DC's Improbable Science

Truth, falsehood and evidence: investigations of dubious and dishonest science

DC's Improbable Science header image 2

Steiner Waldorf Schools Part 3. The problem of racism

December 16th, 2010 · 286 Comments

This is the third part of a series of guest posts on the curious Steiner Waldorf cult

The first part was The true nature of Steiner (Waldorf) education. Mystical barmpottery at taxpayers’ expense. Part 1

Part 2 was The Steiner Waldorf cult uses bait and switch to get state funding. Part 2


This post deals with the most contentious and serious aspect of Steiner schools, racism. It makes, in my view, a convincing argument that Steiner’s undoubtedly racist views remain a problem today. They can’t be dismissed simply by saying that Steiner was a child of his times.

This post was written by an ex-Steiner school parent, known on the web as @ThetisMercurio.

The essay supplies yet more reasons to think that Steiner schools are all based on pseudo science: Steiner’s Spiritual Science. It is important that we understand these schools because funding of these schools is imminent, through Michael Gove’s Free Schools policy.

Extracts from works by Olav Hammer and Peter Staudenmaier are included with the permission of the authors.

A Spiritual Elite

Our first two posts introduced Anthroposophy and our concerns about the state funding of Steiner Waldorf schools through the Free Schools policy. Anthroposophy, the belief system developed by Rudolf Steiner, undeniably underpins the pedagogy which informs teaching practice in Steiner schools. This is reflected in the course materials and recommended texts for Steiner trainee teachers, wherever these have been obtained.

What must be stressed is that an adherence to Anthroposophy and aspects of this pedagogy can lead teachers to make decisions about individual children based on race and disability, which many people would consider to be outright discrimination.
steiner3-1
Ceiling, First Goetheanum, Rudolf Steiner. Spirit worlds.

This discrimination may be undeclared and subtle but we believe it is, when rightly understood, within the comprehension and scope of the Equality Act 2010 as interpreted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Does the ideological drive towards Free Schools justify a breach in the rights of children not to be exposed to such potentially damaging practice?

In this post I write about the history of Anthroposophy, and how Steiner’s privileged status amongst adherents has obscured understanding of Steiner Waldorf education. Although I’ll focus on Steiner’s race doctrines, it’s important to understand that an anthroposophical belief in karma and reincarnation must have an impact on children with learning disabilities. Some of the most distressing personal accounts on parent forums have described an encounter with this particular aspect of Steiner’s dogma. Liz Ditz, a writer on education and learning disabilities, has the same concern with regard to Waldorf Charters in the US:

“Waldorf/Steiner [is] particularly pernicious for children with educational special needs such as dyslexia, ADHD, and autism. Because of the underlying beliefs in karma and reincarnation, teachers at Waldorf/Steiner tend to believe that such educational challenges are part of a child’s destiny to “work out”. The Waldorf/Steiner attitude does not satisfy US laws relative to educating students.”

Roger Rawlings indicates Steiner’s thinking on disability on Waldorf Watch and the UK site EASE online has an account of ‘karma in the classroom’ by a parent with a Steiner training. Swedish blogger Alicia Hamberg describes the University of Aberdeen’s programme on Rudolf Steiner’s curative pedagogy, which draws directly on Steiner’s clairvoyantly acquired ideas. This area demands greater investigation before English Steiner schools can be assumed to satisfy discrimination legislation regarding children with disabilities.

There is a determined lack of interest and comprehension about the nature of Anthroposophy amongst those responsible for overseeing the inspection of Steiner schools (Ofsted, which delegates to the SIS) and also amongst those who will make the decision to fund particular schools. It may appear too difficult. The structure of an esoteric belief system, with gradually imparted ‘knowledge’: impenetrable texts, study groups, a tradition of communicating certain information orally (a great deal isn’t written down) and a distrust of critical thinking, means that Steiner teachers themselves can be confused about the nature or real life implications of Steiner’s dogma, as well as largely ignorant of the Waldorf movement’s history. But there is an undeclared hierarchy of anthroposophical knowledge and influence within a Steiner school’s college of teachers; decisions about individual children are often steered by collegiate anthroposophical impulse. Obfuscation is deliberate: when explaining Anthroposophy, as far as the movement is concerned the answer depends on who is asking.

We can’t afford to be ignorant or to accept Steiner schools on their own terms. The history of Anthroposophy and thereby Steiner Waldorf education is essential reading. That history contains a warning, and we ignore this at our own risk.

Lessons on Spin from the New Schools Network

In November 2009, a meeting was held in London between representatives of the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship and English Steiner Schools, including Emma Craigie, Rachel Wolf of the New Schools Network  and Sam Freedman, Tory special advisor for education. It was called: ‘Moving forward, a special pre-election seminar about possible developments in the state funding opportunity for Steiner schools’.

A transcript of this seminar appeared online in March 2010 on both UK Anthroposophy and Liberal Conspiracy. I can reiterate that the transcript is a genuine account of a public meeting. No one present has to the best of our knowledge complained that this is not the case. Since there appears to be no attempt to dissuade from pursuing Free Schools funding the Steiner schools and initiatives mentioned in our second post (in fact many more than three of these schools are well advanced) I believe it is important to revisit this seminar.

The NSN is already under scrutiny. After an intervention by Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan, it has been the recipient of regulatory advice from the Charity Commission regarding its responsibilities as an independent charity. The clarity of NSN funding arrangements has also been questioned. I suggest that if Rachel Wolf is expected to advise parents on the best way to educate their children, she cannot afford, in the case of 18 or more potential Steiner Free Schools, to ignore these two salient problems in the path of state funded Steiner education:

   1) Accounts from parents who are or who have been unhappy with the Steiner schooling system and those who have had negative experiences associated with the schools.

and

   2) The writings of Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy

I agree with those at the seminar that the latter will be the greater problem. In fact, I assert that it’s an insurmountable one, or at least that it should be. This can’t be cured by good PR or by changing a name. Should the success of the Free Schools policy need to be bolstered by protecting Steiner Waldorf’s reputation from disenchanted parents, students and teachers, it will mean a concerted effort to ensure their voices are not heard or their stories are discredited. Such a tactic would be unsustainable, to put it mildly.

In the seminar, it was mentioned that there are racist aspects to Steiner’s writings. This accusation is far from new and it seems it was no surprise to those present. If Sam Freedman is aware of a potential threat to the reputation of the state from the funding of Steiner schools with an adherence to ‘Steiner says’, (an adherence which troubled the writers of the 2005 Woods report) he should be concerned that since the closure of the University of Plymouth Steiner BA there are no publicly accountable Steiner Waldorf teacher training courses in the UK. It’s unclear where the teachers are going to come from, especially since it appears there will be no requirement for Free Schools teachers to be formally trained. British Steiner Waldorf training will be essentially ‘in-house’ (perhaps at the Steiner Academy Hereford).

The issue of whether racism exists as an active agent within Anthroposophy was not addressed seriously at the pre-election meeting, although anthroposophical distinctions regarding both race and disability have human consequences and political implications.

steiner3-2
Steiner’s drawing of the “evolution of humankind” through the various stages – Hyperborea, Lemuria, Atlantis — from lower to higher forms (fish to reptiles to mammals etc), with the top three categories marked “apes,” then (American) “Indians,” then at the very top “Aryans.” Steiner’s 1907 lecture refers to both apes and Indians as “decadent side branches” of evolution.
Rudolf Steiner, 1907. Menschheitsentwickelung und Christus-Erkenntnis (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1981)

Pervasive racial assumptions run throughout Rudolf Steiner’s work. Anthroposophy itself is : “built around a racial view of human nature arranged in a hierarchical framework,” and Steiner’s doctrine awards a higher or lower place in the spiritual evolution of mankind for certain races, with their attendant characteristics. If Freedman believes the schools can simply not teach what Steiner said, he shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of Anthroposophy, and of its role within Steiner schools. Anthroposophy is not taught to the children: it informs the pedagogy. It is taught to the teachers. But since it is an esoteric religion, with hidden knowledge, that teaching is often opaque. In addition, Anthroposophy is not a tradition in which critical thinking is prized, indeed the intellectual is suspect; Steiner’s spiritual science has its own, privileged internal logic and route to acuity. As Olav Hammer, a Professor of the history of religions, comments in his accessible book ‘Claiming Knowledge’:

“..anthroposophy has an overtly formulated epistemology, which claims rational status for its visionary means of attaining knowledge.”

Hammer explains:

“For the anthroposophist, spiritual science is as inexorably logical as the natural sciences. The path towards attaining knowledge of the higher worlds, including insights into the exact mechanisms of reincarnation, lie open to those who practice the methods of Geisteswissenschaft [spiritual science] to the full. It is not only part of Steiner’s experience, but also potentially part of the experience of every individual. A carefully outlined series of meditative exercises describes how one can attain knowledge of the spiritual truths.”

and the system is itself insulated from critique:

“Steiner frees himself from the need for empirical investigation by claiming the ability to clairvoyantly access the Akashic record. In the Akashic record, Steiner found innumerable specific details on the workings of the cosmos and the human being, all presented as empirical facts.”

Hammer notes that Steiner’s method of spiritual science may appear democratic but is in reality autocratic. The only truly authentic insights are Steiner’s.

For those who believe they are developing clairvoyant faculties in pursuit of Anthroposophy’s Higher Worlds; Steiner’s racist doctrines, existing within an anthroposophical structure of reincarnation and karma, can be seen as essentially benevolent and redemptive. Though adherence (and awareness) certainly differs amongst teachers, it is impossible to remove Anthroposophy from the Steiner school pedagogy, from the required reading on the teacher training courses, from the mission of the schools. It would be entirely naive to imagine anthroposophical allegiances and beliefs in Steiner Free Schools could be policed by the DfE, especially as British courses disappear from public view or teachers are trained in other countries. Nor can the public be shielded from evidence of Anthroposophy’s precise nature and history.

Anthroposophy, and consequently the Steiner Waldorf movement, resist external critical analysis. The occult has until fairly recently been largely ignored by serious academics, and those who have explored Theosophy and other esoteric movements have been generally sympathetic to the possibility of supernatural agency. But, as we’ve seen with Olav Hammer as example, this has changed. There is now extensive academic research into the foundations of Anthroposophy and the development of Steiner Waldorf schools, enabling a non-arcane understanding of anthroposophical texts. Much of this is of course in German, including Helmut Zander’s 2007 two volume study, ‘Anthroposophie in Deutschland’.

Zander describes the ad hoc nature of the first Waldorf school, as Steiner borrowed much from already existing educational reform movements as well as from traditional models, and added his own spiritual insights. The results could only in some areas be thought of as progressive: the schools were co-educational and did not focus on exams. But from the beginning, the Waldorf system was teacher-led, not child-led and had strong authoritarian tendencies.

steiner3-3
Rudolf Steiner 1861-1925 – Spiritual Insights

Most importantly, Zander contextualizes Steiner as a historical figure, without needing to pass judgements on the accuracy of his supernatural claims. He focuses on the political landscape in which Steiner existed in real, not occult terms. And he demonstrates the significant role of Steiner’s race theories within his work, noting how anthroposophical race doctrine frequently involves implicit or explicit value judgements. Even though Zander encourages dialogue with anthroposophists who can tolerate some kind of external analysis, an extreme voice still demanded Zander’s university revoke his degree, on the grounds that he couldn’t determine the validity of any of Steiner’s claims without himself attaining ‘knowledge of the higher worlds’. Crazy as this sounds, it’s the singular manifestation of a familiar anthroposophical motif, a demand that Anthroposophy be understood – and respected, exclusively on its own terms.

