french anthroposophists practicing the (perhaps not so) michaelic art of slaying dissenters

Grégoire Perra is no longer an anthroposophist. He used to be one, however, and spent many years within the anthroposophical movement, first as a Steiner school student from the age of nine and later becoming a committed anthroposophist and a Steiner teacher himself. But he chose to quit, and he wrote an article about his experiences in the world of Steiner education and anthroposophy. In a blog post, he eloquently describes the reasons compelling him to do this. I’m sure I can’t do his case justice in a short blog post, but if I can I want to try to call attention to what is going on.

His writing was not tolerated by people in the anthroposophical movement in France. They could not accept that a person should have the freedom to express himself, to tell others what he thought was true and to recount his experiences in his own words. These words, they thought, defamed the anthroposophical movement. So one anthroposophical organisation — the Federation of Steiner Waldorf Schools in France — decided to take legal action against Grégoire Perra and the organisation (UNADFI) which had published the article.* A letter in which they make the initial threats to take action is available here and Grégoire confirms that he is awaiting trial.

It is still not too late, of course, for the Steiner Federation to back off from what appears to be a rather ill-conceived and counter-productive mission. They have embarked on a journey that is intellectually barren and ethically compromised, and I for one am not at all sure why they would want to go where they seem to be heading. They are  not, by any means, a Michael bravely slaying the dragon.

If there’s one phenomenon I’m strongly averse to, it’s when people use the law as though it were a tool for clowns who can’t abide seeing their ways and ideas challenged openly. My intolerance for such shenanigans is the main reason I care about this. I intend to inform myself better of Grégoire Perra’s case, but from what I’ve seen and read so far, it appears to me that the anthroposophical movement in France, and in particular the Steiner Federation, would be well advised to act less foolishly.

What seems to have happened is this: the anthroposophical movement has come up with the idea that in order to protect themselves from the unfortunate reputation of being a cult, they would happily (and in a magnificently paradoxical way) behave as a cult would behave. A cult, which will not tolerate dissent. Cults often don’t. Anthroposophy, unfortunately, sometimes (this is not the first time) seems all too willing to join other cults in this untoward habit. Again, I can’t comprehend why; it is not criticism or dissent — even if it were unfair — that will suffocate anthroposophy, it is lack of breathing space that will. The enemy is within the movement itself. It is its own mentality — or perhaps, to speak Anthroposophese, the aberrations, nay, the pathologies of its group soul.

Naturally, this development ought to concern not only critics of anthroposophy but also — and perhaps even more — other anthroposophists.

I can certainly understand if anthroposophists and adherents of waldorf education don’t feel flattered by Grégoire Perra’s criticism and that they fear that a dissident who thinks what he thinks and writes what he writes poses a serious threat to the movement. It is understandable, even predictable, that people who are still anthroposophists don’t share Grégoire’s perspective. It is not difficult to comprehend that they feel the need to defend themselves, even against arguments which are likely to be more true than they would be able to admit. But will they be able to rescue their reputation in a courtroom? Of course not. They have lost such a battle before they have even begun fighting it.

You see, it doesn’t even matter much if they are right or wrong, they have lost already, because they have, by their very own actions, proven themselves to be a cult worthy of being called a cult. Simply by initiating a procedure of this kind — instead of arguing openly and fairly for their cause — they lose. They lose the moment they attempt to suppress another individual’s right to freely express himself. They lose, because merely by doing this, they show us their real intentions, their true mindset. They display disrespect for other perspectives on and experiences of their movement. They show their disdain for the right and freedom of other people to form their own views, make their own interpretations and to voice them. They prove they can’t tolerate criticism very well or at all. Cults usually can’t.

There is no point insisting anthroposophy is not a cult, if it acts as a cult (even Steiner had a glimpse of an understanding of this basic fact). And the movement has to show it is not a cult out there in the real world, not in a courtroom. It has to do so by anthroposophists meeting dissent with fair arguments and by presenting their side, their views and ideas, not with threats or trivial legal action.

So far everything suggests to me that the Federation of Steiner Schools in France deserves a fair bit of negative attention. Thus, let’s help give the French anthroposophical movement the reputation they vainly — and desperately, perhaps — tried to avoid by taking Grégoire Perra to court: that of a menacing cult. Because the moment they showed they can’t tolerate the existence of dissenting views or criticism, that is exactly what they are.

