January 1, 2010


June 30, 2010

This site supplements Waldorf Watch.
To go to Waldorf Watch itself, please click here:

The news items below are presented in reverse chronological order 
— newest first, oldest last.

Please excuse a certain amount of repetition 
in the contents of this archive.
Items that now appear close together on the screen 
may have originally been separated by intervals of several days.

Many of the items in this archive generalize about Waldorf schools, 
 describing them as Rudolf Steiner and leading Waldorf representatives 
have said they should be and as evidence shows they often are today. 
Not all Waldorf schools, Waldorf charter schools, 
and Waldorf-inspired schools conform to this model precisely. 
To evaluate an individual school, you should carefully examine 
its stated purposes, its practices (which may or may not be consistent 
with its stated purposes), and the composition of its faculty.
— Roger Rawlings

"More than 400 pupils and staff from Rudolf Steiner School in Langley Hill [UK] put on their walking shoes on Friday morning to raise money for The Hospice of St Francis and The Goderich Waldorf School in Sierra Leone. Among those taking part in the 15-mile walk from Tring to Kings Langley was A-level student Rachel Giambrone. Rachel, 18, who plans to study art at university, said: 'It was lots of fun ... The Hospice of St Francis nursed a former teacher — Heather Thomas, who died from cancer and this walk was in part in memory of her ... The other half of the money we’ve raised from the walk will go to a Rudolf Steiner school in Sierra Leone. We’ve been holding lots of fundraisers to help the school as it is very poor and needs as much money as possible to buy equipment for teaching.'"   

• For those not acquainted with the term: "A level" is the higher of two main academic levels in British standardized testing. Doing well academically when attending a Waldorf school is not impossible, but it can be difficult. [See "Academic Standards at Waldorf".] 

• The development of Waldorf education in Africa may trouble some observers, considering the racism in Steiner's doctrines. [See "Steiner's Racism".]

"Through the gate they go, up the dappled path, beneath the firs, across the school parking lot and past the kettle-corn stand, into the heart of the Elves’ Faire ... They had not even applied to a Waldorf school! Kate’s associations at the time were vague but nervous-making: devil sticks, recorder playing, occasional illiteracy ... The man wearing the cape is the leader, and he wants them to come to the bottom of the hill. She can tell by the way he’s looking at her — kind, but also as if he could get a little angry ... The man in the cape won’t stop. The dolls in this room are children, children he has turned into dolls ... Ruthie, clever girl, kind girl, ballet dancer, thumb-sucker, brave and bright Dorothy, is already gone."  

These passages come from a short story in the 7-5-2010 issue of THE NEW YORKER. The story is not news: It is fiction. But the appearance in THE NEW YORKER of a story set at a Waldorf school is noteworthy.

"Ashwood Waldorf School is offering its Summer Garden Program of early childhood classes for children ages three to six years old and their parent ... Located on Park Street in Rockport, Ashwood Waldorf School is midcoast Maine’s largest independent and accredited private school with over 100 students serving children 18 months through eighth grade. Parent/Child classes for children eighteen months to three years old are also offered during the school year."  

Some Waldorf schools enroll extremely young children. The purpose is not to give the kids an academic head start. Rather, the purpose is to make Waldorf teachers at least as influential as the students' parents in the kids' lives. Steiner taught that Waldorf teachers should supplant parents, if at all possible. Addressing Waldorf teachers, he said 

“[I]t might almost be preferable from a moral viewpoint if children could be taken into one’s care soon after birth.” 

[See, e.g., "World of Waldorf".]

"Concord Academy Petoskey’s new director brings with him plenty of experience. David Hill, 58, who will officially step into former director, Nick Oshelski’s position, July 1, has a background in Waldorf education, which teaches students to integrate practical, artistic and conceptual elements in learning. The educator, who received his bachelor’s degree from Mercy College of Detroit (now University of Detroit Mercy) in 1985, majoring in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in Waldorf teacher training; a master’s degree in school administration from San Jose State University; and who also taught 15 years at the Rudolph Steiner School in Ann Arbor and three years as director of the Monterey Bay Charter School in Pacific Grove, Calif., — both Waldorf schools — said he believes he can bring something special to Concord Academy Petoskey." 

Most Waldorf schools identify themselves as such, or they may call themselves Steiner schools. Some, however, use other names. It is also possible for Steiner adherents to take positions of authority in schools that have no acknowledged connection with the Waldorf school movement. The rule for parents considering any school for their children must be caveat emptor: Let the buyer beware. So, ask hard, probing questions. 