Rudolf Steiner and race: the path toward the universal human

One of the most authoritative writers about Anthroposophy in English is American historian Peter Staudenmaier. His recent PhD in modern history, written at Cornell, concerns Anthroposophy in Germany and Italy from 1900 to 1945. A fluent German speaker, Staudenmaier had access to Steiner’s untranslated work as well as to original archive material. He stresses that Steiner’s prolific output can be internally contradictory, enabling supporters to claim that anthroposophical race doctrine is incidental or misunderstood. But nevertheless, there’s a dominant and explicable theme, owing much to Steiner’s occult interpretation of German nationalism. Steiner’s attitude to Jewishness is an example of insular preoccupations:

“The nature of Steiner’s hostility to Jewishness was thus both ordinary and anomalous; it incorporated the common misconceptions of the era and simultaneously transcended these within the peculiar framework of “occult science”. It was not so much hatred or fear of Jews that animated Steiner’s mature antisemitism, but ignorance of contemporary Jewish life, of modern Jewish culture and history, as well as a myopic commitment to German spiritual superiority. What Steiner did know about Judaism, moreover, was generally refracted through a Christian and Germanocentric lens.” Peter Staudenmaier ‘Rudolf Steiner and the Jewish Question’ Leo Baeck Inst. Yearbook 2005

Steiner’s claims to ‘spiritual science’ to an extent reflect an earlier association with zoologist and social Darwinist Ernst Haeckel. (Richard Dawkins comments in ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ that Haeckel was “perhaps Darwin’s most devoted disciple in Germany” and while praising Haeckel’s draughtsmanship adds: “the devotion was not reciprocated”.).

Staudenmaier suggests a mutable concept of evolution may have mediated Steiner’s shift from ‘secular to sacred’, but that it was a conversion to Mme Blavatsky’s occult movement, Theosophy, that most inspired Steiner’s racial theories:
steiner3-4
Madame Blavatsky: Theosophist and medium.

“Steiner’s doctrine of racial evolution is more than a biological appendage to his spiritual cosmology. For Anthroposophy as for Theosophy, evolution is the link between the human and the divine, it is a process supervised by higher powers and a vehicle for the soul’s elevation and purification. [ ] The guiding thread throughout Steiner’s race mythology is the motif of a small, racially advanced group progressing into the next era while the great mass of backward populations declines. In the current era, the dominant race is the Aryan race, which evolved out of a small number of specially advanced colonists from Atlantis. In Steiner’s words: “Ever since the Atlantean Race began slowly to disappear, the great Aryan Race has been the dominant one on earth.”

There is a crucial difference for Steiner between ‘race development’ and ‘soul development’:

“The two must not be confused. A human soul can develop itself in such a way that it incarnates in a particular race within a given incarnation. If it acquires certain capacities in this incarnation, then in a later incarnation it can incarnate in a different race.”
Rudolf Steiner, Christus und die menschliche Seele [Christ and the human soul] (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1997), 92

Staudenmaier elucidates: 

“As the incarnating souls ‘became steadily better and better’, Steiner explained, ‘the souls eventually passed over into higher races, such that souls which had earlier been incarnated in completely subordinate races developed themselves upwards onto a higher level and were able to incarnate later into the physical descendants of the leading population of Europe’. Steiner further contended that the very existence of different racial groups on the Earth at the same time was a cosmic mistake, a detour from the proper route of humankind’s development. This claim was tied to Steiner’s vision of the eventual emergence of a ‘Universal Human’, the goal of his teleological conception of evolution. While pointing toward the ultimate disappearance of race as a meaningful factor in human existence, Steiner’s theory of the Universal Human is built around a contrast with ‘lower types of people,’ which constitute the necessary counterpart to the ‘uniform, perfect, beautiful type of human being,’ the cosmic goal that underlies ‘the meaning of our whole earthly evolution’.”

Though potentially spiritually ‘enlightened’ to the initiate, Steiner’s views on race remain reprehensible:

“The white population, then, represent normal human beings who continue to progress, while Asians and Africans are abnormal peoples who were not as capable of evolving. Statements like these can be found throughout Steiner’s works, and may reflect the prejudices prevalent among educated Europeans of his era. Perhaps the most instructive instances are Steiner’s various statements about black people. [ ] Addressing the first generation of Waldorf teachers in 1923, Steiner responded to a question about teaching French with the following remarks:

“The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people to Europe, but it works, in an even worse way, back on France. It has an enormous effect on the blood and the race and contributes considerably toward French decadence. The French as a race are reverting."

Peter Staudenmaier, Race and redemption: Racial and Ethnic Evolution in Rudolf Steiner’s  Anthroposophy  : Nova Religio 2008

race types

Rudolf Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1993)

The three central racial types from Steiner’s 1923 lecture on “Color and the Races of Humankind” -black, yellow, and white, showing the primary traits of each racial type: for blacks an “instinctual life,” for yellow people an “emotional life,” and for whites a “thinking life”, Each has correspondingly also developed a particular part of the brain: for blacks the “rear brain,” for yellow people the “middle brain” and for whites the”fore-brain”.

All must have disclaimers

Returning to the seminar in London discussing Free Schools funding for Steiner Waldorf:  Should Steiner schools engineer a more multi-cultural image? This strategy would cause embarrassment to a government facing the understandable fury of non-white Steiner parents who come across Steiner’s race doctrines – unless Rachel Wolf persuades Cornell to revoke Dr Staudenmaier’s PhD (with assistance from dedicated anthroposophical defenders). Waldorf’s biggest problem, acknowledged after the departure of Freedman and Wolf, is undoubtedly the teachers:

“It was felt that there may be some difficulty in making a blanket rebuttal of all Anthroposophy because many people throughout the Steiner schools system, especially teachers, strongly support many aspects of that belief system. If teachers were asked to make a blanket rebuttal of Anthroposophy, many of them may not do this.” 

They cannot do this. For many, Anthroposophy is the point. Rudolf Steiner is considered by his followers to be irreproachable, a spiritual master blessed with clairvoyant powers. Pull the thread of the race doctrines out of the design, there is a corresponding pressure on Steiner’s doctrine of reincarnation and karma. The Steiner Waldorf pedagogy itself rests on anthroposophical dogma. Although a reappraisal of doctrine is not without precedent within religious movements, it would be especially problematic for Anthroposophy, as an esoteric belief system. Knowing this, the easiest way to protect the movement is to be pragmatic and to issue disclaimers. But these disclaimers bear analysis, since many anthroposophists still defend Steiner’s racial and ethnic teachings; believing them, as Staudenmaier explains, to be “humanitarian, tolerant, and enlightened.”

Here is the (current) disclaimer on racism from the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF).

Is it true that some of Rudolf Steiners writings and lectures contained statements that could be interpreted as racist?

Yes. Even though Steiner’s ideas are based on a profound respect for the equality, individuality and shared humanity of all people, regardless of race or ethnic origin, his works do contain a small number of quotations that are discriminatory. The SWSF rejects these statements and all racism. However, it should be noted that other great thinkers of his time including Darwin, Schweitzer, Gandhi and Carl Jung also spoke of race in a way that offends modern sensibilities. This does not render them or their work ‘racist’.

It is ironic that Steiner schools sometimes have to defend themselves against these accusations. Our schools thrive on every continent, in every culture and within a wide range of ethnic contexts. For example, during the period of the apartheid regime in South Africa, the only school catering for mixed races was a Steiner Waldorf school & today there are schools following Steiner philosophy of education in diverse cultures & communities, including: Israel, Egypt, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Taiwan, Japan, Brazil or Hawaii, over 60 countries in all. It should be noted that all the Steiner schools in the UK actively are opposed to all forms of discrimination against any person or group of people on the grounds of race, gender, faith, disability, age and sexual orientation and are committed to promoting equality of opportunity and reflecting the diversity of the children, staff and parents served by their school.

Further clarification about this can be found on the Statements page of the European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education website (by clicking the ‘Waldorf schools against discrimination’ link).

The first word is unusual, though the disclaimer’s tone betrays the movement’s haughty antipathy to external analysis – and frankly it’s simply untrue. There are a very large number of Steiner’s pronouncements which could not only be interpreted as racist, they are racist. Saying they are not racist costs the SWSF nothing and will not make them disappear. (To be candid, many of Steiner’s statements clearly discriminate between races in both an unpleasant and prosaic manner, the ‘spiritual’ is no excuse.)

But the statement reveals a significant misunderstanding of racism. It is historically naive to imagine that being represented in diverse cultures and communities can define a worldview. Catholic schools are similarly represented, this doesn’t alter the nature of Catholic teachings; Anthroposophy’s racial doctrines do not magically change because there are Steiner Waldorf schools in Kenya. The disclaimer also ignores the fact that South African Waldorf schools were founded by Max Stibbe (the Waldorf school in Pretoria is still named after him), a vocal supporter of apartheid. Peter Staudenmaier comments:

“[Stibbe] was also the editor of the Dutch Waldorf journal Ostara, as well as the founding editor of an even more influential Waldorf journal, Vrije Opvoedkunst, in 1933. Vrije Opvoedkunst is where Stibbe published his racist articles in the 1960s, which formed the basis for the "racial ethnography" courses in Dutch Waldorf schools well into the 1990s.”

Nor can the recent promotion of a non-white titular Vice Principal (at the state funded 315 pupil (£5.2 million) Hereford Steiner Academy cancel out Steiner’s racial doctrines.

In addition, under “What is Anthroposophy?’ the SWSF states:

“Like many inspiring thinkers from the past, Ghandi and Darwin being other examples, Rudolf Steiner provides us with important insights which continue to be relevant today, as well as statements which conflict with our contemporary understanding of inclusivity and equality.”

It’s extraordinary that in a description of Anthroposophy by the Steiner Waldorf movement’s umbrella organisation in the UK, there’s no mention of karma, reincarnation, higher worlds, spiritual science etc, or the fact that anthroposophists believe Steiner was clairvoyant. Zoologists do not believe Darwin was clairvoyant – nor did Darwin teach an occult racial doctrine. Steiner’s unique status amongst his followers means that he cannot be excused as simply ‘a man of his time’. Even so, such racial ideas were rejected by many of Steiner’s contemporaries.

From a historical perspective, racial remarks should not be assessed according to whether they offend modern sensibilities. What makes a particular text racist is its content, what it actually says about race.

steiner3-5
The 2nd Goetheanum, designed by Steiner – world centre for Anthroposophy – Dornach, Switzerland

The European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education) disclaimer document ‘Waldorf schools against discrimination’, linked to by the SWSF, states:

“Anthroposophy, upon which Waldorf education is founded, stands firmly against all forms of racism and nationalism. Throughout Steiner’s work there is a consistent anti-racist sentiment and he frequently described racist views as being anachronistic and antithetical to basic human values and dignity. The Waldorf schools are aware, however, that occasional phrases in Rudolf Steiner’s complete works are not in concordance with this fundamental direction and have a discriminatory effect.”

This is extraordinarily mendacious, and only sustainable if no one else – specifically no politician – reads any Steiner. The ‘discriminatory effect’ is reflected in the actions and decisions of teachers in the classroom, behaving in accordance with anthroposophical dogma which they may not even believe is racist. It should not be confused with an accusation that Steiner Waldorf schools openly discriminate on grounds of race, for example at point of entry, which they do not. Whether Steiner’s teachings themselves are ‘discriminatory’ makes little sense in an early twentieth century context – what matters is that they are racist. A confusion between discrimination and racism further highlights the worrying anthroposophist misunderstanding of racism.

