WALDORF / STEINER
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.
“There was a time, not so long ago, when I thought about my children and cried.
“I remembered the harmonious idyllic world I had longed to create for them, in which they would while away their days in nature, playing with homemade toys and pine cones and things collected on one of our many sun-dappled forest walks, a rock-like stability underpinning their miniature cosmos…
“...So when I went for a recent interview with my son’s teacher at his Steiner school...I left so depressed at her sad prognosis of his spiritual state....” [2-24-2012 http://cavemum.wordpress.com/]
Steiner or Waldorf schools usually try to create their own idyllic retreats from the modern world, and they often point out the spiritual doom awaiting anyone who strays from the Steiner way. Deciding whether you can find spiritual wisdom in a Steiner school, or whether you find a combination of escapism and mystic fanaticism, is a crucial decision you need to make for your own sake and, even more importantly, for the sake of your children.
When making that decision, you might ponder this: Why would a Steiner teacher make a "prognosis" about a child's spiritual state? Steiner teachers think of themselves as spiritual initiates, indeed as priests. They are far more focused on their students' souls (or what they imagine their students' souls to be) than on their minds. They work for the spiritual evolution of their students, as described by Rudolf Steiner; educating the children in any normal sense is not at the top of their list of priorities. In Steiner schools, "The position of teacher becomes a kind of priestly office, a ritual performed at the altar of universal human life." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 23. Steiner teachers think they are on a messianic mission to fulfill the polytheistic visions of Rudolf Steiner: “Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.
If this is what you want for your child, then a Steiner or Waldorf school might suit you both. But if not...
"The jugendkreis - is it a secret enclave within anthroposophy?
"Dear friends, Some of you reading this message will be aware of the existence of the jugendkreis, or youth circle, established in 1922 with the assistance of Rudolf Steiner. Indeed, if you know of it you’re likely to be a member of the circle. Some of you however, will be totally unaware of its existence even though you may have been an anthroposophist for decades. Until very recently, I hadn’t heard of it either. When it was first described to me I initially refused to believe that a secret group existed. It seemed inconceivable that such a thing was possible. ‘Nobody in anthroposophy would join a secret, select group,‘ I declared, ‘and if invited to be part of such a group they would loudly denounce it.’ I was wrong. The group does exist and has members all over the world, including, I’m told, at least three members of the executive council at [the Anthroposophical HQ, in] Dornach [Switzerland], as well as many representatives of national & regional [Anthroposophical] councils, Waldorf teachers, doctors, etc.' [2-26-2012 http://kellyconnor.blogspot.com/2012/02/jugendkreis-is-it-secret-enclave-within.html]
From Whistler4Kids [Whistler Waldorf School, Whistler, Canada]:
"Whistler Waldorf Parent-Tot info meeting
"Parent orientation evening to discuss our upcoming parent and tot program. For parents and children 18 months - 3.5 years.
"Program dates Fridays March 2,9,16,23,30th
"$95 includes snack and craft materials" [2-28-2012 http://www.whistler4kids.com/events/2012/2/28/whistler-waldorf-parent-tot-info-meeting/]
Waldorf schools usually abjure early childhood schooling such as Head Start — a form of education that has proven to have enormous benefits. At Waldorf schools, elementary skills such as reading and writing are usually postponed until children are at least seven years old. On the other hand, Waldorf faculties are often eager to mold the lives of growing children starting as early as possible. They sincerely believe that they possess wisdom that most parents lack, so they offer programs intended to bring infants and their parents into the Waldorf fold. As we have noted here before, Rudolf Steiner encouraged Waldorf faculties to undo the harm caused by the students' parents, and he indicated that children should be brought under Waldorf influence without delay. Addressing Waldorf teachers, he said “You will have to take over children for their education and instruction — children who will have received already (as you must remember) the education, or mis-education given them by their parents.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE STUDY OF MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 16. And he added: "Given the difficult, disorderly, and chaotic conditions of our time, it might almost be preferable from a moral viewpoint if children could be taken into one's care soon after birth." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2, (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 69. Enticing new parents and their "tots" into Waldorf communities can set the stage for lifelong indoctrination.
(As in the past, I ask the forbearance of longtime readers. I repeat certain quotations fairly often, because some points cannot be made too often.)
From the London [UK] Waldorf School:
“New Edition: London Waldorf School Weekly
“The latest edition of the London Waldorf School Weekly is out!
“The 'Weekly' is a personalized newspaper built from articles, blog posts, videos and photos that may be of interest to the London Waldorf School community.
“This week’s edition features articles on the importance of nature to our development, video glimpses into two other Waldorf Schools, and the trailer for the upcoming documentary 'Play Again'." [2-28-2011 http://londonwaldorf.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/new-edition-london-waldorf-school-weekly-2/]
Waldorf PR efforts are fairly sophisticated. Newsletters, videos, Facebook pages, etc., are used to spread the good word to families already in the Waldorf orbit and outsiders whose interest might be piqued. Various internal Waldorf materials give the schools guidance on how to market themselves. Beginning at least a few decades back, Waldorf schools began applying PR expertise. Take a look, for instance, HANDLING PUBLIC RELATIONS - A Guide for Waldorf Schools and Other Organizations (Sunbridge College Press, 1984). [For more, see “PR”].
From lehighvalleylive.com, a follow-up to a story reported here previously:
Disguised religious ceremonies
— such as candle-lighting ceremonies conducted along spiral paths in darkened rooms —
are often held at Waldorf schools.
[See the item reported here on 2-20-12.]
“Suncoast Waldorf School Educates the Whole Child
“Driving onto the campus of the Suncoast Waldorf School [Florida, USA] for the first time, even the setting is nontraditional. Instead of the huge concrete walls of a public school, Waldorf is beautifully landscaped, and could easily be mistaken for an antique or crafts shop.
“The ungraded private school for grades K-8 takes a nontraditional approach to education...
“The school's educational philosophy was developed in Germany by scientific philosopher [sic: read occultist spiritual leader] Rudolf Steiner during the early 1900s. He established the Anthroposophical Society to spread his teachings, which focused on the true nature of the human being...
“The Suncoast Waldorf School, at 1857 Curlew Road, has eight teachers and an enrollment of 108 students. All teachers on staff have completed a rigorous course of study at various Waldorf training institutes across the country. They all hold a Waldorf teacher certification.
“A typical student’s day at Waldorf consists of a multisensory, hands-on education that includes art, playing an instrument (either violin or flute), cooking, singing, drawing, acting and public speaking. The academic curriculum is presented in a creative, interactive manner.
“There are no textbooks or computers...” [2-29-2012 http://palmharbor.patch.com/articles/suncoast-waldorf-school-educates-the-whole-child]
This is the sort of uncritical puff piece that Waldorf schools often manage to plant in local media. Read such stuff with your b.s. detector running.
Waldorf schools are often lovely, but all the attractions serve as coverings for the spiritual / mystical / religious intentions of the schools. [See, e.g., “Spiritual Agenda” and “Magical Arts”.]
The teachers often are, indeed, graduates of Waldorf teacher training programs, and this tells us most of what we need to know about the schools. Waldorf teacher-training can be virtually indistinguishable from training to become an Anthroposophist. [See, e.g., “Teacher Training” and, for tips on what to look for when touring a Waldorf school, “Clues”.]
The “whole child,” in Waldorf belief, is a mystical fantasy. Rudolf Steiner (who was a self-professed occultist — see “Occultism”), said that children are reincarnating spirits who incarnate three invisible bodies, both souls and spirits, 12 senses, astrological identities, classical temperaments (sanguine, choleric, melancholic, or phlegmatic), racial identities reflecting levels of spiritual advancement, and so forth. Teaching the “whole child” sounds good, but look beneath the surface when Waldorf schools employ such rhetoric. [See, e.g., “Holistic Education”.]
As for the absence of computers and textbooks — Waldorf schools generally shun modern technology and even modern knowledge, considering it to be demonic or at least potentially demonic. Fear of demons and other evil beings is laced through the Waldorf approach. [See, e.g., “Ahriman”, "Evil Ones", “Science”, “Lesson Books”, and “Materialism U.”]
[Rudolf Steiner Press, 2009]
[Anthroposophic Press, 1972]
[Theosophical Publishing Society, 1912]
A few of the works of Rudolf Steiner, founder and guiding light
of Waldorf schools, aka Steiner schools.
From The Quackometer:
“Frome Steiner Academy: Absurd Educational Quackery
“Government funding of occult schools presents real risks to children’s education and health.
“Having recently moved to Somerset [UK], and as the parent of a couple of small children, potential future schools are obviously of interest.
"One that I will not be considering is the new Steiner Academy in Frome. Following the current government’s plans to remove schools from local democratic control and place them in the hands of various private, religious and commercial interests, the Frome Steiner School has received agreement in principle from Michael Gove to open later this year.
“A principal reason for my decision is that Steiner schools (sometimes called Waldorf Schools) are not open about the true nature of their origins, beliefs and methods. The new web page of the Frome Steiner Academy gives the impression that they follow a progressive approach to teaching that uniquely follows a child’s personal development. That all sounds wonderful. What they do not say is that this approach is based on occult thinking, astrology, clairvoyance and esoteric cult-like beliefs.” [2-27-2012 http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2012/02/frome-steiner-academy-absurd-educational-quackery.html]
From the Morning Call [Allentown, Pennsylvania]:
“Parkland School District to vote on charter school
“The Parkland School District Board of Directors [Pennsylvania, USA] will vote on an application for a proposed Waldorf charter school at their regular business meeting Tuesday night.
“If approved, the Circle of Seasons Charter School would be the state's first public Waldorf charter school. About six private Waldorf schools operate in Pennsylvania and there are about 180 schools nationwide.
“...Parkland directors heard more than two hours of testimony in front of a packed house by Circle of Seasons Founder Phil Arnold and others.
“Arnold was dismissed in 2010 from Seven Generations Charter School in Emmaus [Pennsylvania], a school he helped found and in which he served as an administrator.
“Because Circle of Seasons can not charge tuition, it would be funded through the Parkland School district.
“...While the Circle of Seasons is seeking approval to operate as a K-12 charter school, about 110 spots would be filled on a lottery basis....” [2-27-2011 http://www.mcall.com/news/local/parkland/mc-parkland-charter-school-20120227,0,7580462.story]
From North American Youth Section (NAYS)*:
"The Inner Path and Anthroposophy III
"Event dates: 05/04/2012 to 05/06/2012
"This is part of an annual workshop offered by Lisa Romero and the Christian Community.
"Rudolf Steiner gave many exercises and meditations to strengthen the soul through its journey of developing consciousness. Together we will explore the inner path, the birth of the higher self, the spiritual year, and how exercises can bring us closer to our own experience of these processes. This is a three-day commitment. Spaces are limited. Locations TBA [i.e., to be announced].
"Cost: $300 for three days, includes two lunches. [2-18-2012 http://na.youthsection.org/news-events/single/article/the-inner-path-and-anthroposophy-iii-717.html]
No one should have any doubts: Rudolf Steiner was a religious leader, and his followers direct his teachings at children fully as much as at adults. Waldorf schools represent the central effort to spread Steiner’s teachings, although the schools often operate by indirection and stealth. [See, e.g., “Here’s the Answer”, “Spiritual Agenda”, “Sneaking It In”, and “Secrets”. For a look at the Christian Community — the overtly religious arm of Anthroposophy — see "Christian Community". The School of Spiritual Science is an esoteric institution at the Anthroposophical headquarters in Switzerland. See, e.g., "Six Facts You Should Know About Steiner Education".]
From the Phoenixville Patch:
"Kimberton Waldorf Provides Soup to St. Peter's Place, Episcopal House
"The Food for Thought organic lunch program at Kimberton Waldorf School [Pennsylvania, USA] is now providing fresh soup to the residents at St. Peter’s Place and Episcopal House each Wednesday, a much-needed service for low-income residents who live at both facilities.
