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WALDORF / STEINER

NEWS

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The news items on this page are culled from media around the world, especially those in English-speaking countries. The commentary appended to most items is my own. (I sign my contributions, not because I like seeing my name or initials, but to keep authorship — and responsibility — clear.)

If any of the terminology used here ("Anthroposophy," etc.) is unfamiliar to you, consulting The Semi-Steiner Dictionary and The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia should help.

Momentous events, with potentially enormous consequences, are afoot in the wide world. Seen in this real-world context, events in and around Waldorf schools may seem insignificant. But as long as we care about the well-being of children who have been sent to Waldorf schools, or who may be sent there, we should carry on with our work here.

— Roger Rawlings






For news items more recent than November 19, 2018,

use this link: 

Newer News







November 19, 2018


COMPUTERS, DEMONS, 

AND WALDORF  




From The Times [London, UK]:

Why the Silicon Valley titans 
who got our kids addicted to screens 
are sending their own children 
to tech‑free Waldorf schools

The tech elite in America are paying up to $40,000 a year to send their children to schools that enforce a back-to-basics approach. Danny Fortson reports on the screen-free education that has a new-age twist

Inside a concrete block at the top of a hill in San Francisco, 27 nine-year-olds are handed needles and ordered to sew. Across the hall, eight-year-olds churn butter by hand, while downstairs four-year-olds are busy carrying out their duties: sweeping up, washing dishes and dehydrating fruit.

This is not a child-labour camp in the heart of America’s richest city. It is a school, and among the tech crowd it has become much sought after. The San Francisco Waldorf School, you see, has a strict “no screens” policy. In fact, it is deliberately “analogue”, a throwback to a time when it was all blackboards, pencils and paper — but with a new-age twist. And in the crucible of the global technology industry, the same executives who have flooded the world with smartphones and addictive social-media apps happily pay up to $40,000 a year to wall off their kids from their creations….





Waldorf Watch Response:

This is getting to be old news. There have been many stories for many years now about executives at high-tech firms sending their kids to low-tech Waldorf schools. 

Consider the following, for example. This is from a New York Times article published in 2011:


A Silicon Valley School That Doesn't Compute

The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here [in California]. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.

But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.

We have discussed these matters here several times in the past. [See, e.g., “Waldorf and Technology”, February 10, 2018, and "Waldorf, and Technology, and Demons", January 5, 2018. Both reports can be found at Indications 3.] 

We might repeat a few salient points here and now. 

1) It is perfectly true that some Silicon Valley bigwigs send their kids to Waldorf schools. But it is also true that many Silicon Valley bigwigs don't.

2) It is not surprising that some execs at high-tech firms, knowing that their kids will spend most of their lives in a high-tech world, may want to give the kids a little exposure to other sorts of experiences: low-tech experiences. But this does not necessarily mean that these execs are opposed to the very high-tech culture that they themselves are creating. They, themselves, are creating it — and, generally, they like and approve of the culture they are creating.

3) It is certainly possible to think that many people nowadays are getting far too caught up with high-tech, flashy, buzzy, beepy, razzle-dazzle electronic gimcracks. Many people nowadays spend far too much time staring at electronic screens. This goes double for kids nowadays. There are, in other words, perfectly rational reasons for wanting to reduce the amount of time kids nowadays spend in virtual realities instead of real reality.

4) But if you want your child to spend more time in real reality, sending her/him to a Waldorf school is probably exactly the wrong thing to do. The Waldorf reasons for wanting to reduce the amount of time kids spend staring at electronic screens are not at all rational. Waldorf schools, in fact, stand very near the center of an utterly unreal fantasy world. They stand near the epicenter of the New Age-ish religion called Anthroposophy.




Here is a quick peek at some irrational elements of the Waldorf view, specifically related to high-tech gimcracks.

Start with steam engines (which were high-tech gimcracks in their time):

“When we build steam-engines, we provide the opportunity for the incarnation of demons ... In the steam-engine, Ahrimanic demons [i.e., the arch-demon Ahriman and his minions] are actually brought to the point of physical embodiment.” — Waldorf founder Rudolf Steiner, “The Relation of Man to the Hierarchies” (ANTHROPOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT, Vol. V, Nos. 14-15, 1928). 

Extend this to the use of electricity (which was a high-tech marvel when it was first introduced into homes and businesses):

"[S]team engines...are by no means the most demoniacal. Whenever electricity is used...there is far more of demon magic." — Rudolf Steiner, THE KARMA OF VOCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1984), lecture 9, GA 172. 

