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

October 6th, 2010 · 105 Comments

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

The part 3 is Steiner Waldorf Schools Part 3. The problem of racism.



I have to admit that until a few years ago I had thought of Steiner schools as being rather cuddly experiments in progressive education. Perhaps a bit like Montessori schools or A.S. Neill’s Summerhill School.

But then I discovered that they advocate "biodynamic farming". That includes utterly barmy doctrines about how the phase of the moon affects crops and such like astrological baloney (as well as some possibly sensible stuff about compost). Then I had a series of mails from a correspondent that made me realise that Steiner schools have some much more unpleasant ideas than a bit of astrological baloney, including the dangerous ideas about anthroposophical medicine.

faceless dolls
Faceless dolls used in Steiner schools. Waldorfwatch comments "In part, the goal is to stimulate children’s imaginations, which Anthroposophists believe contribute to clairvoyance. The deeper reason is the Anthroposophical belief that young children are incompletely incarnated in the physical world — they still live partially in the spiritual world, where nothing has sharply defined limits, edges, or details.". " many children find faceless dolls creepy and unsatisfactory". . ." Sometimes, indeed, the dolls come with pointed “elf” hats sewn on, suggesting that these are not human dolls by gnome dolls. Steiner taught that gnomes are real", Picture from Senderling Waldorf School.

The matter has acquired new urgency now that Steiner schools are seeking government support via the Tory’s "free schools" programme. It is important that both ministers and parents should know what goes on in these schools.

I’ve wanted to write about it for a while, but was deterred by the sheer amount of information. My only contribution so far was to add Rudolf Steiner to my Patients’ Guide.

"Anthroposophical medicine: followers of the mystic barmpot, Rudolf Steiner, for whom nothing whatsoever  seems to strain credulity"

Luckily I became acquainted with two of the most knowledgeable people on the topic. They are known on Twitter as @thetismercurio and @lovelyhorse_. After meeting them it occurred to me that I should ask them to write a guest post or two. Here is part one.

The true nature of Steiner Waldorf education

In a document produced this September by the New Schools Network, the (avowedly) politically neutral organisation set up to assist groups interested in Education Minister Michael Gove’s much vaunted and highly criticised Free Schools revolution, there is a question:  

"..what do you want your school to be? A traditional school with a highly academic curriculum, setting and streaming? Or a school following the Montessori method or Steiner-Waldorf?" 

This seems straightforward; in the case of Montessori it is so. The two school systems are often linked as ‘progressive’ alternatives but differ greatly. Montessori is a popular, predominantly early years education method, represented amongst the first wave of 16 Free Schools by the Discovery Free School, Crawley. Described as education adapted for each individual child, in the UK Montessori places itself within the remit of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) guidelines.

Steiner Waldorf schools are similarly called "child-centred" but are in reality underpinned by a fantastical edifice of nonsense which directs the teachers in the way they work with individual children. The schools have a distinct pedagogy in the context of which government guidelines are anathema; thus exemptions to the EYFS have been sought for the kindergartens at all Steiner settings. The Open Eye Campaign, championed by Steiner teacher Dr Richard House of Roehampton
University, stated in 2007 that they feared the EYFS was potentially harmful and ‘a breach of the human right of parents to have their children educated in accordance with their own philosophies’.

Few early years teachers reject the importance of play or would welcome an overly prescriptive regime, many support the review of the EYFS currently being undertaken by Dame Clare Tickell. But they may be surprised at the rhetoric of Richard House and Graham Kennish, Steiner teacher trainer and science advisor:

"Monoculture of children’s minds. Strip mining of children’s imaginative forces for short-term aims. The deep ploughing which destroys the soil and crushes individuality with heavy machinery. The application of fertiliser which turns childhood aspirations to dust which then blows away, leaving the barrenness of violence in adolescence. …. Education as the cultivation of inner resources for which an inner ecology is needed."

Anthroposophy

To make sense of this histrionic language, parents and policy makers must understand the philosophy that informs all Steiner Waldorf schools (Waldorf in the US and Europe): Anthroposophy. Wikipedia will not help here (it has been ‘cleansed’), parents who ask are told the literal meaning: ‘wisdom of man’. Anthroposophy’s inventor, Austrian Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) is presented by his proponents as a profound philosopher, a polymath; an expert in agriculture and architecture, medicine, social care, art and education. Triodos Bank, Camphill Communities, biodynamic agriculture (including wine) and the newly labelled ‘Social Pedagogy’ are all expressions of Steiner’s anthroposophical ideas. The first  ‘Steiner’ school, named Waldorf after its cigarette factory patron, was opened in Stuttgart in 1919. With typical bravado the Movement has for some time proclaimed Waldorf ‘the fastest growing school system in the world’.

Applying Anthroposophy to his subject, Science Advisor Dr Graham Kennish can be read some time before the Open Eye Campaign asking the important questions:

"How valid is the current popular and medical perception of the heart as a pump? What sustains this model and how much is lost in maintaining it?"

And in his: Teaching Biology in a Human Context  he describes Waldorf adolescents learning anatomy with a ‘sense of wholeness and meaning’.

Kennish was until recently the Science advisor for the University of Plymouth Steiner BA course (now closing) and is still featured on the University site as a researcher for the Steiner Waldorf Academy Research Network, linked to the only UK state funded Steiner Waldorf Academy, Hereford. Amongst the set texts at Plymouth (obtained through a recent FoI request) was a book called ‘Secrets of the Skeleton, Form in Metamorphosis’, the jaw-dropping fantasy of which presumably misled hosts of trainee Steiner Waldorf teachers. But this isn’t science: it’s Steiner’s ‘Spiritual Science’. As an advocate of this world view Dr Richard House made a plea in a comment on the TES website for an understanding of the supersensible world through Steiner’s ‘upgrading’ of science. But this is not, he suggests, for the intellectually lazy.

What is not mentioned by the Steiner teachers taking your child into their care is that Steiner was by the time he wrote and lectured about education an occultist, an ex-theosophist whose insights were gained, it is stated, through clairvoyance. Nor will they be honest about the core beliefs of Anthroposophy, described by historian Dr Peter Staudenmaier: 

"Spiritual advancement through karma and reincarnation, supplemented by the access to esoteric knowledge available to a privileged few".

The influence of Anthroposophy on Steiner Waldorf education

The pedagogy of Waldorf schools is informed by Steiner’s esoteric scheme of karma and reincarnation. The child ‘incarnates’ in 7 year cycles: the ‘etheric’ body is born at 7, the astral body at 14 and the ‘ego’ or the individuality that returns from past lives, at 21. Abstract reasoning is discouraged too early (before 14) because it interferes with the anthroposophical – spiritual – vision of human development. If parents are surprised at this information, or believe it to be a charming metaphor, we know that Steiner advised his teachers to be coy:

"[W]e have to remember that an institution like the Independent Waldorf School with its anthroposophical character, has goals that, of course, coincide with anthroposophical desires. At the moment, though, if that connection were made official, people would break the Waldorf School’s neck."
Rudolf
Steiner, Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner (Anthroposophic Press, 1998) p. 115 

In this interview the late Joan Salter, author of ‘The Incarnating Child’, (standard Waldorf recommended reading), explains the importance of her anthroposophical studies:

"JS: What appeals to me about Steiner is that he is thoroughly practical. We’re inclined to think of babies as children, but they have been old people. Our “little treasures” have been here many times. I think we need to be aware of this. You can see this if you observe the child. That is why I think observation is so important.
LM: Can you say more about this in relation to caring for young children?
JS: The reason we come here again is to redeem old karma and to establish new karma. We need to ask ourselves: If this is why the human being has come, how can we bring up the child, or what can we do, to help the child do this?
LM: That sounds like the key to parenting!"

The role of the Steiner kindergarten teacher is to facilitate the ‘incarnation’ of the spirits and souls of children into their physical bodies. If there is here a philosophy that the EYFS guidelines might “breach”: in our direct experience the significance and implications of this philosophy are inadequately understood by most Steiner parents. Teachers, if pressed, may repeat that ‘Anthroposophy is not taught to the children’ but this is disingenuous or naive. The transmission of Anthroposophy is subtle, through verses, stories and images. Every aspect of Steiner education is informed by Steiner’s clairvoyant ‘insight’ or ‘intuition’ and has occult implications. Thus the Waldorf categorisation of children according to their ‘temperaments’ and their ’soul type’, school readiness linked to the ‘change of teeth’, the dance form eurythmy, the oddly uniform artwork, the gnomes (or elementals) and the faceless dolls, are all embodiments of the anthroposophical impulse.

Labeling of children according to a spurious philosophy could be seen as insignificant were it not for the pedagogical response of those Steiner teachers who, instead of acknowledging a child’s real, individual emotions and behaviour, respond to body-type, hair colour, gait and ‘humour’ in formulaic (occult) and potentially detrimental ways.

Four temperaments
The way Steiner Waldorf schools want classify your children (from openwaldorf.com). Click to enlarge.

Eugene Schwartz, a Waldorf Educational Consultant with his own US site Millennial Child, gave a series of lectures called ‘The Karma of Education’ at Rudolf Steiner House, London in April this year at the invitation of St. Michael Steiner School in Wandsworth. The podcast is available to download and is essential listening for Michael Gove. Schwartz is candid and even entertaining; if anyone could make Steiner’s Saturn/Sun/Moon evolution, Lemuria and Atlantis palatable it might be him. But this is adult fantasy, theosophical science-fiction; it is not a basis for the education of children, however well-meaning or well connected some of its proponents may be.

As Anthroposophy is an esoteric movement with an ‘inner circle’, it is not surprising that the undeclared hierarchy of Steiner schools includes practicing anthroposophists as well as some teachers making attempts to work assiduously for the benefit of their classes, trying even to ignore Anthroposophy. The turnover of the latter type of teacher is high. For those who imagine they will ‘take the good bits & ignore the rest’ of Steiner in any possible UK Free Schools, there are indications in this document from the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, directed at the many ‘Waldorf inspired’ initiatives budding in the States, that without Anthroposophy there is no Steiner Waldorf. Readers are instructed that essential to the "art" of teaching is: "an openness to reckon with the unseen spiritual realities which live behind the physical world and developing the perceptivity to experience what this reality is."

In addition, those concerned can buy a copy of the most recent (2007) edition of The Class Teachers’ Handbook’ by Kevin Avison, available from the bookshop of the UK Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship:

"…without active recall the teacher cannot claim to be including the spiritual world, the activity of the night, in the lesson. Recall time is the moment in the lesson when what is beginning to individualise itself in the child through their unconscious communication with the hierarchies (especially the Angels, Archangels and Archai – see for example, The Hierarchies as the Source of Action Speech and Thought, April 28, 1023 – GA224) during sleep can express itself."

In the same Handbook, Avison advises teachers: "anything indicating what the class might have learnt or covered in Morning Lesson should be ‘lost’ before you leave the school," Many have taken him seriously, since the ‘loss’ of notes is a complaint made repeatedly by Waldorf parents all over the world.

The implications of spiritual science

So why are parents asking for these schools? Steiner Waldorf schools offer an apparently creative, ‘unhurried’, authentic childhood experience free from our dominant exam culture and from technology. They stress the ecological and holistic. They are alluring. The distinct aesthetic within the Steiner kindergarten: natural materials, wool, washed peach-coloured walls and gentle voices creates for some parents a lost garden of childhood, in contrast to which the brash plastic of the average nursery becomes an affront to the senses. There’s no reason to suspect anything odd, so Michael Gove can hardly be blamed for his positive reaction to the Bruton Steiner School, which appears to have been his moment of zen.

But the Steiner dream ends for many families with the realisation that their child is academically far behind his or her peers. Susan Godsland, an independent reading intervention expert, has helped many ex-Steiner children learn to read at 8, 9 and 10. Though she acknowledges that some children can blossom in Steiner school, that a percentage will learn to read earlier in spite of the pedagogy, she believes it’s cruel to deny a child the chance to read until so late. In the last paragraphs of her Room 101 she explains why early reading isn’t encouraged. A child is ‘blessed’ with not being able to read and write, since Steiner says early reading will hinder the later spiritual development of children. She adds: ‘this is simply mumbo-jumbo and should be treated with the contempt it deserves.’

While it is evident that this failure in basic teaching could cause low self esteem, the influence of anthroposophical medicine within Waldorf schools is an added concern (for example, mistletoe as a ‘treatment’ for cancer). In addition the measles epidemics linked to European Waldorf schools are an indication of an anti-vaccination culture. In the US Microbe Magazine, Bernard Dixon states:

"Steiner believed that febrile illnesses such as measles and scarlet fever were related to a child’s spiritual development. Adherents assert that the use of vaccines (especially measles vaccine) deprives infants of the opportunity to benefit from the experience of having those diseases."

In Norway, homeopath Gro Lystad enlists Steiner’s concept of a ‘transforming illness’.

"I am quite sure that it is positive for a child who is healthy. It is conceivable that some will die, but this applies to children who are impaired in advance," 

In our opinion, the disclaimer issued by the European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education regarding vaccination is not entirely candid, since it states only that opposition to vaccination is not a part of their “specific educational objectives”, omitting Steiner’s belief that if children are vaccinated they will need a ‘spiritual education’. And it makes no mention of Karma.

The rejection of evidence in favour of a ‘spiritual paradigm’ by adherents of Anthroposophy is not surprising given that it is a belief system which is essentially anti-scientific. Peter Staudenmaier, a historian who has written extensively about Anthroposophy, explains that: ‘like other esotericists, anthroposophists regularly view themselves as privy to special knowledge which distinguishes them from the unenlightened — and an aggravated resentment against ‘intellectualism’ and critical thought and the ostensibly materialist cast of modern science and scholarship.’