Parents considering Concord Academy - Petoskey may want to determine how many faculty members, in addition to David Hill, have Waldorf backgrounds; and they should try to determine how many Waldorf principles and practices are imbedded in the curriculum and activities of the school. 

[For tips on how to learn what may be happening behind the scenes at a Waldorf school, see "Clues".]

"For the past eight years, Anais Alexander has watched her students at Corvallis Waldorf School grow from wide-eyed first-graders to well-rounded eighth-graders. 'I taught them everything from history to math,' Alexander said this week at the school. 'I poured my heart into this group.' Last Saturday, her 10 students became the fifth graduating class at the school." 

Teachers at Waldorf schools often remain with the same group of children for many years, proceeding with them from grade to grade. This can have benefits: Teachers and students can get to know each other very well. But there are also drawbacks. Will the same "class teacher" who is qualified to teach first grade also be a good, qualified eighth-grade teacher? Is the same teacher who was qualified to teach history also qualified to teach math? 

Consider, too, the enormous — perhaps excessive — influence a teacher can have on children under the Waldorf system. Steiner said that Waldorf teachers should supplant parents as the most important adults in children's lives; the Waldorf system aims for this. If the teachers are occultists —  Anthroposophists — the effect on children may be severe.

[See "Faculty Meetings".]

"Moray Steiner School in Forres [UK] has received a positive report in the wake of an inspection by HMIe inspectors. Chair of College, Alexandra McNamara, said that the independent school, which has pupils between the age of three and 16, has come on in leaps and bounds since its last inspection eight years ago ... Although inspectors found that areas for improvement included improving the maths curriculum and child protection policies, HM Inspectorate of Education said that strengths of the school were confident and mutually supportive children, and young people fostering positive relationships across the board, supporting a strong ethos of community with a wide range of opportunities for personal and social development." 

Attending a Waldorf school can be pleasant and comforting [see. e.g., "The Good Parts"]. But such schools often have academic deficiencies, especially in the sciences and math [see "Steiner's 'Science'" and "Mystic Math".] Perhaps surprisingly, Waldorf schools also sometimes fail to protect children from such hazards as bullying [see "Failure" and “Slaps"].   

"Green Meadow Waldorf School has its share of graduation traditions, such as handing each graduate a flower to be placed in a vase at center stage when their name is first called, forming a bouquet to represent everyone ... Green Meadow held its 35th commencement Sunday afternoon. The 24 graduates were dressed in whatever attire they deemed appropriate for the culmination of their tenure at the school. [According to] Emma Singer, 18, 'It's really nice, it shows individuality,' said the Nyack resident. 'In a cap and gown, everyone looks the same.'"  

This is a typical account of a Waldorf graduation. Waldorf schools often claim to value individuality and freedom. In evaluating this claim, remember that Waldorf teachers often categorize students by "temperament", astrological sign, and race, instead of seeing each child as unique. Remember, also, that Anthroposophists believe there is really only one correct choice that people can "freely" make: It is to embrace the doctrines of Anthroposophy. All other choices lead to perdition in one form or another. 

[For more on these matters, see "Humouresque", "Astrology", "Steiner's Racism", "Freedom", and "Hell".]

"For ten years, I was employed by a Waldorf school as a subject teacher and later became a class guardian ... Waldorf schools are a religious messianic-type cult built on the dogmas of theosophical principles and beliefs put in place by a charismatic cult leader, Rudolf Steiner, who is a self-proclaimed clairvoyant wielding his own style of New World Order." 

This is an intriguing — and flawed — article offering an inside view of Waldorf education. It currently appears on several Web sites and it is generating controversy, as you might expect. Its provenance is suspect, and its reliability is doubtful. To read the entire article with my own appended commentary, see "Ex-Teacher Too".

"The Merriconeag Waldorf School is graduating its first 12th grade class Saturday, marking 25 years as a Waldorf School in southern Maine ... [E]ach of the five graduating seniors are expected to give a brief address, followed by the commencement address by Dr. Douglas Gerwin, a long-time mentor to the high school and founder of the Waldorf High School Teacher Education Program ... [The school] is part of a world-wide Waldorf school movement that encompasses more than 1,000 schools and 1,600 early childhood programs on five continents." 