Extend this to today, when computers and the Internet seem extremely high-tech and wow!-making:

"[T]he whole computer and Internet industry is today the most effective way to prepare for the imminent incarnation of Ahriman or at least to allow his earthly task to run as smoothly as possible for him. The net of ahrimanic spider beings developing out of the internet around the earth stands right from the beginning in a direct relationship to Ahriman appearing in a physical body and will serve him particularly effectively and offer him extremely favourable potential to work." — Steiner follower Sergei Prokoffief, "The Being of the Internet", available at, e.g., https://philosophyoffreedom.com/the-being-of-the-internet.

There are perfectly rational reasons for wanting to reduce kids' involvement with high-tech stuff. And then there are the Waldorf reasons.

[For more on these matters, see, e.g., "Spiders, Dragons and Foxes". For more on Ahriman, see "Ahriman". For more on Anthroposophy, see the entry for this term in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia; also see, e.g., "Everything". For more on Rudolf Steiner, see "What a Guy".]







Ahriman.

[Bust attributed to Rudolf Steiner.]


Steam engines, electricity,

and computers — among other things — 

enable Ahriman to incarnate.


Enabling Ahriman to incarnate 

is generally a questionable idea. 

He isn't nice. 







My guess is that Silicon Valley bigwigs who sent their kids to Waldorf schools didn't do their homework first — they didn't delve deeply enough into the beliefs upon which these schools stand. A simple Google search (or Bing, or DuckDuckGo, or...) might have saved them from an embarrassing mistake.


– R.R.











November 18, 2018



DEVASTATING INSPECTION REPORT  

ON U.K. STEINER ACADEMY - PART 2 



Yesterday we considered a brief excerpt from a long article posted at DevonLive.com. The article conveys the findings of an inspection report on the Steiner Academy Exeter.

Anyone interested in Waldorf/Steiner education should read the entire article. The many problems found at Steiner Academy Exeter arguably reflect systemic flaws found in many, if not all, Waldorf/Steiner schools worldwide. 

Steiner Academy Exeter is presumably an exceptional case, suffering from such a wide array of problems in such acute form. Other Waldorf/Steiner schools may exhibit only a few of these problems at any one time, or the severity of the problems may be lower. But, to one degree or another, such problems evidently mark the operations of numerous Waldorf or Steiner schools in many countries. 

The causes lie in the very nature, structure, and culture of Waldorf/Steiner schools as established originally by Rudolf Steiner at the first Waldorf school, opened in Germany in 1919. In general, Waldorf and Steiner schools today continue to model themselves on that school — and they generally continue, therefore, to exhibit characteristic Waldorf/Steiner flaws that first arose at that school. [Concerning such flaws, see "Slaps", "Extremity", "Mistreating Kids Lovingly", "Who Gets Hurt", "Academic Standards at Waldorf", and related essays.] 

With this in mind, let's return to the DevonLive article — "Fighting, failures and physical restraint - Ofsted report reveals inside Exeter's Steiner school" — and look more closely at the problems found at Steiner Academy Exeter. According to author 
Rom Preston-Ellis, the UK Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) leveled the following criticisms in their official inspection report. (The passages below are in reporter Preston-Ellis's words. In some instances, Preston-Ellis quotes from or paraphrases the inspection report. Words enclosed in brackets are my own interpolations or clarifications. I have altered the sequence of the passages, aiming to group related passages with one another.)



◊ "Many teachers at the school lack the training and experience that are necessary to carry out their job properly, the report [stated]. In particular, teachers lack the skills and subject knowledge to [give instruction] in key subjects such as reading, writing[,] and mathematics...."


◊ [The report said] 'in some of the [school] settings, teaching is particularly poor. Teachers avoid interacting with children and keep any communication to a minimum.'"


◊ "Serious issues with the employment of staff and a lack of safeguarding checks were also highlighted. 'The processes used to recruit and check on the suitability of new staff do not meet statutory requirements and therefore they put pupils at potential risk of harm,' said the report … 'Some staff have been appointed because they are known by the school and not because they have been thoroughly appraised to check that they have the necessary skills and experience.'"