These beliefs mean that the emotional and physical health of children is potentially being put at risk. We cannot agree that the satisfaction of lobbying groups or parent choice is enough to justify the public funding of Steiner Waldorf schools.

Follow-up

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Tags: Academia · anthroposophy · Steiner · Waldorf

105 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tweets that mention The true nature of Steiner (Waldorf) education. Mystical barmpottery at taxpayers’ expense. Part 1 -- Topsy.com // Oct 7, 2010 at 00:15

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David Colquhoun, Liz Ditz, Liz Ditz, Liz Ditz, Liz Ditz and others. Liz Ditz said: Why @david_colquhoun changed his mind about the value & risk of #Steiner #Waldorf schools http://bit.ly/bEZwJr [...]

  • 2 jimjim237 // Oct 7, 2010 at 01:51

    The whole “Free Schools” thing seems misconceived.

    On the face of it, it seems not so bad, what could possibly go wrong? Anyone with an interest in our country’s children and their well-being can set up a school and the gub’mint will pay for it. No evil state run establishments, all cool ‘n’ clean private enterprise.

    Well, let’s think for a minute. Say I fancy myself as someone suitable to set up a school. (Honestly, bruv Razzy is only a distant relative, your children are safe wiv me:-). How long exactly will it take me to get a school up and running from scratch? On the other hand we have LOADS of groups who ALREADY run their own schools. Mostly pushing one religious agenda or another and as is apparent now some other crackpots too.

    The problem is that by the time I get my act together and get one school going the crackpots who are already running schools will have started hundreds.

    This policy has apparently been designed to sound like good clean fun while in reality it is handing the education of the country’s children over to a bunch of crackpots with agendas.

    Bye bye Britain. We really are Dooomed!

    The Free Schools policy seems to me to be a disaster in the making.

  • 3 mystic barmpottery in education « zooey // Oct 7, 2010 at 08:31

    [...] Colquhoun of the website DC’s Improbable Science has posted the first part of a couple of quest blog entries authored by my good friends @thetismercurio and @lovelyhorse_. It’s recommended [...]

  • 4 Lindy // Oct 7, 2010 at 11:41

    I always thought Steiner ‘education’ was loony (perhaps literally in relation to crazy biodynamic farming), and that the man himself had some dubious political ideas.

    But it clearly goes way beyond anything as simple. It sounds more proscriptive than any other education system and the idea that children should not learn to read too early just smacks of total control: just supposing the child were to question what was going on and then fail to grow up as a true steinerette……………

    Grim stuff indeed!

  • 5 MarkH // Oct 7, 2010 at 14:44

    I’ve been taking my 20 month old son to a parent & child group at the local Steiner school.

    I do think that Steiner had some interesting and valuable pedagogical ideas. The importance of play in early childhood is widely accepted. An individual teacher staying with the class as they move up the school. “Holistic” teaching, by which I mean such things as illustrating the simple physics of motion in Physical Education/games lessons as well as the science class. I might have enjoyed games lessons more in school if that had been the case for me!

    I suspect that some Steiner schools take the more esoteric and barmy ideas of Anthroposophy more seriously than others.

    However, some of the warning signs are present at our local Steiner school: the faceless dolls and gnomes, the mystical water colour paintings and the weekend classes in alternative medicine for parents. My skeptical antennae have been tweaked, helped in part by your blog post David, so thank you.

    I shall continue attending to satisfy my curiousity and probe further. Ever since having been befriended by some evangelical Christians at Uni, I’ve been fascinated by why people believe the things they do. Meanwhile, I hope my son merely enjoys playing with the crayons (no black allowed!) and wooden toys and that I can teach him to think for himself.

  • 6 comment on a comment (re steiner post on dcscience.net) « zooey // Oct 8, 2010 at 15:42

    [...] (and am just a tiny bit lazy) but I did want to comment on one of the comments on the Steiner guest post at DC’s Improbable Science. Namely the one written yesterday by MarkH, who is a Steiner [...]

  • 7 Majikthyse // Oct 8, 2010 at 18:15

    Has Gove taken leave of what little sense he ever had? Is it really logical that parents are the best judges of their children’s education? No, because they are not professional educationalists. They are in the powerful position of being able to abuse their children by indoctrination. Much of the pain and conflict in the world stem from tribalistic irrational belief systems, passed down the generations.

    The Steiner system, like anything else, should stand or fall on its results. What audit data exist on how graduates from Steiner schools cope in the wider world? It does seem that literacy isn’t their strong point.

  • 8 Nick Nakorn // Oct 9, 2010 at 03:59

    Dear David,

    Many thanks for posting this excellent piece. It is clear, if one reads the Steiner archives, that the Steiner-Waldorf-Anthroposophical vision is not rooted in rational thought. Though claiming to represent a system of understanding equal to the rigours of science, Anthroposophy is in fact a dangerous religious cult.

    Hiding behind a New-age façade, Anthroposophical organisations have attracted a substantial following by using their commercial income and bogus ‘green’ credentials to expand their operations into an enormous number of organisations and businesses. As someone who supports strong state secularism, I fully respect the right for such religious organisations to exist but I also expect such organisations to be honest and transparent about their beliefs, their intensions, their modes of operation and their personnel, whether paid or voluntary.

    The reason that transparency is important is that a great many community groups and organisations have a real impact on the lives of those living within their sphere of influence. Like most religions, Anthroposophy has a set of irrational beliefs and not all advocates believe in a literal interpretation of the texts. But unlike most religions, those aspects of Anthroposophical texts that advocate nonsensical, illegal or unethical modes of relating to the community are mostly hidden from view and, as far as the Anthroposophical command structure is concerned, not up for discussion in the public arena.

    One of the consequences of that policy, of Anthroposophy hiding its true purpose from all but their specially chosen initiates, is that many people join and contribute to seemingly benign organisations that are in fact intent on subverting the efforts of the contributors to the expansion of the Anthroposophical world view; a world view that is steeped in racism and eugenics.

    Readers interested in how covert Anthroposophical organisations operate at the local level might well be interested in my experiences with a small environmental organisation here in Devon called Buck the Trend and the extent to which the Steiner machine has infiltrated the Green Party and the Transition Town Movement. As someone who has been a campaigner for environmental and social justice causes for over 30 years, it is sad indeed to see that rationalism and sound science are no longer welcome currencies within the environmental movement unless sanctioned by the racist mystical madness of Anthroposophy.

    Best wishes,

    Nick
    http://nicknakorn.wordpress.com

  • 9 Graham // Oct 9, 2010 at 10:44

    This is a brilliant post, ThetisMercurio and LovelyHorse are doing crucial work in exposing the cult of Steiner for what it is.
    What is extraordinary about Anthroposophy is just how completely barmy it really is, and yet seems to be growing in strength and influence. It makes me think of the old adage that the bigger the lie, the less likely it is to be questioned. Most people see a more child-focused school system and are easily taken in by how fluffy and nice it seems, superficially. It is just so hard for people to believe that behind it is such completely loopy ideologies and beliefs, the more dangerous because they are hidden.

    Steiner is also responsible for a ritualistic system in agriculture called \Biodynamics\ involving planting by the moon and making special \preparations\ out of parts of dead animals and plants. It is essentially a system of ritual magic and animal sacrifice that has more in common with voodoo and the tribal primitivism still practiced in West Africa (see Tim Butcher’s \Chasing the Devil\). It is easy to dismiss all this as just silly, but Biodynmics is becoming very popular amongst vintners, and is far more influential amongst the wider organics movement than commonly supposed.

    Steinerism is also part of a general anti-science trend within the wider environmental movement, with its focus on \intuition\ over reason and evidence, a very dangerous trend that is influencing policy in other areas as well.
    Thanks for taking up this issue DC.

  • 10 andrew // Oct 9, 2010 at 13:54

    “We cannot agree that the satisfaction of lobbying groups or parent choice is enough to justify the public funding of Steiner Waldorf schools.”

    I agree completely & note that the the Steiner Academy in Hereford achieved almost the worse academic results in the country.

    Here’s what Wiki has to say http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldorf_education

    and http://skepdic.com/steiner.html

    I agree modern children may be a bit too stressed by apparently endless testing, but this is barmpot stuff.

  • 11 David Colquhoun // Oct 9, 2010 at 18:45

    @Nick Nakorn
    You make a very interesting point about secrecy. The Guide to the Early Years Foundation Stage in Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Settings airbrushes out all the barmy nonsense. Nothing there about reincarnation, temperaments, biodynamics or anthroposophy. It is, quite simply, a dishonest representation of what happens, designed. one presumes to deceive gullible government ministers.

  • 12 zooey // Oct 9, 2010 at 21:41

    Finally having learnt how to login, I’d like to applaud @thetismercurio and @lovelyhorse_ here as well. (I posted one comment on the post and one comment on MarkH’s comment on my own blog earlier, linked to above.) Where I live, in Sweden, waldorf schools have been state-funded for more than two decades. In Sweden, waldorf schools are lobbying not to have to teach children to read and write by 3d grade, when they’re 9 years of age! The stakes are moved. The goal is to postpone reading and writing for as long as possible, it seems.

    Of course, not telling people about reincarnation and karma and other not so nice aspects is a huge part of the idea — it’s not the souls of parents or politicians that the steiner movement is trying to help incarnate better. Parents are irrelevant, politicians even more so.

    Having spent 9 years of my childhood in the steiner system, I can tell you that, according to my opinion, it’s neither child-focused nor nice. I’m sure there are people who enjoy waldorf school, but when it goes wrong, it’s so wrong. Anthroposophical beliefs get in the way of running a school efficiently and dealing with issues that arise in a successful manner. Nothing in a waldorf school is carried out without an anthroposophical reason underlying it. It’s what it is about — applying anthroposophy to children, to their development and education, to their lives.

  • 13 SusanG // Oct 10, 2010 at 14:25

    Zooey wrote: ‘In Sweden, waldorf schools are lobbying not to have to teach children to read and write by 3d grade, when they’re 9 years of age!’

    That would tie in with what Steiner himself had to say about reading.

    In his book, ‘The Kingdom of Childhood’, Steiner wrote:

    ‘’People will object that the children then learn to read and write too late. That is said only because it is not known today how harmful it is when the children learn to read and write too soon. It is a very bad thing to be able to write early. Reading and writing as we have them today are really not suited to the human being till a later age – the eleventh or twelfth year – and the more a child is blessed with not being able to read and write well before this age, the better it is for the later years of life. A child who cannot write properly at thirteen or fourteen (I can speak out of my own experience because I could not do it at that age) is not so hindered for later spiritual development as one who early, at seven or eight years can already read and write perfectly’’.

  • 14 SusanG // Oct 11, 2010 at 12:41

    Steiner indoctrination takes place at teacher training colleges too -have a look at the content and book list of this particular Early Years Education course -Winchester TTC

    http://www2.winchester.ac.uk/edstudies/courses/level%20three%20sem%20two/es3219outline.htm

  • 15 SusanG // Oct 11, 2010 at 12:50

    And here’s ”potted Steiner” for trainee teachers from the same place:
    http://www2.winchester.ac.uk/edstudies/courses/level%20three%20sem%20two/ES3219w9.htm

    with the following marked as:

    Appropriate Early Years Pedagogy

    · Infant children are messengers from the spirit world (Childs, 1991: p. 67);

    · Feelings of deep reverence on the part of the teacher should accompany this descent into the physical world (Steiner, 1944: p. 15);

    · Child in first epoch is a sense-organ: he surrenders himself to the environment, and everything makes an impression upon him;

    · Kindergarten years the most important period of education;

    · Child must develop slowly into the world;

    · Teacher as enthusiastic mediator and protector;

    · Every opportunity should be taken to instil in the child feelings of gratitude to the higher worlds;

    · Children should be encouraged to develop sense of awe and wonder.

    Two ways in which children in the first epoch enter into relationship with their environment

    · Imitation

    · Example

    ‘ … as the muscles of the hand grow firm and strong through doing the work for which they are suited so the brain is guided into the correct course of development if it receives the proper impressions from the environment.’ (Steiner, 1996: p. 19)

    Young children imitate everything in their environment (physical, social and spiritual) and their actions form their physical organs.

    Children able to learn so readily through imitation because they experience the world with complete openness, proceeding from the basic assumption that the world is good. Therefore teachers must always act in ways that are worthy of imitation (Petrash, 2000)

    ‘The children who live in [..] an atmosphere of love and warmth, who have around them truly good examples to imitate, are living in their proper element. One should thus strictly guard against anything being done in the children’s presence that they should not imitate.’ (Steiner, 1907/1996: p. 22)

    The world should be regarded as a work of art – to attain real knowledge of the world the intellect must marry scientific understanding with artistic experience

  • 16 5raphs // Oct 13, 2010 at 19:57

    This article illustrates what a huge mistake it would be to fund Steiner schools when clearly most people don’t really know how far the irrational, unscientific world view of anthroposophy defines so much in these classrooms. The schools are, as Theitsmercurio and Lovelyhorse point out, coy in being forthcoming, preferring to catch their customers before quietly introducing their faith. It is so important that parents are aware of the deeply supernatural beliefs involved in the decision making about their children.

