THE GOOD (?) PARTS
Not All Bad;
Not All Good
Following is an edited version of remarks I posted at the free-speech forum
associated with http://waldorfcritics.org/. The address for this ongoing discussion is
I encourage anyone with an interest in Waldorf education or Anthroposophy
to consider joining the discussion. Or pop over there just to do a little reading.
Some good things happen at Waldorf schools. I tend to skim over this, since I believe that the overall effect of a Waldorf can be so damaging. But to be fair, some good things do happen.
As a Waldorf school student, I had roles in two Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, a role in a Shakespeare play, and small part in a play by John Synge. I was introduced to great music in the school chorus. I played (badly) in the school orchestra. I learned to play the recorder (a medieval woodwind instrument, which I still enjoy playing — I have soprano, alto, tenor, and bass recorders, and I play almost daily).  I read great literature in English classes.  I was exposed to foreign languages (although not really required to learn any). And I was exposed to a great deal of art, both as appreciator and creator. I painted and sculpted and carved (wood shop was great: we made bowls and boats and lamps...)
I had many good friends. The teachers were kind and concerned. Class sizes were small, so there was a lot of individual attention. I got to participate in several varsity sports (the school was so small, any kid who wanted to make the basketball team, or softball, or soccer, was almost sure of a place). Discipline and order were carefully maintained, yet the atmosphere in much of the school was relaxed and informal. There was little or no pressure to make great academic progress, or to become a standout in any other way. There was a pleasing atmosphere of security and comfort.
Also, I was shielded from gangs, most forms of bullying, and much of popular culture, including — to the extent possible — rock 'n' roll, television, racy literature, Mad magazine, and vending machines. (How beneficial some of this was may be questioned. In any case, my classmates and I were not totally ignorant of modern diversions and misconduct. Be realistic. Some of my friends and I drank fairly regularly by our junior year. The guys studied PLAYBOY and snuck into "blue movie" theaters. Some guys and girls experimented gingerly with sex: touching; foreplay — and perhaps, in some cases, more. We were teenagers living in the USA. The school could not totally disconnect us from the planet on which we lived, the culture around us, or the surging of our own hormones. I imagine we were probably better behaved than lots of our contemporaries at other schools. But I also suspect that we were more confused. Many of us truly wished for spiritual blessings. But sex play and inebriation also seemed like blessings to some of us. We were, to varying degrees, innocent, lustful, inhibited, dissipated, self-censuring, and self-loathing. We were teenagers — almost certainly more conflicted than most — living in the USA.) 
Those of us who were religious — and I was outspokenly so — found confirmation and consolation in the school's pervasive yet hazy spirituality. The Waldorf religion, Anthroposophy, was ever-present. We absorbed Anthroposophical attitudes and inclinations. But the doctrines of the faith were rarely specified. If we behaved ourselves, operating within a fairly narrow set of limits, we were more or less free to go our own way. (Freedom is an ideal espoused by Waldorf schools, although in practice unless we "freely" conformed to the school's expectations, we were free to leave. That is, kids got expelled.)
My sister has often told me she wished she had gone to a public school. I sometimes wished the same for myself. Many public schools suffer from serious problems. Drugs, gangs, hyper-attention to sports, etc. (But to be fair: My old Waldorf now makes a big deal of its sports teams. ) Still, despite their problems — or perhaps because of their problems — public schools represent real life. There, you deal with people as they really are, awful and great, petty and generous, narrow and wide: you confront the truth of the human condition. This is precisely what Anthroposophy avoids; it prefers an alternate, imaginary universe. Waldorf schools try to insulate kids from reality. We spent our days in an insulated, pleasant cocoon. We received little preparation for the lives we would presumably lead in the real world following graduation, but then most of us didn't seem to want such preparation. In truth, we had little idea what such preparation would consist of, and we scarcely understood what our lives might become when we ventured forth.
