MY SAD, SAD STORY
How I Deprogrammed Myself
A friend once asked me how I managed to shake the cobwebs
out of my brain after graduating from a Waldorf school.
In an attempt to answer, I wrote the following (which I have revised slightly for use here).
I offer it only as a personal report, not as a guide for others.
Each individual affected by a Waldorf education probably needs to find her/his own path.
What is the path to recovery after a Waldorf "education"? Nowadays, there are support groups and services for Waldorf graduates and their parents, such as the Survivors List at People for Legal and Nonsectarian schools (http://waldorfcritics.org/ ). As far as I know, there was nothing of the sort in the dim, distant year of 1964, when I graduated from a Waldorf school. The upshot was that if I was going to get deprogrammed, I would have to do it myself. This, I think, is probably why it took so long.
I think that my essential nature is rationalistic — but my essential nature was deeply buried, and almost obliterated, by my Waldorf schooling. When I graduated from Waldorf, I was truly directionless and befogged. Trying to figure out who I really was — trying to reconnect with my true nature — was a miserable, dark slog. It took me decades, literally. But eventually I started to see a little light.
The first step toward sanity was college. When I arrived on campus, I was a nut. Because of my Waldorf "education," I was deeply disconnected from the real world, and deeply ignorant of it.
To my surprise, I loved college. It was an intellectual feast for one who had been intellectually starved. So, I started learning about the real world. I have always loved to read, and now I started reading sensible books, bracingly different from the novels of C.S. Lewis, the epics of J.R.R. Tolkien, SCIENCE IS A SACRED COW, Norse myths, ON THE TRACK OF UNKNOWN ANIMALS, and all the other fantasies I had been fed at Waldorf.
I don't want to misrepresent anything or applaud myself. I say that I loved college. But it took me awhile to figure that out (d'oh). I was not wholly the product of my Waldorf schooling, of course. Other factors influenced me: my family, my church (Lutheran), etc. Indeed, I had grown a bit skeptical of Waldorf during my final years there (see my essay “Unenlightened”). Nonetheless, I emerged from Waldorf as if from a brainwashing experiment. If my mind had not be wholly captured, my imagination and desires had been. I yearned for things this world does not offer. One consequence (for me and many other Waldorf graduates) was a disinclination and an inability to lead a normal life, engaging in normal activities, seeking normal objectives... I was unfit for reality. I dropped out of the first college I attended. I was still so lost, I couldn't even begin to guess where my salvation lay. A few months later, I enrolled at another college, and I completed a few courses before dropping out again. I could have drifted away at the point and become, what? A wino? An addict? I don't know. But something had happened to me at that second college — I'd been exposed to a few examples of rationality and beauty. I'd taken psychology, and Shakespeare, and anthropology (that’s “-logy,” not “-sophy”) — I'd gotten just enough exposure, I guess, to lead me to a third college. This third time stuck. I stayed right through graduation, becoming an "Honors Scholar" along the way, and winning a scholarship as reputedly the best English major. (This message is being brought to you by an uninterested member of Phi Beta Kappa.) But believe me, I was still a mess.
If I was a good student, that was, in a sense, the pose I adopted so no one would see what a whacked-out screw-up I really was. Once or twice I tried to describe my Waldorf schooling to friends, but what I had to say was so inconceivable to them that I got very little benefit from the effort. I also tried psychiatry — I visited the college's shrink a few times — but again, there seemed to be no point. I couldn't articulate my confusion and pain, and the kind man who wanted to help me had no way of grasping what I had experienced during my childhood.
