Sifting the Clues
"Are Waldorf Schools Progressive?"
Rudolf Steiner presided at the first Waldorf school, which opened in 1919. Long ago. I attended a Waldorf in the 1950’s and ‘60’s. Long ago. [See "I Went to Waldorf".] What is the Waldorf story today? Are the schools still like the one that I remember or, more to the point, like the one that Steiner oversaw?
There are so many Waldorf and Steiner schools, today, scattered so far and wide, it is impossible to say for sure what goes on inside all of them. A large team of investigative reporters might be able to ferret out the truth, particularly if the schools agreed to give them access. But this seems unlikely. Here’s how Steiner himself reacted when someone asked to visit just one class at the first Waldorf School:
“[T]he most that would be possible would be that we might decide to show visitors the empty school when the children and teachers are not there. There can be no question of visiting while the school is in session. That is, such a visit could only take place after weighing up carefully in consultation with those who hope to learn something by visiting the school — for instance, with people who want to see something of this school because they are trying to found a similar school elsewhere, because they themselves are doing something relevant to spread the idea of the Waldorf School ... [T]he most that we can allow is for you to see the classrooms, and even that would be burdensome at the moment ... It does not work to have what I described in the first part, the spirit of the Waldorf School, on display for visitors.” 
Steiner sounds like he has something to hide, doesn’t he?
Short of storming the walls of all the Waldorfs, how can we learn the truth? Actually, several methods of discovery are open to us. We may not learn precisely what is happening inside every last Waldorf, but we can form a clear, general picture. Let’s start here: As recently as 2013, the Waldorf school that I attended still pledged allegiance to Rudolf Steiner in clear, overt terms. This mission statement was displayed on the school's website and in school publications (note the reference to Steiner and the implications of a spiritualistic agenda):
“To nurture toward compassion, to balance toward wholeness, to challenge toward excellence and achievement — to which the Waldorf School of Garden City aspires. Based on the insights of Rudolf Steiner, and enriched by the diversity of our community, our methods of teaching reflect an understanding of the growing child and acknowledge the spiritual origins of humanity.” 
Other Waldorf schools are equally — or even more — explicit about their devotion to Steiner (although they generally do not provide a true account of Steiner’s teachings). Moreover, today there is an institution of higher education called Rudolf Steiner College operating in the USA. The name of the college, of course, tells us that Steiner’s teachings are of paramount importance for the faculty and students. The college has described itself this way:
“Rudolf Steiner College is one of America's leading Waldorf teacher education colleges. It is also a center for anthroposophical studies [i.e., studies in Rudolf Steiner's mystic doctrines]. Programs at the College arise out of the work of Austrian philosopher, scientist and educator Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) whose innovative ideas and discoveries have inspired a wide spectrum of practical activities worldwide — in the arts, banking, architecture, medicine, agriculture, and care of the handicapped, as well as education.
“Rudolf Steiner founded the worldview known as Anthroposophy (literally, wisdom of the human being), in which the heightened capacities of thinking, feeling, and willing are seen as key to unlocking enormous human potential.” 
In other essays here at Waldorf Watch, I explain what Steiner’s teachings are. [See, e.g.,"Nutshell" and "Everything".] Using this knowledge, we can decipher the college’s self-description. In Anthroposophical circles, statements intended for public consumption are customarily couched in obfuscating code. But peel back the new-age jargon (e.g., “human potential”), and we find at least a suggestion that the college subscribes to Steiner’s views on clairvoyance — “heightened capacities of thinking, feeling, and willing”. [See "Clairvoyance".] How could it be otherwise, at an institution that has named itself after the founder of Anthroposophy? Steiner taught that there are several ways for humans to expand their capacities, including some methods that function while one is dreaming or asleep.  True knowledge of the spirit world — which, for Steiner, is far more important than knowledge of the physical universe — is attained through clairvoyance, he said. This psychic power is seated in nonphysical “organs” of clairvoyance:
“[J]ust as natural forces build out of living matter the eyes and ears of the physical body, so will organs of clairvoyance build themselves....” 
Bear in mind that the chief purpose of Rudolf Steiner College is to produce a new crop of Waldorf teachers every year. Thus, in understanding the nature of the college, we understand the nature of its graduates — and the nature of newly minted Waldorf teachers today. Anthroposophy is a mystical system that places humanity at the center of a polytheistic universe full of good and evil spiritual forces warring over the future of cosmic evolution. [See, e.g., "The Center" and "Polytheism".] Quite possibly, most of the graduates of Rudolf Steiner College are not yet initiated Anthroposophists, but they have begun the long, irrational, psychologically damaging journey toward occult, Anthroposophical initiation. And they will bring the consequences of their occult training into the classroom. [See "Teacher Training" and "Occultism".]
Am I pushing this analysis too hard? For the sake of argument, let’s say that I am. This is only the beginning of our examination of Waldorf education today. Stronger proof lies ahead. But for now, let’s go back to an intriguing part of the college’s self-description: “Rudolf Steiner founded the worldview known as Anthroposophy.” The college makes no claims, in this statement, for Anthroposophy, nor does it overtly endorse Steiner’s “worldview.” But I submit that, for the college, its namesake’s teachings are timelessly true, and they are enacted primarily by Waldorf teachers, such as the College’s own graduates:
“Steiner's detailed psychology of child development, described early in the 20th century, has been supported by modern research in education and neuropsychology. Through Waldorf education, Steiner hoped that young people would develop the capacities of soul and intellect and the strength of will that would prepare them to meet the challenges of their own time and the future.” 
The assertion that Steiner’s teachings have been supported by science is dubious, at best (I have to stretch to phrase this so mildly). All I ask at this stage is that you pause to consider the reverberations of the word “soul” when used by this eponymous college.
