WALDORF / STEINER
"The modern world has witnessed a different type of consciousness emerging over the past 150 years, a post-Industrial Revolution cognitive mind. New technological innovations that helped to alter our perceptions of the dimensions of space and time in the world began to birth a psychological consciousness; a consciousness that wanted to look beyond the borders and horizons of the physical frontier. The end of the 19th century was also a significant period in the rise of spiritualism and mediums, general interest in esoteric matters, and the public emergence of occult movements." [12-23-2010 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kingsley-dennis-phd/an-age-of-radical-seeking_b_798965.html]
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.
The HUFFINGTON POST has published the first part of "An Age of Radical Thinking", which attempts to view various New Age movements — including Anthroposophy — in their historical context.
“I was sent to a state-funded, co-educational primary school when I was five, from there I went to an all-boys grammar school, from there I went to York University (in England)...and from there I went to London University ... Unable to find other work, I then did supply teaching in various schools and colleges before teaching mathematics in an inner-city boys comprehensive ... After that I taught in a Steiner School, did more supply teaching and taught children on a one-to-one basis ... My own children attended a Steiner school for a while, were home-schooled for many years, and briefly tried out schools in France. The conclusion that I have drawn from this unusually varied range of experiences is that nothing is working in the modern field of education.” [12-24-2010 http://www.freedom-in-education.co.uk/home_ed2/personal_experience.php]
This is a grim assessment, but perhaps not entirely unjustified. Of particular significance to those who are considering Waldorf education is the conclusion that Waldorf or Steiner schooling may be fully as flawed as other educational alternatives available today. (Indeed, in my view, Waldorf/Steiner ranks among the worst alternatives.) Particularly in the present climate of governmental austerity plans, schools often do not receive the resources they need. Open, widespread debate over the goals and methods of education is certainly warranted. Democratic societies, in particular, may be greatly endangered if children are not well and rationally educated so that they may become informed, rational citizens. [To look into some Waldorf/Steiner shortcomings on such matters, see "Democracy", "Reality and Fantasy", "Pseudoscience", "Thinking", and "Academic Standards at Waldorf."]
Cedar Valley School as it perceives itself.
(Like many Steiner schools, Cedar Valley
proudly displays on its website a statement
falsely attributed to Rudolf Steiner.
Studying the actual nature and background of Waldorf education
turns up many surprises.)
Many people come to Waldorf schools, or even found Waldorf schools, for such reasons. With little or no real knowledge of the occult purposes of Steiner education ("I have read a few books on Waldorf education but never felt the need to study it in depth"), they "intuitively" "know" that Waldorf education is right. Anthroposophists and other New Age spiritual seekers are charmed by such stories. Intuition and lack of real-world knowledge are indeed prized in some such circles. Rational individuals, on the other hand, may be appalled.
“About twelve years ago I was reading a book and found a little footnote that said a brilliant and beautiful education system had already been designed by Rudolf Steiner ... That piqued my interest, and after a little research there was no turning back for me. What I learned and discovered about Waldorf Education resonated intuitively with my heart and my vision for community and family ... My journey led me to invite a few friends over for tea, and I asked them to start a Waldorf school with me. This was the beginning of the Cedar Valley School in Squamish, BC [British Columbia, Canada]. I have read a few books on Waldorf education but never felt the need to study it in depth, as I just ‘knew’ it was right. I spent my time on community development, creating, planning and fundraising to take a vision and turn it into a reality.” [12-10-2010 http://www.vws.bc.ca/home/forms/Why%20I%20donate%202010.pdf]
Waldorf schools are often very attractive, and some of the thinking behind Waldorf schools is seductive. But to establish Waldorf schools, and to send children to them, without understanding the occult teachings of Rudolf Steiner amounts to playing with fire. Sooner or later, teachers at any Waldorf school will become devoted Anthroposophists (Waldorf teacher training assures this), and the entire mechanism of Anthroposophical occultism will go into operation. [See "Teacher Training" and "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness".]
You should support Waldorf schools and send children to them only if you understand Anthroposophy and embrace it without reservation.
“• Waldorf is B.S. If you don't want your child to learn to read, send them to a Waldorf school! ... • I totally understand. There was not much I could do for the Waldorf School, and I think the only reason it was even on the contract was because it brought in federal money for our school district. I don't think anyone had a clue about what was going on up there in the sticks. Sometimes I wonder whatever happened to those kids ... • I teach third grade at a (somewhat normal) private school, and one of my students came to me from a Waldorf school. She couldn't read. Most of the kids in my class are reading at a 4th grade level or above; she's just catching up to third grade level right now on account of her total badassitude. She was hurting back at her old school, since she wanted to learn stuff and her teachers were grading on her eurythmy skills ... • I have a friend who is a Waldorf kid and her kids are Waldorf kids and I have to say that they are the most artistic, creative intellectual thinkers I have ever known ... • I used to be a reading remediation instructor and was assigned to the private schools that contracted with my district. One of my assignments was a Waldorf School in a rural area of southern Oregon. OMG, Hippie Central: yurts for classrooms, kids running around waving silk scarves and dancing, organic vegetarian lunch with homemade bread and cheese and sprouts. It was completely unlike all my other assignments which were traditional classrooms. There was really no way I could evaluate these kids the way everyone else in the school district was evaluated because the teaching methods (and results) were so opposite ... • Smartest, kindest, most creative children I know are Waldorf students.” [12-20-2010 http://www.datalounge.com/cgi-bin/iowa/ajax.html?t=9953223#page:showThread,9953223]
Online discussions of Waldorf education tend to be hijacked, sooner or later, by Anthroposophists. Still, they can contain interesting messages, and individuals with personal experiences at Waldorf or Steiner schools can do the world some good by pitching in.
“As everyone knows, the Matthew and Luke genealogies are different. Normally we don’t try and reconcile them but in the early 20th century (when biblical literalism was the norm) people did try to. One example from Rudolf Steiner. Steiner concluded that there were two Jesus children, one in Luke’s genealogy and one in Matthew’s. One died at a later date.” [12-20-2010 http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/2010/12/the-shady-genealogy-of-jesus/]
This is an appropriate topic as we approach Christmas. What did Steiner teach about Christ? Well, for one thing, he said that Christ is the same being as Ra or Apollo — He is the Sun God. As for Jesus, Steiner said that Jesus is not Christ. Rather, Jesus is the human being whose body became the vessel for the incarnation of the Sun God. Moreover, Steiner taught that there were two Jesuses.
"We know that in Palestine, at the time which concerns us, not one but two Jesus-children were born, one of them from the Solomon line of the House of David. This is the Jesus child of whom the Matthew Gospel speaks. The peculiar contradiction between the beginnings of the Matthew and the Luke Gospels derives from the fact that the writer of the Matthew Gospel was concerned with one of the Jesus-children, the one born from the Solomon line. Then, at almost but not quite the same time, another Jesus-child was born, from the Nathan line of the House of David." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM JESUS TO CHRIST (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973), lecture 12.
Steiner taught that the two Jesus children — the Solomon Jesus child and the Nathan Jesus child — eventually combined, in the sense that the second (Nathan) Jesus received the spiritual essence or Ego of the first (Solomon) Jesus. The second Jesus child went on to host the Sun God, Christ. The first Jesus child was the reincarnated being who had once been Zarathustra. The second Jesus child was the being described in the Koran. The combined Jesus became "the Solomonic Nathanic Christ Jesus." You can decide whether Steiner's exposition improves upon the Biblical accounts.
For more on all this, see "Sun God", “Was He Christian?”, and "Christmas". The main point to absorb now is that these are the sorts of beliefs that many Waldorf teachers embrace — although they will often deny it, because they think that outsiders like you and I are unable to grasp the deep “truths” they possess as occult initiates. [See, e.g., “Secrets”.]
According to Steiner, this is the occult symbol for Christ:
[R.R. sketch, 2010, based on the one in
Steiner's READING THE PICTURES OF THE APOCALYPSE (SteinerBooks, 1993).]
“The Christmas Festival at the Acacia Waldorf School is always a big deal ... Traditionally, the Festival starts with the kids taking a twilight walk with the daddies at around 430pm ... [W]hile the dads and the kids are walking (or this year, playing), the mommies were busy decorating the tree. I’ve never seen a tree done up this way.” [12-21-2010 http://kikiandlalaland.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/a-christmas-festival/]
Indeed, you will rarely see Christmas trees decorated as they are in Waldorf schools. Here is Rudolf Steiner discussing Christmas tree symbols [SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969) lecture 2, GA 96]. Note that there are occult mysteries in Steiner's presentation, at least one of which he declines to reveal:
"The Roses, growing out of the green, are a symbol of the Eternal which springs from the Temporal.
"The square is the symbol of the fourfold nature of man; physical body, ether-body, astral body and ego.
"The triangle is the symbol for Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit, Spirit-Man.
"Above the triangle is the symbol for Tarok . Those who were initiated into the Egyptian Mysteries knew how to interpret this sign....
"Above this symbol is the Tao — the sign that is a reminder of the conception of the Divine held by our early forefathers ... [T]hese early forefathers of ours lived on the continent of Atlantis....
"Finally, the cosmic symbol of Man is the pentagram, hanging at the top of the tree. Of the deepest meaning of the pentagram we may not now speak."
[Rudolf Steiner Press, 1969.]
“Iowa's voluntary preschool program for 4-year-olds just turned 4. It has grown dramatically over these years ... Research is clear on the value of a high-quality preschool experience for all children, but particularly low-income children. High-quality preschool for low-income and other vulnerable children reduces special education needs later, dropout rates and other problems ... When more kids start school with the skills appropriate to their age, teachers do not have to concentrate attention on a few students, and the whole educational environment improves.” [12-21-2010 http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20101221/OPINION01/12210328/-1/NETWORKING/Guest-opinion-Time-for-preschool-report-card]
“A task force charged with improving early childhood education in Kentucky is recommending the state develop a model curriculum for preschool and implement a screening tool for children entering kindergarten ... ‘School readiness means each child enters school ready to engage in and benefit from early learning experiences that best promote the child’s success.’” [12-21-2010 http://www.kentucky.com/2010/12/21/1574106/task-force-proposes-changes-for.html]
It is possible to push kids too hard too early. It is also possible to deprive children of the preparation they need to gain the full benefits of education. Waldorf schools generally make the latter mistake. They try to keep children young and uninformed as long as possible. Reading and math are usually not begun until children turn seven, or even later. In kindergarten, nursery school, and indeed throughout their school years, Waldorf students are immersed in cloudy myths and fairy tales. The reasons, as usual at Waldorf schools, are occult and erroneous. The sorts of solid research referred to in the first of the quotes above are generally ignored by Waldorf faculties. They take their guidance instead from Rudolf Steiner's "clairvoyant" observations.
“Childhood is commonly regarded as a time of steadily expanding consciousness.... Yet in Steiner’s view, the very opposite is the case: childhood is a time of contracting consciousness.... [The child] loses his dream-like perception of the creative world of spiritual powers which is hidden behind the phenomena of the senses. This is...the world of creative archetypes and spiritual hierarchies.
“In mastering the world of physical perception the child encounters difficulties in that he first has to overcome a dream-like yet intensely real awareness of spiritual worlds. This awareness fades quickly in early childhood, but fragments of it live on in the child for a much longer time than most people imagine.
“... [I]n a Waldorf school, therefore, one of the tasks of the teachers is to keep the children young." — Anthroposophist A. C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956), p. 24.
