WALDORF / STEINER
October , 2011
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.
As reported here previously, Waldorf schools often have shockingly low immunization rates.
“The Waldorf School of the Peninsula [California, USA]...provides the following quote on the ‘Spirit of Waldorf Education’: ‘The Free Waldorf School was founded upon the impulse for social change, upon the need to reform society into a community that takes into account the true Being of Humanity....’
“So I suppose I should not be surprised to see this:
“Yet I am surprised — surprised and disappointed. This is a very dangerous level of immunization — the level where herd immunity gets lost, disease reservoirs are established, and children emerge from their school to infect infants, immunocompromised adults, and people whose vaccinations didn't take or have waned, with potentially fatal diseases.
“We spent most of the last century trying to stamp out the infectious diseases that used to cripple and kill hundreds and thousands of people every year. Sometimes it seems like the Bobo elites plan to spend the 21st century bringing them all back.” [10-31-2011 http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/10/a-shocking-chart-on-vaccination/247651/]
Waldorf schools are part of a “reform” movement — the Anthroposophical movement — that aims to remake all human institutions in accordance with the mystical visions of Anthroposophy. Sadly, the movement is essentially backward and superstitious. Rudolf Steiner warned against vaccination because, among other dark fantasies, he said that black magicians will create vaccines that destroy human spirituality. [See “Steiner’s Quackery”.]
Another posting re. the chart above:
"The most dangerous school in Los Altos
"A week or so ago, Matt Richtel wrote a long and glowing profile of the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, looking into the apparent irony that a Silicon Valley school is decidedly low-tech; he quoted one parent, Alan Eagle, a senior Google employee, as saying that 'I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school'.
"But there’s more to technological progress than iPads. And I wonder what Alan Eagle would say if he knew that fear of life-saving technology at the Waldorf School is exposing his children to a much-heightened risk of painful, untimely, and easily-preventable death.
"The first thing to say about this tragic chart is that both Los Altos city and Santa Clara county have extremely low immunization rates. The right level of immunization is 100% ... No responsible parent would ever let their child attend a school with a 23% immunization rate. And indeed there’s a strong case to be made that public-health officials should simply refuse to allow any such school to open its doors unless and until that rate improves." [11-1-2011 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/11/01/the-most-dangerous-school-in-los-altos/]
A related item:
“Ten percent of all kindergarteners in California go to schools where rates of personal belief exemptions (PBEs) from school vaccination requirements exceed 5 percent ... One-third of kindergarteners with one or more PBEs attended schools where the PBE rate was greater than 20 percent. Waldorf schools were found to be the most strongly associated with PBEs.” [10-31-2011 http://www.doctorslounge.com/index.php/news/pb/24194]
Biodynamic agriculture and gardening are forms of organic farming based on indications given by Rudolf Steiner. Waldorf schools often have biodynamic gardens, and the children may be required to work in them. [See GARDENING CLASSES AT THE WALDORF SCHOOLS, by Rudolf Krause (Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening Association, 1992). "[G]arden work should be an obligatory addition to the lessons." — Rudolf Steiner, p. 2.]
From the Anthroposophical news service, NNA:
“The Swiss Parliament will shortly have to deal with the question of whether cows should keep their horns or not. An initiative by Swiss citizens has recently put forward a draft parliamentary bill dealing with this issue, which has been signed by an astounding number of people... In biodynamic and organic agriculture [sic] it is...held that animals should be left as they are. The removal of the horns of cows is not allowed in farming which follows [Anthroposophical] guidelines; they stipulate that cows must be allowed to keep their horns. The founder of biodynamic agriculture, Rudolf Steiner, pointed out as long ago as 1924 in a lecture at the Koberwitz estate in Silesia that horns should be considered as an important organ and that they were connected with the metabolism.” [10-31-2011 http://www.nna-news.org/news/en/]
The article fails to mention that cow horns and other animals parts are used for magical purposes in biodynamic agriculture. Steiner said that manure should be packed into cow horns, buried, dug up, and then used to create a fertilising potion. “Horn Manure is cow manure that has been fermented in the soil over winter inside a cow horn ... Before being applied very small amounts...are dissolved in water and stirred rigorously for one whole hour. This is done by stirring (preferably by hand) in one direction in such a way that a deep crater is formed in the stirring vessel (bucket, barrel). Then the direction is changed, the water seethes and slowly a new crater is formed. Each time a well-formed crater is achieved the direction is changed until the full hour is completed. In this way the dynamic effects concentrated in the prepared manure...are released into the rhythmically moved water and become effective for soil and plant.” — “Biodynamic Frequently Asked Questions” [see “Biodynamics”].
All of this should be done while carefully observing astrological circumstances. "The times indicated are those the author deems to be the first choice periods for working the soil, applying biodynamic preparations, sowing seed, or working with plants in general. • January 22 – Moon occults Uranus @ 0:29 pm • February 2 – Moon occults Saturn @ 6:34 pm [etc.]" — Biodynamics.com [see “Biodynamics”].
Of course, cow horns can be harvested after cattle are slaughtered. Whether there is any rational justification for using the horns of any cows for the purposes described here is, of course, a different question. The unhappy truth is that superstition looms large in and around Waldorf schools. [See "Superstition".]
Wet-on-wet painting of the kind done in Waldorf schools,
usually on special paper having rounded corners. Such "watery paint blobs [are]
designed to expunge the thought, care and even correction needed to apply straight lines
and geometric thinking that children develop with traditional drawing, painting...."
The following is a commentary on a story reported here recently, telling that a Steiner "stream" or curriculum has been dropped from a public school in Victoria, Australia:
“Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy is a religion in every way and should not be tolerated in a serious education system ... Victorians [i.e., residents of Victoria] can be grateful for the Education Department action in removing what I confidently predict (without any Steiner clairvoyance) was a school council heavily weighted in favour of psuedoscience and religion dressed up as education. Simple cult observance...
“Clearly Steiner education is designed to propagate religious beliefs. Parents are given no say in their childrens ‘education’ under the Steiner banner. Steiner School curricula cannot possibly comply with Government regulations. The inherent racism in Steiner’s teachings are manifest. We need to accept that Waldorf schools hide the truth of their extreme religion from education authorities and prospective recruits alike. In respect of the previous point Steiner Education is to be regarded as a cult. “ [10-30-2011 http://luckylosing.com/tag/steiner-education/]
“The Waldorf School of the Peninsula does not lack in funds, nor is it a low performing school ... The Waldorf School subscribes to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks ... A teacher at the Waldorf school, who was formerly a computer engineer, teaches fractions by having the students cut up food.” [10-30-2011 http://www.theborneopost.com/2011/10/30/old-school-new-school/]
One of the most creative things about Waldorf schools is their ability to describe themselves without mentioning their actual purposes or beliefs. The author of this story in THE BORNEO POST seems not to have been told about Anthroposophy; there is no reference to it in the article. This is typical of much press coverage of Waldorf schools — reporters working on deadline interview Waldorf representatives, quote or paraphrase them in good faith, and move on to the next assignment, none the wiser.
What is the actual essence of Waldorf education?
“If...we are asked what the basis of a new method of education should be, our answer is: Anthroposophy must be that basis. But how many people there are, even in our own circles, who try to disclaim Anthroposophy as much as possible, and to propagate an education without letting it be known that Anthroposophy is behind it." — Rudolf Steiner, THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD (SteinerBooks, 1995), p. 4.
As for what this means in practice, there are various ways to put it. They all boil down to affirming the mystic doctrines of Anthroposophy, such as:
“[Waldorf] education is essentially grounded on the recognition of the child as a spiritual being, with a varying number of incarnations behind him, who is returning at birth into the physical world ... Teachers too will know that it is their task to help the child to make use of his body, to help his soul-spiritual forces to find expression through it, rather than regarding it as their duty to cram him with information....” — Anthroposophist Stewart C. Easton, MAN AND WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989), pp. 388-389.*
“Waldorf education strives to create a place in which the highest beings [i.e., gods], including the Christ, can find their home....” — Anthroposophist Joan Almon, WHAT IS A WALDORF KINDERGARTEN? (SteinerBooks, 2007), p. 53.
“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.” — Waldorf teacher Roberto Trostli, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING: What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents & Teachers (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 4-5.
“[T]he purpose of [Waldorf] education is to help the individual fulfill his karma.” — Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 52.
I just thought I would mention it.
* Cramming kids with information — that is, teaching them things — is indeed low on the list of Waldorf priorities. Look at what Easton's colleagues identify as Waldorf goals in these very passages.
[Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996]
From the publisher: "1879 marked the return of the solar spirit Michael - the Archangel of the Sun - to oversee earthly evolution.
Steiner always placed his life and work in the service of Michael's evolutionary task.
And he recognized that, at the beginning of the twentieth century, humanity emerged from the Kali Yuga, or Dark Age, and entered the Age of Light.
Against this background, Steiner described the ascent of Michael as cosmic ruler,
his battle with the 'dragon' of the spirits of darkness, and his roles as the countenance of Christ and the guardian of cosmic intelligence."
"In September, the London Waldorf School [Ontario, Canada] held its traditional annual grade-school pageant, 'Saint Michael and the Dragon' in the school’s Great Hall. The Michaelmas Festival, which includes all grade-school students, marks the arrival of the autumn as the days grow longer and we prepare for the dark winter months...
"London Waldorf School board trustee Cara Maurer spoke briefly about the Giving Campaign ... The parent community was urged by Ms. Maurer to keep the campaign in their hearts as a sign of the strength and energy of the school’s community." [10-29-2011 http://www.lfpress.com/comment/2011/10/28/18893561.html]
Religious festivals such as Michaelmas are an important part of the annual schedule at most Waldorf schools. Although nominally a Christian observance, Michaelmas has unique, esoteric meaning in Waldorf belief.
Fundraising is a constant priority at many Waldorf schools, which helps explain — at least in part — why many of the schools are eager to be accepted into public school systems and thus receive government funding. The danger for the schools is that government funding may also mean government supervision, which could force the schools to uproot the mysticism that grows so luxuriantly within them now. From some perspectives, this might be a very good thing.
* Because of the importance of the source of this item — Harvard — I am making an exception and including it even though reading the full text requires a subscription. Generally I include only items that are freely available to everyone.
"In the quest to fix ailing schools, should we slow down to move faster?
"Just as the handmade, home-farmed foodie movement is transforming how consumers view processed food, is education’s equivalent — Waldorf-style schooling that favors hands-on art and personal exploration while shunning textbooks and technology — just what school reform needs?
"It sounds counterintuitive for struggling students to spend class time on, say, knitting and drawing. Yet, a small but growing number of public schools are embracing Waldorf methods in hopes of engaging students in ways advocates say traditional approaches do not — and raising test scores along the way.
"Once a private school model chosen by mostly middle- and upper-middle-class families for its child-centered, developmental approach to schooling, the number of Waldorf-inspired public schools has risen quickly, from a dozen in 2000 to 45 in 2010, with another 30 expected to open this year, according to the Alliance for Public Waldorf Education, a non-profit membership group for public Waldorf schools. Many are charter schools." [10-29-2011 http://www.hepg.org/hel/article/515]*
It should not be impossible for Waldorf schools to offer solid academic programs, although their history is not reassuring. [See "Academic Standards at Waldorf".] "Waldorf-inspired" schools may do better, using Waldorf-like methods without the baggage of the mystic Waldorf belief system.** The problem there is whether Waldorf methods make sense without the underlying justification provided by the belief system. [See "Methods" and "Spiritual Agenda".] There is not yet sufficient evidence to draw firm conclusions about the value of "Waldorf-inspired" schooling. For Waldorf schools where the belief system is still central, the question becomes this: Even if these schools provide a good education in basic subjects such as math and English, should students be subjected to Anthroposophical indoctrination? Does the former outweigh the latter? [See, e.g., "Soul School" and "Beat".]
** What, for instance, was Rudolf Steiner's most significant educational insight? Warning: It involves the incarnation of invisible bodies. See "Incarnation" and "Most Significant". Bear in mind, as well, that some "Waldorf-inspired" schools are actually deeply committed to Anthroposophical mysticism; they do not yet call themselves full-fledged Waldorf schools only because they have not yet been wholly accepted into the Waldorf network.
[Anthroposophic Press, 2002]
From the back cover:
"Radical, thought-provoking, and indeed mind-boggling, this book can lead to a completely new way of looking at what it means to be human —
a spiritual being in a universe that is not just physical, but psychic and spiritual as well ... Steiner begins by describing what happens after we die.
He shows the relationship between our physical life on earth and the etheric, astral, and spiritual life of the cosmos ...
Steiner takes as his guide our three states of being — waking, dreaming, and sleeping. He describes what happens in these three states,
and how each is bound up with our lives as physical, psychic, and spiritual beings."
“anthroposophy - noun
“a system for teaching and helping people to become as mentally and physically healthy as possible “ [10-29-2011 http://oald8.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/dictionary/anthroposophy]
Sometimes even authoritative sources can be surprisingly superficial and misleading. Adherents of almost any form of education, social service, or spiritual guidance would describe their system in such terms.
THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA comes much closer:
“philosophy based on the premise that the human intellect has the ability to contact spiritual worlds. It was formulated by Rudolf Steiner...who postulated the existence of a spiritual world comprehensible to pure thought but fully accessible only to the faculties of knowledge latent in all humans. He regarded human beings as having originally participated in the spiritual processes of the world through a dreamlike consciousness. Because Steiner claimed that an enhanced consciousness can again perceive spiritual worlds, he attempted to develop a faculty for spiritual perception independent of the senses.” [http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/27550/anthroposophy]
The “faculties of knowledge,” “enhanced consciousness”, and “spiritual perception” are, in a word, clairvoyance. Steiner said that ancient peoples had a form of natural clairvoyance — this is the “dreamlike consciousness” they possessed. Waldorf schools believe that children under the age of 7 have a remnant of this consciousness today, which is why the schools try to prevent children from maturing too quickly. The goal of Anthroposophists is to develop a new, higher form of clairvoyance suitable to the modern world, what Steiner called "exact clairvoyance." Anthroposophy, by Steiner's own definition, is the "occult science" of studying the spirit realm through the use of this psychic power. [See “Exactly” and “Thinking Cap”.]