This ECSWE disclaimer is cited by the Rudolf Steiner school South Devon. This is one of three English Steiner schools nearing funding, with the support of the Tory MP for Totnes, Dr Sarah Wollaston. The school also seeks to distance itself from “any racism stated or implied in any of Rudolf Steiner’s speeches and writings (dating from the mid -1880s to his death in 1925)” It’s alarming to find this on a school website bearing the name of the seer in question. But the disclaimer doesn’t acknowledge any statements by Steiner, much less examine their racial content. There’s no explanation of why this statement needs to be there.

On the same ECSWE site there’s a link to a document called: ‘Overcoming Racism through Anthroposophy: Rudolf Steiner and Questions of Race’. This is an audacious title. Peter Staudenmaier responds (hyperlinks mine):

“Far from a denunciation of any and all racist statements made by Steiner, it is a defense of Steiner’s racial teachings. It also claims that Steiner opposed antisemitism throughout his life, that he was deeply opposed to any philosophy of racial or ethnic superiority, and so forth. The document is co-authored by Detlef Hardorp and Lorenzo Ravagli, among others, who have very vocally and quite explicitly defended a range of Steiner’s racist arguments. This remains the mainstream position for both the Waldorf movement and the broader anthroposophist movement today.

In my view, a perfunctory ‘denunciation’ of ‘any and all racist statements made by Steiner’ — even if we could find such a denunciation from some anthroposophist body or other — would miss the point. If anthroposophists want to face up the racist components in their ideological legacy, they need to analyze and understand what Steiner taught about race, not pre-emptorily denounce it, and they need to figure out how to revise the overall conceptual structure of anthroposophy, which in its current form is built to a significant extent around racial premises. Simply waving away the problem with a vague gesture of disassociation accomplishes nothing toward that end, indeed it actively hinders the steps that could lead toward that end.”

A 1998 report by Dutch anthroposophists concluded there were no ‘racist teachings’ in Rudolf Steiner’s work. Peter Staudenmaier believes that an attempt by anthroposophists to come to terms with Steiner’s race doctrines, the “Frankfurt Memorandum” 2008, is flawed partly by using that Dutch report as its inspiration.

Significantly, former Waldorf teacher Tom Mellett notes parallels between the Steiner movement’s denunciation of Steiner’s racism and statements made by the Catholic church regarding priestly sex abuse.

Race in the classroom

Anthroposophy impacts on real children. Ray Pereira noticed the racist overtones in his child’s ‘Steiner stream’ in an Australian school:

“Mr Pereira, who is from Sri Lanka, said his concerns about Steiner’s racist beliefs were realised when his children were not allowed to use black or brown crayons because they were “not pure”. He said Steiner teachers at the state-run school recommended they not immunise their children because it would lead to the `‘bestialisation of humans”.”

Two years ago, at an established English Steiner school now applying for Free Schools funding; a British couple were alarmed when their 12 year old daughter (who’d been at the school for a year) told them a German teacher had read out the word ‘nigger’ from a book of poems, a standard text in Steiner schools. The mother reports that the teacher did not agree with the children that this is a racist word, indeed it was her daughter who was punished for refusing to back down. As a foster parent for many years and a mentor for Kids’ Company, the mother concerned is used to dealing with challenging situations but the school’s response to this incident (amongst others) shocked her. The staff seemed not to take the family’s concerns seriously and delayed taking action. Looking online for information on Steiner schools’ policies regarding racism, the mother discovered that in the book ‘How to Know Higher Worlds’, by Rudolf Steiner, (an edition last published 2008, Anthroposophic Press) a book on which one of the school trustees was basing workshops, there is an account of ‘reincarnation through the races’: 

“Peoples and races are after all, merely different developmental stages in our evolution toward a pure humanity. The more perfectly that individual members of that race or people express the pure, ideal human type – the more they have worked their way through from the physical and mortal to the super sensible and immortal realm – the “higher” this race or nation is.”

In a formal meeting with the school, the father, who is black, calmly read aloud a quote from Steiner which stated that: ‘the black man is the child of the races’. There was no response from those present, presumably the trustees convinced themselves it was outside the remit of the discussion. The couple were shown the school’s discrimination document. But they report that when they asked the school’s Education Coordinator if he believed in Steiner’s doctrine of the reincarnation of the soul through racial hierarchies, he reddened with anger and refused to answer.

This critical Steiner mother notes an obvious inconsistency. In reply to a trustee’s defence that individuals chose which bits of Steiner to believe:

“I asked her, how they could do that when Steiner received his knowledge clairvoyantly – if it all came from the spirit world surely it was all true? I also said I didn’t believe that’s where he got his knowledge, unless the spirit world itself is racist.”

The child involved is now at school elsewhere. Her family arranged for a racism awareness day to be conducted at the Steiner school; this is required of every educational setting.

 

steiner3-6
A Steiner Waldorf classroom (from here)

In response to Waldorf supporters’ claims that their teachers are simply not capable of racism and that Steiner schools are both enlightened and benign, Peter Staudenmaier writes:   

“Many forms of racist belief are not intentionally sinister, but are instead embedded in high-minded, benevolent, and compassionate orientations toward the world. It is this type of racist thought, whose historical heritage extends through the White Man’s Burden and many forms of paternalistic racial ideology, that may find a welcome home in some Waldorf schools and other anthroposophical contexts, where it can perpetuate its ideas about race under the banner of spiritual growth and wisdom. This kind of racist thinking spreads more readily precisely because it is not tied to consciously sinister intentions. Seeing through this kind of racism – which, furthermore, often has more widespread and more insidious effects on the real lives of real people than the intentionally sinister variety does – means paying attention to the background beliefs that animate a project like Waldorf, whether among its founding generation or today.”

Staudenmaier is a historian, not primarily a critic of Steiner Waldorf education. But a knowledge of the history of the anthroposophical movement is essential if we are to make any sense of the difficulties the schools face today:

“I would be pleased if my research provided an opportunity for Waldorf admirers to ponder this contentious history and take its lessons seriously. What is worrisome about the Waldorf movement’s continued failure to address anthroposophy’s racial legacy is not that Waldorf schools in the twenty-first century will start churning out little Hitler youths; what is worrisome is that Waldorf advocates and sympathizers may unknowingly help prepare the ideological groundwork for another unforeseen shift in the broader cultural terrain, in which notions of racial and ethnic superiority and inferiority could once again take on a spiritual significance that lends itself all too easily to practical implementation in a changed social and political context. For this reason among others, I strongly encourage those involved in Waldorf endeavors to take another look at the history of their movement and the doctrines at its core.”

There is a reprise of these themes in an insightful article by novelist Hari Kunzru.

If those concerned with Steiner Waldorf education read nothing else, they should read Peter Staudenmaier’s article “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism”. It is a compelling account of Anthroposophy’s history; essential reading, too important to ignore.

Like Peter Staudenmaier, I have an interest in progressive forms of education. Steiner Waldorf education, far from being progressive or democratic, is dogmatic, autocratic and anti-intellectual. The persuasive lobby for state funded Steiner schools in my opinion misrepresents Anthroposophy, there are no exceptional applications. It is this lack of honesty that causes most concern. Steiner schools have failed a particular responsibility to their clients, not shared by Church of England or Catholic schools, to explain at the beginning what is for most parents an unfamiliar world-view.

Most seriously, mindful of Steiner’s dogma of karma and the reincarnation of the human soul through the races: If genuine equalities impact assessments were conducted on these schools, in my view it is inconceivable that the implications for children from black and ethnic minorities, and those with learning difficulties, would permit the funding of Steiner education.

steiner3-7
German children 1930s. Image from Black News Tribune

Postscript

Download a pdf file of Anthroposophy’s racial doctrines: explanation and examples by Dr Peter Staudenmaier.

Follow-up

Print Friendly

Tags: Education · racism · Steiner · Waldorf

286 responses so far ↓

  • 1 DW // Jan 5, 2011 at 16:50

    I wrote:

    “The biggest obstacle I see is that anthroposophists are threatened that Steiner’s clairvoyance is at stake. If Steiner is declared wrong about any point of doctrine, the entire edifice is in question, because it is *all* based on his clairvoyant pronouncements.’

    Tom deH:
    “No it is not ALL based (a generalisation) in fact very little when I was at school was and what was was questioned all the time.”

    #1. I was referring to anthroposophy – not to your education. Anthroposophy is ALL based on Steiner’s clairvoyant pronouncements. Sorry but this point is pretty simple.

    #2. If you refuse to learn anything about anthroposophy, then how would you be able to say one way or the other what parts of your education were based on it and what parts were maybe not?

    “Quote ‘Statements from official Waldorf organizations and schools that the racial doctrines are considered incorrect and deleterious and are explicitly disavowed would be a start.’ I agree but I don’t think it is as simple as that.”

    I did not suggest it would be simple. Did you read the whole post? What sense does it make to isolate one sentence out of several paragraphs describing a many-years process, and reply “It is not as simple as that”?

  • 2 tomdehavas // Jan 5, 2011 at 18:26

    5raphs // Jan 5, 2011 at 16:18 Nuts like that should be sacked.

    DW // Jan 5, 2011 at 16:50

    #1 Sorry I thought you were talking about Steiner education not anthroposophy.

    #2 Lets just say I refuse to read about anthroposophy but given my background I heard about it all the time hence my point previously.

    I did read your whole post, clearly in this context I felt it made sense to isolate one sentance but I may have been wrong to do so. Sorry.

  • 3 zooey // Jan 5, 2011 at 18:36

    ‘#1 Sorry I thought you were talking about Steiner education not anthroposophy.

    #2 Lets just say I refuse to read about anthroposophy but given my background I heard about it all the time hence my point previously.’

    No wonder you don’t understand what we’re talking about then. We’re talking about anthroposophy and its role in waldorf/steiner education. And you refuse to inform yourself about anthroposophy and its role in waldorf/steiner education! You’re acutally not discussing what we are discussing, which explains why engaging with you in this matter is a dead-end.

    ——–

    Also, I’d like to recommend readers of this blog to take a look at a comment written by an anthroposophist and directed towards someone s/he perceives to be a dissenter. It’s a chilling read, and hopefully not representative of anthroposophy as a whole. But still, it shows anthroposophy is not the nice and cosy little community some assume it is. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/anthroposophy_now/message/1754

  • 4 Thetis // Jan 5, 2011 at 19:03

    Two quotes from above, not even mentioning the threat of karmic retribution to be suffered by the apostate.

    “The schools, then, need students and, therefore, have to be appealing to that manipulated society gone astray. That is an economic problem, too.”

    “Then there is the external problem. Contrary to what some of the hereticals may
    think, we should thank the fact that Steiner spoke during a time when he could say certain things, when he could donate certain teachings. The very teachings that are being attacked, criticized, even by the very anthroposophists, were donated to humankind when it was possible and, therefore, we should protect them.

    There is nothing to reject. Nothing to repel. Nothing to justify.
    So far I haven’t noticed any of Steiner’s teachings that might be objectionable. This does not mean that they are all undisputable. There may be errors, of course. But the core teachings are sufficiently solid to provide all the material we need to work in the invisible to connect in the right way with the spiritual worlds.”

    I dispute the writer’s assertion that schools are independent from anthroposophical activities. That’s just sophistry.

    Truly medieval. Arrogant, vicious and mad.

  • 5 tomdehavas // Jan 5, 2011 at 20:38

    zooey // Jan 5, 2011 at 18:36
    I quote ‘No wonder you don’t understand what we’re talking about then. We’re talking about anthroposophy and its role in waldorf/steiner education. And you refuse to inform yourself about anthroposophy and its role in waldorf/steiner education! You’re acutally not discussing what we are discussing, which explains why engaging with you in this matter is a dead-end.’