◊ 'In July, DevonLive.com reported that a safeguarding investigation had been launched at the school after two pupils, believed to be six years old, walked out unnoticed during lessons … Ofsted's inspectors found that this incident had been 'inadequately investigated' by senior leaders [of the school].…"


◊ "Leadership was dysfunctional at every level in the school, the report stated. [It added] that the principal [of the school] did not work effectively with governors [i.e., members of the school's board of governors] and kept them at arm’s length from what is happening.…"


◊ "Governance at Steiner [i.e., the Steiner Academy] was described as in 'disarray'[,] with governors not addressing [the problem] that teachers were subject to regular physical assaults by younger pupils."


◊ "Inspectors found that staff in the Kindergarten use physical interventions regularly and inappropriately with children. They pull children up from the floor, carry them across the room[,] and force them to sit upright. Staff reported that this is common practice and that incidents of physical restraint also occur and are not reported.…"


◊ "The atmosphere in some Kindergarten classrooms was described as 'frequently loud and chaotic’. The report stated that children engage in risky behaviour, such as vaulting from five-foot apparatus onto wooden flooring and hurling wooden blocks around. 'Adults’ awareness of risk is poor, and their supervision of such activities is completely ineffective,' it added.


◊ "Leaders [of the school] were found not to have the skills to understand how the needs of pupils with specific emotional and behavioural difficulties can be met[,] leading to vulnerable children simply being removed from the classroom or excluded from the school [i.e., expelled].…"


◊ "A quarter of parents who responded [to] an Ofsted questionnaire reported that bullying was not dealt with effectively at the school...."


◊ "The supervision of pupils during outside break times [i.e., recesses] was found to be poor. 'While adults may be present, they do not actively monitor behaviour nor intervene when 'rough play' can tip over into actual physical aggression,' added the report..…"


— Rom Preston-Ellis, "Fighting, failures and physical restraint - Ofsted report reveals inside Exeter's Steiner school", DevonLive.com, November 16, 2018.



If DevonLive and, more important, Ofsted have given an accurate appraisal of Steiner Academy Exeter, the school seems to have operated in an atmosphere of incompetence and virtual chaos. As reported by Rom Preston-Ellis, the Ofsted report is indeed "damning."


The conditions at Steiner Academy Exeter have certainly been extreme, yet they reflect conditions prevailing — to varying degrees — at many other Waldorf or Steiner schools. Thus, the problems at Steiner Academy Exeter are distinctly reminiscent of the problems discovered earlier at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, which UK education officials ordered to close. [See "RSSKL".]


Surely some Waldorf/Steiner schools operate smoothly. Surely some are as peaceful and lovely as the schools' PR efforts suggest. [See "Upside", "Glory", and "PR".] But the reports on Steiner Academy Exeter and Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley appear to lift the lid from a Pandora's box of Waldorf/Steiner failings. Parents looking for a good school for their children should certainly bear these reports in mind. 


For some guidance on evaluating Waldorf/Steiner schools, see "Non-Waldorf Waldorfs - Looking for a Good One", "Advice for Parents", and "Clues".


For a concise summary of the dangers Waldorf/Steiner schools may pose for students, see the entry for "harm potentially caused by Waldorf schools" in The Brief Waldorf/Steiner Encyclopedia.


For previous Waldorf Watch coverage of the situation at Steiner Academy Exeter, see "S. A. Exeter".


– R.R.











November 18, 2018


ILLNESS TOLL AT WALDORF SCHOOL 

RISES TO THREE DOZEN 




The number of students at an American Waldorf school stricken with chickenpox has reportedly risen to 36.

From The Asheville Citizen-Times [North Carolina, USA]:


A leader in vaccine exemption, 
Asheville Waldorf has NC's 
worst chickenpox outbreak since ’95

[by] Sam DeGrave

A chickenpox outbreak at a private school now ranks as the state's largest since a vaccine for the virus became available more than 20 years ago, health officials say.

As of Friday, 36 students at Asheville Waldorf School had contracted the varicella virus, known to most as chickenpox. The school has one of the highest vaccination religious exemption rates in North Carolina. 

The viral infection manifests in an itchy rash in most cases and is not typically life-threatening. But the outbreak at Asheville Waldorf should cause concern, said Dr. Jennifer Mullendore of Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services.

"People don't think it's a serious disease, and for the majority of people it's not. But it's not that way for everybody," Mullendore said. Two to three out of every 1,000 children infected with chickenpox required care in a hospital, she said.

"To me, that's not a mild disease, and if you're the parent of one of those children, you probably don't think so either," Mullendore said.…

[R]ecommendations [for children to be vaccinated] have by and large gone unheeded by the parents of Asheville Waldorf's 152 students — 110 of whom have not received the chickenpox vaccine….