    Anthroposophy’s ideas were garnered from Rudolf Steiner’s wild clairvoyant fancies; I feel a combination of karma, medieval temperaments, guardian angels and vulnerable children don’t sit well together, and could be dangerous.
    I also think these schools are harmful and detrimental to a fully creative education as they hold children back on purpose for spiritual reasons.
    Eugene Schwartz, an influential Steiner waldorf teacher and author, quotes Steiner ” Anthroposophy teaches us the art of forgetting…all memorised matter should disappear from the mind to make room for an actively receptive spirit” EDUCATING THE MILLENNIAL CHILD (Anthroposophic Press, 1999)

  • 17 Nick Nakorn // Oct 15, 2010 at 09:40

    I also read the other day that Anthroposophical ‘science’ doesn’t believe in evolution; not that I’m surprised.

  • 18 The Steiner Waldorf cult uses bait and switch to get state funding. Part 2 // Oct 21, 2010 at 23:07

    [...] The true nature of Steiner (Waldorf) education. Mystical barmpottery at taxpayers’ expense. Pa… [...]

  • 19 Skepticat // Oct 21, 2010 at 23:15

    I happened on an American website campaigning against Waldorf schools and all that goes on in them. Seems they even have support groups for survivors.

    http://www.waldorfcritics.org/active/mission.html

  • 20 OpentoQuestion // Nov 3, 2010 at 23:09

    The author’s command of Rudolf Steiner’s complex philosophy appears impressive, not least in its breadth. Unfortunately, the interpretation is undermined by false claims. First, the author provides no evidence that Steiner pupils under-perform academically. Anecdotes proffered by an ‘independent reading interventionist expert’ imply that reading is not taught until 8, 9, 10, which is not the case. The Steiner curriculum stipulates that literacy and numeracy skills are developed from 6 years old – one year later than the British curriculum and in line with the European average (European Commission: EURYDICE and EUROSTAT cited in Sharp, C. (2002) ‘School Starting Age: European Policy and Recent Research’, paper presented at the LGA Conference Centre, London). Second, in line with the norm in state-funded schools, my Steiner school did not prescribe/recommend medicine for cancer or indeed any ailments beyond a scratch in the playground. That normal vaccinations are not administered through the school as per usual arrangements is also untrue. Third, pupils are neither formally nor informally categorised according to their temperament or soul type at any time in their education.

    Moreover, the author’s interpretation of Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy bears no relation to my experience as a pupil at a Rudolf Steiner school. This was an extremely happy education that provided me with good results and, perhaps more crucially, fostered an enjoyment for learning. It provided strong ground for achieving my degree at the University of Edinburgh (first class honours Politics MA) and continuation into PhD research. My experience is by no means exclusive – my classmates are successfully engaged in wide-ranging and impressive careers, including law, accountancy, fashion design, chef and business. Anecdotal though this evidence is, I think it is important to illustrate that confident, well educated and critically thinking individuals come out of Steiner as the norm rather than the exception. I think it is a pity that debate on free schools, much needed given their potential threat to fairness and quality in education, is characterised by shrill and unsubstantiated claims and (limited) opinion. Fortunately, I imagine that the typical sceptical reader of this blog will be sensible enough to question any vitriolic generalisations.

  • 21 David Colquhoun // Nov 3, 2010 at 23:41

    @OpentoQuestion
    I’ll leave it to the authors to reply in detail. But it certainly seems to be the case that Steiner schools endanger their neighbours, because many of the children who go to the schools are not vaccinated. I live not far from a Steiner school and the village “health food shop” not only sells all sorts of quackery, but also advertises visits from “the anthroposophical doctor”. It would strain credulity to imagine that this was nothing to do with the Steiner school.

  • 22 Thetis // Nov 4, 2010 at 12:47

    @OpentoQuestion
    thank you for admitting that we have done our research with reference to Rudolf Steiner. We have of course not covered all his voluminous works here but we do emphasise Anthroposophy’s central theme of karma and reincarnation, which we know to be a component of all Steiner Waldorf teacher training courses and to be active in the Steiner classroom. The fact that this is not honestly explained to parents at the time of enrolment (or even afterwards) is a mark of the Steiner Waldorf Movement’s secrecy and, in our opinion, dishonesty. We will examine Anthroposophy more fully in our third post, explaining even more clearly why parents and policy makers should be alarmed at its presence in any school.

    Children are resilient and of course it is possible for a student to have a positive experience in a Steiner Waldorf school, even to succeed academically there or later in spite of the pedagogy, normally because they have families who are interested in academic success. There are undoubtedly some instances where a particular school environment suits a particular child.

    Our point would be that overall these schools are not academically successful, indeed the turnover of pupils tends to be high although instances of Steiner education ‘not working’ for a child tend not to be dwelt on by the schools involved. Steiner schools certainly do not feature towards the top of the UK league tables. This is notable when they are compared to other private schools.

    Susan Godsland, who is a respected and experienced early reading expert, does not say that children educated in a Steiner school are deliberately not taught to read until 8 or 9. She says the children who come to her cannot read at those ages. We have not relied on our own experience in these posts but we can concur with Susan that the Steiner system fails many children at that stage, often the local state school has to provide remedial support. It can be very hard for these children to catch up, and it can have a lasting impact on their education. Luckily, to repeat myself, children are resilient.

    At any rate, 6 is early for many Steiner children to learn literacy skills. This step is after all dependant for many trained Steiner teachers on the arbitrary (occult) benchmark of the ‘change of teeth’. You choose not to interpret the role of the incarnating child in this process, for us this anthroposophical machinery is very much the point of our piece.

    As you say, your anecdotal evidence can only suggest an individual experience. We are of course glad to hear of any happy school career, we know that Steiner students can report their schools favourably. This however is not the whole picture.

    We encourage you to read our second post on this blog [The Steiner Waldorf cult uses bait and switch to get state funding. Part 2], where we indicate international criticism of Steiner Waldorf schools, providing links to concerns expressed by parents and by ex-teachers and students.

    With reference to the temperaments: I’m afraid you are mistaken. As a child, you may well not have known that your Steiner teachers used Steiner’s concept of humours as part of their assessment of the children in their care, they may not be entirely honest when questioned. But the ‘temperaments’ as understood by Steiner are a core part of Steiner Waldorf teacher training. There are books about the temperaments amongst the recommended reading on the (closing or closed) University of Plymouth Foundation degree in Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Education (and care) – here is one of the texts recommended for trainee teachers: http://www.florisbooks.co.uk/books/9780863151750

    Still available in the University of Plymouth library is ‘The Four Temperaments’ by Rudolf Steiner.

    Since Plymouth no longer supports Steiner courses, looking further: the temperaments are clearly here on the Edinburgh Steiner school in-house training course (p3) http://steinerweb.org.uk/pdf/ttc-3-2003.PDF

    and also at Michael Hall school – adult education courses (although misspelt) http://www.michaelhall.co.uk/school-life/adult-education/default.aspx

    Added to this, the Class Teacher’s Handbook by Kevin Avison, available to buy now from the UK Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, clearly mentions ‘Constitution, temperament, character type’ and suggests teachers ask of themselves: ‘Did I address myself (homeopathically) to at least two temperaments today? How shall I do so tomorrow?’

    Alicia Hamberg here discusses how the – universally applied – Waldorf concept of temperaments can impact on children.

    There is a useful discussion of vaccination in the comments after our second post, to which I refer you.

  • 23 zooey // Nov 4, 2010 at 20:34

    ‘At any rate, 6 is early for many Steiner children to learn literacy skills. This step is after all dependant for many trained Steiner teachers on the arbitrary (occult) benchmark of the ‘change of teeth’.’

    And when steiner schools ask for exemptions, it’s important to know that the goal posts are moving. In Sweden, where the waldorf schools have become accustomed to special privileges, they were hoping to get exemptions from having to show that their 3d graders (i e, 9 year olds) have learnt to read and write. A common argument is, in waldorf schools, children learn at a different pace. Sometimes they claim their 3d graders can read and write, but that it would be disruptive to prove they can. Excuses, excuses and excuses.

    The bottom line is, waldorf students are far behind. Luckily, most of them come from relatively privileged homes and/or have parents who can afford private tuition.

    As for questions on the temperaments, I can but agree with Thetis. Of course they don’t have to talk about the temperaments — especially not in front of students and parents — in order to apply the doctrine. They are taught how to use it.

  • 24 Odds & Sods(2) « UK Anthroposophy // Nov 10, 2010 at 16:30

    [...] to from this blog. DC’s Improbable Science recently carried two Steiner-critical articles (here and here), Nick Nakorn has a few similar such articles but nothing more recent than this one giving [...]

  • 25 tomdehavas // Nov 20, 2010 at 16:56

    I am qualified to comment on this because;
    1) I was Steiner educated from 4 to 16. I am not a well meaning parent that never experienced it, nor an academic reading about it for the first time. Actually Dr Graham Kennish taught me and I enjoyed his classes though I would have taught it differently.

    2) I chose to send my three daughters age 18, 15, 6 to state education.

    3) I am an atheist and follow mainstream scientific principles but my father and mother were deeply into Steiner.

    And now my comments;

    1) Yes Steiner’s occultist stuff is nonsense as far as I am concerned but I tend to think this is not the point since it is barely mentioned in the actual teaching. You could go through the whole school from 4 to 18 and not know that the basic Steiner book is called \Higher Worlds\ I think? In a CofE or Catholic school they take every opportunity to work Jesus into everything. One has to except that the human race consists of a lot of people that believe silly things but one has to look at what is delivered not what the nutters believe that delivered it. I just don’t care if my postman is into the occult.

    2) So what is delivered? Well a lot of it is the same miserable education you would find any other place where some teachers impose their great ideas on their students and think they know more about you than you do, while others really do let you learn what you want to learn.

    3) But what is special in Steiner education is we did music. In the state system most kids can’t even sing in tune. Listen to 12 year olds in a Steiner school and you have a real choir. When we went carol singing people came to the door and were always amazed by our three part renditions that were in tune. Much of the woodwork was professional it knocked the socks of anything in the state system, also craft work was generally superior. And finally and perhaps most important of all was that nobody was made to feel like a fool.

    4) However, Steiner schools do tend to think they are amazing and I have to say I didn’t enjoy school from 6 to 16 when I left and Tech collage was far more fun and better. This is a common factor of all schools it seems, they all think they are incredible, they pretend they meet children’s learning needs and that their one size fits all approach is the best.

    5) In conclusion I don’t think education is working yet anywhere I have seen (the kids don’t like it) and the only way to get over this is to support more diversity and less dogma. Sadly whether its the National Curriculum or R Steiner they are all fairly dogmatic but there are certainly some good and bad teachers out there and they seem to be sprinkled through all systems.

    6) With regards to Graham Kenish, I get personal here, I happen to think he was a teacher who shared ideas with me not imposed them on me and so even though his approach and mine are totally different I see him as a good teacher. I was an exceptional child in science and he let me get on with it.

    7) I would be happy to talk to anybody on the topic of education. find me via my website http://www.mydropintheocean.org

    8) Lastly – Sorry about the odd numbering here it just helped me a bit.

    9) I do understand that many of us are opposed to non-empirical representations of reality, I am one of them, but we must support the right to diversity in ideas and in particular when the results are good. Anybody reading the history of science may recall that Newton believed some total rubbish yet we now only look at the results he achieved. Notably Galileo dismissed as ridiculous the idea that the moon might influence the tides!

    Thomas de Havas

  • 26 tomdehavas // Nov 20, 2010 at 23:23

    In response to the above articles.

    1) Biodynamic farming is not advocated as part of Steiner education, that is wrong. Yes i think it is baloney.

    2) The Steiner dolls are nice and many have faces. What you see is just one persons choice not to put faces. I never found them creepy. Better than Bratts I think. As for gnomes, well snow white had 7 of them. As for them being real well I got bollocked by the parents at my daughters school because they wanted me to lie to her and tell her that a guy in red turns up on Christmas night and I wouldn’t lie. There are loads of people out there still believe in God so believing in fairies really doesn’t matter. They don’t teach it as real, they just don’t.

    3) Anthroposophical medicine is I think a mix of herbalism and homoeopathy. The second is I think junk but it isn’t tought in school.

    4) I do not believe Waldorf schools are child centred and yes the development ages are nonsense as far as I am concerned but they are no different from imposed government attainment targets.

    5) Yes Steiner Schools start formal teaching at 6 years in common with much of Europe and it makes little difference in the end. As for teeth well I never heard of any teacher seriously thinking that teeth should determine anything.

    6) When at 8 years I read in a beach bible reading group on a holiday I found to my surprise I was one of the best readers of the group. This was a surprise because I was one of the worst in my Steiner school. Clearly we were ahead, not behind at all!

    7) Yes I do think Graham’s words are extreme and perhaps overly poetic and the idea that state education destroys children per-se but Steiner does not I think in its self may be false and unfair since there is an inherent selection process in the private school system. I think where adults are too prescriptive children’s capabilities are often redirected from areas where they might have flourished. I do think that some of the best and some of the worst teachers are in the state system and that the national curriculum has encouraged rule followers rather than innovators into teaching and I don’t like this because I am an innovator.

    8) The wikipedia article seems fine to me I quote – In its investigations of the spiritual world, anthroposophy aims to attain the precision and clarity of natural science’s investigations of the physical world. – Well I would have thought that would have told anybody that it was non-science. But again anthroposophy is not tought, it isn’t part of the curriculum. Look at a real timetable and it really doesn’t look different from that of any school. You won’t find biodynamic farming, spiritual science or anthroposophy on it. Eurythmy is the only peculiar thing and that might as well be Yoga!

    9) I Quote – What is not mentioned by the Steiner teachers taking your child into their care is that Steiner was by the time he wrote and lectured about education an occultist, an ex-theosophist whose insights were gained, it is stated, through clairvoyance. – The reason it won’t be mentioned is because it doesn’t bear any relation to the time table at all i.e. it has no effect on what is delivered to students.