My "pose" as a good student was just about the only thing I had going for me. (Looking back, I don't think I had more than three or four dates in college, and they were all awkward, embarrassed exercises in mutual misunderstanding. I never dated the same girl twice, and my dates occurred perhaps once per year. Good grief.) But I was a good student, and this actually was more than a pose. I loved learning so much that I went on to graduate school and then became a college prof. All the while, however, I still considered myself a romantic (in the Wordsworthian sense, not the Robert Redford), perhaps even a transcendentalist. I knew I wasn't a disciple of Steiner's. I'd tried to read a couple of his books, but they seemed to me arid and stupid. I knew, in fact, that they represented what I wanted to get away from. But still, I remained in many ways a specimen of Anthropop brainwashing. I was still in the clutches of a vague mysticism and a Waldorf-induced alienation from reality. Take a specific, Waldorf-weird example: My Waldorf's small library contained books on UFOs, abominable snowmen, and other fictitious phenomena, presented as if these phantoms actually existed. We students at Waldorf were encouraged to give credence to all manner of fabulous nonsense. Thus, I left Waldorf believing in UFOs. All during college and right up to the time I got tenure on an English faculty, I would scan the night skies looking for UFOs. And I saw some! Except, except...
My rational nature was slowly emerging, and I eventually realized that all I had seen were lights in the sky, which could have been anything. I never saw a flying disc, I never got abducted, I never met a little green man. I came to understand that I was fooling myself, wishing to see something so hard that I (almost) convinced myself that I had. But I hadn't.
So: Reading, mulling, doubting, trying to be honest with myself... You get the idea. I had to admit, eventually, that I could not defend any of my romantic, Steinerish beliefs or attitudes. There was a severe mismatch between the real world, about which I was gradually learning, and the visions I still carried around in my head.
Discovering existentialism was a big step for me. The concept of authenticity. I slowly realized how inauthentic I was. So here was the most painful part: Gradually, one at a time, I had to throw away all my old, Waldorf-instilled attitudes and beliefs — I had to throw away a large portion of my very identity and try to build a new one, almost from scratch.
Stumbling across Zen Buddhism* was also a big step. I am not an existentialist, nor am I a Buddhist of any stripe. But I was glad to get help wherever I could find it. (I read I'M OK, YOU'RE OK (an embarrassing admission) and got some good out of it. The idea that I might be OK was a revelation.) So: Zen. I loved the parables and conundrums. Unlike sitting in church and being hectored by a hypocrite (sorry, sorry — I'm ok and the pastor's ok), in reading about Zen I found delightful, funny, and beneficial teachings. No doctrines. No unprovable claims about an afterlife or a jealous God who would punish me for eternity if I didn't happen to pick the one true religion out of the vast array on offer (and make the pick based on no evidence at all). No bullshit in Zen. Buddhism is therapeutic, and the underlying ethic is, if it works, if it lessens your suffering, do it; and if it doesn't work, stop.
My favorite Zen parable was and is the one about a goose egg that hatched inside a bottle. The grown goose was trapped inside the bottle, far too big to crawl out through the bottle's neck. How can the poor goose get out of the bottle? Zen master claps his hands and says, "The goose is out of the bottle!" Right on. Don't be where you don't want to be; get out, get on. Don't try to stop your suffering. Just stop suffering. Easier said than done, of course. But, still, I found this to be useful advice. Waldorf screwed you up? Get over it.
Another of my favorite Zen sayings is "Is your bowl dirty? Then clean it." Yes. If the situation is bad, change it. Don't hire someone to do it for you, don't buy a dishwasher — just clean your dirty bowl and stop whining.
So I made a little progress, slowly, haltingly. Ten years after Waldorf, I was still a secret loony. Fifteen years after Waldorf, I was walking around in the real world, but I felt it to be a very strange place — I was a misfit in almost all ways. Twenty years out — I guess I can say I had more or less deprogrammed myself by then. But think of it. Twenty years after I was 18: I'm saying I can't claim to have found my footing in reality until I was approaching my fortieth year. Good grief!
This, of course, is why I am now a Waldorf critic. It's why I have posted so many essays on the Web. I don't want anybody else to go through what I did. Not that I have any illusions about making a huge difference for anyone or anything. Nor do I think mine is the Saddest Story Ever Told. Billions of people have had, and now have, much harder lives than I've had. But if I can help one family, here or there, just a little, then I'll feel that perhaps I've made a contribution.