During the 2017-2018 school year, the last for which data were available, Asheville Waldorf had a higher rate of religious exemptions for vaccination than all but two other schools in the state.

Of the 28 kindergartners who enrolled that year, 19 had an exemption to at least one vaccination required by the state for school entry.

School officials did respond to questions from the Citizen Times Friday….





Waldorf Watch Response:

When the epidemic at Asheville Waldorf School was first reported, approximately 24 students at the school had come down with chickenpox. The total has now increased by about fifty percent, rising from two dozen to three dozen students made ill by the disease.

If the student body of Asheville Waldorf consists of 152 students, then the 36 ill students represent about a quarter — one in four — of all the students at the school.

Approximately three-quarters of the students at the school have not been vaccinated against chickenpox (110 out of 152 students).

About two-thirds of the children in the Asheville Waldorf kindergarten (19 out of 28) have been exempted from one or more vaccinations otherwise required by the state of North Carolina.

Although reliable worldwide statistics have not been compiled, it appears that more than four million people are hospitalized each year due to complications from chickenpox. Moreover, authoritative estimates indicate that as many as 4,200 people worldwide die each year due to chickenpox. [See http://www.who.int/immunization/sage/meetings/2014/april/2_SAGE_April_VZV_Seward_Varicella.pdf.]

As Dr. Mullendore suggests, chickenpox can indeed be a serious disease. You would certainly recognize this fact if your own child had to be hospitalized, or — tragically — died, due to chickenpox.

For previous Waldorf Watch coverage of the situation at Asheville Waldorf, see "Chickenpox, Black Magic, and Waldorf", Parts 1-5 (November 6, 7, 8, 9, and 16).


– R.R.











November 17, 2018


DEVASTATING INSPECTION REPORT  

ON U.K. STEINER ACADEMY 




The Steiner Academy Exeter, a Steiner “free school” in the United Kingdom, has recently come under intense scrutiny and criticism. Now the release of a government inspection report is clarifying the problems at the school.

The following is from DevonLive.com [Devon, UK]: 


Fighting, failures and physical restraint - 
Ofsted report reveals  
inside Exeter's Steiner school


An Ofsted report has revealed a catalogue of failings at the troubled school

[by] Rom Preston-Ellis


Shocking failures in leadership, teaching standards and the safety of pupils have been uncovered at Exeter's Steiner school in a damning Ofsted report. [Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, a department of the UK government.]

The 442 pupil school on Cowley Bridge Road was shut down for more than a week following a visit from inspectors in October.

Now a full report has revealed a catalogue of failings at the school including leadership being 'dysfunctional at every level', Kindergarten pupils being physically restrained by teachers and a lack of support for vulnerable children.

Other concerns raised by the watchdog include teachers being subjected to regular physical assaults by pupils, the needs of children with special educational needs not being met and a lack of evidence that safeguarding checks have been made when employing new members of staff.

A new leadership team has since been appointed at Steiner overseeing a period of special measures which the school says will mark a 'seismic shift' in the way it is run.

The Ofsted report found the school to be 'inadequate' in every area inspected.…

[11/17/2018   https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/fighting-failures-physical-restraint-ofsted-2226397    This article was originally published on November 16.]




Waldorf Watch Response:

The Ofsted report indicates that Steiner Academy Exeter has failed its students in virtually every way a school could fail. The school has had poor teaching, poor management, and poor safeguarding of students. The school was found to be inadequate "in every area inspected."

A new management team, brought in from outside, has been given the task of correcting the school's multiple shortcomings. Whether the team can possibly succeed is not at all evident. The following is from commentary posted at The Quackometer:


"The new external management from the Ted Wragg Trust need to get to grips quickly with what a Steiner School is. THEY WILL BE LIED TO. Rudolf Steiner himself made it clear that teachers should lie to external authorities about their aims and methods. The new management have a simple choice: if the school is to survive, it cannot ‘blend’ in Steiner education. It is all or nothing. Steiner control and influence has to be stripped out if these problems are to be solved. And Ofsted, if they have not already, need to recognise that these issues are systemic to Steiner education — to Anthroposophical schools. Again, these are not failures — they are features. All other Steiner Schools need urgent independent inspection." — The Quackometer, November 16, 2018.


The problems at Steiner Academy Exeter may well reflect systemic problems in the Steiner/Waldorf movement generally. The Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) was ordered to close after similar problems were discovered there. [See "Remembering RSSKL — The Faults Found", July 7, 2018.]