The Waldorf movement is large, but many of the schools are quite small. Students at such schools may benefit from small class sizes, but they may also suffer from an insular environment in which they meet very few people different from themselves. Small schools may also lack many facilities available in larger schools, and the faculties will necessarily be limited, meaning that a handful of teachers may have enormous — perhaps excessive — influence in the students' lives. When Waldorf faculties consist of occultists (as Steiner said they should), the potential effect on students is all the more problematic.

"After 10 years in Whistler the Waldorf School is expanding with the addition of another room to accommodate its growing numbers. According to a press release in the past five years alone the Waldorf School has seen enrolment increase by an average of 11 per cent per year. School Administrator Vicky Bunbury is finalizing registration for 80 students to begin study in September 2010 ... The central idea behind the Waldorf education is teaching the 'whole child.'" 

To see what Waldorf schools mean by the "whole child" (four bodies, karma, temperament...) see, e.g., "
Holistic Education" and "Truth

"Exhibition Highlights Rudolf Steiner's Influence on Modern Germany: The Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner is best known as the somewhat eccentric founder of anthroposophy, widely regarded as a wacky Christian splinter group. But his ideas have had a profound impact on many aspects of modern German society, as a new exhibition [at the Kuntsmuseum Wolfsburg] shows ... Rudolf Steiner (1861 - 1925), the father of anthroposophy, wasn't just one of the great eccentrics of German cultural history. He also became a philosopher whose ideas crossed over to the mainstream, and whose Goetheanum building in Dornach, Switzerland is a pilgrimage site today." 

This is not exactly a news item about Waldorf schools, although Waldorf schools are mentioned and the writer is a Waldorf graduate. But DER SPIEGEL is a major publication, so the appearance there of an article touching on Steiner, Anthroposophy, or Waldorf is noteworthy.

"Sporting classic Greek tunics and lugging team banners, Sunrise Waldorf School students basked in the sun and got into the school spirit Wednesday with their annual fifth-grader Greek Olympics. The event, which not only included local students, but Waldorf students from as far as Calgary — a total of 105 participants — began on Monday and came to an end Thursday at Crofton’s Camp Qwanoes. Students participated in a number of events including javelin, discus, long jump, wrestling and running. 'When looking from a deeper understanding of the stages of childhood development, the fifth grade is an ideal time to honor the natural athlete in every child,' said Sunrise’s fifth grade teacher Brian Richards." 

Waldorf faculties generally believe that children evolve by repeating the various "cultural epochs" of human evolution. [To sort through some of Anthroposophical teachings about historical periods, see "Epochs".]

"Tel Aviv's first anthroposophic school will open its doors in September, at the initiative of a non-profit organization run by parents. The municipality does not support this plan, but the demand for anthroposophic schools — which practice the Waldorf pedagogy — is growing rapidly. The number of children enrolled in such schools countrywide has doubled over the past five years. Anthroposophic schools are based on the educational philosophy of Austrian thinker Rudolf Steiner, whereby studies are interdisciplinary — combining practical, artistic and conceptual elements." 

Israelis may want to delve into Steiner's thinking about Judaism, such as this:

"As you know, we distinguish the Jews from the rest of the earth's population. The difference has arisen because the Jews have been brought up in the moon religion for centuries [i.e., they worship the Moon god, Jehovah] ... The Jews have a great gift for materialism, but little for recognition of the spiritual world." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM BEETROOT TO BUDDHISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 59.

[For more, see "RS on Jews".]

"[W]hile savvy high-tech leaders may make a living off of innovations, when it comes to educating their children, some people are choosing to take an alternative route. Journalist Dan Fost has found several technology bigwigs who've chosen tech-free environments like Waldorf schools for their kids' education. Fost's reporting shows that some of the chief individuals promoting technology — even in the classroom — are making the opposite choice in their own life." 

Waldorf schools generally abhor modern technology and, indeed, modern science, associating them with the demon Ahriman. [See, e.g., "Steiner's 'Science'".] 

When it comes to computers, this abhorrence is sometimes modified, today, as a matter of practicality. Imagine trying to keep all kids from computer games, text messaging, email... Can't be done. 

Also, Waldorf schools and Anthroposophists generally bend to the need to advertise themselves on the Web. They may fear for their souls as they do it, but do it they do.

