf School Federation. Blogger Alicia Hamberg aka zooey quotes (in translation):
“In England, the attacks on [Waldorf] pedagogy have led to parents withdrawing their children from the Waldorf schools. The [Swedish Waldorf School] Federation has employed Sune on a part-time basis to monitor the debate.” [This "monitoring" sometimes takes the form of hectoring, threatening messages.]
We do not suggest on this blog that the Swedish Waldorf School Federation are responsible for or complicit in Nordwall’s activities on mumsnet or elsewhere, although as Alicia Hamberg points out, they have not sought to distance themselves from his behaviour. What is notable though is that representatives of Waldorf education in Sweden were concerned to monitor a UK debate held not in the press but in the relative obscurity of the supposedly safe, supportive world of mothers‘ chatrooms...
...There are other interesting comparisons with Sweden. A recent announcement that UK Free Schools will not be required to employ qualified teachers indicates that the UK is traveling in the opposite direction to Sweden which, in an attempt to raise standards has just introduced more stringent teacher training requirements for all its schools, including Waldorf (the state funding of which pre-dates Sweden’s own Free Schools experiment). Swedish Waldorf schools will have to apply for exemptions from these guidelines (as well as from new requirements regarding early years literacy and numeracy), since there are no university accredited Waldorf teacher training courses in Sweden.
Indeed the aspirations of Swedish Anthroposophists suffered a blow in 2008 when Stockholm University closed the Waldorf teacher training courses in the Institute of Education it had recently taken over. The VC of Stockholm, Kåre Bremer, agreed with his Education Faculty that the Waldorf literature did not satisfy the University’s standards of “scientific validity” and that “Some of the content is not only scientifically unacceptable, it is simply untrue.”
Alicia Hamberg described the ensuing outcry from the Waldorf community; [and she quoted] the dean of the faculty of natural sciences and professor of biochemistry, Stefan Nordlund, who stated in a Swedish newspaper article:
“In parts, the students’ course literature is not simply unscientific. It is in fact dangerous, and it conveys misconceptions which are worse than muddled. We are supported by the department of natural sciences as well as the department of humanities in taking this position.”
...Steiner Waldorf causes scandals across the world. In Norway earlier this year, Kristín Sandberg and Trond Kristoffersen, both former Steiner Waldorf teachers, published their book: WHAT THEY DON’T TELL US = THE OCCULT FOUNDATION OF THE STEINER SCHOOL. They have been part of a fierce debate, subject to threats from certain elements of the Steiner community, but Kristin is positive. What really matters to her, she says, are the many messages of support:
“…The young people, former pupils who twitter and blog – and send us sms´s and e-mails from all over Norway supporting the debate and reminding us that this is a really, really important thing to do.”
In Germany, too, Steiner Waldorf has many critics. It’s interesting to reflect on the German Waldorf demographic, which suggests that their appeal lies in their status as "elite" (although not academically elite) institutions.
In Australia, the introduction of "Steiner" streams into public schools in the State of Victoria: "The Steiner Cult’s Grab for Schools" has caused great controversy (see "The Delusional world of Rudolf Steiner"). A document by the Australian Rationalist Society mirrors our initial post. After serious concerns were raised in a government report as long ago as 2000, and ignored; great division has been caused between parents in the schools involved and academic standards have proved to be low. Australian newspaper reports rehearse what will be in the news in the UK if Free School funding goes ahead for Steiner Waldorf. To quote from THE AGE:
“One parent, who did not wish to be named, said she moved her son out of the school after a Steiner teacher recommended he repeat prep "because his soul had not been reincarnated yet".
"'I just don’t believe it [i.e., Waldorf schooling] is educationally sound,' she said.”
Humanists are not the only Waldorf critics in Australia: some worry that Anthroposophy doesn’t sit happily with their Christian beliefs. Plus, independent Steiner schools have been accused of misappropriating Federal grants designed for new classrooms and libraries. It’s tempting to ask what use Anthroposophists have for books.