"St. Peter’s Place and Episcopal House are low-income housing developments subsidized by the federal government Housing and Urban Development Division specifically for the elderly located in Phoenixville." [2-26-2011 http://phoenixville.patch.com/articles/kimberton-waldorf-provides-soup-to-st-peter-s-place-episcopal-house]
Waldorf schools often engage in good works and charities, which is very much to their credit.
In Waldorf communities, special importance is attached to organic foods, which are believed to provide special nourishment to the human faculties of thought ("Food for Thought"), feeling, and sympathy. Waldorf schools often have organic gardens in which students may be required to work. The gardens sometimes produce vegetables and fruits used for school lunches.
Various publications lay out special Waldorf-approved and Waldorf-style recipes. The Waldorf life can be all-encompassing. Joining a Waldorf community can mean making a thoroughgoing commitment to the alternative, countercultural Waldorf lifestyle.
From Waldorf Today:
"Mountain Sage Community School seeks a Special Educator for the 2012-2013 school year.
"Mountain Sage Community School is a public, charter school inspired by Waldorf education and sustainable living, located in beautiful Fort Collins, Colorado [USA]. Mountain Sage will begin operation in fall 2012, serving grades K-4 and will grow by one grade each year until becoming a K-8 school. Founded by local parents and educators, Mountain Sage is the product of 3 years of passionate and dedicated effort, now coming to fruition.
"The ideal candidate will have Waldorf training or a deep understanding of Waldorf education...." [2-24-2012 http://jobs.waldorftoday.com/job/12078/]
Increasingly, schools here and there profess interest in "Waldorf-inspired" teaching methods. The suggestion is that pleasant, playful, artsy-craftsy methods will be used without all the theological baggage of full-blown Waldorf-Anthroposophical thinking. But often this distinction breaks down. Teachers in "Waldorf-inspired" schools are often expected to have standard Waldorf training, and the use of "Waldorf-inspired" methods often means full (if clandestine) adoption of the Waldorf mindset. Too often, the effort to gain approval for Waldorf-style charter schools in the US or free schools in the UK boils down to an attempt to offer comprehensive Waldorf schooling, complete with the Waldorf spiritual ideology, just as in private Waldorf schools — the only real difference being that now the education will be offered at taxpayers' expense. Private Waldorf schools can be secretive enough about their real purposes; public "Waldorf-inspired" schools can be even more deceitful. [For more on these matters, see "Curriculum", "Methods", "Teacher Training", "Coming Undone", and "Secrets".]
From the Canberra Times:
Now on YouTube:
"Rudolf Steiner : Initiation"[2-25-2012 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yo63hJPavXk]
Initiation is a crucial concept in the Waldorf belief system. Initiates, in the Waldorf/Steiner sense, are occultists who have attained a high level of spirituality and who thus have access to high, hidden spiritual wisdom. When you enter a Waldorf community, you are entering a sphere in which people believe such concepts; indeed, it is a sphere in which many people (including many Waldorf teachers) believe themselves to be initiates. When given authority over children, such people try to move the children toward eventual initiation in their own right. [See, e.g., "Inside Scoop".]
The book being read in this YouTube clip is Steiner's KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT. This is Steiner's second most important book, in which Steiner lays out the path to initiation. Earlier editions of the book were titled THE WAY OF INITIATION and INITIATION AND ITS RESULTS. A more recent edition is titled HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS. The subtitle: "A Modern Path of Initiation".
(Steiner's most important book is AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE, in which he summarizes the wisdom initiates may attain — at least, he reveals as much as he feels he can, knowing that many readers will be uninitiated and must be shielded from knowledge too profound and potent for them. For a sampling of OCCULT SCIENCE, see "Everything".)
[Anthroposophic Press, 1994]
From the Anthroposophical Society of America:
“The need to re-engage with mystery wisdom as a source for the renewal of culture and an impetus to liberate minds from a dogmatic blind of the prevailing Christian Churches became the unwritten creed of the Platonic Florentine Academy. Today something like a re-emergence of this impulse exists within a small circle of creative individuals searching for ways to advance the life of soul in the spirit of Anthropos – Sophia.” [2-13-2012 http://www.anthroposophy.org/nc/articles/article-detail/archive/2012/02//article/musings-on-the-theme-psychosophy-a-new-mythological-consciousness-893.html]
To understand Waldorf education, you need to understand Anthroposophy, at least in a general way. And to understand Anthroposophy, you need to get comfortable with Anthroposophical jargon.
“Mystery wisdom” is essentially “occult wisdom” or hidden spiritual wisdom. It is the stuff Rudolf Steiner and his followers claim to possess; it is what Steiner discusses in his most important book, AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE. “Occult science” is spiritual science, which is Anthroposophy — Rudolf Steiner’s body of spiritual teachings.* Waldorf education arises from these teachings. [See, e.g., "Occultism", "Everything", and "Soul School".]
Note that Anthroposophy is not, in any normal sense, Christian (even though Christ plays a major role in it). In fact, mystery wisdom or occult science stands in contrast to the teachings of “the prevailing Christian Churches.” Thus, for instance, Anthroposophy is polytheistic, reincarnation is a key belief, and "Christ" the the Sun God — beliefs that are incompatible with mainstream Christianity. [See, e.g., “Was He Christian?”, “Gnosis”, "Polytheism", "Reincarnation", and "Sun God".]
The “small circle of creative individuals” who are trying to lead humanity to new forms of mystery wisdom are Rudolf Steiner’s followers, who consider themselves to be humanity’s spiritual vanguard. They function “in the spirit of Anthropos – Sophia” — i.e., in the spirit of Anthroposophy, which they take to be human (“Anthropos” ) wisdom (“Sophia”). In other words, they think of themselves as an elite group of enlightened souls who will — by hook or by crook — lead humanity to its next stage of spiritual evolution. Sadly, this will entail a cataclysmic worldwide war, but, hey, you can’t make omelets without breaking a few eggs. [See, e.g., “Matters of Form”, “All v. All”, and — for some background on Sophia — “Goddess”.]
* Part of Anthroposophical dogma is the belief that each individual can develop spiritual consciousness and thus achieve a living relationship with the spirit realm. In this sense, Anthroposophists are not confined to Steiner's teachings. Nonetheless, they tend to rely very heavily on Steiner, and when they branch out on their own, they tend to incite strenuous debates with fellow Anthroposophists who have branched out in different directions. In other words, doctrinal disputes and schism loom large in Anthroposophical life, and they have done so from the beginning of the Anthroposophical movement.
From the Anthroposophical Society of America’s website:
"Theme of the Year 2011-2012
"The General Anthroposophical Society’s annual theme 2011/12 explores Christian Rosenkreutz, one of the greatest esoteric teachers of the Occident. Sergei Prokofieff looks at the importance of Christian Rosenkreutz for the potential appearance of the etheric Christ and at his relationship to Rudolf Steiner.”
Christian Rosenkreutz is a mythical figure, the purported founder of Rosicrucianism, whom Anthroposophists accept as a real, historical figure. [See, e.g., “The White Lodge”.] Rosicrucianism is the spiritual path Steiner said is correct for modern humans. [See “Rosy Cross”.] The “etheric Christ,” in Anthroposophic belief, is the Sun God who incarnated in the body of two combined Jesuses; He stayed on Earth for three years; He then left, but He has returned (the Second Coming). His return has occurred not or the Earth itself but in the “etheric world” — a level of reality above physical reality. [See, e.g., “Higher Worlds” and "Second Coming" in the The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.] Sergei Prokofieff is a leading Anthroposophist who has served as a member of the Executive Council of the General Anthroposophical Society.
"...If I had stopped to read Steiner’s work before having felt on a number of occasions the results I now witness on a daily basis, I know that Cai would not be at a Waldorf school. I was just not ready for Steiner’s brand of esoteric mysticism." [2-22-2012 http://wilrickards.wordpress.com/tag/waldorf-education/]
Many parents regret that they did not investigate Waldorf more fully before enrolling their children.
First-person, anecdotal accounts have emotional impact, and they can open our eyes. But they may not always be entirely accurate or relevant to your own situation. Different people have different responses to different phenomena. A school that feels right to one family may feel like a madhouse to another. So take such reports with salt. Still, they can be interesting and informative, if not always completely authoritative. [To look at some cautionary first-person accounts of Waldorf experiences, reports that gain credibility because they parallel each other, see, e.g., "Our Experience", "Our Brush with Rudolf Steiner", "Waldorf Education - One Family's Story", "Coming Undone", "Pops", "Slaps", "I Went to Waldorf", and "Ex-Teacher" and the reports that follow it (ex-Waldorf teachers 2-12). For a look at Biodynamic farming, see "Biodynamics". Concerning Waldorf fairs and festivals, see "Magical Arts".]. r a look at Biodynamic farming, see "Biodynamics". Concerning Waldorf fairs and festivals, see "Magical Arts".]
From the Anthroposophy Tomorrow discussion site:
"Re: Our Sweet Beloved Sister (was: WC Anachronism)
"--- In email@example.com, Kathleen Bonneau <kahabo3@...> wrote:"> 'Dr. Tarjei,
"> 'You may be right that Paulicillin is the right RX in a case involving this type of demonic possession. I don't know the posts of Beloved SC... didn't you say she loves Jesuits?'"'Tarjei'" [2-22-2012 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/anthroposophy_tomorrow/message/49533]
"[Answer from Tarjei] 'No, she's just under the heavy influence of a Jesuit-Nazi-Bolshevik polemicist who says he's an atheist-anarchist scholar and writes for his devoted congregation like a machine full of peanut butter -- or a Pied Piper.*
To savor an ongoing discussion between Rudolf Steiner's followers, you might occasionally look in at the Anthroposophy Tomorrow website. To supplement this with a discussion among Steiner's critics, you might visit the Waldorf Critics site. Things get a bit confused, sometimes, because Steiner defenders sometimes visit Waldorf critics to debate the critics, and participants at Waldorf Critics sometimes comment on statements they've read at Anthroposophy Tomorrow, while participants at Anthroposophy Tomorrow sometimes comment on statements they've read at Waldorf Critics... Tempers sometimes fray, people talk over or past one another, various debates blur... Participants at Anthroposophy Tomorrow sometimes refer to Waldorf Critics as a "hate group," while participants at Waldorf Critics tend to view Anthroposophy Tomorrow as a center of mystical delusion... Still, the discussions are sometimes enlightening.
* The reference is to Dr. Peter Staudenmaier, a scholar who has frequently posted messages at the Waldorf Critics site. Anthroposophists abhor his work, which has included the unearthing of links between Anthroposophy and Nazism. Anthroposophists view him as an implacable enemy and, like all their enemies, quite possibly a demon in human form. Steiner taught that there are many such demons on Earth in the modern age. "Quite a number of people have been born since the nineties [i.e., the 1890s] without an I [i.e., divine human identity], that is, they are not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon ... [A] number of people are going around who, because they are completely ruthless, have become something that is not human, but instead are demons in human form." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 649. [For more on the Anthroposophical view of their critics, see, e.g., "Enemies" and "Can't We All Just Get Along?".]
Steiner institutions often have podiums/pulpits like this,
modeled on the one at the Goetheanum.
From Academic Positions.eu:
“Rudolf Steiner University College
“Rudolf Steiner University College (RSUC) offers bachelor and master programmes in Waldorf Education, art studies and courses in continuing and further education. The college is a small, private actor within the Norwegian higher education sector and comprises approximately 200 students and 30 employees.” [2/22/2012 http://www.academicpositions.eu/pages/rudolf-steiner-university-college-rsuc-.aspx]
Waldorf teachers are often trained in special Waldorf/Steiner institutions of “higher” learning. The curriculum usually centers on Rudolf Steiner’s occult texts. [See “Teacher Training”.] The instructors ("employees") may or may not have any real credentials or experience as educators. Sometimes graduates of Waldorf high schools go directly to Waldorf teacher-training institutions (which are often unaccredited) and then directly to positions in Waldorf schools. They spend little or no time outside the Steiner universe — their exposure to, and knowledge of, the real universe is severely limited. Their qualifications as educators are, at a minimum, suspect.