"Twenty-five third graders at The Denver Waldorf School begin a language arts lesson with Ecclesiastes and finish with bon appétit. 'To every thing there is a season...,' they recite, led by student teacher Vernon Dewey. It's a verbal warm-up amid the colorful surroundings that make no secret of the private school's artistic and spiritual elements. While not a religious school, Denver Waldorf touches many traditions. This year, students hear stories from the Torah. The source of the archetypal tales that form the backbone of language arts shifts each year, from fairy tales to mythology to Shakespeare. Yet, it's a classroom without textbooks — only the 'lesson books' students make where classroom work creates a basis for page after page of cursive writing and colorful drawings. The current assignment tackles the story of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac."

The Denver Waldorf School may be more candid than other Steiner or Waldorf schools about its spiritual agenda, but the description given above is inadequate in several respects. Anthroposophists call their belief system "spiritual science" and they say it is not a religion, although the system involves prayers, meditations, and religious observances. Anthroposophy is indeed a religion, and Waldorf schools generally attempt to spread this religion. [See “Spiritual Agenda”.] Children generally start each Waldorf day by reciting, in unison, a prayer written by Rudolf Steiner. [See, e.g., "Prayers".] Ordinary textbooks are absent from many Waldorf classrooms because they contain real-world knowledge of the kind generally rejected by Steiner’s followers. [See, e.g., “Steiner’s Blunders”. For information about Waldorf lesson books, see “Lesson Books”.]

"Primary schools such as Larrakeyah, Yulara and Leanyer, and Alyangula Area School were strong performers in years 3 and 5. Adelaide River and the alternative Milkwood Steiner School punched above their weight too. Milkwood topped everyone in year 5 numeracy and spelling, while Adelaide River School claimed top spot in year 5 writing. The figures also bring into sharp relief the city/country divide - with remote schools crowding the bottom 10 lists in all NAPLAN tests." 

Comparing schools and deciphering test results is complex. • If a Waldorf school draws most of its students from resource-rich families where the parents have a strong, active interest in their children's academic success, the kids may do well for this reason alone. Research indicates that the most important determinant of success in school is the involvement of parents. • Also, it is worth pondering this: Many parents choose Waldorf or other private schools because they consider public schools to be so bad. Indeed, public schools in many countries are strapped for funds. But what has been achieved if Waldorf students end up doing merely as well as, or a bit better than, students in "bad" public schools? Attending Waldorf would seem to be no worse, and perhaps a little better, than attending a lousy school. This isn't much of a claim. • And there's this: If kids at Waldorf schools get reasonably good educations but are lured into occultism, should we celebrate Waldorf schools? 

"One in ten schools failed to achieve the Government's minimum target of five top grade GCSE passes including maths and English, with the gap between rich and poor pupils growing, league tables published yesterday showed. Of the 301 schools that failed to reach the target, 46 recorded worse results than last year and 15 remained the same ... An analysis of the tables revealed that 41 of the 301 schools failing to reach the minimum target were academies. The worst performer was the Steiner School in Hereford, a government-financed academy with a philosophy that is opposed to exams, where not one pupil received five top-grade passes including maths and English." 

Waldorf schools do not all have low academic standards, but many certainly do. [See "Academic Standards at Waldorf".]

"Teaching children to read at the age of five is not likely to make them better at reading than children who start to learn at seven, according to new research. Author Dr Sebastian Suggate from the University of Otago in New Zealand said he decided to carry out the research because, apart from a small study from 1974, he was unable to find any research to back up the widely held view that children should learn to read from the age of five. He said his findings showed that this view was 'contestable' ... Dr Suggate's three-year research involved 400 New Zealand children and included a study that compared the abilities of children from Rudolf Steiner schools, who do not start learning to read until they are seven, with children from state-run primary schools. It found that by the age of 11 there was no difference between children who started to read at age five and those at the Steiner schools who started reading later." 

The validity of such research is certainly open to question. There is a broad consensus that early instruction in reading is highly beneficial. We should realize, in any event, that most Waldorf policies have occult purposes, which may or may not conflict with educational excellence. Anthroposophists want to keep children young for as long as possible because they believe children are still in communion with the spirit realm where they lived prior to their incarnation on Earth. [See, e.g., "Thinking Cap".]

Some titles published by Anthroposophical presses in 2010:

[Rudolf Steiner Press]

[Rudolf Steiner Press]

[Temple Lodge]


[Rudolf Steiner Press]

[Rudolf Steiner Press]