"Maintaining their altitude up there in the blue, Class Five children [at a Waldorf school] are exploring the heavenly realms of historical myths this fall with Mr. Stopeck. Their study of a handful of ancient civilizations took flight a mere three weeks ago, with an introduction to early India, and Mr. Stopeck tells me that he’ll be piloting them through a gentle, year-long descent to earth. Having made the acquaintance of Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva, up there in the Hindu pantheon, the class is now greeting the Buddha. From the heady realms of those Lords of heaven, the class finds its feet on the ground for a moment — just long enough to learn the story of Siddhartha Gautama, the young prince who abandoned his youth of disengaged luxury to search out the source of human suffering." [12-21-2010 http://edu.prinews.net/2010/12/class-five-and-six-in-waldorf-education-hovering-near-the-light-2/]
Some advocates of Waldorf education intemperately post inside-the-school reports on the Internet. Such postings can provide useful insights that the writers themselves may not have intended.
Waldorf students do indeed spend a lot of time "up there in the blue." Whether they are ever brought back down to Earth is a different question.
The Waldorf curriculum [see "Curriculum"] places great stress on fairy tales, myths, fables — all of which they believe are, in one sense or another, true. There is also extensive exposure to world religions — from which Anthroposophy has been patched together. There is nothing wrong with learning about world cultures — but the objective at Waldorf schools is to usher students toward Anthroposophy, which is an amalgam of myths, fables, fairy tales, superstitions, and religious doctrines from near and far.
Here's a proposition: Students should not be led toward the religion of Anthroposophy unless their parents explicitly give permission. But Waldorf schools often pursue their objective stealthily, without bothering to get parental permission. [See, e.g., "Here's the Answer", "Soul School", "Spiritual Agenda", and "Summing Up".]
Only rarely do parents and outsiders learn what Waldorf teachers mean when, for instance, they say that children are "up there in the blue." Among other things, what they mean, literally, is that children have not yet wholly incarnated in this, the most recent of their Earthly lives. [See "Karma".] Here is the opening of an article from THE AUSTRALIAN:
"Ray Pereira could not believe what he was hearing. His son's teacher had just said his child had to repeat prep because the boy's soul had not fully incarnated.
"'She said his soul was hovering above the earth,' Mr Pereira said. 'And she then produced a couple of my son's drawings as evidence that his depiction of the world was from a perspective looking down on the earth from above. I just looked at my wife and we both thought, "We are out of here"'." [See "Faith".]
If you'd like to read a truly but unintentionally frightening book about Waldorf education, take a peek at Michaela Strauss's UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN'S DRAWINGS - Tracing the Path of Incarnation (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007).
Circling back to the subject of fairy tales and myths: Steiner taught that they are all spiritually/clairvoyantly true. Moreover, the beings who populate them — such as Norse gods — really exist:
The real answer is that, unlike Montessori, Waldorf education is based on occultism and thus is not appropriate for any child, except possibly the child of committed occultists. And even in that case, we may ask whether it is appropriate for any parents to inflict such damaging nonsense on a defenseless child.
“8th Grade is the last year at my school. The 7th Grade this year who will be in 8th grade next year will have waldorf high school though. I go to a Waldorf School and our particular school has not ever had a high school. Anyway this is not what this story is about. The story is about my class right now. I am going to use different names for privacy. You might not like this story but I think i would be interested in it if I was not in the school that I am. I will probably add a little bit to this writing every day and about a chapter a week . I hope you enjoy!
“People sometimes get bored with history and stuff so I will only give a little history and just a little more description. My school was started by a man named Rudolf Steiner. He started the school in Germany so it celebrates a lot of European holidays. Sometimes they are called Waldorf Schools and some are called Steiner Schools. Mostly they are called Waldorf Schools in America. Waldorf schools are centered on arts and anthroposophy. There are also a lot of holistic beliefs. My friends and I call ourselves Waldorfians because we are very different from other people. I will tell you more about my school as I go on. I will add more to this chapter later.” [12-20-2010 http://figment.com/books/12050-8th-Grade-at-a-Waldorf-School]
I don’t know where this story is going; I don’t know if the writer, Elizabeth Keeney, likes her school or not. Still, a blog by a current student in a Waldorf school may be quite interesting. Of course, the experiences of a single individual may not illuminate large issues. But if Elizabeth tells a story similar to the reports made by others, it might prove instructive. I hope Elizabeth sticks with it (and is allowed to stick with it), and writes her full story, whatever that story may be.
"Waldorf Schools: Rudolf Steiner’s books are 'an incitement to racial hatred', says BPjM — In the UK a discussion is going on about Rudolf Steiner’s racism, see: 'Steiner Waldorf Schools Part 3. The problem of racism'. Therefore Ruhrbarone publish a short English summary of the BPjM’s decision on Rudolf Steiner. The 'Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien' (BPjM) ('Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons') examined 2 books by Rudolf Steiner for 'racist content' and decided that the content of the books is racist ... The 2 books examined by the BPjM are: – 'Geisteswissenschaftliche Menschenkunde' English title: 'Spiritual-Scientific Knowledge of the Human Being' [and] 'Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen im Zusammenhang mit der germanisch-nordischen Mythologie' English title: 'The Mission of Individual Folk-Souls in Connection with Germanic-Nordic Mythology.'" [12-19-2010 http://www.ruhrbarone.de/waldorf-schools-rudolf-steiner’s-books-are-“an-incitement-to-racial-hatred”-says-bpjm/]
“Five years ago, member states of the World Health Organization (WHO)'s European Region resolved to eliminate measles and rubella by 2010. In September this year, it had become clear that this target was not going to be met ... While there are some specific areas and populations at risk from measles due to pockets of low vaccination coverage, it is not always possible to identify a specific group at risk, say [Ines] Steffens and colleagues. “While we see many outbreaks reported among Roma populations, Irish travellers and anthroposophical or religious communities, these populations are from different social backgrounds and there are different reasons why they are not vaccinated.” [12-17-2010 http://www.eht-forum.org/news.html?fileId=news101217090239&from=home&id=0]
The students at Waldorf schools are often at high risk because the Waldorf culture frowns on vaccination. This is so, even though Waldorf representatives sometimes issue carefully worded — and misleading — denials. The following is from the “Statement on Vaccination” posted by the European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education:
“We wish to state unequivocally that opposition to immunisation per se — or resistance to national strategies for childhood immunisation in general — forms no part of our specific educational objectives.” [http://ecswe.org/archives/news_vaccination.htm]
Waldorf schools may not oppose vaccinations “per se,” but they certainly oppose many of them in practice. Moreover, note that the denial above says that opposing vaccinations is not “part of our specific educational objectives.” Well, who said it was? No, Waldorf opposition to vaccinations is part of the Waldorf approach to medicine, not the Waldorf approach to education.
Consider what the founder of Waldorf schooling said about vaccination. Rudolf Steiner taught that vaccination interferes with karma. Sometimes such interference may be warranted, but usually it is not. Moreover, Steiner warned his followers that vaccination can be a tool used by the forces of darkness to destroy human souls:
“Endeavors to achieve this will be made by bringing out remedies to be administered by inoculation...only these inoculations will influence the human body in a way that will make it refuse to give a home to the spiritual inclinations of the soul.” — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), pp. 90-91.
Do Anthroposophists in general and Waldorf faculty members in particular oppose vaccination in most cases? Of course they do. Do they openly and honestly discuss their real agenda? For the most part, no, they do not. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Quackery", "Growing Up Being Made Sick by Anthroposophy", and "Spiritual Agenda".]
“GERMANY - The German Land of Niedersachsen may have to revise its restrictive school laws, forbidding children from Niedersachsen to attend a Steiner school in the Netherlands ... SWITZERLAND - In the village of Arlesheim, near Basle, the local residents voted by a majority of 127 to 97 to give financial support for all the children from their community that attend the local Steiner school. This amounts to a subsidy of 2000 Swiss francs per child annually ... FRANCE - For those that have been following the saga in France the new government has replaced the somewhat discredited 'Mils' (see newsletter Summer 2002) with 'Miviludes' ... This step confirms a change of attitude towards Steiner schools in France and confers a greater legitimacy to their existence ... FINLAND - The Finnish parliament, after an intensive debate, decided by vote of 127 to 54 to recognise the Snellman High-School as an Institute of Higher Education, thereby paving the way for state financial support for Steiner teacher education ... The Finnish Steiner schools obtained state funding in 1977 ... BELGIUM - The Minister of Education in the French speaking part of Belgium has officially approved the curriculum of the only French speaking Steiner school in Belgium at Court-St-Etienne.” [12-19-2010 http://ecswe.org/archives/news_international.htm]
All of this swell news comes to us from the European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education (ECSWE). Waldorf schools will eventually be seen for what they are — front organizations for an occult, pagan religion — but for the time being they are on a roll. This should surprise no one. A highly motivated cult is busily pushing the cult's agenda all 'round the world. And, because the cult members have managed to disguise their purposes pretty well, they do not yet face much organized opposition. (To think a bit about Anthroposophical PR efforts, consider the image reproduced above, for instance, and compare it to Anthroposophical doctrines about race. See, e.g., "Steiner Waldorf Schools Part 3. The problem of racism", "Anthroposophy and Ecofascism", and "Steiner's Racism".)
“Writs have been served on seven members of a committee that used to help run the Shearwater Steiner School in Mullumbimby [Australia]. Builder Mark Ware, of Tuncurry, says he is owed more than $400,000 by the school for work he carried out in 2008. The school went into voluntary administration earlier this year with debts of more than $5 million to unsecured creditors, and as much again to secured creditors, including Westpac. Rather than force the school into liquidation, unsecured creditors, including local tradespeople and students' parents, settled for a repayment of 10 cents in the dollar.” [12-18-2010 http://www.northernstar.com.au/story/2010/12/18/builder-chases-steiner-debt/]
The troubles at Shearwater have left a long trail. To see earlier news accounts, search for “Shearwater” on this page and elsewhere at the News Archive.
Real-world considerations such as finances are generally low on a Steiner’s school’s list of priorities. Of course, many things are more important than money. Still, we should expect Steiner faculties — who credit themselves with lofty motives and exemplary morality — to meet their obligations. To date, Shearwater has apparently bilked at least some contractors while clipping some of its closest supporters for 90% of their investments in the school.
“Montessori Versus Waldorf Education: Which One Do You Choose? The short answer is, you don't. You let your child decide. Which one draws them and makes them happy? That one is the right one. Or, you do both.
“The long answer is that these two natural education philosophies seem at complete odds at each other. Waldorf is based on art and imaginative play and has at its core the belief that academics before the age of 7 can be very detrimental. Montessori is based on utilizing all the senses to learn new things and shows children complex concepts in math and language at rather young ages. It also discourages fantasy play in lieu of real life experiences.” [12-17-2010 http://alisaterry.blogspot.com/2010/12/montessori-versus-waldorf-education.html]
"I was really interested in Waldorf a few years back and did some research on it. We have some very dear, educated, intelligent friends who send their kids there and they have lovely kids. I think Waldorf is a great school for some families, but you really need to educate yourself about the philosophical basis before jumping in. Rudolf Steiner, who is the founder of the movement, had some ideas that I just could not get behind. His whole philosophy of anthroposophy (sp?) is really at the heart and soul of Waldorf, so please look into this first." [12-17-2010 http://www.urbanbaby.com/talk/posts/52467843]
A discussion of Waldorf schooling — with numerous references to Montessori schools — is being conducted at UrbanBaby: "I'm considering a Waldorf school for my DD (2.5yrs). She'd start the nursery school program his [sic] fall. Anyone have experience with Waldorf schools? Opinions?".
"The first professorship of biodynamic agriculture in Europe at the University of Kassel in Germany has come one step closer to being axed with the decision by the council of the faculty of organic agricultural sciences to abolish the department of biodynamic agriculture and reduce the position to the level of a research assistant." [12-16-2010 http://www.nna-news.org/news/en/]
Sanity does sometimes prevail. Biodynamic agriculture is one of Rudolf Steiner's irrational creations. Steiner told his followers that his doctrines would ultimately be accepted by conventional scientists and scholars. Instead, as Steiner's doctrines have become more widely known, acceptance has diminished. This is a heartening trend that is likely to be extended in the future until Steiner and his teachings are universally seen as minor aberrations.