“Low enrollment leads to program demise
“The Aurora Waldorf High School [New York State, USA] is closing its doors. The private school has been housed is the former West Falls Elementary School and just opened its doors for the 2010-11 school year.
“The Buffalo News reports there are just eight students in the ninth and 10th grades.
“The school had been in development for nine years and the expectation was that it would grow enrollment as the students advanced academically.
“German instruction is a key element of the Waldorf school's curriculum, but even those programs are facing financial setbacks.
“Aurora Waldorf school tuition is around $7,000. The school board is hoping to regroup and bring back the project in the future.” [2-20-2012 http://www.wivb.com/dpp/news/local/wivb-aurora-waldorf-high-school-to-close-ns]
Understandably and even justifiably, advocates of Steiner education like to tout the opening of new Waldorf schools. They claim that Waldorf is the fastest-growing independent school movement in the world, and they may be correct, although many of the schools are very small.
The flip side of the coin is that Waldorf schools not infrequently fail, and you are less likely to hear about these closures. But they happen. [See, e.g., “Failure’”.] In total, there are something on the order of 1,000 Waldorf or Steiner schools worldwide, a total that hasn’t changed much over the last few years.
German is often stressed in Waldorf schools because it was Steiner’s native tongue, the Waldorf curriculum was designed for children in Germany, and German/Nordic mythology is crucial in the Waldorf belief system. In brief, developing a feel for all things Germans is helpful, if not absolutely necessary, for grasping the spirit of Rudolf Steiner's teachings.* [See, e.g., “The Good Wars — America, Germany, and Waldorf”, “What a Guy”, and “The Gods”.]
* According to Steiner, language and speech have crucial spiritual powers. In a sense, the gods spoke the universe into existence. In a sense, we will gain the same power as we evolve toward the Godhead. Thus, we will eventually reproduce not through the womb but through our vocal cords. “The larynx is the future organ of procreation and birth. At present we give birth to words through it, but in future this seed will develop the capacity to give birth to the whole human being once we have become spiritualized.” — Rudolf Steiner, EVIL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1997), p. 50. In the meantime, the languages we choose to speak can assist or hinder us on our spiritual journey. “The use of the French language quite certainly corrupts the soul.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, p. 558. So let us study German.
"Castlecrag's Anna Davis in the labyrinth she created at the Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School."
[Photo: Elenor Tedenborg; North Shore Times]
From the North Shore Times, Australia:
"Anna Davis makes a labyrinth at Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School
“Castlecrag’s Anna Davis, who graduated from Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School last year, is a deeper thinker than most.
“’I’ve always been interested in the question of the meaning of life and religion,’ she said. ‘We did a lot of study on ancient religion and moved to modern systems and beliefs.’
“...As a practical component of [a research project] she constructed a labyrinth on the school grounds.
“’The labyrinth is very relevant as a tool for the search of meaning, and is used all over the world.’” [2-20-2012 http://north-shore-times.whereilive.com.au/news/story/anna-davis-makes-a-labyrinth-at-glenaeon-rudolf-steiner-school/]
The curriculum at most Steiner and Waldorf schools includes extensive exposure to world religions. The underlying reason is that Anthroposophy — the Waldorf religion — is an amalgam of many religions. Thus, teaching students about various religious traditions is a primer for Anthroposophical belief.
Steiner and Waldorf schools sometimes have labyrinths on their grounds, and often the teachers lead students through spiral walks, tracing the path that a soul is said to travel as it approaches spiritual truth. These constructions and walks have clear religious intent, although the students and parents may not be explicitly informed of this intent. For those who penetrate even slightly below the surface, the spirals serve as muted confessions that Steiner / Waldorf schools are religious institutions. [See, e.g., "Spiritual Agenda" and "Soul School".]
A candle-lit Waldorf spiral ceremony.
See News Archive, December, 2010
and October, 2011.
Waldorf students being led on a spiral walk on a beach.
See News Archive, September, 2011.
“Disabled kids' parents threaten lawsuit against schools
“Angry parents are set to take groundbreaking legal action against schools [in New Zealand] that turn away their disabled children.
“Disabled services provider IHC has collected statements from families to back up a case to go before the Human Rights Review Tribunal. Director of advocacy Trish Grant said court action would be the next step, if the complaint and mediation didn't fix the problem.
“...Antonia Hannah, whose 7-year-old son Max has Down syndrome, gave evidence that she was deterred by three East Auckland primary schools - St Thomas's, Glen Taylor and Michael Park, a Steiner school.
“...Michael Park principal Dee Whitby told Hannah in an email that another Down syndrome child had suffered difficulties ‘and it was not an easy decision to reach that he would be happier’ in another school. But this week, she said all children were enrolled according to the same policy as long as parents supported the Steiner ethos.” [2-21-2012 http://www.nzherald.co.nz/education/news/article.cfm?c_id=35&objectid=10786481]
That last bit is probably the key as far as the Steiner school is concerned. Families who send kids to Steiner or Waldorf schools are expected to support “the Steiner ethos.” In essence, this means accepting Anthroposophy or, at a minimum, allowing the teachers to follow their Anthroposophical proclivities, outside of class and inside class. Entering a Steiner school is entering a Steiner community, and you are expected to make a wholehearted commitment. [For reports by some parents who have done so and later regretted it, see, e.g., "Coming Undone", "Our Experience", "Our Brush with Rudolf Steiner", and "Pops".]
The Steiner record dealing with disabilities is checkered. Anthroposophists attempt to treat the disabled at "Camphill" facilities, but these efforts are constricted by the Anthroposophical belief that any afflictions we suffer in this life are likely to be the result of karma and, generally, should be accepted as such. [See "Karma".] "Whenever we give treatment to a handicapped child, we are intervening in karma." — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR SPECIAL NEEDS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 47; emphasis by Steiner.] Steiner goes on to say that intervention is often necessary, but only if done in accordance with Anthroposophical spiritual doctrines.
From Waste Management World:
"A Burlington [Ontario, Canada] school has been named a winner of a waste-reduction contest.
"The Halton Waldorf School in the Orchard community is one of the 30 schools recognized by the organizers of the Waste Free Lunch Challenge.
"Developed by the Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) last October, nearly 800 schools entered the challenge, which was launched to mark National Waste Reduction Week.
"According to the RCO, 200,000 students from 62 school boards diverted 25 tonnes of lunch waste from entering landfills, considered equal to the weight of two school buses." [2-17-2012 http://www.waste-management-world.com/index/from-the-wires/wire-news-display/1607136379.html]
Waldorf schools embrace many attractive values including spirituality, love of beauty, respect for children, and green values. These are admirable principles, and you may be drawn to the schools because of them, which is well and good. But you should also look below the surface attractions of the Waldorf worldview. Everything at Waldorf schools arises from the occult religion created by Rudolf Steiner: Anthroposophy. The reasoning behind the positive values at Waldorf schools may trouble you; you may decide that Waldorf has good values for bad reasons, and you may elect to look elsewhere for similar values embraced for more rational reasons. Thus, for instance, in the Waldorf belief system, nature is precious, at least in part, because it is the domain of invisible "nature spirits": sylphs (aka fairies), gnomes (aka goblins), undines (aka water sprites, sometimes taken to be mermaids), and "salamanders" (not lizards, but fire-dwelling spirits). Steiner taught that the Earth is a living being. “Just think children, our Earth feels and experiences everything that happens within it ... [I]t has feelings like you have, and can be angry or happy like you.” — Rudolf Steiner, DISCUSSIONS WITH TEACHERS (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 132.* These are nice ideas, perhaps; but can you accept them as the basis for the education of your children? Do you, for instance, accept the literal, actual existence of gnomes? If not, you are out of step with Anthroposophy.
* Steiner could be inconsistent. On other occasions, he said that the Earth was once alive but it is dead now. • “The earth was once a giant animal which, in keeping with its size, was rather lazy, turning only slowly about its axis in space, but which looked out into space ... You can comprehend the earth if you imagine it as an animal that has died.” — Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 69. • "Unless the earth as a whole had died there could be no human being. Human beings are parasites, as it were, on the present earth. The whole earth was once alive; it could think as you and I now think. But only when it became a corpse could it produce the human race ... Originally there was a living, thinking, cosmic body — a living, thinking, cosmic body!" — Rudolf Steiner, THE EVOLUTION OF THE EARTH AND MAN AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE STARS (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), p. 3. These ideas, too, may exert a certain allure. But they are mystical nonsense — as are most of the tenets of the Waldorf belief system.
At its website, Halton Waldorf School prominently displays the following: “'Waldorf taught me how to think for myself, to be responsible for my decisions.' — Kenneth Chenault, Harvard Law School, Former President and CEO, American Express." Waldorf schools certainly want their students to think outside the box, at least to the extent of rejecting much modern science and scholarship. The Waldorf preference is for the forms of clairvoyant thinking advocated by Rudolf Steiner. As it happens, I knew Ken Chenault, slightly. We were schoolmates (he was in a class several years behind mine). The Halton Waldorf website might have led you to think that Ken attended Halton. He didn't. He and I went to the Waldorf School in Garden City, New York. I don't know whether Ken has accepted Steiner's mystical teachings, but he has long been a major booster for our alma mater, and the school has held him up as a fine example: a smart graduate who went on to success as a high executive at a credit card company. It's odd — and maybe a little sad — that people who begin in the same place can end up moving in such different directions. Ken and I evidently disagree not only about Waldorf education but also about moneylending as an occupation. Anyway, I thought I should make this little set of disclosures.
“...Wish I’d kept the lesson books [I created as a Waldorf student]. I knew barely any science at all when transferring to a mainstream school. That tells us nothing of the general quality of science teaching in Steiner schools, I guess. The document that Mark has found does that, however. It is worrying.” [2-19-2012 http://zooey.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/science-teaching-in-steiner-schools/]
As noted here previously, science instruction in Steiner or Waldorf schools tends to be weak. Waldorf science teachers lean toward the “Goethean” science promoted by Rudolf Steiner. The book quoted above reveals multiple instances of such distorted science making it way into Waldorf classrooms. The book is EDUCATIONAL TASKS AND CONTENT OF THE STEINER WALDORF CURRICULUM, by Martyn Rawson and Tobias Richter (Steiner Schools Fellowship Publications, 2003).
— Rudolf Steiner, FREUD, JUNG, AND SPIRITUAL PSYCHOLOGY, (SteinerBooks, 2001), pp. 124-125. [See "Steiner's Quackery".]
* "[Science] sees the heart as a pump that pumps blood through the body. Now there is nothing more absurd than believing this, for the heart has nothing to do with pumping the blood.”
** Steiner taught that diseases are often needed — they are part of our karma, and therefore they often should be allowed to run their course. [See, e.g., "Growing Up Being Made Sick by Anthroposophy".]
*** Steiner did not forbid vaccination, but he warned of its spiritual dangers. [See the section "Vaccination" in "Steiner's Quackery".]
From The Yeshiva World News:
“Yad L’Achim Calls for Thorough Probe of Anthroposophy Schools
“In the wake of a recent Jerusalem District Court ruling [Israel] ordering the closure of a school that teaches Anthroposophy, Yad L’Achim [a nonprofit organization] has asked the Education Ministry to investigate other schools that adhere to the cult’s guidelines.
“Anthroposophy, founded by German philosopher Rudolf Steiner, advocates use of meditation to reach spiritual levels that allow one to ‘comprehend his own eternality and be born again.’