***

* UNADFI (Union Nationale des Associations de Défense des Familles et de l’Indivu Victimes de Sectes) is an organisation which ‘gathers and coordinates the Associations de défense des familles et de l’individu (ADFI), whose purpose is to acquire information on the cult phenomenon, with prevention and assistance for its victims’, according to Wikipedia. Read more in French here. You’ll find Grégoire Perra’s blog here, and the website of the French Steiner Federation is here.

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43 comments

  1. Reblogged this on Blog de Grégoire Perra.

  2. good luck, Grégoire :)

  3. Merci ! :)

  4. Cheers! I’m overtired, so forgive me, but there is an alternative philosophy for anthroposophists who have tired of suing people and so forth: canineosophy. Mr Dog and I saw canineosophy clairvoyantly one day, but then discovered that Steiner, presumably when tired of anthropsophists (one could understand it), came up with the idea himself. Have you seen this, Grégoire?

    http://users.skynet.be/etc/Art_Divers/Rsblague.html

    (scroll down)

    “Pas vrai, Pschulek , qu’un jour tu fonderas une caninosophie?”

  5. Alicia you’re right: whatever happens, they have already lost. And even if they win the lawsuit, they still lose more than they think to get through such a victory. All they can do is cause pain and damage, but not get the truth remains concealed, or to withdraw the joy of having acted in accordance with my conscience. They lost and have lost themselves.

  6. La caninéosophie sera la science des croquettes occultes ! :))

  7. Haha, I see you have an intuitive understanding of canineosophy!

    ‘They lost and have lost themselves.’

    True, true.

  8. Gregoire, firstly, good luck in your battle. Not to make light of the court case, but it seems very much like an escalation of what happens to hundreds of parents in Waldorf schools each year. When parents voice dissent in their school, they are “controlled” by the people within the school… and they will do whatever it takes to assert that control. I have personally seen people within the “movement” 1) gossip about a dissenting parent and their child – sometimes to the point of slander and defamation, 2) drive a wedge between parents to the point of divorce, 3) threaten harm to a dissenting parent’s child, 4) expel or threaten to expel children mid-semester, 5) hold “councils” with children – in retreats away from their parents, in which teachers tried to get children to reveal information about their parents, 6) drive a wedge between the child and the dissenting parent, 7) purger themselves in court… (I could keep going) all in efforts to keep dissenting parents quiet. More and more, the public is waking up to what happens in these schools… and eventually, the criticism will catch up to them and Waldorf will no longer be able to contain the bad press (I call that the moment of “Critical Mass”).

  9. I suspect there’s a basic pattern that adapts depending on the circumstances, but the difficulty appears to be dealing with a world that refuses to conform to certain ideas. Then the rest follows. But this is an analysis from a state of half sleep.

    We didn’t have so many difficulties in this regard — some people were not nice. Some people aren’t today either although 20 years later the people I encounter aren’t the same crowd who was around when we left.

    And, of course, Sune (an ardent waldorf defender, in case Grégoire has not come across him), hinted at, er, legal consequences a couple of times. Right, I say.

    But as for waldorf organisations that threaten — in a newsletter, the UK waldorf org discussed taking action against critics if they ‘went to far’. Who knows what that is; I don’t think they knew it themselves.

  10. Hello Peter,
    Thank you for the support! This information is very interesting. It would be useful to me for trial. If you want to write me a letter (without it being dangerous for you), it would be helpful. Federation of Waldorf Schools will probably come to trial with hundreds of letters from students saying that their school was amazing and everything I said in my article is misleading. If I could get me a few certificates showing that there are other views on these schools, it would be a great help …

    Alicia thank you again for this article!

  11. Gregoire, I can do better than that. I’ve collected the negative reviews of hundreds of parents here: http://thewaldorfreview.blogspot.com/ and most of the stuff I personally experienced is here: http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/ – but yes, I’m more than happy to document my own experiences for you in a court declaration or affidavit if you think it would be helpful. I have NO fear of Waldorf anymore. They have taken their best shot at me – harmed my kids in the process and now regret their actions as their own bad behavior has been following them around the internet. I’ve personally made thousands of people aware of Waldorf – and what they really don’t want is a few more like me (or you). In that way, I consider us brothers… ;) If they win… they LOSE!