    10) Regarding the Camphill Communities. Go visit and see what they can do with special needs kids, biodynamic or not, its a darn sight better then rocking in a hospital ward which was where many ended up during the 1960s. It may be different now.

    11) Graham Kennish’s ideas about the heart are quite irrelevant. He is a much brighter man than most of the state teachers I have met to date who also believe in things that are non-science but are simply more widely accepted. I would rather have him as a teacher and tell him that I thought his ideas about the heart were wrong in an open discussion than have a teacher who would not discuss anything.

    12) Yes as for the seven year incarnation stuff I think its nonsense but the only result is a fixed curriculum that is different from the current national curriculum, another fixed curriculum.

    13) As for the four temperaments you missed out that they are based on the four Greek elements fire, earth, air and water. Nonsense but perhaps IQ is also nonsense in that it uses a single index to try and measure something that very broad, namely capability at problem solving. Perhaps the 16PF or the 5PF are better tests, I think they are. But again these temprement descriptions have little effect on the education.

    14) I think you are right about what you might call the inner circle (my aunt was one) they do exist and are often the but of jokes by people working in the schools and also us, the kids. Steiner schools just are not the mystical places you and some of the teachers would like to believe they are. Which is perhaps disappointing for both you and the teachers there. Yes some teachers believe the nonsense but they are on the whole brighter than some teachers in the state system and the teacher pupil ratios are better.

    But in fact besides the good singing, craft work and the feeling kids come out with that they can pick up a chisel and change the world, they are just another kind of rather frustrating education. For me at least.

    Lets face it. In education nobody ever asks the kids. All they do is grow up and talk about what would be good for their children.

    This was one hell of a rant! Not real science but if anybody wants a sensible debate on the subject of what i think is wrong with Steiner and most other education just get my email from my website http://www.mydropintheocean.org I look forward to it.

    Well I’m going to bed now cos its late.

  • 27 Thetis // Nov 20, 2010 at 23:24

    Thomas, thank you for your comment.

    There’s no intention to attack Graham Kennish personally, just to highlight his ideas in his own words. I believe at the moment he’s involved in this: http://www.psychophonetics.co.uk/persephone/

    and all I can say is that, however nice a chap he may be I’m glad he’s not my child’s science teacher. His remarks on the Green World site were grandiose and, imo, ridiculous. They make sense though in an anthroposophical context.

    I do have experience of Steiner education, albeit as a parent. I was impressed by some aspects of the drama, much of which was in German. There was singing but frankly I would rather the children had been taught to read & write. In the school my youngest child is at now – a state primary – there’s also a great deal of music although due to budget cuts my child’s school can’t afford to maintain a real piano so they have to sing to recorded music, or an electric keyboard. But in the local community college there’s a great music department and a flourishing orchestra. Let’s hope we can continue to afford for all the local children to enjoy these opportunities.

    It would hardly matter if your postman were into the occult unless he opened your mail & interpreted your tax-returns. It wouldn’t matter if a teacher were into it either, as long as s/he didn’t act out his or her occult beliefs in the classroom. Steiner teachers often do. They are taught to do so. Anthroposophy informs every aspect of the Steiner school.

    Most C of E schools in Britain teach evolution in the normal manner.

    I do agree with some of what you say, in fact I’m a fan of democratic education and I’d like to see elements of this in all our local schools. I don’t think the answer is to fragment our education system by creating publicly funded niche schools, especially when money is so tight. And I don’t think Steiner ed should be funded in any form, at any time.

    You’re lucky the woodwork was so good at your school, you must have had a talented teacher.

  • 28 David Colquhoun // Nov 21, 2010 at 13:53

    @tomdehavas
    Thanks for your well-considered comment.

    I don’t think anyone would disagree that “we must support the right to diversity in ideas” Everyone must be free to think whatever they want, even if it does involve belief in gnomes. The problem, as always, is that one person’s freedom is another person’s restriction. If a small number of parents manipulate the system such that the only state school close to where you live is a Steiner school, that system wiil be imposed on many people who don’t want it.

    There are more practical consequences too. The anti-vaccination attitude of Steiner schools, and of true-believing Steiner parents, endangers not only their own children, but all others in the area. My own son was endangered by the fact that I live in a area with unusually low vaccination rate, in part as a result (according to my GP) of a large Steiner school nearby. I wonder what your opinion is about that?

  • 29 hamletsghost // Nov 23, 2010 at 11:44

    There are certainly issues at the Acorn School in Nailsworth. Basically it’s fine if you fit in, ut parents and children who are not seen as matching the school’s ethos are encouraged to leave. It can be quite unpleasant.
    I had the good fortune to be taught by one of the woodwork teachers (who has now left). A gifted generous man who enabled people to reach an extraordinarily high standard.

  • 30 Thetis // Nov 23, 2010 at 19:21

    I know that the Acorn School calls itself ‘Steiner inspired’, something we’ll see more often as ‘Waldorf’ becomes less attractive. Inspired by what, exactly?

    I was surprised at the length of the ‘trial period’ for students – a whole term! And the statement:

    “There is minimal special needs provision in this school. The school does not accept children with emotional or behavioural difficulties, nor can it accept children who have an educational statement.”

    Sounds like a great teacher.

  • 31 Steiner Waldorf Schools Part 3. The problem of racism // Dec 16, 2010 at 08:53

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

  • 32 jdc // Dec 18, 2010 at 19:58

    As I’ve said elsewhere, I personally find the stance on vaccination more worrying than other aspect of Steiner/Waldorf.

  • 33 John Stumbles // Dec 29, 2010 at 02:27

    Sorry to barge in and spoil the party but has anyone suggested an EVIDENCE BASED assessment of Steiner Education?!

    Such as, for example, the 2005 report “Steiner Schools in England” by
    Philip Woods, Martin Ashley and Glenys Woods of University of West of England for the (then) DfES, available at:
    http://publications.education.gov.uk/eOrderingDownload/RR645.pdf

    The report’s recommendations on page 9 give
    an indication of the main strengths and weaknesses found in the Steiner system.

  • 34 Thetis // Dec 29, 2010 at 11:03

    @John Stumbles –

    You need not worry, you’re no party-pooper. we have read the Woods Report and write about it in our second post, under the heading: “Into the Woods. A government report, and a very special inspection service”:
    http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3595

    The Woods, who with Martin Ashley wrote the Report, now have their own site: http://freespiritedu.org/page001.html

    Where it is reiterated that:
    “Glenys is an Angelic Reiki Healer and an Atlantean Reiki Master.”

    Mike Collins of UK Anthroposophy has written extensively about the Woods Report, I recommend: http://ukanthroposophy.wordpress.com/page/2/?s=woods

  • 35 5raphs // Dec 29, 2010 at 20:19

    @John Stumbles

    http://zooey.wordpress.com/info/

    There are some statistics about the poor academic performance of UK Steiner schools in the comments here; not that I think academic merit is in itself always the right way to…\measure\ children; but infinitely preferable to measuring children’s heads, and classifying them with made up medieval \temperaments\, forcing them to copy for hours from a chalk board, submitting them to some of the worst so called \art\ I have seen, preventing them from seeing books, telling them that gnomes, angels and fairies exist, instilling in them a religious \reverence\, failing to teach them proper science or introduce them to a wide creative range of music, literature and art, and believing karma dictates what happens to them.

    In my experience Steiner schools cultivate a fear of those who don’t do it their way; it work so well in their favour doesn’t it? A fear of state education, fear of medicine, fear of tv’s, books written by people who might debunk or dare to question Steiner, a fear of a world that isn’t waldorf.
    But waldorf doesn’t own good things, nature, creativity, craft; waldorf deadens and narrows it. More than occasionally it is dangerous.

  • 36 tomdehavas // Dec 31, 2010 at 21:35

    Hello again everybody, its Tom the man who is totally sceptical of Rudolf Steiner having been subjected to the education from 4 to 16 but also very aware that most of the sceptics here don’t seem to really know what happens in Steiner schools. So to begin with responses to various posts one at a time.

    1)Thetis // Nov 20, 2010 at 23:24
    1.1) I have no problem if you attack Graham Kennish personally and he is a nice chap but that doesn’t matter here, the point is that what ever nutty stuff he believes it never came across when he taught me. At this point please recall that I myself am an atheist and mainstream in my approach to science. My degree was Physics at Bedford UofL.

    1.2) you said “It wouldn’t matter if a teacher were into it either, as long as s/he didn’t act out his or her occult beliefs in the classroom. Steiner teachers often do. They are taught to do so. Anthroposophy informs every aspect of the Steiner school.” Sorry! My experience is Steiner teachers did not act out their beliefs.

    2) David Colquhoun // Nov 21, 2010 at 13:53

    2.1) you said “If a small number of parents manipulate the system such that the only state school close to where you live is a Steiner school, that system will be imposed on many people who don’t want it.” Currently my 6 year old daughter goes to a CofE school and the nonsense she comes back with about God is pretty serious and extraordinarily ridiculous even from a religious perspective. My other daughter came back from a state secondary school expecting to measure the temperature rise on one end of a stick of wood when the other end was placed in boiling water. Pure non-science from a curriculum imposed across the nation.

    2.2) you said “The anti-vaccination attitude of Steiner schools, and of true-believing Steiner parents, endangers not only their own children, but all others in the area. My own son was endangered by the fact that I live in a area with unusually low vaccination rate, in part as a result (according to my GP) of a large Steiner school nearby. I wonder what your opinion is about that?” Well my advice is get your own child vacinated now ;-)

    3) hamletsghost // Nov 23, 2010 at 11:44
    3.1) you said “There are certainly issues at the Acorn School in Nailsworth. Basically it’s fine if you fit in, ut parents and children who are not seen as matching the school’s ethos are encouraged to leave. It can be quite unpleasant.” Yes I did get the impression that Graham Whiting was a bit like that but that isn’t a Stiener feature. When I visited the local “public school” around here they gave us the worst kids as guides to make sure we didn’t come back. Subtle and nasty.

    4) Thetis // Nov 23, 2010 at 19:21
    4.1) you said “I know that the Acorn School calls itself ‘Steiner inspired’, something we’ll see more often as ‘Waldorf’ becomes less attractive. Inspired by what, exactly?” Clearly inspired by Steiner is what is meant here.

    4.2) I probably shouldn’t respond to criticisms of the Acorn School because clearly it is in its own category as happens my sister Lucy de Havas was involved with it when it started.

    5) John Stumbles // Dec 29, 2010 at 02:27
    5.1) you said “Sorry to barge in and spoil the party but has anyone suggested an EVIDENCE BASED assessment of Steiner Education?!” Here Here Thank you. You go on to say “http://publications.education.gov.uk/eOrderingDownload/RR645.pdf The report’s recommendations on page 9 give an indication of the main strengths and weaknesses found in the Steiner system.” Well I’m not sure I agree with you but I agree with the report. Religion was more about moral values than god, as I recall.

    6) 5raphs // Dec 29, 2010 at 20:19
    6.1) “There are some statistics about the poor academic performance of UK Steiner schools in the comments here; not that I think academic merit is in itself always the right way to…\measure\ children; but infinitely preferable to measuring children’s heads, and classifying them with made up medieval \temperaments\,”

    Nobody but a few took the four temperaments idea very seriously and I really don’t remember my head being measured though they did measure my height and weight (Probably for spiritual reasons) I’M JOKING HERE.

    6.2) “forcing them to copy for hours from a chalk board,”
    I wouldn’t have called it hours but about we copied for about 30minutes a day I think at age 7.

    6.3) “submitting them to some of the worst so called \art\ I have seen,”
    Steiner schools do impose a “house style” which I found annoying because I like technical drawing but sorry lets face it where did you see this appalling art because the state system is also full of it but without the fluffy edges. And by the way my state educated daughter age 6 still has to ask how to make green. If she was at a Steiner school she would know.

    6.4) “preventing them from seeing books,”
    Sorry where does this happen?

    6.5) “telling them that gnomes, angels and fairies exist,”
    Sorry but so what normal schools tell kids that god, father Christmas and the tooth fairy exist. I got shunned because I told my 6 year old daughter that scientifically they don’t. She is working on some empirical tests to prove it herself! Oh sorry I just don’t believe in lying, even to kids and I think the truth, i.e. DNA, Ribosomes, proteans, evolution i.e. science is so much more beautiful. But that aside there was never a lesson about fairies when I was at Steiner School. Yes some teachers believed in fairies I suspect and probably more then believed in UFOs which I think many state teachers still believe in today but it doesn’t mean they can’t teach the periodic table.

    6.6) instilling in them a religious \reverence\,
    Sorry bollocks never happened. This happens in the state system religious schools.

    6.7) failing to teach them proper science
    I would have to say that I feel most schools currently fail in this respect. i.e. they teach them pub quiz science so I am only speculating but the Steiner schools could be doing better if they still do what they did 40 years ago.

    6.8) or introduce them to a wide creative range of music, literature and art,
    I agree that pop music was not taught but we ALL sang in tune, multiple parts and could play pipe and recorder (in a variety of sizes), lyre, dulcimer, bowed saltary (I can’t spell them I will give you that) We heard the state school singers every Christmas and we laughed and hid it was so bad.

    6.9) “and believing karma dictates what happens to them.”
    Rubbish.

    6.10) “In my experience Steiner schools cultivate a fear of those who don’t do it their way; it work so well in their favour doesn’t it? A fear of state education, fear of medicine, fear of tv’s,”
    This I think is true.

    6.11) “books written by people who might debunk or dare to question Steiner,”
    This I think is not true of Steiner but is true in state religious schools. Harry Potter has apparently been banned at my daughters CofE school as being satanic!

