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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.
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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.

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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.

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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:
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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.

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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.

 

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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

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286 Responses to Steiner Waldorf Schools Part 3. The problem of racism

  • “You can be satisfied that you do have the truth on your side — that Steiner is a racist, no question about it, I fully agree — but I also see that there’s not a damned thing you can do about stopping the Waldorf juggernaut in the world today. (Can you say: “Waldorf schools in Israel?”)”

    Dear Cassandra,

    I can honestly say I am not convinced in either case-could you please make the inquiry as to how knitting is being taught within the confines of the Waldorf Schools of Israel? Left to right or right to left?

    תודה רבה לכם, שה טובה

    Val

  • “But now watch the Anthro slip through the trap door and escape from the double bind that DW put them in.”

    Tom, you and I have had this discussion before. I’m afraid the “trap door” does not work, in fact it reveals that, well, you need a trap door, which attests to the fact that there is an inherent problem.

    I’ll try to make it simple: whether you believe in reincarnation or not *does not matter* in determining whether Steiner’s racial doctrines are racist. A belief in reincarnation is not relevant to the question at hand. The doctrines are racist if they express racist content; not if the believer in the doctrines believes in reincarnation or not.

    You see the reincarnation as a “loophole,” allowing the believer somehow to “escape” the charge of racism. I see exactly the opposite. I see the need for a so-called loophole or trap door as evidence you’d better take a closer look at the theory. If it were not racist, an escape, trap door etc. would not be necessary.

    The doctrine is racist owing to the existence of elements such as “higher and lower races,” “backward” races that Steiner taught were “left behind” in evolution, ideas about the “white race” being the most spiritually creative, statements about blacks “not belonging” in Europe, American Indians being “destined” to die out, Africans being “childlike” spiritually while Europeans are adult, and much more. Focus on that, on the doctrine, not on the loopholes believers construct for themselves in order to say to themselves, “I believe this stuff other people think is racist, but here’s why I’m not a racist after all.”

    The idea that one “escapes” one’s present race in a future lifetime, or goes up or down the racial ladder based on karma in successive lifetimes, or “sacrifices” something to incarnate in a “lower race,” – all these ideas provide an excuse to say this-or-that about specific races. It is the *statements* that are racist, and rationalizations about why it’s okay to believe such statemetns anyway are not a magic cure.

    Anthroposophists, like most racists, often have many other beliefs that they believe lets them off the hook for the racist charge. For instance, they believe – as do many people – that if you are a nice person you cannot be a racist. This is a false belief. The notion that “If I believe in reincarnation in different races, I can’t be racist,” functions the same way. It is a rationalization, and a failure to come to terms with the anthroposophical race doctrines’ content.

    Racism consists of offensive beliefs about races – not beliefs about individuals. Anthroposophists are often confused about this. An anthroposophist says, in effect, “You may be black, but I won’t hold it against you, since you may come back white next time.” This convoluted belief system allows the anthroposophist to believe him- or herself “not racist” because he or she has nothing against this individual black person – just crazy beliefs *about blacks*. Not about Joe or Jane, who may happen to be black, but about blacks. Beliefs *about blacks* such as lower or higher spirituality are racist – not beliefs about Joe or Jane. Beliefs such as skin color indicating something about a person’s spirituality are racist. Just because you also believe that Joe or Jane is a nice person – despite being black – does not magically make your beliefs about Joe or Jane’s skin color not racist. Get it?

  • First the rude manner I have adopted in replying to these posts is really in the spirit of the board. “Barmpots” etc.

    Thetis // Jan 1, 2011 at 12:10 Regarding your comment I can’t really respond since it describes nothing real.

    zooey // Jan 1, 2011 at 13:16 I was actually commenting on the lack of racist elements in the school where it counts. And yes I am white even if half Jewish, don’t ask a Jew about it?! I think I said my piece about my Indian math teacher By the way his kids were at the school and they were half cast. Also another child in my class was half indian she went through from 4 to 18 and now teaches at the school. (She is half cast)

    “I’m afraid it seems you don’t know a thing about anthroposophy or its role in waldorf education. Despite having been a student in one steiner school. Unfortunately your manner of discussing is rather typical for lots of former waldorf students. Angry, ranting, uninformed, abusive.”

    I’m afraid I did agree with you before that I was ignorant about athroposophy and I explained already why this proves I was not subject to indoctrination at the school which was one of the points raised.

    You say “Angry, ranting, uninformed, abusive.” I am angry because they have accused people of being racist who were not in order to play out their other agenda. Ranting yes but that I share with Thetis, but this does not validate or invalidate my points it is simply a matter of style or lack of it, abusive, was I, sorry. The people I have most abused have been anthroposophists by echoing the tone I found on this site. Anthroposophists have infuriated me at times, but despite the many bad things I could say about them, certian serious allagations presented here about waldorf education are false within my experience and therefore should not be included as considerations in a decision as to whether Steiner schools should or should not be funded by the state.

    It seems many people here are determined to focus on and intensely exaggerate the stupidest aspects of Anthroposophy making out that they are the main features of the Steiner school system. They just are not. Catholics think Jesus sits in a box at the end of the church or something, I don’t remember, but you ignore all that. Lets ban everybody from teaching that doesn’t accept evolution fully because I’m sure you will agree they are quite deranged not to, given the overwhelming evidence. I’m sorry if that sounds rude but its true.

    P.S. Which school were you at and what years Zooey?

    lovelyhorse // Jan 1, 2011 at 14:22
    Regarding the books. The bible suggests you should stone members of your family who try to talk you out of belief in god, yet my mother, a believer does not accept this aspect of the doctrine. Anthroposophists are also free to choose what they accept or do not. People who drive VW cars don’t exterminate jews. To be frank when I was at school we mocked the Germans WWII and all that and that was odd because we had many of them in the Steiner system.

  • You guys are really keeping me busy. Best wishes to all and a Happy New Year.

  • @DW #89
    “John – if this is your argument, what exactly is your disagreement with the authors then?”

    In a nutshell my difference is that I see the education that my, and other, children get at their Steiner school to be better than they’d get elsewhere. I don’t believe there’s any magic to it and I’m sure we could have schools giving as good, or better, education without the mystical cojones, but at present there aren’t any that I know of in our area.

  • Yes absolutely. John Stumbles. and
    1) Are they seeing racism at school?
    2) Are they getting Anthroposophy classes?
    Probably not.

  • Tom deH: ‘I am angry because they have accused people of being racist who were not in order to play out their other agenda.’

    You have not read their post apparently.

    ‘certian serious allagations presented here about waldorf education are false within my experience and therefore should not be included as considerations in a decision as to whether Steiner schools should or should not be funded by the state.’

    And your experience is what society should base its decisions upon? Why your experience? Why not Maimuna’s then?

    No, I think we should base such decisons not on particular case but on knowledge about what waldorf education is. You would have to leave personal experience and inform yourself about it first though. You would have to read what Steiner and other anthroposophists are saying about education. You would have to inform yourself about what waldorf teachers are trained to do.

    I agree the racism issue is just one part and that you cannot look only at that part. But nobody is holding such simplemindedness as an ideal anyway. It’s just that the racism discussion — and anthroposophists’ inability to deal with their movement’s past (and sometimes present) — is quite symptomatic for what’s so wrong in the first place.

    ‘1) Are they seeing racism at school?
    2) Are they getting Anthroposophy classes?’

    I sure hope you don’t imagine that these are claims Thetis and others are making? (That would, as I’ve already stated, tell us something rather interesting about your reading comprehension.)

  • @ tomdehavas & John Stumbles

    Do you know that you keep an almost forgotten German tradition alive? You still use Germans’ favourite excuse:

    “But I did not know anything about it!”

    [“Aber ich hab’ doch nichts davon gewusst!”]

    That’s a quote from my report on my Waldorf teacher training:

    http://www.waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/andreas_lichte.html

    I’m sure you won’t care that Waldorf teachers are brainwashed with Steiner. Why should you?

  • @Andreas Lichte #107

    Getting close to Godwin’s Law here!

    Actually your phrase the “Germans’ favourite excuse” seems to me a bit racist (against German people). During the 1930s during the time Germany was under the Nazi dictatorship (and therefore their citizens had no means short of insurrection to overturn their rule) we in the still democratically controlled UK and other free countries collectively turned a blind eye to what was going on in Germany, to the point of appeasing Hitler at Munich. After the war of course we (rightly) prosecuted Germans who had had a part in the Nazi atrocities, but administered not even a slap on the wrist to those in our own countries who had aided and abbetted them, and who would, no doubt, have happily rounded up the communists, gipsies, Jews and ‘mental defectives’ here if our own country had fallen to the Nazis.

    Oh and when you say ‘brainwashed’ please tell me what you mean here. Don’t Steiner teachers voluntarily and willingly study whatever it is constitutes Steiner teacher training? Or is it a case of “studying what I agree with” is education, “studying what I disagree with” is brainwashing?

  • “But now watch the Anthro slip through the trap door and escape from the double bind that DW put them in.”

    Tom, you and I have had this discussion before. I’m afraid the “trap door” does not work, in fact it reveals that, well, you need a trap door, which attests to the fact that there is an inherent problem.

    I’ll try to make it simple: whether you believe in reincarnation or not *does not matter* in determining whether Steiner’s racial doctrines are racist. A belief in reincarnation is not relevant. The doctrines are racist if they express racist content, not if the believer in the doctrines believes in reincarnation or not.

    The doctrine is racist owing to the existence of elements such as “higher and lower races,” “backward” races that Steiner taught were “left behind” in evolution, ideas about the white race being the most “spiritually creative,” statements about blacks “not belonging” in Europe, American Indians being “destined” to die out, Africans having “boiling blood” and being spiritually “childlike” while Europeans are spiritually mature, and much more.

    Focus on that – on the doctrine, not on ingenious loopholes believers construct for themselves in order to say to themselves, “I believe this stuff other people think is racist, but here’s why I’m not a racist after all.”

    The idea that one “escapes” one’s present race in a future lifetime, or goes up or down the racial ladder based on karma in successive lifetimes, or “sacrifices” something to incarnate in a “lower race” – all these ideas provide an excuse to say this-or-that about specific races. It is the *statements* that are racist, and rationalizations about why it’s okay to believe such statements anyway do not change the content of the statements, or somehow absolve the believer of responsibility to assess their content.

    Anthroposophists have in common with racists of various stripes the fact that they often have other beliefs that they believe let them off the hook for the racist charge. For instance, they believe – as do many people – that if you are a nice person you cannot be a racist. This is a false belief. Or they may believe that if they don’t participate in discriminating against people of other races, they cannot be racist. (On the Waldorf critics list, one told us recently that he can’t be racist because he believed it was ok for a black man to run for president.) Very commonly, they believe that if they have friends of other races, they cannot be racist. Again false.

    The notion that “If I believe in reincarnation in different races, I can’t be racist,” functions the same way. It is a rationalization, and a failure to come to terms with anthroposophical race doctrines’ content.