For previous Waldorf Watch coverage of the situation at Steiner Academy Exeter, see "S. A. Exeter".

For a review of the dramatic events at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, see "RSSKL".


– R.R.











November 16, 2018


CHICKENPOX, BLACK MAGIC, 

AND WALDORF - PART 5




The chickenpox outbreak at an American Waldorf school has spread further. It has now given the disease to 30+ students.

From the website of Blue Ridge Public Radio [North Carolina, USA]:




This 1981 electron microscope image shows varicella-zoster virions from a patient with chickenpox. 
[CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION]



Chicken Pox Outbreak 
Hits School With County's 
Highest Vaccine Exemption Rate

By HELEN CHICKERING


The Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services says the chicken pox outbreak at an Asheville private school [the Asheville Waldorf School] has now spread to more than 30 students ... [T]he school has a history of high vaccine exemption rates.…

Buncombe County Medical Director, Dr. Jennifer Mullendore…says the private school had the highest vaccine religious exemption rate in the county last year….

The Asheville Waldorf School issued a statement, noting that the school is cooperating with the health department….

During the 2016-17 school year, 57 percent of the kindergarten class at the Asheville Waldorf School (formerly Azalea Mountain School) claimed a religious exemption. During the 2014-15 school year class the religious exemption rate was 73 percent….

[11/16/2018     http://www.bpr.org/post/chicken-pox-outbreak-hits-school-countys-highest-vaccine-exemption-rate     This report was originally aired on November 15.]





Waldorf Watch Response:

In North Carolina, receiving a religious immunization exemption (i.e., permission to refuse vaccination) is extremely easy. Membership in a church and belief in God are not required.

The following is from The News & Observer [Raleigh, North Carolina]: 


The number of N.C. [North Carolina] kindergarteners opting out of required childhood vaccinations on religious grounds more than doubled in the five school years from 2012 to 2016. And both public health officials and anti-vaccine advocates agree that the exemption is being claimed by parents whose true objection to the shots has nothing to do with faith.…

To claim a religious exemption, a parent needs only to write a statement “of the bona fide religious beliefs and opposition to the immunization requirements,” and give it to the child’s school in place of an immunization record, according to state law.

The statement doesn’t need to be prepared by an attorney, signed by a religious leader or notarized. No form is needed. The statement doesn’t go to the state for review or approval.

Alan Phillips, an Asheville-area lawyer who counsels parents all over the nation on how to exempt their children from vaccine requirements, said that, under the N.C. rules, “You don’t even have to believe in God.”

[https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article188633004.html]






For previous Waldorf Watch coverage of the situation at the Asheville Waldorf School, see "Chickenpox, Black Magic, and Waldorf", November 6, 2018, and subsequent reports dated November 7, November 8, and November 9. All of these reports are available at https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfstraighttalk/indications-12.


– R.R.











November 15, 2018


ALLEGED SEXUAL ABUSE AT  

A SWEDISH PRIVATE SCHOOL  




From The Express [Stockholm, Sweden]:



Several teachers
accused of abuse
at the same school

[by] Frida Sundkvist


A 50-year-old teacher chose to quit after allegations of intimate emails and approaches to a 15-year-old student — he described himself as "in love.”

The private school claimed that it was a one-off event.

But The Express can now reveal a series of cases involving other teachers, but these cases have been covered up by the leadership of the school.

One girl was 11 years old, another 9 years old. Both had disabilities.


It is a school where everyone knows everyone.

Teachers have themselves gone there, and they let their children go there … The atmosphere at school is familial.

But there is also another story about this school. It is about suspected sexual assaults and teachers who initiate affair with the students.

Several cases have been silenced by the school management, The Express can now reveal.

For three weeks, our reporter has sought [a response from] both teachers and school leaders. Nobody wants to talk about the problems at the school.…

In an email to the school's employees, the deputy principal has forbidden them to speak with The Express.…

[11/15/2018    https://www.expressen.se/nyheter/qs/skolan/   This news account originally appeared on November 8. Translation from Swedish — relying heavily of Google Translate — by Roger Rawlings.]