    6.12) “a fear of a world that isn’t waldorf.”
    Elements of this but it ain’t that strong.

    6.13) “But waldorf doesn’t own good things, nature, creativity, craft; waldorf deadens and narrows it.”
    I agree that Waldorf could be more diverse but it encompasses far more than the state system. I completed more projects at Steiner school than my contemporaries did at state school.

    6.14) “More than occasionally it is dangerous.”
    Well we certainly used a forge and bashed red hot iron and climbed trees but in those days people used to do stuff.

    FINALLY IN CONCLUSION
    I agree that Waldorf schools have “balmpottery” but I hope that I have pointed out that “balmpottery” also exists in many religious schools that fail to appreciate the concept of inductive truth. The limitations of Steiner schools are real but different from the limitations of standard state schools and Steiner schools excel in some areas where state schools do not however the price for that is the “balmpottery”. This does not mean that they do not teach science to at least the standard of the state system. Both are poor.

    ABOVE ALL in order to evolve and optimise the school system we need badly need some variety and the free exchange of ideas. So I would love to meet the moderator of this site or anybody else thinking about matters of science, educations or what to do about balmpottery. My website is http://www.mydropintheocean.org on there is my email.

    PS Hasn’t anybody figured it out yet, most people are totally irrational, driven by nonsense anyway, many are daft or strange in one way or another and many of those are teachers. One particular kind of daft is called Waldorf. A dear relative of mine was an engineer but was still wondering about the difference between animate and inanimate matter till the day he died. That was another kind of daft called Catholic? I just hadn’t the heart to tell him we sorted that one. Never mind.

  • 37 zooey // Dec 31, 2010 at 22:57

    ‘most of the sceptics here don’t seem to really know what happens in Steiner schools’

    They do. Either as parents or as students. I attended waldorf kindergarten and school for 9 years. It does seem to me that the skeptics in this thread, and most importantly the authors of the post, know exactly what they’re talking about.

    Unlike you they actually seem to know something about the underlying philosophy and how it is implemented in steiner education. This doesn’t mean that all steiner education is exactly the same or that every steiner student will recognize what they say. (In my opinion, ignorance will prevent many of them to realize this. But that’s only my very personal observation. Former waldorf students regularly fail to realize how deeply influenced by anthroposophy their education was.)

    Ii do agree with you, however, that there are other types of religious and spiritual nonsense in the world. We’re not somehow in short supply of nonsense.

    This cannot be used to justify the presense of the anthroposophical variety of unreason in education.

  • 38 tomdehavas // Jan 1, 2011 at 14:54

    Thank you a good response. I would dismiss parents I’m afraid, they don’t know what goes on in any schools. They just get the hype all schools dish out. Students know and that means you.

    You said \Unlike you they actually seem to know something about the underlying philosophy and how it is implemented in Steiner education.\ Yes and no. They claim that the philosophy is mostly nonsense, I agree, but they also claim it is somehow taught in the schools which it is not, which is why I am ignorant about it, which proves my point. QED

    When I am taught to add numbers I don’t mind if my teacher does it because she thinks she is developing my brain or helping me to incarnate, what ever, just teach the numbers. It is the performance of the function that is important.

    Obviously we all know every Steiner school isn’t exactly the same, but we are talking about what we hypothesise are common factors.

    You say \Former waldorf students regularly fail to realize how deeply influenced by anthroposophy their education was.\ Are you referring to yourself or the people you know? Or trying to tar me with this brush?

    Being at a Steiner school and having a mother that worked in them I am more aware of the extent that anthroposophy influenced the education than most on this group. I saw it at both ends and argued endlessly with my mother about the insanity of the spiritual stuff, but that stuff didn’t damage the education.

    Perhaps I might say \Steiner skeptics regularly fail to realize how deeply influenced by popular misconceptions they are.\

    I shall answer your final point in my next post.

  • 39 tomdehavas // Jan 1, 2011 at 15:05

    Quote “I do agree with you, however, that there are other types of religious and spiritual nonsense in the world. We’re not somehow in short supply of nonsense. This cannot be used to justify the presense of the anthroposophical variety of unreason in education.”

    Yes I agree with this in principle but this is an over simplification of the argument.

    My argument is NOT – “There is state funded bad education in the world so lets fund another kind of bad education.”

    My argument is – “Schools are operated by people who believe all kinds of mad things, but lets look at what they teach not what they believe and then fund schools that turn out useful confident members of society who can do stuff not just pass exams.”

    And my second argument is – “Let’s not determine which schools get funding based on false statements about what they do or do not do. i.e. don’t call my school racist when it was most certainly not.”

    Thanks

  • 40 zooey // Jan 1, 2011 at 19:13

    You may not have noticed, but I don’t call my old waldorf school racist. Thetis didn’t call any particular waldorf school racist either. The philosophy is still the issue though. Starting with your latest comment and then moving to the older one.

    ‘My argument is – “Schools are operated by people who believe all kinds of mad things, but lets look at what they teach not what they believe and then fund schools that turn out useful confident members of society who can do stuff not just pass exams.”’

    Your argument isn’t convincing. We’re looking at what they teach, how they teach and what the results are. We’re not convinced. Your argument falls flat as I’m concerned. It’s not even an argument.

    ‘I would dismiss parents I’m afraid, they don’t know what goes on in any schools.’

    But *these* parents who wrote this article — they know. NOW. They didn’t when they put their children in waldorf school. Neither did my parents. But they know NOW.

    These parents know better than most waldorf students themselves. Because most waldorf students never bother to find out anything about the ideology behind waldorf schools.

    ‘they also claim it is somehow taught’

    The do NOT claim that. Something is very amiss in your reading comprehension. They claim anthroposophy informs practically everything in waldorf education. That’s really a very different thing than to claim it’s taught. I know Thetis and Lovelyhorse would never claim anthroposophy is taught explicitly to students. This is exactly why anthroposophy is so insidious.

    As far as the incarnation and maths issue — yes it does matter. It really does. You’d have much better chances of learning from a teacher who have studied pedagogy rather than the incarnation process according to anthroposophy. That’s why pedagogy is an academic field. To research how skills are best and most effectively taught.

    ‘Are you referring to yourself or the people you know? Or trying to tar me with this brush?’

    I was referring to you and hoards of other former waldorf students I’ve encountered on the internet. Most of them have no clue at all. They say their education has not been informed by anthroposophy, yet they have absolutely no idea what anthroposophy is.

    I think you are among them, and I don’t believe having a mother who’s involved in waldorf education helps you at all. It doesn’t somehow automatically make you more informed than anyone else. Reading will. Read Steiner, read what other anthroposophists have written about education. Both re the theoretical and the practical level.

  • 41 tomdehavas // Jan 1, 2011 at 20:58

    (1) I did notice but do not agree. Thetis did call my old school racist by implication as follows. The Premise (1) There are racist statements in some Steiner books (2) Nearly all anthroposophists believe nearly all Steiner book contents (3) Nearly all Steiner teachers are anthroposophists. From this he concludes and Steiner schools should not be funded because they are racist. I point out that 2 and 3 are wrong in my 12 year experience of one school and I now add to that your experience. QED.

    (2) You quote me ‘My argument is – “Schools are operated by people who believe all kinds of mad things, but lets look at what they teach not what they believe and then fund schools that turn out useful confident members of society who can do stuff not just pass exams.”’

    You then say ‘Your argument isn’t convincing. We’re looking at what they teach, how they teach and what the results are. We’re not convinced. Your argument falls flat as I’m concerned. It’s not even an argument.’

    You do avoid actual discussion don’t you, you tell me my argument isn’t convincing that it falls flat and that it isn’t an argument, instead of trying to convince me of its falsity. You also claim ‘We’re looking at what they teach, how they teach and what the results are’ you may be doing that but nobody talks about that on this forum, they just talk about the barmy anthro books they have been reading.

    (3) You state ‘These parents know better than most waldorf students themselves. Because most waldorf students never bother to find out anything about the ideology behind waldorf schools.’ As I have pointed out to you before, one of the key arguments for not funding Steiner education being put forward here was that a barmy ideaology WAS being taught. We both agree it was not. QED I quite simply don’t give a toss about the balmy ideology behind the schools I am talking about my real world experiences.

    (4) You say ‘Something is very amiss in your reading comprehension’ again you try to undermine me rather than deal with the arguments. Remember I have a Steiner education I did not like and I have had exactly the same approach from hard line Anthroposophists and am quite experienced at pointing out such flawed approaches to reasoning.

    (5) You said they do not claim anthroposophy is tought but that ‘They claim anthroposophy informs practically everything in waldorf education.’…. This is exactly why anthroposophy is so insidious. On this particular point I agree in part. There were some teachers for whom anthroposophy was very important but for most that taught me I simply don’t think it was. Sorry that is simply a fact.

    (6) ‘As far as the incarnation and maths issue — yes it does matter. It really does. You’d have much better chances of learning from a teacher who have studied pedagogy rather than the incarnation process according to anthroposophy. That’s why pedagogy is an academic field. To research how skills are best and most effectively taught.’

    OK I have just spoken to the daughter of my maths teacher. He was never Steiner trained and also not a trained teacher. He was I believe a very talented and intelligent man and he instilled in me a discipline for doing things properly which may daughters state maths teachers all seriously lacked as I could see by the work they came home with.

    (7) Quote ‘I was referring to you and hoards of other former waldorf students I’ve encountered on the internet. Most of them have no clue at all. They say their education has not been informed by anthroposophy, yet they have absolutely no idea what anthroposophy is.’ YES this is the point we care what anthroposophy is and we don’t think it caused any big disadvantage and did give some specific advantages.

    (8) Quote ‘and I don’t believe having a mother who’s involved in waldorf education helps you at all. It doesn’t somehow automatically make you more informed than anyone else. Reading will. Read Steiner, read what other anthroposophists have written about education.’

    OH DEAR you persist with this idea that we, i.e. Steiner kids, should read books on the subject so as to evaluate the school.

    I was there, you were there, How did you find it. Tell us about it. The good, the bad. I will not change my feelings about my school experience based on what I think my teachers might have believed based on the books they might have read. I WAS THERE I was educated in it.

    I am not interested in reading that cr-p. I had a Steiner education with the problems and the advantages. What I have tried to point out to you is that as you have said even though I came from a family steeped in Anroposophy I was not indoctrinated and grew up opposed to it.

  • 42 John Stumbles // Jan 1, 2011 at 21:01

    @Thetis and Lovelyhorse

    I’m curious. You have, I gather, had children in Steiner education. I don’t know whether that was Parent and Child group, kindergarten, or school; or whether it was for a period of days, months or years. But you obviously made a conscious decision to send them there (and to pay for doing so) so there must have been something that attracted you to it pretty strongly: what was it? And how did you find it when they were there? I guess you found good aspects to it, at some point, didn’t you? So what changed, that turned you against it? What was the deal-breaker for you?

  • 43 Thetis // Jan 3, 2011 at 12:33

    @John Stumbles

    I’m going to alter your question so that skeptics feel they haven’t strayed onto the wrong blog:

    “I’m curious. You have, I gather, used homeopathy. I don’t know if it was for a cold, or a chronic condition, whether it was for a period of days, months or years. But you obviously made a decision to use homeopathy (and to pay for doing so) so there must have been something that attracted you to it pretty strongly: what was it? And how did you find it when they were there? I guess you found good aspects to it, at some point, didn’t you? So what changed, that turned you against it? What was the deal-breaker for you?”

    Well, John, it just wasn’t very good. The homeopath was a nice woman and we had some lovely chats. She had an attractive room, much nicer than the average doctor’s surgery. I felt she really cared about me as a person, although as time went on and my condition didn’t improve I began to wonder about all the odd ideas she seemed to have, though she was absolutely convinced that her method worked. Eventually I decided we weren’t getting anywhere, and I had to go to my GP to reassure myself that my condition wasn’t serious. He told me that medicine is a bit hit and miss and I’d probably get better anyway.

    After a couple of years, (by this time I was entirely better) I noticed that many scientists were beginning to ask questions about the scientific basis of homeopathy. There was none. In fact it was absolute nonsense. I was surprised there was nothing in it, since the press had run such positive stories, there seemed to be a generally favourable attitude to it (although it was a bit of a middle-class fad) and lots of celebrities endorsed it. But as I read I began to be quite angry that money was being wasted funding this obvious woo on the NHS, that a homeopathic hospital was benefitting from funds that should be going to reputable institutions. The homeopaths certainly seemed to have some friends in high places, though these individuals weren’t qualified to make the sort of statements they were fond of making.

    I joined a group of skeptics, made my voice heard and helped to change the public perception of homeopathy. Some people said we should leave the homeopaths alone; we should be more open-minded, others liked homeopathy and seemed to benefit from it, they were entitled to ‘choice’ even if the rest of us could see that they were involved in some bizarre fantasy. But we didn’t agree. And especially, we realised that CAM like this could be particularly negative for children, for a number of reasons but partly because children trust the adults who really should know better. Children often don’t get the chance to make a choice.

  • 44 zooey // Jan 3, 2011 at 13:52

    Tom de H. ‘(1) I did notice but do not agree. Thetis did call my old school racist by implication as follows. The Premise (1) There are racist statements in some Steiner books (2) Nearly all anthroposophists believe nearly all Steiner book contents (3) Nearly all Steiner teachers are anthroposophists. From this he concludes and Steiner schools should not be funded because they are racist. I point out that 2 and 3 are wrong in my 12 year experience of one school and I now add to that your experience. QED.’

    I’m afraid the only thing this proves is that you don’t read properly. You don’t understand the reasoning and you don’t understand nuances.