“There are dozens of kindergartens in the center of the country that teach Anthroposophy. Dr. Ilan Gur-Ze’ev, of Haifa University, has warned that parents ‘are sending their children to participate in an experiment whose effects are unknown. It definitely raises questions regarding the responsibility of these parents.’
“...Yad L’Achim chairman Harav Yisrael Lifschitz wrote Education Minister Gideon Saar asking that he conduct a thorough check of other schools run by the cult.
“’There is no doubt that an investigation will produce identical findings in other schools as regards the qualifications of principals and teachers, the nature of the unacceptable educational experience and the dubious messages that are transmitted to the students.’
“Yad L’Achim reminded the education minister that France and Belgium set up commissions that sharply criticized Anthroposophy and asked, ‘Why in Israel are these cults allowed to wreak havoc with young, delicate souls?’” [2-17-2012 http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/General+News/118352/Yad-LAchim-Calls-for-Thorough-Probe-of-Anthroposo%E2%80%8Bphy-Schools.html]
The spread of Anthroposophical schools into Israel has been a troubling phenomenon. A deep strain of anti-Semitism runs through Anthroposophy. Moreover, Anthroposophy places great emphasis on Christ (deeming him to be the Sun God, not the Son of God in the usual sense) as well as Hinduism and other Eastern faiths (Anthroposophy is polytheistic and emphasizes karma and reincarnation). None of this is compatible with the Jewish faith or with the values of Israeli society.
Rudolf Steiner made various statements that can be seen as philo-Semitic. However, his anti-Semitic statements should cause alarm, not only for Jews but for all enlightened people. Thus, for instance, Steiner said
• "As you know, we distinguish the Jews from the rest of the earth's population. The difference has arisen because the Jews have been brought up in the moon religion for centuries [i.e., they worship the Moon being, Jehovah] ... The Jews have a great gift for materialism, but little for recognition of the spiritual world." — Rudolf Steiner, FROM BEETROOT TO BUDDHISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 59.
• "[T]he ancient Jewish people...did not wish to learn anything in addition to what the human being brings with him as a capacity because of the fact that he was an embryo ... Old Testament thinking [led to] the atheistic science of the modern age." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHALLENGE OF THE TIMES (Anthroposophic Press, 1941), pp. 28-33.
• "What was it, then, that became darkened in the course of man's evolutionary path on Earth? Take the Jew or take the heathen: their consciousness of anything beyond death had been darkened." — Rudolf Steiner, CHRIST AND THE HUMAN SOUL (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1984), p. 22.
For more, see “RS on Jews” and "Also Forbidden — Steiner on the Essence of Jewry". For more about the Moon (the seat of Jehovah), see "Lunacy". Concerning the Anthroposophical view of Christ, see “Sun God”. For the influences of Eastern faiths in Anthroposophy, see, e.g., “Veda”, “Polytheism”, "Avatars", "Basics" [Theosophy], “Karma”, and “Reincarnation”.
Jehovah (vague blue figure: you can just make out his eyes, nose, beard; maned head, indistinct torso, downward-stretching arms).
This is a detail from "Jehovah and the Luciferic Temptation", a crayon sketch
[THE GOETHEANUM CUPOLA MOTIFS OF RUDOLF STEINER - PAINTINGS BY GERARD WAGNER (SteinerBooks, 2011), p. 39].
These are the original colors.
According to Steiner, Jehovah — the god of the Jews — is a rather minor deity residing on the Moon. "From the Moon, Jahveh [i.e., Jehovah] reigned over the heart and soul of the Jewish people..." [Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS: Esoteric Studies, Vol. 2 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1974), p. 203.] Steiner taught that Christ is incomparably more important; He is the god of the Sun. "[T]his Being, this Christ-Being, comes from the sun." [Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 307.] Anti-Semites have used this comparison — dark Moon, bright Sun — to disparage the Jewish people as a parasitic nation: The Moon produces no light of its own, but it "robs" light from the Sun, just as Jews — according to their enemies — produce nothing of worth, but rob the wealth of the more creative and truth-loving races. Steiner was not an open, avowed anti-Semite, and his followers today try to defend him against the charge of anti-Semitism. But many of Steiner's statements clearly demean Jews and Judaism, and it would seem that allegations of anti-Semitism would not have greatly troubled Steiner, who said, “I consider anti-Semites to be harmless people.” [Rudolf Steiner, “Die Sehnsucht der Juden nach Palästina,” MAGAZIN FÜR LITERATUR, vol. 66, no. 38, 1897]. That is a stunning statement for a professed clairvoyant — who claimed the ability to see the future — to make in Germany just a few decades before the beginning of the Holocaust. Today, at least some of Steiner's followers are Holocaust deniers.
“Free schools dubbed 'a joke'
“Plans for free schools have been dismissed as an 'expensive exercise' and 'a joke' with no chance of success by two of the region's education leaders.
“Christine Channon, Devon [UK] County Council's cabinet member for schools, said none of the plans on the table for the county could be successful.
“Conservative councillor Ms Channon said: ‘To be honest, the idea of a free school in Devon is a bit of a joke.’
“Her Cornish counterpart, Neil Burden, questioned the logic of an ‘expensive exercise’ at times of financial austerity.
“... In Devon, the projects hoping to be selected include one backed by the Steiner School in Exeter ... Ms Channon said many of the applicants were on a 'dream trip', and had not had the right advice ... She predicted the proposal for a Steiner school, which advocates an alternative method of teaching and focuses on the ‘whole child’, would fail because it does not have a particular site in mind.” [2-17-2012 http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Free-schools-dubbed-joke/story-15255188-detail/story.html]
Of course, plans for free schools may be firmer elsewhere. Opponents of Steiner free schools should not let down their guard. Free schools are essentially what are called charter schools in the US — they receive financial support from taxpayers but they are free to create their own, unconventional curriculums. [As for the Steiner emphasis on the "whole child", see "Holistic Education".]
As longtime readers here will have noticed, proponents of Steiner education use a wide array of euphemisms to describe their purposes and the nature of the schools they advocate. Rarely do they give an honest account, which would be that Steiner schools are Anthroposophical religious institutions. [See, e.g., "Here's the Answer" and "Prayers".]
The layers of Anthroposophical deception — including self-deception — run deep. Thus, Anthroposophists usually deny that their religion is a religion — they call it a "science" instead, specifically "spiritual science". But other religions lay a similar claim to the possession of truth. No religion says that it is wrong about spiritual realities; to one degree of another, all claim to have true knowledge of the spirit realm. Still, this form of Anthroposophical deception can muddy the waters to a surprising degree. To clear the waters, see, e.g., "Is Anthroposophy a Religion", "Secrets", and "Why? Oh Why? Oh Why?"
[Anthroposophic Press, 1998]
If you want to learn about Waldorf education, this book and its companion (vol. 2) provide a good starting point.
Rudolf Steiner is long gone, but Waldorf teachers today continue to study his words devotedly;
indeed, Waldorf teacher training centers on the study of Steiner's books and lectures.
For a look at Waldorf faculty meetings presided over by Steiner, see "Faculty Meetings".
Blogs such as the one quoted below are no substitute for an in-depth examination of the Waldorf movement.
"Ocean Charter is a Waldorf Education Public Charter School [California, USA] and nothing like any other Public school I’ve seen. They learn by painting, drawing, creating, and/or singing songs (multiplication/division/mythology/geology/everything!)…instead of textbooks. Their teachers are not music teachers, they are not experts in any one subject — they teach all of it, and it is a strong and loving understanding between the teacher and student that the Teachers are learning along with the kids." [2-16-2012 http://tiffanypeterson.com/tag/waldorf-education/]
This is a typical, wide-eyed, enthusiastic first impression of a Waldorf school. Many people respond this way when first seeing Waldorf education in action.
But many people also become disillusioned, sometimes quite soon. 
Pause and consider what the enthusiastic blogger is saying. "Painting, drawing, creating, and/or singing songs" are wonderful activities, and they should be included in all school curriculums. But can kids really learn "everything" by doing these things? Physics? Algebra? French? World history? The main thing you learn from doing a lot of painting is how to paint. This is a good thing to learn. But it isn't a method for learning "everything." Ditto for "drawing, creating, and/or singing songs" — good activities, but not the end-all and be-all of education. (A teacher might come up with a clever song that lists all the Presidents of the United States in order, and kids might learn this song, but we would be fooling ourselves if we thought that learning such songs is a substitute for actually studying history.) 
What about the absence of textbooks in Waldorf schools? Is this really what you want for your children? Consider. It means that the only source for the information your child will receive will be the teachers themselves. No other views will be presented, and no real authorities will be studied. The Waldorf view, and only the Waldorf view, will be taught. Parents are often impressed by the lovely classbooks that Waldorf students create, largely by copying what the teachers have written and drawn on the blackboard. But this is no substitute for reading authoritative textbooks. 
Note that Waldorf teachers "are not experts in any one subject – they teach all of it." Is this really what you want? Teachers who do not know any subject in depth, but who teach all subjects? This is indeed what Waldorf schools offer, and it guarantees that students will often be taught by people who are unable to take them deeply into any subject. Everything will be superficial and, to one degree or another, wrong. 
It is true that Waldorf teachers are often loving individuals with good intentions. They tend to revere children, and this can be extremely attractive. To understand what is going on, however, realize that the teachers' attitude toward children grows out of the Waldorf religion, Anthroposophy. According to that religion, children have recently arrived from the spirit realm, where they lived — as reincarnating beings — before coming to Earth for their newest incarnation. Thus, children bring with them more recent memories of the spirit realm than the teachers themselves possess, and they should be honored for this. Also, Waldorf teachers believe it is their karma to teach these particular children, just as it is the children's karma to be taught by these teachers. 
If you find yourself getting excited about Waldorf schooling, pause, gather yourself, and think carefully. Waldorf schools are often fun places full of beauty and good feeling.  They may not, however, be very good schools — i.e., places where kids get a good education.  The main Waldorf objective is not to teach children but to give them spiritual assistance in the process of incarnation and in the fulfillment of karma.  And, of course, the teachers hope to steer children toward truth — which, in their opinion, is Anthroposophy. 
A final note. The school that so wowed the writer of the message, above, is a Waldorf charter school — that is to say, it is a Waldorf school that is supported by taxpayers; it is a Waldorf school that has been accepted into the public education system. Taxpayers and education authorities may want to think carefully about the true nature of Waldorf education before conferring charters, and public financial support, on such schools. And they may want to ask probing questions before renewing existing charters. Waldorf schools are essentially religious institutions, which have the purpose of promoting Anthroposophy. And, as I have argued, they may often provide very poor education for the kids. Is this really a good use of public funds? Is it even, in the USA, permissible under the Constitution?
 See, e.g., "Cautions".
 To look into the Waldorf emphasis on art, see "Magical Arts". To examine the Waldorf curriculum, see "Curriculum" and the pages that follow it. To delve into Waldorf methods, see "Methods".
 See "Lesson Books".
 A Waldorf teacher will often begin with a group of students who are entering 1st grade and stay with that group through 5th or even 8th grade, teaching most subjects at all of these grade levels. No teacher is truly qualified to do this. To look into Waldorf teacher training, see "Teacher Training" and "Waldorf Teachers - How Are They Trained?".
 Don't get carried away with this vision, however. Waldorf schools can also be dark and frightening places. See, e.g., "Slaps".
 See, e.g., "Academic Standards at Waldorf".
 Here are sample statements by Waldorf teachers explaining the real purpose of Waldorf schools: • “[T]he purpose of [Waldorf] education is to help the individual fulfill his karma.” • “Waldorf education strives to create a place in which the highest beings [i.e., gods], including the Christ, can find their home....” • "Waldorf education is based upon the recognition that the four bodies of the human being [the physical, etheric, astral, and ego bodies] develop and mature at different times.” For more, see "Spiritual Agenda". For more on incarnation and the four human bodies, see "Incarnation". For more on Christ — who in Anthroposophical doctrine in one of many gods — see "Sun God".