In New Zealand, flaws in the accountability of independent schools compounds one family’s alarming treatment at the Titirangi Steiner School. Whether or not their experience is a direct consequence of Steiner pedagogy, the school’s reported ineptitude, delaying tactics and exclusion of children reflects behaviour familiar to many other Steiner Waldorf parents.
The following, from Steiner schools: A Fantastical Edifice of Nonsense,
refers back to "The true nature of Steiner (Waldorf) education"
To enter a Steiner school is to enter a covert world of karmic reincarnation, the nurturing of the child’s “soul journey” over any real education, the hidden classification of the children according to arbitrary “Temperaments” and a fundamental rejection of science, rationality, and technology.
Just last night I heard from friends how they had taken their children out of a Steiner school for reasons now becoming familiar to me from talking to others: the extremism of views on what constitutes acceptable behaviour- “No crisps!!”- the subtle way the community of the school becomes cultish and closes ranks, shunning any dissenters; the anti-vaccination attitudes; the weird and creepy classroom practices- no black paints allowed, formless, etheric paintings, faceless gnomes….
Now the Steiner schools are trying for state recognition and funding in the UK. This is an important post exposing this dangerous cult for what it is and why such funding should be opposed.
This is from "Vowels, Tongues, Gnomes and Bullshit"
posted by "Depot Dad":
The summer when O turned five years old, his mother and I started looking around for kindergartens ... We made an appointment with the nearby Waldorf school. At the time, we honestly knew nothing about the school. Most new parents don’t. Often enough, the school system is uttered in the same breathe as Montessori, and both are generally considered to be progressive and alternative educational systems.
When we arrived at the school, we met a gentleman who led us to a Kindergarten classroom, painted an unusual color of peach. We were introduced to the teacher and her assistant. They then proceeded to sell us on the benefits of a Waldorf education. I’ll spare you the details, but it essentially is sold as an arts based education where individuality and creativity reign supreme.
The classroom was conspicuously devoid of certain materials, namely, plastic. Everything was made of wood or cloth. In the corner was a table with a display of natural elements, tree branches, draped cloth and little wooden statues. It seemed a pleasant enough space, and we agreed to send O to the school.
The night before school started, I attended an orientation for parents to meet the teachers at the school. Not having gone to a parent/teacher orientation before, the meeting went pretty much as I expected until the very end. The teachers asked everyone in the room to stand up and repeat the words on the back of a sheet of paper that was on everyone’s chair. Well, I was a bit taken back when I looked down and saw what could only be described as a prayer. The crowd chanted the prayer and the meeting ended.
As I was walking out, an elderly lady with a thick German accent approached me. She introduced herself as one of the teachers. When I asked her what she taught, she deflected the question and proceeded to talk about something else.
“Its all so amazing isn’t it?” She asked.
“How it is all connected. Everything."
“How do you mean?” I asked
“Well like the sounds of the words you are speaking, they are connected to the organs in your body. The sound of the vowel E for example, that is connected to your spleen. The A, connected to the heart.”
"Good grief.” I thought to myself. "I sure hope this isn’t the science teacher. What a lot of rot.”
O went to school the next day. Everything seemed fine. When he got home, he told us about his day. The class spent part of the day in a nearby grove of trees.
“What did you do there?” I asked.
“We looked for faeries and gnomes,” he said.
That night, O awoke in the middle of the night screaming. It was his first nightmare. Coincidence? Maybe ... O went back the next day and I went to pick up O after class. I was a bit put off by the fact that all of the classrooms had curtains over the windows. You could not see in from the outside. All of the other parents waited diligently until the door finally opened and the children emerged.
Well, that night I finally had a few free minutes so I went online to learn more about Waldorf. In my searches, I came across this site. WaldorfCritics ... Essentially it provides convincing (to me) evidence that the Waldorf school system is a religious organization with a basis in the occult writings of an Austrian madman named Rudolf Steiner. Essentially, it is a cult like organization. Complete with mystical foundations and elaborate and strict rules of acceptable behavior and conduct.