P.S. At just about the time I started my studies as a grad student, I met my future wife. (We’ve been together ever since — you do the math.) She was my invaluable partner in my efforts to de-Waldorf myself. She knew nothing about Waldorf, Steiner, or Anthroposophy. Nonetheless she saved me. For some reason, she found worth in me, and today, looking back, I doubt that I would have made it without her. So, thank you, dearest. To my surprise, life can be good.
* For whatever minimal interest this may hold: I no longer advocate either existentialism or Zen, seeing them now as merely stages on my climb from Anthroposophy to rationality. Existentialism is largely anti-scientific, while Zen is anti-rational. As a confused half-rebel against Waldorf, I found these forms of thought congenial because Waldorf had schooled me in an anti-scientific, anti-rational attitude. True rationality was beyond me, but I could climb a rung or two toward it. Today I would call myself a rationalist, one who stipulates that verifiable factual information is at least as important as our capacity of reason. We find truth, I would submit, by thinking logically about verifiable facts. Easier said than done, of course.
Yrs trly, in the receiving line, graduation day, 1964.
Think hard before sending a child to a Waldorf school. The underlying ideology there is occult. If you explore the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, you will find innumerable examples. Here's one — no weirder than others, but also no less weird. Waldorf faculty members tend to take such teachings as gospel. Note, by the way, that this come from a lecture ostensibly about Christianity. The "Christianity" at Waldorf schools is in fact a pagan blend of many religions along with superstitions and fantasies. “[L]et us ask whence that power came which provided the first beginning of the human physical body on Saturn ... We may say that on Saturn man had the value and the existence of a mineral, inasmuch as he had no more than a physical body, as our minerals today. On the Sun man rose to the level of a plant, for he possessed both physical and etheric bodies.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN (Percy Lund, Humphries and Co., 1933), lecture 4, GA 112. [R.R. sketch, 2010 — merely an interpretive impression. I don't actually remember life on Saturn.]
All the beauty, spirit, truth, and ascendance
that really exists or is possible
can be found in the real world.
such as Steiner's,
[Photo by Joshua Strang.]
Late in August, 2009, I wrote the following sequel to the sequel you've just read.
The occasion was a message on an online discussion list;
I read the message and posted the following reply
(which I have edited slightly for use here).
If you'd like to see my original or the message that prompted it,
please use this link: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/11644
-—- In email@example.com, Peter Staudenmaier <pstaud@...> wrote:
> [T]here is absolutely nothing wrong with being wrong.
I think this is an extremely important point. And I'll propose a corollary: The way to handle being wrong is not to put up a stout defense — it is to change your mind. That's what truth-seeking is all about.
I'd offer this gross generalization: Followers of religious faiths resist changing their minds, often adamantly: They insist that their faiths are absolute, divinely revealed, literally true, inerrant.
I'd also say, as a gross generalization, that scientists and serious researchers in all academic disciplines are prepared to change their minds. They do their research, offer a conclusion, defend it — and, if it is swatted down, they hitch up their britches and move on.
Of course, there are many exceptions to these generalizations. No one enjoys being wrong; all people (talk about gross generalizations!) get emotionally wrapped up in their ideas and hate to let them go. Brilliant scientists are not immune to this attitude. But serious researchers realize that admitting error is crucially important, and they are prepared (however much it hurts) to do it when they must.
The distinguishing characteristic of real research — seen in emotional, human terms — is that each researcher wants to be right, but each researcher would also love to see the basic concepts of her/his discipline overturned. Specifically, each researcher would like to do the overturning. There are thousands of biologists out there today, for example, who essentially accept Darwin's account of evolution, but who would love to prove it wrong. Each Professor Smith would love to show that Darwinism must be abandoned and Smithism must be accepted instead. That way lies fame, glory, and probably tenure.
Very few followers of religions share this attitude. Few Christians want to see Christ's teaching overturned; few Buddhists want to see Buddha's shot out of the water; few Muslims...