    Racism consists of offensive beliefs about races – not beliefs about individuals. Anthroposophists are often confused about this. An anthroposophist says, in effect, “You may be black, but I won’t hold it against you, since you may come back white next time.” This convoluted belief system allows the anthroposophist to believe him- or herself “not racist” because he or she has nothing against this *individual* black person – just dodgy beliefs *about blacks*. Not about Joe or Jane, who may happen to be black, but about blacks. Beliefs *about blacks* such as lower or higher spirituality are racist – not beliefs about Joe or Jane. Believing that skin color indicates something about a person’s spirituality is racist. Just because you also believe that Joe or Jane is a nice person – despite being black – does not magically make your beliefs about Joe or Jane’s skin color not racist.

    If you believe that a person’s skin color says something about their spirituality, you are a racist, because that belief is racist, regardless of whether you’re also a nice guy and willing to not hold people’s skin color against them, willing to vote for them, willing to admit them to your school, or maybe you even believe you may have once had an undesirable skin color yourself in a previous lifetime. You may even believe you will be a different, undesirable (darker) skin color in a future lifetime. None of these beliefs or behaviors makes your beliefs about skin color magically not racist.

  • Tom de H, there are a number of problems with your own logic. You wrote:

    “My experience at my Steiner School was that Racism was absolutely out and certainly not an integral part of the institution. That is my empirical experience just as I experience that cups hold water. It does not therefore prove that all cups I have not tried do not hold water. i.e. perhaps every Steiner thing I had no contact with is racist, but given I had a lot of contact my empirical scientific conclusion is that cups do hold water and the Steiner institutions are not racist.”

    I am afraid this does not follow. Experience with one school that you experienced as “not racist” does not allow one to conclude that “Steiner institutions are not racist.” Sorry.

    You also wrote:

    “Finally on racism. My maths teacher who was indian and well known enough in the world of mining and explosives to have been made an “honorary white” so he could lecture in a South African University, was probably never asked how much Steiner claptrap he believed in, it certainly never effected his teaching or his exploding!”

    I suspect you may be more a product of your education that you realize. I cannot tell you how many conversations just like this one I have had with anthroposophists who make statements like yours above and have absolutely no notion that anything is wrong with it. Attempts to reason with this simply make the other person incredulous and unable to reply, in my experience, and as you have stated the same thing twice now, with no apparent awareness of its nonsensicalness, I wonder if you’ll be able to clarify. I’ll ask you to try: Why do you think that stating that you had a math teacher who was Indian, suggests that Steiner schools are not racist? What is the reasoning behind such a statement? Are you unaware that it is common for racists to state that they have friends (relatives, lovers, co-workers, teachers, etc.) of other races?

    I am not accusing you of racism, by the way. I am pointing out that your having had an Indian math teacher while attending a Steiner school has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with whether Steiner’s beliefs were racist or whether these beliefs play out in Steiner schools. (Yours or anyone else’s. They simply do not relate.)

    Your statement does, however, suggest you aren’t well educated about racism, which, in itself, is so common in discussing Steiner schools with their supporters that critics have to wonder whether Steiner devotees would recognize racism in the schools if they were staring straight at it. You don’t seem to be able to identify what one might look for in looking for racism.

    “I guess when they employed Dr Gor Sen at Wynstones they forgot they were meant to be racist.”

    Do you mean to state that if the school employed an Indian they could not have been racist? Surely you are able to examine this statement and its implications. I urge you to try.

    Your statement that he was an “honorary white” is baffling. Please elaborate.

  • John, please acquaint yourself with your movements history before pinning your hopes on Godwin. From Peter Staudenmaier’s essay ‘The Art of Avoiding History’:

    “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”.

    http://www.social-ecology.org/2009/01/the-art-of-avoiding-history-2/

  • “By the way his kids were at the school and they were half cast. Also another child in my class was half indian she went through from 4 to 18 and now teaches at the school. (She is half cast)”

    Say what? They were “half-caste”? ??

    Are you attempting to say that if there were any racism in Steiner’s doctrines or any racism at the school you are describing, these children could not have been enrolled at the school? Or that the teacher who was “half-caste” could not have taught at the school? Is that what you think?

    I suggest you inform yourself as to what the doctrines consist of. The doctrines are racist. That does not mean the doctrines state that “half-caste” Indians cannot attend or teach at Steiner schools.

  • @ John Stumbles #109

    … you are getting more than close to “appeasing” Rudolf Steiner …

    You ask: “Oh and when you say ‘brainwashed’ please tell me what you mean here.”

    what about simply reading my report?

    http://www.waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/andreas_lichte.html

    “Wondrous Waldorf Pedagogy or Atlantis as State of Consciousness”

  • @ R Smith #88

    “It’s just a shame you have come to the conclusion that the voices of parents and children experiencing racism should be ignored because it appears to you that other children have a good experience.”

    I haven’t come to that conclusion. I didn’t think my comment gave that impression but if it did, my bad. Racism in Steiner (or any other) schools is wrong and bad and any school where it happens should deal with it effectively, both in terms of addressing whatever incident has already occurred and doing whatever is necessary to ensure it is not likely to recur.

  • @lovelyhorse #113

    Anthroposophy isn’t ‘my movement’.

    But for what it’s worth I’ve been talking to my 17yo ex-Steiner son and 3 of his friends who happen to be around today and they say they didn’t pick up anything of Steiner’s ideas on race that you and Thetis talk about. I did ask them in as neutral way as I could so they wouldn’t say what they might think I was ‘wanting’ to hear. In any case they’ve always been pretty candid about the bad as well as the good aspects of their experience at the school. So I don’t share your and Peter Staudenmaier’s worries about sowing the seeds of racism or fascism, at least in these young people.

  • DW // Jan 1, 2011 at 20:37 Look I was not saying that the text wasn’t racist but that few anthroposophists would accept that part of the text and that my experience at school is that racism was far less than in mainstream education at the time. I have cited my experience in other posts and barring dragging you to meet some of my half cast friends I don’t know what else I can do.

    Racism is condemed now because nationalism does its job. We restrict peoples movement across borders to ensure that Chinese people cannot take “our” jobs. They work for dirt, we pay rock bottom prices. You know what’s worse is we like it that way. Sorry deviation here. See http://www.mydropintheocean.org/society/principles/equality/discrimination-and-nationality

    Valerie Walsh // Jan 1, 2011 at 20:37
    Yah because some of the kids wore Lada hosen to school they were actualy nazis. Hay I’ve got another one! Steiner schools are actually just Nazis teaching racial supremacy. Oh but wait! My dad was a Jew!

    DW // Jan 1, 2011 at 20:41 I quote ‘I am afraid this does not follow. Experience with one school that you experienced as “not racist” does not allow one to conclude that “Steiner institutions are not racist.” Sorry.’ Really DW, and your extensive psychologic profiling does. Come on.

    Yes actually I am perfectly aware that many white racists state “Some of my best friends ar black” At my school we thought black and white were paint colours. That it was normal to have people around that had different skin colour, hair colour or eye colour, accents etc. But you know better don’t you. You were not there but you know.

    I quote ‘I am not accusing you of racism, by the way. I am pointing out that your having had an Indian math teacher while attending a Steiner school has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with whether Steiner’s beliefs were racist or whether these beliefs play out in Steiner schools. (Yours or anyone else’s. They simply do not relate.) Oh really! So now I understand that there was probably deeply hidden racism in the school its just it never ever showed. Yeah right and I believe in fairies. Pull the other one DW.

    I quote ‘Your statement does, however, suggest you aren’t well educated about racism, which, in itself, is so common in discussing Steiner schools with their supporters that critics have to wonder whether Steiner devotees would recognize racism in the schools if they were staring straight at it. You don’t seem to be able to identify what one might look for in looking for racism.’ No of course not I could never identify a racist, I haven’t been trained in it. Come on DW don’t give me this PC rubbish. Respect for all people was innate in my Steiner education.

    I Quote ‘“I guess when they employed Dr Gor Sen at Wynstones they forgot they were meant to be racist.”

    Do you mean to state that if the school employed an Indian they could not have been racist? Surely you are able to examine this statement and its implications. I urge you to try.’

    Oh let me think? They employed him so they could say their best friends were black. Perhaps you should just come out with it DW for you everybody is a racist because actually not noticing race is actually a subtle form of racism.

    Can I suggest rather than relying on the ancient texts of Anthroposophy which many Steiner teachers haven’t even read, you actually look for some empirical evidence of racism on the ground in Steiner schools. I am sure you would find some as you would in many schools but not the way you think.

    lovelyhorse // Jan 1, 2011 at 20:43 In principle I agree with what you are saying. I think we should all look at the history of racism and all the other isms that have been excuses for nepotism and exploitation of the other, but this danger is not coming out of anthroposophy and is not in its education. It is rife in society as a whole with the concept of the “muslim terrorist”. I recall a Sunday Times Headline February 10, 2008 Minister warns of ‘inbred’ Muslims. It was on the front page. At the time they were trying to raise hate against the muslims. It was so Nazi it shoked me to the core. You people should wake up to the real world.

    DW // Jan 1, 2011 at 20:48 what I have been trying to make clear to you is that no racist doctrine was practices by any teacher I was aware of. I have never seen a wild elephant in the UK. Quite rightly you would point out to me that this does not prove there isn’t one. Likewise the presence of non-whites in school does not prove that there wasn’t racism. It just makes it more likely that there wasn’t.

    Again I repeat I fully accept that the racist pages of the books reproduced here are accurately reproduced. What i do not accept is the idea that anthroposophists in general accept what is on those pages and act in a discriminatory way as a result of that acceptance.

    FINALLY to repeat John Stumbles I fully support his statement:
    ‘Racism in Steiner (or any other) schools is wrong and bad and any school where it happens should deal with it effectively, both in terms of addressing whatever incident has already occurred and doing whatever is necessary to ensure it is not likely to recur.’

    Hay the Racist English Defence League are planning a big rally in Luton on 5th Feb there will probably be a riot. Perhaps all of you worried about the re-emergence of racism in Steiner schools might pop over to see how many kids are there from the Kings Langley Steiner School and get an idea what real racism is.

    While you kind people are devotedly fighting racism in the Steiner Schools the real racists are busy. Or is it that your afraid to really fight racism when it means sticking up for the Muslims in Luton.

    You tell me Steiner schools

  • The biggest trouble with this and most sites is their inability to support proper point by point discussion groups. Sad how technology often goes backwards. Remember the old tree structured newsgroups.

    I’m let this group alone for a while now i have spent nearly 9 hours on it and its too long.

  • @Andreas Lichte #115

    Ha ha!

    I talked about the appeasement of Hitler.

    You talk about ““appeasing” Rudolf Steiner …”

    Is it possible to understand that in any way other than that you’re comparing Steiner with Hitler?!

    What was I saying about Godwin’s law? ;-)

  • Tomdehavas,

    Please read message #27. Highland Hall Waldorf School taught Steiner’s racist doctrine to my child. Period. No denial from them (other than they don’t think it was racist). They taught what I claim in message #27. So… clearly the TEACHING of racist ideas exists in Waldorf.

  • @TomdeHavas comment 118: ‘Can I suggest rather than relying on the ancient texts of Anthroposophy which many Steiner teachers haven’t even read..’