"‘Social Inclusion: Preventing the Cycle of Bullying and Teasing’
"The first in a series on social inclusion and bullying will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Emerson Waldorf School, 6211 New Jericho Road in Chapel Hill [North Carolina, USA]. Bullying is a problem for kids ages 8 to 15 but can begin in subtle ways in younger years. The purpose of this series is to support social resiliency in children. The series will begin Oct. 27 and continue Nov. 3, 10 and 17 from 9 to 11 a.m. The series is free and open to the public, though donations will be accepted." [10-25-2011 http://www.aconews.com/articles/2011/10/26/noc/news/news6.txt]
It is often said that there is an epidemic of bullying in American schools today. Parents are often desperate to move their children to safer environments. Sometimes Waldorf schools provide such environments. But, sadly, sometimes they don't. There have been many reports of bullying in Waldorf schools. Sometimes Waldorf faculties actually look away from bullying, in the belief that some children have a karmic need to bully and others have a karmic need to be bullied. [See "Karma" and "Slaps".]
Any genuine efforts by Waldorf schools to address the problem of bullying are, of course, meritorious and should be recognized as such.
"The Yallingap Steiner School Community [Australia] acknowledges the Wardandi people as traditional owners of the land on which our school stands." [10-28-2011 http://www.yss.wa.edu.au/sites/default/files/term_4_week_2_24.pdf]
Waldorf and Steiner schools today often strive to demonstrate freedom from racial bias. Some of these efforts are more convincing than others. But none will be wholly convincing until the schools clearly and explicitly renounce the racism in their fundamental belief system, Anthroposophy. The founder of Anthroposophy and Waldorf schooling made such statements as this: “A race or nation stands so much the higher, the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal human type ... The evolution of man through the incarnations in ever higher national and racial forms is thus a process of liberation [leading to] an ideal future.” — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 149. Note that this book is one of the central Anthroposophical texts.
Waldorf spokespeople must unequivocally — and truthfully — renounce the idea that some races are higher than others. Until they do, the Waldorf movement will remain stained by inherent racism.
“Living With ESP Is Not as Cool as It Sounds
“...I know I can't be the only one who can 'sense' things before they happen. And even though you may not believe me, I know (or perhaps just 'sense') that there's got to be something to this, even if those of us who get these feelings when they least expect them can't necessarily prove it. [10-26-2011 http://thestir.cafemom.com/healthy_living/127809/living_with_esp_is_not]
Not all waldorf teachers think they are clairvoyant, but many do; and those who are not clairvoyant are supposed to follow the guidance of those who say they are. "Not every Waldorf teacher has the gift of clairvoyance, but every one of them has accepted wholeheartedly and with full understanding the results of [clairvoyant] spiritual-scientific investigation concerning the human being.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), Vol. 2, p. 224. See “The Waldorf Teacher’s Consciousness”.
The problem in all this is that clairvoyance is a delusion; it does not exist. "After thousands of experiments, a reproducible ESP phenomenon has never been discovered, nor has any individual convincingly demonstrated a psychic ability.” — David G. Myers, PSYCHOLOGY (Worth Publishers, 2004), p. 260. See “Clairvoyance”.
The implications for Waldorf education are staggering. Waldorf education hinges on clairvoyance, which does not exist. There is, therefore, no hinge (or, if you prefer, justification) for Waldorf education.
“Rosie O'Donnell may not end up saving the Oprah Winfrey Network ... But if ‘The Rosie Show,’ her new, nightly talk show...does not find ratings success, it won't be because [etc., etc.]
“Of her kids attending one of the Chicago area's Waldorf schools, she said, 'I don't know how well they're going to do in life, but they can knit and do yoga.'" [10-25-2011 http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/tv/ct-ent-1026-rosie-show-review-20111025,0,4857724.column]
Waldorf schools claim to educate the “whole child” — head, heart and hands. Accordingly, Waldorf students do a lot of handwork, such as knitting. If nothing else, this helps fills the time left empty by the minimal academic work expected of the kids. [See “Holistic Education” and “Academic Standards at Waldorf”.]
According to the founder of Waldorf schooling, Rudolf Steiner, yoga is one of the justified paths to spiritual enlightenment (although it is really only appropriate for people at lower levels of evolution). Not all Waldorf schools teach the kids yoga, but some do — if not during regular school hours, then after. [See “Yoga”.]
Here is another response to the recent NEW YORK TIMES article about computers and Waldorf schools:
“The Waldorf schools don’t realize the value of technology in the classroom, but apparently they do understand the value of a dollar.
“Schools near Silicon Valley [California, USA] cost nearly $18,000 per year ... These same schools are scrambling for government handouts to put computers in classrooms, while Waldorf schools are being paid a boatload to teach without them....
“[I]f a school is raking in that kind of money and has no plans of becoming a technological Mecca, those kids better be playing on a three-story jungle gym made of gold....
“Now, do I want a tablet and smart phone for every child? No ... [B]ut guided learning of technology, taken in moderation, allows students to flourish later on in their academic careers....
“It’s only by growing up on current technology that innovative minds will forge something greater for future generations.” [10-26-2011 http://royalpurplenews.com/?p=4003]
“Parents at an inner-city primary school have been left reeling after the Education Department yesterday moved to sack the school council and scrap the alternative Steiner curriculum without consultation. Almost half the 280 students at Footscray City Primary [Victoria, Australia] are in the Steiner stream ... But parents were shocked to receive a letter when they picked up their children from school yesterday informing them the Steiner stream would cease at the end of the year. School council president Tim Sharkey, who learnt of the intervention from his son, said he would seek legal advice about the lack of consultation ... Acting deputy secretary John Allman said the department was also proposing the school council be removed to give the school a ‘fresh start' ... Mr Allman said the department had been concerned about the operation of Footscray City Primary and the outcomes of students for seven to eight years ... Education Department regional director Katherine Henderson said despite efforts over the past 10 years to build a harmonious relationship between the two streams, the department now considered it no longer in the best interests of children to run a dual-stream curriculum ... Mr Allman denied the decision was about Steiner education” [10-27-2011 http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/steiner-program-axed-in-school-shakeup-20111026-1mk8a.html#ixzz1bv4k1X6X]
By some accounts, the Steiner stream has been involved in financial problems for some time, allegations denied by supporters of the stream. From a 2008 report: "Cornelius Chidlow, whose child used to attend Footscray City, told The Age he believed money had been moved around to favour the Steiner stream. Mr Chidlow told Star last week that he was one of many parents that were outraged about the waste of public funds ... 'Nobody can see the link between payments at Footscray City Primary School and what the money has been spent on,' Mr Chidlow said. 'It’s a total disaster. We have been able to find several instances of breaches and irregular activity, but we are sure there is more to uncover.' Documents obtained through Freedom of Information show a sharp decrease in the school’s bank account since the stream was introduced to the curriculum. In 2001, the school’s bank balance was $305,998. The margin dipped dramatically two years later to $47,548 ... Footscray City Primary School Acting Principal Annia Dear did not respond to specific questions Star asked about the Steiner stream, but said a Melbourne University review last year found the school’s audit reports to be sound." [http://www.starnewsgroup.com.au/star/footscray-yarraville/169/story/66852.html]
* Here's one pithy answer: "It's anthroposophical education. Anthroposophy is Rudolf Steiner's esoteric religion." [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/21851]
This is one of the mystical triptychs in the Anthroposophical headquarters building,
Waldorf schools, which base their work on the doctrines of Anthroposophy, are effectively churches
staffed by teachers who think of themselves as priests. [See "Schools as Churches".]
[R. R. sketch, 2014.]
“When I started looking into definitions and descriptions of Waldorf education, more than fifteen years ago, I believed it would be easy to find, say, a pithy paragraph in Rudolf Steiner’s work that would begin, 'Waldorf education is…' But such a paragraph doesn’t exist. So I looked at the work of Henry Barnes, Jeffrey Kane, Eugene Schwartz, Steve Talbott, Douglas Sloan, and other very smart writers and thinkers about Waldorf education. All of them had lots of good things to say, but none had a synopsis that could fuel the elevator speech or the dinner table introduction.” [10-25-2011 http://ssagarin.blogspot.com/2011/10/elevator-speech-what-is-waldorf.html]*
Finding such a definition can indeed be difficult. The main reason is that Waldorf education is based on Anthroposophy, which is a system of occult spiritual knowledge. The key Anthroposophical text is Rudolf Steiner’s AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE. By “occult,” Steiner meant hidden or secret. So, Waldorf education is based on secret knowledge that you are not supposed to have. This makes things difficult.
But here are a few pointers, by Waldorf teachers and by Steiner himself. You might note that, according to these sources (who presumably are privy to the secret, inside knowledge), Waldorf education does not primarily concern itself with conveying real-world information to students. Instead, the purpose is to assist the gods in helping children to incarnate, fulfill their karmas, and blossom as spiritual beings. Waldorf classes are, in effect, forms of divine service.
• “According to Steiner, the human being is composed of various 'members' or 'bodies' ... The first member of the human being is the physical body ... Steiner called the second member of the human being the etheric body. He also named this [invisible] body the life body or body of formative forces ... [T]he third member of the human being is the 'astral' body. This [invisible] body is also called the 'sentient body,' for it allows us to perceive sensations ... [W]e also have [a highest, invisible] body — the I — which...allows us to be conscious of ourselves ... Waldorf education is based upon the recognition that the four bodies of the human being develop and mature at different times.”** — Waldorf teacher Roberto Trostli, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING: What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents & Teachers (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 2-5.
• "From the spiritual world the human being comes into earthly incarnation with certain tendencies, potentialities and ambitions, acquired as a result of experiences in previous existences*** ... [T]he purpose of [Waldorf] education is to help the individual fulfill his karma. The teacher is an intermediary and his task is to guide the incarnating individualities [i.e., children] into the physical world and equip them for earthly existence, bearing in mind what they bring with them from the past and what they are likely to take with them into the future.” — Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 52.****
• "We [Waldorf teachers] want to be aware that physical existence is a continuation of the spiritual, and that what we have to do in education is a continuation of what higher beings [the gods] have done without our assistance. Our form of educating can have the correct attitude only when we are aware that our work with young people is a continuation of what higher beings have done before birth." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 37.*****
• "[W]e feel direct contact with the spiritual world, which is incarnating and unfolding before our very eyes, right here in the sensory world. Such an experience provides a sense of responsibility toward one’s tasks as a teacher, and with the necessary care, the art of education attains the quality of a religious service. Then, amid all our practical tasks, we feel that the gods themselves have sent the human being into this earthly existence, and they have entrusted the child to us for education. With the incarnating child, the gods have given us enigmas that inspire the most beautiful divine service." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 161.*****
** See “Incarnation”. The Waldorf curriculum is geared to the arrival of these bodies. [See "Most Significant".]
*** See “Karma”. The doctrine of karma is tied to belief in reincarnation. Waldorf teachers believe that children had many lives before their current incarnations on Earth, and they will have many more lives to come.
**** How can Waldorf teachers know what children had in their past lives and what they will carry into their future lives? By using “occult science” or “spiritual science” — i.e., “exact” clairvoyance. [See “Exactly” and “The Waldorf Teacher’s Consciousness”.]
***** The Waldorf belief system is polytheistic. [See “Polytheism”.] Waldorf teachers seek to serve the gods. “Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that...we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods....” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.
****** Waldorf schools are, in effect, Anthroposophic churches, and the faculty are the priests. "The position of teacher becomes a kind of priestly office....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 23. This is why, for instance, each day at a Waldorf school typically begins with prayers recited in unison by teachers and students. [See “Prayers”.]
From THE WASHINGTON POST:
“THE NEW YORK TIMES this weekend published a story on the popularity of the Waldorf School philosophy, which encourages delaying exposure to technology. The story has drawn hundreds of comments and is one of the paper’s most e-mailed today. Parents seem to be connecting to the idea that we’ve allowed too many electronics in today’s classrooms.
“...That new statement has inspired a backlash (which I wrote about earlier today) from parents who think the pediatricians are overlooking that technology has become part of the fabric of our lives.
“One reader of this morning’s post commented: “It is simply not logical in this day and age to advise no screen time. Every room in my house except the kitchen and bathrooms and my youngest child’s room, have a television, laptop or computer.”
"It’s an extension of the argument that more technology — not less — is needed in our classrooms if our children are going to succeed individually and together. So far, that’s been the argument that’s winning." [10-24-2011 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-parenting/post/waldorf-school-vs-electronic-classroom-the-new-parental-debate/2011/10/24/gIQAQumlCM_blog.html]
[Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1981;
still for sale in October, 2011]
Waldorf schools' aversion to computers reflects the Anthroposophical
fear of the arch-demon Ahriman, a monster of intellect, knowledge, and technology.
The TIMES and its respondents have largely overlooked this detail.
Here is one Anthroposophical statement on the matter:
“Ahriman finds...favourable conditions [for himself] especially in the world of the computer and digital industry.”
— Anthroposophist Sergei Prokoffief, “The Being of the Internet,”
PACIFICA JOURNAL (Anthroposophical Society in Hawaii), no. 29, 2006.