Fundamentally, Waldorf schools are religious institutions that "acknowledge the spiritual origins of humanity" in accordance with Rudolf Steiner's religious teachings. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"]
Rudolf Steiner's mystical doctrines constitute the essence of Anthroposophy, the religion he concocted and on which Waldorf education stands. His doctrines extend to almost all spheres of human endeavor and aspiration. Some of those doctrines are uplifting; some are dark and damaging. The worst of his doctrines are distinctly racist. [See “Steiner’s Racism”, "Races", "Differences", and "Forbidden".] Let’s hope that at least some Waldorf schools have genuinely repudiated racism or pushed it so far into the background that their students are unaffected by it. However, fully excising racism from Anthroposophy would be extremely difficult: racism lies so near the very core of that bizarre religion. [See, e.g., "Embedded Racism".] Also, some parents have reported finding racism in Waldorf schools quite recently. Here is a statement made by a mother in January, 2000:
“Have you seen it written somewhere that Steiner believed white people were most evolved??? This was blatantly apparent in the curriculum of the Waldorf school we visited.
“My daughter is African American, and this is one of the two reasons (along with the sexist dynamics) that we decided against the school. The teacher, telling me about the history part of the curriculum, said that since 5th graders are becoming rational, and rationality ‘came in with the Greeks,’ that's what they study in 5th grade.
“The whole ‘history as a developmental process paralleling children's development, with Western civilization at the pinnacle’ is inherently racist.
“I saw the unit study books one class had done about Africa. At the beginning, under their identical paintings of a traditional African man hunting in silhouette, they all had the same saying copied: ‘Perhaps this life of ours which begins as the quest of the child for the adult, ends as a journey by the adult to rediscover the child ... It is in the Bushman wherein the two are finally and lovingly joined.’ (Laurens van der Post) I shudder to think of my daughter learning about her heritage in this way.” 
Another parent has reported the word "nigger" being used in a poem read by a Waldorf teacher in class. [See "N-Word".] And here is a troubling message posted at the waldorfcritics discussion forum on October 24, 2001. It deals with charges that a Waldorf school in Holland was teaching racism:
“The concern was originally raised by a Waldorf parent who found racist passages in her child's school notes. After the press got their hands on some of this, the Anthroposophical Society in the Netherlands eventually decided to appoint a commission to investigate the matter, in order to quell the growing public uproar ... The commission designated 16 Steiner quotes that, in their opinion, could be punishable for racial discrimination under Dutch law today. They found a further 67 quotes that they considered potentially discriminatory but not legally questionable. Aside from these two groups, they examined nearly 100 more Steiner quotes about race and declared them "unobjectionable". Examples of this last category include Steiner's claim that ‘Negroes’ are ‘decadent’ and ‘completely cut themselves off from the spiritual world’, among many other similarly ‘unobjectionable’ pronouncements....” 
Perhaps the most compelling information in this passage is that the investigators were themselves Anthroposophists, yet they conceded that at least some of Steiner’s statements are “discriminatory.” In fact, the investigators obviously were intent on excusing, to the greatest extent possible, the racism in Waldorf education: They found that calling “Negroes” decadent and disconnected from spirit is unobjectionable. Waldorf teachers who concur with such a conclusion are clearly capable to making racist remarks that would wind up in their students’ school notes.
For additional recent examples of racism in Waldorf schools, see the Addendum, written by Margaret Sachs.
On November 13, 1999, a surprising curtain opened, allowing us to peek inside the Waldorf scene. On that day, Eugene Schwartz — who was director of Waldorf teacher-training at Sunbridge College (one of Rudolf Steiner College's allies/competitors) — openly professed the religious mission of Waldorf schools, and he urged Waldorf teachers to stop denying the real purpose of Waldorf education. This was a stunner. Perhaps Schwartz was goaded into candor by the presence of Dan Dugan, whom Schwartz had invited to address a gathering of Waldorf teachers and Anthroposophists at Sunbridge. Dugan is secretary of People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS), an organization opposed to the inclusion of Waldorf schools in public school systems.
At the gathering, Schwartz made the following candid remarks (among others):
◊ "I'm glad my daughter gets to speak about God every morning: that's why I send her to a Waldorf school ... That's why I send her to a Waldorf school. She can have a religious experience. A religious experience. I'll say it again: I send my daughter to a Waldorf school so that she can have a religious experience." 
◊ “[W]e are trying to open up the religious font that is the child's right as a human being.” 
◊ “If we are really to be a movement for cultural renewal, it is our responsibility to share with the parents those elements of Anthroposophy which will help them understand their children and fathom the mysterious ways in which we work. Yes, we are giving the children a version of Anthroposophy in the classroom; whether we mean to or not, it's there. So let's at least do it the right way.” 
◊ “Let's face it: we're deceiving — and worst of all, we're deceiving ourselves ... Let's be open and honest about that. Let's cut our losses.” 
◊ “Do you realize how much Christianity there is in our school? Do you realize that we are thinking about these children in the light of reincarnation and karma? That's how a teacher's working with them.” 
Wow. Schwartz bravely ‘fessed up to a lot that day: Waldorf schools have a religious mission; the schools teach children a form of Anthroposophy; Waldorf schools have been practicing deception when they deny the real nature of their curriculum; Waldorf schools are devoted to Christianity, but in an odd form, since they are also devoted to such concepts as karma and reincarnation.
I don’t want to put words in Schwartz’s mouth. His honesty was refreshing, even heroic. He acknowledged that Waldorf schools are religious institutions, and that the religion taught at Waldorfs is Anthroposophy. Thus, he undercut the typical denial — made by Anthroposophists and Waldorf faculties — that Anthroposophy is a religion. But Anthroposophy distinctly is a religion, and Waldorf schools promote that religion in their classes. [See “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”, "Schools as Churches", "Spiritual Agenda" and "Soul School".]
The results of Schwartz’s honesty were, unfortunately, hard on him. He was soon fired as director of teacher training at Sunbridge. Here’s how Dan Dugan, Schwartz’s friendly adversary, describes what happened:
“I asked Eugene Schwartz about the rumors [that he had been fired], and he kindly told me his story.
“In March, 2000, Schwartz was dismissed as Director of Teacher Training at Sunbridge College. This was a consequence of his November, 1999, ‘Schools in Transformation’ conference, at which I was invited to speak, and Schwartz challenged the Waldorf movement to ‘come out’ about its religious nature.