The great appeal of Anthroposophy is that it claims to span the divide between religion and science. Steiner said that his teachings delineate "spiritual science," that is, the investigation of spiritual realities using strictly scientific means. Sounds terrific. But Anthroposophy hinges on clairvoyance, which does not exist. It requires the development of incorporeal "organs of clairvoyance" (chakras, lotus flowers), which cannot be developed.1 So Anthroposophists are thrown back on belief, perhaps with an admixture of self-deception (if they convince themselves that they are clairvoyant). They are, in the end, adherents of a religion, which helps explain the fervor with which they defend the doctrines (or "scientific findings") of their faith (their mischaracterized "science").
Now, of course, I could be wrong. I hope not; admitting it would be hard. But perhaps I am wrong, in which case I will (I promise) change my mind. I've been wrong a few times in my life, so I know what it feels like. (I'm joking, of course. I'm never wrong. Or, no, wait. I'll that that back. By a conservative estimate, I make about twenty-umpteen dozen mistakes every day. Give or take.) Just yesterday, I decided I had made a mistake in one of my essays, and I proceeded to do what I always do. Wiping the tears from my eyes, I reread the essay, then reopened several volumes of Steiner's lectures to check myself; and I went online to do new research. As it happens, yesterday I learned that I had been right (see?!?). But on many other occasions I have learned that I was wrong, and I have made the necessary corrections.
Let's stay with me as an excellent example (one of my favorites, anyway): For the first many years after I graduated from a Waldorf school I held onto many of the attitudes and beliefs instilled in me there, and I tried to convince myself that they were true. I read Thoreau, Emerson, Eiseley, Gardner, even Steiner; I prayed and meditated; I kept an eye out for UFOs; I argued for the existence of spirits, and unseen imminences, and Nessie. In short, I was a flake. But I was also divided in my own soul. I wanted to believe this stuff, but I also had my doubts, and I knew that Waldorf had been a bad trip in some ways. So I kept wrestling with myself and all the authors and information I confronted. For a long while I thought I was still a Christian; then for a while I thought I was a Buddhist (in a very informal, private way), or maybe a Hindu (in an extremely informal, unreal way), or...
To cut this shorter: Eventually I changed my mind. I became convinced that I had been wrong, and I became what Steiner derided as an "abstract," "materialist," "intellectual," "so-called educated" adult.
What a touching story.
My only real point is that I changed my mind. And I continue to change my mind, often. If I confront undeniable evidence that Steiner was right and I am wrong, I will change my mind again. But the more I study Steiner, the less likely this seems. The onus, anyway, is on the Steinerites. All of science and most of logic indicates that Steiner was wrong. Where's the evidence that he was right? Please produce it. Frank recently challenged Peter to disprove the supernatural (as if Peter has any interest in doing so). But this has things back-to-front. Neither Peter nor I nor anyone else has any obligation to disprove the existence of, let us say, the Easter Bunny. Rather, all believers in the Easter Bunny do have an obligation to substantiate their belief in that supersensible being — or they have this obligation if they want any of us to take them seriously. If they don't care what anyone else thinks, if they just want to embrace their belief, fine, they have that right. But they shouldn't be surprised if the rest of us find their belief a tad zany.
Steiner believed in goblins, auras, a fortress on the Moon, dragons, ghosts, horoscopes, populations on various planets, Zeitgeists, racial souls, guardian angels, Old Saturn, Vulcan, floating continents, non-orbital planets, Christian Rosenkreutz, Buddha's mission to Mars, Ahriman, black magicians, and one or two other occult phenomena. This is all extremely interesting. So please, help us out. Where is the evidence? Change our minds. Teach us. (Please don't say that these things cannot be proven — if that is so, then you should not believe in them any more than I do. And please don't say that they can be proven only by the use of nonexistent faculties. I don't have them, and — unless I miss my guess — neither do you. And please don't tell me that I can understand only if I start from an attitude of devotion. This is tautological: To learn to believe, I must first believe. Steiner used this tautology, but he shouldn't have, and neither should any of us.2) Illogic is illogic, and "spiritual science" cannot rely on it if it is, in fact, a science.)
Anyway, in sum, to wrap this up: There is nothing wrong with being wrong. But the next stage is to change one's mind and try harder to be right.
Or something like that.