As was to be expected, last Sunday's THE NEW YORK TIMES article is still reverberating. For instance:
• “Matt Richtel, a technology reporter for the New York Times, has a front-page story about a school in Silicon Valley ... [T]he article is quite odd, in that Richtel seems to have very little idea of what kind of school he is affording a 1500-word front-page article ... [T]he students' education is shaped by a set of religious beliefs quite as specific and literal-minded as those at an evangelical Christian school.
“My wife and I worked as dorm parents in a Steiner School for special needs children in Scotland for the 1981-82 school year. On the plus side, I can vouch that the curriculum overview on the Waldorf School of the Peninsula is likely quite accurate as far as it goes....
“The rub is that the Waldorf understanding of those ‘developmental stages’ is shaped by the occult thinking of Rudolph Steiner and underpinned by Steiner's pseudo-scientific mystical formulas. These include a psychological typology that pegs children between the poles of ‘hysteria’ and ‘epilepsy’ — a duality with racist overtones, biased toward the light-skinned, outgoing, nervous ‘hysterical’ and against the dark, interior earth-bound ‘epileptic’ (the hysteric suffers from a lack of boundaries between self and the outside world; the epileptic, from a lack of connection).” [10-23-2011 http://xpostfactoid.blogspot.com/2011/10/times-leaves-out-waldorf-in-waldorf.html]
• "Waldorf is very popular in California with parents who wish they could be 'unschoolers' but for whatever reason still need schooling. Very popular on the mommy blogs with parents who think teaching a child to read is a horrible thing that should be delayed as long as possible. Why rush? they ask. Let kids be kids and sense their environment before having to sit down with books.
"Depending on when their kids switch over to public school, Waldorf kids are often far behind. Apparently they do catch up after they’re taught reading in, IIRC, third grade. But switching before then shows the big difference in academics in the early grades.
"Given how much evidence there is that early learning interventions have such positive outcomes on low SES [socioeconomic status] kids, Waldorf is not the intervention that one would recommend for these groups. It seems to work well, at least in terms of parent satisfaction, with upper middle class kids of average intelligence whose parents ascribe to its philosophies.
"Additionally, parents who care primarily about academics or whose children are of above average intelligence are not good fits for Waldorf. Especially if their kids read 'early.'” [10-25-2011 http://www.historiann.com/2011/10/23/who-ever-would-have-predicted-this/]
The recent article in THE NEW YORK TIMES about Waldorf schools and computers [see the previous item on this page] has, predictably, generated much discussion. For example,
• "[N]ot surprisingly, more of the comments are pro-Waldorf than not, including quite a few people who don't know anything about Waldorf but took at face value the idea that Waldorf is mainly about low-tech, simple, natural, low-pressure etc. I haven't read the comments closely, but from skimming I see no mention of anthroposophy." [10-23-2011 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/21841]
• "I think it is a very disappointing bit of snarky journalism that informs readers, a little bit, about Waldorf practices, condescendingly, but has as its primary purpose a not-so covert agenda to advance the paper’s ongoing attack on the use of computers in learning in its problematic series, Grading the Digital School. The Waldorf school in this piece then, and Waldorf education in general, is only a pawn for the reporter Matt Richtel’s antagonistic crusade, and I want to caution Waldorf supporters from happily accepting their work being exploited this way." [http://21k12blog.net/2011/10/23/deeply-disappointed-responding-to-the-new-york-times-article-on-waldorf-education-and-technology/]
The Waldorf aversion to computers and other high-tech gadgets is rooted in Rudolf Steiner's antipathy to modern knowledge and technology at virtually all levels. The mere use of electricity is potentially demonic, he said. "[E]lectric atoms are little demons of Evil ... [W]hen we listen to a modern physicist blandly explaining that Nature consists of electrons, we merely listen to him explaining that Nature really consists of little demons of Evil! And if we acknowledge Nature in this form, we raise Evil to the rank of the ruling world-divinity ... If we contemplate electricity today, we contemplate the images of a past moral reality that have turned into something evil." — Rudolf Steiner, “Concerning Electricity” (General Anthroposophical Society, 1940), GA 220.
But electricity is not the whole story. Even totally manual technological devices are suspect, Steiner taught. Think about typewriters, for instance (recalling that all typewriters in his day were non-electric): "We can clearly see what is happening inside the human body once we have reached the stage of clairvoyant imagination. In objective seeing such as this, every stroke of a typewriter key becomes a flash of lightning. And during the state of imagination, what one sees as the human heart is constantly struck and pierced by those lightning flashes." — Rudolf Steiner, SOUL ECONOMY: Body, Soul and Spirit in Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 2003), p. 146.
The Waldorf system, which is fundamentally anti-intellectual, hinges on the nonexistent psychic power Steiner mentioned: clairvoyance. This is what Waldorf belief system holds up as the antidote to technology, science, and modern knowledge in general. [See, e.g., "Materialism U.", "Steiner's 'Science'", "Clairvoyance", and "Steiner's Specific".]
There are good reasons for limiting computer use by children. And then there are the Waldorf reasons.
Note that the fair includes "Intro to Steiner Curriculum".
"Steiner school spring fair
"A lovely day again at the Freshwater Creek Steiner school's spring fair. A bit of an overcast rainy day didn't dampen enthusiasm...." [10-23-2011 http://missusmoonshine.blogspot.com/2011/10/steiner-school-spring-fair.html]
While Steiner schools in the northern hemisphere are celebrating fall festivals, those in the southern hemisphere are welcoming the spring. Festivals have many functions in the Steiner or Waldorf system, including recruitment of new families and students. But fundamentally, the festivals are spiritualistic or religious observances. According to the Steiner belief system, the Earth is a living being, and children should be led to coordinate their inner experiences with the spiritual/seasonal state of this being. Anthroposophists believe that the Earth exhales in the spring, holds its breath in summer, and inhales in the autumn. The occult significance is very great, involving the continual struggle between the good and evil forces of the universe. “Because the Earth is a mirror of the cosmos in the summer, it is also opaque in its inner nature, impermeable by cosmic influences ... At this time the Christ Impulse [i.e., the evolutionary impetus provided by the Sun God] has to live in the [Earth’s] exhaled breath. The Ahrimanic forces [i.e., minions of the demon Ahriman], however, establish themselves firmly in this Earth which has become impervious to the Christ Impulse ... [F]rom spiritual heights there comes to the aid of the descending human soul the force of [the archangel] Michael, who, while the Earth’s breath is flowing back into the Earth itself, contends with the Dragon, Ahriman.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE CYCLE OF THE YEAR AS BREATHING PROCESS OF THE EARTH (Anthroposophic Press, 1984), p. 11.
Also see Steiner's book THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING — Christmas, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost, Michaelmas (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996). At the surface level, festivals at Steiner schools are pleasant seasonal gatherings. At a deeper level, they are Christian observances. At a deeper level yet, they are pagan enactments of Anthroposophical doctrines.
All is not as it seems at Steiner schools...
"While other schools in the region [Silicon Valley, USA] brag about their wired classrooms, the Waldorf school embraces a simple, retro look — blackboards with colorful chalk, bookshelves with encyclopedias, wooden desks filled with workbooks and No. 2 pencils.
"On a recent Tuesday, Andie Eagle and her fifth-grade classmates refreshed their knitting skills, crisscrossing wooden needles around balls of yarn, making fabric swatches. It’s an activity the school says helps develop problem-solving, patterning, math skills and coordination. The long-term goal: make socks." [10-22-2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silicon-valley-technology-can-wait.html?_r=1]
If the long-term goal is socks, the short-term goal is dental health. “Go into our needlework classes and handicraft classes at the Waldorf School, and you will find the boys knit and crochet as well as the girls ... This is not the result of any fad or whim ... [T]o drive the soul into the fingers means to promote all the forces that go to build up sound teeth.” — Rudolf Steiner, SPIRITUAL SCIENCE AND MEDICINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1948), lecture 17, GA 312.*
It is hard for outsiders to grasp how deeply mystical and just plain bonkers Waldorf thinking is. But here you have one example.
Another: Waldorf schools downplay technology because they fear it is under the control of the demon Ahriman. “Ahriman finds such favourable conditions especially in the world of the computer and digital industry.” — Anthroposophist Sergei Prokoffief, “The Being of the Internet,” PACIFICA JOURNAL (Anthroposophical Society in Hawaii), no. 29, 2006.* To look into this matter a bit more deeply (or shallowly might be a better description), see the booklet published by a Waldorf teacher-training school, the Rudolf Steiner College: "The Computer and the Incarnation of Ahriman".
* I apologize to longtime readers, who will recognize these quotations from previous news commentaries here.
From the Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training, California, USA:
“Waldorf schools and Waldorf teachers are greatly challenged today by growing pressures from parents and society in general, to be more mainstream ... Now is not the time for us to lose our orientation. This conference...will address the profound sources which can help us keep our bearings....” [10-22-2011 http://www.bacwtt.org/inner-activityouter-demands-new-impulse-conference-february-23-25-2012-3]
To understand Waldorf education today — its “orientation” and “bearings” — you can’t do better than to examine Waldorf teacher training. To a great extent, such training consists of detailed, chapter-by-chapter study of Rudolf Steiner’s occult texts. The purpose is to ensure that Waldorf teachers are devoted Anthroposophists or at least fellow travelers, so that they can give Waldorf students the “benefit” of the mystic “truths” embedded in Anthroposophy. At its base, Waldorf education works in the service of the Waldorf religion, Anthroposophy. As one Waldorf teacher trainer has said, “I am a missionary on behalf of Rudolf Steiner.” [See, e.g., “Teacher Training”.]
On the other hand, Waldorf representatives often conceal their spiritualistic purposes by pointing out that Rudolf Steiner is long gone. They claim is that Waldorf faculties today chart their own, rational course, unconstrained by Steiner's occult doctrines. But by reviewing documents written by Waldorf teachers and Waldorf teacher-trainers, we can discern the truth, which is rather different. Rudolf Steiner’s teachings continue to rule the Waldorf system — which means that the system remains a stalking horse for Steiner’s religion, Anthroposophy. Here at Waldorf Watch, the page “Today — Waldorf for the 21st Century“ has, for some time now, presented statements by present-day Waldorf representatives. That page has now been supplemented by two more, “Today Too” and “Today 3” (the latter is still under construction). You are invited to visit.
Rudolf Steiner may not work at a typical Waldorf school today, but he presides there.
* The producer assures us that “nothing was staged or prearranged.” This may well be true. But bear in mind that the producer — Eugene Schwartz — is a famously active proponent of Waldorf education. He has no interest in giving a balanced or critical account of Waldorf schooling. Bear in mind, too, that teachers and students are sure to behave differently when a camera crew is present than at any other time. Hence, you will not be seeing normal Waldorf school activities; you will be seeing how some Waldorf teachers and students acted when put on the spot by a film crew that had a clear agenda.
"Upcoming Events at Waldorf School of Princeton [New Jersey, USA]
"'Waldorf for All': A Film Tuesday, October 11, 7:30 p.m. Explore what it is like to be a student in one of four Waldorf-inspired charter schools in CA [i.e., California] — an authentic statement of what is possible in American education. Co-sponsored by the Parent Council. All are welcome to this free event. Running time: 42 min. " [10-9-2011 http://www.princetonol.com/poldocsdocclass.cfm?doctype_code=&doc_id=5876]*
Waldorf PR efforts continue apace, and they are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Waldorf schools do indeed hope to reach all students — children with all of the four classical temperaments [see "Temperaments"] and children of all races from "low" to "high" [see "Races"].** Waldorf schools are part of a messianic movement that seeks to save humanity and indeed the entire universe by promoting the polytheistic religion called Anthroposophy.
Rudolf Steiner often spoke to Waldorf teachers about their messianic mission, for instance telling them:
"[W]e must all be permeated with the thoughts:
"First, of the seriousness of our undertaking. What we are now doing is tremendously important.
"Second, we need to comprehend our responsibility toward anthroposophy as well as the social movement.
"And, third, something that we as anthroposophists must particularly observe, namely, our responsibility toward the gods. 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. We dare not for one moment lose the feeling of the seriousness and dignity of our work." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 55.
** These are Rudolf Steiner's terms, not mine.
"In the latest Beehave* episode, 'Anne Tolley' tries to explain how Steiner schools can fail national standards yet still get everything they want ... You can view the latest episode, along with all the others, by visiting this link: http://www.beehave.co.nz Please remember to take comedy seriously. No politicians were harmed in the making of this programme." [10-18-2011 http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/CU1110/S00308/beehave-on-steiner-schools-and-national-standards.htm]
“Lately I’ve been looking at some other schools or colleges because at the end of this year, I have to leave the Steiner school I’m at now due to the fact that they only go up to GCSEs [General Certificate of Secondary Education, in the UK]. So, I’ll be attending every open day possible. This makes me so upset and just the thought of having to leave Steiner makes me want to cry! However today, my mum picked me up from my friend’s house and she said she had been looking at Michael Hall Steiner school because they do a sixth form [the final two years of secondary education] and you can board. ... [O]ne more thing to take in, the cost. My parents haven’t yet decided if they can afford it but they’re willing to look into it.” [10-19-2011 http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/steiner+school]
Many students as well as their parents love Waldorf schools. The thought of leaving can be extremely painful. One often feels a sort of romantic attachment to Waldorf. The schools are frequently beautiful, with much art on display everywhere. There is minimal academic pressure, lots of free time, and an emphasis on play, imagination, and ideals. The teachers are often highly committed and caring. Many of the worst parts of modern life are blocked out — the schools are often the centers of small, enclosed, close-knit communities that spurn commercialism, the rat race, materialism, and sexually explicit entertainment.