I enjoyed the school, for the most part — something many kids cannot say about their own schools. Behavior was decorous. There was quiet and calm. The grounds were beautifully maintained, and the building was kept scrupulously clean. The cafeteria served excellent meals. Attending the school was a privilege, and most of us knew it.
Nonetheless, I'm still sorry that I went to a Waldorf school, and I'm convinced that the overall effect of a Waldorf education can be profoundly harmful. It was for me. [See, e.g., "I Went to Waldorf" and "My Sad, Sad Story".]
— Roger Rawlings
Here are some statements posted in advocacy of Waldorf education. I will present them without adding any commentary of my own. (You can find plenty of commentary on other pages here at Waldorf Watch. For example, to understand the Waldorf approach to the “whole child”, see “Holistic Education”. To examine the Waldorf emphasis on art, see “Magical Arts”. To consider the role of Anthroposophy in Waldorf schooling, see “Here’s the Answer”.)
◊ From the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America:
“When you enter a Waldorf school, the first thing you may notice is the care given to the building. The walls are usually painted in lively colors and are adorned with student artwork. Evidence of student activity is everywhere to be found and every desk holds a uniquely created main lesson book.
“Another first impression may be the enthusiasm and commitment of the teachers you meet. These teachers are interested in the students as individuals. They are interested in the questions:
“• How do we establish within each child his or her own high level of academic excellence?
“• How do we call forth enthusiasm for learning and work, a healthy self-awareness, interest and concern for fellow human beings, and a respect for the world?
“• How can we help pupils find meaning in their lives?
“Teachers in Waldorf schools are dedicated to generating an inner enthusiasm for learning within every child. They achieve this in a variety of ways. Even seemingly dry and academic subjects are presented in a pictorial and dynamic manner. This eliminates the need for competitive testing, academic placement, and behavioristic rewards to motivate learning. It allows motivation to arise from within and helps engender the capacity for joyful lifelong learning.” [http://www.whywaldorfworks.org/02_W_Education/index.asp]
◊ From Waldorf Answers:
“The goal of Waldorf or Rudolf Steiner education is to enable students as fully as possible to choose and, in freedom, to realize their individual path through life as adults.
“While anthroposophy forms the philosophical and theoretical basis of the teaching methods used in Waldorf schools and is reflected in the attitudes of many Waldorf teachers and in the general structuring and orientation of Waldorf education during the different stages of development, anthroposophy is not taught as such to the students in the overwhelming majority of Waldorf schools world wide.
“If anthroposophy is taught in some form by an individual teacher, it is done against the basic Waldorf tradition and in complete contradiction of the intention of Waldorf education, as expressed by Rudolf Steiner as the founder of Waldorf education.” [http://www.waldorfanswers.org/Waldorf.htm]
◊ From the Steiner waldorf Schools Fellowship:
“A Distinctive Education: Ten Key Points.
“1. Creativity. The use of drawing, painting, music, movement, poetry, modelling and drama enhances the learning experience in all subjects ... 2. Continuity. In most cases the children are with the same class teacher from age 6 to 14, supported by a range of subject teachers ... 3. Activity. There is a central place for structured movement, the out-door environment and learning through doing across the entire age-range ... 4. The Individual and Society. Social and emotional skills are fostered in a variety of ways: by the recognition of childhood as a time of wonder, by the family-like environment of the extended Early Years, by the provision of clear adult authority and guidance and by the exploration of global and social perspectives at secondary level. 5. Inclusion and Differentiation. Whole class teaching is combined with individualised and differentiated learning ... 6. The Spoken Word. The oral and narrative tradition is brought to life though recitation, drama and an extensive use of poetry, stories, myths and legends ... 7. Age-appropriate. Not too soon, not too late. The lesson content and its method of presentation are linked to the children's emotional, social, physical and intellectual development ... 8. Assessment. The unique qualities of each child can be observed and described, but not always measured ... 9. Excellence. Every pupil is expected to give of their best across all disciplines ... 10. Context. Steiner schools form the largest group of independent, non-denominational schools in the world.... “ [http://www.steinerwaldorf.org.uk/distinctiveeducation.html]
I was the monarch of the sea.