"This post deals with the most contentious and serious aspect of Steiner schools, racism. It makes, in my view, a convincing argument that Steiner’s undoubtedly racist views remain a problem today. They can’t be dismissed simply by saying that Steiner was a child of his times. This post was written by an ex-Steiner school parent, known on the web as @ThetisMercurio. The essay supplies yet more reasons to think that Steiner schools are all based on pseudo science: Steiner’s Spiritual Science. It is important that we understand these schools because funding of these schools is imminent, through [UK education minister] Michael Gove’s Free Schools policy." [12-16-2010 http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853]
This is the third installment of an important series of reports exposing Steiner Waldorf education. The first two installments are available at http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3528%20and%20http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3595.
Desperate people will often try any conceivable treatment for their illnesses, and sometimes they manage to convince themselves that various quack remedies really work. (They tend to lose this belief when their illnesses worsen.) Steiner advocated many quack remedies, and these are often used in Waldorf communities. See, e.g., "Steiner's Quackery", "Growing Up Being Made Sick by Anthroposophy", and "OTA Reports: Herbal Treatments".
"The belief that mistletoe can help cure cancer is based on the 18th Century philosopher Rudolf Steiner’s notion that like cancer, mistletoe is a parasitic growth that eventually kills its host. Inspired by the principle that ‘like cures like’, he believed that an extract of mistletoe would cure cancer." [12-15-2010 http://www.stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk/news/8739001.Mistletoe_Help_in_Cancer_Fight/]
(By the way: References to Rudolf Steiner in general publications and websites are often rife with error. Steiner's thinking may have come from the 18th century and earlier, but he (1861-1924) lived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.)
"Waldorf Education for Parents: experience the education of your choice — This year-long course is all about doing what the children do. If you ever wanted to bake bread, paint the same kind of paintings your children make, join in the clapping you heard through the wall, hear stories with a child’s ear, sing with abandon, act, model, draw and do all these things without the need to produce great results or good marks, then this course is for you. If you ever longed for a journey from fairy tale to the realm of fable, from Norse myth to Greek antiquity, then here is the opportunity: a healing journey for the Waldorf deprived [sic] adult, a chance to touch base with a curriculum built on an archetypal sequence of events." [12-15-2010 http://www.steineroz.com/news/312]
If you are interested in Waldorf education, taking such a course might be an excellent idea. Bear several points in mind, however. • A Waldorf school tends to become the center of an insular community, cut off from much of the rest of the world. Aiming to spread their religion, Anthroposophy, Waldorf faculties often seek to ensnare whole families, adults as well as children. • To learn about Waldorf education, don't rely entirely on Waldorf spokespersons or faculty members. They will, quite naturally, tell you and show you only what they want to divulge. They may hide a great deal from you until you are deeply committed to the Waldorf community. [See, e.g., "Secrets".] • Learn to recognize and interpret telltale indications of a hidden agenda at Waldorf. For example, notice the great emphasis placed on myths, fables, and the ancient world — "a journey from fairy tale to the realm of fable, from Norse myth to Greek antiquity." Waldorf schools generally abhor modern science — that is, they generally prefer ancient ignorance over modern knowledge. [See, e.g., "The Ancients" and "Clues".] • Be alert to signs of messianism — the Waldorf belief that anyone "deprived" of Waldorf ministrations needs to be "healed." Waldorf schools are meant to advance the Anthroposophical goal of completely revising human institutions so that they reflect the occult teachings of Rudolf Steiner. If, after reading Steiner, you agree with this goal, then Waldorf education may be what you are looking for. But if, after reading Steiner, you cannot enthusiastically embrace his teachings, you and your children should look elsewhere for a good school. [See, e.g., "Here's the Answer" and "Soul School".]
"On-Point Radio takes a look at the film 'Race to Nowhere,' tackling the questions: Is American education placing too much emphasis on achievement for achievement's sake? How is high-stakes standardized testing and teaching-to-the-test affecting our young people? The implications of these trends — immediate and long-term — are cause for concern. In contrast, Waldorf education stresses the process of learning over testing-based metrics, and seeks to develop a child's whole range of capacities — artistic, social, musical, physical, and emotional, as well as academic/intellectual. Of course, we teach core academic skills. But we also cultivate a student's creativity, resilience, strength of character, love of beauty, compassion, and ability to work with others." [12-15-2010 http://www.thewaldorfschool.org/RelId/628392/ISvars/default/Too_Much_Pressure___.htm]
One of the chief problems in American public schools today is the tendency to "teach to the test" — that is, confine instruction to lessons that will help kids score high on standardized tests. Waldorf schools generally avoid this trap, and their goals do indeed extend far beyond academics. Among the chief problems in Waldorf schools are the covert occult agenda and the serious undervaluing of academics. [See "Spiritual Agenda", "Holistic Education" and "Academic Standards at Waldorf".] The philosophy behind Waldorf schools is deeply antiscientific and irrational. [See "Steiner's 'Science'" and "Steiner's Specific: Thinking Without Our Brains".] Waldorf students are often unprepared both for standardized tests and for life in the real world. Indications of such problems cropped up almost from the start of classes at the first Waldorf school. When students at that school took some important standard tests, the results were abysmal. As Steiner said to the faculty there, “We should have no illusions: The results gave a very unfavorable impression of our school to people outside.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 725.
The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America has a Facebook page. Interesting on its own account, the page also provides links to other sites of interest, such as THE HUFFINGTON POST which, on November 30, ran an opinion piece about intuitive thinking — a piece in which Rudolf Steiner is cited. [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alex-pattakos/understanding-the-magicia_b_788801.html] Here's a sample: "Intuition as spirit is certainly not a new concept. On the contrary, it is deeply rooted in a variety of philosophical traditions, both Eastern and Western. For example, Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian-born scientific, literary and philosophical scholar, asserted that free spiritual activity, which he basically understood as the human ability to think intuitively, is the appropriate cognitive path for human beings to take in order to express fully their 'freedom' as individuals."
The idea that we have — or can develop — a capacity to intuit deep truths is obviously extremely attractive. Why bother to conduct careful experiments, and then carefully, logically evaluate the results if we can instead turn on our intuitive capacities and leap to the Truth?
The problem, of course, is that intuition is entirely unreliable. You can intuit anything that you want, anything that you have been prepped (or have prepped yourself) to "perceive." And bear in mind that the use of "intuition," in Steiner's scheme of things, is a form of clairvoyance — which almost certainly does not exist. [See "Clairvoyance".]
As for the "freedom" that becomes possible through the use of intuition/clairvoyance: Steiner's conception of freedom, distinctly Germanic, is highly restrictive. To quote the historian Peter Staudenmaier: "If freedom to walk on the grass, for example, illustrates the Western conception of freedom from government regulation or control, then not wanting to walk on the grass epitomized the German notion of what it means to be truly free." [See "Freedom".]
A tip for readers: Whenever you find Rudolf Steiner described in such terms as "scientific, literary and philosophical scholar," you should realize that the writer is either uninformed about Steiner, or s/he is one of Steiner's devoted followers. The truth is that Steiner was an occultist. He never did any real science, and he quit producing genuine scholarly and philosophical works when he plunged into occultism. Steiner made no secret of his occultism. For instance, "[I]n occultism we call the Moon the ‘Cosmos of Wisdom’ and the Earth the ‘Cosmos of Love.’” [Rudolf Steiner, THE INFLUENCE OF SPIRITUAL BEINGS ON MAN (Anthroposophic Press, 1961), lecture 6, GA 102.] Here we see Steiner openly placing himself in the ranks of occultists: "In occultism we...." Any description of Steiner that omits reference to his occultism is either accidentally or intentionally misleading. [See "Everything" and "Occultism".]
"I totally agree with you about the cost of Steiner. I've got a friend who home schools, and she'd love to send her kids to Steiner, but said 'only the rich can afford to be peasants.' I happen to agree with her.. though there is now [UK] Govt funding for more free schools to open, so things are continually changing here." [12-14-2010 http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/primary/1104527-6yrs-moving-to-uk]
Another discussion of Steiner Waldorf schools has begun at Mumsnet.
“Curriculum of Color: Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor [Michigan, USA] Annual Student Art Exhibit - On display in the Multi-Purpose Room, Lower Level Display Cases & Third Floor Walls. In Waldorf education, the arts are an essential component of the curriculum, providing avenues for recognition and understanding of the world in which we live. This exhibit will feature student oil and watercolor paintings, drawings and mosaics.” [12-14-2010 http://annarbor.com/events/curriculum-color-rudolf-steiner-school-ann-arbor-annual-student-art-exhibit/]
The arts do play a major role in Waldorf education. The reason? Rudolf Steiner taught that the arts provide direct avenues into the higher spiritual worlds. [See “Magical Arts”.] Waldorf teachers are expected to present all subjects — ranging from algebra to zoology — artistically. This is a lovely concept, but in practice it means that Waldorf teachers spend an extraordinary amount of time drawing on chalkboards, and the students then laboriously copy the pictures their teachers have created. The amount of time spent conveying and absorbing knowledge is commensurately restricted.
The rooms in Waldorf schools are often painted in varying colors. The reason? The colors are meant to have spiritual effects. Steiner taught that different gods or other spiritual beings are perceptible in rooms of different colors. “If the person devoting himself to the color which covers these physically dense walls were one who had made certain occult progress...the walls would disappear from his clairvoyant vision ... [T]he walls become like glass, but in the sphere which opens up there is a world of purely spiritual phenomena ... What spiritual beings become visible in any particular instance depends on the colour to which we devote ourselves. In a red room, other beings become visible than in a blue room.... ” — Rudolf Steiner quoted by John Fletcher, ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER (Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), p. 95.
“Monadnock Waldorf School in Keene, New Hampshire [USA] is actively seeking applications for the position of first grade teacher for the 2011-2012 school year. We are an accredited Waldorf school founded in 1976 and currently serving 190 students and their families. We have a faculty of 30 colleagues. We have three nursery-kindergartens, each grade, one through eight, six special subjects in the elementary school (handwork, woodwork, French, movement/physical education, music, and eurythmy), and our high school with 27 students in Grades 9 and 10 has a full Waldorf curriculum.” [12-13-2010 http://www.waldorfteachers.com/job/3426/first-grade-teacher-at-monadnock-waldorf-school/]
Waldorf or Steiner schools are often tiny, which somewhat undercuts the claim that Waldorf schools represent a fast-growing network. Monadnock Waldorf, with 190 students spread over 13 grades (fewer than 15 students per grade), is moderately large by Waldorf standards.
“Accreditation” is a tricky concept in Waldorf schools. To be a genuine Waldorf school, recognition must be received from a body such as the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America. Such recognition means that the school is a true-blue Anthroposophical institution, devoted to the occult doctrines laid down by Rudolf Steiner. This form of accreditation does not mean that real-world educational authorities approve of the school. (Note, also, that Waldorf teacher training often occurs at institutions of “higher education” that are not accredited by real-world educational authorities. A Waldorf teacher may have gone from high school to a Waldorf teacher-training program and then, never having studied at a real, accredited college or university, began "teaching" children at a Waldorf school.)
“Bob Stevens' timing couldn't have been worse — or better. The Waconia [Minnesota, USA] father volunteered to camp on the roof of an Excelsior coffee shop starting Friday to raise $100,000 for his daughter's school. The upbeat event was supposed to be a mild discomfort, not an extreme weather endurance test on the most bone-chilling weekend of the season. But it was precisely the blizzard that turned his escapade into national news, picked up by newspapers as far away as Taiwan and the Virgin Islands. Donations flew in from 28 states. And by Monday, $35,000 was raised for Spring Hill Waldorf School in Excelsior. 'It went viral,' said Stevens.” [12-14-2010 http://www.startribune.com/local/west/111818624.html?elr=KArks:DCiUHc3E7_V_nDaycUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aU6:iPhD_oD3aPc:i_kchO7DU]
“Our local Waldorf school held their annual Winter faire this past Saturday... We have been waiting in anticipation for this day and the magic it would surely bring...” [12-12-2010 http://bendingbirches2010.blogspot.com/2010/12/scenes-from-winter-faire.html]
People who are drawn to Waldorf schools are often quite lovely. Many Waldorf school have a sweet, spiritual view of life — they yearn for magic and benevolence and transcendence. And members of Waldorf communities often feel that they have found these blessings. They are good, yearning, loving souls.