    Dearest Zooey perhaps you might explain why the top of this page is entitled ‘Steiner Waldorf Schools Part 3. The problem of racism’ And it has the following intoduction ‘This post deals with the most contentious and serious aspect of Steiner schools, racism. It makes, in my view, a convincing argument that Steiner’s undoubtedly racist views remain a problem today. They can’t be dismissed simply by saying that Steiner was a child of his times. This post was written by an ex-Steiner school parent, known on the web as @ThetisMercurio.’

    QED

    Regarding the link I followed it and read what I found and I think we would both agree it is disturbing I quote ‘The internal one concerns anthroposophists who are taking heretic positions with regard to Steiner’s teachings, sometimes up to the point of rejecting some or
    all of his teachings, as a result of the absurd campaign opposing the new
    mysteries.’ What this says to all of us is that there are people out there who think Steiner was a god! Clearly my school was a school of heretics calling themselves a Steiner school.

    Interestingly enough my father Frederic de Havas had a major correspondence argument with another anthroposophist A. C. Harwood, after he did a damning review of his book “The Faithful Thinker,”. I believe my father’s argument was that anthroposophy should be open to question and debate. What follows is the abstract for my father’s article.

    RUDOLF STEINER AND EDUCATION — AN APPRECIATION OF HIS WORK ON THE CENTENARY OF HIS BIRTH Author: Frederic de Havas – [Rudolf Steiner was born in Austria in 1861 and on the occasion of the centenary of his birth, Hodder and Stoughton have published “The Faithful Thinker,” edited by A. C. Harwood (Australian price 31s. 9d.) To mark this occasion, the editors decided that, instead of carrying a standard book review, we would invite an authority on Steiner to contribute an extended review. Dr. Frederic de Havas is a distinguished educationist, who is principal of Salmon’s Cross School, Holmbury St. Mary, Surrey, England, a Special School conducted on the principles of Rudolf Steiner. In the following article, he gives us a brief appreciation of Steiner’s contribution to education. J.McL.]

    This is why I keep saying do not tar all anthroposophists with the same brush there were, and I hope still are many who would refuse to accept the idea that there can be any such thing as anthroposophical heresy. Sadly every movement attracts its far share of idiots.

  • 6 tomdehavas // Jan 5, 2011 at 21:01

    Correction the book was by Owen Barfield.

  • 7 zooey // Jan 5, 2011 at 21:06

    ‘Dearest Zooey perhaps you might explain why the top of this page is entitled ‘Steiner Waldorf Schools Part 3. The problem of racism’ And it has the following intoduction ‘This post deals with the most contentious and serious aspect of Steiner schools, racism. It makes, in my view, a convincing argument that Steiner’s undoubtedly racist views remain a problem today.’

    It seems to me you learnt to read and to use reason in a waldorf/steiner school. Or you’re just into the habit of spamming threads with irrelevant junk, in which case you obviously don’t need to even bother to find out what others are actually saying.

    You haven’t read what Thetis wrote, much less understood it. Maybe it would be a good idea for the rest of us to ignore you until you’ve recovered or acquired a capacity for reading and comprehension. Otherwise this discussion is pointless and futile. Unless you bother to read what Thetis wrote and unless you’re willing to find out what anthroposophy is about and why this is a concern, then, as far as I’m concerned, what you think is utterly irrelevant. It’s got nothing to do with what’s discussed here, and for my personal part, I won’t bother with your inanity anymore.

  • 8 zooey // Jan 5, 2011 at 21:11

    What I am saying is that I think you need to read the text. Because it’s quite apparent you look at the post title, make lots of inferences, and won’t try to understand why Thetis (and many of us) feel that Steiner’s teachings (a whole bunch of them, not limited to racism) are a problem. And you just kep saying you don’t care to find out what these teachings are or what they mean to Steiner education. How could you possibly think we take such crap seriously?

  • 9 tomdehavas // Jan 5, 2011 at 21:58

    zooey // Jan 5, 2011 at 21:06 Thank you for your views but actually I have read the entirety of all three Steiner pages on this website and they seem pretty clear.

    I learned to reason from doing physics, maths and programming, not from Steiner school as you suggest. How about you? I learned to understand faulty reasoning from anthroposophists. No I am not spamming threads it takes a considerable amount of time to reply to the points raised and I consider each one carefully.

    Ignoring those with opposing veiws would be just what the anthroposophist on the link you posted would do. Yes its always cosy to surround ones self with people one agrees with but it rarely leads to any truth.

    I have read what Thetis wrote and I have explained many times why it is not necessary to read about anthroposophy in order to dispute not what Thetis is saying about anthroposophy but the conclusions he draws from it, that no Steiner school should get state funding.

    Perhaps you should read some of my fathers work on the subject to see that not all anthroposophists are as you claim.

    Zooey generalisation again. NO actually you said ‘We’re talking about anthroposophy and its role in waldorf/steiner education’ I said that the page title suggested otherwise. In this case I only needed to look at the title to refute your claim. It does seem reasonable that if you told me this was a discussion about chickens but the title sais turkeys then I don’t need to read it all to refute the claim, right?

    I have accepted and agree with many of the criticisms you level at Steiner, anthroposophy and Steiner education but you keep trying to say the whole Steiner school movement is like it.

    Zooey I am sorry to have upset you and will not be offended if you don’t bother with me. The anthroposophists gave up on me years ago when I brought electric circuits into kindergarten. It must have really messed up the Karma!

  • 10 lovelyhorse // Jan 5, 2011 at 22:10

    @John Stumbles, I wish I could tell you what I have been told directly from a mother who witnessed racism in our local Steiner school, she did try and speak out at the time, sadly this resulted in her family being hounded out of the school and community and she is now too frightened to discuss it.

    You did mention you would also be interested to hear of incidents worldwide, the following court document details a case of racial discrimination regarding the New York Steiner Waldorf School in 2002:

    http://www.waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/charmainecomp.pdf

    I understand the teacher got a settlement and a gagging order.

  • 11 Jan Luiten // Jan 5, 2011 at 22:24

    @Zooey
    “…….unless you’re willing to find out what anthroposophy is about………
    Are you, Zooey, trying to understand what anthroposophy is about?
    The trying, of course, is good.
    But I am sorry to say that most people here, including – with all respect- you, really misunderstand anthroposophy. This does not have to be problematic. A lot of people don’t.
    But is there openness to really want to understand?
    I think the real anthroposophy would be an “inconvenient truth” for many critics.
    Consciously or unconsciously they rather deal with the sectarian caricature of it and tear that in pieces.

  • 12 Thetis // Jan 5, 2011 at 23:15

    @Jan Luiten – I’d like to draw your attention to DC’s analysis of Rudolf Steiner: http://www.dcscience.net/?p=1606

    “the mystic barmpot, Rudolf Steiner, for whom nothing whatsoever seems to strain credulity”

    It was this perceptive analysis which first drew us here. It is still our analysis. And now, I feel sure, it is an analysis shared by the many skeptics, scientists, doctors, students, teachers, journalists and other trouble-makers who read this blog, most of whom had never heard of the mystic barmpot until anthroposophists and offspring of anthroposophists made these comment threads so spectacularly long.

    I can’t think of a single thing that anthroposophy doesn’t make worse. That’s quite an accomplishment.

  • 13 jdc // Jan 5, 2011 at 23:44

    I think the Anthroposophical/Waldorf-Steiner movement is absolutely fascinating. Sadly, the movement is fascinating for all the wrong reasons. Many of the ideas held are wrong-headed – and, sadly, some are also dangerous. The stance taken by Rudolph Steiner Schools on vaccination, for example, is worrying indeed.

  • 14 Thetis // Jan 5, 2011 at 23:54

    @jdc – I hadn’t noticed before how good the Open Waldorf page is about anthroposophical medicine/vaccination: http://www.openwaldorf.com/health.html

  • 15 zooey // Jan 6, 2011 at 00:29

    @Jan — Yes, I do, and I think I’ve not been entirely unsuccessful. It would be splendid to keep in mind, though, that the person I responded to has been very explicit: he’s not interested in familiarizing himself *at all* with Steiner’s texts. I think it’s fair to say he’s not intending to even try. You can believe I haven’t ‘understood’ Steiner (the way anthroposophists think Steiner should be understood, is my reply then), but you sure can’t tell me I refuse to engage with what Steiner wrote or said. Not unless you want to be wrong, at least.

    And, unfortunately, as long as anthroposophists who epitomize the sectarian caricature are running waldorf schools, well, then that’s going to be a huge problem for the movement. (And not a problem anyone can blame us dreaded critics for.) Those — the sectarians — are the people who will be receiving government money.

    I can’t say, though, that I’m not looking forward to the day when anthroposophic and waldorf organizations kick out the mad sectarians, or at least remove them from positions of power. Not that I think it will ever happen, but, yes, it’s for us to hope for it and anthroposophists to work on it.

  • 16 lovelyhorse // Jan 6, 2011 at 12:55

    Exeter Steiner school mention in a newsletter dated 12th of November 2010 that they are applying for Free School funding, in the same newsletter they advertise a talk being held:

    How to boost your immune system and
    the question of vaccinations.
    Talk by OLIVER COWMEADOW
    Thursday 9th December 7.30pm

    The newsletter explains that Oliver Cowmeadow will be discussing ‘how
    how we can boost our
    immune system naturally’ and that he has ‘studied the emotional side of healing with
    courses in psychotherapy, rebirthing, past life healing and counselling, which he has
    now integrated with his use of Oriental medicine’.

    further down the newsletter:

    Homoeopathy in School
    If you would like to see Kate for short sessions, or to book a
    longer, in depth appointment, please phone her at least the day
    before on 07971 xxxxxx

    http://www.webcitation.org/5vX1oXVOU

    As DC has said several times in the comments here, this attitude towards vaccination endangers the wider community.

    @Thetis, I agree the Open Waldorf site is great, their analysis on vaccination is worth quoting:

    “While there may not be an official position on immunization at Waldorf (Steiner), there does seem to be a strong cultural anti-immunization preference among thought-leaders in the Waldorf community. This preference can be traced back to Steiner himself, who believed that immunization interferes with karmic development and the cycles of reincarnation”.

    I noticed their link to Steiner’s series of lectures ‘Manifestations of Karma’ is broken, new link here:

    http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/ManfKarma/ManKar_index.html

  • 17 Thetis // Jan 6, 2011 at 14:35

    @lovelyhorse – in this Exeter Steiner school newsletter Oliver Cowmeadow’s talk is:

    ‘How to strengthen your immune system—is immunisation necessary?’
    http://www.webcitation.org/5vX25Pk4b

    It would be reassuring if Exeter Steiner school held a similar talk from a local (non-anthroposophical) GP in the near future.

  • 18 John Stumbles // Jan 6, 2011 at 15:16

    @lovelyhorse // Jan 5, 2011 at 22:10 #210

    “I understand the teacher got a settlement and a gagging order.”

    Do you mean it was settled out of court on the basis that neither side would discuss it publicly?

    I understand that’s not uncommon in employment cases, though it’s a pity the case didn’t get tested in public.

    I know the court documents heaped on the awfullness of it all with a shovel (down to the claims of $150 million dollars!) but it does sound as if the school responded badly to Ms Paulson’s initial criticisms and then reacted outrageously by sitting in on her class for what seems an unjustifiable number of times and then firing her. How extraordinary: one might think that in New York, that world melting pot of cities (and in possibly the most litigious country in the world) even dyed-in-the-wool Anthros might have more clue than that. Sounds like the sort of clueless behaviour Maura describes in her child’s school.