[1964 PINNACLE (Kansas City: Inter-Collegiate Press, 1964).]
I've included a few images of myself on pages at this site
just to show that I was there: I went to Waldorf.
(But I didn't usually dress this way.)
The emphasis on arts is perhaps the most obviously appealing
part of Waldorf schooling.
Most parents would be thrilled if their kids created paintings like this.
[Courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools.]
Painting by a Waldorf grad
Waldorf schools are often beautiful —
[R. R., 2010.]
Here are two items from the Waldorf Watch "news" page:
"My parents were looking for a school that would nurture the whole person. They also felt that the Waldorf school would be a far more open environment for African Americans, and that was focused on educating students with values, as well as the academic tools necessary to be constructive and contributing human beings." [10-8-2010. http://perseiden.blogspot.com/2010/10/ehemalige-waldorfschuler-und-eltern.html]
[See, e.g., "Advice for Parents", "Slaps", "Moms", "Our Experience", "Coming Undone", "Our Brush with Rudolf Steiner", "A Victim of Teacher Bullying at Waldorf", and "An Open Letter to Highland Hall".]
On the dreadful topic of racism: Some Waldorf schools undoubtedly handle things better than others. The sad truth, however, is that any non-white student who is treated well at a Waldorf school is very likely being patronized. A central Anthroposophical tenet is that reincarnating souls move upward through a hierarchy of races. The following quotation comes from one of the most important of Steiner's books, one that virtually all Waldorf teacher trainees study: “A race or a nation stands so much the higher, the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal human type, the further they have worked their way from the physical and perishable to the supersensible and imperishable.” — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 252.
And Waldorf-leaning blacks should meditate upon the following statement made by Rudolf Steiner: "[T]he aspects which pertain to the body and the metabolism are strongly developed in a Negro. He has a strong sexual urge — as people call it — strong instincts. And as, with him, all that comes from the sun — light and heat — really is at the skin's surface, all of his metabolism works as if the sun itself is boiling in his inside. This causes his passions. Within a Negro, cooking is going on all the time....” — Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), p. 55.
Waldorf teachers are not necessarily racists. But if they accept Steiner's teachings, their understanding of human beings will be deeply flawed.
"This is why Waldorf teachers are deceptive. They are TAUGHT to be deceptive. It’s part of Waldorf education to be deceptive… to lie to parents… even about their own children. Why? Because according to Steiner, the Waldorf teacher is more important to the spiritual development of the child than the parents are." [10-14-2010 http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/2010_10_01_archive.html]
Waldorf or Steiner schools are often quite beautiful. They are often staffed by beautiful people who have the very best intentions. And, thanks in part of selective admissions, they often have quite wonderful student populations. For these and other reasons, many families have good experiences at Waldorf schools.
Sometimes, however (and much more often than anyone would wish), the Waldorf idyll breaks down. Sometimes this happens simply because a family realizes that Waldorf teachers subscribe to an astonishing set of occult beliefs: Anthroposophy. But sometimes it happens for more terrible reasons, and a family, or part of a family, winds up being brutalized.
How can this happen in such a beautiful place as a Waldorf school? It can happen because the underlying occult philosophy of Waldorf schools is so deeply out of touch with reality, and because the true believers on a Waldorf faculty consider anyone who disagrees with them to be, literally, possessed by demons. Waldorf true believers are sure, deep in their hearts, that they are Good; and with equal certainty, they know that anyone who crosses them is devilish, probably a servant of Ahriman, and perhaps indeed a subhuman monster. Rudolf Steiner taught them to believe such things.
