When the pain that cuts through your chest is so sharp you cannot keep walking, feelings are a strange blend of desperation and detachment. Yet you have to keep walking, because if you don’t, you show your weakness, and showing weakness equals defeat. You do keep walking, because there is no other option. You keep walking, but avoid inhaling properly; you take shallow breaths that give you enough oxygen to still be standing up. But nothing more.
And the pain doesn’t stop there; pain is never merely physical. There’s the pain that tortures your mind like a chain-saw cutting through it, and the tears that burn like fire behind the half-closed eye-lids where they have to be contained at any cost. I didn’t cry. That was the one thing still in my power — to disallow the world the satisfaction from seeing me acknowledge pain. I, unconsciously, trained myself to detach.
I remember the spot where I felt I cannot take another step. I could not talk, and I could not laugh (although I knew I should laugh), because all the air I could get into my lungs had to be used to keep me moving forward. I needed to get home. I had to reach the train station. Not far away in material terms, but an eternity away in every other sense.
I could not stand upright, yet I did because, as you know, especially in such situations, walking upright is a matter of dignity.
You know that this is the kind of writing that waldorf defendants reject. It is subjective. It is, by its very nature, emotional. It is, thus, not ‘serious’. It does not take into account the pleasure experienced by the other students in waldorf schools. To be objective, and to be serious, one has to do that, I’ve been told numerous times. (I advise you all: go to the website of any waldorf school. And ask yourself: is this objective? Does their advertisement take into account other perspectives than the rosy-coloured?) This all contributes to making it immediately invalid, of course; I can live with that, but I would also say that there are not so few waldorf students who have such invalid experiences. But as enthusiastic waldorf parents occasionally put it to me: ‘You’re not objective! I love waldorf for my children!’ As if my starting point were or should be their feelings. It is not.
I can be more or less objective — I can strive to be objective — about the ‘facts’ part of things. I cannot be when it comes to my own experiences. They’re mine. And they don’t belong to any emotional zone governed by happy waldorf parents. All of this would make them retort: ‘I’m sorry you hate waldorf so much, you bitter old hater’, but in worse language. Because, as if by coincidence, these people not only display cultish devotion to waldorf education they are not all too rarely borderline illiterate. I avoid, if I can, interaction with such people these days.
As usual, double standards are applied. If only these people voiced a demand that waldorf schools and organisations presented themselves more accurately and honestly. But they won’t. Because to them a description of waldorf as paradise is ‘objective’. Instead they demand, of the individual critic, that he or she does what these institutions don’t manage to do. The schools and organisations and their officials and adherents lie through their teeth while they smile seductively, and everyone who is still a believer in the dream happily endorses it all.
My knowledge is troubling, so they prefer not to focus on that (often they can’t). My experiences, on the other hand, are easily rejected as irrelevant. There’s always a reason to reject a negative waldorf experience, no matter how many and how powerful they are together (sadly, most people remain silent in public, to avoid attacks or simply to be able to move on in life at all). Always a reason to justify ignoring it or to justify attacks on the individual (who must have been defective, not to appreciate waldorf!). The positive, albeit just as individual, experiences, however, are universally applicable. They give the real picture, think those who are still convinced. Even illusion can expect to be taken as reality. And any emotional argument I make will, for the supporters of waldorf education (who are heavily emotional themselves), only serve to prove that my knowledge must be worth as little as my experience. It’s invalid, too, because I gained it for the wrong reason. It’s invalid, because my experience does not match theirs. Moreover, none of what I’m saying matches the advertisement brochures and the presentations they were given by the school. Well, it’s the way things are.
It makes me sick and tired. It makes me think: you know what, why am I avoiding making it personal? Am I avoiding it in order to spare myself from personal attacks? Why am I avoiding emotion? Is it because making it emotional gives the other side another reason to reject and scorn you — as unhinged? If so, is that not cowardly? I mean, cowardly of me. What I actually saw in that school may be a more powerful weapon than any theoretical knowledge — and coupled with theoretical knowledge, it should be poisonous.
The accusations are ever-present: you’re bitter, you’re a hater, you’re not worth taking seriously… Well, then. Let it be so. I’ve said a thousand times: I don’t require that people take me seriously. But my writing and my arguments — both the more ‘objective’ ones, and the personal ones — have always been about a lot more than bitterness and hatred.
I still want to return and pick that child up. Carry it home. But I won’t. I can’t. Nobody ever will. You cannot save your past selves. They are dead, and their once burning tears frozen in time.
About three minutes into this youtube movie (it’s an advertisement movie for the waldorf school I attended), you encounter a waldorf teacher. She claims she ‘likes honesty, compassion and responsibility’ (and dislikes the absence of those qualities). She happened to be one of the worst teachers at the school; her lessons were all too often unpleasant chaos. She never reacted when some children kicked another child so badly during a lesson that this child could barely walk home afterwards. That child was me. I don’t know what she saw. I never spoke about this incident or any other incident. I never protested, because I never knew I had rights. I had no integrity, I had no guts, I wasn’t brave, I let myself down. I should have screamed and kicked every day I had to be in this school, but I had given up, I had no illusions, and I thought I deserved what I got. I was told that if I don’t enjoy waldorf school, everything is much worse elsewhere. That was untrue, it was a blatant lie. But waldorf is full of people who believe in the illusion — not to say delusion — that, despite all the flaws which ought to be obvious, waldorf provides a paradise for children, a place where children can be children and grow up at their own pace. These people wear rosy-coloured glasses and do not speak about the experience I had. Truth has more layers than they want to know.
About the photo: maple leaves, were used — in kindergarten — with a special kind of cardboard to make crowns as though the children were kings; they never were. There was only a queen, only one queen. One overarching interest, one overarching cause, that made individual human beings irrelevant.
Addendum: I wrote about this advertisement movie and this teacher (without mentioning her name) in a post on Facebook. That post is now gone. I have not deleted it myself. I have spent a very long time today trying to locate the post, and it is gone. It is even more unfortunate as there was a discussion afterwards, and I very much would have wanted to keep it. I thank everyone who showed support in that thread and everyone who contributed with their thoughts. People cared, and that made me happy. Thank you. Update: see comment.