2 Steiner said that seekers must "have a respect that forbids them, even in the deepest recess of their heart, to harbour any thoughts of criticism or opposition." — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 10. Steiner says this attitude begins, for fortunate people, in childhood. It then extends into the adult years: "What was once a childish veneration of persons, becomes, later, a veneration for truth and knowledge. Experience teaches that they can best hold their head erect, who have learnt to venerate where veneration is due; and veneration is always due when it flows from the depths of the heart." — Ibid.
This amounts to an admonition to check your brain at the door. Don't think; feel, from the heart; be like unto a child. Perhaps this is the proper attitude for matters of the spirit, but it is certainly not a scientific attitude. It is a religious injunction, not a scientific procedure. Science requires critical thinking, and it requires us to not be misled by our hearts. This is real scientific respect for "truth and knowledge." What Steiner describes is something very different. Your feelings are important to you, subjectively; but they have no bearing on objective fact. The crux is this: If you must start by foreswearing critical thought and by feeling veneration, then you cannot know whether whether the object of your veneration is "due" such veneration. You have posited it, you have let it flow out of your heart without allowing your brain to interfere. Instead of respecting knowledge, in other words, you have forsworn knowledge; instead of attaining truth, you have made the attainment impossible. Thus, you may venerate an object that merits veneration, or you may venerate something that deserves no such reverence. Indeed, you may very easily persuade yourself that the things you want to venerate exist (when they may not; they may be imaginary) and you may persuade yourself that these things are divine (when they may not be; they may simply be subjective objects of your desire). In fact, what Steiner has described is indistinguishable from self-hypnosis. Perhaps this is the right path for religious conviction (although even this is debatable), but it is surely not the path for "scientific" investigation of anything.
— Roger Rawlings
This is one of my old headmaster's many publications
[Anthroposophic Press, 1996].
The original edition was published in 1975,
under a different title, by The Waldorf Press.
The lovely cover painting is by John Gardner's daughter,
who taught art at our school.
I was one of her less-promising pupils.
The painting is a good example of Anthroposophical art.
Painting by a Waldorf student
[courtesy of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools].
This volume certainly does not contain all of Steiner's mystical writings,
but it may serve as a primer.
Virtually everything Steiner wrote after 1902
— when he startled his friends, students, and wife
by suddenly proclaiming himself an occultist —
Steiner described a universe of love — which is, of course, an extremely attractive vision. Waldorf schools try to shepherd students toward that universe — which is, of course, a lovely intention. But imagining that the stars, for instance, are embodiments of love is unavailing if this is merely a fantasy. Waldorf schools are far too immersed in well-meaning fantasies. Children benefit only when they receive realistic guidance — only this can move them toward real growth and betterment.
“Just think how dead the cosmos is when we look out there and see only burning bodies of gas that shine! Just think how alive it all becomes when we know: Those stars are expressions of love, with which the astral cosmos works on the etheric cosmos!” — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 150. [My sketch of Steiner's sketch, 2009.]
Steiner's statement is beautiful, in a way. But it is detached from reality: There is no "astral cosmos" or "etheric cosmos." We live in the real cosmos — this is where we must find the wisdom to create real love.
Another requirement, if we are to give real guidance to children, is that we must have a realistic understanding of children. Waldorf schools accept Steiner's extremely unrealistic views. Steiner taught that human beings have four bodies, three of which are invisible; we have twelve senses; we have both souls and spirits; we are reincarnated; we find truth not with our brains but with "organs of clairvoyance"; our hearts do not pump blood; we are subject to astrological forces; and so on. No truly constructive educational program can be built on fantasies. [R.R. sketch, 2009, based on image on p. 60 of FROM LIMESTONE TO LUCIFER (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999) — a collection of lectures by Rudolf Steiner.]
Waldorf schools invite you to climb the steps into Steiner's fantasy universe.
I climbed some of those steps, once.
But then, somehow, I stopped,
and I walked back down to reality.
[This is the entry to the eurythmy training center
on the campus of the Anthroposophical
headquarters, the Goetheanum.
R. R. sketch, 2010.]
Leaving a Waldorf school can be traumatic. Young children are separated from their friends; families separate themselves from a school in which they may have invested much energy and many hopes.