A terribly sad situation has evidently been playing itself out at Highland Hall, a Waldorf school in the USA, for the last several years. I have never set foot in Highland Hall, I know none of the teachers there, I have only a casual Internet-based acquaintance with some of the families who have sent children there. Thus, I cannot tell you exactly what happened there or who is right and who is wrong. But the alleged events there are eerily like events reported at many other Waldorf schools, in the USA and beyond — and they are eerily like events that I personally observed at the Waldorf school I attended, many years ago. Very little changes in the Waldorf universe, or so it would seem.
If you want to understand the potential dangers of sending a child to a Waldorf school, I suggest you keep track of the situation at Waldorf Awareness [http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/]. You may decide that the blogger there is a demonic monster who lies constantly. (You might decide the same about me.) Or you may be grateful that you have found someone who will tell you hard truths about Waldorf schools. In either case, you will benefit from visiting the site.
"Cartoons and Lego, soccer, sex education and lefthandedness are treated with disdain [in Waldorf schools], and the children have to recite rhymes and verses with odd accentuations that make the recitations resemble mantra practices. There are no actual text books, and the children must copy the subject matter from the teacher’s blackboard writing. In 1998, the pedagogical research branch of the Waldorf Association published a brochure entitled 'Literature assignments for the teachers’ work at free Waldorf schools'. The booklet contains an outline of literature that 'can be turned to when preparing for the teaching of the first to the eighth grades of main lesson blocks'. There is not one single recommendation of a reliable non-fictional work on the Nazi period for history education; instead, the list includes predominantly anthroposophical works from the first half of the past century, some of which are filled with dubious stories of 'root races' and the migrations of the 'Aryans'. In the recommended books we read that Italians are merry and impulsive and lie out of courtesy; the Brit, on the other hand, is unaffected and materialistic. The Arab is depicted as hardy, passionate, callous and scheming. The Asian is considered to be decadent; he is either a choleric Mongol or a phlegmatic Malay. The Japanese lives in a light wooden house with straw roof, he always smiles enigmatically, and conceals a merciless rigour beneath the surface. Africans are childish, naïve and devout, and their origins and their instincts exert strong influences upon them. And because they are like children, they must be governed by white people. The Russian is described as quick-tempered, brutal, ruthless, violent, dominant, impatient, capricious, resigned to his fate, resistant to adversity, undependable and unpunctual.
"...Steiner’s conception of reincarnation and karma is considered the 'foundation of all genuine education'. For this reason, 'Waldorf pedagogy, in its entirety and all the way to its core, is built upon a perception of the human being that holds reincarnation and karma as central facts', wrote Valentin Wember, a Waldorf pedagogue, in the journal 'Art of Education' in 2004. Speculating on previous earth lives of other people is certainly viewed as a tactless intrusion into the private sphere; for Waldorf teachers, however, there is an exception — for them, 'cautious speculation' is allowed. Anthroposophists believe that the child’s body is moulded by forces which derive from previous earth lives. He who has lied during an earlier life, his physical being will be affected by this in his subsequent incarnation, and he will be reborn with mental impairments. 'These days, the human being is unable to really fathom the truth, and he becomes feeble-minded', writes Weber. This connection is 'a spiritual law, discovered by spiritual scientist Rudolf Steiner'. The educator should imagine himself as the person who had been lied to in the previous life. He must forgive the disabled child and into the child’s mind instil the truths of spiritual life. The educator is to work off the 'karmic debt' of the children, too."
— Peter Bierl, "An Pedagogy for Aryans"
Reality really ought to be enough for us.
We don't need to invent fantastical alternative universes,
the way Steiner did.
Reality is wondrous enough.
[Drawings by Ernst Haeckel, ART FORMS IN NATURE
(Dover Publications, 1974).]
[R. R., 1995.]
And in this case, not a bad metaphor for Waldorf education:
a cactus flower — deceptively beautiful, adorning a decidedly dangerous plant.
[R. R., 2010.]