What newcomers may not understand, at least initially, is that the Waldorf ideology is not a soft, hazy celebration of kindly spirituality. It is a quite specific set of doctrines, Anthroposophy. Some of these doctrines are loving and hopeful. But others posit a hierarchy of human races, the need for a worldwide race war, the categorization of students on the basis of superficial physical characteristics, the disparagement of various people as subhuman demons in disguise, combat between good and evil gods, and other less-than-lovely ideas.
"Entering Higher Worlds: The Occult Significance of the Bhagavad Gita ... 'Of course our materialistically minded friends will find it easy to refute us. Their arguments against what the occultist has to say are plausible enough. The occultist himself knows how easily such objections are made, for the very reason that the higher worlds are best described by words not suitable for things of the physical plane. For example he would speak of light-air, or air-light. On the physical plane there is no such thing, but over there, there is. Indeed, when we penetrate into that realm we also discover what it is to be deprived of this life element, to have insufficient light-air. We feel a pain of suffocation in our soul, comparable to losing our breath for lack of air on the physical plane. There we also find the opposite condition — a fullness of pure, holy light-air — when we live in it and when we perceive spiritual beings who manifest themselves in full clearness in this element of airy light and have their life in it. Those are the beings who stand under the guidance of Lucifer. The moment we enter that realm without sufficient preparation, without proper training, Lucifer gains the power to deprive us of the light-air we need. We can say he suffocates our souls.'" [12-10-2010 http://martyrion.blogspot.com/2010/12/entering-higher-worlds-occult.html]
This is just a taste of the sorts of discourse that occur in the Anthroposophical universe. Primarily, the Internet postings favored by Anthroposophists consist of quotations from Steiner, as in this case, and discussions of such quotations. To repeat a point I've repeatedly made, you need to feel comfortable with such discourse if you hope to be comfortable at a Waldorf of Steiner school. The teachers there may not present Steiner quotations to you, but they will study Steiner's teachings, and most of their work will derive from Steiner's "indications." For you, coming from the outside, the pertinent questions may be whether you find Steiner's words logical and persuasive, whether you are comfortable with his identification of himself as an occultist, and whether you think that Steiner and his followers offer the "proper training" to avoid suffocation by Lucifer. Such training is central to Anthroposophy — and, generally in disguised form, it is will almost surely be present in any Waldorf school you select. [See, e.g., "Occultism", "Spiritual Agenda", "Soul School", and "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness".]
Sometimes it is hard to believe that Waldorf teachers believe what they do indeed believe. Astrology looms large in Anthroposophy and in the occult doctrines that inform Waldorf education. [See "Astrology".]
(Lindisfarne Books, 2010)
"Drawing on specific biographical examples, THE ASTROLOGICAL REVOLUTION reveals new understandings of how the starry heavens work into human destiny [i.e., karma]. For instance, the book demonstrates the newly discovered rules of astrological reincarnation through the previous incarnations of composer Franz Schubert and his patron Joseph von Spaun — respectively, the Sultan of Morocco, Abu Yusuf Ya’qub, and his erstwhile enemy, Alfonso X, the Castilian King known as 'El Sabio' (the Learned), along with their sidereal horoscopes. Rudolf Steiner’s biography is also considered in relation to the sidereal zodiac and the rules of astrological reincarnation." [12-12-2010 http://ashok-discoverindia.blogspot.com/2010/12/astrological-revolution.html and http://www.steinerbooks.org/detail.html?id=9781584200833]
"The truth underlying the casting of a horoscope is that those who know these things can read the forces which determine a person's physical existence.” — Rudolf Steiner, SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE OF MAN AND HUMANITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1970), lecture 3.
Steiner lectured on the use of horoscopes in determining the proper treatment for children:
“By looking at what the horoscope shows we can see what is really the matter [with a child].
“Take first this horoscope (of the elder sister). It will probably have struck you that you find here in this region, Uranus together with Venus and Mars ... For this child, who was born in 1909, Mars stands in complete opposition to the Moon. Mars, which has Venus and Uranus in its vicinity, stands — itself — in strong opposition to the Moon....
“And now I would ask you to pay careful attention also to the fact that the Moon is at the same time standing before Libra. This means, the Moon has comparatively little support from the Zodiac, it wavers and hesitates...and its influence is still further reduced through the fact that Mars (which pulls along with it the Luciferic influence [i.e., the influence of Lucifer]) stands in opposition to it.
“Now let us turn to the horoscope of the young child [i.e., the younger sibling] ... On this second horoscope, Mars, Venus and Uranus are in close proximity, exactly as before; but when we examine more nearly the position of Mars, we find it is not, as before, in complete opposition to the Moon. It is however very nearly so. Although the younger child does not come in for a complete opposition, there is an approximation to opposition.” — Rudolf Steiner, CURATIVE EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 11. [See "Holistic Education".]
Steiner and his followers treat astrology as fundamental to their spiritual efforts:
"The fixed stars work in the human being, the moving planets work in the human being, and all the elements of nature work there as well." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ROOTS OF EDUCATION, The Foundations of Waldorf Education XIX (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 84.
The "twelve moods" are meditations Steiner wrote on the signs of the zodiac. "Each mood expresses an aspect of the 'twelvefold quality that exists in the universe as the Zodiac....'" — Christopher Bamford quoting Rudolf Steiner in START NOW!: Meditation Instructions, Meditations, Prayers, Verses for the Dead, Karma and Other Spiritual Practices for Beginners and Advanced Students (SteinerBooks, 2004), p. 138
"The Twelve Moods were once tested in connection with astrology. They are cosmically connected. That is something you can use both in the teach of style and eurythmy." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 362.
Steiner differentiated between his own teachings and the beliefs of modern astrologers. The essential difference, he said, is that his teachings about the zodiac, the powers of the stars, and the influences of the planets are true. Call them true astrology, if you like. They are still astrology.
Parents, think carefully before send your child to a school where the teachers may use horoscopes, dreams, and clairvoyance to decide what is best for your child.
Financial troubles and strategies are on the minds of many Anthroposophists these days:
“Over the last ten years it has become apparent that the gap between revenues and expenditures at the Goetheanum [the Anthroposophical headquarters] has become too large ... Only through free donations, institutional contributions and legacies, as well as the dissolution of reserves and the sale of properties, was it possible to balance the budget ... Following thorough preparatory work over the past year with all co-workers at the Goetheanum, we are now planning to implement [large] reductions for the 2011 budget. The administration of the School of Spiritual Science, the Society and the Goetheanum will be reduced, but also the Sections and the stage will curtail their activities. The Goetheanum is presently being tested in its spiritual and human foundations, including unavoidable layoffs.” [http://www.goetheanum.org/fileadmin/wochenschrift/awe/W201009.pdf]
NNA, the News Network Anthroposophy, is suggesting innovative financing schemes:
“With the escalating student protests in London over government plans — now adopted by the British parliament — to allow universities to raise tuition fees fresh in the mind, the subject of university funding is a controversial one ... All the more relevant, then, that this year the private Witten-Herdecke University celebrated fifteen years of a funding model which was thought up by the students and which divorces the cost of study from the course that the student chooses to take. Students pay a contribution, but that contribution is not understood as a charge or fee to cover the cost of the course they are taking, but rather as a ‘contribution to financing the business of the university’ says Malte Kullak-Ublick, a former board member of the StudierendenGesellschaft, the student association that was set up by the students to administer the funding model.” [12-10-2010 http://www.nna-news.org/news/en/]
Witten-Herdecke University, a private college in Germany, has ties to Anthroposophy. It has, for instance, offered a program in Anthroposophical medicine.
All of this plays out against the background of Waldorf or Steiner schools seeking government financing in the USA, UK, and elsewhere. Eighteen Steiner schools in the UK have reached an advanced stage in their efforts to become government-supported “free schools.” [See “Coming Undone”.]
“Waldorf Education: What It Is and Isn’t…By MarinaIsTEHSEX - Really pretty overview of the Waldorf education system…" [12-11-2010 http://waldorfschool.tv/waldorf-education-what-it-is-and-isnt/]
In an apparent compromise with Ahriman and his demonic technologies, advocates of Waldorf education are now broadcasting their glad tidings. (For those who don't know: Waldorf schools generally abhor modern technology, associating it with the arch-demon Ahriman. See "Ahriman".)
"WaldorfSchool.TV is a non-profit on-demand Internet video channel, that is devoted to discovering and collecting the most interesting materials about Waldorf education, the anthroposophical movement and related intelligent themes, from all over the world. WaldorfSchool.TV focuses on content that is honest, balanced and fair-minded and avoids extreme, offensive, violent and exploitive views and/or content." [http://waldorfschool.tv/about-waldorfschool-tv/]
"A 56-year-old teacher is facing sex assault charges dating back to 1985. York Regional Police say the charges stem from numerous alleged sexual assaults on two girls between 1985 and 1992. Police say the alleged offences occurred at the Toronto Waldorf School in Vaughan [Canada]. Both girls were 17 years old when the alleged offences occurred. Investigators say they believe there may be more victims and are appealing to them to come forward. Robert Pickering of Kettleby, Ont., is charged with sexual assault, sexual exploitation and seduction of a female between the ages of 16 and 18." [12-10-2010 http://www.globaltvbc.com/Teacher+charged+with+historical+assaults+Vaughan+school/3959940/story.html]
"Two Canadian women in their late 30s and 40s have come forward to say they were sexually abused by their high school teacher more than two decades ago. According to reports, about three and-a-half [sic] weeks ago, the women, who attended the private high school at different times, went to Toronto Waldorf School and complained to school officials that while they were students at the private high school they taken advantage of by Pickering, who was the guidance counselor for at least one of the alleged victims. School administrator Michele Andrews told reporters that the school 'immediately felt this was something we should turn over to the police,' so they brought the information to York police ... Pickering, who teaches science and music at TWS [Toronto Waldorf School], was suspended with pay while police complete their investigation ... School officials say students and parents were notified of the allegations on November 16, shortly after they became aware of the allegations. Investigators say they believe more victims will come forward now that Pickering has been arrested. Pickering has worked at the school for 27 years." [12-10-2010 http://theoriginalgreenwichdiva.com/toronto-waldorf-school-teacher-robert-pickering-arrested-for-allegedly-sexually-assaulting-two-students-over-20-years-ago/14920/]
Abuse of all kinds occurs in all kinds of institutions and locales. If Pickering is guilty, his crimes do not necessarily tell us much about Waldorf schools. But parents should realize that Waldorf schools are not guaranteed to be safe havens. Parents should maintain a protective skepticism — guard your children, question any adult actions that strike you are unsavory, and dig to understand the policies and culture of any school you send your children to.
Waldorf schools often close ranks, defending their faculties against any complaints made by parents, students, or others. In this instance, the Toronto Waldorf School seems to have acted honorably, and for this it should be commended.