One of the hardest parts of leaving is that former friends and colleagues may turn their backs on you and your child — they may treat you as traitors. They may shun you for rejecting the faith, Anthroposophy, that they consider the one true path. In the view of many Waldorf insiders, you are either in or out — and if you are out, you are the enemy.
The difficulties in leaving a Waldorf school may be great for anyone at any stage of life, including faculty members, young adults, and young children. Here are a pair of messages that reflect on some of these issues.
Late in June, 2009, a former Waldorf school teacher with whom I'd had some debates posted a message on the Internet, saying he'd left a Waldorf school in part because he felt betrayed by the teachers among whom he'd worked. While working at the school, he had felt the need to separate himself at least slightly from the tight bonds of the Waldorf community. But as he set about creating a life for himself outside the school, some of his colleagues turned on him. Eventually, in the face of this hostility, he decided he needed to leave Waldorf altogether. He added that since that time, he had lived largely as a loner, fending off the possibility of additional betrayals.
I posted this reply (edited slightly for use here):
I realize this may be an unsettling idea for both of us, but I think you and I are much alike. I, too, am largely a loner. Partly this is because I was formed in a Waldorf school, which meant that, growing up, I was quite different from all the kids who went to other kinds of schools. Later, after struggling for years to overcome my Waldorf conditioning, I was — and remain today — different from most other adults in that I have spent so many of my years contending with a problem that none of them have experienced or even imagined. I sometimes think my tombstone might read: "Roger Rawlings. b. 1946. Went to Waldorf 1953-1964. Struggled to find his bearings 1965-1990. Starting from scratch, lived reasonably happily 1990 - [?]." This would not be my favorite tombstone inscription, but it would be apt. (My favorite tombstone inscription: found in a Texas graveyard: "Jake Smith. He done his damnedest.")
One advantage I may have had is that, when I left Waldorf, I was still a child (of 18, going on 8). This meant that I've had plenty of time to make friends beyond Waldorf, and I have made quite a few. But I do still live much by myself (with wife, dogs, cats...) because I live so far out in the boondocks. This is a conscious choice — I love nature. But I am aware that it may also be, in part, a consequence of my long, alienating struggle with my Waldorf upbringing.
I generally agree with your assessment of organized religion. I have found wisdom in many religious teachings — Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity. But I am not a churchgoer; as I've revealed before, I am agnostic. Many, many people seem to need religion, so I have to hope that they gain real benefits from it. But I think we would all be better off if we were all, in one way or another, agnostic — that is, trying to be open-minded, admitting the limits of our knowledge, and humanely looking upon one another as fellow seekers of the truth.
I'm not sure this applies, but it may. We cannot teach a dog algebra. No matter how hard we and the dog may try, it cannot be done. A dog's brain is simply not able to comprehend the concepts of algebra. Similarly, perhaps the ultimate design (if any) and purpose (if any) of the universe may be beyond the grasp of the human brain. Any ultimate design or purpose may lie beyond our capacities of comprehension. I am not willing to despair, I hope for comprehension, but I try to remind myself that there are both real limits to my own knowledge and, perhaps, ultimate limits to human knowledge. (Steiner tried to resolve this by relying on clairvoyance. But because science has found no evidence that clairvoyance exists or is possible, I think he was fooling himself — or perhaps consciously trying to fool us.)
Human betrayal is a very difficult subject. A longtime friend/opponent of mine died two days ago. Over the years, he betrayed me in various ways — but, then again, I imagine he thought I betrayed him. I wish we had done better by each other. We both meant well, and we remained friends, but our good intentions didn't completely protect us from occasional collisions, misunderstandings, failures, and oversights. Maybe this is just the human condition. A minister friend, on the verge of tears, once told me that he always knew what he should do in any given circumstance, but time and again he did something else. For the rest of us, who don't always know what we should do, failing to do the right thing is even more common, I guess.