 See, e.g., "Here's the Answer".
"The sum received from the Anthroposophical Society is not huge — £3000 for PR and the £5000 for free school applications. But one might still ask: why does the Anthroposophical Society pay for waldorf school PR and the free school applications (to obtain state-funding for the schools)? Why do anthroposophists have any interest in helping schools and organizations which [claim they] want to distance themselves from Steiner and anthroposophy (there are many more examples of such behaviour)…were it not for the fact that the distancing itself is a PR move?
"I think these donations prove — unsurprisingly — that anthroposophy and the Anthroposophical Society have an interest in Steiner education and its success (or the appearance of success) and also in obtaining state-funding for these schools." [The Ethereal Kiosk, 2-10-2012 http://zooey.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/money-pr-the-free-school-applications-and-the-swsf/#comment-14384]
IPPSAL is the Independent Private and Parochial Schools Athletic League
on Long Island, New York.]
For a discussion of sports at Waldorf schools, see items below on this page and elsewhere at the News Archive.
From Mother Nature Network:
"Last week, MNN [i.e., Mother Nature Network] parenting blogger Jenn Savedge asked an excellent question about technology in the classroom: How much is enough? She cited a NY Times article that covered the trend of Silicon Valley parents sending their kids to Waldorf schools — where no technology is used in the learning environment. If the pioneers of technology were limiting their own children's use of computers, then what does that mean for the rest of the parents out there struggling with the question?
"Yesterday, a counter-argument emerged. The New York Times profiled a school in Mooresville, N.C., that's leading the laptops-in-class digital revolution, pointing to some pretty extraordinary test results achieved after introducing laptops into the school (and controversially eliminating 10 percent of their teachers to pay for it). After three years of laptops in classrooms, and a significant overhaul in the way teachers interact with students, the results are in.
"According to the NY Times, 'The district’s graduation rate was 91 percent in 2011, up from 80 percent in 2008. On state tests in reading, math and science, an average of 88 percent of students across grades and subjects met proficiency standards, compared with 73 percent three years ago. Attendance is up, dropouts are down.' Those are some pretty unignorable stats, and that's with increased class sizes — all of which has educators talking, and regularly visiting the school to see how they do what they do." [2-14-2012 http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/computers/blogs/laptop-learning-one-school-boasts-higher-scores-but-should-others-go-virt]
Mother Nature Network is hardly gung-ho in computers, so this item may be of special interest. The debate over the use of computers in schools will doubtless go on and on. Most Waldorf schools fear and shun computers, but not all Waldorf schools do, at least not completely. On the other side, the Mooresville public school does not attribute all of is success to computers. High-tech gear constitutes just one part of the school's sophisticated educational approach. The chief take-away for people interested in Waldorf schools is that the typical Waldorf aversion to technology is excessive; indeed, it may be simply wrong. [For more on the Waldorf approach, see "Spiders, Dragons and Foxes".]
Here is a follow-up to a story we have been following:
FAIRY WORLDS AND WORKERS, by Marjorie Spock (Anthroposophical Press, 1980).
Classic Anthroposophical texts are sometimes hard to locate. Tip: Try services such as Alibris and AbeBooks.
Consider the invaluable FAIRY WORLDS AND WORKERS: A Natural History of Fairyland (Anthroposophical Press, 1980). As of today, February 14, 2012 (Happy Valentine’s Day!), only a few used copies are on the market, and there is no consensus as to what they may be worth. At Alibris, copies are offered for prices ranging from $9.45 to $100.00. Abe’s selection is somewhat larger, bearing prices from $9.45 to $118.00.
Here’s how the book is described by its publisher: “The Middle Kingdom! Various times and peoples have given it different names. To some it was Paradise, to others Tir-nan-Og; Arthurian Avalon; Fairyland; the World of Immortal Youth; the Land of Heart’s Desire. Where exactly is that country? Well, if God’s is the world of creative power and ours the world of created objects, the fairy world is the land of life that lies between them, serving as the bridge for their interaction.
“The fairyland and its denizens have long been the concern of poets, painters, and storytellers. Not only are these beings charged with the maintenance of Nature’s household but with her evolutionary plans as well. Our recognition of them and their work helps their efforts prosper and helps the earth be carried forward in its evolution. Marjorie Spock draws aside the veil obscuring the life of the 'Little People' and makes their magic world come alive for us. “ [http://www.steinerbooks.org/detail.html?id=088010404x]
What many people have difficulty grasping is that Anthroposophists believe that Fairy Land literally exists, and the Fairy Folk are real beings.
“That fairyland and its denizens should be as much a concern of scientists as they have long been of poets and painters and storytellers was one of [Rudolf] Steiner’s deep convictions. For he was a close observer of their life and work, and it was clear to him that they were of profound importance to the earth.” — Waldorf educator Marjorie Spock, FAIRY WORLDS AND WORKERS, p. 8.
According to Rudolf Steiner, fairies are one form of elemental being, otherwise known as nature spirits. "Whereas it is our physical body that connects us with the realm of physical becoming, our brain connects us with certain elemental beings...the elemental beings of the myths and sagas. There they are called elves, fairies, and so on.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE RIDDLE OF HUMANITY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1990), lecture, GA 170. For more on these matters, see “Fairy Tales”, “Steiner’s Blunders”, and “Neutered Nature”. And hurry to a used book store, or Alibris, or Abe. Copies of Spock’s book will disappear fast, perchance. (The cheap copies, anyway.)
Detail from "Sylphs", a brush drawing by Ingrid Gibb, FAIRY WORLDS AND WORKERS, facing p. 17.
Sylphs are nature spirits dwelling in the air. They have been known by many names, such as fairies,
the little folk, the fair folk, and so on. The important thing to understand is that Anthroposophists
— including many Waldorf teachers — think that such beings they really exist.
“Because air is everywhere imbued with light, these sylphs, which live in the airy-warmth element, press towards the light ...
[W]e behold the deepest sympathy between the sylphs and the bird-world ... They are, however, prevented by the cosmic [order] from becoming birds,
for they have another task. Their task is lovingly to convey light to the plant ... The sylph imbues the plant with light; it bears light into the plant.”
— Rudolf Steiner, MAN AS SYMPHONY OF THE CREATIVE WORD, Part 3, “The Plant-World and the Elemental Nature-Spirits”, lecture 7, GA 230.
"[W]ho cares about 'spiritual-scientific facts'? Only Anthroposophists. It's a closed, self-referencing system, safely insulated from the logic (and responsibilities) of the real world. That's a good reason to call it a cult." [2-13-2012 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/22835]
As usual, an informative (and sometimes heated) discussion is being held at the Waldorf Critics website. Anyone with an interest in Waldorf education should look in occasionally. Both critics and supporters of Waldorf schooling express their views energetically, and the debate — while sometimes flying off the track — can be fascinating.
Much of the language and imagery used in Anthroposophy appears Christian,
and thus it may seem familiar and even welcome to many parents of school-age children in the West.
You should realize, however, that Anthroposophical teachings
diverge greatly from anything to be found in mainstream Christianity
or, indeed, in the Bible. [See, e.g., “Was He Christian?”,
A new publication from the Anthroposophic Press:
“SPIRITUAL BEINGS IN THE HEAVENLY BODIES AND IN THE KINGDOMS OF NATURE
“In the architecture of Rudolf Steiner’s great cosmological temple, this extraordinary course of lectures on spiritual beings forms the central pillar...
“In these lectures, the reader is led through a series of meditations to recognize these spiritual beings and come to know their deeds.
“Steiner’s approach is ‘contemporary’ in that, while continuous with the most ancient understanding of the cosmos, he discovers it for himself, out of his own experience and consciousness, and expresses it in his own words with a logic and language appropriate to our time. Thus he teaches us, his readers, to do the same. In these lectures, the reader is led through a series of meditations to recognize and come to know the activities and beings of the nine angelic hierarchies:
This new book reinforces several of the themes we have explored here recently. Steiner taught — and his followers believe — that there are spiritual beings all around us, not just in the heavens but in the natural world. Many of these beings are gods, ranging from those that are just one step higher than humans (the angels or Sons of Life) upward to gods nine steps above humans (seraphim or Spirits of Love).*
Steiner’s teachings do indeed create a sort of “temple” — that is, they are a body of religious doctrines. Along with these doctrines Steiner offers his followers prayers, meditations, and other religious practices to assist them on their spiritual journey. [See, e.g., “Power Words” and “Prayers”.]
Steiner’s religious teachings arise principally from ancient beliefs. He drew especially from Hinduism, and from doctrines that were preserved later in gnostic Christianity and, later still, in Theosophy. [See, e.g., “Veda”, “Gnosis”, and “Basics”.] He also borrowed heavily from mythologies, in particular Norse myths. [See “The Gods”.] He claimed, however, that he independently discovered the spiritual truths contained in these traditions — using his power of clairvoyance, he investigated the spirit realm, read the Akashic Record (an invisible celestial encyclopedia), and attained sure knowledge of cosmic mysteries. Or so he said. [See, e.g., “Exactly”, “Akasha”, “Inside Scoop”, ”Rosy Cross”, and “The White Lodge”.]
Steiner’s followers generally consult Steiner’s directives as they seek to attain their own clairvoyant wisdom and initiation. This includes many Waldorf teachers, more than a few of whom believe that they are privy to profound occult wisdom. The degree to which Waldorf teachers bring their spiritual convictions into the classroom varies, but all parents interested in Waldorf schools should understand who Rudolf Steiner was and what his followers believe. A book like SPIRITUAL BEINGS IN THE HEAVENLY BODIES AND IN THE KINGDOMS OF NATURE can be a useful introduction.
Ball players at the Washington Waldorf School in Maryland, USA.
Waldorf or Steiner schools are fundamentally different from other schools,
basing their beliefs and practices on the doctrines of Rudolf Steiner.
But in some superficial ways — such as by fielding sports teams —
the schools may seem conventionally wholesome.
Not all Waldorf news is terribly serious or esoteric. From the sports desk:
"While they aren't rivals of the magnitude of, say, Pioneer and Huron [i.e., rival schools], things got a little testy late in Greenhills' 69-59 win over Rudolf Steiner this week [the school, in Michigan, USA, not the man]. The problems started with about two minutes left in the third quarter, as Greenhills coach Andrew Wright repeatedly begged the refs to call a carry on a Steiner player's dribble, to no avail [i.e., call a foul on a player who was carrying the ball]. 'He looks like my kid in the backyard!' Wright said to the officials. That comment irked Steiner coach Nick Sherwood, who took a couple steps out of the coach's box toward Wright. 'Don't talk about one of my kids like that!' he admonished. Wright immediately apologized. In an effort to rein in the coaches, each got technicals [i.e., technical fouls] shortly thereafter; Sherwood in the last minute of the third quarter and Wright in the first minute of the fourth." [2-12-2012 http://www.annarbor.com/sports/high-school/dexter-student-section-comes-alive-for-german-geoff-and-more-notes/]
Some parents are drawn to Waldorf schools, at least in part, because they want their children to escape the sports-obsessed culture at many public schools. But the truth is that Waldorf schools often use sports much as other schools do: to encourage loyalty and pride among the students, to cement relations with alumni, and to encourage parents and alums to make financial contributions. For Waldorf schools, sports can also serve an additional purpose: making the schools seem, superficially, normal.
"Green Meadow 37, Washington Waldorf School (Md.) 28: On day one of the Kimberton Waldorf round robin tournament at Kimberton Waldorf School in Phoenixville, PA. Friday, Taylor Miccio had 15 points, five rebounds, and four assists for the Warriors. Alex Chin had 12 points and six rebounds." [2-11-2012 http://www.lohud.com/article/20120212/SPORTS02/302120064/Boys-basketball-Sacred-Heart-defeats-John-Jay-50-47-Pearl-River-defeats-Mahopac-67-60-Iona-Prep-defeats-White-Plains-45-36-more-games-]
The Washington Waldorf School is in Maryland, USA; the Kimberton Waldorf school, host of the tournament, is in Pennsylvania, USA.