    You may want to take a look at the University of Plymouth Steiner Waldorf teacher training BA current reading list: http://ukanthroposophy.wordpress.com/plymreadinglists/

    Also former Steiner pupil Roger Rawlings has a page on teacher training: https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/teacher-training

  • Having been married to a second-generation Anthroposophist, Waldorf graduate and currently Waldorf teacher (whose mother and father were both Waldorf teachers)… I can say, categorically, that at least some Waldorf teachers use a child’s physical and racial traits when evaluating them. In my two-and-a-half decade experience with Waldorf, I can say I’ve met hundreds of Waldorf teachers who do this.

    Virtually ALL Waldorf teachers believe in assigning a temperament to each child. It is indeed, part of their training. Temperaments are based on physical, hereditary traits.

    “The temperament is the meeting of the spiritual aspect of oneself, which one refers to as ‘I’, and the contributions of the father and mother. The temperament is the result of the blending of these two streams, the spirit and heredity.” (From “Waldorf Education – A Family Guide” – p. 60 The Role of Temperament in Understanding the Child by Rene Querido)

    How do the temperaments find their way into everyday activities?

    “If you put on a play, you should cast the characters according to the temperaments of your students. You might, for example, ask your cholerics to play Julius Caesar, and you might cast your sanguines as the messengers, since they would enjoy running in and out with the news. The melancholics love philosophical roles. … The phlegmatics, on the other hand, like the parts where they can sit and think, removed from the central action of the play.”

    (From “Waldorf Education – A Family Guide” – p. 65-66 The Role of Temperament in Understanding the Child by Rene Querido)

    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 (it’s usually seven events in my area, so pentathlon loses its meaning). The children are not separated by school – but by temperaments. Each temperament represents a different city-state in Greece, e.g. Red=Sparta, etc. So, from a curriculum point of view, Waldorf schools see some benefit in having, for example, all the “superficial” children compete against each other. All the “lazy” children compete together, as do all the “self-pitying” children and the “destructive dictators.” They get their own colored uniforms or identifications – each associated with Steiner’s colors. Choleric children get red, for example.

    The children get to march around all day wearing a uniform that identifies them to their classmates perhaps as “lazy.” Remember this is based at least partly on heredity and body shape. If the identification wasn’t clear from the start, it is easy to see which children are lumped together at a glance. The obese children are all wearing blue. 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. This can be distressing for some children. And for what? Why separate children by heredity and body shape in the first place?

    That teachers/schools would make such a division of children based on some perceived temperament and then have this decision displayed to all the children is, in my opinion, a cruel thing to do to children. To divide children in games using heredity and body shape as a criteria, especially in the way described above, is hurtful nonsense; it is Anthroposophy at its worst. It divides and harms children in a very ugly and thoughtless way. Frankly, if a teacher or school thinks my child is lazy, or superficial, or dictatorial, or self-pitying, they should pretty much keep it out of my child’s consciousness.

    I don’t think it is too much of a leap to discuss racism when referring to the above exercise.

    http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/2009/11/pete-k-declares-war-on-racism-at_06.html

  • Thanks to those who’ve made such incisive comments – especially at New Year. This is an important discussion – in the light of possible further state funding for Steiner schools in England – which was bound to cause distress to those unwilling to confront Steiner’s race theories, especially if they were unfamiliar with anthroposophy’s core doctrines.

    Having once chosen a Steiner school for my own children I can understand and appreciate why parents find them attractive. But it is the underlying esoteric religion, anthroposophy: its content and its influence on the school, which must be analysed. I don’t intend to repeat the content of our three posts in these comments.

    It’s my opinion that comments by John Stumbles and tomdehavas speak for themselves.

    The use of the phrase ‘half-caste’ is offensive.

    @Val – as I’ve written on another comments thread – you have a perfect right to comment here but I would prefer you to be honest about the fact that you are an anthroposophist, active on many forums and easily identifiable as such. I wouldn’t want you to knit your way into a corner.

    @Lovelyhorse_ – re your comment no. 100 – yes – why are those books in the library at the University of Plymouth?
    http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853&cpage=3#comment-8811

    @PeteK – my best New Year wishes to you and your children.

  • Perhaps you’d prefer I’d knit myself a badge, Thetis-sorry to again have to decline.

  • @ John Stumbles #120

    quote Stumbles: “Ha ha!”

    What a fabulous laugh: did you attend the “Humor Epoche” in your Waldorf school?

    http://www.waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/andreas_lichte.html

  • @ John Stumbles

    you may not have noticed this – “But I did not know anything about it!” – so I tell you:

    http://www.ruhrbarone.de/waldorf-schools-rudolf-steiner’s-books-are-“an-incitement-to-racial-hatred”-says-bpjm/

    “Waldorf Schools: Rudolf Steiner’s books are “an incitement to racial hatred”, says BPjM

    (…) The “Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien” (BPjM) (”Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons”) examined 2 books by Rudolf Steiner for “racist content” and decided that the content of the books is racist. (…)”

    ………………………………

    Another good laugh for you, isn’t it?

  • @Andreas Lichte

    For the umpteenth time, I’m not defending Steiner’s antiquated theories. But, as Richard Dawkins points out in The God Delusion, the ideas of even radical, progressive liberals of Steiner’s time seem repugnantly reactionary and racist to us nowadays. (Not that I’m accusing Steiner of being a radical progressive liberal, before anyone tilts at *that* windmill.)

    Nor am I attempting to reconcile Steiner’s racist-to-our-sensibilities ideas with Anthroposophy’s insistence that his ideas are relevant today: I’ll leave that can of worms to the Anthroposophists. Of whom, for the umpteenth time, I’m not one.

    I am saying that in practice Steiner education, as far as I can see from my own experience as a parent and from what my kids and other ex-Steiner pupils say, does not seem to practice racism or turn out racists. It actually seems to turn out quite decent, considerate, socially well-adjusted people, who are probably less inclined to the sorts of inadequacies which seem to be behind racism.

    I want to put this whole moral panic into perspective:

    In this world, right now:

    1) Islamic radicals proclaim their aim of establishing religious law throughout the world – and seem to be getting well under way in UK jails. Honour killings and female genital mutilation are still not unheard of.

    2) fundamentalist Christians in the US, and now in the UK, are working to get creationism taught in the schools instead of, or as an “equal” to evolution. And far-right Christian extremists in the US harass and even murder medics providing abortions.

    3) the avowedly Jewish[1] state of Israel continues to treat the people it displaced from their lands in a way that doesn’t seem a million miles removed from the way the Nazis treated those in the Ghettoes in the territories it occupied.

    Muslim, Christian and Jewish schools already get state funding – as do other weird sky-fairy followers. I very much doubt that being educated – and indoctrinated – in one particular religion makes one more broad-minded and tolerant to others than being educated in a secular school.

    And of course the Scientologists are still at large, harassing critics such as the South Welsh councillor in the recent ‘stupid’ tweet incident, not to mention their doleful effect on many of their ‘converts’ and their families. In the US they run schools. In this country their ‘Narconon’ drugs-counselling front gets them access to our school children.

    Now that’s what I call a good laugh Andreas :-/

    Given that there are only so many hours in the day and cells in my brain I see more important things to do than rail at the rather quaint theoretical idiocy behind Steiner schools which, in practice, seem to be fairly benign.

    ———————————————————————–
    [1] I am using the term “Jewish” in its meaning of religion not ethnicity or culture. I am aware that people can consider themselves ethnically or culturally Jewish but are not religious, and vice versa.

  • @John Stumbles

    “I am saying that in practice Steiner education, as far as I can see from my own experience as a parent and from what my kids and other ex-Steiner pupils say, does not seem to practice racism or turn out racists. ”

    Not to invalidate your experience John, but my experience invalidates your experience. It is INDEED their intention to teach Steiner’s racist ideas to children – and that’s exactly what they did to mine.

    “It actually seems to turn out quite decent, considerate, socially well-adjusted people, who are probably less inclined to the sorts of inadequacies which seem to be behind racism.”

    Again, my experience invalidates yours. Waldorf, in my experience, does NOT turn out well-adjusted people… Many, many children who attend Waldorf come out NOT well-adjusted AT ALL.

    “Given that there are only so many hours in the day and cells in my brain I see more important things to do than rail at the rather quaint theoretical idiocy behind Steiner schools which, in practice, seem to be fairly benign.”

    Then you should feel free to attend to those things and leave those of us who find the teaching of racist ideology to our children repugnant rather than “benign” to debate how Waldorf teachers treat the subject in Waldorf schools TODAY.

    http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/2010/12/steiner-quotes-specifically-race.html

  • May 2011 be a good year for you all.
    I want to thank Thetis, 5raphs and Zooey for their reaction on my comment.
    I will answer your questions but I start with Thetis.

    @Thetis
    I have to study the plans of Michael Gove more closely to give an sound opinion about it. The first impression however is : I have read things that are worse.
    I had never expected to be identified with the Tories. Do you think they would pay me well for such a service? Unfortunately I am positioned on the other side of the political spectrum not so far away from Peter Staudenmaier I think.
    “ Steiner Waldorf schools are a small part of this concern but since so many of these schools have applied for what are now very scarce resources, it is absolutely right that they are better understood.” OK, I understand your point.
    “Of course I can’t use the state to impose anything, especially from DC’s blog. You’d have to be paranoid to think he has that kind of power!” OK, but except for clarification you do have political goals. “What is your case for Steiner Waldorf education? Especially as you state that the ‘anthroposophical subculture’, of which Waldorf education is a part, is so badly flawed?”
    In the long run I think education as a whole (not only Steiner schools) should emancipate itself from the state. Civil servants cannot know what is the best for children ( and what is the best for children is also the best for the development of society), because the distance to them is too big and they are not working with them in practice.
    Teachers see the pupils, know the pupils and recognize their talents (at least this should be so , is the ideal) Upon this relationship the school system has to be build.
    So this sphere should mainly regulate itself. The next thing is important because here I have to explain a little bit the concept of social threefolding. This concept is widely misunderstood, as far I can see also by Peter Staudenmaier ( and indeed also by many anthroposophists). The German concept Dreigliederung is not easy to translate. It is not simply a division into the three parts: the economic sphere, the rights/poltical sphere and the sphere of the individual development -the latter also called the spiritual shere. The principal thought of social threefolding is that these spheres should be mainly autonomous and independent. But they cannot be so entirely. Why not? Because in education, in the schools, as part of the spiritual sphere, you need the rights sphere too. In a school we are in the “spiritual sphere”, which you can discern from the other spheres, but this sphere is not cut off from the other spheres. The spiritual sphere needs the rights sphere as it does the economic sphere. Schools have to obey the law. The state- rights sphere- can prescribe demands for buildings, the judicial status of the teachers etc. The state (with our money) has to finance education by guaranteeing every pupil a certain amount of money for hers of his school career. Mutatis mutandis the same is valid for economic life. The allocation of rights, the making of laws is the core business of the rights sphere. This should be in a democratic process. Because we speak of Gliederung and not of partition we can also have democracy within the schools and within the companies in the economic life. As far I can see Peter Staudenmaier has missed this point.
    Please note that I am not thinking in a fixed model here. We have to find solutions in practice as outcomes of negotiations in all levels.