    ‘OH DEAR you persist with this idea that we, i.e. Steiner kids, should read books on the subject so as to evaluate the school.’

    Yes, I insist you should, *if* you want to participate in a debate about the contents of anthroposophy and its role in waldorf education.

    I was there too, you see, for 9 years. This doesn’t mean I’m informed about the philosophy behind it, unless I add theory — reading! — to my experience. If all you rely on is your personal experience — and what you’re mum told you — then you’re not really qualified to talk about anything more than your personal experience and what your mum said. But that’s not (mainly) what we’re trying to talk about here, I’m afraid.

    ‘There were some teachers for whom anthroposophy was very important but for most that taught me I simply don’t think it was.’

    How would you know — you have expressed a preference to remain ignorant as to what anthroposophy entails and what it means for waldorf education. How on earth, then, would you know which of your teachers were influenced by anthroposophy and to what degree? It’s impossible, really.

  • 45 John Stumbles // Jan 3, 2011 at 16:34

    @Thetis // Jan 3, 2011 at 12:33 #43

    “I’m going to alter your question so that skeptics feel they haven’t strayed onto the wrong blog”

    I’m sure we skeptics could have dealt with that one for ourselves, but anyway…

    Please correct me if I’m wrong; I gather from your analogy that you found Steiner education attractive when you went into it, and found the people involved pleasant, but that after your child/children(?) had been in the school for a while (days? months? years?) you didn’t think they were getting a good education from it.

    (I didn’t get the “medicine is a bit hit and miss and I’d probably get better anyway” analogy. “Education is a bit hit and miss and my chil(ren) would probably learn something anyway?” Could you clarify?)

    And that after(?) you’d taken your kids out of the Steiner school you started looking into the Anthroposophical stuff and decided that it was nonsense, and joined a group of skeptics campaigning against it. Have I got that right?

    Anyway thanks for sharing that. I really am curious to know where other people are coming from in this debate. I know I haven’t always been as temperate and diplomatic as I might have been. I feel quite strongly about this, as you (I guess) and others evidently do too.

    I can live with other people having different opinions from me (well, I’d better be able to, hadn’t I?!) but I do feel an urge to make sense of *why* people think differently, and how I might think the way they do if I’d had different experiences in my life.

  • 46 DW // Jan 3, 2011 at 16:48

    tom de havas:

    “most of the sceptics here don’t seem to really know what happens in Steiner schools.”

    This is incorrect.

  • 47 DW // Jan 3, 2011 at 16:51

    Zooey:

    “How would you know — you have expressed a preference to remain ignorant as to what anthroposophy entails and what it means for waldorf education.”

    It does tell us something, I think, that the “happy” customers in Steiner schools are often doggedly determined not to learn anything about the principles behind the education. It seems that is what is required in order to remain happy about it.

  • 48 Thetis // Jan 3, 2011 at 18:21

    @John Stumbles –

    You are a gift to satire.

  • 49 Thetis // Jan 3, 2011 at 19:16

    I’ll return to our original post. Regarding Anthroposophy, which underpins the pedagogy of every Waldorf Steiner school without exception:

    “These beliefs mean that the emotional and physical health of children is potentially being put at risk. We cannot agree that the satisfaction of lobbying groups or parent choice is enough to justify the public funding of Steiner Waldorf schools.”

    As zooey rightly says:

    “..the “happy” customers in Steiner schools are often doggedly determined not to learn anything about the principles behind the education. It seems that is what is required in order to remain happy about it.”

    Of course there are families who are happy with their child’s Steiner education. To find positive descriptions of Steiner schools readers have only to visit any school site or the SWSF or the European or US sites set up to promote Steiner education – Steiner PR is omnipresent on the web. We have not attempted to reproduce ‘balancing’ promotional material on this blog, which is a pro-science site concerned with investigating the dubious and dishonest. Steiner Waldorf education is both.

    Nor are we able to offer our opinions about the state of education in the UK generally. Other schools may not be good. Other schools may be overtly religious. They are outside the remit of this discussion. We are concerned here with the nature of Steiner Waldorf education, which does not alter because some parents chose to ignore the irrational elements, fearing that there is nothing better elsewhere. It is obvious that the state should not fund irrational education.

  • 50 DW // Jan 3, 2011 at 20:09

    Tom de H:

    “My experience is Steiner teachers did not act out their beliefs.”

    How would you know whether they acted out their beliefs if you don’t know what their beliefs are?

  • 51 Thetis // Jan 3, 2011 at 20:31

    DW – I misquoted zooey when I should have quoted you – my apologies. You make a good point!

  • 52 DW // Jan 3, 2011 at 21:55

    not to worry :)

  • 53 tomdehavas // Jan 3, 2011 at 23:27

    Sorry I did just answer in full but lost it so this is a bit brief.

    zooey // Jan 3, 2011 at 13:52 I quote ‘I’m afraid the only thing this proves is that you don’t read properly. You don’t understand the reasoning and you don’t understand nuances.’ I could equally say the same of you with the exception of nuances. I always think a debate loses quality when the conversation turns to arguing about the qualification of the participants to participate.

    I said ‘OH DEAR you persist with this idea that we, i.e. Steiner kids, should read books on the subject so as to evaluate the school.’

    You said ‘Yes, I insist you should, *if* you want to participate in a debate about the contents of anthroposophy and its role in waldorf education.’

    I do not wish to participate in a debate about anthroposophy. I am interested in the issue of whether state funding should be per-se ruled out for Steiner schools and that I believe is this debate. Please understand I am not anti each school being considered on a case by case basis.

    The reason I am qualified to talk is because there are fundamental flaws of reasoning being made here and gross generalisations.

    I said ‘There were some teachers for whom anthroposophy was very important but for most that taught me I simply don’t think it was.’ You said ‘How would you know — you have expressed a preference to remain ignorant as to what anthroposophy entails and what it means for waldorf education. How on earth, then, would you know which of your teachers were influenced by anthroposophy and to what degree? It’s impossible, really.’

    In Reply to that it is not hard to tell them. The deep anthros always were obvious. Remenber I heard them talk to each other and also I talked to them. I science kid in a Steiner school I always got on their nerves just like I do on yours. Sorry I don’t mean to but the debate is more important than that.

    DW // Jan 3, 2011 at 16:48 tom de havas: “most of the sceptics here don’t seem to really know what happens in Steiner schools.” This is incorrect.

    Thanks DW its always good to have a well reasoned veiw.

    DW // Jan 3, 2011 at 16:51 You said ‘It does tell us something, I think, that the “happy” customers in Steiner schools are often doggedly determined not to learn anything about the principles behind the education. It seems that is what is required in order to remain happy about it.’ Excuse me DW I have said many time that I HATED school. I am NOT a happy customer far from it and I could easily rip open faults in the education but I am also not prepared to allow people to tell me what happened in my education. It may not be racism but it is generalism. By the way some of my best friends are generalists.

    Thetis // Jan 3, 2011 at 19:16 NOW YOUR AT IT AGAIN WHAT HAPPY CUSTOMER? You are simply running a smear campaign. Steiner PR is bullsh-t but so now is anti Steiner PR.

    DW // Jan 3, 2011 at 20:09 Tom de H: “My experience is Steiner teachers did not act out their beliefs.” DW said ‘How would you know whether they acted out their beliefs if you don’t know what their beliefs are?’ Recall we are refering to occult beliefs here and I think teachers acting out their occult beliefs would have been fairly obvious even without reading anthroposophical junk.

    You forget I had a parent that tought so I heard techer’s talking stuff I wasn’t meant to hear and most of it was not about anthroposophy, it was about things like how to help some child or other with normal school work, that cookery should include how to cook a basic meal, that a certain tree was dangerious to climb, that some child had turned a tap to point at the ceiling and turned it full on, which side of the stairs was up and which down etc. etc. etc.

    Of course ther is some cr-p in Steiner schools but there is more cr-p in the state system at the moment. I would love to see real sceince teaching in the state system.

    I have some common ground with you Thetis because just as you perhaps at first looked to Steiner schools I looked to state schools for my kids because I hoped there to find the education I never had. Broad acceptance of ideas and the chance to not have stupid doctrines and most of all to find a culture that was not anti me as a sceintist. What I found was something like Grange hill. The stupid doctrines were provided by todays paper. The teachers were not much brighter than those they tought and never had time nor wanted to talk to parents about anything. Face it State education just isn’t that good either. So this is why I do not agree with your major propaganda campagn to slur Steiner schools in particular when I know you could do a better job on slurring state education if you would but try. However I think its more emotion for you. You pick on something and try to smash it up rather than looking at the broad spectrul of human activity. I assume you have heard about that lovely place our leaders go to for a summer break ‘bohemian grove’ those people run the country!

    AND FINALLY FOR THOSE THAT STILL HAVEN’T NOTICED I HATED SCHOOL.

  • 54 DW // Jan 4, 2011 at 18:04

    Tom de H:

    \I do not wish to participate in a debate about anthroposophy. I am interested in the issue of whether state funding should be per-se ruled out for Steiner schools and that I believe is this debate.\

    The point the authors made with their aritcle is that these aren’t two separate issues.

    Anthroposophy always permeates the life of the Steiner school, its curriculum and pedagogy, and reflects the worldview of its faculty. (At least, its senior, guiding faculty, those establishing policy and mentoring junior faculty.)

    If you have any concern about religious ideologies in public education, then you are going to be debating anthroposophy when you debate funding Steiner schools. If you say you don’t know or care anything about anthroposophy, you’re not taking a coherent stand, you’re simply disqualifying yourself from the debate. Which is fine, though why you’d be here frenziedly expostulating about something you don’t care about is hard to understand.

    “there are fundamental flaws of reasoning being made here and gross generalisations.”

    Point to the post(s) containing a gross generalization. Quote it. You may find when you look back that it doesn’t say what you thought it said – you’re tilting at windmills.

    Zooey asked you: “would you know which of your teachers were influenced by anthroposophy and to what degree? It’s impossible, really.’ You replied: “it is not hard to tell them. The deep anthros always were obvious. Remenber I heard them talk to each other and also I talked to them.”

    For many Steiner parents, myself included, it wasn’t possible to understand things that happened in the school prior to reading Steiner. After I delved into Steiner, I understood that many things were happening that were quite literally verbatim from Steiner. The teachers literally SAID and DID and WROTE OR DREW ON THE CHALKBOARD things they had read the previous evening in a book off their Steiner bookshelf. I would have no way of knowing that’s where the stuff came from, if I hadn’t read the SAME Steiner text. It would have been lost in the mists to me, unretrievable, unintelligible, as it is to the vast majority of Steiner parents.

    Perhaps this also makes it clearer, then, why once we read things like Negroes have boiling passions and Asians are spiritually adolescent and Jews have no further right to exist in world history, we became concerned as to what our children would be learning or experiencing?

    You wrote: “most of the sceptics here don’t seem to really know what happens in Steiner schools.” And I replied: “This is incorrect.” Now you helpfully add: “Thanks DW its always good to have a well reasoned veiw.”
    I pointed out that your statement was wrong. We do know about what happens in Steiner schools. What is your objection to the reasoning?

    You are upset because I have lumped you with “happy customers.” I did understand that you didn’t particularly enjoy school, and aren’t trumpeting Steiner schools as paradise for our children. However, once again, you make things too personal. I’m not all that interested in your school experiences. I’m sorry. For the purposes of this debate, “happy customers” are those who, with some experience of Steiner, are willing to promote the schools, advocate for the schools, support their public funding, and predictably react with outrage over concerns about Steiner’s racism. All of which you are doing on this blog. You seem happy enough about Steiner education to me. It would be interesting to see how you’d support a school you were happy about if this isn’t it …

    “Recall we are refering to occult beliefs here and I think teachers acting out their occult beliefs would have been fairly obvious even without reading anthroposophical junk.”

    It is obvious to you because you were raised in an anthroposophical family. Those of us who had never even heard of anthroposophy until maybe a few short weeks before we enrolled our children in this school are not looking for, and do not expect to overhear, “occult truths” being bantered about in school corridors. It took quite some investigative initiative to piece together WTF was going on in that place. If I had been an ordinary parent and had not been attending faculty meetings, I suspect I would remain mystified to this day. The average citizen does not expect public school teachers to be “acting out their occult beliefs” in the schoolyard, is not looking for or listening for this, and is flabbergasted when they realize what they’re hearing and seeing.

  • 55 DW // Jan 4, 2011 at 18:30

    Sorry to pick on you Tom, but I was looking back (trying to find gross generalizations), and earlier you stated this regarding faceless dolls:

    “What you see is just one persons choice not to put faces.”

    Not so – faceless dolls are very common in Steiner schools.

    Hm – I’ll have to keep looking for the gross generalizations. Is this the sort of thing you mean? It is not a gross generalization, it is a fact that faceless dolls are common in Steiner schools for ideological reasons. If you see a faceless doll in a Steiner school, it is not the result of an individual making a choice, it reflects an ideology, and a practice that the teacher learned in Steiner training.

    I could write as much about the ideology of the faceless dolls as the knitting instruction. The faceless dolls reflect, IMO, the notion of the class as karmic entity. Whereas in another school the development of the individual will predominate, in a Steiner school the group as an organism is stressed. A face is a very personal detail. For the same reason young children in Steiner schools are frequently discouraged from looking in the mirror – parents may be advised to remove mirrors from the child’s bedroom.

    This is a religious ideology. It does not come from research into child development but from the creed of a particular religious sect. That is what parents need to understand prior to enrollment, and what funding agencies need to investigate before approving funding.