I finished reading and just about had a heart attack ... I returned to the school the next day without O. I asked the teacher if I might sit in on the class and observe for a while. “Absolutely NOT” She insisted and actually grabbed me forcefully by the upper arm and directed me out of the classroom....
We moved O to another school that week and put a stop on the check we wrote to the Waldorf school. There are so many other things that happened, but there just isn’t room enough in one post to list them all ... I could not get straight answers out of anyone who worked there. They were experts at deflecting direct questions.
....How else can I say it? Waldorf is f**ked. Pure and simple. Stay the hell away from it.
The following is from "The Hidden World of Waldorf",
posted by The Unorthodox Dad
Waldorf’s roots are steeped in the teaching of Rudolph Steiner, a Christian-based mystic who believed in reincarnation, clairvoyance, Atlantis, and forest gnomes. And I am not being metaphorical here. His belief system, known as Anthroposophy, is not some vestige of the path. It is not part of the curriculum [in Waldorf schools] yet it is the heart of the Steiner pedagogy and epistemology. The ideas leech to the students because it is the world view of the teachers.
This all came to a surprise to me because nothing of this philosophy was mentioned at the parent tour [i.e., tour for new parents]. Indeed, the school was distinctly positioned as secular.
I called one of the schools and asked to what degree does the Anthroposophy infiltrate the curriculum? Honestly, I feel like I cannot get a straight answer other then vague reassurances that the school is not religious. I asked about the nature of the training that Waldorf teachers receive and the extent to which the mystical ideas of Steiner. Evasive answers.
Now I am getting really angry. The LAST thing I want is my child to start having magical thoughts. Even more infuriating than this was the idea that a group of people with a hidden agenda would make it their life mission to inculcate young minds with their world view, knowingly against the wishes of the parent, by keeping it under the table.
The next day, I was speaking casually about the issue to a co-worker who, as it turns out, attended a Waldorf school from K to 12. Now my coworker is a strong strategic and critical thinker and does not have any confusion about the objective material world and the existence of gnomes. But she did confirm my worst fears. The teachings of Anthroposophy are core to the curriculum in any Waldorf school. The teachers do believe, literally. Even worse, she described how the schools discourage any kind of dissent and promote conformist thinking in line with Anthroposophy. A quite comfortable straight jacket for the mind. I am not interested in thrusting academics on my child at early age but the Steiner beliefs about the correct age for reading are not grounded in child developmental psychology — they are based on some personal intuition, as the refusal to allow anything but crayons for drawing before the first grade or the refusal to allow the use of black-colored crayons.
The more I looked around the more I found. Articles by former Waldorf students warning parents. Articles by secular parents. Strings on the Berkeley Parents Network....
I went back and looked at the school websites. Suddenly I realize that what I took for innocuous dolls I now see forest gnomes i was warned about....
What really kills me is the effort that these schools go to at downplaying their true beliefs and intentions to incoming parents. It is so deceitful and undermining of a parents authority. How dare they decide what is best for my child.
This is from
Life After Waldorf ~ A Support Group
The vindictiveness that can be unleashed when one even questions the party line [at a Waldorf school] is very worrisome to me. We are considering *not* sending our dd to high school there — every time I asked a question at the meeting for 8th grade parents I was met with dissembling ... But I am really worried that asking [the Waldorf] teachers to write recommendations will not be a wise thing to do — and how to put this concern across to the new school we'd be applying to?
My child has not learned one thing in two years there — grades seven and eight, [even though] they assure you (when you're in kindergarten heaven) that your child will eventually embark on a rigorous curriculum. When I've complained that she's bored they say she doesn't pay attention (yeah, no duh, because she's B-O-R-E-D), and that she is already so "in her head" that she should focus more on gym (though the gym teacher is SO awful and rude I would pull [my daughter] out of school on that principle alone)....