Waldorf Watch Response:

The Express (in Swedish, Expressen) does not name the school at the center of this article. There are indications that the school may be a longtime Waldorf school situated in Stockholm, but we must remember that any attempt at identification we make here must be tentative, and all the charges mentioned in the article are — from the standpoint of the law — unproven. Moreover, the teachers referred to in the article must be assumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

At the Waldorf Critics discussion site, one of the participants — herself a former Waldorf student and a resident of Stockholm — gives reasons for thinking the school in the article is in fact a Swedish Waldorf school. [See https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/waldorf-critics/conversations/messages/31937.] If this surmise is correct, the article adds to a long litany of similar reports about Waldorf or Steiner schools. [See, e.g., "Slaps" and "Extremity". Also see "Pedophilia at Waldorf?", August 1, 2018.]

Sexual abuse may happen anywhere. It is certainly not a uniquely Waldorf-centered problem. Yet there are some indications that the Waldorf culture may facilitate sexual entanglements between teachers and students. Thus, in his memoir recounting his experiences as a Waldorf student and, later, a Waldorf teacher, Grégoire Perra has written of the "questionable closeness between students and teachers" at Waldorf schools. Here is an excerpt:

One aspect of the insidious indoctrination in Waldorf schools is based on the establishment of a very close relationship between the teacher and his or her ​​students. Firstly, this proximity is enhanced by the fact that the same class teacher remains with the same group of students for six to eight years. This obviously contributes to the creation of relationships that are more familial than professional. In addition, measures are deliberately taken to create the conditions for increased closeness. For example, it is common that some students become babysitters or housekeepers for their teachers ... And I worked in a school where the students knew absolutely everything about the private lives of their teachers. Teachers' private lives had become a common topic of discussion in the playground, due to the feeling of living in a kind of extended family....

This continuing proximity of students with their teachers is such that it does not seem abnormal, unless significant missteps sometimes lead school officials to take some limited measures. Having been both witness and victim, I can say that unusual closeness is part of the rationale of these schools. This is why there is rarely any strong resistance against the excesses that may arise, but as much as possible they are tolerated....

Here I must be very clear and also mention legally reprehensible behavior. Indeed, some ethical rules seem to be disregarded in the Steiner-Waldorf schools, and there are cases of sexual and romantic relationships sometimes occurring between students and teachers. For example, when I was teaching, I witnessed in one of these schools an illicit relationship that had begun between a teacher and a student of the upper classes. They started dating when the student was in 10th grade ... All class teachers of the high school knew about it, including some who were members of the board of the school. How could they ignore it, since this teacher and this student had come to live together in the same apartment?....

I in no way seek to draw attention to the misconduct of a colleague or to throw stones at him; and if I mention this story, it is because it is indicative of the common pitfalls that occur in Waldorf educational institutions. I could moreover provide other examples.....

...There reigns [in these schools] a sort of permanent "incestuous" atmosphere that can go haywire very quickly for everyone. A mantra recited by the teaching community at some faculty meetings reflects this total confusion of identities:

 

Me in the community,

And the community in me. 


Far from being a saying designed to encourage healthy collegial solidarity, these words rather reflect the total confusion of identities prevailing in the Waldorf school system. Nobody there knows who he is or what exactly his role is....

— Grégoire Perra, "The Anthroposophical Indoctrination of Students in Steiner-Waldorf Schools" [see https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/he-went-to-waldorf].





I am grateful to Alicia Hamberg for bringing the Expressen report to my attention.


– R.R.











November 14, 2018


PROGRESSIVE? HOLISTIC? 

NO, WALDORF 




From the CyprusMail Online [Nicosia, Cyprus]:

‘A much-needed boost to education’

[By] Annette Chrysodtomou


A new initiative will bring a much-needed boost to education, and the process of bringing this new school to Nicosia already started on Friday and Saturday with the first Waldorf teacher accredited certification seminars....

“A new type of school is being born, offering an alternative type of education,” the group of parents and teachers who came up with the idea...said on their Facebook page. They explain that this will be a holistic progressive school which is different from all the other schools operating today in Cyprus....

“This type of school applies the holistic Waldorf educational system with great success. This system has been used for the last 100 years in over 1200 schools all over the world" [the group said].





Waldorf Watch Response:

Efforts to create new Waldorf schools continue apace. There is already one Waldorf school on the island of Cyprus. Now a second Waldorf is struggling to be born there.

New Waldorf schools are often begun by groups of parents seeking alternatives to conventional schools. Whether the parents in these groups fully understand the nature of Waldorf education is often unclear. In any event, the descriptions of Waldorf given by these groups — descriptions that are meant to drum up support and enlist additional families — are often far off the mark.

Let's consider a few of the labels attached to Waldorf education in the report excerpted above.