  • 56 Thetis // Jan 4, 2011 at 19:50

    DW – that’s very well put, and a useful resource for parents who might come across this blog (and get this far in the comments). We’re very grateful for your analysis.

    @tomdehavas – You have said many times here that you hated your school, we have heard you. You bring every comment back to your own experience (decades ago), which is an entirely reasonable thing to do once or twice, as long as you accept that this is all it is. You have meanwhile managed to embody many of the consequences of a Steiner education as commonly perceived.

    A description of ‘deep anthros’ is alarming to the average parent, but not unexpected to anyone who’s read these posts. Letting an esoteric religious movement run schools is always going to end in trouble. What if one of the deep anthros is your child’s teacher? Can you be sure? The entire idea is misguided.

    You have said you disagree with us several times, often in capital letters and using histrionic and even offensive language, but you have not made an opposing case. You have not even made a coherent case. It is unfortunate, but there it is.

  • 57 tomdehavas // Jan 5, 2011 at 01:23

    DW thanks for the in depth analysis by gross generalisation I mean we all seem to be a bit guilty of assuming that our experience or reading of Steiner applies to all schools. They can all be quite different. My experience was 30 years ago and I intend to keep it that way. My personal vision of a school would probably be the state system but with three times the number of teachers, more parental involvements and less government initatives.

    I shall now try to clarify my position in this debate as breifly as I can:

    (1) In judging a schools performance I am only and completely interested in what happens to the pupils, I am not interested in the framework of belief of the teachers that may cause what happens to the pupils, if I was I would never send my children to school!

    (2) Despite much of anthroposophy being bunk in my veiw the results acheived by the education excel in some respects over state education. As a result I feel that the schools should not be deneid the chance to apply for funding just by virtue of being Steiner schools.

    (3) I note and appreciate that some people here say they have personally experienced racism and I believe what they are saying but am not yet convinced that this is the result of inherent racism in the teaching staff of ALL Steiner schools. I accept that the books shown contained racism and other bunk but dispute the pervasivness of those veiws. I feel this matter should not be ignored but that all Steiner schools should not be marked with the same brush. I would be happy to see teachers delivering racist doctrine sacked from any teaching role.

    Thetis // Jan 4, 2011 at 19:50 Clearly you may have been aware that I was not a ‘happy customer’ but DW was not. My experience 30 years ago is the exception that contradics your generalisations about what happens in Steiner schools. ‘You have meanwhile managed to embody many of the consequences of a Steiner education as commonly perceived.’ Being rude to people is still rude even when its subtle, but should you really mean that why don’t you list the consequences of a Steiner education for us. Quote ‘The entire idea is misguided.’ Here is one of the generalisations I was refering to.

    Thetis I am opposing your case not every body else here, because of your unflinching faith that there can NEVER be a Steiner school that might deserve to be even considered as of value. I see that as a gross generalisation. You then selectively favour negative evidence while ignoring anything positive about them (unsceintific) and also you fail to make any judgments about the state system which also has many failings.

    To make this an objective study I think you should look at actual pupil experience of Steiner and State schools and then on this basis perhaps argue as to what should be state funded.

  • 58 DW // Jan 5, 2011 at 03:16

    Tom deH:
    “My personal vision of a school would probably be the state system but with three times the number of teachers, more parental involvements and less government initatives.”

    There we would generally agree.

    “In judging a schools performance I am only and completely interested in what happens to the pupils, I am not interested in the framework of belief of the teachers that may cause what happens to the pupils”

    All I can say is such a position seems rather ignorant, or simply incoherent. How would one expect to understand what happens to the pupils, exactly, if one is not only uninterested in, but willfully and doggedly refuses to even consider, the theory that is being applied to the pupils?

    Are you perhaps actually unaware of just how detailed Steiner’s child development theories and pedagogy are? Do you understand that anthroposophy dictates virtually EVERYTHING in many Steiner classrooms? Do you realize they are literally painting the walls of each classroom colors Steiner indicated? (He literally specified colors. Peach blossom in the kindergarten, red for first grade …) He *wrote* the verses the children sing (many of them); he designed the curriculum and he stated basically that it MUST be followed to ensure not just the children’s spiritual development but the future spiritual progress of the human race.

    This isn’t, like, some method the teachers learned in a 3-hour Saturday workshop. This is serious shit.

    “Despite much of anthroposophy being bunk in my veiw the results acheived by the education excel in some respects over state education.”

    Absolutely. Surely you’re aware that as with most privately funded education the pupils’ outcomes in the long term likely reflect the parents’ socioeconomic status rather than the methods employed by the school? Surely you’re aware that an accurate test would measure the Steiner school against other privately funded schools, not against state education?

    “I note and appreciate that some people here say they have personally experienced racism and I believe what they are saying but am not yet convinced that this is the result of inherent racism in the teaching staff of ALL Steiner schools.”

    Again since no one has made a claim about ALL Steiner schools your refuting this is beside the point.

    “I would be happy to see teachers delivering racist doctrine sacked from any teaching role.”

    That would be a nice start, but realistically, does it make a lot of sense to fire teachers for implementing what they were taught in their teacher training? Don’t you see that a real solution has to go deeper than that?

  • 59 tomdehavas // Jan 5, 2011 at 13:42

    DW // Jan 5, 2011 at 03:16
    Quote ‘All I can say is such a position seems rather ignorant, or simply incoherent. How would one expect to understand what happens to the pupils, exactly, if one is not only uninterested in, but willfully and doggedly refuses to even consider, the theory that is being applied to the pupils?’ Reply: In the same way as when I get on an airoplane I do not study how jet engines work it is the results I am interested in. (Known as abstraction in computing terms.)

    Yeah I knew he said the colour for the class rooms but I wasn’t bothered by that as long as they were nice pictures.

    Actually a lot of what we sung was silly English songs about springtime and the cuckoo that was until our techer did Porgy and Bess with us.

    Yes I am aware that private schools don’t represent a fair cross section of the population but the outcomes such as being able to make something decent out of wood wasn’t from the parents.

    The aim here is to stop state funding of ALL Steiner schools. Perhaps I naively assumed therefore that some of the allegations here must apply to ALL Steiner schools. So do we now agree that there might be a remote possibility that one Steiner school might be being unfairly tainted. Should each not be considered according to its merits. If they are getting funding but shouldn’t be than should not the inspectors revise their tick box approach.

  • 60 zooey // Jan 5, 2011 at 16:36

    All Steiner schools are required to use Steiner’s Study of Man as their foundation — or else they’re not allowed to call themselves Steiner schools. That’s what we need to know, and that’s what politicians need to know *before* allowing state funding of these schools. There isn’t a remote possibility that a steiner school, which carries the name waldorf or steiner, does not rely on Steiner’s ideas about education and child development.

    If you (Tom dH) weren’t so desperately clinging to your own ignorance, you might learn a thing or two.

  • 61 DW // Jan 5, 2011 at 16:53

    “Yeah I knew he said the colour for the class rooms but I wasn’t bothered by that as long as they were nice pictures.”

    Once again is the issue whether you were personally “bothered” by the color of the walls? Whew.

    “Yes I am aware that private schools don’t represent a fair cross section of the population but the outcomes such as being able to make something decent out of wood wasn’t from the parents. ”

    Absolutely. If wood working is the desired outcome, I have no doubt Steiner students fare above average.

    The aim here is to stop state funding of ALL Steiner schools. Perhaps I naively assumed therefore that some of the allegations here must apply to ALL Steiner schools. So do we now agree that there might be a remote possibility that one Steiner school might be being unfairly tainted. Should each not be considered according to its merits. If they are getting funding but shouldn’t be than should not the inspectors revise their tick box approach.

  • 62 DW // Jan 5, 2011 at 16:56

    Sorry the above leaves in another paragraph of Tom’s that I meant to delete from my reply, and goofed.

    I’ll go ahead and reply to that paragraph, regarding stopping state funding of ALL Steiner schools.

    Regarding funding of schools, Tom, surely the government can’t pick and choose based on arbitrary criteria, and despite a system of inspections can’t be expected to listen in on everything going on in every classroom. They have to decide to fund/not fund a particular system, in general, no? Unfortunately the government does generally work by tick boxes. Batty esoteric doctrines seem to me a good box to tick under “Don’t fund.”

  • 63 tomdehavas // Jan 5, 2011 at 20:04

    zooey // Jan 5, 2011 at 16:36
    Sorry but your simply wrong according to my experience.

    DW // Jan 5, 2011 at 16:56 Quote ‘Unfortunately the government does generally work by tick boxes.’ Yes this is a major fault in government. ‘Batty esoteric doctrines seem to me a good box to tick under “Don’t fund.”’ As I have already said it is what is delivered in the classroom that counts and I accept that some teachers do deliver the rubbish.

    I personally would love to remove beliefs in others that are not empirically based but it isn’t going to happen. My ex-wife is a doctor who believed that it was bad luck to fly on Thursday but still passed her exams and does a good job.

    This is why it is imperative to judge people on what they deliver and not to generalise. Some Steiner teachers deliver crap but not all. Some Africans ate ‘long pig’ but not all.

    So no ‘Batty esoteric doctrines’ is not a good box to tick under “Don’t fund.” Since the would put out the majority of the population.

    We are going around in circles but please do not assume all teachers in Steiner schools are anthroposophists, many at my school where not.

  • 64 DW // Jan 5, 2011 at 21:26

    “We are going around in circles but please do not assume all teachers in Steiner schools are anthroposophists, many at my school where not.”

    I would put money on a bet that if “many” were not anthroposophists, most or more likely all of those who were members of the “College of Teachers,” i.e., the governing body of the school, were anthroposophists. I would put money on something like 95%. If you count the sort-of adjuctive faculty, music teachers, sports, coaches, the cook, the janitor, etc., then you can fudge these numbers and announce triumphantly that “most were not anthroposophists.” It is sophistry. The people who were running the school were anthroposophists. I guarantee you.
    (And if you don’t get this part, they tell the people who *aren’t* anthroposophists what to do.)

  • 65 lovelyhorse // Jan 5, 2011 at 21:32

    @Tom de Havas, going round in circles is what the Anthroposophical movement does best. I believe they call it ‘coming full circle’.

    I feel I cannot really comment on your experiences, my concerns are with what is happening in the schools right now. To bring you up to date the Pedagogical Section of the Goetheanum (Steiner HQ in Switzerland) held four meetings in 2009 each dedicated to the criteria of Steiner Waldorf Education. On the 21st of November 2009, the International Council of Waldorf/Steiner Schools known as the ‘Hague Circle’ passed a set of fundamental criteria of Waldorf Education.

    http://www.webcitation.org/5vMgPg6Ux

    The Hague Circle form part of the Pedgogical Section, the international representatives of the First Class (the inner core members of the School of Spiritual Science forming part of the Anthroposophical Society). To be chosen to a member of the First Class, one must be able to demonstrate a deep commitment to Anthroposophy and also supposedly possess clairvoyant vision before being approved by their mentor, regional group head, the Anthroposophical Society and the Goetheanum.

    First Class holders are found in every Steiner Waldorf school, the spiritual health of a school is supposedly measured by the amount of First Class members.

    Within the Pedagogical Section there is an group responsible for the recognition of schools as Steiner Waldorf Schools and, for kindergartens as Steiner Waldorf Kindergartens. Worth noting is that the legal right to this name is granted only after the school or kindergarten has been recognized as such.

    http://www.paedagogik-goetheanum.ch/uploads/media/RB_37_english_01.pdf

    An outline of the criteria from the European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education is below, note that the word ‘criteria’ has been changed to ‘principles and aspirations':

    http://ecswe.net/downloads/statements/ecswe_principlesstatement.pdf

    Also worth mentioning is that the German Waldorf Association holds the copyright to the Steiner Waldorf trademark.

    http://www.webcitation.org/5vR40ZkA4

  • 66 tomdehavas // Jan 5, 2011 at 22:05

    DW // Jan 5, 2011 at 21:26
    No it was teachers that were not anthroposophists. How much are you betting? Say we count an anthroposophist as being a member of the Anthro Soc or a Steiner trained teacher, agreed?

  • 67 Thetis // Jan 6, 2011 at 00:26

    @lovelyhorse –

    it’s noticeable how often parent-run Steiner initiatives have very little idea what Steiner ed is:
    http://www.witneygazette.co.uk/news/8763527._Free_school__eyes_up_farm_museum_site_as_base/

    They can’t use the name, of course, without the intrinsic anthroposophy. The brand comes at a price.

  • 68 alfa-omega // Jan 6, 2011 at 22:52

    I have followed the link above (provided by Thetis).

    Just a few short reflections on the article in “Witney Gazette”:

    – “More formal teaching methods would be introduced for teenagers preparing for GCSEs.”
    That’s the difficult part in setting up a school, the higher grades. The article says nothing about that.
    “Mum-of-two Louisa Nutt, 43, one of the parents behind the proposals … she and other mums had been contacted by parents interested in the plan.”
    The parents interested may not be aware of that.

    – “Ms Nutt said … There are 1,000 such schools worldwide, based on the theories of Austrian educationalist Dr Rudolf Steiner”.
    That is how Dr Steiner is presented to the parents: educationalist. Ms Nutt may see it that way herself.

    This above is on top of what Thetis mentions: “They can’t use the name, of course, without the intrinsic anthroposophy. The brand comes at a price.”

    Please, see comment by lovelyhorse // Jan 5, 2011 at 21:32 (Nr 65).
    Ms Nutt may never have heard the term “First class”.

    I am a regular teacher who answered an ad for a subject teacher at a Waldorf school. The real requirement upon me was not revealed to me prior to signing the contract — a situation very similar to that of a parent enrolling his/her child into Waldorf. (I worked one term at the school).