  • PeteK // Jan 1, 2011 at 23:21 OK I read your message 27 if that school is doing as you say it should be stamped on but my school did not do that and I think and hope it is an exception. After all you are talking about the US where racism is a lot deeper than here. It is here but not so deep.

    lovelyhorse // Jan 1, 2011 at 23:33 You may note that at Wynstones many of the teachers were not Steiner traned and so had not read those texts.

    PeteK // Jan 2, 2011 at 00:09 I heard they did a Greek Olympics at Kings Langly but we never did this at Wynstones and we were never separated by temperaments which I agree is stupid but it isn’t racism so linking the two is stretching it.

  • @Jan – thank you, and to you too.

    Of course I realise that you would not think of yourself as a Tory. And it is political, in the sense that the Free Schools policy is a Coalition policy – although this was part of the Conservative manifesto and is very much Michael Gove’s project. I wouldn’t support any political party funding Steiner schools, under any policy, including the diversity agenda in whose name the Hereford Steiner Academy was forced on an unwilling LEA under the previous administration. But it is not a question of imposing some monolithic education model on all families. That is a simplistic claim, and disregards the economic realities which partly make Free Schools so unpopular, and the desire of learning communities in England to safeguard local education. There is little opposition to the creation of new community schools where there’s a lack of provision – but the Free Schools policy has largely attracted a particular kind of ‘niche’ group, as expected. Personally I don’t support the creation of any new state funded faith schools, especially schools run by an esoteric religion which, in the nature of esoteric belief systems, is not openly presented. Anthroposophy has no place in education, its core beliefs are in our view frankly dangerous.

    You are of course at liberty to pursue your own version of anthroposophy, however bizarre or objectionable we may find it. We’re not here to rescue anthroposophy from itself, and this may not be the best venue to discuss social three-folding.

  • #128

    Or to put it another way, we have 3 main world religions founded on genocide/ethnic cleansing, the use of biological warfare against civilian populations, murderous homophobia and worse being OK:
    http://stumbles.org.uk/John/religious_leader/

    Many followers believe that this text is literally true.
    Many insist it is as relevant today as it was then.
    They already have state-funded schools as well as a hold in many institutions in society today.

    Fretting about Steiner seems to me to be like worrying about whether the Boy Scouts are a bit militaristic when we have Blackshirts marching down our streets.

  • @PeteK // Jan 2, 2011 at 04:41 #129

    “Not to invalidate your experience John, but my experience invalidates your experience.”

    I find that statement arrogant and condescending. I’m sure if I claimed that my experience invalidated yours you’d find that offensive, wouldn’t you?

    All I I think it shows is that there can be good and bad Steiner (or Waldorf) schools. It would seem that the one I have experience of does not have the issues the one your kids went to had.

    My experience doesn’t invalidate yours and yours doesn’t invalidate mine.

  • Tomdehavas:

    “I have cited my experience in other posts and barring dragging you to meet some of my half cast friends I don’t know what else I can do.”

    Your “half-caste” friends were never the issue; you made them so without taking on board the argument. Aside from noting that the phrase is objectionable and suggests something kind of weird and insular about your social setting, I don’t have anything to say about your “half-caste” friends. They don’t shed light, one way or another, on the issue being discussed. Accusing me of being PC won’t change that.

    “So now I understand that there was probably deeply hidden racism in the school its just it never ever showed. Yeah right and I believe in fairies. Pull the other one DW.”

    I haven’t a clue whether there was deeply hidden racism in your school, although your statements about half-castes and Indians who were amazingly good at math and Indians as “honorary whites” aren’t particularly reassuring.

    “No of course not I could never identify a racist, I haven’t been trained in it. Come on DW don’t give me this PC rubbish. Respect for all people was innate in my Steiner education.”

    And we should accept that because there was an Indian math teacher at your school? You don’t understand that you’re demonstrating the problem, rather than providing evidence against it?

  • John:

    “Fretting about Steiner seems to me to be like worrying about whether the Boy Scouts are a bit militaristic when we have Blackshirts marching down our streets.”

    That strikes me as quite apt and accurate. I happen to be in the camp that *does* think the “bit militaristic” thing is worth worrying over. You seem to be trying to have this both ways: your Steiner school is free of such problems, everything is fine; and yet, if problems are pointed out, the education of children is not something particularly important anyway, we should focus on other things.

  • To reprise:

    “Fretting about Steiner seems to me to be like worrying about whether the Boy Scouts are a bit militaristic when we have Blackshirts marching down our streets.”

    Connect the dots.

  • @PeteK // Jan 2, 2011 at 04:41 #129

    “Then you should feel free to attend to those things and leave those of us who find the teaching of racist ideology to our children repugnant rather than “benign” to debate how Waldorf teachers treat the subject in Waldorf schools TODAY.”

    I, too, would find the teaching of racist ideology to my children repugnant, IF it were happening, which it isn’t.

    It would be perverse of me to join your campaign against Steiner schools based on your account of what happened at a Waldorf school in the USA whenever it was your kids were there.

    I do choose to attend to what I regard as more important matters. I’d appreciate it if you and the other anti-Steinerites here would extend to me and other non-Anthro non-antis the courtesy of accepting that we may actually be intelligent, conscientious, free-thinking people who, through our own thinking and experiences, hold opinions that differ from yours.

  • John:

    \I do choose to attend to what I regard as more important matters.\

    No one’s stopping you attending to your other, more important matters, yet you are here on this blog, see, making comments on this topic that generate replies on this topic.

    \I’d appreciate it if you and the other anti-Steinerites here would extend to me and other non-Anthro non-antis the courtesy of accepting that we may actually be intelligent, conscientious, free-thinking people who, through our own thinking and experiences, hold opinions that differ from yours.\

    This is just the usual dismissal. When defenders of Steiner come to the end of their ability to discuss issues and argue points, they end up just telling us everything we’re saying personally offends them.

  • DW, Zooey, PK and Thetis have answered Tom de Havas, John Stumbles and valerie Walsh sublimely. It’s certainly disturbing that they cannot see how they illustrate much of what these posts set out.
    Tomdehavas, “half caste”, a word which hasn’t been in common usage for years because it is pejorative, means half pure, or from a lower “caste”, isn’t racist. Good grief. Shudders.

  • @5Raphs thanks! @DW thank you – it needed to be said.

    @John Stumbles – you know nothing about anthroposophy. You do not want to know anything about anthroposophy. You are proud of your dismissal of anthroposophy, which appears to you to be some irrelevant nonsense. The fact that it is the basis of the education system you defend (at such length and across three posts, regardless of which they are) is a problem you are unwilling to face, even though you are keen to tell readers here that you’re a convenor of your local Skeptics in the Pub. This raises a few questions, as Graham Strouts points out: http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3595#comment-8760

    As a Steiner school parent who wants to defend your child’s school I welcome your comments, it’s perfectly possible to have positive experiences at any school, including a Steiner school, nor does anyone want to hear that a child is unhappy. But you present yourself as more than that. You ask us to read a description of Steiner education which you’ve written on behalf of your school, though you don’t have much idea what you’re describing – in my assessment I would be for once in agreement with the Goetheanum:
    http://stumbles.org.uk/John/Steiner/

    I would like to draw your attention to the ‘Ethos and Aims of Alder Bridge School’:
    http://www.alderbridge.w-berks.sch.uk/ethos.php

    I quote: “practice in the school is based on Anthroposophy, a philosophical inquiry resulting in a deeper understanding of the universe and of the human being.”

    What is anthroposophy, John? What is it doing there?

    Here are the links from Alder Bridge Steiner http://www.alderbridge.w-berks.sch.uk/links.phpWaldorf school:

    They include ‘Waldorf Answers’, a site compiled by Sune Nordwall, who is paid by the Swedish Waldorf Schools Fellowship to ‘monitor’ British parents critical of their children’s Steiner education. There is also ‘The Anthroposophical Network’, ‘Spirit working through Anthroposophy’ ‘The Anthros net’ etc etc. Why are these links on your school site? What are they doing there?

    What is anthroposophy, John? Don’t you think you should find out?

    The comments after this, the most serious of these three posts, are worth reading. Many of the writers here are German speakers, who are able to interpret Steiner’s work in the original language. There are former Waldorf teachers and parents who between them have a great deal of knowledge and experience. They don’t all agree, there is no block of ‘anti-Steinerites’. But the debate is worth having because it impacts on real children and real communities, even though it hasn’t touched you directly. I do not agree with you that our concern is misplaced. But to understand why, it’s necessary to read the posts here.

  • @5raphs 30 dec.
    …….’I have to disagree that “doctrine” isn’t a good word for describing anthroposophy- it means after all, principles that are taught, a school of thought, a philosophy. The teachers are “learning” it, aren’t they? on their own path of enlightenment?”
    It is not meant to be a belief system or a doctrine. But of course you can take it as a doctrine and consequently it becomes a doctrine for you. In doing so you (generally speaking not you personally) make dogmas out of hypotheses. There should be a lot more freedom in the relationship of anthroposophists towards Steiner. This relationship should be the same as e.g the relationship there is between Darwin as founder of the evolutionary biology and modern biologists. They honour him as a founder but does not have to accept every aspect of his theory. Surely they are not accused of racism just because Darwin had some “wrong” statements.
    This is also part of my answer in casu supposed racism in Steiners work. Steiner has developed these theses and is responsible for it. Anthroposophy however is bigger than even Steiner. Nevertheless I think it is not correct to state Steiner is a racist. To call an ideology racist, it has to include several elements: superiority of one “race” above another, the ‘inferior race’ should have less rights as the superior and the ‘superior race’ has the right of aggression against the “inferior” race or even to exterminate it. In the leading definition of racism expert Albert Memmi racism is: the generalized and final assigning of values to real and imaginary differences, to the accusers benefit and at his victim’s expense, in order to justify the former’s own privilege or aggression. All elements of the this definition should be there to classify an ideology as racist. As far as I can see Steiner has never proclaimed such actions (less privileges/rights or aggression) against any group neither in ideology nor in practice. Surely when you use another definition you may come to another result, but there is no consensus on this among scholars.
    What should Waldorf teachers believe to become a teacher in a Waldorf school?
    Nothing. They should only recognize the anthroposophical methodology as a fruitful one, and furthermore they should be free. I know that the practice is different in many cases.

  • @ Jan

    If it would be (as you say) incorrect to state that Steiner was a racist based on the definition of racism by Albert Memmi would it be correct to state that Steiner was a racist using the definition of racism by Christian Delacampagn?

  • Or better yet-Christian Delacampagne-sorry!

  • @John Stumbles

    “I, too, would find the teaching of racist ideology to my children repugnant, IF it were happening, which it isn’t.”

    Again, I invite you to invest your time in the things you feel passionate about. Apparently, refuting the racism that exists in Waldorf, via your personal experience, is one of the things you feel passionate about – at least passionate enough to spend your New Year’s Day pushing your agenda.

    “It would be perverse of me to join your campaign against Steiner schools based on your account of what happened at a Waldorf school in the USA whenever it was your kids were there.”

    Nobody has asked you to. I just pointed out that racism exists in Waldorf – via the same “proof” that you used to imply it doesn’t. I have additional proof, BTW, and have witnessed dozens of racist and anti-Semitic remarks from Waldorf teachers over the years.