“After that meeting I said I hoped he would survive his next board meeting. Unfortunately, I wasn't far wrong.
“His firing in turn had the consequence of ‘a near revolt of the students,’ and ‘a serious dip in next year's enrollment.’ Schwartz feels that the resulting addition of some younger faculty and staff will have a beneficial effect on Sunbridge, though it was too late for him.” 
We can draw a few more inferences from this. Most proponents of Waldorf education are not willing to end their deceptive practices. They still cling to their secrets. [See "Secrets".] We cannot know for sure what all those secrets are, but it is fair to infer that the great bulk of them are the doctrines of the man to whom they remain loyal: Rudolf Steiner. The secrets, in other words, generally consist of the doctrines of Anthroposophy, some of which are quite awful.
Eugene Schwartz has not been quite so candid in his books. Of particular interest to us is his book WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century.  Some of the occult terms that Schwartz used in his remarks at the Sunbridge gathering are absent from the book. If Schwartz meant to be open and honest in the book, he seems to have fallen short.
On the other hand, the book does include references to some of Steiner's occult concepts, such as "higher bodies," the "etheric body," the "astral body," and "clairvoyance." Here is one of the statements that appear in the book:
“Must teachers be clairvoyant in order to be certain that they are teaching in the proper way? We may, indeed, need only the ‘clairvoyant’ faculties that we are already using without being aware that we possess them ... The teacher's faculty [of clairvoyance] must be cultivated and brought to a stage of conscious awareness on the part of the teacher.” 
Asking this question would be unthinkable to rationalists and to almost all teachers in public schools. Clairvoyance! Is he kidding? No, Schwartz affirms the reality of clairvoyance, although he muddies the picture somewhat by using the word both with and without quotation marks. His point is that we all have “clairvoyant” powers, but there are also higher forms of such powers (implicitly, as exercised by Rudolf Steiner). Consider the following statement:
“Earlier in this book I spoke of the ‘everyday clairvoyance’ which allows us to perceive the activities of the ‘higher bodies’ of the human being without our necessarily being endowed with the degree of spiritual insight necessary to see the bodies themselves.” 
According to Schwartz (and Steiner), there are varying degrees of spiritual insight. To Anthroposophists, it is obvious that Rudolf Steiner was blessed with extremely high psychic or clairvoyant powers — perhaps the highest ever attained. Steiner declared himself to be clairvoyant, and he said he had access to the Akashic Record, among other sources of supernatural knowledge.  He often spoke and wrote as if he were virtually omniscient. Schwartz writes in a more reasonable-seeming manner, but it is clear that Schwartz accepts some — and perhaps all — of Steiner’s doctrines.
Here is another quotation from Schwartz's book:
“Our etheric body is active in a way that our physical body is not. We go through life in an inert, ‘cause and effect’ manner. The etheric body works to reverse those effects suffered by the physical body in the course of daily life; it is the body of renewal and regeneration.” 
The etheric body, in Anthroposophical lore, is one of three nonphysical bodies that real human beings come to incarnate. [See "Incarnation".] The etheric body is the lowliest of these extra bodies; it is a set of life forces. The “astral body” consists of higher, spirit forces. The “I” is a spark of divine selfhood or ego that separates true humans from animals and subhumans.
In asserting the reality of these weird, invisible bodies, Schwartz clearly associates himself with Steiner’s doctrines — which sadly include some dreadful ones, such as the belief that some people are not human.  I do not charge that Schwartz subscribes to Steiner's worst doctrines, but buying into Anthroposophy at all is a strange and worrisome business. We also should note that reversing the “inert, cause and effect” phenomena of real life implies the antiscientific bias of Anthroposophy. To scientists and all rationalists, cause-and-effect phenomena are the focus of observation, our best source of true information about the universe and everything in it. And although Anthroposophists claim that anything not wholly spiritual is, to one degree or another, dead, the phenomena of the real world are not necessarily "inert." Cause-and-effect animals are alive. So are cause-and-effect humans. And the spirits that truly exist within humans — the spirit of decency, for instance, and the spirit of love — exist in the real, cause-and-effect world. Turning our backs on reality is the last thing we should want for ourselves and our children.
Another quotation from WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century (let that title sink in):
“Using this everyday clairvoyance, it is possible to become aware of the third member of the young person, the astral body.” 
I’ve said enough on this subject; but it is useful to note that Schwartz believes in the existence of this invisible body, too.
Schwartz goes on to write,
“The image of the child developed by Rudolf Steiner and applied in Waldorf methodology stands like a pillar of consistency....” 
And what is the "image of the child developed by Steiner"? Schwartz doesn't fully explain, but Steiner taught that true human beings have twelve senses.  He taught that as we grow, we incarnate nonphysical bodies.  He taught that each child is a representative of one of the four (and only four) “temperaments.”  He taught that a truly human child has both a spirit and a soul.  He taught that children are born with an innate knowledge of spiritual worlds.  He taught that children have karmas that must be fulfilled.  He spoke of children's auras, and astrological signs, and folk souls... [See "Auras", "Astrology", and "Lecture".] Steiner's doctrines about the nature of children are various and strange, and they include other doubtful components, but this brief summary should suffice to alert us. Are Steiner's teachings about children sensible? Can you accept them? Do you want people who do accept them to gain authority over your child? [See, e.g., "What We're Made Of", "Our Parts", and "Holistic Education".]
As to whether Steiner was admirably consistent — he was not. In fact, he very often contradicted himself, as if he could not remember all his implausible claims from lecture to lecture and from book to book. To cover himself, he proclaimed the need for contradictions, as in his lecture (published as a book by Kessinger) "Why Contradictions Exist Everywhere and Must Exist". Steiner claimed that his teachings are "living thoughts" that naturally shift around and change, being alive, you see. [See "Thinking".] The reality is a bit more prosaic. Steiner's work is deeply illogical — so much so that the willingness of apparently intelligent people like Eugene Schwartz to accept Steiner's work can come as a surprise. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Illogic" and "Why? Oh Why?".] But Schwartz can and does accept it — and so do typical Waldorf school faculties.