Waldorf teams didn’t fare well in the two games reported above, but they are sometimes quite successful. The Waldorf school I attended has long had an outstanding soccer program. The following was posted by the school:
“Waldorf Boys Varsity Soccer Extends Record to 4-2-1
“In their first meeting of the season, the boys varsity soccer team from the Waldorf School of Garden City [New York, USA] traveled to Locust Valley to take on the squad from the Portledge School this past Wednesday. Waldorf dominated the first half with constant pressure from forwards Matt Wasserman and Axel Epie. Waldorf scored at the 17:45 mark when forward Marco Spitaliere, making a far-post run, was able to convert an in-swing corner kick from co-captain and midfielder Peter Escribano, who is the team leader in points for goals and assists this season. [10/06/2011 http://www.waldorfgarden.org/page.cfm?p=560&newsid=13]
As for the use to sports in alumni relations efforts:
"Varsity Boys Soccer Alumni Game
"The second Fall Fair Soccer Game was Waldorf's Varsity Boys Soccer Team vs. Alumni Soccer Team. Coached by longtime veteran [sic] Waldorf Coach Laszlo Jurak, the Alumni team seemed to have an endless parade of players — including most of the alumni members from the Class of 2011 [i.e., students who had graduated in June].
"Right from the start, the game took on a showcase exhibition [sic], with speed, power, dynamic passing, wonderful footwork, and incredible goalie play that drew oohs and aahs from the large gathering of spectators. The first half ended with a 1-2 Alumni lead. In the second half, the Alumni team swarmed the Varsity and scored three times to secure the Alumni 1-5 win." [10-22-2012 http://www.waldorfgarden.org/page.cfm?p=551&teamID=21&event=168&show=recap]
There is no evidence that the kids threw the game to the old-timers.
The following is from a blog at THE NEW YORK TIMES. We have dealt with this subject — vaccination — numerous times previously, but when the TIMES takes note, we should take note:
“How Doctors Could Improve Childhood Vaccination Rates
“...In ‘Improving Childhood Vaccination Rates’ in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. [Douglas] Diekema invites doctors to consider the reluctant or recalcitrant parent as a diagnostic problem ... With vaccination rates in some pockets of the country shrinking (in one Washington State county, Dr. Diekema says, 72 percent of kindergartners and 89 percent of sixth graders are either noncompliant with or exempt from vaccination requirements for school entry, and at a Bay Area Waldorf school* I wrote about last year, only 23 percent of the incoming kindergarten class had been fully vaccinated), doctors who support vaccination (as the vast majority do) need strategies to work with parents.” [2-10-2012 http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/10/how-doctors-could-improve-childhood-vaccination-rates/]
Waldorf schools usually promote “Anthroposophic medicine,” which is essentially a form of quackery invented by Rudolf Steiner. Anthroposophical doctors do not absolutely reject vaccination as a medical strategy, but they are leery of it, and as a result Waldorf schools can become centers of contagion.
Rudolf Steiner’s followers are generally averse to vaccination because they are generally averse to modern science in all its forms. But, specifically, Steiner warned his followers that there are conspiracies afoot that seek to trick people into taking medicines that counteract the soul. Black magicians and other evildoers work to create medicines that deaden people to all things spiritual: “Endeavors to achieve this will be made by bringing out remedies to be administered by inoculation ... [T]hese 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.
Steiner taught that because a disease may result from karma, interfering with the illness may force the patient to compensate in a future life. Addressing a group of doctors, Steiner said “If we destroy the susceptibility to smallpox, we are concentrating only on the external side of karmic activity.” — Rudolf Steiner, MANIFESTATIONS OF KARMA (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), pp. 165-166. If karma is not fulfilled in one life, Steiner said, it must be fulfilled (perhaps by having the same disease) in a later incarnation. So, a basic Anthroposophical attitude is to allow diseases to run their course. See, e.g., the Anthroposophical book BLESSED BY ILLNESS, by L.F.C. Mees (Anthroposophic Press, 1990).
For more on all this, see "Steiner's Quackery". To explore Steiner doctrines about karma, see "Karma" and "Reincarnation".
* "I really want to rail against the parents of the Waldorf school in the Bay Area with the shocking 23 percent vaccination rate for its kindergarten class. In the abstract, I’m appalled. Everything in me longs to shake those parents and point out that they’re free-riding on those of us who do vaccinate. That they would not like to live in pre-vaccination days, when, as Megan McArdle of the AtlanticWire put it, diseases like polio, diphtheria, tetanus and even whooping cough crippled and killed thousands of children every year. That they’re endangering people who would choose vaccination but cannot because of age, allergies, or immune system disorders ... But — there’s always a but — I know those parents...." [http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2011/11/01/who_dares_confront_the_parents_of_the_bay_area_waldorf_school_wi.html]
“Can Steiner school's promoters deliver on their ambitious plans?
“...In a full Assembly Rooms, interested people from the local community [Frome, UK] and beyond were presented with a very persuasive argument for choosing Steiner education.
“...The $64,000 question is can the Steiner methodology transform a child's life in a way that our local schools cannot? There was certainly very little evidence despite convincing statements from the project manager and head teacher.” [2-9-2012 http://www.thisissomerset.co.uk/Steiner-school-s-promoters-deliver-ambitious/story-15179235-detail/story.html]
When considering presentations made by advocates of Steiner education, bear in mind that Rudolf Steiner’s followers are members of a cult or, if you prefer, a religion — Anthroposophy. They are often well organized and well rehearsed, able to draw on carefully constructed arguments drafted by their cohorts over the years. Of course, not everyone who recommends Steiner education is a dyed-in-the-wool Anthroposophist, and in any case all arguments should be considered and weighed on their merits, regardless of their source. But if you hear “a very persuasive argument for choosing Steiner education” that is supported by “very little evidence,” you may want to consider — in the cool light of reason — just how persuasive that argument really is.
[As to whether Anthroposophy is a cult, see, e.g., “Six Facts You Should Know About Steiner Education”. As to whether it is a religion, see “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”]
“Educating the Whole Child — Naturalistic Intelligence
“...Here at Spring Garden Waldorf school [Ohio, USA], children are sent outdoors to play and learn a minimum of three times per day – rain or shine, cold or hot. But we don’t stop there. Children at our school take gardening as a special subject, often have science and gym class outside, and main lesson teachers spend much time outdoors to reinforce what’s being learned in main lesson. “ [2-2-2012 http://blog.sgws.org/educating-the-whole-child-naturalistic-intelligence/]
Sending kids outdoors multiple times “rain or shine” may or may not be a good idea, but before you enroll a child in a Waldorf school, it is important to understand the Waldorf view of nature. In Waldorf belief, nature is the realm of “nature spirits” — gnomes and other invisible beings. Spending time outdoors means spending time in the presence of such creatures. [See “Neutered Nature”.]
As for educating the “whole child” — in Waldorf belief, a human beings has four bodies (three of which are invisible), both a soul and a spirit, a karma, an astrological sign, a racial identity revealing one’s degree of spiritual evolution, a temperament (choleric, melancholic, sanguine, or phlegmatic), a double or doppelgänger, twelve senses, a heart that does not pump blood, a brain that does not really think, etc. The Waldorf view is, to say the least, unusual. [See “Holistic Education” and "What We're Made Of".]
Try to learn about the Waldorf belief system before consigning a child to the care of people who embrace it.
P.S. At Waldorf schools, the "main lesson" is the first and longest class of the day. Other classes are usually designed to reinforce the main lesson to one degree or another. [See "Curriculum".]
Eurythmy — a spiritual form of dance — is important in Waldorf education; usually, all students are required to do eurythmy. Drawing on the traditions of temple dancing in many religions, in particular Theosophy, Rudolf Steiner developed eurythmy as a way to express, through movement, the inner or spiritual meaning of creative speech. Eurythmy is often performed in flowing gowns and/or while holding therapeutic copper rods. The movements look a bit like slow-motion modern expressive dance. Kids often find it dull, but they are expected to participate nonetheless.
Impression of eurythmy
[R. R. photo rendering, 2010,
based on p. 31, THE GOETHEANUM
(Philosophical-Anthroposophical Press, 1961)]
"Eurythmy Openings at Monadnock Waldorf School
"Monadnock Waldorf School in Keene, New Hampshire [USA] is seeking to welcome two colleagues to lead and to further develop our eurythmy program in kindergarten through grade twelve.
"Our new eurythmists will find mentoring support from experienced eurythmists as well as a community of colleagues with a deep appreciation and respect for eurythmy. We are a school in which eurythmy has a central role. There is an active artistic eurythmy group working in our area. We hold a strong vision of eurythmy living and deepening in our students and in our community." [2-3-2012 http://jobs.waldorftoday.com/job/11864/]
"Eurythmy is obligatory. The children must participate. Those who do not participate in eurythmy will be removed from the school." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 65.
Steiner taught that the gods gave us physical bodies, in large part, in order to enable us to do eurythmy. Eurythmy is performed in the worlds above just as it is performed here in the world below. "The human form is the result of divine eurythmy ... [B]ecause eurythmy makes use of the human being as its instrument it enables us to see most deeply into the connection between the human being and the universe." — EURYTHMY AS VISIBLE SPEECH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1984), p. 13 — lecture synopsis.
The purpose of eurythmy is explicitly religious. "Eurythmy shapes and moves the human organism in a way that furnishes direct external proof of our participation in the supersensible [i.e., invisible, spiritual] world. In having people do eurythmy, we link them directly to the supersensible world." — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 246-247.
For more, see “Eurythmy” and “Magical Arts”.
From This Is Somerset [UK]: a letter originally published in the Somerset Standard:
“Questions unanswered over new Steiner school
“I am deeply concerned about the Steiner Academy Frome ‘free’ school that has received agreement in principal from Education Secretary Michael Gove.
“The Steiner Academy will be a significant addition to the state school landscape in Frome with a planned intake of 640 students rising to 750 once the sixth form is established.
“I am staggered that the final agreement for this school is only weeks away and yet there has been no local debate or involvement. There are many questions that have no clear answers.
“At a time of unprecedented economic austerity, why is the Government proposing to spend millions of pounds of taxpayers' money creating a new school when there are surplus school places in Frome? The Steiner Academy will take money from local schools ... What evidence is there of local demand for this type of schooling on this scale? The Steiner approach to education can appear at first glance to be very attractive – but it is a high-risk option ... The Steiner Academy is likely to draw its pupils from a very wide geographical area. How does this fit with our duty to our children to create a more environmentally sustainable world? ... How will the proposed Park Road site cope with the huge increase in traffic at two key points in the day? ... Who regulates the statutory consultation which was launched a few weeks ago? The questionnaire contains a number of very loaded questions. Who will verify the results and what weight do they carry with the Department for Education when they come to make their final decision?” [2-98-2012, reprinted from 1-26-2012 http://www.thisissomerset.co.uk/Questions-unanswered-new-Steiner-school/story-15042446-detail/story.html]
For previous coverage of the free school program in the UK, including the proposed Steiner school in Frome, see the News Archive.
