I am quite surprised by waldorf proponents who think that if waldorf critics only would bother to visit a waldorf school, they’d be embarrassed at having been so wrong. I have come across several instances of this lately. Has it not occurred to these proponents that one of the reasons for criticism — usually the reason inspiring a person to find out more — is an actual, real life experience with waldorf education? I find it all slightly odd. I went to a waldorf school for nine years. And they say: just visit a waldorf school, and you’ll change your mind. Really? I don’t think it’s quite that simple, I have to tell you.
And as Diana pointed out over at Steve Sagarin’s blog, turning his silly notion about critics’ love for anthroposophy against him, the parents who have become critics have often been passionately involved.* They’re not the kind of people who have never even visited a waldorf school and who would be cured by experiencing one in real life. They are the exact opposite of that. Of course there are also people who become critics of waldorf education on purely theoretical grounds without having personally experienced it. There’s nothing wrong with visiting a waldorf school. But for someone who’s read up on the topic, I doubt that a visit is going to change that person’s opinions in any fundamental way. Perhaps tweak them a little. What you see is, after all, an expression — more or less obvious — of the underlying philosophy. And being aquainted with the ideas first, you know that the rest is decor. Anthroposophically meaningful decor, but decor nonetheless.
In order to convince prospective parents (not critics) who do not have any experience or much theoretical knowledge yet, proponents say: the important thing is to visit the school, it is not to know what it’s about, not to know the ideas behind it. I’d say: this is a very bad idea. By all means, go on a visit. But don’t do it without informing yourself in other ways as well. There’s certainly more to waldorf than pretty walls and all the other superficial qualities they can and will show you on a visitors’ day. And although some waldorf proponents don’t seem to realize it, people having informed themselves before making a decision is a win-win-situation for all, including waldorf itself.
* There are some very good comments by Diana and Pete in that thread — I recommend you read the thread for those comments.