    I have written about my experiences at http://zooey.wordpress.com (particularly in the thread “Karmic violence”).

  • 69 Thetis // Jan 7, 2011 at 10:15

    @alfa-omega – this is the thread: http://zooey.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/karmic-violence/

  • 70 Jan Luiten // Jan 8, 2011 at 09:20

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

  • 71 Jan Luiten // Jan 8, 2011 at 09:31

    I am sorry my comment above should have been posted in part 3…….I will post there as well

  • 72 Thetis // Jan 11, 2011 at 08:58

    An addition re vaccination rates in Waldorf schools in the US: http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2011/01/parents_at_seattles_waldorf_sc.php

    “Waldorf’s exemption rate of 47 percent is far and away the highest among the 475 King County schools surveyed by the DoH. It’s also nearly 40 percent higher than the herd immunity threshold, i.e., the proportion of immune individuals in a population necessary to prevent contagious diseases from flaring up–a fact that worries Michele Roberts, DoH’s immunization program health promotion manager.”

    “Nettie Fabrie, Waldorf’s head of pedagogy, laughs when told of her school’s ranking. She says she’s not surprised and that the figures have everything to do with the kinds of parents Waldorf attracts.”

    “…whether Waldorf’s parents are just more enlightened than the rest or dangerously delusional about vaccines, should the day come when an outbreak of a once-dormant disease makes headlines in Seattle, we know where we’ll go looking for Patient Zero.”

  • 73 lovelyhorse // Jan 11, 2011 at 11:49

    @Thetis, also from the same article:

    “In 2001, in a move meant to counteract growing suspicions that an anti-immunization stance was Waldorf policy, the European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education released a statement saying that “whether or not to inoculate a child against communicable disease should be a matter of parental choice.”

    ECSWE’s statement on vaccination here:

    http://www.steinerwaldorfeurope.org/downloads/statements/ecswe_vaccinationstatement.pdf

    Dan Dugan responds in the comments:

    “The statements by Waldorf schools that immunization is “up to parents” are typical Waldorf half-truths. Their Guru Rudolf Steiner taught that immunizations were bad for children, and Waldorf teachers advise parents against them. Then, influenced by false information, the parents do indeed make their own decisions”.

    This echoes our experience, the school reception and parent notice board had numerous leaflets promoting homeopathy and ‘natural’ medicines. There was great pressure amongst the parents not to vaccinate. I wonder if there are statistics available in the UK?

  • 74 lovelyhorse // Jan 11, 2011 at 12:14

    also in the same comments, Hollywood Tomfortas posted the top 4 schools which have the highest immunization exemptions:

    California Schools Guide (2008) in Los Angeles County

    * City School, The (Lake Balboa)—————- 9 of 11 (82%)
    —-{Now renamed as: Valley Waldorf School}
    * Westside Waldorf (Pacific Palisades)———– 14 of 20 (70%)
    * Highland Hall Waldorf School (Northridge) — 15 of 29 (52%)
    * Pasadena Waldorf (Altadena) ——————– 20 of 39 (51%)

    http://projects.latimes.com/schools/custom-ranking/county/los-angeles/statistic/immunization-exemption-rate/order/highest/

    and in Portland, Cedarwood Waldorf School in Southwest Portland, has a 78 percent exemption rate:

    http://www.portlandtribune.com/news/story.php?story_id=127189135660662400

    Steiner Waldorf parents are able to claim ‘religious exemption’ for not having their children vaccinated.

  • 75 Thetis // Jan 11, 2011 at 13:39

    Still in the US, re another Portland Waldorf school: http://jimboguy.blogspot.com/2011/01/vaccines-mmr-autism-fraud-vaccine-fears.html

    A comment from the Open Waldorf site (which I’ve highlighted elsewhere) is in my opinion a good analysis:
    http://www.openwaldorf.com/health.html

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

    “We also understand why, among the best minds of our period, there exists a kind of aversion to vaccination… This would constitute the indispensable counterpart without which we are performing only half our task. We are merely accomplishing something to which the person in question will himself have to produce a counterpart in a later incarnation. If we destroy the susceptibility to smallpox, we are concentrating only on the external side of karmic activity.”
    Steiner, Rudolf. Manifestations of Karma, Lecture 8′
    http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/ManfKarma/ManKar_index.html

    It will be clear by now that some Steiner Waldorf parents don’t know about these anthroposophical ideas and how they inform school culture.

  • 76 Thetis // Jan 11, 2011 at 14:06

    This page from Wikipedia, Talk: Waldorf education, suggests in our view that there has been an attempt by the Waldorf community to misrepresent information (see ‘concerns over immunizations’)
    http://www.webcitation.org/5veeFpYiP

    hgilbert on Wiki is Harlan Gilbert, a teacher at the Green Meadow Waldorf school and author of the book: ‘At the Source: the Incarnation of the Child and the Development of a Modern Pedagogy’, AWSNA Press 2005.
    http://www.webcitation.org/5veigK5gb

    poster RichGibson comments:
    “My edits have been deleted with the argument that the verifiable truth of individual school and county data is not relevant to a ‘movement of over 1000 schools.’ So from my point of view, true and verifiable information about a significant component of life in Waldorf schools is being suppressed on wikipedia.”

  • 77 DW // Jan 11, 2011 at 15:21

    Here are a few more tidbits on Steiner’s views of vaccination, specifically in relation to smallpox. He taught that smallpox was karmic recompense for “unlovingness” in a previous life.

    http://tinyurl.com/5uxs5j9

    “By removing the outer organ of unlovingness, we actually incur an obligation of working into the soul in such a way as to remove its inclination to unlovingness. The organ of unlovingness is killed in the most complete sense – in the outer physical sense – through the smallpox vaccination.”

    “…where hygienic measures go too far, only weak natures will be propagated.”

  • 78 DW // Jan 11, 2011 at 15:24

    That was from “Manifestations of Karma,” much of which is available online at the link above. Steiner held many similar views regarding the supposed spiritual benefits of illness and injury.

    This is what Steiner/Waldorf parents need to understand about the school’s attitude toward vaccination. It is not just about a preference for natural remedies, and it is not really about fears of damage from vaccines, although they are happy to appear to be on that bandwagon since these attitudes appeal to New Age parents.

    The issue for anthroposophists is really that it is not actually desirable to prevent the vaccine-preventable diseases – for spiritual reasons.

  • 79 David Colquhoun // Jan 11, 2011 at 19:03

    I think the time has come to close the comments on all three Steiner posts. Thanks to everyone who contributed to the total of 442 comments

  • 80 uk: steiner waldorf free schools « zooey // Jan 14, 2011 at 21:48

    [...] in this context — the possible future state funding of the schools. All three posts (i — ii — iii) are important, and I want to stress how indispensable it is for anybody [...]

  • 81 SWSF threatens to sue critics if they GO TOO FAR « zooey // Mar 22, 2011 at 20:49

    [...] Steiner criticism? Why don’t they reply to the articles on DC’s Improbably Science? (i — ii — iii) Are they too clever? Too… right? Hitting too close to [...]

  • 82 Quacks everywhere | Pharyngula // Aug 21, 2011 at 16:20

    [...] their fundamentally pseudoscientific basis under a fog of fancy invented terms. He discusses their goofy philosophy of anthroposophistry, their devious efforts to get state funding, and their unfortunate buy unsurprising history of [...]

  • 83 Quacks everywhere [Pharyngula] | Digital Brain ; Science and Technology News // Aug 21, 2011 at 18:35

    [...] their fundamentally pseudoscientific basis under a fog of fancy invented terms. He discusses their goofy philosophy of anthroposophistry, their devious efforts to get state funding, and their unfortunate buy unsurprising history of [...]

  • 84 Quacks everywhere : Pharyngula // Aug 22, 2011 at 07:55

    [...] basis under a fog of fancy invented terms. he discusses their goofy philosophy of anthroposophistry, their devious efforts to get state funding, and their unfortunate buy unsurprising history of [...]

  • 85 Workshop on anthroposophistry sponsored by University of Minnesota : Next Week /  The Ave // Sep 10, 2011 at 14:07

    [...] their fundamentally pseudoscientific basis under a fog of fancy invented terms. He discusses their goofy philosophy of anthroposophistry, their devious efforts to get state funding, and their unfortunate buy unsurprising history of [...]

  • 86 Steiner-Waldorf Education -- a Nadder! // Oct 10, 2011 at 02:32

    [...] with more information and criticism of Waldorf education appeared in the blogosphere. Here it is: Part 1, Part 2, Part [...]

  • 87 Mixed news on the Free Schools from | Wonderful Life // Oct 11, 2011 at 05:35

    [...] outlining why he believes Rudolf Steiner education to be ‘mystical barmpottery’ (The true nature of Steiner (Waldorf) education. Mystical barmpottery at taxpayers’ expense). Bookmark [...]

  • 88 Schumacher Woo-macher « SkeptEco // Nov 20, 2011 at 21:41

    [...] website- Goethe was one of the main influences on the Austrian mystic Rudolph Steiner, founder of Steiner-Waldorf education and Biodynamic [...]

  • 89 Waarop men zich beroept « Steinerscholen.com // Dec 11, 2011 at 10:53

    [...] Prof. dr. D. Colquhoun: The true nature of Steiner education (GB) [...]

  • 90 Anyone LO'S go to/going to Steiner School/Acadamy? - Page 2 - BabyandBump // Dec 18, 2011 at 20:02

    [...] This link goes into a lot of detail about the philosophy / religion behind Steiner schools. While it is quite anti the Steiner method (which they explain in detail) I think it is worth reading in order to fully understand what the method is about. That way if you do choose a Steiner school you go in with your eyes wide open about the advantages and disadvantages. From reading about, it seems the various schools in the UK vary quite a lot in how flexible they are with the Steiner method. http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3528 [...]

  • 91 Frome Steiner Academy: Absurd Educational Quackery | The Quackometer // Feb 27, 2012 at 17:51

    [...] experiences after removing themselves from close experiences with Steinerists. Steiner himself told teachers to be coy about the aims of the school for fear that “people would break the Waldorf [Steiner] [...]

  • 92 The University of Aberdeen and its vice chancellor, Ian Diamond, step back from the brink? // Apr 27, 2012 at 09:07

    [...] So why has the University of Aberdeen been dabbling in the mystical barmpottery of the Steiner cult? [...]

  • 93 ‘schools of pseudoscience’ « the ethereal kiosk // May 13, 2012 at 07:29

    [...] outside the movement to know what is actually taught as science in these schools. This post is worth reading again, too. Should someone want to explore the waldorf/steiner from waldorf/steiner proponents [...]

  • 94 Update on Creationist Free School Bids – British Humanist Association | Wonderful Life // May 16, 2012 at 06:12

    [...] School proposals to be made. I also have a worry about school bids with a focus on barmpottery (as David Colquhoun puts it) suchas the three Steiner schools which have progressed in the application process.  [...]

  • 95 Report on an anti-vax talk by Magda Taylor 18th June 2012 | Simon Clare // Jun 19, 2012 at 23:56

    [...] recommend that you read David Colquhoun’s detailed overview of Steiner Waldorf education here http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3528. This blog is not about Steiner schools – it just happened to be the venue for Magda’s [...]

  • 96 Moon-planting Fairy-worshipping Whackos « SkeptEco // Jul 12, 2012 at 16:13

    [...] by the moon) and other esoteric practices advocated by the extremist anti-science cult founded by Rudolph Steiner: for Biodynamic produce “warning! Grown by moon-planting fairy-worshipping whackos. [...]

  • 97 Waarop men zich beroept « Ramon De Jonghe // Aug 31, 2012 at 16:50

    [...] Prof. dr. D. Colquhoun: The true nature of Steiner education (GB) [...]

  • 98 Free schools are a disaster | Francis Gilbert | Old News // Sep 3, 2012 at 17:27

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  • 99 What Every Parent Should Know About Steiner-Waldorf Schools | The Quackometer Blog // Nov 2, 2012 at 15:13

    [...] Part 1  The true nature of Steiner (Waldorf) education. Mystical barmpottery at taxpayers’ expense. [...]

  • 100 What Every Parent Should Know About Steiner-Waldorf Schools, By Andy Lewis « Blog de Grégoire Perra // Nov 3, 2012 at 15:35

    [...] Part 1  The true nature of Steiner (Waldorf) education. Mystical barmpottery at taxpayers’ expense. [...]

  • 101 Antroposofía: la secta y su banco (Triodos) « Pensar es gratis // Dec 2, 2012 at 17:31

    [...] crítica a fondo de la educación Waldorf está disponible en inglés aquí. Y puede leer una experiencia en una “conferencia” de educación Waldorf en Argentina a [...]

  • 102 Waarop men zich beroept - Steinerscholen.com // Dec 17, 2012 at 13:30

    [...] Prof. dr. D. Colquhoun: The true nature of Steiner education (GB) [...]

  • 103 Website van criticus Colquhoun bekroond – Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij | Antroposofie in de media // Dec 23, 2012 at 18:31

    [...] http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3528 [...]

  • 104 Regulation of alternative medicine: why it doesn’t work, and never can // Jan 19, 2013 at 00:41

    [...] the university’s regulatory mechanisms. not any others, seemed to realise that a chair in mystical barmpottery was a bad [...]

  • 105 Free schools are a disaster | Francis Gilbert // Apr 29, 2013 at 07:37

    [...] example, but other schools, such as the Steiner Academy in Frome, are also likely to pursue controversial agendas such as discouraging parents from getting their children vaccinated. The Health Protection Agency [...]