◊ Waldorf school do indeed represent an "alternative" to ordinary education. In this sense, a new Waldorf school would almost certainly be "different from all the other schools operating today in Cyprus" (except for the other Waldorf school in Cyprus).

The question, though, is whether Waldorf would represent a better alternative. Would Waldorf, in other words, provide a good education for the children of Cyprus?

On this score, the answer is almost certainly no. Waldorf schools have generally had low academic standards from the time the first Waldorf school opened in Germany almost a century ago. [1] Waldorf schools generally do not, in fact, even attempt to provide a good education as this concept is usually understood — they generally do not attempt to equip students with the knowledge and skills needed for successful lives in the real world. The Waldorf focus is actually on other worlds — the worlds of the spirit realm. [2] The real objective of the Waldorf movement is to spread the religion created by Waldorf founder Rudolf Steiner: Anthroposophy. [3]

◊ Well, then, is it not at least true that Waldorf education is holistic?

The answer to this question depends on how one defines the term "holistic." Waldorf schools certainly do attempt to affect and mold all parts of their students' constitutions. This goal is often summarized in the Waldorf motto "Head, Heart, and Hands." But Waldorf beliefs about the human constitution are highly unusual; some would say these beliefs are highly unrealistic. Thus, for instance, Rudolf Steiner taught that human beings have four bodies — physical, etheric, astral, and "I." [4] Humans have twelve senses, he said. [5] Humans have both souls and spirits. [6] Humans have karmas [7]; they reincarnate [8]; they have classical temperaments — sanguine, phlegmatic, melancholic, and choleric [9]; they stand at  various evolutionary levels reflected by their race — blacks stand at a low level, whites at a high level [10]; they have astrological identities [11]; and so forth. Only if you accept the Anthroposophical description of human nature will you consider Waldorf education to be "holistic" in any rational, constructive sense. [12]

◊ But, surely, Waldorf education is progressive, isn't it?

The answer to this question is suggested by some of the Waldorf beliefs we have already reviews. Karma, reincarnation, classical temperaments, etc., are hardly modern or forward-thinking concepts. In fact, many fundamental Waldorf beliefs are medieval or even older than that. [13] 

For the most part, instead of being truly progressive, Waldorf education represents are rebellion against progressive thinking. Thus, for instance, historian Peter Staudenmaier has written this:

"Central aspects of Waldorf pedagogy stand in direct opposition to standard principles of progressive education. Several of Waldorf's more conspicuous weaknesses stem directly from Steiner's rejection of progressive educational ideals...." [14] 




Parents who want to send their children to Waldorf schools should certainly have the right to do so. But they would be well advised to make sure that they really understand what Waldorf education actually is.







[4] See "Incarnation".


[6] See the entries for "soul" and "spirit" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.

[7] See "Karma".

[8] See "Reincarnation".

[9] See "Humouresque" and "Temperaments".

[10] See "Steiner's Racism" and "Races". 

[11] See "Astrology" and "Horoscopes".

[12] Steiner laid out his key teachings about human nature — which comprise the premises for Waldorf education — in the lectures presented in the book STUDY OF MAN or, in a different edition, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE. [See "Oh Humanity".]

[13] See, e.g., "The Ancients".

[14] See "Waldorf Now".

— R.R.












November 13, 2018



QUACK TREATMENTS  

VS. REAL HEALING 




From the website of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA), an announcement of an upcoming event:


Nov 15 2018   
The Changing Nature of Childhood Health & Illness


November 15, 2018 - Chicago, IL

Lecture: Dr. Thomas Cowan, M.D.


Please join us in welcoming world-renowned doctor and author Dr. Thomas Cowan, M.D. from San Francisco, CA as he describes his research and experience with today’s children and their health, based on his newest book, Vaccines, Autoimmunity and the Changing Nature of Childhood Illness.…

Dr Thomas Cowan M.D. is board-certified in anthroposophic medicine. He is a founding board member of the Weston A Price Foundation and is author of The Fourfold Path to Healing ... He writes the “Ask the Doctor” column in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts. He is author of Human Heart, Cosmic Heart (A Doctor's Quest to Understand, Treat and Prevent Cardiovascular Disease)....





Waldorf Watch Response:

Dr. Cowan's presentation seems sure to be interesting. Whether it will be medically valid is, however, a different question.