In brief, Waldorf schools are often quite lovely. Leaving can be hard — there are many tears when families move or when graduation day rolls around.
But there is also another source of tears at Waldorf schools. Families are often drawn to the schools without being informed about the ideological underpinnings of Waldorf education — the occult doctrines of Rudolf Steiner. Indeed, Waldorf schools often conceal these underpinnings from outsiders, and parents who enroll their children may not start to grasp the Waldorf belief system for many years. When the veil finally drops, the resulting disillusionment and sense of betrayal can be extremely bitter. Worst of all, for most, is the recognition that their children have been subjected to covert, esoteric indoctrination. Many of the most prominent critics of Waldorf education today were, for many years, deeply involved in Waldorf schools and deeply committed to them. But their love affairs with the schools ended, and they began the painful process of disengagement. To read some of their stories, see, e.g., “Our Brush with Rudolf Steiner”, “A Very Alternative Education”, “Coming Undone”, “Our Experience”, “An Open Letter to Highland Hall”, “Weird Science at Steiner School”, etc.
“Video screen time has no [proven] educational benefits for [very] young children [clarifications added]* ... [S]o warned the American Academy of Pediatrics in a report published in The New York Times ... The Waldorf School of Philadelphia [Pennsylvania, USA] have been helping parents navigate the concern of media use and child development since its inception fifteen years ago. The school has a clear media policy.” [10-20-2011 http://www.phillywaldorf.com/tv-limits-for-children-urged-by-doctors?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tv-limits-for-children-urged-by-doctors]
Most Waldorf schools discourage (or even forbid) much “screen time” for their students — that is, they are wary of TVs, computers, smart phones, and the like. To some degree, this is obviously sensible. Kids should go outdoors, run around, play with blocks and dolls...
But the Waldorf approach is extreme and rooted in mysticism. Rudolf Steiner taught that modern technology is controlled by the demon Ahriman and is dangerous for that reason. “Ahriman finds such favourable conditions especially in the world of the computer and digital industry.” — Anthroposophist Sergei Prokoffief, “The Being of the Internet,” PACIFICA JOURNAL (Anthroposophical Society in Hawaii), no. 29, 2006.
Indeed, Steiner’s followers fear the mere use of electricity. “The exploitation of electric forces — for example in information and computing technologies — spreads evil over the Earth in an immense spider’s web.” — Anthroposophist Richard Seddon, THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND: From the Work of Rudolf Steiner (Temple Lodge Publishing, 1993), p. 24.
There are good reasons for minimizing “screen time” for young children. And then there are the Waldorf reasons. [For more, see "Spiders, Dragons and Foxes" and "Ahriman".]
* The recommendation is for children two years old and younger.
This is a fairly representative example of Anthroposophical art.
[See "Anthro Art".]
From the Triilum Waldorf School, Ontario, Canada:
"Explore your inner artist ! Your choice of 4 sessions of either Anthroposophical Art Lessons or Anthroposophical Art Therapy ... Art Sessions – $300.00 ; Art Therapy sessions $400.00
"Arlene Kamo...received her diploma in Anthroposophical Art Therapy from the Tobias School of Art, England. Arlene has been offering Art Therapy in private practice for the past 10 years and is a member of AAATNA, the Association of Anthroposophical Art Therapists of North America . She has been teaching in Waldorf schools for the past 25 years." [10-17-2011 http://trilliumwaldorfauction.com/2011/10/05/anthroposophical-art-sessions-or-anthroposophical-art-therapy-sessions/]
Many forms of quack medicine are practiced in and around Waldorf schools under the heading "Anthroposophical Medicine". [See "Steiner's Quackery".] Some of the "cures" and "treatments" offered may have some merit; most have none. Anthroposophical art therapy exists only on the fringes of recognized therapeutic practice, even in Anthroposophy's homeland, Germany. The following is from the AnthroMedLibrary:
"[T]he legal situation in which art therapists find themselves in Germany has not yet been fully clarified. There are positive as well as negative aspects to this.
"On the negative side, the profession is not recognized, the code of practice is not standardized, and above all payment by the statutory medical insurance companies is not guaranteed. On the positive side, the lack of regulations or laws means that, although there is a lack of protection, there is also a great deal of freedom for committed art therapists to develop their own personal methods, to make their own arrangements, and to engage in creating their own organizations." [http://www.anthromed.org/Article.aspx?artpk=189]
“Waldorf School wants to be waste free
“Students at a local school are hoping to take the motto Reduce, Reuse and Recycle to another level. Kindergarten to Grade 8 students at the Halton Waldorf School in Burlington [Ontario, Canada] will be participating in a week-long challenge to reduce school lunch waste. It is part of the Waste Free Lunch Challenge developed by the Recycling Council of Ontario in partnership with sponsors Metro and Tetra Pak. Parents who don’t already pack zero or minimal waste lunches are asked to support the awareness campaign and contribute to teaching environmental sustainability to their children.” [10-13-2011 http://www.insidehalton.com/community/education/article/1224949--waldorf-school-wants-to-be-waste-free]
This is the sort of news coverage Waldorf schools want to see.
Waldorf schools do embrace green values, for which they should be commended.
“Perth Waldorf School [Australia]: The place where I spent some of the worst years of my life. The place where, yes, there were some nice people, but I met some of the meanest boys I have ever had the displeasure to meet. They teased me, they threw things at me, they made me angry just because it was funny, they lied to teachers so they wouldn't get in trouble, and they got away with it. You know why, because nobody cared! ... P.S. Now I will forever be remembered as the girl who was always screaming and crying at school :) thanks for that.” [10-19-2011 http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/perth+waldorf+school]
What are we to make of such postings? Many students have wonderful Waldorf experiences, so what — if anything — should we think about occasional screams of pain coming from former Waldorf students, parents, and teachers? Undoubtedly we should discount at least some of these cries, on the presumption that they come from atypical people who had atypical experiences. But it would probably be wrong to ignore all such postings. Maybe they alert us to real dangers, pointing to systemic flaws in the Waldorf system. For instance, Waldorf teachers often ignore bullying among their students, excusing it as the working of karma (some students are fated to be bullies and some are fated to be bullied, and interfering in this karma would be wrong...). Also, arguably, the Waldorf system is fundamentally abusive when it tries to lure children into occultism without the permission of the students' parents.
Posted by the Vitra Design Museum, this is a "blackboard" drawing by Rudolf Steiner, the sort he created to illustrate his lectures.
His followers persuaded him to make his lecture illustrations on black paper so that they could be rolled up and preserved.
Steiner created this drawing to illustrate his remarks about natural laws — he said the laws discovered by science apply only on the Earth
and have decreasing applicability that farther we travel from Earth.
[See Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 98.
Concerning trips away from the Earth: Steiner said we have gone to other planets in the past:
"Some soul/spirits were more suited to pursue their evolution on Saturn for the time being,
others on Mars, others again on Mercury and so on." See "Genesis".
Also, we travel to the planetary spheres during sleep and after death. See "Higher Worlds".]
“Rudolf Steiner: Alchemy of the Everyday
“Rudolf Steiner was one of the most influential - and also one of the most controversial - reformers of the twentieth century.
“He founded the Waldorf schools, inspired artists such as Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky and Joseph Beuys and is regarded as one of the key initiators of organic architecture.
“In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Steiner's birth, the Vitra Design Museum [Weil am Rhein, Germany] is now presenting the first major retrospective on his oeuvre.” [10-18-2011 http://www.dexigner.com/news/24057]
Steiner was a polymath who made “contributions” in a wide array of disciplines. These contributions are given somewhat more recognition in Central Europe, and especially Germany, than elsewhere. By and large, Steiner’s influence is confined to Anthroposophical circles.
As for alchemy — indeed, Steiner lectured on the subject and his followers take it seriously. "Alchemy has always been known in its higher manifestations as a way to contact the deeper levels of reality, described as the superhuman ‘spirits; or guiding archangels of the universe ... [A]lchemy is finally seen in Rudolf Steiner’s presentation as a step towards the cosmic understanding we will need for our future role [in cosmic evolution].” — ALCHEMY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2001), lectures by Rudolf Steiner, pp. 9-10; introduction by Andrew J. Welburn. [See "Alchemy".]
The following is from a message posted by the author of a new novel that deals, at least tangentially, with Waldorf schools. Her message is a little informative, a little defensive, and a little (or maybe more than a little) questionable:
"For the past couple of days I've been engaged in a blog-comment discussion about Rudolf Steiner and the spiritual system he created. It's called 'anthroposophy,' and it's variously described as 'occult-based' and 'Christ-centered,' which probably sounds like a contradiction in terms even though both are at least somewhat accurate. Anthroposophy is a subject I largely avoided in THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD because it's just so complex, and so wacky — Atlantis? Clairvoyance? Gnomes? — that I figured readers would dismiss the Waldorf system as a complete fabrication on my part if I even attempted to get into it.
"But it's a real thing, and the fact is that Waldorf teachers are expected to be devoted anthroposophists...
"I have spent most of my adult life connected to the LDS (Mormon) church. I was a practicing, believing Mormon for eight years — during which time, by the way, I was writing KINGDOM — followed by one year as a nonbelieving but mostly-practicing church member. I left about a year and a half ago, started attending a mainstream Protestant church instead, but maintain a friendly relationship with the LDS church...
"I don't believe in Atlantis or in gnomes, and I don't believe in Quakers on the moon, either. But I think those two guys [Joseph Smith and Rudolf Steiner] had some pretty good ideas, even so." [10-15-2011 http://www.rebeccacolemanauthor.com/2011/10/mormonism-and-anthroposophy.html]
Setting a novel in a Waldorf school community while "largely avoiding" Anthroposophy is a bit like setting a novel in Yankee Stadium while largely avoiding baseball. The point of Yankee Stadium, after all, is that it is a place for playing baseball. Likewise, the point of Waldorf schools is that they are places for applying Anthroposophy. Most Waldorf schools acknowledge this, if only indirectly, when they profess their debt to Rudolf Steiner — whose teachings are found in the tenets of Anthroposophy.
THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD may be a good novel, but — because it largely sidesteps Anthroposophy — it cannot present a reliable picture of Waldorf education. Read the novel for its literary and entertainment value, by all means. But if you want to learn about Waldorf education, look elsewhere.
"The waldorf school in Sarasota [Florida, USA] was quick to take my money but left my kid unprepared academically and unable to fit in to any other school in the area. My kid's self esteem was damaged at the next school because he was so far behind academically. The Sarasota waldorf school was no help at all. My only option was to hire a tutor which was very expensive because the new school was so concerned at how far behind he was. After making some calls, I found that there are other families who have had the same experience with this school and are very unhappy too. It is important to know what you are getting into when you enroll with this crowd." [10-15-2011 http://www.ripoffreport.com/private-schools/sarasota-waldorf-sch/sarasota-waldorf-school-took-ed381.htm]
[Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005.]
 Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (SteinerBooks, 1996), p. 60.
This is Rudolf Steiner's central text, outlining his belief system, Anthroposophy
(aka "occult science" or "spiritual science").
Waldorf education stands on this foundation.
The core of occult science is the use of clairvoyance.
Use of the brain can defeat occult science
in more ways than one.
"Rudolf Steiner, upon whose ideas the Waldorf school system was based, said that modern society is ramming intellectual thinking down our kids' throats. He says that children need to train their volition, emotions, and intellect. In fact he says that the big push for intellectual development should only come after the child has had sufficient volitional and emotional training. But this is not happening. More and more we are pushing intellectual development earlier and earlier upon our children. Violin lessons for three year olds, IT programming for five year olds and if your kid can't speak three languages by the age of ten well you might as well forget it.
"And I have to ask, wouldn't a little more attention to the will and the emotions be beneficial? Would this not help reduce the alarming rate of mental diseases that are developing in our developed nations? Would we not be a happier society if we all learnt how to choose and feel clearer instead of learning German and violin?" [10-15-2011 http://www.mediacoop.ca/story/mondays-milk/8424]
Rudolf Steiner did indeed argue against early intellectual development in children. In fact, he argued against intellect and use of the brain at all stages of life, except in severely restricted fashion. He said that in our present lives on the material plane, intellect has some uses, and he said that Waldorf schools should assist students to develop their intellects in high school. But he also said that this should happen only after kids are deeply immersed in occult fantasies (i.e., the "spiritual truths" of his doctrines), ensuring that the brain is used only to justify those fantasies, not to see through them. Among his comments on intellect and the brain are these:
"[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition; they are only the expression of cognition in the physical system.”  Real cognition, in the Waldorf belief system, is clairvoyance, which occurs in immaterial "organs of clairvoyance," not in the brain.  The brain merely mirrors the "real" thinking that occurs elsewhere.
"The intellect destroys or hinders.” 
“The brain is an instrument for purely intellectual apprehension. Intellectualism and materialistic thinking are one and the same ... This manifests itself, on the one hand, in the empty formalism of belief; on the other, in Bolshevism [sic: emphasis by Steiner] ... [T]he materialistic brain represents a process of decay: materialistic thinking unfolds only through processes of destruction, death-processes, which are taking place in the brain.” 
"Within the brain there is absolutely no thought; there is no more of thought in the brain than there is of you in the mirror in which you see yourself." 
“When we think, we die continually." 
It should come as no surprise that a man who urged his followers to believe nonsense should have instructed them to think as little as possible. But do you want to send your children to schools where the teachers want their students to leave their brains on hold as much and for as long as possible?
 "[J]ust as the eyes and ears of the physical body are built by natural forces out of living matter, so will the organs of clairvoyance build themselves....” — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., 1944), pp. 27-28. Steiner taught that no important processes occur at the merely physical level. Thus, he said that the heart is not a pump — our blood circulates for spiritual reasons. Likewise, the brain does not think — true thinking occurs in the spirit realm and is only reflected in the brain.
 Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 1 (Anthroposophical Press, 1995), p. 233. Thus, “A man who would receive Anthroposophy with his intellect kills it in the very act.” — Rudolf Steiner, LIFE, NATURE, AND CULTIVATION OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain, 1963), p. 15.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), pp. 147-148.
 Rudolf Steiner, WONDERS OF THE WORLD, ORDEALS OF THE SOUL, REVELATIONS OF THE SPIRIT (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), p. 119.
 Rudolf Steiner, BLACKBOARD DRAWINGS 1919-1924 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003), p. 56.
Here is a follow-up to a story reported here previously:
“The government [UK] has announced that the Frome Steiner Academy's bid for Free School status has been successful.* The proposal is for a new school to open in September 2012, starting with 26 places but eventually offering double stream entry through to 16 (i.e.: 644 places). It is one of 55 new, state-funded Free Schools that will open from September 2012 onwards....
“Frome will become only the second state-funded Steiner Waldorf school in the UK, joining the Steiner Academy Hereford which opened its doors in 2008.” [10-11-2011 http://news.steinerwaldorf.org/2011_10_01_archive.html]
Like conservative governments elsewhere, the current government of the United Kingdom is eager to privatize industries and services, including education. The wisdom of funding an education system based on occultism may, perhaps, be questionable. [See, e.g., "Clues", "Soul School", "Spiritual Agenda", and "Coming Undone".]
* Free schools are what in the USA are called charter schools. They are “free” because the government foots the bills; thus, students can attend for free (or at minimal expense).
The discussions at the waldorf-critics list [https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/waldorf-critics/conversations/messages] are usually worth following, even if you disagree deeply with some of the views expressed. Here is the beginning of one recent message:
“Steve Hale [an Anthroposophist] has been regularly harassing me by private email. He has been continuing the same type of attacks he tried on this list... trying to browbeat me into thinking I've been a 'bad father'.” [10-17-2011 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/21786]
The nastiness that one sometimes encounters from Anthroposophists can be startling. There are, of course, many loving, sweet, and kind Anthroposophists — and people often choose Waldorf schools for their kids thinking that the schools are centers of loving sweetness and kindness. Sometimes the schools are all these things. Sometimes they aren’t.
What causes at least some Anthroposophists to become nasty? (The waldorf-critics list has seen example after example.) True-believing Anthroposophists accept Rudolf Steiner’s almost inconceivably lunatic doctrines, which are almost impossible to defend. Yet Anthroposophists insist on defending them. This makes them testy, frustrated, and sometimes furious. There is, in other words, a fundamental insecurity or fragility that comes with believing nonsense, and this breaks out sometimes in Anthroposophical misbehavior.
True-blue Anthroposophists also tend to be self-righteous, thinking that they and Steiner are on the side of the angels while their opponents are on the side of the demons. There is no compromising with demons, of course — the way to deal with demons is to smash them. So Anthroposophists try to do a lot of smashing.
It’s a little hard to imagine Jesus or Buddha — two spiritual guides Anthroposophists revere — behaving as Anthroposophists often behave. But after all, Anthroposophists are ordinary humans, subject to the frailties and failings of mortal humanity — even if they deny this. The denial in itself causes problems. You can’t fix your faults if you do not see your faults.
Debra Snell, who served on the board of a Waldorf school, has written, “I used to watch the Waldorf teachers at parent gatherings (festivals). The teachers would stand on the stage with their arms around each other, singing songs in rounds, while parents beamed. ‘How lucky we are to have this school,’ was the mantra. Personally I was amazed by the teachers' performance as they presented a 'real' sense of unity between them. Amazed because behind closed doors, they were all backstabbers. Seemingly insecure people competing for the top position on the Anthroposophical dog pile. It was never pretty. There was a lot of acting out, both blatant and passive (aggressive). I thought it was just this school, these teachers at the time. Now I think it comes out of some very deep flaws that Anthroposophy is incapable of dealing with. At least so far.” [See “Coming Undone”.]
The thing for newcomers to do when visiting Waldorf schools is to be on guard. Try to look beyond the gleaming surface. Don’t take everything you are told on faith. Understand that when entering a Waldorf school, you are entering an alternate universe, one that is in many ways severely disconnected from reality. [See, e.g., "Clues".]
Here are two images of the human embryo as depicted by Rudolf Steiner.
On the left, the signs of the zodiac are arranged to show
the influence of the stars on various portions of the human anatomy.
[Rudolf Steiner, ASTRONOMY AND ASTROLOGY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2009), p. 89.]
On the right, the influence of the zodiac (red) and spirit-soul forces (yellow)
are depicted within an overall constellation of forces affecting an embryo.
[Rudolf Steiner, FROM COMETS TO COCAINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000, p. 23.]
[R.R. sketches, 2009, based on illustrations in the books.]
“Martha Dawson of Jaffrey [New Hampshire, USA] is an energetic businesswoman who’s co-owner of a successful local bookstore. She’s also a...longtime psychic medium, who aims to help people solve their problems ... Nowadays, Dawson can most often be found at the [bookstore], which she owns with her husband ... Their move to the Monadnock Region came about because of their young daughter Madeleine, then a student at a Waldorf school in Rhode Island. Wanting to continue her Waldorf education, they investigated others in New England, choosing one in Wilton, N.H. [New Hampshire]” [10-15-2011 http://sentinelsource.com/news/local/monadnock-profile-bookseller-artist-and-psychic-pulls-it-all-together/article_73d3d2b4-309b-5664-aaf5-d7ee2d8eed20.html]
If you are a psychic, or believe in psychics, or believe in astrology, or are an occultist, or believe in ghosts and gnomes and fairies and magicians — then indeed a Waldorf school may be exactly what you want for your children. But if you do not believe in these things, then you may want to look elsewhere.
To delve into the Waldorf view on such topics, see, e.g., “Seances”, “Superstition”, “Waldorf Astrology”, “Gnomes”, “Beings”, “Magic”, “Steiner and the Warlord”, etc.
Waldorf education and Rudolf Steiner are increasingly showing up in works of fiction. Perhaps this is where they belong. The following concerns the novel TALLENT & LOWERY 13, by Amy Lignor:
“Aleister Crowley, Jack the Ripper, Sarah Winchester, Andrew Carnegie, Rudolf Steiner – what could all these people from such completely different locations have to do with any myth or legend that may reside in the small town of Glastonbury? Well…in order to know the answer to that, one must begin the adventure.
“A hint, perhaps? Included in the puzzle is information about The Golden Dawn, which was an organization that included some pretty popular members throughout time. Aleister Crowley, Rudolf Steiner – and even the poet, Yeats – were members. The meetings that occurred between these three men at various times throughout history is yet another piece of the puzzle that heads readers straight to Glastonbury.
“This is a novel that reviewers are calling one of the best puzzles to ever be written, and the upside for all readers out there is that 13 is only the first of seven that are about to be told.” [10-17-2011 http://staugnews.com/2011/10/15/is-there-a-puzzle-to-be-solved-under-glastonbury-tor.html]
Other novels dealing with Steiner and/or Waldorf schools — reported here previously — include SOULS OF TERROR and THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD.
Michael — who in Anthroposophy
is the warrior god presiding over our age.
From the Anthroposophical Society of America:
"Archangel Michael: The Fiery Thought King of the Universe
"How Can We Know Him? Part I
“On the one hand we might think it presumptuous to recommend a conscious relationship with such an exalted being as an Archangel like the title suggests. But on the other hand our own thoughts are something with which we are intimately familiar and the fact that the being who has been called The Fiery Thought King of the Universe weaves in and out of our thought-world might make it not quite so difficult to imagine....” [10-6-2011 http://www.anthroposophy.org/nc/articles/article-detail/archive/2011/10//article/archangel-michael-the-fiery-thought-king-of-the-universe-758.html]
If you are interested in Waldorf schools, you should acquaint yourself with the thinking behind the schools — the thinking that most Waldorf teachers embrace. This is one small sample. [For more on Michael, see “Michael”. For more on the spiritual hierarchies — i.e., ranks of gods — that Waldorf teachers try to serve, see “Polytheism".]
"The Teeth: Their significance in child development, their anomalies and an anthroposophical therapeutic approach
"Author: A report from a lecture given by the anthroposophic dentist, Claus Haupt by Katherine Beaven and Caroline Westlake
"Issue: Fall 2011: Holistic Dentistry - Issue #65, Vol. 16
“In an attempt to come to a deeper understanding of the nature of the teeth, we can begin by observing their outer appearance. When looking at a picture of an enlarged molar, the impression of mountain ranges is quite striking, whereas an enlarged picture of the enamel of a tooth looks very similar to basalt pillars....” [10-16-2011 http://www.lilipoh.com/articles/2011_Issues/Fall_2011/The_Teeth.aspx]
If you are interested in Waldorf schools, you should acquaint yourself with the thinking behind the schools. This is another small sample. Teeth (like everything else) have mystic meaning in the Waldorf belief system. For instance, the replacement of baby teeth by adult teeth marks the incarnation of the "etheric body". [See "Incarnation".] Also, knitting is emphasized in Waldorf schools in order to promote dental health. “Go into our needlework classes and handicraft classes at the Waldorf School, and you will find the boys knit and crochet as well as the girls ... This is not the result of any fad or whim ... [T]o drive the soul into the fingers means to promote all the forces that go to build up sound teeth.” — Rudolf Steiner, SPIRITUAL SCIENCE AND MEDICINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1948), lecture 17, GA 312.
There is more (or should I say less?) to Waldorf than meets the eye.
A discussion of the new Waldorf-centered novel, THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD, is occurring at the English/Swedish Web site The Ethereal Kiosk. The discussion is in English and includes posting by the novelist. [10-15-2011 http://zooey.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/kingdom-of-childhood-novel/#comment-12413.]
The primary component of Waldorf teacher training is study of the occult works of Rudolf Steiner (see item #1, above). The four books named by the Center for Anthroposophy lay the foundation for Steiner's occult teachings. As the Rudolf Steiner Press has said, “[F]our titles form an indispensable introduction to [Steiner's] later teaching: Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, Theosophy, Occult Science, and The Philosophy of Freedom.” [http://www.rudolfsteinerpress.com/pages/viewbook.php?isbn_in=9781855841369]*
Waldorf teachers in training.
From the Center for Anthroposophy — New Hampshire, USA — which offers Waldorf teacher training:
"The Foundation Studies Program comprises three distinct but interrelated elements:
"1) study of the basic books of Rudolf Steiner, including How to Know Higher Worlds, Theosophy, An Outline of Esoteric Science, and Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path: A Philosophy of Freedom
"2) cultivation of artistic activities that are transformative in nature, such as speech, drama, music, eurythmy, painting, drawing, woodwork, sculpture, and more
"3) some experience of life in a Waldorf school as well as other cultural initiatives arising from the work of Rudolf Steiner." [10-15-2011 http://www.centerforanthroposophy.org/programs/foundation-studies/overview/]
A few notes are in order.
1) HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS is a guide to the development of clairvoyance, which Waldorf teachers use to study the spirit worlds as well as to understand the souls of their students. That there is no such thing as clairvoyance should, perhaps, give us pause. Indeed, because Waldorf schools depend so heavily on a nonexistent "power," there is in fact no rational basis for Waldorf education. [See "Clairvoyance", "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness", "Foundations", etc.]
2) THEOSOPHY lays out many of Steiner's occult teachings. When Steiner first became an occultist, he joined the Theosophical Society and soon became head of the German branch. Later, he broke away to create his own movement, which he named Anthroposophy. (Theosophy places God — theos — at its center; Anthroposophy places man — anthropos — at the center.) In reality, Steiner's teachings changed very little after the switch. Even while a Theosophist, Steiner referred to his own teachings as Anthroposophy, and the Theosophy his followers now study is Steiner's version, which departs significantly from standard Theosophy. It is, in a word, Anthroposophy. [To examine Theosophy, visit, for instance, The Theosophical Society. Also see "Basics".]
3) AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE is Steiner's magnum opus, in which he describes the spiritual realities he claims to have ascertained through clairvoyance. The original English title of the book was AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE, but his followers belatedly realized that the word "occult" worries most people, so they made the change for PR purposes. Nonetheless, occultism is the core of the Waldorf belief system. Other Steiner books bear such titles as OCCULT HISTORY, THE OCCULT SIGNIFICANCE OF BLOOD, AN OCCULT PHYSIOLOGY, OCCULT SEALS AND SIGNS, and so forth. Even if we define "occult" as merely meaning "secret" or "hidden," we might want to reflect. Waldorf education is based on "secret" or "hidden" spiritual knowledge gained through the use of clairvoyance. How comfortable are you with this? [See "Occultism", "Exactly", "Occult Lodges", "Everything", etc.]
4) INTUITIVE THINKING AS A SPIRITUAL PATH: A Philosophy of Freedom: In the Waldorf belief system, intuition is a high form of clairvoyance that we will perfect when we live on Vulcan (a future stage of our evolution). Waldorf schools emphasize intuition along with lower forms of clairvoyance: inspiration and imagination. Most people use these words without reference to clairvoyance; but in the Waldorf belief system, even such a simple statement as "We encourage imaginative thinking" is actually a reference to clairvoyance. [See, e.g., "Thinking", "Thinking Cap", "Steiner's 'Science'", and "Vulcan".]