    “I wish I could tell you what I have been told directly from a mother who witnessed racism in our local Steiner school”

    I appreciate that if the mother doesn’t want to discuss it in public that you would respect her confidence. However could you please give at least an indication of what sort of behaviour you’re referring to here (without revealing identifiable specifics, of course). For example are we talking about indirect comments about coloured crayons, inappropriate current use of old texts containing racist language, prejudicial language or behaviour towards non-white children or staff, or what? And involving who – children to other children, one teacher to child(ren), many members of staff, etc?

    thanks

    JohnS

  • 19 lovelyhorse // Jan 6, 2011 at 16:06

    @John Stumbles

    ‘Do you mean it was settled out of court on the basis that neither side would discuss it publicly?’

    That is my understanding.

    Regarding what the mother witnessed, it was a teachers behaviour towards a child and the subsequent behaviour of other teachers and the wider school community.

  • 20 Thetis // Jan 6, 2011 at 16:29

    Re Andreas’ comment 74
    http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853&cpage=5#comment-8735

    translated by Tom – comment 80
    http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853&cpage=5#comment-8750

    And returning to the original post here: regarding the German ‘seminar to deal with Steiner’s racism’ held two months ago – Peter Staudenmaier comments:
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/16469

    “I’m glad to hear that anthroposophists like Jens Heisterkamp are finally trying to move the internal anthroposophical discussion away from apologists like Detlef Hardorp, but I’m afraid there is still quite a long way to go. Heisterkamp’s own arguments are often an unsteady sort of hybrid of head-in the-sand denial and sincere attempts at engaging with external analysis of anthroposophy. In any case, what would be genuinely helpful is not yet another PR seminar but an in-depth straightforward discussion among anthroposophists about Steiner’s racial teachings. Realizing that the real problem is not public relations but the core content of anthroposophy would be a good start in that direction.”

  • 21 maimuna // Jan 7, 2011 at 01:28

    Sorry to repeat myself but fans of Steiner will often ( always ??! ) say how there are some bad Steiner schools/teachers ,you just had bad luck ,an experience that could happen in any school.
    Yawn…
    Another specific,my daughter’s teacher read out from a Steiner book of verse ‘The boy had so much chocolate on his face that he looked like a nigger’ She then punished my daughter for complaining.
    The book is Bli Bla Blu by Alfred Blaur,printed in the late 80’s or early nineties,you can find it on Amazon.
    Still printing the same bollocks ,still reading it out in class. I also know of a family where there was physical violence against a Black child who was racially insulted at the same time by the child’s teacher.
    Many parents who I personally know that have left ( most not due to racism ) slide away and want to forget their experiences,some have had to move away from the community and some have ended up on the Waldorf Survivors Group like myself.
    I don’t know of any other schools which are not open about their beliefs.If the teachers are studying Anthroposophy then they are studying racist beliefs as a parent of a mixed race child I needed to know that BEFORE we enrolled our child,then I could make an informed decision. We weren’t given that choice.
    Maimuna

  • 22 John Stumbles // Jan 7, 2011 at 09:53

    @maimuna #221

    “I also know of a family where there was physical violence against a Black child who was racially insulted at the same time by the child’s teacher.”

    Was that at the same school as the incident with your daughter?

    More generally, from what you hear on the Waldorf Survivors Group, do you get an idea of how many racist (and other discriminatory) incidents have occurred? Whilst I understand people involved (on either side – parents or schools) may not wish to discuss details in public, it would be good if at least an anonymised summary of what’s alleged (and proven if possible) to have happened, and when and where.

  • 23 maimuna // Jan 7, 2011 at 10:11

    Its not about a few dodgy teachers. Why did my school use Bli Bla Blu ( the teacher said it was a standard Steiner book ) ?
    Why did the school recommend ‘The Festivals and their Meaning ?’
    Why did a Trustee recommend ‘How to know Higher Worlds ‘ ?
    Why did some teachers say they had been though all the races on an ethnicity list ?
    Why do training teachers study Anthroposophy throughout the world ?

    Because the schools are steeped in Anthroposophy,its what they are about although as they say in the brochures ‘they do not teach it to the children’
    To be honest if I had heard of no other racist incidents apart from ours it would still be outrageous that schools can have an outdated belief system underpinning them that needed to disappear when Steiner did.I don’t think counting the racist happenings around the world is the point really,I look at the BNP and know they shouldn’t be a legitimate party in the UK,reading about actual incidents when a member beats up a Black /Asian person does not make me surprised and it doesn’t make me think that they are then ‘definitely’ racist and it doesn’t make me think there may be a few ‘dodgy’ members in the BNP,its just bloody obvious their party is racist as they keep spouting racist ideology although of course they deny it at the same time as it is not popular to come out and say ‘yeah we’re racist get over it join us if you like us bugger off if you don’t !’ ( I wish our school brochure had said that )
    People discussing IF Steiner’s ideas are racist is unbelievable to myself ,my daughter and my husband.
    Saying that there are far worse things going on in the world is very childish in my mind,sorry if that sounds rude I can’t think how else to put it.
    As DW says its not about attacking anyone on here or saying they are racist themselves ,thats unimportant ,its about discussing and showing up a very outdated and offensive belief system.

  • 24 Thetis // Jan 7, 2011 at 12:36

    @John Stumbles –

    maimuna is right: the belief system which informs the schools is under scrutiny here. My post describes at length why that scrutiny is necessary, and states why disclaimers used by Steiner Waldorf schools are disingenuous – itself a cause for concern. I have deliberately avoided founding my post on anecdotal evidence, including only two accounts from parents who have experienced manifestations of anthroposophy’s race doctrines.

    Maimuna draws an excellent political analogy.

    There is not the diversity you might expect in modern Britain in Steiner Waldorf schools (one reason being that they’re often in rural areas where there is a predominantly white population). The same demographic is notable in the report Sune Nordwall (of Waldorf Answers) so often produces to prove that German Waldorf schools have a ‘low incidence of xenophobic attitudes’ – I replied to this in an earlier comment:
    http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853&cpage=5#comment-8649

    At the ‘Way forward for Steiner schools’ seminar held in November 2009, which is important to read to get a full understanding of the post – http://ukanthroposophy.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/seminarnotes/

    “Rachel Wolf [of the New Schools Network] suggested that the Schools should therefore seek to get a “more mixed group of people interested from the beginning, because that is the best way that you [the Steiner schools] can appear like an equal, diverse and principled organisation, and you want that from day one if you possibly can, and you should start doing that now.”

    The importance of getting a more diverse intake of children was noted, given the likely effects of the negative PR currently circulating on the internet, coupled with images of classes filled with only white, middle-class children. It was acknowledged that such an image would be very damaging to the movement.”

    Of course, photos of black children presented in PR material is not the same as addressing Steiner’s doctrines on race. It is both cynical and reprehensible in my view to use children for this purpose, and to dismiss historical and textual analysis, fully evidenced, as ‘negative PR’. I don’t however believe Rachel Wolf was doing any more than listening to supporters of Steiner schools, and acting out of good-will and inexperience, albeit unwisely.

    It should be obvious that incidents involving children are sensitive, and that many families wish to protect their children from further distress. They often present their experiences anonymously because of this, as well as for legal reasons, which means I could quote them but wouldn’t be able to substantiate their stories. Like others here, I also don’t feel it’s right to exploit individuals to bolster a case, certainly not without permission. Ray Perreira has already spoken publicly.

    It is only necessary to understand racism, as maimuna suggests, to realise that however few traumatic incidents there are in Steiner Waldorf schools worldwide – and we hope these are not common – the fact that anthroposophy is an essentially racist doctrine, and that anthroposophy undoubtedly underpins the pedagogy and teacher training material of Steiner Waldorf schools, should disqualify these schools from state funding.

    The Norwegian book: ‘What they do not tell us – the Occult Foundation of the Steiner school’ (2010) mentioned in our second post here:
    http://www.detdeikkefortelleross.no/index.html

    contains many personal stories, but isn’t available in English at this time. Reviewers of the book admit that in this context these stories are credible and convincing:

    http://www.detdeikkefortelleross.no/Det%20de%20ikke%20forteller%20oss%20anmeldelser.htm

    (as DrAust comments – google chrome is a good translation tool).

    Those whose experiences have been discredited, who have not been supported by a school community or have met obfuscation or worse from teachers, trustees or other parents (many of whom are unaware of Steiner’s race doctrines), or who were told that their experience was just an isolated incident due to a rogue teacher who has ‘misunderstood Steiner’, may not be willing to give up their names.

    There should not need to be any other incidents for this to be addressed seriously by those responsible for funding. Nor does anyone have to have been at the ‘receiving end’ of these doctrines to be concerned that this has not yet been addressed seriously, and that it appears many Steiner schools have been led to expect they will gain funding in the immediate future.

  • 25 John Stumbles // Jan 8, 2011 at 01:05

    @PeteK #123

    (Picking up on an old thread here.)

    “Another way that racism through the temperaments is expressed is through the “Greek Olympics” or “Pentathlon” games in the 5th grade. This event will usually involve children from neighboring schools competing in several events…

    The children get to march around all day wearing a uniform that identifies them to their classmates perhaps as “lazy.” … A child simply has to look at their uniform to see who they have been associated with. Often, classmates or siblings will tease children based on the color of their uniform.”

    Here in the UK there is one Olympics, held at the Steiner School at Michael Hall in Forest Row in East Sussex. In these games children from schools all over the UK camp in the school’s (large) grounds and spend 3 days practicing running, jumping, discus, javelin, wrestling and poetry(!) and on the 4th day have a formal day’s games starting with a solemn procession with older children carrying torches and lighting an Olympic flame which burns throughout the games. The children are not set up to compete with each other as you say yours do (though of course they do informally compare themselves with each other) and they are all honoured with medals at the end of the games for qualities, whether sporting (e.g. fleetness of foot) or human (e.g. kindness to others).

    During the practice and the games the children are divided into houses as you describe (Sparta, Athens, Thebes etc). But there aren’t different coloured uniforms as you describe: there’s no visible differentiation between children in different houses. (For the practice days the children wear ordinary clothes – Tee-shirts, shorts, trainers etc.; and for the final day they wear white togas that we parents have knocked up out of old bed-sheets or whatever!). I don’t recall whether there was some scheme to allocation of children to houses; possibly there was but I wasn’t aware of it and neither was my older son when he was a participant. But – within our school party at least – there was no hint of teasing based on which ‘city’ children were in. And for them it was all a wonderful adventure: setting up camp, meeting children from other schools, discovering their athletic capabilities, eating slightly burned food and toasting marshmallows over an open fire. It’s one of the aspects of my sons’ Steiner education which, for me, greatly outweighs my distaste for the slightly nutty aspects of SWE.

  • 26 Jan Luiten // Jan 8, 2011 at 09:33

    @zooey // Jan 6, 2011 at 00:29
    Of course there can be no doubt about your engagement for what Steiner said or wrote.
    I think that because of this engagement you also possess considerable knowledge about Steiners texts and about the anthroposophical subculture. Still this is something different from understanding what Anthroposophy is.

  • 27 Jan Luiten // Jan 8, 2011 at 09:49

    Thetis // Jan 5, 2011 at 23:15
    “I can’t think of a single thing that anthroposophy doesn’t make worse. That’s quite an accomplishment”
    This statement is detrimental to your credibility as a critic of anthroposophy.
    All reasonableness is gone. You can’t see a single positive element anymore in all the work that has been done by anthroposphists. I think you are momentarily bowing deeply to the rule of King Prejudice and Queen Stereotypia.