"This book is an important work for those interested in the history of and impulse behind the anthroposophic movement; for those seeking insights into an important stage in the history of the Mysteries; and for those who wish to know more of the life and philosophy of Rudolf Steiner ... The influence of Steiner’s multifaceted genius has led to innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, various therapies, philosophy, religious renewal, Waldorf education, education for special needs, threefold economics, biodynamic agriculture, Goethean science, architecture, and the arts of drama, speech, and eurythmy." [12-10-2010 http://lindisfarne.org/detail.html?session=546f9a49d3c38dfff50ced173704bf1d&id=9781855840096]
"The history of the Mysteries." Phrases like this should serve as important indicators. Rudolf Steiner was an occultist. His teachings, depending upon his claimed clairvoyance, were meant to lay bare the hidden, i.e., occult, i.e., "mystery" knowledge underlying the world that we perceive with our ordinary senses. All of the projects based on Steiner's teachings — including Waldorf schools — are infused with Steiner's occultism. [See, e.g., "Occultism", "Gnosis", and "Rosy Cross".]
Steiner's followers are awed by the range of Steiner's work. They consider him an incomparable genius, a true polymath. But Steiner's influence rarely extends beyond the confines of his cult. His teachings — about children, nature, medicine, agriculture, etc. — are studded with fallacies and blatant factual errors. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Blunders", "Steiner's 'Science'", "Steiner's Quackery", and "Steiner's Illogic".] An honest assessment is that Steiner said and did very little of value. Instead, his errors span virtually the entire spectrum of human endeavor. All of the projects based on Steiner's teachings — including Waldorf schools — are built on sand.
(Which of Steiner's multitudinous works have merit? Some of the architectural designs attributed to him — especially the second Goetheanum — are impressive. And some of Steiner's early scholarly and philosophical writings, done before his descent in occultism, are admirable.)
Waldorf schools often engender wildly varying responses. Some families love the schools, some despise them. All such opinions need to be evaluated cautiously. We should expect most schools of any type to earn the affection and support of their communities — the survival of the schools depends on this. But we also should hope that no schools will produce horrific instances of abuse, deceit, bullying, or other forms of systematic mistreatment of students and families. Highland Hall has drawn some withering criticism. [See Waldorf Awareness.] The unfortunate experiences of a single family may not tell us much. But if that family's experiences are part of a discernible pattern involving other families at that school and at similar schools, serious institutional problems may be exposed. [See, e.g., "Slaps" and "Our Experience".]
• "...Highland Hall is one of the oldest Waldorf schools in the country, and the only one in the LA area with a high school. Based on the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf education strives to educate the whole...." • "...over 12 years and despite the beauty of the campus - the school has no transparent system for problem solving serious issues. Teachers seem defensive and intolerant of parents asking questions. The teachers police each other and there ... Tucker H." • "... enriching, this school sees each child and their gifts and knows how to meet them. The children learn two languages as well as stringed and woodwind instruments, and through the curriculum gain an impressive knowledge of other cultures ... Chris G" • "... serious problems ranging from dogmatic teachers and administrators entrenched in and teaching Anthroposophy to serious issues dealing with parents and preventing them from communicating with each other (see the parent handbook). Crises ... Pete Karaiskos" • "... for me to sum up in a few sentences the incredible education children receive at this school; I cannot do justice in describing the depth of the curriculum the level of commitment by the teachers, the nurturing environment where children ... Highland Hall Mom" [12-10-2010 http://attractions.uptake.com/parks/california/northridge/highland_hall_waldorf_school_9437424.html and http://www.uptake.com/reviews/9437424.html]
Eurythmy — a spiritual form of dance created by Rudolf Steiner —
as displayed at the Rudolf Steiner College Web site.
Eurythmy is an integral part of the standard Waldorf curriculum.
The purpose is to make a direct link to the higher spirit worlds
In essence, eurythmy is Anthroposophical temple dancing.
Eurythmy will be included in the Mountain Sage curriculum
“The Mountain Sage Community School charter application was approved by the Poudre School District Board of Education [Colorado, USA] on October 26th, 2010. Dedicated parents and educators have been volunteering their time and energy since Fall 2008, working to bring this school vision to fruition ... Now is the time to create a Waldorf-inspired, ecologically sound school in Fort Collins [Colorado], joining the ranks of the many other communities across the U.S. who have done so ... Teachers will be selected based on an evaluation of their ability to deliver the curriculum and vision as described in the school’s charter. A Waldorf teaching certification will not be required. However, if a teacher hired by the school does not have a background in Waldorf teaching methods, the school will require training in the teaching methods as part of the teacher’s professional development.” [12-9-2010 http://www.raintreecommunityschool.org/our-school/founders and http://www.raintreecommunityschool.org/our-school/faq]
The online statements describing this proposed school offer scant recognition of the occultism that is basic to Waldorf education. Is this a case of conscious, intentional deception? Some people, attracted by the undeniable beauty found in Waldorf schools, have tried to adopt Waldorf methods without adopting Anthroposophy, the religion behind these methods. Perhaps Mountain Sage Community School is meant to be wholly free of Anthroposophy. But there is reason to be skeptical and concerned. When Waldorf education was first introduced to America, the Anthroposophists promoting Waldorf — such as Hermann von Baravalle — gave lectures and distributed materials that often made no mention of Rudolf Steiner or Anthroposophy. Even when these promoters alluded to Steiner's doctrines, they downplayed the true import of those doctrines. And yet these individuals were devoted Anthroposophists (von Baravalle was a personal acquaintance of Rudolf Steiner and was wholly committed to Steiner’s teachings). Their purpose was to spread Anthroposophy by making that body of occult beliefs seem compatible with American values, confident that once Waldorf schools were in operation, students and parents would be lured to Anthroposophy. [See, e.g., Ida Oberman, THE WALDORF MOVEMENT IN EDUCATION FROM EUROPEAN CRADLE TO AMERICAN CRUCIBLE, 1919-2008 (Edwin Mellen Press, 2008), and “Nutshell”.]
The backers of Mountain Sage Community School say that prospective teachers need not have Waldorf teaching certificates, but any teachers who are not familiar with Waldorf methods will be required to receive the appropriate training. What will this training be? In the USA, the key center for Waldorf teacher training is Rudolf Steiner College. The first year of training there includes wide study of Steiner’s occult teachings. [See “Teacher Training”.] The truth is that Waldorf methods cannot be separated from Waldorf beliefs — which are occult. [See “Occultism”.] Whether or not the backers of Mountain Sage Community School fully understand this, they are on the path leading to Anthroposophical indoctrination. [See "Here's the Answer".]
From a discussion about "moon phases" — this quotation bears specifically on the subject of biodynamic agriculture and generally on the question of whether Steiner's work was in any way scientific:
"These processes were not developed through scientific methodology, but rather through Steiner’s own self-described meditation and clairvoyance. In fact, Steiner declared that these spiritualistically determined methods did not need to be confirmed through traditional scientific testing, but were 'true and correct' unto themselves (Kirchmann, 1994). The rejection of scientific objectivity in favor of a subjective, mystical approach means that many of Steiner’s biodynamic recommendations cannot be tested and validated by traditional methods. In practical terms, this means any effect attributed to biodynamic preparations is a matter of belief, not of fact." [http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?p=38981586 As often happens, Google Alerts alerted me of this quotation only months after the fact: i.e., today, 12-9-2010.]
These matters bear on Waldorf education because Steiner's "clairvoyant," antiscientific teachings form the basis of such schooling. Very little that Steiner ever said has been confirmed by science. Waldorf education, like biodynamic farming, is based on faith. Not, mind you, faith in the Bible or any other widely accepted source of wisdom, but faith in Rudolf Steiner himself.
“Theosophists believe the civilization of Atlantis reached its peak between 1,000,000 and 900,000 years ago but destroyed itself through internal warfare brought about by the inhabitants' dangerous use of magical powers. William Scott-Elliot in THE STORY OF ATLANTIS (1896) elaborated on [the Theosophical] account ... Scott-Elliot's information came from the clairvoyant Charles Webster Leadbeater. Rudolf Steiner wrote of the cultural evolution of Atlantis in much the same vein.” [12-8-2010 http://catholicspirit.blogspot.com/2010/12/theory-of-atlantis.html]
Rudolf Steiner very rarely met a fantasy or untruth that he disliked. He affirmed the existence of Atlantis, the existence of fairies, the truth of Norse myths, the existence of ghosts, communication with the dead, etc. His followers accept these delusions as truth.
Anthroposophists can believe anything they like, of course. The only question that need concern us is whether people who believe Steiner should be allowed to teach our children. Here's the caption for the rather strange illustration above: “If we were to journey back through time to the age that links Lemuria with Atlantis, we would meet with a remarkable sight: gigantic flying lizards with a lantern on their heads...” — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), pp. 130-131; my sketch of Steiner's sketch, 2009; Steiner arranged the two figures horizontally; I have put them vertically. Plausibility is unaffected.
Before we lived on Atlantis, Steiner taught, we lived on an earlier continent that met a doom similar to the sinking of Atlantis. Grotesquely, Steiner taught that the histories of both Lemuria and Atlantis reveal the separation of humanity into good and evil branches, higher and lower races: “The ancestors of the Atlanteans lived in a region [i.e., Lemuria] which has disappeared ... After they had passed through various stages of development the greatest part of them declined. These became stunted men, whose descendants still inhabit certain parts of the earth today as so-called savage tribes. Only a small part of Lemurian humanity was capable of further development. From this part the Atlanteans [i.e., the people of Atlantis] were formed. Later, something similar took place. The greatest part of the Atlantean population declined, and from a small portion are descended the so-called Aryans who comprise present-day civilized humanity.” — Rudolf Steiner, COSMIC MEMORY (Garber Communications, 1990), pp. 45-46. Steiner liked to use phrases such as “so-called” and “as it were” in an effort to take the sting out of his deplorable remarks. Whether this strategy works is, I suppose, up to the individual reader to determine. [For more, see “Atlantis and the Aryans”.]
"At Marian Farms, the introduction to biodynamic farming comes in the form of orange-blossom eau de vie ... In the 1920s, Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner pioneered biodynamic techniques to boost crop fertility and address pest and disease issues. The practice is growing in the wine industry....” [12-7-2010 http://www.fresnobee.com/2010/12/07/2189096/marian-farms-pioneers-biodynamic.html]
Rudolf Steiner’s educational doctrines may damage children, sometimes causing lifelong problems. His quack medical teachings can cause dreadful damage. His spiritual teachings may lead yearning souls into dark regions of falsehood.
By comparison, his agricultural teachings are merely silly. They depend on astrology and magic. Foods grown in accordance with Steiner's “biodynamic” principles should be quite wholesome — but the same wholesomeness can be achieved in more rational ways.
Here is a bit of astrological guidance from Steiner on how to rid farm fields of mice: “[C]atch a fairly young mouse and skin it ... [Y]ou must obtain this skin when Venus is in the sign of Scorpio ... Carefully collect the ash and other constituents that remain from the burning ... [S]prinkle it over your fields ... [Y]ou will find this an excellent remedy.” — Rudolf Steiner, AGRICULTURE COURSE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1958), p. 113. You can waste your time doing such things, if you like. But your crops won't be any the better for it. As to murdering mice for their skins...
Here is how to make one of Steiner's magical potions: “Horn Manure is cow manure that has been fermented in the soil over winter inside a cow horn ... Before being applied very small amounts...are dissolved in water and stirred rigorously for one whole hour. This is done by stirring (preferably by hand) in one direction in such a way that a deep crater is formed in the stirring vessel (bucket, barrel). Then the direction is changed, the water seethes and slowly a new crater is formed. Each time a well-formed crater is achieved the direction is changed until the full hour is completed. In this way the dynamic effects concentrated in the prepared manure...are released into the rhythmically moved water and become effective for soil and plant.” [“Biodynamic Frequently Asked Questions,” www.biodynamic.org.uk .] You can spend your time doing such things, if you like. But your crops won't be any the better for it.
To read more on all this, see "Biodynamics — Or, Fill Those Cow Horns".