    “I do choose to attend to what I regard as more important matters. I’d appreciate it if you and the other anti-Steinerites here would extend to me and other non-Anthro non-antis the courtesy of accepting that we may actually be intelligent, conscientious, free-thinking people who, through our own thinking and experiences, hold opinions that differ from yours.”

    Name-calling? Why lower yourself to this? I just said my experience differed from yours… and have documented it. Why am I an anti-Semite sir? Have I even mentioned Jews? Hold any opinions you care to… but I can see you require anything in reality to support them.

    http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/

  • The last line should have read:

    “… but I can’t see you require anything in reality to support them.”

    of course… ;)

    http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/2010_03_01_archive.html

  • Pete – did you mis-read anti-Steinerite as anti-semite? ‘Anti-Steinerite’ is cumbersome as well as daft, I’d add.

  • @ TomDehavas

    “PeteK // Jan 1, 2011 at 23:21 OK I read your message 27 if that school is doing as you say it should be stamped on but my school did not do that and I think and hope it is an exception. ”

    If your school doesn’t have any teachers who use Steiner’s temperaments as indicators to divide, classify and evaluate children, then indeed it IS an exception.

    “After all you are talking about the US where racism is a lot deeper than here. It is here but not so deep.”

    Racism is “deeper” in the US than the UK? I didn’t know that… When did you Brits stop your racism? Oh… it was always superficial… OK. ;) Do you have history books there?

    “lovelyhorse // Jan 1, 2011 at 23:33 You may note that at Wynstones many of the teachers were not Steiner traned and so had not read those texts.”

    Perhaps… but what about the ones who were? How do they approach children?

    “PeteK // Jan 2, 2011 at 00:09 I heard they did a Greek Olympics at Kings Langly but we never did this at Wynstones and we were never separated by temperaments which I agree is stupid but it isn’t racism so linking the two is stretching it.”

    OK… let’s see if it’s racism – and how difficult it must be for teachers to separate what they are taught to look at – what Steiner said about body shape, the temperaments, and races.

    Remember, when we were kids, we used to play “which one does not belong?” One out of the following Steiner statements is NOT taken directly from Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner – REQUIRED reading for Waldorf teachers.

    “It is certainly a major deficiency that many educational systems pay no attention to such things as, for example, the external appearance of the children.”

    “A small head is connected with brooding and reflecting whereas large-headed children are more flighty.”

    “Such cases are increasing in which children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings in relation to their highest I; instead, they are filled with beings that do not belong to the human class.”

    “I do not like to talk about such things since we have often been attacked even without them. Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings. Nevertheless, these are facts. Our culture would not be in such a decline if people felt more strongly that a number of people are going around who, because they are completely ruthless, have become something that is not human, but instead are demons in human form.

    “Nevertheless, we do not want to shout that to the world. Our opposition is already large enough. Such things are really shocking to people. I caused enough shock when I needed to say that a very famous university professor, after a very short time between death and rebirth, was reincarnated as a black scientist. We do not want to shout such things out into the world.”

    “In those children with a physically oversized head, you will be able to find what I have just described as deficiencies, namely, lack of attention or a too-strongly developed phlegma.”

    “If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense if men do not arrive at a form of intelligence that is independent of blondness. Blond hair actually bestows intelligence…”

    “The phenomenon of left-handedness is clearly karmic, and, in connection with karma, it is one of karmic weakness.”

    “They are also quite different from human beings in regard to everything spiritual. They can, for example, never remember such things as sentences; they have a memory only for words, not for sentences.”

    “The use of the French language quite certainly corrupts the soul. The soul acquires nothing more than the possibility of clichés. Those who enthusiastically speak French transfer that to other languages. The French are also ruining what maintains their dead language, namely, their blood. 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.”

    OK… which one wasn’t directed SPECIFICALLY to Waldorf teachers? And after reading the rest, does it really matter?

    http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2009-01-01T00%3A00%3A00-08%3A00&updated-max=2010-01-01T00%3A00%3A00-08%3A00&max-results=4

  • @Thetis
    “Pete – did you mis-read anti-Steinerite as anti-semite? ‘Anti-Steinerite’ is cumbersome as well as daft, I’d add.”

    OMG… Yes I did… My apologies to Mr. Stumbles for that.

    PK

  • Tom D H ,
    “I am angry because they have accused people of being racist who were not in order to play out their other agenda.” post 103

    Wow I’ve only been away a couple days and I’ve arrived back to the usual arguments. Don’t tell me my child didn’t suffer racism at her Steiner school Tom !
    Please go back and read ALL my posts.There is proof that teachers at our school did believe in the reincarnation through races theory and that my daughter suffered racism and that the way they teach the kids makes it very likely that they they won’t fare well in a multicultural society.
    I know you have been pulled up on it but using the term mixed race and not half caste is normal these days,’coloured’ is not used either anymore in case you are wondering.
    I was on a blog a while ago at UKAnthroposophy and there was a guy like you outraged that I was suggesting there was racism at our school he told me that there absolutely no problem there as he knew the school. I replied to him giving an example of a Maths teacher that had taught at the school and had written articles denying the Holocaust. The guy knew this man and was very shocked.
    What I’m trying to say is that you don’t have to have lessons in racism for it to be going on.
    I fight racism wherever I can ,my husband and I went with Hope Not Hate to give out anti BNP leaflets at election time in Barking and Dagenham. I also sent a petition around re the US Pastor that was due to speak at the EDL rally in February.

    I feel that I have to keep repeating myself on blogs etc so people know what they are getting themselves into if they choose Steiner. I really would rather be doing other things to be honest.
    People who are blindly trying to defend something often talk about ‘Having Black friends or Asian teachers etc’ The USA has a Black president ,does that mean there is no racism in America? Pete K’s children were actually taught the racist stuff in class because its in the teacher training not because they were in the US.There are many incidences in the UK too. By the way my husband says the racism in the US is different not worse as he could get further,quicker in his profession in the US as there are many Black owned companies.
    I think the SWSF and the schools deliberately put images of Black children in their literature so people that aren’t very aware think,’well of course they can’t be racist,they have Black children at the schools ‘ they aren’t racist in that overt way thats all.

    John Stumbles, imagine you are in a class of 30 Black parents, what do you think they would prefer ,a school that has no hidden philosophy,if its Catholic,Muslim,non denominational the beliefs would be known.
    You ask them if there kids will encounter racism.They would say that yes their kids most probably would, that they live in a racist society where racism is around them daily.
    Then ask them if they would choose those schools for their kids or if they would go for a school that has a philosophy that the teachers will learn about in their training that says that humans reincarnate from Black to white.
    I don’t know a single Black parent who would go for the second option.The problem is they don’t have a choice as the ideas are not in the prospectus.Surely its not hard to understand that there is a much greater risk that these teachers will be viewing non white children in a racist way.
    Of course there are good and kind teachers in Steiner schools but you really are missing the point …

  • Hi to the Other Tom, Tom de Havas!

    I’m glad you’ve come on board here because you bring a much needed fresh dimension of cognitive dissonance to the discussion.

    (Hee hee, I would love to have been a fly on the wall when your parents found out that you were an atheist! I’m so enamored of this delicious dissonance that I will post later the Steiner quote that your father probably read to you. If he didn’t, he should have, but anyway I will play your father’s role and read it for the benefit of all atheist readers out there.)

    But beyond that personal issue, the cognitive dissonance that your own Waldorf experience has engendered in the Waldorf Critics here seems to fulfill a prediction that Rudolf Steiner made 101 years ago. I re-quote the good doctor from my up-screen Message #29:

    “Therefore, in its fundamental nature, the Anthroposophical Movement, which is to prepare the sixth period, must cast aside the division into races. it must seek to unite people of all races and nations, and to bridge the divisions and differences between various groups of people. The old point of view of race has a physical character, but what will prevail in the future will have a more spiritual character.”

    What you see in bold is what was censored from the Waldorf Schools’ Diversity Statement. Forgetting the significance of the 6th period or epoch for the moment, I want to focus on the second statement.

    Let me paraphrase Steiner here:
    The old point of view of race has a physical character, but the new point of view of race will have a more spiritual character.

    Steiner was naïve in many ways, but not so naïve as to preach that racism would ever go away. Quite the contrary, he boldly predicted a stupendous race war in the far future between the white race and the yellow race — during that “6th period.” And by the end of the 7th period, all races –even genders would blend and end, reincarnation would cease, but only the more morally spiritualized race we might call the “good guys” would move on to the next stage of upward evolution while the very immoral unspiritualized race of “bad guys” would “not make the cut” and be doomed to extinction.

    So I interpret Steiner saying here that racism will not abate at all, but simply change its criteria. (I almost said “spots” ;-). Thus, we move from a racism based on outer physical characteristics to a racism that is based on inner spiritual characteristics, but by “spiritual” — because the German word is “geistige” — we have to infer “mental, intellectual” characteristics as well as “moral, ethical” characteristics in understanding what Steiner means here by “spiritual.”

    (Can anyone say: “thought crime?”) So to me, it looks like this prediction of Steiner has come true in our day. Why, it seems evident right here on this very discussion thread! While the old-style racism based on skin color is obviously still around and will not go away easily, nonetheless, there is a new “kid on the racist block” that foments a more subtle racism now on the basis of the “color” of one’s convictions or belief system quite apart from the color of one’s skin.

  • @Thetis
    “You are of course at liberty to pursue your own version of anthroposophy, however bizarre or objectionable we may find it. We’re not here to rescue anthroposophy from itself, and this may not be the best venue to discuss social three-folding”.

    People here have to know that there is a non- sectarian, different kind of Anthroposophy too.
    Representatives are mostly anthroposophists who are/were active with social threefolding.

  • @Valerie Walsh
    I cannot find a definition of racism by him (but I will look further)
    My point is that there is no consensus among scholars.

  • @Jan – of course I appreciate there are debates between anthroposophists. But we are most concerned here with the training of Steiner Waldorf teachers and the pedagogy of these schools. This may not be the right place to discuss social-threefolding although that’s not to say that such a discussion wouldn’t be interesting elsewhere.

    I don’t see evidence that individuals or organisations today representing Steiner schools, or the schools themselves, are able to come to terms with Steiner’s race teachings, which are an integral part of anthroposophy. Until they do (and that will be a radical step, involving questioning the entire basis of their education system) they should most certainly not be awarded public money.

  • @Jan Luiten

    ” is not meant to be a belief system or a doctrine. But of course you can take it as a doctrine and consequently it becomes a doctrine for you. In doing so you (generally speaking not you personally) make dogmas out of hypotheses.”
    I would say “making dogmas out of hypotheses” is precisely what Steiner himself does in his proclamations, which are then used by teachers as “Steiner said”…

    You may well believe there “should be more freedom in the relationship of anthroposophists towards Steiner” but that isn’t the concern of these articles as @Thetis has pointed out.

    I do not, by the way, agree with your definition of racist. If someone ascribes qualities which are “higher” or “lower” , giving superiority of one human being above another, that imo is racist.