Originally, INTUITIVE THINKING AS A SPIRITUAL PATH — published in 1893 as THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM — was straightforward philosophy, not an occult text. Steiner thought the book would establish him as the next great German philosopher. This did not happen, and soon after his disappointment, Steiner astonished his family and friends by announcing that he was now an occultist (previously, he had been a secular intellectual who mocked occultism). Thereafter, he revised THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM to make it consistent with his new, mystical beliefs. The "freedom" available to Anthroposophists is severely limited. Steiner's followers seek to free themselves of worldly illusions and attachments, but to do so they have just one correct option, in their view: It is to embrace Anthroposophy. [See "What a Guy", "Freedom", and "Philosophy".] Waldorf schools still like to refer to Steiner as a philosopher (it sounds so much better than "occultist"), but Steiner wrote no further philosophical texts after switching to occultism.
Today it almost seems unfair to label someone an occultist, but Steiner embraced the term. He said such things as "We have been equipped for our task by the methods of occult science", "Recently in my occult research the following question arose...", "[W]e must turn to occult science and ask what is that which is to be discovered in the spiritual world...", and so forth. He was an occultist, and Waldorf education is built on the foundation of his occult teachings. [See "Occultism".] Be forewarned.
[For more on Waldorf teacher training, see "Teacher Training".]
* I have changed the order of the titles named by the Press to be consistent with the list given by the Center; I have made no other changes. HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS is the same book as KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS under a slightly different title and in a different translation; likewise AN OUTLINE OF ESOTERIC SCIENCE is the same book as OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE (also known as AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE); and INTUITIVE THINKING AS A SPIRITUAL PATH: A PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM is the same book as THE PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM.
While Waldorf students usually do not receive direct occult instruction from their teachers,
they are often led through mystical activities, such as carrying candles or lanterns along a spiral path in a darkened room.
[See “This Waldorf Life”, 12-1-2010.]
Similar events may take place outdoors.
It would be interesting to learn what sort of lantern walk the Whistler Waldorf School plans.
From the Whistler Waldorf School, Canada:
"Lantern Walk — A wonderful lantern celebration at Alpha Lake Park for preschool to grade 2 students. Help bring some light to the darkness of the coming winter with beautiful lanterns, song and a hot drink. [10-12-2011 http://www.whistlerwaldorf.com/2011/10/12/lantern-walk-2/]
(Like some other Waldorf schools, the Whistler school displays the following quotation on its home page:
This is a key text studied by Rudolf Steiner's followers as they try to become clairvoyant.
Several editions are available, sometimes under other titles.
One published by the Anthroposophic Press is titled
From St. Paul's Steiner School, in the UK:
"The College of Teachers is the heart of the school. All teachers, after their first year of employment, are invited to join the College. Every College member makes a personal commitment to carry the school through inner work and practical activity." [10-14-2011 http://www.stpaulssteinerschool.org/?page_id=794]
Some Steiner or Waldorf schools have hierarchical administrations, while some others operate more informally, without a headmaster or other designated leaders. Usually, however, the "college of teachers" runs things. The "college" is a council of teachers who have committed themselves to Waldorf education and its underlying ideology. The "inner work" undertaken by the members primarily consists of following the devotional path laid out by Rudolf Steiner, seeking to develop clairvoyance and, through it, knowledge of the higher spirit worlds. Essentially, this "work" amounts to occult initiation. Thus, Steiner schools are generally run by mystics who subscribe to the religion (which they call a "science") known as Anthroposophy. One of the central texts pored over by Steiner faculty members is shown above. [See "Inside Scoop", "Higher Worlds", "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness", and "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"]
"A tattoo studio based in Holywood, has offered to donate all its takings on Monday, October 17, to the Holywood Steiner School." [10-13-2011 http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/community-telegraph/north-down/news/donation-from-holywood-tattoo-studio-lsquopennedrsquo-in-16063375.html]
Hooray for Holywood! (Yes, that's "Holywood" with one "L". Both the school and the tattoo parlor are in Northern Ireland.)
* Rebecca Coleman, THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD (Mira, 2011) [http://www.amazon.com/Kingdom-Childhood-Rebecca-Coleman/dp/077831278X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318518356&sr=1-1]
Last year a controversial novel about Waldorf education and Anthroposophy — SOULS OF TERROR — was released, sparking some heated discussions. [See “Souls of Terror”.] Now another Waldorf-centric novel — milder, but undoubtedly still controversial — has come out.
“... When protagonist Judy McFarland, 43, becomes involved in a sexual relationship with Zach, 16, a student at the Waldorf School where Judy has taught for 19 years, they begin a tense and tangled affair.
“...THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD...touches on the philosophy of Waldorf schools ... The book’s title is both a reference to the main characters’ plight and to Steiner’s handbook of the same name,** [author Rebeccca] Coleman says.
“’I think pretty highly of the schools, but when you have an environment that is that idealistic, the stakes are that much higher for things to go wrong,’ she says of the book’s educational setting. ‘Although Judy is pretty bad, Zach is a pretty good kid and draws from what he learned [in school] to figure out a way out of the situation. I feel it’s affectionate toward the system, but I am curious to see how the Waldorf community receives the book.’” [10-23-2011 http://www.gazette.net/article/20111013/ENTERTAINMENT/710139996/1152/1152/-the-kingdom-of-childhood-explores-a-darker-side-of-life&template=gazette]
Sexual and romantic entanglements between teachers and students can happen in any school; Waldorf schools are certainly not unique in this regard. For a report on a troubling real-life instance in a Waldorf school, see “Extremity”. Perhaps the point to bear in mind is that although Waldorf schools may often be more secure than some other schools, they are not always the safe havens that parents seek for their children.
** Rudolf Steiner, THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD (Anthroposophic Press, 1995) [http://www.amazon.com/Kingdom-Childhood-Introductory-Waldorf-Education/dp/0880104023/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318518471&sr=1-2]
The Website EsotericAndOccult.com has an "Anthroposophy Directory" with links to chat rooms, Camphill communities, expositions of Anthroposophical medicine, biodynamic farming, eurythmy, etc. [http://www.esotericandoccult.com/society/religion_and_spirituality/esoteric_and_occult/anthroposophy/directory.htm]
Meanwhile, AnthroMedia has an Anthroposophy Internet Portal promoting all things Anthroposophical. [http://www.anthromedia.com/en/]
Image: Rudolf Steiner, „Menschheitsentwickelung und Christus-Erkenntnis”, page 245.
[See "Steiner's Racism".]
This schematic shows human evolution proceeding from Atlantis to modern Europe,
as described by Rudolf Steiner.
Two decadent branches leave the upward movement, failing to evolve properly.
One branch descends to animalism (Steiner taught that animals descend from humans),
the other falls to human racial decadence.
(Entwickelung der Menschheit : Development of Mankind
Atlantier: Resident of Atlantis; Europäer: European
Affengeschlecht: ape species
dekadente Abzweigung: decadent branching
"The 'Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien' (BPjM) ('Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons' [Germany]) examined 2 books by Rudolf Steiner for 'racist content' and decided that the content of the books is racist.
"...The content of the book [by Rudolf Steiner] is, in the opinion of the board of 12 representatives, considered in part as an incitement to racial hatred, respectively as discriminating on grounds of race." [10-12-2011 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/21769]
"The Taikura Rudolf Steiner school community [New Zealand] has been reassured by the Minister of Education, Anne Tolley, that they can rest easy over National Standards and the future of their school." [10-12-2011 http://www.hawkesbaytoday.co.nz/news/school-off-hook-over-standards/1134490/]
Waldorf or Steiner schools often seek exemption from ordinary educational standards and requirements. The reason is plain: These schools often cannot measure up. They claim that the problem is greatest in the lower grades, when they intentionally postpone academics, but that their students catch up later. Some students do; others don't. The question for parents is whether they want to select a system of education that intentionally retards the intellectual growth of young students. Research clearly shows the benefit of early-childhood learning, and it reveals the lifelong damage that can result when such learning is discouraged. Waldorf schools intentionally discourage such learning, wanting children to remain mentally immature as long as possible in order to maintain mystical bonds with the spirit worlds.
• "The child [has] a dream-like yet intensely real awareness of spiritual worlds. This awareness fades quickly in early childhood, but fragments of it live on in the child for a much longer time than most people imagine ... [I]n a Waldorf school, therefore, one of the tasks of the teachers is to keep the children young." — A. C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956), pp. 15-16.
• "[I]t is...necessary to let children live in their gentle dreamy experiences as long as possible, so that they move slowly into life. They need to remain as long as possible in their imaginations and pictorial capacities without intellectuality." — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), pp. 103-104. [See "Thinking Cap".]
In the Waldorf belief system, intellect falls under the sway of the terrible demon Ahriman [see "Ahriman"], and the use of the brain considered destructive.
• “The brain is an instrument for purely intellectual apprehension. Intellectualism and materialistic thinking are one and the same, for all the thinking that goes on in science, in theology, in the sphere of modern Christian consciousness* — all of it is the product of the human brain alone, is materialistic. This manifests itself, on the one hand, in the empty formalism of belief; on the other, in Bolshevism [sic: emphasis by Steiner] ... [T]he materialistic brain represents a process of decay: materialistic thinking unfolds only through processes of destruction, death-processes, which are taking place in the brain.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), pp. 147-148. [see "Steiner's Specific"].
* Steiner here distinguishes his belief system from Christianity. He sometimes said just the opposite, but indeed Anthroposophical beliefs are incompatible with real Christianity. [See "Was He Christian?"]
"Child Eczema Treatment Oct 10 Update: We see the Anthroposophic Doctor
"With my wife’s insistence we see the Anthroposophic doctor. There can be no peace unless you let her get her way so we do go. Doctor thinks it is both a liver problem and a kidney problem… both need rebuilding. In the meantime she has creams and stuff that will help relieve the pain and avoid secondary infections on our son’s skin. We get a bunch of anthroposophic meds of course." [10-10-2011 http://curezone.com/forums/fm.asp?i=1868047]
Some spheres of the Waldorf universe contain little harm, such as biodynamic gardening. [See "Biodynamics".] Waldorf education itself poses real dangers, although some kids escape relatively unscathed. [See "Who Gets Hurt".] But "Anthroposophical medicine" — the quack medicine practiced in and around Waldorf schools — can be seriously damaging. If the ailment being "treated" is minor, the damage may be minor. But when a severe medical problems arises, quack medicine can have severe consequences. [See "Steiner's Quackery".]
One of the ways to give in order to support a Waldorf school (in this case the Minnesota Waldorf School, USA):
"Every year our teachers fly to various Waldorf teacher training schools to continue their Waldorf teacher training and enhance their skills. If you have extra airline miles to donate, please contact our Business Manager at 651-487-6700 ext: 203 or email@example.com." [10-12-2011 http://mnwaldorf.org/everyday-ways-to-give/]
Waldorf teacher training usually has as much to do with studying the mystical doctrines of Rudolf Steiner as with learning effective classroom strategies. Waldorf teachers take their "study" of Steiner very seriously, and they usually continue at it throughout their careers. [See "Teacher Training".]
From the Waldorf School Association of Ontario [Canada]:
“Waldorf schools embrace a holistic approach to education ... We work in more subtle ways than other schools ... 95 per cent of our graduates* go to university, and 50 per cent get a master's degree or PhD ... [T]he No. 1 factor in the successful education of a child is parental involvement,** and our schools heavily emphasize a strong involvement by a child's family, which makes all the difference.” [10-11-2011 http://www.ourkids.net/school/waldorf-schools-benefits-features.php]
Evaluating Waldorf schools can be difficult. Many Waldorfs provide a very poor education, but there may be exceptions. [See “Academics at Waldorf”.] The “whole child” addressed by the “holistic approach” of Waldorf schooling is, to a large extent, an imaginary being: a reincarnating spirit who comes to this life with an astrological identity, racial and other oversouls, 12 senses, several invisible bodies (not yet wholly incarnated), and so forth. [See, e.g., “Four Group Souls”, “Waldorf Astrology”, “Horoscopes”, “Common Sense”, etc.] Holistic education sounds great, and indeed it may work wonderfully in some cases — but in Waldorf schools, framed by Waldorf’s delusional concepts, it is unlikely to be rational or healthy.
We can probably agree that “the No. 1 factor in the successful education of a child is parental involvement...which makes all the difference.” But note how this complicates any effort to judge the success of Waldorf schooling. Any achievements the children attain may result from the efforts of the parents, not the school (and they might be essentially the same no matter what schools the kids attended). Indeed, parental involvement may compensate for severe shortcomings in a Waldorf school. This was the case for many students at the Waldorf school I attended. Several of my classmates came from homes with well-stocked home libraries (often better than the school’s own small library). The school was located near New York City, so — if our parents chose — all of the cultural resources of the city were available to us, quite apart from the restrictive cultural offerings of the school itself. Many families had subscriptions to numerous periodicals (my own parents subscribed to THE NEW YORK TIMES, LIFE, LOOK, NEWSWEEK, THE SATURDAY EVENING POST, THE SATURDAY REVIEW, and other newspapers and magazines — I read all these, and gained far more information from them than from my schooling). In most families, the parents were well-educated and deeply involved in their children’s intellectual, moral, and cultural development. Many graduates of our school went on to success in college and the professions, but much of this success occurred in spite of — not because of — the odd, limited education we received at Waldorf.
* There are 10 Waldorf schools in Ontario, and others spread across Canada.
** Waldorf schools usually expect parents of students to become heavily involved in school activities. One reason is pragmatic: Often strapped for funds, the schools depend greatly on unpaid volunteer work. Another reason is ideological: Waldorf schools exist to spread Anthroposophy. They aim to lure students into the fold, and they also hope to proselytize parents and other family members.