(By the way, when people describe Steiner as a “scientist,” they are falling for one of the falsehoods spread by his followers. Steiner did not follow the scientific method, he “studied” the universe through the use of “clairvoyance.” None of his “clairvoyant findings” can be tested or validated by real science. Steiner, drawing from Theosophy, called his work "spiritual science" — but there is nothing scientific about it.)
“The Dana Foundation research report shows how arts activities influence cognition. The results demonstrate levels of brain activity that reflect engagement or attentiveness during learning, including the kinds of arts activities (music, dance, painting, etc.) that hold children’s attention. The report validates scientifically what Waldorf educators observe on a daily basis in their classrooms: Artistic activity encourages motivation ... The difference between the approach of the Dana Foundation and Waldorf education is the difference between materialistic science and a spiritual — or anthroposophical — view of human beings. The first proceeds from cause to effect; the second begins with the wholeness of the child, which it allows to develop at its own pace, knowing that all learning must be digested artistically, and that the engagement of a child in education is essential.” [12-8-2010 http://tdwebz.com/education/?p=1975]
Do islands float in the sea? Do goblins exist? Is the moon a fortress, a colony of spirits who once lived on earth? Do the planets travel in line with the Sun instead of orbiting it? Did we once live on Atlantis, and before that on Lemuria? Did we evolve from Saturn to Sun to Moon to Earth? Are some races more highly evolved than others? On such questions, Rudolf Steiner's teachings have received no scientific validation. Most of what Steiner taught is unsupported and, indeed, it is obvious nonsense. [See "Steiner's Blunders".] On a few matters, Steiner seems to have gotten things right, but generally these are matters on which, really, there is no argument. Is art good for the human mind and soul? Of course — no one disputes this. Should educators try to engage children — that is, get them involved and interested? Of course — no one disputes this.
Clutching at straws, Steiner's followers often grab any bit of evidence that may conceivably justify Steiner's teachings. But usually these "justifications" are insipid truisms. Arguing that art is inspiring and that children should be engaged, and offering these ideas as "proof" of Steiner's teachings, is typical. No one disputes the value of art or the need to engage children, and non-Anthroposophical schools certainly do not stand for the opposite propositions (i.e., that art is deadly and children should be bored).
What Anthroposophists call "materialistic science" is simply science — that is, real knowledge. It does indeed trace causes and effects. To not do so would be foolish. But such foolishness is indeed central to Waldorf schooling. Waldorf teachers use interesting, high-sounding, inspiring rhetoric — "the whole child," "the spiritual view," and so on. Behind this rhetoric, however, we often see intellectual emptiness paired with a fervent embrace of Steiner's occultism. Thus, the "artistic" approach used in Waldorf schools is actually meant to transport children into the hidden spirit realm that Steiner described.
If you like what Steiner said, Waldorf schools may possibly suit you and your children. But if Anthroposophical/Waldorf rhetoric strikes you as hot air — if you do not accept Steiner's occult doctrines — you should send your children to other sorts of schools (schools that believe, for instance, in cause-and-effect rationality). [See "Magical Arts".]
“On a recent trip, students of RiverNorth Kindergarten in Rochester [New York, USA] and their families walked through Highland Park singing and carrying beeswax lanterns that the children had made in school. Afterward, the families had hot cider, homemade cookies and cakes. The journey was symbolic of carrying inner light through a dark winter, said one mother, in an effort to explain the Waldorf Education philosophy that guides the school. "The philosophy is holistic and addresses every aspect of the child. Sometimes it is described as 'heart, head and hands,'" said Debra Couch, whose son attends the kindergarten. The town of Rush is soon going to have a new early childhood program based on the same principles.” [12-7-2010 http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20101207/NEWS05/12080312/1002/NEWS]
There is much beauty in Waldorf schools. But you may find that it is perverted beauty — beauty offered in the service of occultism. Waldorf and Steiner schools are generally run by kind, well-meaning people, and many kind, well-meaning parents are drawn to these schools. But the schools are devoted to the occult doctrines of Rudolf Steiner. To understand what the schools mean by “holistic education,” for instance, you must acquaint yourself with Anthroposophical teachings about astrology, karma, the gods (plural), and so forth. [See “Holistic Education”.] The schools are a good fit for some families, those with a deep devotion to the occult. But most families are likely to be shocked when they comprehend what Waldorf schools are meant to achieve. [See “Here’s the Answer”, “Spiritual Agenda”, and “Soul School”.]
“Fallout from the financial crisis at the Shearwater Steiner school earlier this year has reached the courts, with legal action by a builder who says he’s owed $410,000 in debts and lost profits. The plight of the fast-growing Mullumbimby [Australia] school has attracted national attention, after it spectacularly survived very public financial problems, sparking much community interest and division over what went wrong ... Uncertainty over whether the school’s insurers will cover the case means committee members, including teachers and parents, may be personally liable for up to half a million dollars ... In 2009 the school failed to make payments due under the [builder’s] contract... Mr Stevens, as Shearwater administrator, was personally involved in negotiating loans from parents, who were offered interest rates of around ten per cent, but in some cases with no security ... While over 15 parents still have unsecured loans with the Steiner school totalling more than $2 million — and some feel they were not as fully informed of the financial situation as they should have been — the group has got behind the school rather than pursue action in the courts.” [12-8-2010 http://www.echo.net.au/newsitem/shearwater-ends-court]
Waldorf or Steiner schools can fail in various ways. They quite often fail to indoctrinate students as thoroughly as they may wish [see “Who Gets Hurt”], and sometimes they fail altogether, collapsing in ruins and recriminations [see “Failure”]. Eventually they will all fail — the Waldorf movement will self-destruct, because there is no rational basis for it. This ultimate deliverance may take quite a while, however — the human appetite for mysticism, fantasy, and superstition is enormous [see “Why? Oh Why? Oh Why?"]. But it will come. Put it this way: Rudolf Steiner taught that humanity is evolving. Very well. Someday we will evolve to be rational enough to utterly reject Steiner’s occult pronouncements.
“One Alamo woman hopes to open a Waldorf school in San Ramon [Texas, USA], bringing this experiental [sic] learning style to the Tri-Valley. Dana Jain, a longtime Waldorf teacher, Luna Loca restaurant owner and resident of Alamo since 2002, is in the early planning stages of opening a Waldorf school in the location previously occupied by Mudd's restaurant. Jain has organized a Wednesday evening candle-lit 'Spiral of Light' ceremony, to help acquaint parents with Waldorf education ... The Spiral of Light activity typically occurs in a Waldorf first grade and appealed to Jain when she discovered the Waldorf method in 1974. Children will walk a short spiral of branches toward a central light. At the center, the children will light a candle, and return outward through the spiral, leaving a candle along the path making the spiral increasingly lit with each child's journey.” [12-6-2010 http://danville.patch.com/articles/alamo-woman-shares-her-passion-for-waldorf-education-with-the-community]
How can you tell what really goes on inside a Waldorf school? There are websites that sing the praises of Waldorf education, and there are sites that denounce Waldorf education. Who is telling the truth?
You can try to glean clues here and there. Note, for instance, that Dana Jain wants to attract families by staging a “ceremony” that certainly seems to have religious or mystical overtones.
But can’t we find stronger evidence, for or against Waldorf schools? Certainly. Some Waldorf teachers openly acknowledge that Waldorf schools are religious [see, e.g., “Waldorf Now”], and the training Waldorf teachers receive is clearly based on Rudolf Steiner’s occultism [see “Teacher Training”]. Waldorf advocates have many reasons for withholding the truth from outsiders [see “Secrets”], but it is possible to get to penetrate their denials and misstatements [see, e.g., “Clues”].
The Spiral of Light ceremony is actually an Advent observance, disguised slightly so as not to offend non-Christian families. (Advent is the celebration of the coming or second coming of Christ.) All the festivals at Waldorf schools are, at root, religious. "At the request of non-Christian families, some schools have given their Festival celebrations and pageants more generic names, so that Michaelmas becomes the Fall Festival and the Advent Garden is called the Spiral of Light. In situations where it is not possible to soften or eliminate the 'Christian message,' e.g. a performance of the Shepherds’ Play, parents may keep children home on the day of its performance ... On both the macrocosmic and microcosmic levels we ignore the world of nature at our peril. The Christian Festivals and their renewal and expansion as described by Steiner, provide a vital and comforting space in which children and adults alike can renew and expand their relationship with the earth and its relationship with the sun, moon, and stars." — Waldorf teacher Eugene Schwartz, http://knol.google.com/k/anthroposophy-and-waldorf-education-do-the-festivals-have-a-future#
“Finland's schools flourish in freedom and flexibility: State prescribes the curriculum but leaves teachers alone to decide how to teach the subject ... The most striking difference between the Finnish system and British is the fact that Finland has no private schools. There are a handful of privately run religious schools and Steiner schools, but places at these are state-funded, too.” [12-5-2010 http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/05/finland-schools-curriculum-teaching]
Failing to classify Steiner schools as religious institutions is a common mistake. Steiner schools exist to serve the purposes of the religion devised by Rudolf Steiner: Anthroposophy. Because Steiner and his followers have generally argued that Anthroposophy is a science, not a religion, considerable confusion exists. [See “Steiner’s ‘Science’” and “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”] Steiner schools tend to enjoy wide acceptance in northern Europe, in part because Steiner’s thinking derived to a significant degree from German/Nordic culture. [See, e.g., the emphasis on Norse myths: “The Gods”.] Much of Anthroposophy can be seen as an outgrowth of German romanticism, which was characterized by celebration of Nordic man, embrace of Nordic mythology, affirmation of the German folk soul, transcendentalism, hostility to rationalism, and other related strands. “Rudolf Steiner...a pivotal figure of twentieth-century esotericism...blended modern Theosophy with a Gnostic form of Christianity, Rosicrucianism, and German Naturphilosophie.” — Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, in RUDOLF STEINER, Western Esoteric Masters Series (North Atlantic Books, 2004, Richard Seddon, editor), p. 7. To pull all this together into a comprehensible whole, you might consider, e.g., "Here's the Answer".
“Two groups have applied to the government to set up independent schools in Frome [UK]. Bruton Steiner School already has a fee paying school in the county, but wants to expand into state education. Parents [also] want to set up Frome Free School, where pupils would choose what they want to learn and not follow the national curriculum. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) says free schools are not accountable and do not have qualified teachers ... Robin Head, secretary of Somerset NUT said he understood parents' frustration with the state system however he did not agree with free schools. ‘There's no real great demand for this in the Frome area. This is a handful of individuals - albeit well meaning - but there's no real great demand there. "It would just take funds away from the majority of children in Frome.’" [12-6-2010 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-11926787]
Under its new government, the United Kingdom is contemplating allowing Steiner Waldorf schools to become “free schools.” The government would fund the schools while allowing them great latitude in designing their curriculums. There is little evidence that the government is aware of the occult underpinnings of Steiner education. Attempts are being made to inform education secretary Michael Gove and others, but even greater efforts may be needed.
"From his own clairvoyant vision, Rudolf Steiner confirmed the existence of such spiritual beings [as Angels] and showed how modern minds could gain access to their world. As he explains in these inspiring lectures, it is important for us to understand and cooperate with the work of the Angels today as this is crucial for the further development of humanity." [12-5-2010 http://www.steinerbooks.net/detail.html?session=b2609dc2fd1e895402220b7c6a4a13ca&id=9781855840607]
People who are drawn to Waldorf schools often have a sweet spiritualistic perspective. They are good and caring individuals who wish the best for themselves, their children, and all of humanity. They probably would anticipate that a book of Rudolf Steiner’s teachings about angels would be full of sweetness and light. And the book ANGELS does indeed contain some sweetness, if very little light. But it also contains some dreadfulness.
“Beings who arise through immoral actions have the particular inclination to be parasites in human evolution on earth under Lucifer's leadership — to which they have succumbed — and to seize hold of the evolution of human beings before they make their physical entry into the world. They attack human beings during the embryonic stage and share their existence between conception and birth. Some of these beings, if they are strong enough, can continue to accompany the human being after birth, as seen in the phenomena of some children who are possessed.” — Rudolf Steiner, ANGELS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 168.