    Is Christian Delacampagne the philosopher who got into deep water by saying some things which the press believed people thought, but were too politically correct to voice? What exactly is your point @Valerie Walsh? Wasn’t it you who said they’d rather hold a racist ideology than display the bigotry of the critics or words to that effect?

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/anthroposophy_tomorrow/message/37313

  • @Jan

    Sorry, I picked him because I am aware of his definition and felt it was in keeping with the definition underlying the post we are all commenting on. But pick any scholar-is there any definition of racism that you feel could be correctly attributed to Steiner?

  • @Cassandra

    “For true Anthros, they either have to (1) reject the racism, which means rejecting Steiner’s clairvoyance (and thus anthroposophy!) or else (2) accept the racism as a true expression of Steiner’s clairvoyance (and thus salvage anthroposophy)”

    See! Whew-or alternatively ‘rip-it, rip-it’-I knew I wasn’t a true Antro ‘cuz I consider racism to be anti-conceptual and clairvoyance non-conceptual by their nature-thus not incompatible.

  • @5graphs

    “Is Christian Delacampagne the philosopher who got into deep water by saying some things which the press believed people thought, but were too politically correct to voice?”

    I believe he is one and the same. Have you seen the movie Bowling for Columbine? I thought Marilyn Manson was the best part, speaking of politically incorrect. And yeah, I’d still take door number one versus two, Monty.

  • @valerie walsh

    Sometimes I find discussion with pro anthroposophy/Steiner people almost deliberately ambiguous… are you saying that Steiner’s racialism is what some people think but it’s too politically incorrect to voice?

    No- I like Michael Moore – I’ll try and watch it some time.

    Do you think people are wanting you to switch doors then? I don’t think so, these posts just discuss anthroposphy in Steiner education.

  • The quote from:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/anthroposophy_tomorrow/message/37313

    says this:

    “I would rather hold a racist ideology, if there is such a thing, than display the bigotry evidenced daily on the Waldorf Critics list.”

    Val, you wrote that a couple of years ago. You express doubt as to whether such a thing as a racist ideology even exists. Have you figured it out yet?
    An astonishing quote.

  • I have faith that it exists-you apparently have knowledge that it does.

  • @Thetis // Jan 2, 2011 at 16:47 #141

    Briefly, because we seem to be going round in circles and I have a living to go out and earn:

    I am aware that my kids’ Steiner school is based on Anthroposophical ideas and I know enough about Anthroposophy to know that it isn’t for me.

    I am genuinely indebted to you and Lovelyhorse for pointing out Rudolf Steiner’s ideas on race which are (like those of others of his age) obnoxious to our modern humanitarian sensibilities, and I appreciate the point you (and David) make that, unlike others of RS’ period, Steiner’s ideas are still being promoted in Steiner teacher training and other areas of Anthro today. I agree this is disquieting. However I have not noticed racist tendencies at our school, and I have specifically quizzed my older son and his ex-Steiner school friends about it and I don’t think it was an issue when they were there either, but I will keep an eye and ear out for it (as well as for other signs of anthro idiocy that you flag up such as the left-handedness question).

    There are many aspects of the way children are taught at our school which I like and which, for me, outweigh my disaffection for the anthro nonsense. I would of course much prefer a school based on rational principles which offered a similar quality of education but they don’t seem to exist, at least where I live.

    So anthroposophy being the basis of Steiner education isn’t “a problem [I am] unwilling to face”, it’s just not (from my experience, and in my opinion) the insuperable problem you evidently find it based on your experience and in your opinion.

    I understand that your experience is different from mine, and your opinions are different from mine. Personally I don’t have a problem with that: accepting each others’ differences of opinions and discussing them in a rational and civil way is what, for me, distinguishes freethinking from blind faith.

  • Ignoring your sophistry Val, I’m glad to hear that in the past 2 years you’ve decided that such a thing as a racist ideology does exist.

  • ‘I would of course much prefer a school based on rational principles..’

    @John Stumbles, you really are the Alan Partridge of Steiner Waldorf education.

  • ahhh-DW-I didn’t say that but I understand that’s what you heard.

  • Oh, you didn’t say that? So you haven’t changed your mind – you are still wondering whether racist ideologies exist in the world?

    I very much appreciate when you show up to add your viewpoint to such discussions, Val. Your comments are very informative for people who wonder what Waldorf is all about.

  • No, no, and no. Once again, you are welcome.

  • So you have “faith” there are racist ideologies out there, like some mysterious mystical butterfly that you’ve never seen in real life, and have no idea what one might look like, but you’ve heard tell, from fellow pilgrims?

    Do you expect normal people to listen to this crap and come away with a good impression of Waldorf? Your games and sophistries are very disrespectful of real people with real questions and concerns.

    Here’s a hint, if you ever come across an ideology that designates “higher and lower” races, or specifies, for instance, that skin color is a manifestation of spiritual progress (light skin being evidence of a freer, more creative spirit) – that one’s racist. Maybe that’ll help you know what to look for.

  • I have faith that there is such a thing as a racist ideology, yes, thus I have no need to put either faith or racist ideology in quotes. I have no expectation for what normal people might listen to but do wonder if the normal are the same as the real, and if I am being designated as being outside either or both classifications by virtue of comparison. Thank you for the hint.

  • I wonder all those things as well.

  • The French social philosopher, Alain de Benoist has written an excellent article called What is Racism? Its 38 page text in translation from the French is here:
    http://www.alaindebenoist.com/pdf/what_is_racism.pdf
    I excerpt from the first 2 pages with my bold emphases indicating phrases relevant to this discussion here.

    Fighting racism requires knowing what it is — not an easy task. Today the word “racism” has so many contradictory meanings that it takes on the aura of a myth and is, therefore, difficult to define. The following will attempt to define racist ideology, independently of any sociological considerations. . . .

    Because of a certain affinity, “racism” can be used as the correlate of a whole series of other terms: fascism, the extreme Right, anti-Semitism, sexism, etc. Today, the almost ritualistic recitation of these terms often implies that they are all synonyms and that any one falling into one of these categories automatically belongs to all of them. The end result is to reinforce the vagueness of the term and to discourage meaningful analysis.

    Used in the most diverse senses, the terms “racism” and “racist” become prepackaged formulas, generating stereotypes. Anti-racists tend to attack racists in much the same way as racists might go after anyone else. Paradoxically, while the signifier “racist” is vague, the signified is rigidly fixed. The charge of having a “racist temperament” follows the same reasoning for which racists are rightly reproached, i.e., vaguely attributing to an entire group traits found in some of its members which, as Pierre André Taguieff has pointed out, generates another problem: “There is no effective struggle against racism once one creates a false image of it, for then anti-racism becomes a mirror image of the racist myth. To treat in a racist way those whom one is accusing of racist conduct is part and parcel of current anti-racism, and one of its shortcomings. Above all, to fictionalize ‘the Other,’ even if he be racist, is to miss who ‘the Other’ really is, never coming to know him.”
    ——————–

    I was struck by the phrase “ritualistic recitation,” because it so aptly describes the state of Waldorf criticism — and Waldorf apologetics — which has been raging now on the Internet for 17 years since Dan Dugan inaugurated his Waldorf Critics mailing list in 1994. Over such a long time, the recitation of charges and counter-charges of racism has not changed at all, thus the recycling of the same charges over and over again with the requisite defenses, gains the predictable status of a ritual, a kind of kabuki theater, which is now so finely tuned that contributors on both sides just need to copy and paste their comments from previous blog and mailing list battles — or else leave links behind like Bee droppings.

    And the crux of the matter is expressed well by Benoist here:
    Anti-racists tend to attack racists in much the same way as racists might go after anyone else.

    This is for me an expression of the “rational racism” that I wrote about in #151, tersely summed up by Benoist:
    . . . attributing to an entire group traits found in some of its members.

    And since he implies bad traits above, I add: . . .and refusing to acknowledge the good traits in most of its members.

    Then Benoist quotes another French social critic, Pierre André Taguieff:
    To treat in a racist way those whom one is accusing of racist conduct is part and parcel of current anti-racism, and one of its shortcomings.

    So I ask you, Mr. PeteK, are you willing to admit the shortcomings of your approach? That you are behaving in exactly the same racist manner as all the Waldorfians you accuse of racism? (Oh, God! Not the pot and kettle again!) Are you willing to acknowledge and admit your own racist tendencies and conduct so that your own personal racism does not contaminate the actual racism existing in Waldorf schools — this allowing moderate critics and moderate defenders a sharper, more accurate, more realistic perception of the racism?

    I’m glad you are here to define the extremist boundaries on the critics’ side, just as Mr. Bee defines the extreme boundaries on the defenders’ side. (Ah, yes, a remake of “The Odd Couple” starring PeteK and Sune!) The problem is that — just like in politics — the extremists on the left and the extremists on the right are always impediments to the respective moderates of each party who deal with the present reality of the situation and not the imagined glories and horrors of the past.

    But not to worry, Pete, you have your important part to play in the Waldorf Kabuki Theater of the Dysfunctional and you play it well. Therefore I will not advise you to decrease the width of the brush with which you whitewash . . . whoops excuse me, I mean “black-wash” Waldorf. Ah, what better way to avenge the prohibition against black crayons in the Waldorf kindergartens! Yes, Blackwash the school!

    To honor your contributions, Pete, I now dedicate a song to you, with a few lyrical tweaks. Cue up the Rolling Stones’ hit from 1966: “Paint It Black!”

    I see a Waldorf school and I want to paint it black,
    No colors anymore I want them to turn black . . .

    [cut to ending]

    I wanna see it painted, painted black
    Black as night, black as coal
    I wanna see Steiner — blotted out from the school
    I wanna see it painted, painted, painted, painted
    Black!
    Yeah!
    Hmm,hmm,hmmmm,hm,hm,hmmm . . . .

  • Ironically Tom I think that is hopelessly oversimplified. The reality is the “anti-racists” who have written here, and typically on the critics list on yahoo, do NOT do the things this rant suggests. We actually don’t say racists are all alike, or attribute things to them as a group. We almost always really focus on the doctrines, and we are much more likely than defenders of anthroposophy to focus on specific doctrines, and differences among specific doctrines, than defenders of anthroposophy are.

    Defenders of the anthroposophic faith frequently *react* as if they’ve been attacked in such a way, but it’s in their minds. When you look back at the actual posts, you cannot find this stuff. It’s a fantasy – a paranoid fantasy of being attacked.

    We’re here to talk about the doctrines of Rudolf Steiner, and the role they may play in this form of education. It isn’t interesting or useful to say this person or that person is a racist, it isn’t the point and it won’t change anything. Whether the DOCTRINES are playing out in the schools is the important issue. When someone like Tom de H insists that he and his beloved Steiner school are under attack because we don’t necessarily believe there was no racism at his school just because he had an Indian math teacher, it does not actually mean he *was* accused of racism, or classed with other racists, or personally attacked, etc., just because he *imagined* this dire fate. Do you see that?

  • “Anti-racists tend to attack racists in much the same way as racists might go after anyone else.”

    In short this is mindless nonsense. Schoolyard level analysis – anthroposophists feel picked on if someone points out their guru was racist. So what?

  • @Tom – Steiner’s race doctrines have not altered, however certain individuals have or have not behaved.