I can't get anyone to answer a straightforward question about the science curriculum ... They [said] that their kids [i.e., Waldorf students] get more science than public schools (not true; I checked)....
I know the stats they provide show that their kids do go to college, and most are not doctors or lawyers or scientists. That's ok for my daughter; she's into art anyway. But the lack of substance, and worse, the absence of a standard for excellence and achievement (everything I've seen is mediocre or worse, even on the high school level), has me very depressed....
And how to ask them to write a good recommendation so we can get the hell out?
Here is a note from the Waldorf Watch "news" page
concerning the sort of doll mentioned earlier:
"Waldorf dolls" are faceless or nearly faceless cloth playthings generally made of all-natural materials. A lively cottage trade has sprung up producing, selling, and swapping such dolls, which may represent humans, elves, gnomes, or any other large-headed biped. The species, race, sex, and personal identity (marked by facial features) are usually left undetermined, so that children can project their own imaginations onto the toys.
Like most things associated with Waldorf schools, the emphasis on this type of doll can be traced back to guidance provided by Rudolf Steiner: “May I say something very heretical? People are very fond of giving dolls to children, especially pretty dolls. They fail to see that children really don’t want this. They wave it away, but it is forced on them — pretty dolls, all painted. It is far better to give children a handkerchief, or, if you can’t spare that, a piece of cloth. You tie it together, make the head here, paint the nose, two eyes, and so on. [Steiner demonstrates with his own handkerchief.] Healthy children much prefer to play with these than with the pretty dolls, because something is left to the imagination. The most magnificent doll with red cheeks and such leaves nothing for the imagination to do. The fine doll brings an inner emptiness to a child. “ — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 98.
Promoting an inward-looking approach is important in Waldorf schooling. Spiritual truths are believed to dwell within. They are accessed through imagination and then projected onto the outer world, populating the physical plane with spirit. Playing with "Waldorf dolls" is meant to foster an imaginative approach that, later in life, will lead to clairvoyance. For Steiner, the words "clairvoyance" and "imagination" were nearly synonymous. True thinking, Steiner taught, occurs not in the brain but in invisible extra bodies that human beings incarnate. The physical brain produces only intellectual thinking, which Steiner said is dead. Imagination is the precursor or first form of clairvoyance, to be followed by other, higher forms. "[Spiritual] things can, of course, be truly observed only when we press forward to the mode of cognition I described previously as the first stage of exact clairvoyance, imaginative knowledge. The abstract, intellectual knowledge of the human being that is common today does not lead to this other knowledge. Thought must come to life from within, and become imaginative ... At the first stage of exact clairvoyance (as I described it), one can perceive how, besides the forces of the physical body, a suprasensory [i.e., invisible] body is working in us." — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 60.
Waldorf or Steiner schools are not the pits of Hell. Some are better than others. The people who run Waldorf schools are, in general, good, caring individuals. But, to one degree or another, Waldorf faculties are deluded. Their beliefs — the doctrines of Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy — are junk, nonsense, delusion. There is no truth in Steiner's teachings, and therefore there is no validity in Waldorf education. Some Waldorf schools are better than others, but none is as good as it should be. None is entirely free of occultism. (The only exception would be a Waldorf school that completely renounces Steiner's teachings. But then it would no longer be a Waldorf school.)
Human beings are drawn to fantastical beliefs; we all want magic and glory in our lives. But wishing something doesn't make it so. The highest glory is truth, and Waldorf schools do not have it. This is sad; in some cases, it is tragic. To the extent that Waldorf schools are wedded to Steiner's occultism, they veer from the truth and damage human lives. Steer clear of them. Turn your face to the light, not to the phantasmagoric fantasies of Rudolf Steiner and his well-meaning but deluded followers.
— Roger Rawlings
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 14. PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER ◊◊◊