  • 28 Jan Luiten // Jan 8, 2011 at 10:20

    @Maimouna
    Steiners racial theses are not the core of anthroposophy. The discussion whether these theses are racist is going on. Certainly you can classify some statements as discriminatory but is it sufficient to call this racism? Critics do believe “yes”, but there are others who say “no” also based on scholarly material.
    In the anthroposophical subculture e.g. schools you might find indeed people who take anthroposophy as a belief system. This means that you have to believe in Steiners theses as dogmas and that you are only a real anthroposophist when you are confessing all Steiner has said.
    This is not how it should be. Anthroposophists should have a free relationship to Steiner.
    Not believing anything. You should take it as working hypotheses that could be valid or not. You can judge the validity out of your own practice.
    Discrimination and racism in Steiner schools as well as in other school have to be condemned. But do you think that there are more cases of discrimination and racism in Steiner schools than in other schools? I doubt it.

  • 29 lovelyhorse // Jan 8, 2011 at 13:32

    @Thetis: you quote:

    “Rachel Wolf [of the New Schools Network] suggested that the Schools should therefore seek to get a “more mixed group of people interested from the beginning, because that is the best way that you [the Steiner schools] can appear like an equal, diverse and principled organisation, and you want that from day one if you possibly can, and you should start doing that now.”

    Steiner racism & state funding – Tories offer SWSF lessons on spin

    Rachel Wolf’s use of the words ‘can appear like’ is pretty jaw-dropping. What matters to the New Schools Network is the outward appearance of Steiner schools, not what they actually are. The brand image mustn’t reflect badly on the government.

    Steiner HQ is very aware of what will appeal to the British public:

    ‘The British by nature are pragmatic, and
    many people come to anthroposophy as a
    result of one of the practical activities
    rather than from reading the books’.

    http://www.goetheanum.org/fileadmin/wochenschrift/awe/W200610.pdf (page 8)

    Of course if they read the books, they would discover Steiner’s race doctrines.

    I also note from the seminar:

    “The only point that Sam Freedman (and Rachel Wolf) were particularly sure to press home was that of “basic levels of achievement”. They felt that the schools had to be accountable for ensuring that children were meeting basic standards of reading, writing and numeracy at all levels. This, it was acknowledged, may cause some conflict with the Steiner method of teaching.”

    What are these people doing? It beggars belief!

  • 30 alfa-omega // Jan 8, 2011 at 13:44

    Ref: comment #227, #228

    Thetis and maimuna, and I, and Waldorf-critics here and there, were not Waldorf-critics to start with. All of us Waldorf-critics got into the conclusions we now hold as a consequence of real events, which we neither planed for, nor wished.

    I share Thetis’ standpoint, although I am nowhere near at expressing them as well as Thetis does.

    I share maimuna’s standpoint, too, although I did not personally experience racism, while a part of a Waldorf school in Sweden for a while. (A family revealed to me, however, what happened at the school prior to my presence there. What the mother told me is similar to what maimuna tells us.)

    However, I recognize all the descriptions by maimuna, presented here and at other occasions. The mechanism behind is the same in her family’s case and in my case, although the outer appearances were different.

  • 31 lovelyhorse // Jan 8, 2011 at 13:47

    The PR strategy was discussed in the afternoon session of the seminar:

    “It was suggested that an “antidote” website be set up to explain the criticisms that are levelled against the Steiner schools. It was also suggested the Steiner schools Fellowship take up the offer of free media training offered by the New Schools Network, although it was acknowledged that the Fellowship would require more than this, indeed they would need full-time “professional help”. A PR officer would be required to place positive stories in the media, and also to counter the stream of negative ones. It was considered important to get a PR strategy sorted out soon, especially if a large number of Steiner schools opt-in for state funding at an early stage. It was felt that the Steiner schools Fellowship should start cultivating good media relations as soon as possible.”

    Steiner racism & state funding – Tories offer SWSF lessons on spin

    They problem is not the PR. The problem is the product itself. It is the pedagogy of Steiner Waldorf education which is entirely underpinned by Anthroposophy.

    Anything else is in my opinion an attempt to deceive the British public.

  • 32 lovelyhorse // Jan 8, 2011 at 13:56

    @Jan Luiten Anthroposophy is in my opinion nothing more than a jumped up self-development programme for the parents and teachers.

    Anthroposophy is a hobby and should remain just as that. It has no place whatsoever in our schools.

  • 33 Thetis // Jan 8, 2011 at 14:30

    @lovelyhorse – as described here in the International Initiative forum of the Goetheanum (Steiner HQ):

    http://www.focusmeeting.org/index.php?id=1855

    “There is a new mood walking the earth. It rides on the back of a flaming golden horse from the future, bearing a shield of meteoric iron and a lance of pure light.”

    Yes.

  • 34 alfa-omega // Jan 8, 2011 at 14:42

    Ref: #229

    lovelyhorse: “Rachel Wolf’s use of the words ‘can appear like’ is pretty jaw-dropping. What matters to the New Schools Network is the outward appearance of Steiner schools, not what they actually are.”

    That’s the point, all the time.
    There is a thread
    supervising the attacks
    where Zooey talks about the Swedish Waldorf School Federation’s .pdf document (Feb. 2009). This document reveals, among other things, that Sune the Bee was hired (by the Federation) to monitor the UK-debate, and that the Federation decided to appoint a PR agency. (I have the document as well, retrieved before the Federation removed it from the public view.)

    While a part of a Waldorf school in Sweden for a while, I witnessed over and over again the same attitude: saving the appearance. ANY teacher in Sweden, including Waldorf teachers, is obliged to follow school legislation. The college of teachers at the Waldorf school I have been part of for a while did not see it that way. The aim was making the appearance while obfuscating the real state of things. Following the legislation was viewed according to the words of Rachel Wolf in the citation of lovelyhorse: “can appear like”.

    I would like to point out that this attitude, “can appear like”, towards following the legislation, was more profound when comparing to other schools I have experience of.

    In particular, the “Company, Ltd” and the community comprehensives I have experience of, did not question a school’s duty to deliver education. They may not succeed well in executing this duty, but that is something rather different from the attitude TOWARDS THE DUTY AS SUCH which I have witnessed at the Waldorf school: “can appear like”.

  • 35 Thetis // Jan 8, 2011 at 15:05

    @alfa-omega – thank you – it’s much easier to write in your own language!

    Your observations are right to the point – and Sune Nordwall also indicated to mumsnet that he was operating:

    “…in cooperation with the legal representatives of The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship in the UK and Ireland (http://www.steinerwaldorf.org/index.html),”

    more in this comment: http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853&cpage=5#comment-8706

    I’m not aware of any Steiner ed PR campaign as described by Rachel Wolf etc firing up since the seminar was held, unless the responses on this comment thread from the ‘SWSF’ and Dr Richard House are it.

  • 36 maimuna // Jan 8, 2011 at 15:11

    John says ‘ … which, for me, greatly outweighs my distaste for the slightly nutty aspects of SWE.’

    I see the reincarnation through races from Black to white as racist ,not nutty.

    Jan’s quote ‘Steiners racial theses are not the core of anthroposophy.’
    Its good that Jan admits there is a racial theory,even if the theory wasn’t at the core it is there and teachers at our school believe they have been through all races as they are white,that’s because they study Anthroposophy.
    Some teachers may choose to not ‘believe’ that ‘part’ of Anthroposophy although if Steiner was clairvoyant I don’t see how they can pick and choose.If they don’t believe he is clairvoyant then that means he was lying and they are trusting the writings of a dishonest man.

    I believe there are bound to be more cases of discrimination in Steiner schools although there is a very small percentage of Black pupils in the schools as most Black families choose very academic schools if they decide on private education.Sometimes racism can be overt like in my daughters case but most racism is not name calling or beatings as my husband experienced in the 70’s a teacher can hold racist beliefs and this will effect their interactions, expectations etc of their pupils who are not white.
    When Thetis says ‘
    “I can’t think of a single thing that anthroposophy doesn’t make worse. That’s quite an accomplishment” I can really understand where that comes from.At our school my daughter made some lovely friends ,had a couple of very caring teachers and enjoyed gardening.These are things that can happen at any school devoid of Anthroposophy.A belief in a theory that wants us all to reach the pinnacle of blondness ,sees special needs in a certain way etc is detrimental for the school community and the wider community.
    If nothing had happened to my daughter and we hadn’t investigated Anthroposophy and teacher training we might well still be at the school ,because the school didn’t respond to our complaints in a normal way we felt something was wrong and I still remember to this day,in fact I will never ever forget it ,I sat at the computer and started reading about the Anthroposophy and the racism and I literally felt sick and burst into tears,I called my husband over and he said ” Right ,now I get it that makes sense ” He saw that a link between the teachings of Steiner and the theory some of the teachers believed had effected their dealing with our complaint. Basically they didn’t see a teacher using the word nigger in class as an issue,and they didn’t see boys using the word in class and the playground as an issue.
    It was an issue to us and the beliefs that many teachers hold is an issue to us.
    Maimuna.

  • 37 alfa-omega // Jan 8, 2011 at 15:27

    Thetis, DM to you.

  • 38 lovelyhorse // Jan 8, 2011 at 15:54

    @John Stumbles you said:

    “It’s one of the aspects of my sons’ Steiner education which, for me, greatly outweighs my distaste for the slightly nutty aspects of SWE”.

    You are describing some of the attractive ‘hooks’ that are so successful in pulling families (myself included) initially into the schools.

    Camping is not exclusive to Steiner schools, neither is gardening, singing, walking, art or bread-making. These activities are found in the local primary schools and in the home. For free.

    I urge you to think again about those families that suddenly disappear, as one ex-Steiner parent explains:

    I heard many stories as to why children and their families were to blame for situations that led to their leaving our Waldorf school. I sometimes heard the parents’ side of the story but usually gave the school the benefit of the doubt because I was one of those people who thought the school was wonderful and could not believe that any school could be capable of some of the things parents claimed had happened . Then it happened to my family, and then I heard the lies that were going around the school. That’s when I learned for the first time that truth and integrity — things I value — were not valued at our Waldorf school. Since then, I’ve heard many, many stories from parents around the world that indicate deception and lack of integrity are systemic in Waldorf education.

    “… All schools have children who leave for one reason or another and switch to another school. Never, though, have I heard parents talking about switching schools based on the horrifying and outrageous situations that former Waldorf school parents describe. Nor have I heard of children leaving other schools in such great numbers as they leave our local Waldorf school.

    “Waldorf schools have, among many other problems, an intrinsic problem with truthfulness and honesty. I warn any satisfied Waldorf parents to pay more attention when families leave the school suddenly or unexpectedly and to dig deep to find out what really happened. Do not accept the school’s version at face value. Ask questions. See if your questions are encouraged or discouraged. See if the answers really make sense in the context of the real world, not just the secretive murky world of Waldorf, where everything has meaning that you don’t necessarily fully understand. And most importantly, call or write to the parents of the children who left and ask them to tell you about the situation from their point of view.”

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/14671

  • 39 lovelyhorse // Jan 8, 2011 at 15:59

    @alfa-omega @Thetis I wonder if the SWSF would like to clarify if Sune (The Bee) is working for them?

  • 40 lovelyhorse // Jan 8, 2011 at 16:03

    Quoting John Stumbles:

    ” … which, for me, greatly outweighs my distaste for the slightly nutty aspects of SWE.”

    @Maimuna said:

    “I see the reincarnation through races from Black to white as racist, not nutty”.