  12. Merci Peter !
    I did not know that all this work had been done by someone. I feel that the Steiner-Waldorf schools have managed to remain isolated from the rest of the world and all the criticisms that emerged everywhere. This is what probably allowed them to be worse than others? But my article began to free speech of many people. At this time, the evidence that I get chill me just blood!
    We can exchange our addresses via FB?
    Fraternally! Grégoire

  13. Merci Peter !
    I did not know that all this work had been done by someone. I feel that the Steiner-Waldorf schools in France have managed to remain isolated from the rest of the world and all the criticisms that emerged everywhere. This is what probably allowed them to be worse than others? But my article began to free speech of many people. At this time, the evidence that I get chill me just blood!
    We can exchange our addresses via FB?
    Fraternally! Grégoire

  14. I don’t know if Pete’s on facebook (are you Pete?), but I think he’s OK with me sending you his email address, so I’ll do that. But you’ve got to lose the ‘r’ — he’s Pete, not Peter!

    ‘Federation of Waldorf Schools will probably come to trial with hundreds of letters from students saying that their school was amazing and everything I said in my article is misleading.’

    They might, and for publicity purposes they will want to do that. So it’s good to be prepared for it, I suppose. But I think it ought to be almost irrelevant to the legal side of it. So what if thousands of people love Steiner education, so what if (hypothetically speaking) everyone except you loves it — that would not deprive you of the right to express your opinions, would it? What is allowed to be said or written, should not depend on how many people share a particular perspective, opinion or idea. In my view.

    But obviously the Federation is going to do what they do for publicity reasons, in as well as outside of the trial. So I wouldn’t be surprised at all at them bringing glowing endorsements from every source they can find…

    By the way — since yesterday, this blog article alone has had over 400 views. I consider that good, especially as I was silly and unstrategic enough to post it on a Saturday evening!

  15. Mon frere, feel free to contact me by email. My facebook life is separate from the Waldorf world. I would love to share your story on my blog though.

    Waldorf may be inadvertently shooting itself in the foot by giving you reason to assemble the testimonies of other parents who realize their children have been harmed by their system. Many of the people I’ve spoken with about Waldorf are astonished that a class-action lawsuit hasn’t been filed against them yet. Such a lawsuit could mark the end of Waldorf as the damages could certainly be in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars. Waldorf is being very unwise in this regard. The negative publicity may be the least of their worries.

  16. ‘… the damages could certainly be in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars.’

    In the US, possibly!

    As for publicity, no negative publicity is so bad it can’t get worse… which is, one is inclined to assume, what they’re trying to achieve with seemingly frivolous a law-suit calling attention to… well, pretty much everything else that is rotten.

  17. There’s a forum where apparently the mere mention of the word ‘waldorf’ must have been prohibited (presumably because people wrote negative things and the forum was threatened — it’s happened before…). So people have replaced the word ‘waldorf’ with ‘salad’.

    Somebody wrote a comment in the thread, which is why I found it (through incoming link):

    ‘The French Federation of the ‘saladeers’ are currently suing a former ‘saladeer’ for writing against them – for saying they are a cult. http://zooey.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/f … issenters/’

    http://www.babyledweaning.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=426697&sid=54b40b94ff7af7cc7d159e0c760ff429#p426697

    (Another comment on the same page: ‘Oh, and I’ve heard from a former parent of the local ‘salad’ school and have some horror stories. One child was surrounded by 3 boys and they hit him ‘to see who could hit him the hardest’ (until he cried, I guess) while a teacher 10 feet away watched. A parent was sitting in on that particular class – it was the Kindergarten. In the year 1 class, one child had his lunch flushed down the toilet ‘because you’re poor and you won’t get another one’ and when he told the teacher, she merely said, “well, we don’t have any extra food here’ and he went without lunch. / One family have moved from the area, they were so traumatised by the school. All the parents have said that they would sue the school for the abuse their children went through ( 3 out of a class of 10 left at the end of easter term) if they could afford it.’)

  18. on peut aussi les appeler “les chaussettes mauves” !

    you can also call them “the purple socks!”