While Schwartz may be less honest in his books than he was at the Sunbridge gathering, WALDORF EDUCATION nevertheless confirms much that we know about the nature of Waldorf pedagogy. It is based on mysticism; it embodies antipathy to science and logic; and it affirms a completely bizarre conception of human nature.
Any parent thinking of sending a child to a Waldorf or Steiner school should understand what the child will be subjected to there. Think carefully, parents. Caveat emptor.
— Roger Rawlings
[Waldorfish art, R.R.]
Footnotes for the Foregoing Sections
(Scroll Down to Find Further Sections)
 Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 97-99.
 E.g., https://www.waldorfgarden.org/uploaded/news/publications/Waldorf_Magazine2013.pdf. For more about my old school, see "The Waldorf Scandal".
 Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 118.
 Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 28. See also
“This [spiritual] science [i.e., Steiner's doctrines] presupposes an entirely new inner sense organ or instrument, by means of which there is revealed a new world which does not exist for the ordinary man.” — Johann Fichte, quoted on the back covers of Anthroposophical publications such as AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE, by Rudolf Steiner (Anthroposophical Literature Concern, 1922).
The portrayal of Bushmen as childlike — no matter how “loving” it may be — is patronizing and racist.
 Eugene Schwartz, “Waldorf Education — For Our Times or Against Them?”, November 13, 1999, transcript edited by Michael Kopp; waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/schwartz.html
 Dan Dugan, May 30, 2000, posted at free-speech forum associated with waldorfcritics.org.
Dugan was once an enthusiastic Waldorf parent. But he gradually became disillusioned when he realized, first, that science was badly taught at the school his son attended, and later that the school sold Rudolf Steiner books containing racist passages. When the school refused to repudiate these passages, or to distance itself from Anthroposophical quack medicine, Dugan became an active opponent of Waldorf schooling. While not denying the right of Waldorfs to exist as private institutions, Dugan opposes adoption of Waldorf schools into public school systems, which would grant the schools public financial support.
 Eugene Schwartz, WALDORF EDUCATION: Schools for the Twenty-First Century (Xlibris Corporation, 2000.)
A slightly earlier book by Schwartz, MILLENNIAL CHILD: Transforming Education for the Twenty-First Century (Anthroposophic Press, 1999) is equally mum on various topics. The index contains no references to "religion," "Jesus," "Jesus Christ," "reincarnation," "karma'" or "higher worlds." There is one reference to “Christianity, child rearing and” and another to “Christian missionaries.” “Anthroposophy” is referred to three times and “Anthroposophists” once.
 WALDORF EDUCATION, p.17.
 Ibid., p. 34.
 See, e.g., Rudolf Steiner, lecture given on October 15, 1911, quoted in ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER, John Fletcher (Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), p. 95, and Rudolf Steiner, THE FIFTH GOSPEL: FROM THE AKASHIC RECORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001).
 The Akashic record (some occult traditions speak of multiple records) contains information about every action, thought, emotion, etc., that has ever transpired. Or so occultists believe. The record is inscribed on Akasha: astral light or ether. Akasha mediates clairvoyance. Or so occultists believe. [See "Akasha".]
 WALDORF EDUCATION, p. 17.
 Steiner’s delineation of man’s four bodies can be found in lecture after lecture. An early and striking example, from a lecture he gave in 1907, can be found in THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), pp. 22-25.
For an informative summary of the various bodies and their significance within the context of Anthroposophy as a whole — including education at Waldorf schools — see Sharon Lombard, “Spotlight on Anthroposophy,” CULTIC STUDIES, Vol. 2, No. 2 .
For Steiner’s belief that some people are not human, see, e.g., Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 649-650:
“I do not like to talk about such things since we have often been attacked even without them. Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings. Nevertheless, these are facts. Our culture would not be in such a decline if people felt more strongly that a number of people are going around who, because they are completely ruthless, have become something that is not human, but instead are demons in human form."
 WALDORF EDUCATION, p. 34.
 Ibid., p. 112.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 142-145.
 See, e.g., Rudolf Steiner, AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 68.
 See, e.g., Mark Grant, “Steiner and the Humours: The Survival of Ancient Greek Science,” THE BRITISH JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL STUDIES, Vol. 47, No. 1 (Mar. 1999), pp. 56-70.
 Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 96.
 A.C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956), pp. 15-16.
"In the autumn we experienced the death of a member's child, a child seven years of age. The death of this child occurred in a strange way. He was a good boy, mentally very much alive already within the limits set for a seven-year-old; a good, well-behaved and mentally active child. He came to die because he happened to be on the very spot where a furniture van overturned, crushing the boy so that he died of suffocation. This was a spot where probably no van went past before nor will go past again, but one did pass just that moment. It is also possible to show in an outer way that all kinds of circumstances caused the child to be in that place at the time the van overturned, circumstances considered chance if the materialistic view is taken ... Studying the case in the light of spiritual science [i.e., Anthroposophy] and of karma it will be seen to demonstrate very clearly that external logic, quite properly used in external life, proves flimsy in this case and does not apply ... [T]he karma of this child was such that the ego, to put it bluntly, had ordered the van and the van overturned to fulfil the child's karma." — Rudolf Steiner, THE DESTINIES OF INDIVIDUALS AND OF NATIONS (SteinerBooks, 1987), pp. 125-126.
[R.R. sketch, 2009, based on the sketch on p. 216
Parents should know that the main purpose of Waldorf schooling is not educational, as this term is normally understood, but occult. Waldorf faculties are supposed to help the gods fulfill what Steiner called the divine cosmic plan. Waldorf schools are on a messianic mission to save humanity. This is all well and good, perhaps — if Waldorf schools are really in a position to provide such a lofty service. But are they? Or are they engaged in a delusion? And what effect may this have on your kids' education?
Rational education may easily fall by the wayside as Waldorf teachers work to "bring the spirit" to their students. Here is one statement Steiner made bearing on these matters.