    Absolutely, John appears to have a stronger stomach than the rest of us.

  • 41 alfa-omega // Jan 8, 2011 at 16:17

    Ref: #238

    lovelyhorse: “I heard many stories as to why children and their families were to blame for situations that led to their leaving our Waldorf school. … deception and lack of integrity are systemic in Waldorf education.”

    You can substitute “regular teacher” for “children and their families”, and reread what lovelyhorse has written.

    On leaving the Waldorf school I have been a part of for a while, the pupils in a higher grade counted some 30 teachers and “teachers” since their first grade.

    “… call or write to the parents of the children who left and ask them to tell you about the situation from their point of view.”

    That, talking to the families — or teachers — who left or were fired, that was STRICTLY forbidden, although expressed in the usual esotheric way.

  • 42 alfa-omega // Jan 8, 2011 at 16:34

    Ref: #239

    lovelyhorse: “I wonder if the SWSF would like to clarify if Sune (The Bee) is working for them?”

    See:
    supervising the attacks

    http://zooey.wordpress.com/2010/05/31/waldorfskolefederationen-och-moralen/

    http://zooey.wordpress.com/2010/08/15/from-the-minutes-of-the-swedish-waldorf-federation/

    http://zooey.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/pa-spaning-efter-waldorffederationens-forlorade-samvete/
    (Sune/excalibor participated wits comments).

    Although the posts are mostly written in Swedish, the comments are mostly in English (not Sune’s, though. I think he didn’t want the UK/USA Waldorf critics to participate).
    (We don’t need to write it again, do we, Thetis?)

  • 43 alfa-omega // Jan 8, 2011 at 16:45

    While I am in the process of presenting useful links:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/16471

    (by Peter Staudenmaier)

  • 44 alfa-omega // Jan 8, 2011 at 18:33

    And this, my favourite, written by Nick Nakorn:

    Pseudoscience is not a valid educational choice

  • 45 Thetis // Jan 8, 2011 at 18:45

    alfa-omega – that’s a brilliant comment from Nick Nakorn. Perceptive, chilling and hilarious. I recommend:

    Pseudoscience is not a valid educational choice

  • 46 alfa-omega // Jan 8, 2011 at 19:04

    PS:
    (recommend with a special address to John Stumbles).
    Anthro/Steiner/Waldorf described in 842 words.

  • 47 zooey // Jan 8, 2011 at 21:36

    Jan,
    ‘Still this is something different from understanding what Anthroposophy is.’

    I know that from the standpoint of anthroposophists, this is very much the case. The problem is, none of us critics of anthroposophy (or, more to the point, anthroposophy in steiner waldorf education), will ‘understand’ anthroposophy in a way anthroposophists will consider ‘right’. Because that would require of us to more or less become anthroposophists! Not until we see things as anthroposophists see them will we be considered knowledgeable. But then we’ll also be anthroposophists!

    Well, admittedly, this picture is simplified, but it is so for a reason: to show that, as critics, we’re in an impossible situation in this regard. As long as we’re not anthroposophists, we’re not really worth listening to. But if we show a proper attitude towards anthroposophy, criticism of it is rendered impossible. Again, simplified.

    The point is — there isn’t much we can do to be taken seriously by anthroposophists. (In particular not by the more fundie anthros. Some of whom are running waldorf steiner schools.)

  • 48 alfa-omega // Jan 8, 2011 at 21:48

    Zooey, simplified or not — very correct!

  • 49 Thetis // Jan 8, 2011 at 22:00

    @zooey – very elegantly put (in the circumstances). Recapitulates an important point of the original post – the very attitude of anthroposophists illustrated by some of these comments.

  • 50 Jan Luiten // Jan 8, 2011 at 23:36

    @zooey
    Please don’t become an anthroposophist of the kind you think of as an anthroposophist, rather stay a critic, stay who you are.
    You mentioned the “standpoint of anthroposophists”. Should I have that standpoint too ? It is just that generalizing thought that leads to so much misunderstanding. You cannot say: “ he is an anthroposophist so this is the way he looks at the world”. I can assure you there are very few people who see the things like I do. It would be nice when you and others would take me as an individual and not just as a member of a group about which you have stereotypical thoughts.

  • 51 Jan Luiten // Jan 8, 2011 at 23:52

    @Lovelyhorse
    “Anthroposophy is in my opinion nothing more than a jumped up self-development programme for the parents and teachers.
    Anthroposophy is a hobby and should remain just as that. It has no place whatsoever in our schools”

    There are people who want these schools.
    Do you want to deny their rights?
    Playing God? You have the monopoly on truth?
    Not very much democratic!

  • 52 maimuna // Jan 9, 2011 at 03:55

    Jan said ‘There are people who want these schools’

    Most parents don’t know what these schools ARE to want them,many parents want what they SEEM to be,arty ,non pressured with pretty surroundings (some parents are Anthro and know what they are getting into although the huge pupil turnover suggest the vast majority are not aware )

    ‘Do you want to deny their rights?’
    P-LEASE ! Our rights as parents were completely denied as we were not informed about the nature of Anthroposophy and how the teachers study it.
    There is no question that the SWSF and the schools deliberately withold information,karma and helping the kids reincarnate is never mentioned in the school prospectus or at an open day,after all that’s the point of bloody Eurythmy and most art lessons ! If I had read the book that is on the teacher’s reading list about Eurythmy BEFORE we joined the school i would
    have thought “What the fek??!”,and run for the hills there and then ! A dance exercise indeed.How many parents would set foot in the door if on the open day they were told that Eurythmy was in fact ‘visible speech’ and it could be used to cure their child if they were over ambitious ( hadn’t seen that as a problem myself !) mmm and then they could be informed,” Also theres a percentage of us teacher’s who believe we are lucky enough to reached the pinnacle of humanity,especially the blond ones with blue eyes and don’t worry it doesn’t mean we are racist we have plenty of dark haired teachers who are very close and we welcome non white families as there is nothing wrong with you ,after all we were once as you were and you will get there in time ,in fact some curative Eurythmy could help with that AND the dyslexia you are suffering from because of ‘you know what’ in your last life ,we could do a two for one deal and help with both those issues ”
    Would the parents think’ Wow what a bargain’ or ‘ What time is the next train/bus?’
    Jan is an individual… who I will lump together with other Anthroposophists who disagree that reincarnating from Black to white is a racist idea.
    I don’t answer statements made on here to try and change Jan,John etc minds as that will not happen and it would in my mind be a waste of time. For me I just hope people reading will get the info I wish we had BEFORE enrolling our child.
    Alfa-Omega, I know what you mean about the volume of teachers.Our daughter had 3 teachers in two years and the year after she left her old class had another new one.
    Maimuna /Maura

  • 53 Thetis // Jan 9, 2011 at 13:16

    @Jan Luiten –

    Now you’re falling back on ‘choice’ as an argument. It’s true that a few people do want Steiner schools, and they want tax-payers to pay for them too – although as the schools and initiatives have been actively circulating ‘expression of interest’ forms and encouraging parents to get their families and neighbours to sign too, we can be pretty certain that the desire for Steiner education is far less than they would like the DfE to believe.

    Many of those families now asking are clueless as to the nature of these schools, as Maimuna says, and if it were pointed out to them what anthroposophy really is and how the teachers are trained to view their children, they would be far less keen. The swift turnaround of clientele (as well as teachers) could be seen as an indication that something is wrong, even without the closure of the UK’s only Steiner teacher training course (BA) shortly after a similar closure in Stockholm. (see http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3595 ) Anti-scientific and downright dangerous is not the best recommendation for an education system.

    At any rate this is not just about the right of a small group of parents to make the taxpayer pay for their niche school: it is also about the rights of children, and of the wider community who will be forced to support these schools, giving up already scarce funds from local schools to do so.

    Personally, I can quite understand that people want alternatives to the established education system and I believe that these should be explored. But alternatives do exist, without the dubious, occult underpinning of Steiner education.

  • 54 understanding (the ‘real’) anthroposophy « zooey // Jan 9, 2011 at 14:48

    […] On DC’s improbable science blog, there’s a discussion going on right now. Begins around this comment.* The latest one is this however; Jan Luiten […]
  • 55 zooey // Jan 9, 2011 at 14:51

    @ Jan [Jan 8, 2011 at 23:36]

    I wrote a lengthier comment to what you wrote, but I wasn’t sure how relevant it was in this thread, so I’ll link to it instead. http://zooey.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/understanding-the-real-anthroposophy/

  • 56 Thetis // Jan 9, 2011 at 15:26

    @zooey – it’s entirely relevant – but it’s also a good idea to provide other forums for discussion. I thought this an excellent observation:

    “..is it reasonable, in the first place, to allow for the state funding of schools based on a philosophy that nobody is thought competent to describe, define or discuss… because it can be anything its adherents choose it to be at the spur of moment… based on a process only anthroposophists (sorry, stereotype…) are supposed to understand. This would be quite bizarre wouldn’t it? Maybe it’s not really ok to sell an educational philosophy to people who cannot understand it?)”

  • 57 zooey // Jan 9, 2011 at 16:04

    Thanks Thetis! This thread is so long as it is, unbelievable. It’s odd — and interesting — that it’s not until the issue of racism comes up that anthroposophists (and others) become interested. Well, that’s what it seems like to me.

    I agree with you that it’s about the rights of children not the rights of parents. It’s about their right to an education, not their parents’ rights to their personal spiritual paths.

  • 58 alfa-omega // Jan 9, 2011 at 16:38

    Ref: #251 (and #252)

    Jan Luiten:

    [1] There are people who want these schools.
    [2] Do you want to deny their rights?
    [3] Playing God? You have the monopoly on truth?
    [4] Not very much democratic!

    My comment to [1]

    The people who want these schools fall into two broad categories:
    a: anthro/wannabee antro/”know-someone-who-is-anthro”
    b: parents who for ANY reason are not satisfied with the local state school,
    and cannot/wish not to pay for a private independent alternative
    “a” is not sufficient running a school, so, “b” is needed.
    Most waldorf-critics are “b” who left waldorf. It has been pointed out MANY times, at MANY places, recently by Maimuna /Maura in #252 in this thread.

    I will give an example from Sweden, as I know the situation there much better (compared to the UK).
    The pupil base “a” is not sufficient for running a school, (“a”+”b”) is sufficient in few places, most Waldorf schools with the (“a”+”b”) pupil base balance are on the edge. On top of this, “b” come and leave, so, there is instability in the daily life of the school (would be this way independently of the ethos of a particular school).

    Jan Luiten’s “There are people who want these schools.” are those “a” and a part of “b” (those who do not leave after discovering all the hidden).
    To run a school, ANY school, there is a minimum (time and country dependent) pupil base needed or order to run the school efficiently. In Sweden at least, “a” and a part of “b” is nor a sufficient pupil base. INDEPENDENTLY of who is the Secretary of Education, which political party is at power for the moment, which school legislation is valid for the moment.

    The “Swedish model” referred to in the UK means “parental choice, powered by voucher money (taxpayer’s money) which follows the pupil”.

    So, in Sweden, the question is: what alternatives (to the community comprehensives) do the parents have? Plenty of alternatives. (During the time in the 1980’s when Zooey went to the Waldorf-flagship in Stockholm, the Kristofferskolan, it was almost the only alternative to the community comprehensives her parents had ). Now, the Waldorf has to meet competition. Just, shouting “we are the best” as the argument does not hold in the reality. And, of course, REALITY has always been a week point for anthro/Steiner/waldorf. Will always be a week point, by definition.

    My comment to [2]

    I do deny the rights of any religious school to participate in the compulsory education.
    On top of that, for the possibility to run ANY school efficiently, please see [1].