    Pete has his opinion and he’s free to express it here. His experience was extreme and so is his reaction, readers are doubtless able to work this out for themselves.

    Concern about Steiner schools in the UK has grown since the Waldorf pedagogy has become better understood. This is fairly recent here, and the debate will enter the media more widely if more Steiner schools gain funding. Discussion will follow its own course as others relate their experiences, as they have on forums like mumsnet. I know that members of the Waldorf Critics list, who have been so supportive, will be more than happy that others are prepared to speak in their turn.

    It would be better, of course, if they didn’t have to.

  • I just wanted to point out to David Colquhoun that although this page links to parts 1 and 2 of this 3-part article, and part 2 links to part 1, parts 1 and 2 should ideally … well you get the idea … all the parts should link to the other parts to get the most visitors! Just a suggestion.

  • good suggestion :)

  • ‘Fretting about Steiner seems to me to be like worrying about whether the Boy Scouts are a bit militaristic when we have Blackshirts marching down our streets.’ Yes and we do have blackshirts the English Defence Legue.

    Hollywood Tomfortas // Jan 3, 2011 at 19:26 HERE HERE Thanks for this link on racism http://www.alaindebenoist.com/pdf/what_is_racism.pdf I quote from it ‘Deploying the adjective “racist” involves using a powerful epithet. It can be a smear designed to disqualify those at whom the term is addressed. To call someone a rac-
    ist, even if the charge is intellectually dishonest, can be a useful tactic,
    either in successfully paralyzing or in casting enough suspicion as to cur-
    tails credibility. Such an approach is commonplace in everyday controver-
    sies.’ Mmmmmmm

    DW // Jan 3, 2011 at 19:39 ‘Ironically Tom I think that is hopelessly oversimplified’ Really DW can you perhaps furnish us with your more complex definition of racism so that I can let you know whether I would think I was a racist by your criteria.

    BY the way to all. Yes due to a lack of care and attantion this thread is going around in circles as explained in one of my other posts.

  • “Really DW can you perhaps furnish us with your more complex definition of racism so that I can let you know whether I would think I was a racist by your criteria.”

    Once again whether you, personally, are a racist is not of particular interest, and the notion that people here want to “smear” you personally is in your mind. The discussion is about Steiner’s doctrines and I think I’ve stated a couple of solid criteria a couple of times now: a theory that posits “higher and lower” races, posits that spirituality is reflected in skin color, or that certain races “stay behind” in evolution – spiritually – is racist. This is not a complete definition but it ought to do for our purposes. Would you dispute it? Or would you dispute that those elements are found in Steiner’s doctrines? Perhaps you would, if you haven’t read it.

  • @DW
    In the definition of racism expert Albert Memmi racism is: the generalized and final assigning of values to real and imaginary differences, to the accusers benefit and at his victim’s expense, in order to justify the former’s own privilege or aggression. All elements of the this definition should be there to classify an ideology as racist. As far as I can see Steiner has never proclaimed such actions (less privileges/rights or aggression) against any group neither in ideology nor in practice.

  • @Jan – in all honesty I think it’s you who is going round in circles. And me as I return the comments every so often to the original post, though eventually if it carries on I may not be here to do so. DW meanwhile is replying, staying on the point.

    You bring up Albert Memmi. He has a view on racism. We don’t agree that this is enough to offset Steiner’s race teachings and their relationship to the Steiner Waldorf pedagogy. It is the race doctrine that is racist. You query the word ‘doctrine’. We disagree. I return everyone to the original post.

    After a while you return. You bring up Albert Memmi…

  • @Jan – sorry – tomdehavas and not you thinks the comments are going round in circles. But I uphold my analysis of certain circularities anyway.

  • @tomdehavas

    it would reflect better on your persistent posting here if you replied to maimuna:

    http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853&cpage=4#comment-8898

  • John in #162
    Briefly, because we seem to be going round in circles
    Tom de H in #177
    Yes due to a lack of care and attention this thread is going around in circles
    Thetis in #180
    Jan – in all honesty I think it’s you who is going round in circles.
    Thetis in #181
    Jan – sorry – tomdehavas and not you thinks the comments are going round in circles. But I uphold my analysis of certain circularities anyway.

    John, Tom, Jan, Thetis:
    Actually, it’s not due to any lack of care and attention; it’s the nature of this beast here to go in circles. Radii may differ in length and angular velocity be variable, but cycling round and round is what never ceases on all these so-called “discussions.”

    Back in 1964, psychiatrist Eric Berne came out with a book called “Games People Play” and founded Transactional Analysis. Stanley Karpman took Berne’s ideas and created the “Karpman Drama Triangle” — seen as an equilateral triangle with one point down labeled “V” for Victim; the upper vertices are labeled “P” for Persecutor and “R” for Rescuer. Though somewhat dated, it still aptly describes classic enabling and colluding dysfunctional dynamics operating in families, businesses and Internet forums like this as well.
    http://www.lynneforrest.com/html/the_faces_of_victim.html

    The goal of the game is to keep the game going, to make sure the status quo does not change, so that the game can continue at all costs. And the great insight of Berne and Karpman is that each one of us sooner or later plays all 3 roles: victim, bully, rescuer and we may switch from clockwise to anti-clockwise direction (there, see how Brit friendly I am!) but . . . round and round she goes, where she stops . . . well, she ain’t gonna stop! (We all see to that!)

    Actually, a better, more artistic picture is that we’re all trapped inside a Samuel Beckett play. I’m Vladimir, you’re Estragon, no, you be Lucky then he’ll be Pozzo, all of us “Waiting for Godot” who never comes, but it sure passes the time, doesn’t it? Plus recycling is good for the planet, n’est-ce-pas?

  • I think of it more as Huis Clos – the play by Satre. Hell is other people. Or, for anthroposophists, hell is other anthroposophists.

  • DW // Jan 3, 2011 at 21:53 You said ‘a theory that posits “higher and lower” races, posits that spirituality is reflected in skin color, or that certain races “stay behind” in evolution – spiritually – is racist.’ No I would not dispute it, its just that you called a 38 page definition ‘hopelessly oversimplified’ so I thought you had something new to add on the subject.

    Clearly than I am not racist in your eyes. Personally if I was a racist, In anybodies eyes it would concern me.

    Thetis // Jan 3, 2011 at 22:59 In accordance with your request and I apologise for my ommission.

    maimuna // Jan 3, 2011 at 04:20 I never said your child did not suffer racism at her Steiner school and I deeply sympathise with you, but please don’t tell me that my Steiner school practiced institutionalised racism.

    ‘I know you have been pulled up on it but using the term mixed race and not half caste is normal these days,’coloured’ is not used either anymore in case you are wondering.’ Look I know that they change the names every few years and read things into them but if you do or don’t respect a person that is what counts. There are many ways to say ‘Good Morning’ with respect and with disrespect. I prefer respect not names. By the way I am mixed race but not half cast though I wish I was. I am fed up with stupid equal oportunities forms that say things like (a) White (b) mixed race (c) etc etc. what am I meant to put. (z) Other!

    Regarding the Holocaust, in which about 17 million people were exterminated including two relatives of mine, I would have put him right. Needless to say my daughter in state school was able to put her hand up when her teacher said ‘I guess nobody here was effected by that’ Yet one of my Jewish relatives was the most racist person I ever heard of. Indeed some jews think only 6 million jews were exterminated and forget the other 11 million other people. that is Jewish racism.

    Just to say I was never tought anything about the differences between races. The only time anything about race came up was we were tought with wonder and admiration about the bushmen of the Kalahari and the only suggestion was perhaps that their culture was superior to ours by virtue of being closer to nature.

    Its not just that there are good and kind teachers, its that half the teachers in my school probably had no interest in reincarnation and those that did really would not have cared what order people incarnated in and certainly would not have mentioned it if they did believe it and would not have treated the children differently as a result of such a preconceaved idea. This is in my school in my time remember not necessarily any others and I apologise and feel deeply sorry to here of any child anywhere being subject to racism.

    I think in my school they looked at each child and might have said Oh fred is very deeply incarnated but bill isn’t but they would not have said Fred is more deeply incarnated because he is blacker or whiter than bill.

    Its a bit like there are some damn good black athleats out there but you wouldn’t expect a teacher to say ‘Umgabi’ go to the top of the sports class because your black but still he might not be surprised when he got there himself. This is predjudice perhaps but not racism. Even if we all know that most engineers are men we shold never turn down or accept a woman or a man on this basis but simply on their merrit.

    I think I know we are not all equal but the sooner we learn to celebrate our differences and work proudly together the sooner the world will be at peace. At the moment the Chinese workers slave for us imprisoned in their factories while we argue whether ALL Steiner schools are racist or not on mass.

  • @Thetis #164

    Thank you. Your reply above (and at http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3528&cpage=1#comment-8932) have, in a way that I daresay you did not intend, helped me evaluate my judgement of my thinking on these issues.

    I will not trouble you again.

  • @John Stumbles – believe me, we’ve trod a similar path re Steiner ed. All the best to you.

  • @tomdehavas 185
    Great comment, thank you

  • I think it is a very good case to have free schools in GB, and also, as a part of it, schools based on the anthoposophical methodology. Of course it should be clear for all that the teachers of these schools are using this methodology. There shouldn’t be a hidden agenda of propaganda for the anthroposophy. But, like I said before, the teachers should really be free not acting after a theory or a model. It must however be very clear what it is the teachers are standing for. So teachers have to explain publically, e.g. on school-websites, their ideals and personal beliefs. Schools on this basis will then be very different from each other because there isn’t a fixed schoolmodel. Schools on this basis can therefore also compete with each other and of course with other schools that are working on a different basis. In this competition the best schools will survive and evolve. Of course these schools should be accessible and payable to everybody with respect for everybody’s culture, belief, skin color, sex, gender, sexual preference etc. and with zero tolerance for discrimination or racism

  • @Hollywood Tom – Message 171

    You said:”I was struck by the phrase “ritualistic recitation,” because it so aptly describes the state of Waldorf criticism — and Waldorf apologetics — which has been raging now on the Internet for 17 years since Dan Dugan inaugurated his Waldorf Critics mailing list in 1994. Over such a long time, the recitation of charges and counter-charges of racism has not changed at all, thus the recycling of the same charges over and over again with the requisite defenses, gains the predictable status of a ritual, a kind of kabuki theater, which is now so finely tuned that contributors on both sides just need to copy and paste their comments from previous blog and mailing list battles — or else leave links behind like Bee droppings.”

    Ah, but my friend, I am here to tell you things HAVE changed since 1994. I’m here to point out HIGHLAND HALL TAUGHT STEINER’S RACIST IDEAS TO MY SON. For those who say this doesn’t happen – I’m here to say – IT DOES. Now, you may choose to invalidate me by making comparisons to TheBee – but that doesn’t alter for one instant what ACTUALLY HAPPENED. And this is why I am here Tom – to show what is happening NOW – not in 1994 – but since.