“What a child develops in his head, in his heart and soul, by having to learn a... b... c, is — spiritually speaking — a parasite in human nature ... [W]hen the letters of the alphabet, which are the product of advanced civilization, are imposed on the human being, this does engender a parasitic element ... [T]he spiritual can be brought to man without becoming poison. First you have the diagnosis, which finds that our age is infested with carcinomas, and then you have the therapy — yes, it is Waldorf School education ... [O]ne must regard education as medicine transposed into the realm of mind and spirit. This strikes us with particular clarity when we wish to find a therapy for civilization, for we can only conceive this therapy as being Waldorf School education.” — Rudolf Steiner, HARMONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), pp. 216-217.
The main purpose of Waldorf education is to spread Steiner's religion, Anthroposophy. Only in this way, Anthroposophists believe, can humanity be saved. "[W]e can only conceive this therapy as being Waldorf School education.” Civilization is infested with spiritual cancers. Rational, academic education — such a learning the alphabet — augments the parasites attacking humanity. Waldorf schools aim to provide a cure. Steiner made his statement in November, 1914, with the world at war. But from an Anthroposophical perspective, spiritual cancers are just as widespread — perhaps, indeed, more widespread — today.
"Cosmic and Human Evolution (1.5 credits). This course explores the stages of cosmic and human evolution from Ancient Saturn through Ancient Sun, Ancient Moon and Earth evolutionary cycles, and lays seeds to understand further stages of evolution in Future Jupiter, Future Venus and Future Vulcan stages. Texts include Esoteric Science: An Outline and Spiritual Hierarchies and Their Reflection in the Physical World."
"Karma and Reincarnation (1.5 credits). This course is an in-depth exploration of Rudolf Steiner’s original insights into the nature of reincarnation and karma. Texts include Manifestations of Karma, Theosophy, Reincarnation and Karma, World History in the Light of Anthroposophy, and selected lectures from the 8 volumes titled Karmic Relationships."
"The Philosophical Foundations of Waldorf Education (7.5 credits). Waldorf education is based on Anthroposophy, a transpersonal and phenomenological world-view [sic]. It is necessary for the Waldorf educator to grasp this view of the human being because Waldorf pedagogy arises directly from this understanding. The curriculum and methods arise from an understanding of this ontology."
'Astronomy — Macrocosm, Microcosm (2.0 credits). This course combines viewing the night sky, studying the constellations and rhythmic movements of the planets, and their correlations with the human form, rhythms of life, stages of consciousness and how the human individuality is related to the starry worlds and the Earth. We will discover the relationship between astronomy and the human body, astrology and the human soul, and astrosophy with the human spirit."
Astrology underlies many Waldorf beliefs and practices. Astrosophy (meaning "star wisdom"), a variant of astrology, is also important in the Waldorf belief system. [See "Astrology", "Waldorf Astrology", "Star Power", and "Astrosophy".]
Thus far in our short review of courses offered by the Rudolf Steiner College, we have seen that aspiring Waldorf teachers — who will offer to "educate" your children — are taught about planetary stages of evolution (Old Saturn to Future Vulcan), karma, reincarnation, macrocosm/microcosm (the belief that the universe is an enlarged version of the human being), astrology, and astrosophy. And the new Waldorf teachers are instructed that these beliefs, as wrapped up in Anthroposophy, are fundamental to Waldorf education.
"The curriculum and methods arise from an understanding of this ontology." — The Philosophical Foundations of Waldorf Education (7.5 credits).
When they offer to "educate" your children, will you say yes? — R.R.
"Human Development and Pedagogical Implications, Level I (3.0 credits). This course offers a background theoretical foundation to the practical classes in the first year. The causes of learning and behavior difficulties, human development from an anthroposophical perspective, the incarnation process in the first seven years, the twelve senses and movement development are important themes...."
Thus far in our short review of courses offered by Rudolf Steiner College, we have seen that aspiring Waldorf teachers are taught about planetary stages of evolution (Old Saturn to Future Vulcan), karma, reincarnation, macrocosm/microcosm (the belief that the universe is an enlarged version of the human being), astrology, astrosophy, seven-year-long phases of incarnation, and the twelve (yes, 12) human senses. They are, in other words, steeped in mystic Anthroposophical doctrines — "human development from an anthroposophical perspective." This training, in and of itself, raises serious doubts about the qualifications of teachers who receive such training.
"The Four Temperaments (0.5 credits). A study of how to recognize in the child the four temperaments...."
"Cosmic and Human Evolution (1.0 credits) [sic]. Through this course, students will understand the evolution of the cosmos, the kingdoms of nature, and of the human being from the standpoint of Anthroposophy.
"Seven Planetary Soul Types (0.5 credits) ... [H]ow they relate to the seven visible planets and the constitution of the human being."
"The Evolution of Consciousness through Art History. A spiritual overview of the visual arts ... [T]he changing evolution of consciousness of the human being from the ancient mystery centers to the modern age ... [W]orld art within the Post-Atlantean cultural epochs...."
"Human Development and Pedagogical Implications, Level II (3.0 credits) ... [S]tudents explore the spiritual archetypes of the human being, as given by Rudolf Steiner, as well as an introduction to Astrosophy ... [S]oul and constitutional types in children ... [M]editative work of the teacher...."
Consider. There are people who, when they read the Rudolf Steiner College catalogue, do not roll their eyes and drop the thing in the trash. Instead, they sign up, take the classes, and then go out into the world as Waldorf teachers. There is no bright line separating Rudolf Steiner’s occultism from the views found among Waldorf faculty. If Waldorf teacher trainees do not believe every last particle of Steiner's occultism, they are trained to believe as much of it as their minds can encompass.
"Spiritual Streams and Sun Initiates* (1.0 credits) [sic]. This course is an exploration of the spiritual streams identified by Rudolf Steiner in The Search for the New Isis, selected lectures from Karmic Relationship, and World History in the Light of Anthroposophy."
"The Master Thesis Project Course will be introduced as a modern path of initiation,** wherein proficiency to conduct research in a number of different venues allows the individual to gain access to a greater breadth and depth of knowledge...."