Steiner taught that some people — including some children — are subhuman. Speaking to Waldorf teachers, Steiner said:
“That little girl L.K. in the first grade must have something really very wrong inside. There is not much we can do. Such cases are increasing in which children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings ... [They] are not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon ... Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 649-650.
If you are drawn to a Waldorf school, please take the time to understand what you are getting involved in — and what you are getting your child involved in. Think of the horrors — the enslavements, the genocides — that have occurred because of the belief that some people "are not human beings.” Rudolf Steiner did not advocate slavery or genocide, but his teachings lend themselves to such atrocities.
There are many different forms of "thinking," ranging from logic to fantasizing. Waldorf schools emphasize "thinking" that is close to, if not synonymous with, fantasy: imagination, intuition, and inspiration. Ultimately, they place their hope in clairvoyance. Rudolf Steiner taught that no real thinking occurs in the brain. Real thinking occurs outside the physical body; the brain merely reflects the thoughts that come in from invisible, higher parts. "[I]n all this external bodily organism [i.e., the physical body] no process such as thinking or cognition exists, but it takes place in the adjoining etheric and astral bodies ... Within the brain nothing at all exists of the nature of thought." — Rudolf Steiner, WONDERS OF THE WORLD (Kessinger, facsimile of 1929 edition), p. 88.
Q: “What is a Steiner school? I am off to google...”
A: “I've heard nothing but bad experiences about Steiner schools.
"The first was a friend I went to school with. His parents had sent him to Steiner until he was in P4 but removed him at this stage when they realised that he still couldn't read or write because that wasn't something the school thought of as important. He luckily was a very intelligent person so managed to catch up without too much difficulty but his younger brother wasn't so lucky and struggled for quite a while to bring himself up to the level of others in his year group.
“The second is a colleague of my DH's who sent both her girls to Steiner. Both left school with no qualifications to their name and both are now in Tech trying to get their GCSEs now. So what on earth was all that money in private school fees spent on?!
“Maybe I'm missing the point, and will be interested to read any replies from parents whose children are doing well in a Steiner school but suffice it to say, my children will be attending a mainstream school!” [12-5-2010 http://community.babycentre.co.uk/post/a10992345/wyoo_steiner_schools]
Some of you may want to contribute to this discussion, if it is still ongoing. (I don't know why notice of the discussion reached me only now. I use the Google Alerts system, which sometimes produces strangely out-of-date messages.)
“Michael Maylahn, 19, a 2009 graduate of The Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs [New York, USA], recently led a team of engineering students in creating a prototype Mars rover at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. ... The ‘think outside the box’ mantra of his Waldorf School education also played a key role in his success as the team leader, Maylahn said.” [12-5-2010 http://www.saratogian.com/articles/2010/12/05/news/doc4cfb0e36248ef701655856.txt?viewmode=default]
Not all Waldorf students are destroyed by their schooling. To get the complete Waldorf treatment, you need to start at Waldorf in kindergarten and remain until graduation from high school. It also helps to be credulous and uncritical. Some Waldorf students — especially those with a streak of rationality and/or rebelliousness — escape relatively unharmed. And to some degree, the “outside the box” nature of Waldorf thinking can indeed be useful. Some Waldorf graduates go on to various forms of success — the actress Jennifer Aniston, for instance, or credit card honcho Kenneth Chenault.* Some even become knowledgeable critics of Waldorf education (harrumph). [See “Who Gets Hurt”.]
* If some graduates have successful careers, does this mean a school has done well for its students? Is the value of the Waldorf system proven by the success of some of its former students? Obviously not. Some graduates may succeed in spite of, not because of, the education they received as children, and some may succeed in ways that have no connection to their schooling. Think of the people you know who went to lousy schools but did well in later life. I know a woman who earned a PhD and who has become an internationally acclaimed author. She attended a tiny, rural public school that no one would deem a model of educational excellence; indeed, she regrets the markedly inferior education she received. Very often, people succeed in life because of their innate capacities, the love and support of their families, and other factors having little or nothing to do with the schools they attended as children.
ERSM students doing eurythmy,
the spiritual form of dance created
by Rudolf Steiner
“This holiday season, parents, teachers and friends of the...Waldorf school École Rudolf Steiner de Montreal (ERSM) are banking on Montrealers' love of lotteries to make a difference for their school come 2011. Launching a limited 60,000-ticket draw for a Suburu Outback PZEV car or its value in cash, the $5 per-ticket sweepstake gets underway at the school's Christmas Festival ... The draw is the first of several bold, new initiatives that parents of the 100-children school are doing to help the school. Since taking root in NDG, ERSM, the only private, French Waldorf school in North America has faced several financial set backs [sic] ... 'Unfortunately, transforming an old library into a functional school is a costly commitment,' says Francine Laterreur, Administrator. 'We thought we had a good plan, until tough economic times hit and leasing partners never materialized.'" [12-4-2010 http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/December2010/03/c2339.html]
Financing can be a continuing worry at Waldorf or Steiner schools. This sometimes leads them to actions that they would never consider otherwise.
The effort to secure state funding for the Cambridge Steiner School (and many other Steiner schools) continues apace. A tweet [http://twitter.com/ThetisMercurio/status/6470302582181888]:
"Cambridge Steiner school petition - desperate for funds http://bit.ly/d6gi7R Coming to a community near you, state funded #Anthroposophy"
And a questionnaire [https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?hl=en&formkey=dF9lMUhMVC12enREZFFwb05pZjQ4VVE6MQ#gid=0]:
"Do you want a State-Funded Waldorf Steiner School in Cambridgeshire (a 'Free School')?
"Currently the Cambridge Steiner School (http://www.camsteinerschool.org/) is independent and has to charge fees. The School is considering applying to become a Free School (State Funded).
"Information from this form is solely being collected to demonstrate if there is a demand for a State-Funded Steiner School in Cambridgeshire [UK] and will be viewed by Trustees of the school. Information collected will only be shared with the Department for Education and no other parties."
"We learn with more than just our heads. Lots of us, not just those in Waldorf schools, agree with this ... Based on the work of John Gardner at the Garden City Waldorf School in the 1950s and 1960s and Douglas Gerwin since then, Waldorf schools approach each grade of high school differently in terms of assignments, expectations, and the development of thinking." [12-3-2010 http://ssagarin.blogspot.com/2010/12/learning-to-think-in-high-school.html]
Like other Anthroposophists, John Gardner deplored logical or "critical" thinking. "A youth whose childhood has been touched by the blight of 'critical thinking' will come to the moment of independent insight badly crippled ... Because skepticism has long since robbed him of part of his heart, he will now feel unable to embrace enthusiastically what he has come to understand." — John Fentress Gardner, THE EXPERIENCE OF KNOWLEDGE (Waldorf Press, 1975), pp. 127-128.
The Waldorf curriculum is designed to keep children young and uninformed for as long as possible. [See "Thinking Cap" and "Thinking".] Use of the brain is de-emphasized; instead, the young child is immersed in fairy tales, myths, and religious teachings. The purpose is to bring the child into the occult fold, leading her/him to internalize Anthroposophical beliefs or attitudes. [See "Spiritual Agenda".] Then, when the child has become a junior occultist, intellectual thought is gradually and minimally developed in high school. Such mild "intellectual thought," however, is not meant to be critical — the child should use intellect only to rationalize the beliefs s/he has embraced. The goal, in other words, is to raise children who "embrace enthusiastically what [they have] come to understand." What do they "understand?" The beliefs and attitudes carefully cultivated in them by their Waldorf teachers.
Waldorf schools are appropriate only for families who want an occult, mystical, irrational "education" for their children. Remember, "You will injure children if you educate them rationally....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 61. [See, e.g., "Beat", "Steiner's Specific", "Criticism", and "Curriculum".]
Disclosure statement: I knew John Gardner. I attended the The Waldorf School of Garden City, which in those days had a different name. (The school changed its name after a scandal nearly tore the school apart — see "Scandal".) My mother was John Gardner's secretary. I remember at least one occasion when Mr. Gardner told me not to think with my brain. [See "I Went to Waldorf".] Douglas Gerwin attended the same school.
"The explanations which I took the liberty to give you, will have shown you that the acquisition of real supersensible knowledge entails above all, with the aid of the exercises already characterized, that the two sides of human nature which are usually incorrectly designated as man's inner and outer being should be distinctly separated. Perhaps I may point out that in ordinary consciousness one does not carefully distinguish man's inner and outer being, when speaking of these. The way in which I characterized the exit of man's sentient and volitional being during sleep and the acquisition of conscious supersensible knowledge outside the physical body, shows us that just this supersensible knowledge enables us to separate distinctly those parts which are usually designated vaguely in ordinary consciousness as man's outer and inner being." — Rudolf Steiner, "The World Development in the Light of Anthroposophy", link posted 12-2-2010 [http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/Dates/19211201p01.html]
Rudolf Steiner's lectures and writings are hard to read, but if you find yourself drawn to Waldorf education, you really should make the effort. Virtually all "wisdom" on which Waldorf schooling is based comes from Steiner. (Waldorf teachers pore over his words, and they study them in meeting of a school's "college of teachers" as well as in small, informal study groups.)
By "real supersensible knowledge" Steiner means clairvoyance — a form of cognition that does not depend on the brain or on the physical senses ("ordinary consciousness"). Steiner prescribed numerous exercises and meditations to help people to become clairvoyant. (They don't work, but don't take my word for this. Give them a try. [see "Knowing the Worlds".]) Our "inner being" is everything about us that is not visible on the surface: our spirit, soul, and invisible bodies. According to Steiner, two of these bodies (the astral body and the "I") leave the physical and etheric body each night and travel to the higher spirit worlds ("the exit of man's sentient and volitional being during sleep").
You should read Steiner mainly to determine whether his version of reality is compatible with yours. If you agree with him, then Waldorf education may be what you want for your child. But if not...
If you'd like some assistance in learning to decipher Steiner, see "Lecture". I will walk you through one of Steiner's lectures, examining it closely, paragraph by paragraph.
“Finding Rudolf Steiner is a visually entrancing journey into the occult philosophy of clairvoyant Rudolf Steiner set against a background of modern moral and social decay ... Steiner died in 1925 and was one of the most profound and original thinkers of the twentieth century, known as much for his clairvoyant explorations into the true nature of man as he was for the creation of Waldorf Education and biodynamic farming ... Contrasting rare footage of Eurythmy performances (a type of modern dance created by Steiner) with beautiful sequences from the streets of Detroit and Buenos Aires, and shocking footage from violent video games, this film washes over us in waves of contradictory imagery, allowing the viewer to make his or her own decisions as to where western society is going and how we might look inside ourselves to discover our own spiritual nature and limitless creative forces for personal and social rejuvenation.” [12-3-2010 http://www0.shopping.com/Book-A-Vision-for-the-Millennium-Modern-Spirituality-and-Cultural-Renewal-Rudolf-Steiner/products?redir=1&CLT=XPO1&BSC=1 and http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001I4DIJW/ref=asc_df_B001I4DIJW1340983?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&tag=dealt96349-20&linkCode=asn&creative=395093&creativeASIN=B001I4DIJW]
Opposing the violence and excessive materialism of modern life can be wise, of course. Seeking spiritual insight can be wise, of course. But can we find solutions in the use of clairvoyance, or in reliance on the claimed clairvoyance of a man who died almost a century ago? Given that we have no reason to believe that clairvoyance is possible [see “Clairvoyance”], the answer is almost surely no.
Steiner’s followers think they are moving toward spiritual freedom, and Waldorf teachers believe they are leading their students toward such freedom. But in fact the doctrines of Anthroposophy make real freedom almost impossible. [See “Freedom”.] And is it even conceivable that we might find wisdom in an "occult philosophy"? Surely not. [See "Occultism".]