Anthroposophic medicine is, by and large, quack medicine. [See "Steiner's Quackery".] Dr. Cowan seems to follow in the Steiner tradition. Thus, for instance, his book  THE FOURFOLD PATH TO HEALING offers advice for the health of all four human bodies described by RudolfSteiner: the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body, and the "I". This is certainly interesting. But if three of these four bodies are entirely imaginary — that is, if they do not exist — then the value of Dr. Cowan's advice is greatly reduced. [For more on the four bodies as posited in Anthroposophic belief, see "Incarnation".]

The following is from a review of THE FOURFOLD PATH TO HEALING posted at The Online Waldorf Library:

This in-depth book is truly a fourfold look at healing the human being. The healing of the physical body is affected in large part by nutrition [Dr. Cowan says] … In the realm of the etheric body, or life-force body, healing for Dr. Cowan is especially through natural medicines, homeopathy and herbal extracts. The emotional body [i.e., the astral body], or soul…finds healing through movement and exercise. The fourth realm of the mental body or spirit [i.e., the “I”] can attain health through discovering one's own life purpose on a path of self-observation and meditation. Dr. Cowan stresses the importance of finding a healthy balance and integration between the working of the various bodies of the human being….” Spring/Summer 2005, Issue #48: Book Review: The Fourfold Path to Healing


Concerns about infectious diseases have recently arisen in and around the Waldorf movement, due to an epidemic of chickenpox at an American Waldorf school. [See "Chickenpox, Black Magic, and Waldorf", November 6, 2018, and the succeeding coverage.] Here is an excerpt in the section of THE FOURFOLD PATH TO HEALING dealing with infectious diseases:

"All of the major natural healing systems in the history of humanity have recognized that acute illness is the body’s main mechanism for cleansing itself … Wise doctors have always made us of the ‘infectious’ process. Hippocrates said, 'Give me a medicine that will produce fever and I can cure any disease' … The true nature of acute illness presents a real challenge to orthodox therapies with their fever-reducing medicines, antibiotics, and vaccines…." — Thomas Cowan, THE FOURFOLD PATH TO HEALING (Newtrends Publishing, 2004), p. 100.

Several telltale signs of dangerous quack medicine are evident here. Dr. Cowan suggests that illness is good of us — fever, in particular, cleanses the body. He relies heavily on ancient and outmoded medical traditions — he quotes, for instance, Hippocrates (who died in about 377 BCE). Most worrisomely, he indicates his opposition to "orthodox therapies" — that is, the proven treatments offered by genuine medicine ("orthodox...medicines, antibiotics, and vaccines"). And Dr. Cowan mischaracterizes these orthodox therapies, particularly antibiotics and vaccines. These are not used for the purpose of lowering fevers — they are used for curing or preventing harmful diseases. The following is from the National Institutes of Health:

"A fever is a body temperature that is higher than normal … Infections cause most fevers. You get a fever because your body is trying to kill the virus or bacteria that caused the infection ... Treatment depends on the cause of your fever. If the fever is very high, your health care provider may recommend taking an over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen." — "Fever", MedLine Plus, the National Institutes of Health.

Antibiotics and vaccines are not prescribed for lowering fever. They affect fever only as a secondary result as they work to effect their chief purpose, which is counteracting harmful diseases. And contrary to the tenets of Anthroposophical medicine, protecting children from diseases should always be a principle objective of responsible pediatric practice.

Fever in and of itself is not usually harmful, as long as it remains below 41°C (about 106°F). But the underlying diseases that cause fever generally should be addressed — that is, they should be either prevented or cured. We have recently looked into the severity of chickenpox. Let's turn our attention, now, to a more serious disease, measles. The following is from the World Health Organization:

"Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. Before the introduction of measles vaccine in 1963 and widespread vaccination, major epidemics occurred approximately every 2–3 years and measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.

"Approximately 89,780 people died from measles in 2016 — mostly children under the age of 5 years, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine." — Fact Sheet, Measles, World Health Organization.

The world's children deserve the benefits of real medicine, the very "orthodox therapies" derided by Dr. Cowan and other Anthroposophical doctors.

— R.R.


















For previous Waldorf-related news items,

see "Indications"

at the website

Waldorf Straight Talk.










I often generalize about Waldorf schools. There are fundamental similarities among Waldorf schools; describe the schools based on the evidence concerning their structure and operations in the past and — more importantly — in the present. But not all Waldorf schools, Waldorf charter schools, and Waldorf-inspired schools are wholly alike. 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. 

— R.R.







































Artwork, such as it is, by R.R.