An “initiate” is an aspirant who has been accepted into an inner circle. A spiritual initiate possesses hidden or occult spiritual knowledge. Aspiring Waldorf teachers are taught about spiritual initiation, and they are led toward such initiation. Waldorf teachers who believe themselves to be initiates bring the fruits of initiation into their work in Waldorf schools.
* In Anthroposophical belief,
◊ a “Sun Initiate” was a spiritualist on Atlantis who had special knowledge of the spiritual forces emanating from the Sun;
◊ spiritual streams are lines of spiritual wisdom developed by various schools of initiates;
◊ Isis — the Egyptian goddess of fertility — is the divine female principle;
◊ everything (even divinity) is evolving into new, generally higher forms (except those things that are degenerating and dying out).
** One of Steiner's key texts, HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS, bears the subtitle "A Modern Path of Initiation".
"The Philosophy of Freedom (1.5 credits). The student will develop understanding for the epistemology underlying Anthroposophy. Answering the question, 'Can I gain certainty in knowing the world?' affirmatively leads to 'Can I become truly free?'"
The Steiner belief system, Anthroposophy (a word meaning, misleadingly, “human wisdom”), is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of knowledge and truth. Rudolf Steiner’s followers think they can "gain certainty" by developing powers of clairvoyance. They work to develop heightened powers of imagination, inspiration, and intuition — which Steiner identified as three stages of clairvoyance. When they think they have attained these, they believe that the views they form through these types of consciousness are true. They imagine something, or get an inspiration, or have an intuition, and embrace the results as revealed Truth. Such “human wisdom” becomes, in their view, essentially unarguable.* They are then freed from any need to debate their views with outsiders; they feel no need to consider the opinions of outside scholars and scientists.** All external knowledge (i.e., knowledge developed through use of the senses, the brain, and the rules of logic) becomes suspect, in their view; to know the Truth, they look inward, not outward. They are “free” of external rules, limitations, and doubts; they are “free” to think what they want.
The freedom stressed in Anthroposophy and Waldorf education is an internal, subjective state. It is freedom from the constraints of logic, intellect, science, convention, and rationality — it is freedom to believe things that other people, constrained by the things Anthroposophists reject, consider to be nonsense. This freedom is not absolute, however. Steiner often spoke of the need for gurus or spiritual guides, such as himself. He also spoke of the crucial difference between the white path of truth (the path he would lead us to) and the black path of falsehood (the path demons would lure us onto). He said that he apprehended the truths of the white path through his use of “exact clairvoyance” — his occult “discoveries” are virtually unquestionable because they are exactly true. Thus, his followers have the choice between the path of truth and the path of fallacy. Their “freedom” is little more than the power to make a single decision. They can freely decide to believe in Steiner and his system, or they can freely choose to suffer the dreadful consequences of failing to believe in Steiner and his system.***
Let's end our review of Rudolf Steiner College teacher training with one more tabulation of the Anthroposophical doctrines in the courses we have considered. In these courses alone, aspiring Waldorf teachers are taught about planetary stages of evolution/cosmic evolution, the evolution of consciousness, karma, reincarnation, macrocosm/microcosm, astrology, astrosophy, seven-year-long phases of incarnation, the twelve human senses, the four temperaments, the Anthroposophical take on the kingdoms of nature, the Anthroposophical take on human nature, planetary soul types/soul types in children, spirituality in art, mystery or occult centers, occult wisdom, Atlantis, cultural epochs (i.e., historical periods of spiritual evolution), meditative work to be done by teachers, spiritual streams, initiation, Sun initiates, and Isis. Among other things. All of this is taught, of course, "from the standpoint of Anthroposophy."
There is no separation between the mysticism of Anthroposophy and the Waldorf worldview. Waldorf teacher trainees study the subjects we have listed in order to become Waldorf teachers. Gentle reader, please bear this in mind. The people being taught to separate themselves from reality in this manner, the people receiving this instruction in the practice of self-deception, are aspiring Waldorf teachers. Soon after completing their training, they will offer themselves as educators for your children. If they have taken to heart the lessons given at Rudolf Steiner College and other Waldorf teacher-training schools, they may well rank among the very last people you should consider for such important work.
* Some Anthroposophists are more sophisticated than others in sorting through their "clairvoyant" findings; some are more scrupulous in "controlling" their clairvoyant powers. But all of them harbor the same fundamental delusion, accepting the most unreliable states of consciousness as the most reliable.
** Anthroposophical books sometimes include this prefatory note: “No person is held qualified to form a judgment on the contents of this work, who has not acquired — through the School of Spiritual Science itself or in an equivalent manner recognized by the School of Spiritual Science — the requisite preliminary knowledge. Other opinions will be disregarded....” The School of Spiritual Science is a central Anthroposophical institution preserving and extending the results Steiner's claimed clairvoyance. In essence, the prefatory note rejects all views except those stemming from Steiner and his clairvoyant system. The note is a clear expression of Anthroposophical closed-mindedness.
*** Anthroposophists do have a bit of wiggle room. They can disagree with one another about the meaning of Steiner’s various teachings — doctrinal disagreements are as common in Anthroposophy as in any other faith system. Thus, each Anthroposophist can be “certain” that his or her “clairvoyant knowledge” is true, even if others have different “clairvoyant knowledge” and even if Steiner, by some accounts, taught something different from what an individual Anthroposophist has “certainly” learned through inward vision.
We should always be at least initially skeptical about anecdotal reports. We can never know the writers' motives for sure, and we can never know for sure the events and circumstances within individual schools. Not all criticisms and allegations leveled at Waldorf schools are just. Still, patterns do emerge. Many of the complaints expressed in the following letters have been expressed by other writers concerning other Waldorf schools. Widespread, systemic problems seem to be at issue.
"We have never heard of a community, other than perhaps extreme fundamentalists, who would abruptly excommunicate an entire family based on unsubstantiated hearsay." — From a letter written by parents to a Waldorf school after the family was ejected from the school.