    And speaking of which – we’ve seen lots of OFFICIAL apologies from Waldorf since 1994… (including Steiner quotes taken out of context) – which means SOMETHING must be getting through. ;)

    Here’s a more modern song for you Tom –

    “Time Is Running Out”

    I think I’m drowning
    Asphyxiated
    I wanna break this spell
    That you’ve created

    You’re something beautiful
    A contradiction
    I wanna play the game
    I want the friction

    You will be the death of me
    You will be the death of me

    Bury it
    I won’t let you bury it
    I won’t let you smother it
    I won’t let you murder it

    Our time is running out
    Our time is running out
    You can’t push it underground
    You can’t stop it screaming out

    I wanted freedom
    Bound and restricted
    I tried to give you up
    But I’m addicted

    Now that you know I’m trapped sense of elation
    You’d never dream of
    Breaking this fixation

    You will squeeze the life out of me

    Bury it
    I won’t let you bury it
    I won’t let you smother it
    I won’t let you murder it

    Our time is running out
    Our time is running out
    You can’t push it underground
    You can’t stop it screaming out
    How did it come to this?
    Oh

    You will suck the life out of me

    Bury it
    I won’t let you bury it
    I won’t let you smother it
    I won’t let you murder it

    Our time is running out
    Our time is running out
    You can’t push it underground
    You can’t stop it screaming out
    How did it come to this?
    Oh

    http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/2010/10/working-with-highland-hall-open-letter.html

  • Tom, you wrote to me:

    “You said ‘a theory that posits “higher and lower” races, posits that spirituality is reflected in skin color, or that certain races “stay behind” in evolution – spiritually – is racist.’ No I would not dispute it, its just that you called a 38 page definition ‘hopelessly oversimplified’ so I thought you had something new to add on the subject.”

    What I called hopelessly oversimplified was the weird thing the other Tom quoted, about (in kindergarten terms, which is about all it amounted to), if you call someone racist, you’re just a big old meanie, a “bounces off of me and sticks to you” thing dressed up in academic bafflegab. (Which effectively makes it impossible to point to racism anywhere, any time. Val also frequently attempts to introduce into the discussion the possibility that racism may not even exist, with her nonsense about having “faith” that such strange things may exist somewhere somehow, though not in her world, apparently … and [the other] Tom’s contribution seemed to me to work the same way. Not helpful.) (Anway I didn’t call the definition of racism oversimplified – I called the theory Tom quoted oversimplified.)

    “Clearly than I am not racist in your eyes. Personally if I was a racist, In anybodies eyes it would concern me.”

    Your insistence on making all this personal is getting a little old. I REALLY don’t care whether you’re a racist or not. I have no reason at all to think you are a racist, I don’t even know you though you seem like a decent fellow. I am not at all interested in either accusing or reassuring you. You are not the topic here.

  • Well, DW, now that you have filed this exacting bill of indictment (Comment #178) charging Rudolf Steiner with teaching a doctrine of racism, what would you see as the final outcome, or endgame of the process? Do you seek a jury trial, or merely statements from the anthroposophical powers that be, like the Vorstand at the Goetheanum or the Waldorf Associations in the US (AWSNA) and UK (SWSF) that acknowledge that Rudolf Steiner taught doctrines that were racist?

    Are you seeking reparations from the estate of Rudolf Steiner at the Goetheanum for the victims of his racism? Or perhaps forming a reconciliation tribunal or whatever they organized in South Africa after the end of apartheid? Any punishment? Conditions for atonement?

    What is it you want from these people?

    Perhaps I should give you a good opportunity here to express what you deem the best case scenario of what should happen if the Steiner movement ever plead guilty to your bill of indictment.

    Obviously, I cannot speak for anyone but myself here, but suppose I were able to speak for the Vorstand and AWSNA and SWSF and I were to admit to you — as I stand in the docket representing Rudolf Steiner’s movement — that indeed I fully acknowledge the charge that Rudolf Steiner was a racist and taught racist doctrine.

    He is guilty as charged. In fact, not only do I acknowledge all the particulars of the racism charges, I even go farther and admit that I — as an anthroposophist for the last 34 years — can categorically state that racism in anthroposophy is not just incidental to the doctrine; it is actually fundamental to the doctrine. Take away the racism, and you have no anthroposophy left.

    But I am only acting as spokesman here. What would you then like to see as the next step? What should follow from a full admission of guilt by all the “power-that-be” in anthroposophy that Rudolf Steiner was a racist and taught racist doctrine?

    Tom Mellett
    Los Angeles, CA

  • @Thetis #187

    Sorry, I am going to bother you again, just for some information. Have you got, or can you point me to, a list of racist incidents in UK Steiner schools? Ideally with as much information as possible about them.

    (Worldwide would be fine too.)

    Thanks

    John S

  • @Tom – this is a fairly obscure new esoteric religion, which matters very much to its adherents but not at all to the rest of the world. It is historically interesting, but otherwise in the opinion of most people who come across it, it’s a philosophical dead-end. New religions develop and then die all the time. Some survive. Besides, there are so many other ideas worth pursuing.

    I can only suggest, if anyone asks, that these organisations withdraw from supporting the pursuit of public money for Steiner Waldorf schools. That would be the decent thing to do. The project of anthroposophy is the concern of its supporters, not its detractors.

    But I suspect we’re not close to this kind of declaration. So we hope that those responsible for funding Free Schools in our country do their research well on this one.

    The influence of anthroposophy on environmentalism, agriculture, social care, medicine are up for question elsewhere, and rightly so.

    In my post I write that ‘although a reappraisal of doctrine is not without precedent within religious movements, it would be especially problematic for Anthroposophy, as an esoteric belief system.’

  • @John Stumbles – hello, it’s no bother at all.

    If there were a list of this kind it wouldn’t be possible to give it out, for legal and personal reasons. Ray Perreira, who spoke in the Australian press and the British parents mentioned in my post were both unusually candid. So is PeteK.

    You may have read here that there’s a Waldorf Survivors’ list, which is not public. (I’m not a member). This may give you an idea how reluctant people are to speak openly about experiences (not by any means all to do with racism) which may have been traumatic. Leaving a Waldorf school community can be difficult for lots of reasons.

    My own experience was not traumatic, by the way. Nor did it involve racism.

  • Tom Mellett, I don’t personally think all the melodrama about jury trials and indictments etc. is helpful. Who exactly would be indicted? In individual incidents, of course, legal proceedings might be helpful (and there have been a few such cases), but overall, individuals suing schools or particular teachers isn’t a great way forward, IMO.

    What is at issue is large numbers of people in the movement overall being finally willing to take a serious look at the situation without getting personally offended and threatened. From what I understand (I don’t read German), this is already happening much more in the German-speaking anthro world than in the English-speaking. I think eventually it will get underway in a much more energetic way in the UK and the US as well.

    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. How many mistakes could he have made, especially in very serious matters, and retain credibility as a visionary and a seer etc.? There are ways around this, however. Plenty of religions – every religion, perhaps? – has to deal with the skeletons in the closets of its founders at some point. Any religious movement that wants to survive and mature *has* to make this leap, IMO. There is nothing particularly unusual or special about anthroposophy in this regard and the demands and pressures put on anthroposophy by outsiders are not extraordinary. If there is value in anthroposophy, it can only get *more* influential and successful in the world by taking care of these housekeeping matters. Endless denials, endless wretched antics, absurd and scandalous behavior by people like Sune Nordwall only delay the process. Someday the Sunes of anthroposophy will be deeply discredited and seen for what they are (dinosaurs).

    More importantly, though, if anthroposophists want to be taken seriously as a movement for social progress in the world, they simply need to set aside their self-serving and self-absorbed anxieties and grapple with the issues honestly. Statements from official Waldorf organizations and schools that the racial doctrines are considered incorrect and deleterious and are explicitly disavowed would be a start. (Not weasely statements about how some things, sometimes, that Steiner said can be misconstrued according to modern sensibilities blah blah … but actual statements that Steiner’s racial teachings were incorrect and dangerous.)

    After that I think a lot of soul searching would ensue, and it wouldn’t be an easy or quick process (as we can see from the fact that it’s taken about 15 years of steady pressure to get this far). How about, for instance, regional conferences of Waldorf educators to address the possible role Steiner’s views on different races may have played in the classroom?

    I don’t think this long time frame for dealing with is unusual or strange, historically, by the way – racial beliefs are deeply held by many people, not just anthroposophists, and historically people don’t let go of them easily.

    Frankly your own endless song-and-dance antics aren’t particularly helpful in this process, IMO.

  • @ Hollywood Tom who said: “What is it you want from these people?”

    For me, Tom, that’s a loaded question, because I would like to be compensated for the impact of the horrible education my children received… and for the therapy they have had to have… stuff like that. But getting to the racism in particular – I would like FULL DISCLOSURE – very similar to what you wrote – on every Waldorf document… you know… right there next to where they say they don’t discriminate. That would be perfect! That way there is no “hidden” doctrine that parents have to discover on their own. It would be great if they disclosed a whole bunch of other stuff too, BTW.

  • @DW @PeteK too – hear hear.

    “If there is value in anthroposophy, it can only get *more* influential and successful in the world by taking care of these housekeeping matters. Endless denials, endless wretched antics, absurd and scandalous behavior by people like Sune Nordwall only delay the process.”

  • DW // Jan 5, 2011 at 02:58

    ‘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.’

    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.

    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.

    Quote ‘How about, for instance, regional conferences of Waldorf educators to address the possible role Steiner’s views on different races may have played in the classroom?’ I love this suggestion and think it should happen now your talking DW.

  • @John Stumbles

    I always thought this post from last year (which was on a discussion which they delete after a few months, hence the format here) was a good example of how Steiner’s ideas about race and reincarnation can fill the psyche of Steiner teachers :

    ” Well, i have heard of a lot of rascism in Steiner schools. I am half Indian, so quite olive skinned with very dark eyes. Ds takes after my dad and dh and is very white with blonde hair and very light blue eyes….

    It is a little unbelievable looking back. I was asked outright if he was adopted. I was told it was ‘ok’ if he was dhs child from a previous relationship. Then I was asked if there was any chance he was swapped at birth. When they finally accepted that I had somehow given birth to him (genetics, anyone?) they started to treat him like the messiah, calling him their ‘golden boy’.

    ……He (poster’s husband) was told that ds was a ‘black soul’ put on earth in the incarnation of a blonde haired, blue eyed boy for the purpose of spiritual deception. That I was dark as I had committed evil in a previous life and that evil was living on through my child who was born in order to deceive. I said earlier that in the last few weeks he was there he developed a nervous tick, he used to kind of roll his eyes back while opening them wide, over and over. Apparently, that is a very common sign of stress in very young children (he was just 5 at the time). The kindergarten teacher said that this was the evil showing itself and trying to take a physical form.”

    Here is the entire post- sorry it’s so hard to read:

    http://pastehtml.com/view/1cntj9m.txt

    The poster ten posts down here too- “Blu”

    http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/education/454805-steiner-waldorf-schools-requesting-info-from-those-in-the-know

    There is some revealing stuff here by “Beansavvi” who trained a a teacher and was a parent (this is a huge thread, and well worth reading all the way through if anyone has time/energy…)

    http://www.mothering.com/community/forum/thread/368640/a-safe-healthy-haven-waldorf-questioners-concerns-thread/120

    There are many personal stories here , from the UK as well as world wide
    http://www.waldorfcritics.org/active/articles.html#FormerWal