From Waldorf Today:
"Working with the Angels
“In the first three years of life, before the child is so engrossed in material life, it has a close relationship with the angels. At night, while asleep, the children meet their angels. They dream of them or have other experiences of them. As we grow up, the qualities of our childhood mature and develop in us and can evolve as imagination, inspiration and intuition. We too can relate to the angels. It generally happens in our sleep, for it is such a remarkable experience that we might be filled with fear if these contacts were to happen in our waking life.” [2-6-2012 http://www.waldorftoday.com/]
No one should have any doubt that Waldorf education is built on the mystical foundation of Anthroposophical religious belief. The passage quoted above is the beginning of an item posted prominently at the Waldorf Today website early in February, 2012. It contains references to numerous Anthroposophical doctrines:
• Young children arrive on Earth retaining a relationship with the spirit realm where they lived before their new earthly incarnation. This is why Waldorf schools strive to keep children young and postpone academic education until at least age seven. [See, e.g., “Thinking Cap”.]
• Angels are gods one level above humans. Each angel oversees one human being. (Archangels — gods two levels above humans — oversee groups of humans, such as nations and races.) In this sense, we can be said to have guardian angels. [See, e.g., “Polytheism” and “Serving the Gods”.]
• In Waldorf belief, humans have four bodies, only one of which is visible. At night, parts of us (the astral body and the ego body) rise up and travel into the spirit realm, returning the next morning. "When we are asleep our physical and etheric bodies lie on the bed, and our astral body and ego are outside them.” — Rudolf Steiner, PASTORAL MEDICINE (Anthroposophic Press, 1987), lecture 11, GA 318. According to Steiner, many of our dreams are actually true accounts of experiences we had in the spirit realm while the physical body and the etheric body slept. Steiner's followers thus think dreams are sources of truth, and Waldorf teachers sometimes use their dreams in deciding how to handle their students. [See, e.g., "Incarnation", “God” and “Dreams”.]
• The true form of cognition, according to Waldorf belief, is clairvoyance. Waldorf schools emphasize imagination, inspiration, and intuition because these are precursors to, or forms of, clairvoyance. Steiner taught that we can acquire and perfect these faculties now by following his guidance, but in the future everyone will have them. (To understand the next quotation, you need to know that Steiner said we will evolve to live on Jupiter, then Venus, then Vulcan — not the planets, as such, but future stages of cosmic evolution.) “Now let us consider the three states of consciousness which are still to come ... The next state known to the initiate is the so-called ‘psychic-consciousness’ or Imagination ... On the planet which will replace our Earth, the whole of humanity will have this psychic-consciousness’ or Imagination, the ‘Jupiter’ consciousness ... Then there is the sixth state of consciousness man will one day possess ... Man will look deep, deep into the nature of beings, when he lives in this consciousness, the consciousness of Inspiration ... This will be the consciousness of man when our planet will have passed into the ‘Venus’ condition ... The seventh state of consciousness is the ‘spiritual consciousness’ or Intuition...which [man] will have in addition to all the other states of consciousness when he will have reached ‘Vulcan’.” — Rudolf Steiner, UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING, (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), pp. 30-31. This is what lies behind the "arts-based" Waldorf curriculum with its emphasis on imagination. [See "Clairvoyance", "Exactly", "Academic Standards at Waldorf Schools", and "Magical Arts".]
Don't kid yourself. While not all Waldorf teachers are deeply committed Anthroposophists, many are — and Steiner said they all should be. ("As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118.) When you send children to Waldorf or Steiner schools, you are putting them in the charge of people who believe the tenets of Anthroposophy. And, of course, since Waldorf teachers generally think Anthroposophy is the truth, they want to lead your children toward it. That is the ultimate purpose of Waldorf schools. [See, e.g., "Here's the Answer" and "Spiritual Agenda".]
The Steiner belief system affirms the reality of "nature spirits" —
invisible beings that dwell within and behind natural phenomena.
The four major types are gnomes, sylphs, salamanders, and undines,
living respectively in earth, air, fire, and water.
See "Neutered Nature".
[Generic gnome images taken from Manly P. Hall's
THE SECRET TEACHINGS OF ALL AGES
(H. S. Crocker Co., 1928)]
From the British Centre for Science Education:
"Re: Steiner schools and anthroposophy
"We also have no idea just how far they [i.e., Steiner Schools] take the gnome-based wackiness, if indeed some or all Steiner schools subscribe to it, and to what degree. Creationists at least have the good grace to publicise what their 'pseudo-scientific' fantasies actually comprise. If anyone actually asked me how the Steiner ethos/belief system affects science I'd be pretty hard put to come up with anything specific. Last time I looked I tracked down one or two documents related to Earth sciences referenced on a website, but unless you have access to the Steiner organisation it seems difficult to get hold of them. So unless someone can come up with some documentary evidence we're a bit stumped." [2-5-2012 http://www.forums.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?t=2681&p=35307]
It is indeed difficult to get clear, honest information out of the Waldorf or Steiner school movement. Because Rudolf Steiner’s followers think they possess secret wisdom that should remain secret, they are practiced in holding their tongues. [See “Secrets”, "Help 3", and “Our Experience”.]
Science instruction tends to be weak in Waldorf schools. Steiner advocated “Goethean science” while generally opposing mainstream, natural sciences. [See “Goethe” and “Steiner’s ‘Science’”.] He claimed that his own teachings constitute “spiritual science” — that is, the use of clairvoyance to objectively study the spirit realm. [See “Clairvoyance” and "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness".]
As for “gnome-based wackiness”: It runs wide and deep in the Steiner movement. Steiner taught that gnomes and other invisible beings truly exist and populate the natural world. To see them, all you need is clairvoyance — which Steiner sometimes referred to as “astral vision”: • “A gnome is only visible to someone who can see on the astral plane, but miners frequently possess such an astral vision; they know that gnomes are realities.” — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 27, GA 93a. • “There are beings that can be seen with clairvoyant vision at many spots in the depths of the earth ... If you dig into the metallic or stony ground you find beings which manifest at first in remarkable fashion — it is as if something were to scatter us. They seem able to crouch close together in vast numbers, and when the earth is laid open they appear to burst asunder ... Many names have been given to them, such as goblins, gnomes and so forth ... What one calls moral responsibility in man is entirely lacking in them ... Their nature prompts them to play all sorts of tricks on man....” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 62-63.
Gnome figures are often present in Steiner classrooms. • "The felt gnome in my son's Waldorf classroom sat on a shelf near the top of the chalkboard. I remember the class teacher telling a group of parents that the gnome's role was to watch the children while he was out of the classroom." — Former Waldorf parent Margaret Sachs. • "Gnomes are something that Waldorf schools can hook onto in popular culture, from suburban lawn ornaments to familiar fairy tales, and insinuate a message about 'nature spirits' that is meant to prepare children to be receptive to a wide variety of related beliefs about the 'spiritual hierarchies' as outlined by Rudolf Steiner. — Former Waldorf parent Diana Winters. [See “Gnomes”.]
[Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993]
Rudolf Steiner is not simply admired by his followers —
they think of him as one of the great thinkers,
indeed one of the great spiritual leaders, of all time.
Reminiscences and biographies of Steiner
written by Anthroposophists tend to be virtual hagiographies.
From the 2011-2012 Parent Handbook issued by the Portland Waldorf School [Oregon, USA]:
"The mission of Portland Waldorf School is to work out of the insights of Rudolf Steiner to educate children for the whole of life. The school nurtures the imagination, cultivates the intellect, and recognizes the spirit of each child. In this way, children are strengthened individually and socially to meet the challenges of life." [2-6-2012 http://www.portlandwaldorf.org/fileadmin/admin/Current_Parent_Forms/2011-2012_handbook_only.pdf]
This is a fairly typical Waldorf school mission statement. Defenders of Waldorf education often argue that Steiner died a long time ago and thus his teachings (some of them admittedly odd) no longer have much significance in the functioning of the schools today. But this is clearly untrue. Waldorf education is also called Steiner education, and for a good reason. Not only did Rudolf Steiner establish the first Waldorf School, but he laid down the principles and methods to be used in the schools, and the schools today still generally affirm their allegiance to Steiner and his "insights."
If you have been reading the Quotes of the Day here at Waldorf Watch for any length of time, you may wonder whether Steiner's "insights" can possibly serve as the basis for instruction that truly prepares students "to meet the challenges of life." If you haven't been reading the Steiner quotations posted here, I invite you to do so now. Go to "Daily Quotes" and/or "Say What?" and or "Wise Words".
To peek behind the scenes at Waldorf schools, see "Faculty Meetings", "Foundations", "Underpinnings", and "Basement". To consider how Waldorf teachers are trained today, for their work in Waldorf schools today, see "Teacher Training". To delve into the present-day operations of Waldorf schools and the beliefs embraced by Waldorf teachers today, see "Waldorf Now", "Today", "Today Too", and "Today 3".
From the Waters Edge Waldorf School [Illinois, USA]:
“Waldorf education is experiential and hands-on. This evening at Water's Edge, you will be the student in 6th grade geometry, the kindergartner participating in circle activities, or a first grader learning the times tables by jumping rope. Tour our school, meet our teachers and get all your questions answered about this most innovative, yet time-tested educational model. [2-5-2012 http://triblocal.com/round-lake/calendar/2012/02/08/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-waldorf-school/]
If you become interested in a Waldorf school, do by all means visit the school and talk with the teachers.
Bear a few things in mind, however. You will probably see and hear only what the school chooses to display, and Waldorf schools can be cagey. Rudolf Steiner urged Waldorf faculties to remain mum about their real beliefs and purposes. [See, e.g., “Secrets”.]
Even when a Waldorf school opens its door a crack, it may be doing so with considerable reluctance unless it can exert tight control over the proceedings. Rudolf Steiner was extremely leery about letting outsiders see what really happens in Waldorf schools. Here is a part of his response to a request to tour a Waldorf school. He was prepared to permit attendance at a school assembly and a tour of the classrooms when school was out, but no visits to actual classes in session:
“I believe you would not get much out of seeing the Waldorf School itself ... [I]f you should wish to take a walk tomorrow evening after six o'clock, the members of the [faculty] will be glad to show you the building when school is not in session ... [T]he most we can allow is for you to see the classrooms, and even this would be burdensome at the moment.” [See “Visits”.]
Steiner made this startling admonition to Waldorf faculty: “[D]o not attempt to bring out into the public things that really concern only our school. I have been back only a few hours, and I have heard so much gossip about who got a slap and so forth ... We should be quiet about how we handle things in the school, we should maintain a kind of school confidentiality. We should not speak to people outside the school, except for the parents who come to us with questions, and in that case, only about their children, so that gossip has no opportunity to arise.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 10.
Return for a moment to the first quotation: “I believe you would not get much out of seeing....” What is most striking is that Steiner was not addressing strangers or critics. He was addressing members of the Waldorf School Association. But he did not want even these individuals — his followers, supporters of the school — to see what happens inside. The quotation comes from the "[a]ddress and discussion at the first official members' meeting of the Independent Waldorf School Association," June 17, 1921, in RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 97-100.
Some Waldorf schools have less to hide than others, and there is more apparent openness during carefully stage-managed visitors' days and festivals. For some tips on what to look for if you are allowed inside a Waldorf school, see “Clues”. For suggestions of topics to discuss with Waldorf teachers, see "Say What?" Many of the quotations you will find there reflect the underlying reason for Waldorf secrecy: The schools are based on the esoteric religious beliefs promulgated by Rudolf Steiner, and many of his teachings fly in the face of genuine knowledge and good sense.
“Exeter Steiner parents hope for free state school
“Parents are trying to set up a state-funded Steiner school in Exeter.
“Parents and teachers from the existing Steiner Primary School in Exeter [UK] are applying to the government for cash through its free schools programme.
“The Steiner Academy would teach children from four till 16 and would be the only state funded free school of its type in Devon.
“Steiner schools offer an alternative to mainstream education and teach children through play and creative activities.
“Free schools are one of the coalition government's flagship policies, promising more freedom for teachers and more choice for parents.” [2-3-2012 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-16870135]
We have had multiple reports here previously about free schools in the UK and charter schools in the US. For background, see “Coming Undone”.