I think that, in varying ways, all of my Waldorf teachers betrayed me — luring me to Anthroposophy and/or teaching me Anthroposophy, at least indirectly, without my parents' consent. And I think that Steiner betrayed my teachers and, by extension, me — by propagating what seem to me to be falsehoods. I have tried not to blame my teachers in my essays, etc. I have tried to reserve my criticism for Steiner — or, more particularly, his doctrines. I find it hard to work up much sympathy for Steiner, but this may be my own failing. I wish I were more Christ- or Buddha-like, full of charity for one and all, but I'm just me, full of flaws.
I sometimes think of the wisdom of Rodney King (the African American who, famously, was beaten severely by a group of white cops in Los Angeles years ago): "Can't we all just get along?" Human history suggests that the answer is no. Whenever I read history books, I'm overwhelmed by the chronicle or war after war, atrocity after atrocity... And yet somehow we do seem to have made some progress, small as it may be, toward less violent modes of self-expression. So I keep hoping that someday the answer will be yes.
Another former Waldorf student also posted a reply:
I believe you shouldn't fear that people outside Waldorf/Anthroposophy will behave like those inside did. For one thing, in the world outside Waldorf/Anthroposophy, it isn't such a big deal if somebody disagrees. It is quite possible to be good friends anyway. An opinion is just an opinion, not something that shakes the foundations of a group of people's way of life. There isn't shunning and back-stabbing and other such things that appear when people stick together in belief-based communities. Or, rather, the risk of this happening is lower. And there aren't the same hierarchies. (For example, in Waldorf, you just know some teachers are more important than others, that some supposedly "know" more even though what they "know" is so ill-defined. It's quite a dysfunctional setup for creating equality and friendship.)
I was just a child when I left Waldorf, but I did see huge differences in how people behave to each other. And I think many former Waldorf parents say that leaving Waldorf isn't just choosing another type of education; it is saying goodbye to a social community, because suddenly you go from friend to traitor. In the "normal" world, changing schools or workplaces or disagreeing on something just isn't the end of the world.
Frankly, it's better to have friends who wildly disagree with you every now and then, because then you know they are friends because they like you, not because you share a worldview and the friendship is superficially stable but in reality more like a house of playing cards, easily falling apart.
Not exactly a recipe for success in friendship, or anything even close to that, but it is my philosophy.
Life can be hard, disappointing, painful.
People often respond by turning to fantasy worlds —
and often they convince themselves that such worlds are real.
But they aren't.
The only truth, reality, and beauty
that really exist, exist here, in the real world.
[R. R., 2001 and 1997.]
On Defending Myself
Because I have written about myself, I have made myself fair game. And, naturally, people who hate the conclusions I have drawn about Waldorf schools and Anthroposophy — that is, people who embrace what I denounce — now direct verbal fire at me. I’m told that they frequently tell each other, and the world at large, about my real or alleged faults. Fair enough. But there is a limit to the value of talking about me. I am not important. I’m just a guy who has tried to learn and tell the truth.
Soon after I began publishing my research into Waldorf education and Anthroposophy, I decided to put up no defenses. I do not answer the attacks made against me, and I do not pretend that I am anything but what I am. I press ahead on good days and bad, when the work comes easily and when it is a struggle, when I'm at the top of my form and when I drag along. (One small claim I’ll make in my own defense: When I realize that I have made an error, I circle back ASAP and correct it. All the major sections of Waldorf Watch has been reviewed multiple times by multiple readers. I'm confident you can rely on what you find here.)
You can reach your own conclusions about me. I’d just ask this: Please realize that I am not the issue. My strengths and weaknesses are, at most, peripheral to the real issue that should concern us. That issue is the effect Waldorf schools have on children. That’s what I’ve tried to focus on, and it is what I suggest we all should focus on.
We all seek the truth, after all — we are all on similar journeys. I have chronicled my own journey, and I have chosen not to contest the judgments others make about me. My work will stand or fall on its own merits, and that's how it should be. To the very best of my ability, I have told you the truth about Waldorf schools, Anthroposophy, and Rudolf Steiner. I have even — not that it’s important — told you the truth about myself. Whether you find value in anything I have written is, of course, up to you.
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 14. PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER ◊◊◊
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.