Here are excerpts from a report about Waldorf schools prepared for UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). It is informative and generally well-researched. However, it is also studded with errors, and it suffers from a common characteristic of bureaucratic reports: striving to be evenhanded, it tends to state pro and con positions without reaching a true conclusion. The author is Heiner Ullrich, and the title is simply "Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)".
Rudolf Steiner’s reforming ideas still have an exceptionally strong, practical impact today in many spheres, especially in education, medicine, agriculture and the pictorial arts.  On the other hand, his theoretical scientific and philosophical writings have so far met with little interest and still less acceptance in academic circles. When his thinking does attract attention it becomes the subject of passionate controversy. Uncritical identification by his followers contrasts with polemic and sweeping criticism by the representatives of academic research. There seems to be no golden mean in the appraisal of Steiner’s conceptual world.
One reason resides in the extraordinary variety and scale of his literary and rhetorical output. His often strange and esoteric diction places practically insurmountable obstacles in the path of scientific and philosophical analysis. What is more, few critical biographies have been written about Steiner as yet. Attempts to do so tend to resemble more the nature of hagiography.
... Steiner’s cosmogony takes the basic form of the gnostic myth: man must lose his worldliness and slavish dependence on material things so that the soul and the world can rise up to self-redemption and fuse once again with the divine spiritual origins which both bear within them. Modern man lives on the fourth planetary phase of development of the earth that entails an experience of individuation and the respiritualization of the individual. Belief in Jesus Christ can be helpful at this developmental phase. Jesus is not seen by Steiner primarily as a historical figure but rather as a cosmic sun being.  As a joint reincarnation of the spirits of Buddha and Zarathustra, he represents their religious wisdom. His sacrificial death caused these forces to flow into the world. Since that event, they have made it easier for man to find the path back into the world of the spirit in his secularized and materialistic civilization.
...Steiner’s basic ideas on education were conceived in the period between 1906 and 1909 in a manner which to begin with had naturalistic overtones: Out of the essence of the developing individual, ideas on education will grow, as it were, of their own accord. However, in contrast to the path taken by Dewey and Montessori, who sought to establish their New Education on recent ideas of empirical child psychology, Steiner based his educational plan entirely on his cosmic spiritualistic anthropology: If we wish to detect the essence of the growing individual, we must set out from a consideration of the hidden nature of man as such.
... [Waldorf schools] are establishments that maintain their own financial and curricular autonomy and are characterized by a child-centered educational tendency.
...The Rudolf Steiner kindergarten has the atmosphere of a living room with a maternal educator. The guiding aims are to develop the senses by imitation and the experience of community life with a rhythmic progression.
... The Rudolf Steiner schools are continuous establishments in which the pupils learn together in stable year-groups from the first to the twelfth year of schooling, without any interruptions or repeat years.  Instead of official reports containing marks, the teachers write annual character portraits or learning reports in their own free wording.  The syllabus and method of teaching are supposed to be guided in the first instance by the genetic and organic development of the child. 
The all-round personality of the pupil is supposed to be shaped through placing the equal weight on cognitive, artistic-affective and technical-practical activities in both tuition and school life. Practical training — through agricultural activities in the school garden, handicrafts and industry — are intended to develop a practical outlook on life. 
...[T]he teachers see themselves in the first place as educators. They remain in charge of the same class for eight years as the class tutor.  The teacher gives a two-hour daily period of epoch teaching that covers one of the traditional main subjects during a four-week cycle.  Teaching takes place without standardized textbooks; the most important learning material consists of the epoch notebooks prepared by the pupils themselves.
...Rudolf Steiner schools have no headmaster.  They administer their own organizational and educational functions at weekly conferences arranged in a collegial manner.
...[T]the Steiner and Jena Plan Schools are characterized by a school atmosphere which resembles that of the home, intensive attention to school life, the continuation of the classrooms by gardens, workshops and practical courses, attention to the physical and spiritual well-being of the pupils, an emphasis on musical education, and a rhythm of school life marked by festivals and ceremonies. Parents are closely involved in school life.  The teachers see themselves primarily as persons who accompany the development of the child. All forms of compromise with bureaucratic selection criteria and state policies are outlawed.