  19. I may have to start searching on the word “salad”… LOL!

  20. ‘the purple socks insisted they’re not a cult’… yeah, it works!

    Perhaps the purple socks can become as famous (or infamous?) as the mormon underpants? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_garment

  21. Pete — you will have to!

  22. Pssst… we have a full English translation of Gregorie’s paper in the works today. We just need to put a little dressing on it and it will be ready to serve.

  23. That’s excellent news Pete…

  24. Woha?! How, who, when, where?

  25. I get carried away easily.

  26. I hope the salad dressing does not contain wal-nuts ;-)

  27. “My heart flies like a hawk!” (Little Big Man)

  28. Hello everyone — it seems as though many people have been pondering the possibility of making a translation of Grégoire’s text available in English.

    Pete amnounced he had something going on and Roger just told me he has posted the beginning of the document in English. The translation is not finished yet but it’s a start. You can read it here:

    https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/he-went-to-waldorf

  29. brilliant! This is such an important document.

  30. C’est un vrai soutien de savoir qu’ont lieu ces efforts collectifs pour traduire cet article en anglais. Cela me rappelle que cette publication avait du sens et valait la peine d’endurer ce que j’endure en ce moment et ce qui va arriver avec le procès.

  31. A few days ago I worried there would not be a translation at all — and suddenly there are two in the works. Efforts were being made but… Anyway, it’s a relief to know it will be available in English.

    Anthroposophy is an international movement and if the Waldorf Steiner organisation in one country is shooting itself in the foot (with purple socks, naturally), it’s a matter of international interest. As we’ve seen, it’s not the first time, and threats (without subsequent action) to silence people and debates also occur. It’s a silly habit which they ought to abandon. Or perhaps, if they can’t stand criticism, avoid running schools. So — if they’re going to be silly (and cultish) like that, it won’t happen with nobody watching. Any cultish thing — or any stupid thing that doesn’t belong in an educational organisation — will reflect on waldorf organisations in other countries.

  32. I have published the unedited version of Gregorie’s testimony. Anyone who feels inclined to help polish it up… feel free. http://thewaldorfreview.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-indoctrination-of-students-to.html

  33. Pete, sorry to fall down on the job here, I know you were hoping I would edit it, but I just wouldn’t be able to get to it in the next little while. Too many large projects of the type they pay me money for at the moment!

  34. No worries Diana… it will get done. I knew you were struggling to type it in so I wanted to get a copy of the translation and the original doc to you right away. I just assumed I sent it to the wrong email address again…

  35. No, you didn’t, I’m just swamped as usual. I wasn’t typing anything – I think you’re thinking of the Driegonaal article, but I’ve abandoned that at least for now, too. This should not surprise you …

  36. it’s just great to see it, and I’m sure a good copy will emerge out of this joint effort. It’s much easier for us to publicise Grégoire’s case and to offer support if we can make sense of what is a complex document. It’s usually the German speakers we’re grateful to, not to mention the Swedish. Thank you Pete and Roger and friends.

  37. Yes, thank you. Roger’s translation is complete now, I heard. Due to internet trouble all afternoon, I haven’t checked the webpage yet. But it should be the same link as previously posted in this thread.

  38. Perhaps nearly complete. But anyway. Close!

  39. Cool… Roger, I’m stealing your updated translation… ;)

  40. [...] aware that both Pete and Roger have posted translations of Grégoire Perra‘s article. I wrote about it last weekend, and I think I’ve already said the important things that need to be [...]

  41. [...] Perhaps there is a place for anger; anger is a drive, sometimes necessary for preserving your own sense of self and self-worth. And the movement has got to learn to deal with it much better — not with threats and similar means. Not with trying to silence people — neither directly, nor indirectly. Threatening or harassing former students, parents and adherents for their criticism should certainly be unworthy of any education movement, unless it’s actually about more than just education. In which case it’s also an unworthy behaviour, but the motivations begin to emerge, you understand why it’s happening. If you realize the kind of spiritual beliefs that underpin the movement, and if you understand that these beliefs sometimes inspire fanaticism, then you have an explanation as to why online forums, e g, cave in to legal threats by the movement’s adherents. You understand why national waldorf organisations can threaten former parents that there will be consequences if they go too far. Often empty threats, but in some cases real. [...]

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