Steiner’s followers often wind up relying wholly on Steiner rather than relying on their own mental, emotional, and spiritual capabilities. Note that practitioners of most religions try to find God or the gods. Seekers in general try to find Truth. But Anthroposophists often settle for “finding Steiner,” as the title of this film suggests.
“You are warmly invited to come and join us in our Advent Myths & Magic Fair, a Winter Wonderland and a world of enchantment … This fair is a school fundraiser [for The Waldorf School of South West London, UK] where all parents and friends help out and prepare activities for for the day. Do come along, join in and find out more about the wonders of a Steiner education for your child.” [12-3-2010 http://www.waldorf-swlondon.org/news/advent-myths-magic-fair/]
The festivals held at Waldorf schools are often fundraising and recruitment events, meant to attract money and new students. But at their root, they are religious observances. [See "Magical Arts".] Advent is the celebration of the coming and/or second coming of Christ.
The religion underlying Waldorf education blends gnostic Christianity with religious, spiritual, and mythic teachings from around the world. You should bear in mind that Waldorf faculties generally believe that magic is real and that myths (especially Norse myths) are true. [See "The Gods".] “Myths and sagas are not just ‘folk-tales’; they are the memories of the visions which people perceived in olden times ... Human beings were aware of the spiritual both by day and by night. At night they were really surrounded by that world of Nordic gods of which the legends tell. Odin, Freya, and all the other figures in Nordic mythology were not inventions; they were experienced in the spiritual world with as much reality as we experience our fellow human beings around us today.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 198.
“Sunrise Waldorf School [Canada] has now grown into a (full member of AWSNA) [sic]* Waldorf school with over 170 students, and is known throughout this continent and others ... Our school attracts many associates and professionals – artistic therapists, biodynamic farmers, Camphill caregivers, healers and curative teachers – who come and become a vital part of our community. Over the years, families have moved from all over Canada and around the world (France, Israel, Mexico, China, USA, Italy, Sweden…) to join us in our work and play.” [12-3-2010 http://sunrisewaldorfschool.org/default.aspx?PageID=1012]
A Waldorf school is not simply a school. It is the hub of a community, linked with other Waldorf communities worldwide. A Waldorf faculty will typically hope to lure you and your family into a commitment to this web of Anthroposophical groups, dedicated to the occult visions of Rudolf Steiner. The school will likely hope to direct you in every life decision you make — what to eat, what to wear, how to raise your child, where to go for medical care, how to spend your free hours at home and on holiday, and so on. [See "Discussions".] By all means, send your child to a Waldorf school if you want to associate with a starry-eyed cult, one that includes therapists who use art for esoteric purposes, farmers who depend on astrology and magic, caregivers who use hocus-pocus to "help" the disabled," quack "healers," and teachers who are more interested in "curing" a child's soul than in educating that child. But if you are leery of such things, you may want to look elsewhere.
* AWSNA is the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America.
“The universe may glitter with far more stars than even Carl Sagan imagined when he rhapsodized about billions upon billions. A new study suggests there are a mind-blowing 300 sextillion of them, or three times as many as scientists previously calculated. That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros. Or 3 trillion times 100 billion. The estimate, contained in a study published online Wednesday in the journal NATURE, is based on findings that there are many more red dwarf stars — the most common star in the universe — than once thought. But the research goes deeper than that. The study by Yale University astronomer Pieter van Dokkum and Harvard astrophysicist Charlie Conroy questions a key assumption that astronomers often use: that most galaxies have the same properties as our Milky Way. And that conclusion is deeply unsettling to astronomers who want a more orderly cosmos.” [12-1-2010 http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101202/ap_on_sc/us_sci_starry_night]
Steiner taught that we live in a highly orderly universe — a snug little place that revolves around us. The entire created universe, he taught, was created for our benefit. [See “The Center”.] Steiner also taught that conventional science would soon confirm the findings of his “spiritual science.” But this has not happened. If Steiner's teachings were ever credible (and, sadly, they never really were), they are far less so now. Every day, humanity’s store of knowledge increases, and every day our accumulating knowledge takes us farther from Steiner’s imaginary anthropocentric universe.
Is this depressing? Does it mean that we are unimportant? Does it mean that God does not love us? No, it does not necessarily mean anything of the sort. Our lives are just as important and precious now as they ever were. But we do not increase our stature by believing fantasies about ourselves. And Steiner offered us nothing but fantasies.
By the way, since “3 followed by 23 zeros” is hard to visualize, I thought I’d type it out for you: 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. In other words, our Sun represents 1/300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000th of the stars in the universe, give or take.
Is this depressing? No. If our lives have value, if we are important, indeed if God loves us, the miracle of our existence is only magnified by comprehending (to whatever degree we can) the true extent and majesty of our home, the real universe.
P.S. Anthroposophists have sometimes taken me to task for using expressions like "if God loves us." They say that I am hypocritical for referring to God when I, a professed agnostic, don't believe in God. But agnosticism is not atheism. I don't claim that God does not exist; I simply admit that I don't know whether God exists. I'm prepared to acknowledge that God exists, if anyone can prove it. But meanwhile, gentle reader, I say things like "if God loves us" because, a) I know that some of you think God does love us, and I don't want to overlook your point of view, and b) I am open to the possibility that God both exists and loves us; I just don't want to claim knowledge that I do not possess. I certainly hope that whatever powers exist within and possibly beyond the universe love us; and I certainly accept the beautiful profundity of Jesus's teaching that we should love one another, even our "enemies." Steiner taught that he and his noble band of followers are surrounded by dreadful enemies. [See "Enemies".] I think we should set such thinking aside and recognize one another as fellow seekers of the truth. If God or the gods or the powers-that-be loved us, and if we loved one another, imagine what we might achieve.
From SteinerBooks: “Based on knowledge attained through his highly trained clairvoyance, Steiner contends that folk traditions regarding nature spirits are based on spiritual reality. He describes how people possessed a natural spiritual vision in ancient times, enabling them to commune with nature spirits. These entities — also referred to as elemental beings — became immortalized as fairies and gnomes in myth, legend, and children’s stories.“ [12-2-2010 http://steinerbooks.org/detail.html?session=66c948959fa07d81ff3317142c8cf997&id=9781855840188]
Sometimes Anthroposophists honestly tell us what they believe. And on those occasions, we see why Anthroposophists usually conceal their beliefs from us.
“Steiner Waldorf Schools have their own curriculum which meets the gradually changing consciousness of the child throughout school life. The core content of this curriculum is delivered during the Main Lesson period which occupies the first third of the school day ... An integral part of each morning's session is the recitation of poetry, singing, music making and movement exercises to improve concentration.” [12-2-2010 http://www.theionaschool.org.uk/Main_School.html]
The Waldorf curriculum places great stress on myths, fairy tales, and religious stories. See “Curriculum”.
The “poetry” recited at the beginning of each school day is, in most cases, a prayer written by Rudolf Steiner. See “Prayers”.
The quotation above was posted by the Iona School in Nottingham, UK. Iona is more open than many other Waldorf schools in affirming a religious purpose: “Religion - We foster the pupils' natural feelings of reverence for the whole of creation and enhance their awareness of the spiritual striving of humanity as it is reflected in biography and in all the great religions of the world.”
"Steiner has two sides to his work. Firstly as a philosopher (especially his early writings) and secondly as a theologian following his involvement with Theosophy. His theology is most pronounced in his Christology which, although wildly different from orthodox Christianity, jumps through hoops to try and deal with some inconsistencies in the biblical account of Jesus' origins." [12-2-2010 http://www.ecalpemos.org/2010/12/summary-of-rudolf-steiners-theology.html]
Not without bias, the blogger makes an interesting attempt to concisely summarize Rudolf Steiner's theology — i.e., Anthroposophy, the occult system underpinning Waldorf schools.
he Biblical accounts of Jesus’s boyhood years do not mesh. One solution — adopted by Steiner and some others — is to claim that there were two separate Jesus children, two separate human beings who both contributed to the miracle of Christ's incarnation on the Earth. Steiner taught that the two Jesuses — the Solomon Jesus child and the Nathan Jesus child — eventually combined, in the sense that the second (Nathan) Jesus received the spiritual essence or Ego of the first (Solomon) Jesus. The second Jesus child went on to host the Sun God, Christ. The first Jesus child was the reincarnated being who had once been Zarathustra. The second Jesus child was the being described in the Koran. The combined Jesus was "the Solomonic Nathanic" Jesus.
Concerning Jesus' origins: T
“A group of parents [in Australia] is lobbying for the Steiner teaching model to be offered in a local school by 2013. About 15 families from the Marion Steiner Playgroup want the alternative education program to run alongside mainstream teaching at a yet-to-be-decided local school. The parents have formed a committee to register interest from 120 families who would choose to send their children to a Steiner school. The committee then plans to approach the Education Department and local schools.” [12-1-2010 http://guardian-messenger.whereilive.com.au/news/story/steiner-school-bid/]
Efforts to promote Waldorf or Steiner education — and to receive taxpayer support for it — take many forms. A private Waldorf school may apply to become a "charter" or "free" public school receiving state support. A proposal may be put forward to create a new Waldorf charter or free school from scratch. A "Waldorf-inspired" school may be proposed. Or, as reflected by the item above, there may be an effort to incorporate Waldorf methods and content as a track in an existing school or school system. All such efforts should be closely scrutinized. See the next item.
Often, the first step in creating a Steiner community or school is the creation of a Steiner "playgroup." Steiner education de-emphasizes intellect and academics in favor of mystical "connections" to the spirit realm. A conscious effort is made to keep children young and uninformed. Play is given preference over even the most modest exercise of the brain. Steiner's followers believe that children arrive on Earth from life in the spirit realm with memories of that realm. They come with a karma developed in their previous Earthly and spiritual lives. They have a natural bent toward religion and spirituality, and this needs to be fostered so that the children begin down the path to accepting Anthroposophy as adults. Only Anthroposophy can ensure their future spiritual evolution as humanity rises — through many future incarnations on Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan — toward becoming God the Father. These are all Anthroposophical propositions and beliefs. [See, e.g., "Thinking Cap", "Academic Standards at Waldorf", "Spiritual Agenda", "Steiner's Specific", and "Everything".]
“A new charter school will open next fall in Portland next fall [sic] to serve high school students who want a heavily hands-on, arts-infused education based on the Waldorf method used around the world over the past century ... 'I think you will have a thriving Waldorf school,' board member Trudy Sargent told the roughly 35 supporters of the new school present for the vote ... Parents and students who attend other Waldorf schools in the Portland area, both public and private, testified to the power of the approach to engage young people in their own learning and to make education relevant and compelling. 'It educates the whole child,' said Galen Nobel Kats, a freshman at the private Portland Waldorf School [Oregon, USA]. 'It helps students grow to their whole potential.' [12-1-2010 http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/11/portland_school_board_approves_3.html]
School boards should be informed about the true nature of Waldorf schooling before taking such votes. Nowhere in the news account of the vote in Portland is there any mention of spiritual evolution, life on Old Moon, astral bodies, etheric bodies, reincarnation, the Sun God, Ahriman, clairvoyance, astrology, or any other component of the Waldorf belief system. Perhaps these matters were discussed openly and at great length, but this seems unlikely. Hearing from a Waldorf freshman is nice, but perhaps nor comprehensively informative. (The child certainly seems to have been coached. She used precisely the terms so often employed by Anthroposophists when describing Waldorf education.) Bowing to the will of 35 Waldorf advocates in attendance is understandable, but did the board realize that they were dealing with a tightly focused cult? It seems unlikely. [Concerning the claim that Waldorf schools are "holistic," see "Holistic Education".] Schools boards need to be alert when dealing with the Waldorf movement and its proponents.