...One of the most striking trends on the educational scene is the constant growth of international demand for Rudolf Steiner schools and kindergartens. In the past two decades, they have developed from the role of an outsider to become the leader of the international movement for a New Education. Since its inception in 1919, the Steiner school model has made its way from Germany via the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa and Australia to the great cities of Latin America and Japan.
...The Rudolf Steiner schools are not only successful in themselves. The educational results of the pupils who have attended them in Germany are also impressive. This is already reflected in the fact that in 1990 almost twice as many pupils of Rudolf Steiner schools (57.5%) attained the qualification necessary for university studies than pupils of the same year attending state schools. 
...[I]ntensive study and discussion of Steiner’s pedagogics have been in progress in educational circles in Germany for the past ten years or so. However, positions are highly controversial: they range from enthusiastic support to destructive criticism. One side emphasizes the meaningful practice of all-round education designed to meet the needs of the child and overlooks the extra-sensory anthropology of Steiner. The other side directs destructive criticism at this occult neo-mythology of education and warns against the risks of resulting indoctrination (in a world-view school); in the process, it loses an unprejudiced view of the varied practice of the Steiner schools. This position of ideological criticism is further confirmed by the assertion of the anthroposophic educationalists that all the norms and forms of their educational practice are systematically deduced from the cosmic anthropology of the master.
This, I think, is how I remember the good parts of Waldorf:
a pastel mist, attractive (once you get used to it), and warm —
but disorienting and, in the end, insubstantial.
I've based this image on the contours of the flowing
robes worn by an angelic eurythmist shown on p. 231 of
Rudolf Steiner, EURYTHMY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2006).
The colors are those I remember appearing in
painting after painting created and displayed around our Waldorf school.
Sketch of one of the windows at the Goetheanum,
the Anthroposophical headquarters.
Another item from the "news" page:
Disguised religious ceremonies
— such as candle-lighting ceremonies conducted along spiral paths in darkened rooms —
are often held at Waldorf schools.
[See the item reported here on 2-20-12.]
“Suncoast Waldorf School Educates the Whole Child
“Driving onto the campus of the Suncoast Waldorf School [Florida, USA] for the first time, even the setting is nontraditional. Instead of the huge concrete walls of a public school, Waldorf is beautifully landscaped, and could easily be mistaken for an antique or crafts shop.
“The ungraded private school for grades K-8 takes a nontraditional approach to education...
“The school's educational philosophy was developed in Germany by scientific philosopher [sic: read occultist spiritual leader] Rudolf Steiner during the early 1900s. He established the Anthroposophical Society to spread his teachings, which focused on the true nature of the human being...
“The Suncoast Waldorf School, at 1857 Curlew Road, has eight teachers and an enrollment of 108 students. All teachers on staff have completed a rigorous course of study at various Waldorf training institutes across the country. They all hold a Waldorf teacher certification.
“A typical student’s day at Waldorf consists of a multisensory, hands-on education that includes art, playing an instrument (either violin or flute), cooking, singing, drawing, acting and public speaking. The academic curriculum is presented in a creative, interactive manner.
“There are no textbooks or computers...” [2-29-2012 http://palmharbor.patch.com/articles/suncoast-waldorf-school-educates-the-whole-child]
This is the sort of uncritical puff piece that Waldorf schools often manage to plant in local media. Read such stuff with your b.s. detector running.
Waldorf schools are often lovely, but all the attractions serve as coverings for the spiritual / mystical / religious intentions of the schools. [See, e.g., “Spiritual Agenda” and “Magical Arts”.]
The teachers often are, indeed, graduates of Waldorf teacher training programs, and this should tell you almost all you need to grasp in order to understand what the schools are really meant to do. [See, e.g., “Teacher Training” and, for tips on what to look for when touring a Waldorf school, “Clues”.]