Here is a follow-up to previous reports on aspirant Steiner “free schools” in the UK:
“The latest batch of ‘Free’ Schools have been announced (http://on.ft.com/qc6qMQ) and amongst them is a Steiner school planned for Frome in the West Country ... Finding out more about Steiner Schools requires some patience and you have to get to grips with the man who inspired this model of education. Rudolf Steiner was a rather intense and complicated individual ... Being positive about him would require us to note his amazing appetite for knowledge ... But we could also see Steiner in a different light, as an eccentric and even deluded individual, who dabbled dangerously in many fields and ultimately descended into a twilight world of childish fantasy and pseudo-scientific nonsense.
“...[R]esearch into the Steiner/Waldorf model of education reveals that it is Piagetian in its structure, with a clear sense of child developmental stages. [For more on this, see “Most Significant”, “Curriculum”, and “Incarnation”
“...Free schools are definitely NOT free in the sense of cost to the tax-payer (of course). Schools which were previously privately funded are now being state funded at a time when public expenditure is under an unprecedented contraction. This appears to be a lavish misuse of public money to prove a narrow ideological point ... The rush to create new free schools appears to have created a situation where even schools which are directly contradictory to official policy are given state funding whilst existing schools are forced to bear the brunt of ministerial meddling.” [10-11-2011 http://mattpearson.org/]
It would be interesting to hear members of the British government defend the use of public funds to support education based on the teachings of a man, Rudolf Steiner, who said such things as:
• “One can only understand history and all of social life, including today's social life, if one pays attention to people's racial characteristics. And one can only understand all that is spiritual in the correct sense if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin." — Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE - ÜBER DAS WESEN DES CHRISTENTUMS (Verlag Der Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, 1961), GA 349, p. 52.
• “[T]he moon today is like a fortress in the universe, in which there lives a population that fulfilled its human destiny over 15,000 years ago, after which it withdrew to the moon together with the spiritual guides of humanity ... This is only one of the ‘cities’ in the universe, one colony, one settlement among many ... As far as what concerns ourselves, as humanity on earth, the other pole, the opposite extreme to the moon is the population of Saturn.” — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER SPEAKS TO THE BRITISH (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), p. 93.
• “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 ... Many names have been given to them, such as goblins, gnomes and so forth ... Their nature prompts them to play all sorts of tricks on man....” — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1995), pp. 62-63.
• "[C]hildren will become idiotic through lefthandedness." — Rudolf Steiner, quoted in THE PROBLEM OF LEFTHANDEDNESS (St. George Publications, 1978), p. 15.
• “[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60.
• "You will injure children if you educate them rationally....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (SteinerBooks, 1996), p. 61.
A photo posted by the Frome Steiner Academy [UK],
showing students celebrating Easter —
perhaps a surprising activity in an educational system that
usually claims to be nondenominational and nonsectarian.
For background on the celebration of religious festivals
at Steiner schools, see "Magical Arts".]
"Our dream is a reality - Free Steiner education for all.
“We have been APPROVED and will be opening a State funded Steiner school in Frome [UK] in September 2012.
“This website will provide you with information about the progress of opening our school and information about the education it will offer. Please check back regularly for updates, subscribe to our blog or join our mailing list. You can also join our Facebook group via the link at the top of this page.
“Help manifest our dream by getting involved.” [10-10-2011 http://fromesteineracademy.co.uk/]
Governments in some countries provide financial support for Steiner education. The UK has now begun down this benighted path, leading to the acceptance of Steiner Waldorf schools as government-funded “free schools" (equivalent to what are known in the USA as charter schools). Conservative governments in particular like the idea of competition in the sphere of education, reducing the role of mainstream public schooling while creating protected niches for alternative types of schools. Unfortunately, in making their decisions, official bodies often fail to comprehend the occult nature of Steiner education. [See “Occultism” and “Spiritual Agenda”.] Channeling taxpayer financing to such schools would seem to be an obvious error, yet from time to time it happens. The Steiner movement is well practiced in concealing its real nature and aims. [See, e.g., "Secrets" and "PR". For background on the free school process in the UK, see "Coming Undone".]
A tangential note: It is interesting that, in its announcement, the Frome Steiner Academy refers to manifestation. Incarnation or manifestation is indeed a central objective of Steiner education, far more than conveying knowledge to students. Steiner schools exist to promote Rudolf Steiner’s occult vision, which includes the incarnation of invisible bodies. Steiner school teachers think that their efforts manifest the divine cosmic plan of the gods [see "Here's the Answer"], and they direct much of their energy toward helping kids incarnate their etheric, astral, and ego bodies. [See, e.g., “Incarnation”.] Providing a sound education that would enable students to use their brains well receives a much lower priority, since the use of the brain is so risky, from an Anthroposophical perspective. As Steiner said, “When we think, we die continually” and "Within the brain there is absolutely no thought; there is no more of thought in the brain than there is of you in the mirror." [See “Thinking” and "Steiner's Specific".] Downplaying the use of the brain may be a defensible tenet for a religious system, but it is surely an inappropriate foundation for a system of education.
Frome is not yet doomed to have an occult free school open within its borders. Other schools have reached this stage in the free school process only to go belly-up. The manifestation of the Frome Steiner Academy is still only a vision, albeit one that has moved closer to fulfillment.
"[Rudolf] Steiner...developed an education system that teaches children based on the system of anthroposophy. Like biodynamics it’s a bit of a trojan horse — to the outsider it might look like an interesting hippie-like alternative. During my uni days I had a friend who was planning to get into education and she did a certification course in Steiner-Waldorf Education. From her descriptions it didn’t seem that crazy to me at the time: there is focus on imagination and creativity and less on getting academic stuff in as early as possible, the children make their own toys, the system encourages a strong bond with the teacher (a instead of teachers taking a fixed grade with an annually rotating class they teach a single group of kids as they progress through the grades), there is more of an emphasis on music etc etc ... Because of its hippieish nature it has engaged in great forms of outreached. The system created one of the only non-segregated schools in South Africa during apartheid, there are schools in Sao Paolo’s favelas and so on ... Like biodynamics though, once you scratch the surface, a lot of kookiness emerges." [10-10-2011 http://anadder.com/steiner-waldorf-education]
Disclosure: The writer proceeds to quote Yours Truly. I am never sure what to do with postings that refer to my own work. Here at the "news" page, I have generally ignored them. But perhaps this distorts the record, so henceforth from time to time I may note a few such postings.
Q. “I'm form [sic: from] Brazil but id [did] my 8th ad [and] 9th grade in the US. I'm finishing my 2 last years of school in Brazil at a Waldorf school. Is it a positive aspect or a negative one to be from this school and go to college in the US?
“I have done some volunteering, lived abroad, speak 3 languages and am one of the top of my class: but I didn't focus on the SAT [Scholastic Aptitude Test] so much, so my score is in the 1600's. Do I have a chance of going to a good college???”
A. “I think it really depends on your school. For example, some Waldorf schools do not offer much in he [the] way of science courses — are you able to take rigorous biology, chemistry, and/or physics courses at your school? You should also study for your SATs and try to improve your scores.
“And, it depends on what you mean by a ‘good’ college. There are many, many options. The most selective schools will be concerned about the rigor of the courses you took; however there are still "good" schools that are less selective.” [10-9-2011 http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/sat-act-tests-test-preparation/1222361-waldorf-school.html]
The adequacy of Waldorf schooling is always an issue. Academics in Waldorf schools are often weak because the faculties have other priorities. [See, e.g., “Academic Standards at Waldorf ”.] In general, Steiner's followers distrust modern scholarship and scientific knowledge and the institutions where these are taught — “materialistic” colleges and universities. [See “Materialism U.”] Believing that brains and rational thinking are relatively useless [see, e.g., “Steiner’s Specific”], Waldorf faculties often adopt a fundamentally anti-intellectual approach. In this, they follow the lead of their guru, who disparaged “so-called educated people in the universities.” — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 92. Waldorf schools tend to be especially weak in the sciences. [See “Steiner’s ‘Science’".]
A Steinerish harvest, as it were.
"Fossil Bay Kindergarten [New Zealand] bases it's curriculum on the needs of the young child in relation to a picture of child development as given by Rudolf Steiner ...
"... Thank you everyone that supported the Cinema Fundraiser last Friday night! We raised $250.00 for [our] garden!
"Last Sunday the gardeners erected the poles, ran wire between them and covered half of the garden in bird netting. Great work! With all of the beds covered, it offers a lovely spacious area inside to work the garden.
"Once we have the beds fully covered and the hose connected up, we will need to think about a watering roster for every 2nd day. We can then start sewing the 'direct sew' seeds like Beetroot, Radish, Spring onions etc" [10-7-2011 http://fossilbaykindergarten.org/pages/fossil-bay-community-garden]
Everything about Steiner schools tends to be lovely — except for the thinking behind the schools. The "picture of child development as given by Rudolf Steiner" is mystical nonsense. Steiner taught that three invisible bodies incarnate on a seven-year schedule: the "etheric body" incarnates at age 7, the "astral body" at age 14, and the "ego body" at age 21. [See "Incarnation" and "Most Significant".] Inconceivable as it may seem, the Steiner curriculum is geared to this process of incarnation. “Waldorf education is based upon the recognition that the four bodies of the human being develop and mature at different times.” — Waldorf teacher Roberto Trostli, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING: What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents & Teachers (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 4-5. Note that Waldorf education is based on these weird concepts.
The Steiner view of nature is equally bizarre. Steiner taught that nature is full of invisible beings called nature spirits — gnomes, sylphs, undines, and so forth. [See "Neutered Nature".] Gnomes are especially big in the Steiner worldview. You and I can't see them, but clairvoyants can (and, surprisingly, many miners are clairvoyant): “A gnome is only visible to someone who can see on the astral plane, but miners frequently possess such an astral vision [i.e., clairvoyance]; they know that gnomes are realities.” — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 27, GA 93a. Gnomes live deep underground, you understand, which is why miners are in the best position to observe them...
Gnomes have done all sorts of surprising things, such as giving the Earth its form. “The predecessors of our Earth-gnomes, the Moon-gnomes, gathered together their Moon-experiences and from them fashioned this structure, this firm structure of the solid fabric of the Earth, so that our solid Earth-structure actually arose from the experiences of the gnomes of the old Moon.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE RIDDLE OF HUMANITY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1990), lecture 9. [See "Gnomes".]
I know how preposterous all this seems. It is indeed preposterous. But it is what Rudolf Steiner's followers believe. If you send a child to a Steiner school, you will be sending her/him into an environment where such nonsense is taken very, very seriously.
"RACE TO NOWHERE
"Location: Shining Mountain Waldorf School
"1179 Union Ave.Boulder, Colorado 80304
"Ticket Prices: $10 online in Advance (Online sales end 4 hours prior to the event), $15 at the door." [10-9-2011 http://www.racetonowhere.com/screenings/shining-mountain-waldorf-school]
Waldorf schools love this movie, which depicts mainstream American education as a mindless, high-pressure struggle to achieve high scores on standardized tests. Surely there must be a better way, Waldorf schools argue. Surely this better way is provided by Waldorf schools.
The thesis of the film may be true, but the Waldorf response is not. Arsenic may be bad for you, but not all alternatives — such as cyanide — are better. Some alternatives may be worse. Waldorf schools, which are wedded to Rudolf Steiner's occultism, are worse.
"Pasadena Waldorf School will open its new High School in August 2012. An independent, not-for-profit school for children in early childhood through grade eight, fully accredited by AWSNA, Pasadena Waldorf School is nestled in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains [California, USA]." [10-5-2011 http://jobs.waldorftoday.com/job/10845/full-time-high-school-humanities-teacher-at-pasadena-waldorf-school/]
Don't be overly impressed by the "full accreditation" attained through AWNSA, the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America. (AWSNA — pronounced "Awes? Nah.") Such accreditation means that the school is a fully fledged Waldorf school, deeply rooted in Rudolf Steiner's mysticism. [See "Teacher Training".] It has nothing to do with regular accreditation by recognized educational authorities. Waldorf schools and Waldorf teacher-training programs have difficulty attaining real accreditation when the authorities grasp the occult nature of Waldorf education. [See, e.g., "Soul School".]
“Marion Mahony, an M.I.T.-trained architect, made Frank Lloyd Wright’s early career possible ... In her 1940s unpublished memoir she refers to Wright as a 'cancer sore' ... In this fall’s spate of scholarship 'Marion Mahony Reconsidered,' a book edited by David Van Zanten...explores how she drew inspiration from Wright’s collection of Japanese prints and her faith in the gobbledygook of Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy.” [10-6-2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/07/arts/design/artifacts-of-the-titanic-at-auctions-as-2012-centennial-nears.html?_r=1]
Rudolf Steiner rarely rates a mention in THE NEW YORK TIMES, so we probably should take note when it happens.
“The study of ancient civilizations in the fifth grade spans the time from the legendary continent of Atlantis some 10,000 years ago to ancient India, ancient Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and finally ancient Greece. The children delight in finding common threads in the creation stories and hero tales of the different peoples — from floods and rainbows, to initiations and quests, to the intervention of the gods in human affairs. Most importantly, the students trace the evolution of human consciousness through millennia and across the globe, especially with respect to views of life, death, and the afterlife.” [Downloaded 10-7-2011 http://www.highlandhall.org/Fifth%20Grade]
Waldorf schools teach about Atlantis because Rudolf Steiner said that it really existed. Indeed, in the quotation we see here — taken from the description of fifth grade studies at Highland Hall Waldorf School in California, USA — we find reference to many Anthroposophical doctrines: Atlantis, initiation, gods, “the evolution of human consciousness,” the afterlife, and so on. Some of these concepts also occur in other belief systems, of course, and all of them may be studied without necessarily involving religious indoctrination of students. But in Waldorf schools, the line is often crossed, and indoctrination occurs — indoctrination in the occult teachings of Rudolf Steiner. [See, e.g., “Atlantis and the Aryans”, “Inside Scoop”, “Polytheism”, “Matters of Form”, “Spiritual Agenda”, “Here’s the Answer — The Creed”, "Weird Waldorf", etc.]