    My comment to [3]

    “the monopoly on truth” is the anthro way, rather than the deceived “b”s (Please, see [1] for “b”).

    My comment to [4]

    Instead of discussing the Swedish state of democratic education, I will now give a few examples of international/UK democratic education I know about:

    1st:
    http://www.ideceudec.org/ an international movement.
    There is a “make contact” on this page – do it, inquire about the possibilities in the UK.
    I have found http://www.eudec.org/schools/ with the links to UK, http://www.eudec.org/schools/summerhill-school/ and
    http://www.eudec.org/schools/sands-school/

    2nd:
    http://www.phoenixeducation.co.uk/
    http://www.phoenixeducation.co.uk/democratic-education-schools/demo-edu-schools.htm
    Working in ordinary schools as well as democratic schools.
    Democratic education can operate in community colleges as well.

    Here, a version of democratic education in action:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/the-school-where-pupils-rate-their-teachers-466690.html

    3rd:
    Montessori:
    http://www.montessorieducationuk.org/

    ************

    Starting tomorrow, I will work fulltime (I only worked part-time previously). Also, I will have to spend 2-3h a day travelling. I have a family, too.
    So, for this reason, I will barely have time to come by sometimes and read.

  • 59 alfa-omega // Jan 9, 2011 at 16:53

    Typo in comment #257:

    Should be:

    The pupil base “a” is not sufficient for running a school, (“a”+”b”) is only sufficient in a few places, most Waldorf schools with the (“a”+”b”) pupil base balance on the edge.

    pupil base needed *in* order to run the school efficiently. In Sweden at least, “a” and a part of “b” is *not* a sufficient pupil base.

  • 60 alfa-omega // Jan 9, 2011 at 20:29

    My comment got #258, the typos are in my comment, of course.

    Should be:

    The pupil base “a” is not sufficient for running a school, (“a”+”b”) is only sufficient in a few places, most Waldorf schools with the (“a”+”b”) pupil base balance on the edge.

    pupil base needed *in* order to run the school efficiently. In Sweden at least, “a” and a part of “b” is *not* a sufficient pupil base.

  • 61 5raphs // Jan 10, 2011 at 10:31

    Just to add to what others have said, Zooey’s post here- What is “real” anthroposophy is entirely relevant and pertinent to this discussion.
    understanding (the ‘real’) anthroposophy
    As Zooey puts it:

    “As long as anthroposophy is part of teacher training and as long as it remains the foundation of waldorf education — and, in my opinion, the connection between anthroposophy and waldorf cannot be severed without waldorf losing everything it is except its name — we must discuss what anthroposophy is. ”
    This point is something the anthroposophists need to consider too

    ” as soon as you begin to judge that other people don’t understand, aren’t you sort of beginning to walk down the same path the intolerant fundies are walking? Because at the same time you come to this judgment, you’re making all sorts of implicit assumptions about what anthroposophy ‘really’ is — as you understand it, your interpretation being superior to that of mine for example. Much like the fanatics are doing, but of course they do it on another scale and they are way more insistent in their supremacy.”

  • 62 Thebee // Jan 10, 2011 at 17:06

    Maybe just a short comment on my relation to the Federation of Swedish Waldorf schools:

    After I participated in discussions of Steiner Waldorf education at Mumsnet in 2008 I have started to work part time for the Federation of Waldorf schools in Sweden. I suggested this, and the Federation agreed.

    My work description, that I wrote myself, is to follow what is published in the media related to Steiner waldorf education primarily focussed on Sweden and to report about it to the Federation.

    My work only encompasses doing that and not to in any sense or way represent the Federation.

    Outside of that work, I continue to participate in discussions as a free debater. As such, I only represent myself and my own views.

  • 63 DW // Jan 10, 2011 at 17:56

    “After I participated in discussions of Steiner Waldorf education at Mumsnet in 2008 I have started to work part time for the Federation of Waldorf schools in Sweden. I suggested this, and the Federation agreed.”

    Do you mean the Swedish Federation *liked* what you did on mumsnet? That seems hard to believe. What you did was unscrupulous, posing as a mother of children in a Steiner school when in fact you are a single childless man, changing aliases when you were revealed, and then making legal threats against the web site if they allowed negative comments on Steiner?

    Now you come here saying you don’t “represent” the Federation? That ship has sailed. You represent them even if they may have thought better of it after seeing the damage you do. They will have a hell of a time shaking you off.

  • 64 zooey // Jan 10, 2011 at 18:02

    The definitely didn’t not like it, anyway. They have made no objections at all to what Sune/thebee is doing, and by now they ought to be well aware of it.

    Here’s how we learnt they were paying him. http://zooey.wordpress.com/2010/05/29/supervising-the-attacks/

  • 65 zooey // Jan 10, 2011 at 18:35

    It’s important to remember that he made sure almost everyone with a critical view of waldorf education was banned from Mumsnet. He achieved this through legal threats against the forum.

    And then, the official organization for waldorf schools in Sweden, thought he’d done such a great job that they hired him.

    Not only that — they can’t be unaware of all the nasty websites he’s created. You wonder — does the waldorf movement approve of harassment of former parents and students as well as of academics who study anthroposophy? (The italicized quotes in this post are actual quotes from his websites: http://zooey.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/an-otherwise-quite-ordinary-afternoon/)

    As DW pointed out, the ship has sailed. For Sune/Thebee and for the Swedish waldorf school federation.

  • 66 David Colquhoun // Jan 10, 2011 at 20:23

    I think the time has come to close the comments.

    There are now almost 70,000 words in 267 comments, on this post alone and 442 comments altogether. Just about everything that can be usefully be said has been said, often several times.

    I’m enormously grateful to those who have commented, but I’m particularly grateful to the authors. Their three posts are classics and they will be read for a long time to come. I hope that they will influence government policy. No minister can now say that they are unaware of the nature of Steiner education and the sheer battiness of anthroposophy.

  • 67 still waiting for the waldorf federation to wake up « zooey // Jan 10, 2011 at 22:32

    […] at all! Instead, we encounter Nordwall lying his pants off once again over at DC’s, where he wrote today: After I participated in discussions of Steiner Waldorf education at Mumsnet in 2008 I have […]
  • 68 uk: steiner waldorf free schools « zooey // Feb 17, 2011 at 01:01

    […] — the possible future state funding of the schools. All three posts (i — ii — iii) are important, and I want to stress how indispensable it is for anybody interested in this matter […]
  • 69 Free Schools(4) – Absurdly normal « UK Anthroposophy // Jul 6, 2011 at 01:54

    […] It’s a painful read, not so much artful spin as it is sophistry and splat. An excellent article here explains Steiner racism and in the process dismantles and rebuts the statement made by […]
  • 70 waldorf and racism (again) « the ethereal kiosk // zooey // Aug 3, 2011 at 20:43

    […] more to anthroposophy, and to waldorf, than esoteric racism — there’s more than racial-spiritual hierarchies and negroes who are cooking in their […]
  • 71 Steiner-Waldorf Education -- a Nadder! // Oct 10, 2011 at 02:32

    […] EDIT: After I wrote this post a three part blog series with more information and criticism of Waldorf education appeared in the blogosphere. Here it is: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 […]
  • 72 Transition Towns Interview « SkeptEco // Nov 3, 2011 at 20:35

    […] Food-Pure Blood” and I believe many in the organics movement do think this way. See: http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853 […]
  • 73 Schumacher Woo-macher « SkeptEco // Nov 20, 2011 at 21:43

    […] than baking and running are different ways of doing the same thing. Apart from the fact that Anthroposophy is a cult based on Steiner’s bizarre theories of racial karma, the whole idea of Holistic Science is a travesty of science, a sleight-of-hand apparently designed […]
  • 74 Does the Spiritual have a place in Permaculture? « SkeptEco // Jan 9, 2012 at 19:42

    […] imaginative powers. His beliefs were however of their time and place, and, based as they were on a system of racist karma, they were adopted by some high-ranking members of the Nazi party who saw an affinity between […]
  • 75 EcoFascism Revisited « SkeptEco // Feb 4, 2012 at 11:58

    […] Another group she mentions is the World League for the Protection of Life which basis its ideology on Anthroposophy and the teachings of Rudolph Steiner. […]
  • 76 EcoFascism Revisited « SkeptEco // Feb 4, 2012 at 18:34

    […] Another group she mentions is the World League for the Protection of Life which basis its ideology on Anthroposophy and the teachings of Rudolph Steiner. […]
  • 77 Frome Steiner Academy: Absurd Educational Quackery | The Quackometer // Feb 27, 2012 at 17:51

    […] parent ThetisMercurio discusses the troubling response to criticism of racism by UK Steinerists here and gives us cause for concern that such beliefs are still […]
  • 78 Should the state be funding schools which were founded by a racist mystic? | Francis Gilbert // Mar 8, 2012 at 12:28

    […] ignored his nasty ideas and cherry-picked the “nice” ideas he had! Reading the minutes of a meeting some Steiner followers had with government advisors Sam Freedman and Rachel Wolf, of the New Schools […]
  • 79 The University of Aberdeen and its vice chancellor, Ian Diamond, step back from the brink? // Apr 27, 2012 at 09:17

    […] Steiner Waldorf Schools Part 3. The problem of racism […]
  • 80 What Every Parent Should Know About Steiner-Waldorf Schools | The Quackometer Blog // Nov 2, 2012 at 15:12

    […] Professor David Colquhoun posted similar criticisms of Steiner Waldorf Schools, a comment was posted under the name SWSF (presumably […]
  • 81 What Every Parent Should Know About Steiner-Waldorf Schools, By Andy Lewis « Blog de Grégoire Perra // Nov 3, 2012 at 15:35

    […] Professor David Colquhoun posted similar criticisms of Steiner Waldorf Schools, a comment was posted under the name SWSF (presumably […]
  • 82 Antroposofie in de praktijk - Steinerscholen.com // Dec 17, 2012 at 13:32

    […] is beloond met een prijs: Peter Staudenmaier. De dissidente antroposoof Tom Mellet meldt in december 2010 in DC Improbable Science dat Staudenmaier een doctoraat heeft behaald en verwijst naar de Waldorf Critics List voor meer […]
  • 83 Tory Free Schools Plot to Spin Away the Racism of Steiner Schools. | The Quackometer Blog // Jan 7, 2013 at 18:47

    […] about the religious and occult nature of their philosophy and that this philosophy is based on an abhorrent racist view of human spirituality. Furthermore, children are likely to be exposed to pseudoscience, hidden spiritual agendas and […]
  • 84 Steiner Academy Bristol, A Challenge: Be Open With Parents | The Quackometer Blog // Jan 8, 2013 at 17:56

    […] reject his racism? How are you sure racist elements do not appear in your schools? (see this recent parent’s horrible experience for example with a teacher using the word ‘nigger’ that was in a Steiner textbook.) […]
  • 85 Andy Lewis: Tory free schools plot to spin away the racism of Steiner schools « Shropshire Humanist Group – News and Articles // Jan 14, 2013 at 15:26

    […] about the religious and occult nature of their philosophy and that this philosophy is based on an abhorrent racist view of human spirituality. Furthermore, children are likely to be exposed to pseudoscience, hidden spiritual agendas and […]
  • 86 The Age of Global Warming | SkeptEco // May 25, 2013 at 15:01

    […] 1960s by Stanford Professor Paul Ehrlich; Jeavons’ concern about Peak Coal- written in 1865; Steiner’s mystical racism contained within his system of biodynamic agriculture, a pre-curser to the organic movement, which […]