The “whole child,” in Waldorf belief, is a mystical fantasy. Rudolf Steiner (who was a self-professed occultist — see “Occultism”), said that children are reincarnating spirits who have three invisible bodies, both souls and spirits, 12 senses, astrological identities, temperaments (sanguine, choleric, melancholic, or phlegmatic), racial identities reflecting levels of spiritual advancement, and so forth. Teaching the “whole child” sounds good, but look beneath the surface of such rhetoric. [See, e.g., “Holistic Education”.]
As for the absence of computers and textbooks — Waldorf schools generally shun modern technology and even modern knowledge, considering it to be demonic or at least potentially demonic. Fear of demons and other evil beings is laced through the Waldorf approach. [See, e.g., “Ahriman”, "Evil Ones", “Science”, “Lesson Books”, and “Materialism U.”]
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 4. CONSIDERATIONS FOR PARENTS ◊◊◊
SIX FACTS ABOUT STEINER EDUCATION
If you'd like more information about any of the topics discussed here,
you might begin by consulting the following resources:
THE SEMI-STEINER DICTIONARY
THE BRIEF WALDORF / STEINER ENCYCLOPEDIA
WALDORF WATCH INDEX
WALDORF WATCH TABLE OF CONTENTS
Some illustrations on each page here at Waldorf Watch
are closely connected to the essay on that page;
others are not — they provide general context.
 “The recorder was invented during the Middle Ages and has remained basically unchanged. It became popular during the 1500's and 1600's and was an important part of the music of the Renaissance. By the mid-1700's, the modern flute had largely replaced the recorder.” The World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia, Mac OS X Edition, Version 6.0.2.
 Waldorf schools may provide safe havens, at least against physical threats. Dire influences from outside the schools cannot be wholly ignored or excluded, however. Here are two news items from early in 2009. The first reflects a commendable undertaking: “In an effort to squelch school bullying before it begins, Sunrise Waldorf School is bringing Kim John Payne, M.Ed., an international expert on bullying, to the Cowichan Valley to teach practical playground, classroom and home based [sic] tools to foster a culture of social inclusion and respect.” — Lexi Bainas, “Anti-Bullying Expert Coming to Cowichan” (Canwest News Service, Feb. 4, 2009). The threat of bullying is real, even at a Waldorf; in this case, preventive measures were taken.
The second item, from a police log, shows weaponry finding its way inside a Waldorf, although once again prevention apparently prevailed. “Students found ammunition for a .22-caliber gun and a knife on the property of Portland Waldorf School, 2300 SE Harrison Street.” [www.oregoncitynewsonline.com/news , Feb. 4, 2009.]
In other cases, Waldorf schools may not provide the sanctuary parents hope for. Here are three troubling reports about bullying and violence at Waldorf schools, all posted early in February, 2009. (I have cleaned up some typos.) Be cautious about accepting messages like the following. I substantiate my own work with careful documentation. The following messages, more informal, are largely undocumented. Still, they seem sincere, and they may be worth considering. The first message was written by a mother who removed her child from a Waldorf school: “The letters we received [from the school, in answer] to our complaints make good reading ... One just fobbing us off, and another slamming into us and our child horribly, and denying any wrongdoing. Also a letter threatening expulsion for bullying the day after we removed him [their child] from the school because of a bully who had scratched ******** so hard he left scars on his face. The bully was a problem for many other kids, but nothing was done....” [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/messages/9010 ]
A former Waldorf student describes a similar situation firsthand: “My Waldorf school, and the kindergarten too, was very violent; violence was around all the time. There was lots of bullying, and I've read others state that the school was well-known for its problems with bullying. Nothing was ever done to stop the bullying.
“The violence was pretty much a standard method of hanging around, I can't describe it better. You could count on being thrown into the wall, cupboards or into rocks, being hit, being pushed, those kinds of things — every day.