Waldorf schools are often tight-knit communities led by devoted followers of Rudolf Steiner. The description "extreme fundamentalists" may in fact be appropriate in some instances. Waldorf faculties tend to defend their faith vigorously, rejecting most if not all criticism. Parents who question the practices of a Waldorf school may be ostracized and incur other penalties, official and otherwise.
Here are some additional passages from two letters written by the parents quoted above. The writers are responding to the "college of teachers" — the inner, governing body — at a Waldorf school about problems that had arisen, centering primarily on a particular teacher at the school.
"[T]here is an inordinate fear of parents talking to each other. Anyone who says even the slightest criticism, publicly or privately, no matter how constructive it may be, gets accused of being a disgruntled hysteric who lacks tact and discretion and only wants to destroy everything that is good about the school. After eleven years at [the school], we continue to be grateful for those faculty and parents who embrace each problem not as if it is a judgement or a threat, but as a valuable opportunity for learning about ourselves and discovering our true purpose as a community.
"...[You have said] that our communication has had 'negative effects on other adults, including the former teacher...' We realize that the questions we asked were intense. When parents hear about a teacher handing out pills to control disruptive boys, difficult questions absolutely must be asked.
"...Parents hollered at us that if we didn't like the battered wife song [the teacher] sang, we should leave the school.
"... In Second grade, our concerns fortunately matched those of the majority of the Second grade parents. This year, we have been in the minority of many of those same parents. We are incredibly frustrated that despite our best efforts to be conscientious and fair during a brutally exhausting and confusing process, you see us as wanting to harm this community.
"...We know many of you [teachers and parents] are deeply upset about the administration's sudden decision to remove our daughter from class, five days before school is over. We have heard that there will be a meeting of all concerned parents on Monday.
"...[W]e repeatedly asked for the school's help in addressing our mounting concerns with our Fifth grade son's teacher ... After a long brutal process, we agreed with the school that our son should not stay in [that teacher's] class, because there was only one other parent besides us that was willing to come forward and say that they felt she was doing inappropriate things to the children. Two days after we came to the conclusion that by Sixth grade we would find another school for our son, [that teacher] decided to teach the children a song involving very graphic violence against women imagery. The College [of Teachers] immediately put her on a paid leave of absence. The rest of the semester was filled with a lot of anguishing meetings with many of the parents crying and yelling at various members of the College, insisting [the teacher] didn't deserve the way she was being treated. Ultimately, [the teacher] could not resolve her issues with the College, and chose not to return.
"...We came to this school because we believed that a Waldorf education was the best way to nurture our children. We are leaving shocked, and somewhat shattered, but still very grateful for all the wonderful friends we have met. It is profoundly sad to know our child is not entitled to properly say good-bye. She is worried that her friends will think she has done something really bad. It is hard to believe that we are not allowed to attend next week's graduation of so many children we've known since Kindergarten, nor may we participate in any future functions at a place where we spent so much energy building and contributing to the welfare of the school. What we couldn't always give in cash, we always gave in sweat equity and we got to know many wonderful people in the process. Our oldest daughter...went from Kindergarten through Eighth grade here. Just last week, Mrs. [X] was trying to help her find summer employment. [Our daughter] loved attending the plays, concerts, fairs and assemblies and helped decorate for the Father-Daughter dance, even though she is not enrolled here. She has been looking forward to being in the audience when her friends and former classmates will graduate next year. Now she can't step foot on campus ever again and cannot understand how this could happen. We have never heard of a community, other than perhaps extreme fundamentalists, who would abruptly excommunicate an entire family based on unsubstantiated hearsay."
Are Waldorf Schools Progressive?
by Peter Staudenmaier
Advocates of Waldorf education often present Waldorf schools as heir to the alternative educational traditions of Pestalozzi, Froebel, and similar figures. They are evidently unaware that Steiner took a dim view of Pestalozzi and Froebel, among other pioneers of alternative education.
Steiner defined Waldorf education against the projects of Pestalozzi and Froebel and rejected their work as a possible model or source for Waldorf. According to Steiner, Pestalozzi’s work is simply “not suited for other educators” (Steiner, Idee und Praxis der Waldorfschule, p. 232; see also the critical references to Pestalozzi in Steiner, Erziehungs- und Unterrichtsmethoden auf anthroposophischer Grundlage, p. 135, and Steiner, Die Erneuerung der pädagogisch-didaktischen Kunst durch Geisteswissenschaft, p. 45, among others).
Steiner taught that while Froebel's ideas are well intentioned, they are inappropriate to “the true development of children” (Steiner, Der pädagogische Wert der Menschenerkenntnis und der Kulturwert der Pädagogik, p. 112). Although Froebel had some agreeable thoughts on education, they don't work, Steiner declared, and need to be replaced by anthroposophical ideas, the only possible basis for reshaping education properly (Steiner, Rudolf Steiner in der Waldorfschule, pp. 181-183).
In his conferences with the original Waldorf teachers, Steiner insisted that though Pestalozzi and Froebel may have had a number of nice abstract ideas, there is no "inner spirit" to their pedagogical systems (Rudolf Steiner, Konferenzen mit den Lehrern der Freien Waldorfschule in Stuttgart 1919 bis 1924, vol. I, p. 163).
Many Waldorf enthusiasts thoroughly misunderstand this historical background. In several significant ways, Waldorf developed in conscious contrast to alternative pedagogy and educational reform movements, even while borrowing extensively from those sources. Central aspects of Waldorf pedagogy stand in direct opposition to standard principles of progressive education. Several of Waldorf's more conspicuous weaknesses stem directly from Steiner's rejection of progressive educational ideals and from the early Waldorf movement's hostility toward alternative educational models.
In part through unfamiliarity with the history of Waldorf, admirers of Waldorf sometimes mistakenly view Steiner's educational system as an example of the very same alternative educational institutions that Steiner and his followers emphatically dismissed. Much of the original Waldorf movement in Germany flatly rejected, and in some cases openly ridiculed, a variety of central alternative pedagogical principles.