Sadly, the promise held out by free or charter schools often proves illusory. Studies indicate the most such schools are no better than, or even inferior to, conventional public schools. [See “Help 4”.] The problems with free or charter education may be particularly acute in Steiner schools, where academic standards are often low. [See “Academic Standards at Waldorf”.]
“Give views on Steiner school plan at second consultation meeting
“Prospective parents, pupils and other members of the Frome community [UK] are being invited to share their views on the town's proposed free school for the second time.
“If the plans to open the Steiner Academy later this year are given the go-ahead by Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove, the school will initially cater for children in reception through to Year 4.
“...The school said it will have a maximum of 26 pupils in each year group and hopes to grow year on year to become an all-through academy for pupils aged up to 16.” [2-2-2012 http://www.thisissomerset.co.uk/views-Steiner-school-plan-second-consultation/story-15110663-detail/story.html]
Free schools are essentially equivalent to charter schools in the USA: They receive financial support from the government but they are not restricted to standard curricula or methods. Most government officials who approve Waldorf free or charter school seem to be uninformed about the real nature of Steiner education — they do not appear to realize that they are approving religious institutions based on an occult belief system. Educating education authorities thus becomes an important task.
One site education authorities might study beneficially is PLANS — People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools — where the motto is "Educating the public about Waldorf education": http://waldorfcritics.org/. The site was created by people who themselves at one time were taken in by the superficial appeal of Waldorf education, only to learn later that Waldorf is very different from what it seems and pretends to be.
For more on free schools and Waldorf disillusionment, see “Coming Undone". For an overview of Waldorf education see “Here’s the Answer” and “Weird Waldorf”.
[Temple Lodge, 2010]
Currently being featured by the Rudolf Steiner College bookstore:
“RUDOLF STEINER'S CORE MISSION : The Birth and Development of Spiritual-Scientific Karma Research (Temple Lodge, 2010)
“Rudolf Steiner's core mission was to pursue contemporary spiritual-scientific research into the phenomena of reincarnation and karma. This stimulating book describes the winding biographical path of that mission. ... Meyer examines how Rudolf Steiner's students responded to his understanding of karma, placing this 'most intrinsic mission’ in the context of current divisions in the anthroposophic movement. He highlights especially the place of spiritual science in culture and history and shows how Steiner further developed the great scientific ideas of evolution propounded by Darwin by raising them to the plane of individual soul and spiritual development.” [2-4-2012 http://www.steinercollege.edu/store/product.php?productid=18596&cat=0&page=]
Most people, if they have heard of Rudolf Steiner at all, associate him with Waldorf schools, which are also called — for good reason — Steiner schools. Waldorf education arose from Rudolf Steiner’s teachings, but at their core those teaching have little to do with education. Steiner was fundamentally a religious leader, the head of the spiritual movement he founded and named Anthroposophy. Thus, his “core mission” involved such spiritual subjects as karma and reincarnation.
According to Steiner, “spiritual science” — also known as occult science — is the use of clairvoyance to study the spirit realm. This is the essence of Anthroposophy, and thus it is the basis of Waldorf education. Waldorf schools often affirm their reliance on the "insights" of Rudolf Steiner, which are embodied in the doctrines of Anthroposophy. But if clairvoyance does not exist, then there is no such thing as spiritual science, and hence there is no basis for Waldorf education. And that is the reality. We have no reliable evidence that clairvoyance exists. The whole business is a delusion. [See, e.g., “Clairvoyance”, “Exactly”, "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness", and “Why, Oh Why, Oh Why?”]
Concerning the “current divisions in the anthroposophic movement”: Like other religions (for this is what it really is), Anthroposophy is riven by doctrinal schisms. Some of these divisions arose in Steiner’s time, and some have worsened in the ensuing years.
As for Steiner’s take on evolution: He was actually dismissive of Darwin, arguing that human beings did not evolve from animals, but instead animals evolved from us. In this, of course, Steiner was wrong, and this is merely one instance of the many errors embedded in Steiner’s teachings and, thus, in the underlying beliefs of Waldorf faculties. [See, e.g., “Evolution, Anyone?” and “Steiner’s Blunders”.]*
* Would a Waldorf school teach its students that animals evolved from humans? Waldorf schools usually claim that they do not teach the students Anthroposophy, so the answer should be no, they don't press Steiner's views of evolution. At the Waldorf school I attended, Steiner's backward conception of evolution was not taught. Technically. That is, we were not taught, in class, that animals evolved from humans. But the headmaster of the school propounded backward evolution one afternoon in an assembly attended by all the students in the upper four grades. Perhaps this is not, technically, teaching Anthroposophy. But the difference is so slight as to be negligible. The chief authority figure in the school told us, one and all, that animals evolved from humans. I can also report that, when one student expressed some doubts about backward evolution, the headmaster called the student into his office and again repeated the doctrine of backward evolution. I know. I was the student. And the point is this: Although our headmaster — John Fentress Gardner — did not, technically, teach us backward evolution, he was so committed to the doctrine that he took time from his busy schedule in an effort to ensure that all doubts about the truth of backward evolution were expunged from each last student's mind.
From the Ethereal Kiosk:
“no waldorf without anthroposophy
“...Heiner Ullrich, professor of education, says...that although anthroposophy isn’t taught, the waldorf school is immersed in it and cannot be understood without tracing the ideas back to Steiner; to believe it’s possible to have waldorf education without Steiner philosophy is a mistake.
“...He then explains that waldorf functions as a replacement for a religious community. And waldorf education becomes a kind of life project, not just an education. For many children, he says, waldorf is not a good match, and they can feel trapped and want to get out. (Indeed.)
“He also criticizes the lack of scientific foundation in the teacher training, the absence of school books and the practice of having one teacher teach the class for eight years.” [2-2-2012 https://zooey.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/no-waldorf-without-anthroposophy/]
These are all important points.
Waldorf schools often claim that they do not teach Anthroposophy to the students, and in large measure this is true. Yet students tend to graduate from the schools having internalized many Anthroposophical beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. The truth is that Anthroposophy suffuses the entire Waldorf curriculum, and many activities — such as the special Anthroposophical form of dance called eurythmy — are specifically designed to work upon the students’ souls and spirits. (In Anthroposophical belief, soul and spirit are different.)
Anthroposophists claim that their system is a science, not a religion. But almost any objective observer will see Anthroposophy as a religion: It entails prayer, meditation, reverence, efforts to fulfill the will of the gods, and so forth — it exhibits many clear religious markers.
Waldorf teacher training is largely devoted to the study of Anthroposophical texts and doctrines, with little reference to educational studies or practices outside the Waldorf universe. Teaching in Waldorf schools can suffer greatly, both because of the nature of the training and because teachers are expected to stay with their classes for many years, shepherding a group from the earliest grades through middle school or even to the end of junior high. Thus, a single teacher is expected to teach a wide array of subjects (math, geography, history, literature...) at a wide array of grade levels. No teacher is truly qualified to do this. The Waldorf system assures that at least some subjects, at some grade levels, will be badly taught.
For more on some of these matters, see “Spiritual Agenda (We Don’t Teach It)”, “Sneaking It In”, “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”, “Curriculum”, “Eurythmy”, and “Teacher Training”. To read some reports by and about individuals who became disillusioned with Waldorf education or who felt trapped in Waldorf schools, see "Our Experience", "Coming Undone", "Slaps", "Moms", and "Pops".
From the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, California, USA:
“Biodynamic Agriculture Lecture and Workshop
“...Plus! Special Tree Planting and Blessing
“Probably the most comprehensive system of organic and sustainable farming in the world, Biodynamics was developed by Rudolf Steiner in 1924, just as European growers first began to notice that their crops were losing their vitality, and the chemical industry was beginning to pour synthetic fertilizers into agriculture. With its unique insight into holistic life systems and the relationship of the earth and the universe, biodynamics offers unique approaches to heal and steward our planet.” [2-1-2012 http://www.waldorfpeninsula.org/calendar/biodynamic.html]
Biodynamic agriculture is one of Rudolf Steiner’s less harmful initiatives. However, like everything else he bequeathed us, it is infused with his brand of spiritualism and astrology. See, e.g., “Biodynamics”.
Many Waldorf schools have biodynamic gardens, and often students are required to work in them. “The gardening class is an obligatory part of the education.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 65. This is one of the ways that Waldorf schools lead students toward acceptance of Steiner’s worldview.
One of the texts in which Steiner speaks
about some of the matters currently being discussed
at the Anthroposophy Tomorrow website.
[Anthroposophic Press, 1996]
“Anthroposophical Guidelines - 77
“77. If one wishes to evoke a mental image of the second hierarchy (Kyriotetes, Dynameis, Exusiai),* one must try to form images in which the spiritual is manifested not in sense-perceptible forms, but in a purely spiritual way. The spiritual in non-sense perceptible, purely spiritual imagery must be the content of thoughts about the second hierarchy.” [2-1-2012 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/anthroposophy_tomorrow/message/49328]
The ideology underlying Waldorf education is the new-age religion invented by Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy. (The word means knowledge or wisdom of man.) It is a polytheistic faith. Many people have the impression that Waldorf education is essentially Christian, since Anthroposophy attaches great importance to Christ. But the Christ described in Anthroposophy is not the Son of God in the usual sense, He is a separate god, specifically the god worshipped in other faiths as the Sun God. [See “Was He Christian?” and “Sun God”.]**
Anthroposophy recognizes many, many gods, ranging from gods just a bit more highly evolved than human beings, all the way up to gods who are almost incomprehensibly higher than human beings. Many different names are used for the various types of gods, but in general this is the lineup, from highest to lowest:
Spirits of Love
Spirits of the Harmonies
Spirits of Will
Spirits of Wisdom
Spirits of Movement
Spirits of Form
Spirits of Personality
Spirits of Fire
Sons of Twilight
There are three “hierarchies” of gods, as shown in this list. The last three types of gods inhabit the lowest or third hierarchy.*** Above them are the gods of the second hierarchy, and higher still are the gods of the first hierarchy. Above them all is the Godhead — the divine creative will responsible for all of existence. We human beings will evolve upward to pass through all of these levels and eventually become the highest god. “[W]e shall have gradually achieved the transformation of our own being into what is called in Christianity ‘the Father.’” — Rudolf Steiner, THE LORD’S PRAYER (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007), p. 17.
The essential point to grasp is that Waldorf schooling is built upon Anthroposophy, which means that these religious doctrines underlie almost everything that occurs in Waldorf schools, even if the doctrines themselves are rarely stated openly. [For more on the doctrines about hierarchies, see “Polytheism”, “God”, “The Father”, and “Tenth Hierarchy”.]
* The gods of the second hierarchy are also referred to as Spirits of Form, Spirits of Movement, and Spirits of Wisdom. Thus, Spirits of Form are essentially the same as Exusiai, Spirits of Movement are equivalent to Dynameis, and Spirits of Wisdom are equal to Kyriotetes. Other names are also used on occasion, sometimes denoting differences between gods standing at the same level. ("Abnormal" gods of a given rank have lagged behind their "normal" counterparts and operate at a lower level.)
** Steiner sometimes spoke of Christ as an incarnation of the Godhead — which, in a sense, everything is. On other occasions, he said Christ was one of the many avatars — gods who have come to Earth. “The greatest avatar being who has lived on earth, as you can gather from the spirit of our lectures here, is the Christ — the Being whom we designated as the Christ, and who took possession of the body of Jesus of Nazareth when he was thirty years of age.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE PRINCIPLE OF SPIRITUAL ECONOMY (Anthroposophic Press, 1986) lecture 2, GA 109. [See "Avatars".]
*** Sometimes the term “hierarchy” is used differently, and it then applies to any level of divinity. In that case, there are nine "hierarchies" below the Godhead. Similarly. when Anthroposophists speak of the gods, they sometimes use the term "hierarchies" as a synonym for "gods."