“I've been scratched 'til I got bruises, been kicked in my back 'til I couldn't breathe, been hit with a wooden ‘club’ on my head so that I saw stars (but no angels). But that's just the tip of an iceberg.” [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/messages/9104 ]
The most distressing report comes from a former Waldorf parent who describes violence and bullying committed by Waldorf teachers: “A girl I knew was rammed against a wall by a teacher ... Yet another girl told me that a teacher hurt her when he yanked her arm to try to force he across a stream on a field trip and then grabbed and shook her violently ... I saw a teacher go ballistic on two children for playing with some outdoor sprinkler lines ... Even a teacher whom we liked and respected had a reputation for occasionally going into extraordinary rages in the classroom.” [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/messages/9120 ]
 The school publishes a small magazine called The Waldorf News. Many issues include reports of sporting successes, and some list “most valuable players,” “coaches awards,” “most improved players”, and “player of the year” honors for a variety of sports. Photos suggest that winners of various sports awards received Olympic-style medals. There is an annual Sports Night Dinner — I assume this is when the awards are distributed. See, e.g., the issue for the summer of 2007, pp. 16-17.
The school’s e-mail newsletter, Waldorf eUpdate, also gives prominence to sporting achievements. The February, 2008 edition includes an item titled “Go Waldorf! Garden City [i.e., the Waldorf School of Garden City] Wins Big at Kimberton Tournament": “The boys and girls varsity basketball teams participated in the annual Waldorf schools basketball tournament ... In their Friday night opener, the Garden City boys beat the High Mowing School in a spirited overtime game, 59-57. Junior W [I will omit students’ names] scored 16 points and had 12 rebounds. Freshman X chipped in a team high [sic] 25-points [sic] in the dramatic win. The Girls Varsity Team [sic] shut-out [sic] the Hawthorne Valley School in a dramatic, 30-7 win. Juniors Y and Z both scored 10-points [sic] each.” Note the implication that other Waldorf schools, participants in the tournament, may also place emphasis on sports.
 Trying for evenhandedness leads Ullrich to make some fundamental errors. Steiner's "reforms" are, at best, extremely dubious. Anthroposophical medicine is largely quackery: See, e.g., "Growing Up Being Made sick by Anthroposophy". Biodynamic agriculture is a mix of astrology and magic: See, e.g., "Biodynamics". And Waldorf education embodies occultism and arises from a racist worldview: See, e.g., "A Pedagogy for Aryans".
 This is inaccurate. According to Steiner, Jesus was a human being; Christ is the Sun God, who for three years inhabited Jesus's body.
 This may be generally true, but not always. Some students at the Waldorf school I attended were held back — they left their classmates and became members of a lower grade.
 At my Waldorf school, we were given grades, and we received report cards.
 The Waldorf curriculum tends to be highly regimented. See "Curriculum".
 Actually, a common complaint about Waldorf schools is that they give students an extremely impractical outlook: They tend to implant occultism: Anthroposophy.
 This is not always true. My class had one main teacher for five years, then another for three. When we went on to high school, we had a third who stayed with us for four years.
 At my Waldorf school, the "main lessons" lasted 90 minutes, not two hours, and the cycles lasted three weeks, not four.
 This may be generally true, but not always. My Waldorf had a headmaster, as did our sister school in New York City, the Rudolf Steiner School.
 Parents are often encouraged or even required to do volunteer work at the Waldorf school their children attend. On the other hand, parents are often considered outsiders who are told little about the tenets of Anthroposophy or, consequently, the rationale for the Waldorf curriculum. See, e.g., "Faculty Meetings".
 Evaluating Waldorf schools can be difficult. How good are the schools they are compared to? How intelligent at the students at a Waldorf school? How much help do they receive outside the school, for instance by their parents? Many, many factors can affect students' academic success. See "Academic Standards".