Among other things, the original Waldorf movement repudiated small class sizes and concomitant ample individual attention. The Waldorf movement rejected an emphasis on the unique and changing character of each pupil as an individual. The Waldorf movement abjured the development of critical skills and independent thinking. The Waldorf movement rejected an international orientation, a focus on the self-actualizing and self-directed unfolding of each child’s individual potential, teaching that is child-centered rather than teacher-centered, democratic organization of curriculum, classroom practice, school structure, and so forth.
The original Waldorf movement often defined itself quite explicitly against such progressive educational ideals, dismissing them as un-German, spiritually unsound, decadent, and damaging instances of “international reform pedagogy.” Admirers of Waldorf schooling would do well to inform themselves about the contexts within which Waldorf education arose.
"People who visit my school often ask if it is Waldorf, or inspired by Waldorf. This is because we are: set in a natural environment with woods, gardens and fields, have an emphasis on creativity and art, we allow for a lot of free play, and have naturally decorated classrooms ... That's where the commonalities end. I am grateful for that, and as you read, you will see why."
"The hidden secret of Waldorf schools is that everything they do — from the dance and art they create, to the lessons they teach, to the science they believe in, and their pedagogy as a whole — is based on Rudolf Steiner's invented religion, called Anthroposophy. Rudolf Steiner was a mystic, [a] visionary who created the Waldorf (Steiner Schools in Europe) based on his beliefs in the occult and clairvoyance, reincarnation, etc. When he created his first school in 1919 it's sole purpose was to spread Anthroposophy. They don't blatantly teach it — and in fact deny the connection — but this is because his teachers were [told] to do so by Steiner in 1919 and continue to do so today.
"So they don't teach reading until 7 because from birth to age 7, children are in the 'physical body' stage. Then, they enter the 'etheric body' and finally, the 'astral body' at age 14...
"They don't interfere with playground bullying, as 'children are working out their karma' or allow black crayons because 'black is an evil color'...
"My issue with what seems to be happening with Waldorf is the facade. They have beautiful classrooms, organic toys, plenty of play, sunlight, and healthy foods. Lots of music, and baking, and making art. They get people to fall in love with the idea of Waldorf, hook, line and sinker. It's a wolf in sheep's clothing because there's an alternate agenda. That agenda is to follow Steiner's beliefs and let those beliefs dictate everything done in the classroom...
"I don't care if people want to send their child to a Waldorf school — but they must know ahead of time what the lies and stories are behind Rudolf Steiner's schools and their intentions. Catholic, Jewish and other religious schools state that they have a higher purpose in their mission. Waldorf schools hide this fact. I find that bothersome.
"Oh, one last thing. I find that the instructional methods are right out of 1919. Kids in rows behind desks with a teacher at the blackboard and [the kids] copying into a book. Many children end up being unable to read or write on their own because all they ever did was copy. I watched some videos online (promotional videos) and there the kids were, reciting after a teacher, memorizing times tables by rote at age 6, and all kinds of things. There's nothing 'progressive' about that style of teaching."
by Diana Winters
Most Waldorf parents are unfamiliar not only with Waldorf's history but with what goes on in Waldorf classrooms. They are seduced by the fluffy knitted kindergartens and don't see that in the classroom, the methods are rigid and authoritarian, and have nothing in common with their fantasies about "democracy" or "creative thinking." They don't get that the kid was required to copy exactly what the teacher told him/her to copy off the blackboard, or that the kids are not supposed to respond to what they are learning or learn to analyze it, only absorb it and repeat it and be "reverent" toward it.
If they do catch on that literacy is not being encouraged, they apparently don't understand that this is completely out of line with the "progressive" tradition in education. The teachers convince them that Waldorf is using all the same trendy methods in reading instruction ("whole language" etc.), it's just a small difference in the timing ... it's just good to wait a year or so, we don't want to rush childhood ... The teachers will not clarify for parents what they know to be true — that literacy has an entirely different place on the priority list in Waldorf, compared to "progressive education."
Many Waldorf parents go on believing the sorts of thing "Waldorfmommy" [an advocate of Waldorf education] posted because the schools discourage parents from learning much about anthroposophy, and many heavily discourage parents from observing in the classroom. This allows all the "Waldorfmommy's" out there to believe (and post on the Internet) all kinds of wildly incorrect information about Waldorf education.
Waldorf educator Robert Schiappacasse identifies two overarching goals of Waldorf education: “Incarnating the Child” and “Incarnating the School.”* Teachers have primary responsibility for the former (the “spiritual/cultural pillar” of the school), parents have primary responsibility for the latter (the “economic pillar” — i.e., providing the money the school needs).
There is a "fundamental polarity between teacher and parents. ... [T]he role of the teachers [is] to take primary responsibility for the incarnation of the child ... [T]he teacher is the king or queen of their classroom.” The role of the parents is quite different. Parents should always ask themselves “What can I do for you [i.e., the school].” This means identifying “the concrete tasks which serve to embody the school in the community.”
When teachers take their role to extremes, “it becomes ‘Luciferic,’ tending toward dogmatism, pride, and exclusivity.” When parents overstep their bounds, their activity “becomes ‘Ahrimanic,’ and can be characterized by attempts to control, power-plays, and manipulation.”
FROM THE NET
How do they say the answer comes to them?
Would parents trust their teachers if they knew that they make decisions about their child based on an answer from the spirit world?
"What should I do about so and so?".............expel him!
What if the spirit world gets the answer wrong?
More Waldorf student art:
(Steiner wasn't concerned that the history class was religious; he worried that outsiders might think it was excessively religious. That there will be some religious content in a Waldorf class goes without saying.)
Waldorf schools, you see, are religious institutions, with "a religious element" introduced into "every subject." And the religion the schools adhere to is Anthroposophy. Hence Steiner was able to say to Waldorf students:
(Take care when Steiner and his followers refer to "Christ." They do not mean the Son of God worshipped in regular Christian churches; they mean the Sun God. This need not detain us at this moment, however.)
The key point for us now is to recognize Steiner's admission that Waldorf teachers are true believers; they believe they draw their authority from a god. Their work as Waldorf teachers is religious. Even when encouraging their students to love beauty, their purpose is fundamentally religious.