Here's a comment by a father who says he considered Waldorf education for his daughter: “Waldorf's roots are steeped in the teaching of Rudolph Steiner, a Christian-based [sic] mystic who believed in reincarnation, clairvoyance, Atlantis, and forest gnomes. And I am not being metaphorical here. His belief system, known as Anthroposophy, is not some vestige of the path. It is not part of the curriculum yet it is the heart of the Steiner pedagogy and epistemology. The ideas leech to the students because it is the world view of the teachers.” [“The Hidden World of Waldorf” http://www.unorthodoxdad.com/blog/?p=1486]
And here's a comment by a former Waldorf student, appended to “The Hidden World of Waldorf”: “What I find truly unforgivable is the indisputable fact that those who sink into the depths of waldorfianism and the teachings of anthroposophy are utterly incapably of engaging in the 'real' world. A few schools even embrace this: claiming that it is a misnomer to assume making a child fit into society is a worthy pursuit. I have witnessed these people become so sucked-in that they cannot distinguish the world as Steiner proposes it from the world as it actually exists.”
A new offering from SteinerBooks (Sept., 2011).
The cover shows a typical blackboard drawing by Steiner.
"Although the fruits of Anthroposophy — Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, Camphill, anthroposophic medicine, and so on — are relatively well known and moderately successful, their relationship to Anthroposophy and its vehicle for transmission, the General Anthroposophical Society, and the School for Spiritual Science, remains mysterious and unclear; sadly, the same is true of the meaning and purpose of those institutions.
"Related to this is the fact that, though these offshoots of Anthroposophy are well known, eighty-five years after his death and eighty-seven years after the re-formation of the Anthroposophical Society, what Rudolf Steiner brought into the world, what entered the world through him and what he sought to accomplish — that is, what spiritual science and spiritual-scientific research are and how one practices them — remain virtually unknown." [downloaded 10-7-2011 http://steinerbooks.org/detail.html?session=7ebf65c235b7ce76e5d3adc174d78498&id=9780880107389]
Rudolf Steiner was a polymath, dabbling in many fields. His central effort was the creation of Anthroposophy, his "spiritual science" (also called "occult science" or "esoteric science") describing the spirit realm and laying out the proper path for human evolution. He developed his doctrines in such books as AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE and KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (republished as HOW TO KNOW HIGHER WORLDS). The General Anthroposophical Society is the central institution of the Steiner movement, headquartered in the cathedral known as the Goetheanum. The School of Spiritual Science, the chief organ for preserving and extending Anthroposophical belief, is located there. [See, e.g.,"Is Anthroposophy a Religion?", "Everything", "Higher Worlds", and "Guru".]
Most of Steiner's teachings are unknown in the wide world today, and for good reason — most of them make no sense and are riddled with obvious errors. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Blunders", "Steiner's Illogic", "Steiner's Quackery", "Steiner's 'Science'", etc.] Anthroposophy remains a tiny spiritual movement, a religion that denies it is a religion, a messianic camp with few members.
But a funny thing happened to Steiner on the way to oblivion. A few offshoots of his teachings caught on, at least to some extent. Foremost among these is Waldorf education. Although the total number of students in Waldorf schools in unimpressive, there are now Waldorf schools on all continents (except, of course, Antarctica), the schools continue to proliferate, and some governments give them financial support. Waldorf education is Steiner's shining success — not because it is a sensible form of education but because it has attained a degree of popularity.
What most people don't realize is that Waldorf schools are intended to spread Anthroposophy, and to the extent that they have succeeded (fortunately, they often fail), Anthroposophy has survived. [See, e.g., "Failure" and "Who Gets Hurt".] Any serious discussion of Waldorf education must hone in on this reality: The connection between the schools and Anthroposophy is fundamental, and the schools can be rationally supported only by those who want to see Anthroposophy spread. Most people who are attracted to Waldorf schools do not understand this basic reality, thus raising a crucial issue that needs exposure and airing.
Here are a few of Steiner's statements about his intentions for Waldorf schools: • “One of the most important facts about the background of the Waldorf School is that we were in a position to make the anthroposophical movement a relatively large one. The anthroposophical movement has become a large one.” (He was wrong about this, but you get the point.) • "We certainly may not...say that anthroposophy may not be brought into the school. Anthroposophy will be in the school." • "As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” • "Among the faculty, we must...carry out the divine cosmic plan ... [W]e are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods ... [W]e are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” [For these and other, similar statements, see "Here's the Answer".]
The General Anthroposophical Society has fallen on hard times and is experiencing financial distress. But that need not concern us. Our attention should be focused on Waldorf schools, their intentions and methods, and the effects they can have on children — sometimes deeply damaging effects. [See, e.g., "Our Experience", "Coming Undone", "Spiritual Agenda", "Our Brush with Rudolf Steiner", "Slaps", "Help!", "Methods", "Advice for Parents", "Ex-Teacher 7", the personal accounts at PLANS, etc.]
Green Meadow Waldorf School,
Chestnut Ridge, New York, USA
[Tarrytown-Sleepy Hollow Patch]
"The smell of fresh baked bread permeates the pink-walled room of the Green Meadow Waldorf School that recently took over the lease of Tappan Hill School. Two kids come in from the garden, their aproned teacher softly singing to them as they replace rain boots with indoor shoes. Today these two planted kale, harvested parsley, and played in a mountain of sand despite the chill and gloomy skies. Now it’s time for the puppet show." [10-6-2011 http://tarrytown.patch.com/articles/a-serene-new-school-grows-at-tappan-hill]
Waldorf schools have many attractive features. Unfortunately, the attractions can fade when you look below the surface. The following is by a formerly enthusiastic Waldorf parent:
"The intoxicating fragrance of beeswax and homemade bread. Small wicker baskets full of pebbles and shells. A biodynamic vegetable garden. Wooden blocks, silk play cloths, felt slippers, sheepskins, a fireplace, faceless dolls, wordless books, formless paintings ...
"I had previously read about Steiner Waldorf schools in a glowing article in a national newspaper. It described an holistic creative education based outdoors using 'nature as teacher.' Intrigued, I began by taking my son to a Steiner parent and toddler group. So enchanted was I at the time, I managed to persuade my family to move 40 miles away to be near a bigger Steiner school where our son would be able to attend long-term. I remember attending the summer fair and whilst I stood in the queue to request a prospectus, a woman in front of me asked the administrator the following question: 'How will the school meet the needs of my psychic daughter?' He smiled and replied 'We are all psychic here.' I thought he was joking.
"Once we had moved and enrolled our son, the teacher started to mention the word 'Anthroposophy' and the existence of a study group for new parents. I felt foolish that I had to ask what Anthroposophy was (I had previously looked for the word in my dictionary and had not found it) and was told it was the study of human wisdom. The teacher didn't tell me a core belief of Anthroposophy is the concept of reincarnation of the soul through racial hierarchies from Black to Aryan as a consequence of a person's karma; or the classification of a child's soul according to their physiognomy, nor was I told of the Anthroposophical movement's history. I didn't question further at that stage. As one parent recently observed 'You don't expect a school to lie.'"
To read more, see "Coming Undone".
"In recent years, occasional charges of racism have been leveled against Rudolf Steiner and against institutions arising from his work, such as the Waldorf schools. Those laying the charges have increasingly shown themselves more interested in defaming the work of Rudolf Steiner than in finding what lay behind the apparently offending passages." [10-6-2011 "Overcoming Racism through Anthroposophy" http://www.whywaldorfworks.org/11_EffPractices/pdfs/RacismAnthro05.pdf]
"racism, also called racialism — any action, practice, or belief that reflects the racial worldview — the ideology that humans are divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called ‘races,’ that there is a causal link between inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural behavioral features, and that some races are innately superior to others.” — "racism." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 06 Oct. 2011 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/488187/racism>.
Steiner's followers increasingly realize that his teachings about race create serious problems for them, and they increasingly work to mount defenses. In these efforts, they often employ fallacious forms of argumentation, such as impugning the motives of others rather than grappling with issues forthrightly.
One line of defense adopted by Anthroposophists is that Steiner's "apparently offending passages" have been taken out of context. Sure, Anthroposophists say, Steiner said some things that may seem offensive, but he also made a number of statements denouncing racism. This is the correct context for understanding the iffy passages, they say. Overall, Steiner opposed racism.
In analyzing these matters, we should begin by determining whether any of Steiner's statements were more than just "apparently" racist. Here are two authoritative definitions of "racism":
“racism a. The theory that distinctive human characteristics and abilities are determined by race.” — OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY, Vol. 13 (Clarendon Press, 1998), p. 75.
It is rationally impossible to deny that, by such definitions, Steiner made racist statements. Here are two examples that clearly meet these definitions of racism:
• "[C]onsider how different the natural abilities, how different the talents of the individual races are. The one race stands at the level of what we call the highest civilization, while the other stands at what appears to be the most primitive, subordinate level of civilization.” — Rudolf Steiner, DIE WELTRÄTSEL UND DIE ANTHROPOSOPHIE (Rudolf Steiner Verlag 1985), pp. 132-3. This meets the general specifications of both definitions, finding great significance in racial differences. And, while a bit vague about whether some civilizations are really higher than others, Steiner here clearly meets one of the BRITANNICA's particular specifications: He teaches that races have, by their nature, differing "traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural behavioral features" (in Steiner's words, the "individual races" have "different natural abilities...different talents").
• “[E]ach person has the opportunity to...undergo the transformation into higher races, toward ever higher perfection. Races would never become decadent, never decline, if there weren't souls that are unable to move up and unwilling to move up to a higher racial form." — Rudolf Steiner, DAS HEREINWIRKEN GEISTIGER WESENHEITEN IN DEN MENSCHEN (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1984), p. 174. This quotation, too, is clearly racist according to both definitions. And here Steiner meets another of the BRITANNICA's particular specifications, teaching that "some races are innately superior to others" (in Steiner's words, there are "higher races...higher racial forms").
Well, but what about the claim that we are taking such statements out of context? The "context" Anthroposophists mean is the one created by Steiner's statements that oppose racism. Surely, Anthroposophists claim, Steiner's racially enlightened statements offset his apparently racist statements.
Let's consider this argument. Do racially inoffensive statements offset racially offensive ones? We might note that no one who is truly free of racism will make any racist statements — none — so the large number of racially offensive remarks Steiner made are, in themselves, telling. We might also note that racists often take racially "enlightened" stands when addressing certain audiences and/or when trying to conceal their real attitudes.
In reality, "good" statements about race do not sanitize racially offensive statements made by the same person. Consider the following questions:
Question #1. How many racist statements are too many? Ten? Five? Two?
Answer. One. A single racist statement is too many. No truly enlightened person will make a single racist statement. Yet Steiner made many statements that are distinctly racist.
Question #2. How many racially enlightened statements should you make in order to compensate for making some racist statements? If you have made, let's say, a dozen racist statements, how many racially enlightened statements must you make in compensation? Two dozen? Ten dozen? A million dozen?
Answer. None. No number of racially enlightened statements can compensate for making racist statements. The only way to compensate for making racist statements is to admit your error, apologize, promise never to make such statements again, and then never make such statements again. Rudolf Steiner failed this test.
Let's consider one other defense offered for Steiner. Anthroposophists argue that, unlike racists who say that "inferior" races are subhuman, Steiner accepted the fundamental humanity of all peoples. This argument contains some truth, as far as it goes. Steiner generally acknowledged that all people are fundamentally alike because all have human souls. But this doesn't change the fact that so many of Steiner's statements meet authoritative definitions of racism — people may be fundamentally alike, but Steiner said that humans exhibit significant racial differences, with some races standing at lower evolutionary levels than others.
Moreover, Steiner taught that wicked people can become trapped in low, "decadent" races — and other wrongdoers, falling even lower, can descend through the bottom of the racial hierarchy. These worst of all humans will indeed become subhuman — they will become "nature spirits," beings that have no real spiritual essence. Here is an extended version of a quotation we saw above, in a different translation: "Races would not stay behind and become decadent if there were not people who wish to stay behind and are obliged to stay behind ... Older races only persist because there are people who cannot or will not move forward to a higher racial form ... By striving forward, [a good person] is drawn up from race to race to ever higher stages ... [But a bad person] remains behind in evolution ... He must then content himself with an inferior incarnation which has been left to him in a decadent race ... Now let us take an extreme case [in which a truly wicked person] finally arrives at a point where he can no longer incorporate in a human body ... Such souls lose the possibility of incarnation and find no other opportunity ... They appear in a later epoch as subordinate nature-spirits." — Rudolf Steiner, NATURE SPIRITS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2000), pp. 69-70.*
To wrap this up: "Overcoming Racism through Anthroposophy" comes from the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America. As long as Waldorf schools and their associations continue to defend Steiner's teachings on race, they will not be able to truly expunge the racism that festers in their belief system.
[If you'd like to see some of Steiner's racial teachings in a form where nothing at all can be considered out of context, because whole lectures are reprinted verbatim, see "Forbidden", "Also Forbidden", and "Lecture".]
* I realize that a quotation dotted with excisions and interpolations may seem fishy. Have I misrepresented Steiner? Have I twisted his words? No; I have simply tried to make his tortured prose more readily comprehensible. If you'd like to tackle this passage in its entirety, from the first word I quoted through the last, here it is: