waldorf ‘methods’ in the school system (moved discussion)

I eventually decided to close down a 350+ comments thread that had slipped out of my hands long ago. Late in the thread, Frank Smith made a comment that started a new discussion, and I don’t want to kill that discussion if someone wants to continue it. So in this post I’ll quote the comments made so far, and will add something at the end. Should anyone want to continue this discussion, you’re welcome to do so.

Frank:

Tom reminded us: ‘“…Rene Querido, who used to love quoting this rather radical and enigmatic statement of Steiner’s about the future destiny of Waldorf schools. It goes something like this: “Waldorf schools will exist as separate independent schools only until the time arrives when the deeper impulses living within Waldorf education permeate ‘education-at-large’ — at which point, separate independent Waldorf schools become unnecessary.”‘
Looks like der Doktor is right again, or at least on the road to being right – although we’re not there yet. I don’t know about Sweden, but in Germany there’s so much demand that there’s no room for my grandchildren in Berlin, where there are several Waldorf schools. Also the schools are springing up South America all around – without state financing. There would of course be many many more if they weren’t so damned expensive, something which makes then essentially elitist. HOWEVER the charter school phenomenon in the U.S. looks like the path Steiner meant. Public(state financed) schools without state control. I understand that they are already causing problems for private Waldorf schools where they are close to a charter Waldorf school. Who wants to pay a lot when it’s free around the corner? Frank

Diana:

“Public(state financed) schools without state control.”

Dream on. Sums up the whole anthroposophical mindset. Everything belongs to us, or should, and nobody should ask questions.

Me:

The ‘problem’, however, is that state funding comes with state control, to varying degrees, but still; it would be reckless to hand out tax-payers’ money without assuring there’s some value in the services the money buys. (Not that politicians aren’t often too happy to hand out money for misunderstood nonsense. But they shouldn’t. People should ask where the money goes.)

It used to be like that in Sweden — unbelievable really (in my opinion), but when I was a child there was a lot of demand, at least for kindergarten and early grades. Now they struggle to fill the schools, especially the smaller ones. I suspect that the problem is that they have tried to expand too much — there aren’t enough competent teachers (oh, laugh) and not enough interested families to fill up all these schools. Regardless of them being entirely free of charge (the same applies to all schools, and other schools offer a more attractive education). So the schools, in turn, have to tone down their character. If you don’t have enough customers, it’s even more important not to repel anyone. It didn’t so much matter that waldorf schools were odd and weird and anthroposophical when I was a kid, there was demand anyway. (There were almost only state schools back then.) But there were less than ten schools then, if my memory is correct; today there are 40 (or 39, as one just closed).

Sure, you can have a bland, diluted version of waldorf. At one point, though, it ceases to have a point. It’s just (not a very good) school without any special character. People have no idea why they should choose it. Unless they really like knitting and pink walls. But then… you have people choosing it for no good reason. It’s quite boring and meaningless. But seriously, you do have proponents of waldorf saying that things like extra knitting are the point. Extra knitting is how waldorf is different. It’s all about promoting the stupidly superficial differences. I think it’s waldorf’s downfall. A major one, almost on par with providing an often bad education (parents might accept academic deficits if something else is offered instead, but when it isn’t… they have no reason to).

Frank:

Alicia wrote: “Sure, you can have a bland, diluted version of waldorf. At one point, though, it ceases to have a point. It’s just (not a very good) school without any special character.” That’s what the anthroposophical purists say. Shame on you, Alicia, getting in with that crowd.

Me:

Frank — I think they have a point, these purists. Not that their approach is necessarily better — that would depend — but blandness is only temporarily successful, until you entirely lose your identity. The only thing that could attract masses of people — as waldorf schools in some countries, if not all, would want to do — is a bland, diluted version of waldorf. I honestly wonder what the point of that would be. Ultimately the result would be what I mentioned: identity loss.

But — in theory, at least (practice is a whole other matter), it should certainly be possible to keep a lot of special character without anthroposophical puritanism. In theory.

Why would the choice be between blandness (and pointlessness) and puritanism (and fundamentalistically applied anthroposophical ideas)? If those are the two options — perhaps it’s waldorf proponents who lack competence and fantasy to envision something else!

Sure, the options seem to be blandness and puritanism. I wonder if that’s not too simplistic, though.

Frank:

The most important raison d’etre for Waldorf schools, Alicia, is to serve as models for public education (imho). So there is no reason why Waldorf pedagogy, which is, after all, a method, cannot be taken over in toto by public schools, as is the case with charter schools (I’m told). If in Israel or Japan, or even the USA, they don’t do a Christmas celebration, fe, that’s OK – whatever works there. That doesn’t mean that all schools would be obliged to use Waldorf pedagogy. We’re talking here about freedom in the cultural sphere.

Pete:

“We’re talking here about freedom in the cultural sphere.”

Get this through your THICK skull Frank… there can be NO FREEDOM as long as Waldorf LIES about its nature and its intent. Freedom would require freedom FROM Waldorf’s dishonesty. There is NOTHING Waldorf can offer the world of education through dishonesty! Waldorf started out dishonest and it has remained that way. The “Waldorf model” is what NOT to do.

To my earlier viewpoints, and in reply to what Frank wrote, I’m going to say: what is the method without the ideas behind it? If you remove the core — which you would have to do, with the model Frank’s proposing, i e waldorf introduced into the public education system — what will be left of waldorf education? What will be left that even reminds of waldorf education? Extra knitting and nice colours on the walls? The child development model according to anthroposophy would have to go, to name just one example. If the ideas are gone, you have the remaining (mostly superficial) pieces of an empty shell. It really is about more than what festivals are celebrated and how. What is left of the waldorf ‘method’ without the ideas behind it, without the core around which it is built?

About these ads

129 comments

  1. A state school system must be open to public scrutiny, and political influence through ‘democratic’ process. No state school system can therefore teach in any philosophical/pedagogical manner that is not subject to such influence.

    I believe that no state school system could support the Waldorf approach to education and ‘existence’.

  2. Yes.

    Although I do know that to some people who are not too familiar with the philosophical base of waldorf education (Frank obviously not among those people), they think that more knitting (and such activities) in a public school classroom means it’s waldorf ‘inspired’. I’m not sure where this delusion comes from. Knitting (e g) is not somehow a waldorf invention or even particular to waldorf schools. Not even if it’s pure wool and dyed with natural colours…

  3. Frank’s idea of Waldorf freedom is going to the grocery store and having lots of choices – he doesn’t think we should mind that none of the packaging has its contents labeled. If it has a pretty package, people will buy it… and if they don’t like what’s inside, they can always just buy something else after they’ve tried it.

  4. It’s more like people are supposed to buy the items for how they look and never care what’s inside them. Which is odd — no matter if there is some content or if they’re empty shells. Those who open the packaging are doing the wrong thing. I’m not sure why this should be allowed — when selling food or selling education. Actually, few people would accept it in any other area — if I buy a camera, it matters to me that I can use it for taking decent pictures. I don’t want an empty camera shell or a camera with inferior capacity. And I do like to find out before purchase.

  5. I support what Alicia says here 100%. There is no sense to Waldorf methods without anthroposophy. I have never seen anywhere a sound academic study which supports the ‘effectiveness’ of Waldorf methods while comparing them to other methods. This is actually quite a difficult thing to do even with more orthodox methods as so much depends on the individual teacher and the situation they are working in.
    Rudolf Steiner said many times that for him education IS AN ART, i.e., not a science. He continually speaks of the activity of the teacher as that of a creative artist and many of the judgements a Waldorf teacher is making during the course of their work are aesthetic judgements relating to a certain sensibility and a certain PICTURE of what a human being is. He talks about this image or picture of the human being as the source of the education over and over again. It really is silly to imagine Waldorf is anything without this ‘picture’, which is, of course, derived from anthroposophy, the BIG picture.

  6. Oj då,… the box misbehaving again. Sorry! The post ends at the phrase, ‘the BIG picture’.

  7. (I’ll edit away the end for you, Tom. In the mean: good night!)

  8. ” It really is silly to imagine Waldorf is anything without this ‘picture’, which is, of course, derived from anthroposophy, the BIG picture.”

    And yet, most people find Anthroposophy repulsive. And this isn’t lost on Anthroposophists. It wasn’t lost on Steiner either. He knew people wouldn’t like Anthropsophists (Waldorf teachers) teaching their children Anthroposophy. That’s why he instructed teachers to disguise what they teach and why they do certain things. He even instructed them to disguise problems within the school, to keep control over gossip and so forth. We see these things in practice today – just as they were in the first Waldorf school. It isn’t surprising, since the transcripts from the discussions in the early Waldorf years are required reading for ALL Waldorf teacher trainees.

  9. It is a matter of opinion whether Anthroposophy itself is repulsive. I agree that parts of it are (all the racial nonsense, for example) but there are other parts – in my opinion the essential parts – which are not repulsive but give sense and meaning to life.

    I know this is only anecdote but in my experience I have not encountered a single pupil who felt they had been ‘taught’ anthroposophy, and out of approximately 60 pupils I know who are around my children’s age there is not a single one who feels any interest in it. They are doctors, psychiatrists, biologists, teachers in state schools, corporate lawyers, commodity brokers, IT workers, postal workers, carpenters, mothers, construction workers, etc., – not a single one in an anthro. occupation. Gregoire Perra’s claim that there is an ‘old boy’ network finding jobs for Steiner pupils is certainly not true in an english context.

    It may have happened that pupils have been ‘taught’ anthroposophy in America or in France but it doesn’t seem to be the case in England. It doesn’t seem to be a big cause of complaint elsewhere. I have the impression the majority of complaints against Waldorf schools are about the inadequacy of the response of the college/ staff when there are allegations of bullying, or some other form of difficulty where a particular child’s needs are not being met and the parent feels that the college/staff are unresponsive/ indifferent.

    The college system of management does not seem to work well when responding quickly and effectively to issues related directly to children’s physical and emotional well-being and there is an obvious weakness in colleague’s ability to monitor each other’s behaviour and discipline each other.

    I am not sure that Steiner really wanted the first teacher’s to ‘disguise’ problems within the school. He may have been talking to them about normal professional discretion. When I read those texts I have to read a translation.

    Also with regard to gossip, gossip is usually uninformed opinion, speculation and innuendo. It is nearly always destructive. If there are real problems in an institution they should be addressed professionally – by the people in authority (which admittedly is a problem in the college system) – not gossiped about.

  10. I don’t find it repulsive. I find hiding it repulsive. I find using it so that it causes harm is repulsive.

    But… as to the teaching. Of course children don’t think they’ve been taught anthroposophy when the word is usually never even mentioned in school. It doesn’t happen that way. It does influence what is taught, though, how it is taught, when it is taught… and actually I’m sure it does slip into the content of what is taught. A while ago someone showed me a text from a lesson book, a text copied from the blackboard. I remember that text, I copied it too. Not sure every word was the same, but it might have been. What struck me about it was that it included a clear but subtle reference to reincarnation. I don’t remember the exact words (of course ‘reincarnation’ was not used) but the sentence, dealing with cyclical repetition, was quite suggestive of the concept of repeated lives. I can’t say that it suggests that anthroposophy was ‘taught’ in a strict sense. But it’s impossible, I think, to say that such elements are not there for an anthroposophical reason. Although I guess that for people who are anthroposophists they seem just natural, a sort of part of the almost self-evident background to what the world ‘is’. And to most other people it probably looks just like some poetic musing.

    Then there’s eurythmy. That’s certainly anthroposophy — and it is taught! And the festivals. And the morning prayer (verse). And so forth. But being taught, explicitly, anthroposophical facts — yeah, that’s less common. And not supposed to happen. (Although I have a sneaking suspicion that anthroposophists take anthroposophical facts for general facts occasionally…)

    I’m not sure if what Tom mentions is the majority of complaints, but it certainly is important. Another type of complaint is about academic inadequacy.

    As for former waldorf students getting jobs within the movement — I know it happens and always has.

  11. Alicia’s first sentence I agree with whole heartedly.

    “It does influence what is taught, though, how it is taught, when it is taught… and actually I’m sure it does slip into the content of what is taught.”

    I would agree with this also. But how significant is the first part of this sentence in an educational context?

    If the parents have chosen a Waldorf school they should -if they have at least 2 brain-cells- know that anthroposphy will influence what is taught, how it is taught and when it is taught. (There are people who have simply fallen in love with the whole ambience – I realise this does happen!)

    At another level, all teachers have a particular educational philosophy, or belief system, or mind-set, – it will influence what, how and when something is taught.

    For example, if I am a simple behaviourist like Skinner, it will influence my choice of methods. There have been many schemes for teaching maths and reading over the last 40 years based on a simple behavioural view of how children learn. Kumon maths is a current example.

    If I am a follower of Piaget it will influence when something is taught. If I am influenced by Vygotsky, – my global picture of the process of education will be entirely different. There is a good straight forward comparison of these latter two educational thinkers at this link –

    http://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html

    My experience over 30 years of senior management and in-service training in schools is that all teachers have some sort of theoretical model in their thinking which influences their choices and ways of doing things. Sometimes it is not very explicit but it is always there and part of the role of an education ‘coach’ is to make conscious these thoughts and assumptions about children, their development and their behaviours.

    Most teacher training involves some sort of more or less well-founded theoretical component and a whole lot of what I would call ‘folk-wisdom’.

    So to me it is an uncontroversial thing to say that anthroposophy influences what, how and when something is taught. There is always something, some world-view, some philosophy, some folk-wisdom which influences the choices made by teachers in the class-room.

    What is a real problem is when schools are not up-front and completely open about this. In the Steiner context the schools need to be particularly careful that parents do understand what lies behind what is on offer, and there is no excuse for fudging the issue.

    I would agree that anthroposophy should not ‘slip into’ the content of what is taught but my experience has been that when this has happened it has not had much significance for the pupils. I know of only one ex-pupil who thinks Atlantis was a real place and that the heart is not a pump, but his oarents were real fundamentalist type anthroposophists and he could well have been influenced by them.

    Most pupils remember eurythmy lessons as a slightly ridiculous half-hour which might have been pleasurable or painful depending on the teacher.

  12. ‘parents’ !!

  13. ‘If the parents have chosen a Waldorf school they should -if they have at least 2 brain-cells- know that anthroposphy will influence what is taught, how it is taught and when it is taught.’

    I think they should know it, yes. It may be a bad experiment anyway, despite knowing this (as it was in my case). The problem — which seems to be increasing — is that waldorf schools deny anthroposophy’s influence. Which you correctly define as the problem.

    ‘At another level, all teachers have a particular educational philosophy, or belief system, or mind-set, – it will influence what, how and when something is taught.’

    Of course. In waldorf, people need to know the whats, hows and whens of anthroposophy’s influence over what happens in the waldorf classroom.

    To return to:

    ‘But how significant is the first part of this sentence in an educational context?’

    I think it’s very significant. Not *that* there’s an influence (unless this is denied), but what the influence looks like.

    ‘So to me it is an uncontroversial thing to say that anthroposophy influences what, how and when something is taught.’

    I think it should be uncontroversial, yet waldorf schools and their proponents seem reluctant, even unable, to say so! And even more reluctant to talk about those whats, hows and whens.

    If it was entirely uncontroversial, I wouldn’t have to repeat that anthroposophy influences what goes on in waldorf schools. It would be a relief… (Of course, leaving the whats, hows and whens to be dealt with, but anyway.)

    As for content slipping in — except for extreme cases (the Atlantis-believer), it might be more worrying with the subtle things. Like indirect references leading the way to a conception of reincarnation. Whether this is significant — I don’t know. In fact, it would be very interesting to know if former waldorf students are more ‘open’ to the idea of reincarnation than students from ordinary schools. (Seeing that children are influence by their families too, it would be complicated though, as many grow up with these ideas at home, having parents who are anthro or ‘open-minded’ towards various spritual things.)

    Agree about the eurythmy, but that’s the *experience* of it. It doesn’t change the fact that it is perhaps the most anthroposophical of lessons. It is teaching a uniquely anthroposophical practice. In my opinion, the unexplained anthroposophical seriousness of it all is what makes it spooky. No wonder children find it a ridiculous half-hour! (It always felt much longer. Maybe we had longer lessons.)

  14. “Gregoire Perra’s claim that there is an ‘old boy’ network finding jobs for Steiner pupils is certainly not true in an english context.”

    So, we don’t find former Waldorf pupils working at their Waldorf school? Really? Highland Hall must be doing everything wrong then, because they ABSOLUTELY employ former students. My ex, before we were married, was already working at Highland Hall assisting with nap time. She was later hired by a Highland Hall board rep to work in her company. After that, she was hired by Joan Jaeckel to work at AWSNA. Then she settled into her career – she’s a teacher at Highland Hall. She essentially hasn’t left Highland Hall since she was a child. (Both her sisters were MARRIED and had their reception at Highland Hall). It REALLY can get THAT sick.

  15. “If the parents have chosen a Waldorf school they should -if they have at least 2 brain-cells- know that anthroposphy will influence what is taught, how it is taught and when it is taught.”

    They could have 10 brain cells… what matters is… people aren’t accustomed to being LIED TO DIRECTLY about this. It’s not about intelligence, it’s about integrity. Waldorf representatives INSIST Anthroposophy is not taught in Waldorf schools. Even when they’re caught teaching Steiner’s own brand of racism, they claim it isn’t Anthroposophy – it’s “the teacher” who is to blame. Waldorf schools go to such great efforts to lie to the public, one has to wonder WHY? If it isn’t that Anthroposophy is repulsive, then it must be that THEY think it’s repulsive enough to HIDE the fact that they’re immersing people’s children in it.

  16. Pete, when I was chair of trustees at Kings Langley there were around 60 people on the staff list. (It seems like a lot but there was a large number of part-timers).
    As far as I know only 1 had attended the school as a child. I don’t know anything about American or French schools.

    It seems like you married into a real ‘dyed in the wool’ pinko/anthro. milieu.

    I think there are very few Steiner school’s in France so maybe there is a more nepotistic situation there.

    Perra’s testimony is significant and points to some grave misunderstandings and seriously unprofessional behaviours on the part of his teachers and mentors. It is his personal story and as such can’t simply be generalised to all anthroposophical contexts.

    Alicia says, ‘It is teaching a uniquely anthroposophical practice. In my opinion, the unexplained anthroposophical seriousness of it all is what makes it spooky.’
    Yes, I would agree, but I find that difficult to tie up with it being ‘anthroposophical content’. What is the ‘content’ of eurythmy?

    Eurythmy is spooky if the teacher is spooky. We had a teacher who somehow incorporated movements and gestures from martial arts traditions. The teenagers loved that. We had another who could not control the class at all – that was probably more damaging for the children than any ‘spookiness’ in the gestures.

    My son, (who is an atheist), tells me that the only noticeable effect eurythmy had on him was that when he was in Florence he was able to detect the movements of pick-pockets behind him, and grab their hands before they removed his wallet. So maybe it has some use after all!

  17. What is the ‘content’ of eurythmy?

    Funny you should ask…
    “I speak in all humility when I say that within the Anthroposophical Movement there is a firm conviction that a spiritual impulse of this kind must now, at the present time, enter once more into human evolution. And this spiritual impulse must perforce, among its other means of expression, embody itself in a new form of art. It will increasingly be realised that this particular form of art has been given to the world in Eurythmy.

    It is the task of Anthroposophy to bring a greater depth, a wider vision and a more living spirit into the other forms of art. But the art of Eurythmy could only grow up out of the soul of Anthroposophy; could only receive its inspiration through a purely Anthroposophical conception.”

    From Rudolf Steiner’s “Lecture on Eurythmy” August 26, 1923

  18. Are you claiming that pupils in a eurythmy lesson are receiving the ‘content’ you quote above, Pete?
    To me that seems unlikely.

  19. Tom – just a note. My children were at two Steiner schools in England. I was a trustee, for a while, at one of them. I know ex-pupils, ex-teachers, members of the SWSF and some of the former teaching staff at the University of Plymouth. It’s an accident of fate that this is the case. I didn’t plan it. Had I known what this was I would never have had anything to do with any of it. I would have been revolted.

    But it does mean there’s someone here who isn’t ignorant of the situation in this country. I’d say Perra’s work is important and relevant here too.

    I don’t know why you’re spending so much time defending Steiner ed – why is that? When you have admitted before on this blog that the schools should be honest – and seem always so surprised to discover they are not. And looking at the free schools applications and the protestations from the aforementioned SWSF – I can tell you that in my opinion they are lying through their teeth.

    Pete has done a fine job writing about anthroposophy on British sites, especially on the Quackometer. The more insults thrown at him, the greater the impact he must be making. Anthro snouts are in the free school trough in England – but their rear ends are exposed. The more they gobble – the bigger the target.

    ‘Are you claiming that pupils in a eurythmy lesson are receiving the ‘content’ you quote above, Pete?
    To me that seems unlikely.’

    Why is it there at all, then? Why not take it out and replace it with something the children enjoy – like football, or street-dancing? Why go to the bother of training eurythmists? I agree – I bet whatever is supposed to be the point of this temple dancing fails every time. That’s not the issue. The point is that this is a religious activity, and we were not told it was. I can’t pretend to be traumatised, I wasn’t traumatised by this deceit. I don’t want to suggest it’s more important than it is – that things don’t happen in other educational settings far worse than this particular act of folly and deception. But in a broader sense, Waldorf is uniquely duplicitous.

  20. Melanie asks, ‘I don’t know why you’re spending so much time defending Steiner ed – why is that?’.

    The short answer is because I do believe Steiner Education has the potential to be a marvelous way of educating children.

    It is not a way that will suit every child, and not one that should be funded with public money.

    Major issues with some of the schools as they are now are their lack of professionalism and their apparent inability to be honest about exactly what it is they are doing. I believe if these things can be changed then this way of education and the values that underlie it should be available for those who want/need/are prepared to pay for it.

    One way to describe eurythmy would be a form of dance or rhythmic movement related to ancient sacred dance and believed to have a healing/harmonious effect on people who take part. It is a spiritual practice described by Rudolf Steiner and one he felt to be important for the nurturing of well-balanced children. For this reason it is on the curriculum for every child at a Steiner school.

  21. “Are you claiming that pupils in a eurythmy lesson are receiving the ‘content’ you quote above, Pete?
    To me that seems unlikely.”

    Don’t you think it’s at least as likely as… they’re quietly developing their ninja pickpocket detecting skills…

  22. ‘..I do believe Steiner Education has the potential to be a marvelous way of educating children.’

    In what way? What would you have to remove to make that even feasible? Anthroposophy. And then it wouldn’t be Steiner education.

    eurythmy: ‘It is a spiritual practice described by Rudolf Steiner and one he felt to be important for the nurturing of well-balanced children. For this reason it is on the curriculum for every child at a Steiner school.’

    Yes, it’s religious. And he’s the guru.

  23. “What is the ‘content’ of eurythmy?”

    You know, but not everyone reading this knows, that Eurythmy is “dance” that represents speech (no music). Poems are recited and the movements represent the words of the poems. The poems, undoubtedly, have Anthroposophical content – as do all the stories and literature in Waldorf schools.

  24. Tom:

    ‘Yes, I would agree, but I find that difficult to tie up with it being ‘anthroposophical content’. What is the ‘content’ of eurythmy?’

    The content — maybe that is a slightly unsuiting word — is what the eurythmists/anthroposophists believe about it, about why it is performed, why it is important, what it’s supposed to mean, et c. What makes them take it so bloody seriously, as if the fate of the entire universe rested upon the awe and respect for eurythmy. Now, as Pete pointed out, there’s not rarely concrete content as well, in the lessons.

    ‘Eurythmy is spooky if the teacher is spooky. We had a teacher who somehow incorporated movements and gestures from martial arts traditions. The teenagers loved that. We had another who could not control the class at all – that was probably more damaging for the children than any ‘spookiness’ in the gestures.’

    I’m not talking about spookiness in the gestures (even though they’re quite spooky), I’m thinking about the spookiness of the teachers and their behaviour. I had a teacher who had the problems you describe. The lessons sometimes ended in some kind of emotional breakdowns. She took eurythmy with deadly seriousness. It was the most important thing, to her, no doubt. The children, however, don’t understand why the entire world hinges on this ridiculous exercise. And there are no explanations, just this dystopic mood that permeates everything. And then there were the eurythmy performances we had to watch, by pro eurythmy companies — awful. People floating about on stage looking as though they were about to die, all of them. Ambiance of doom.

    If there was no content behind eurythmy, no beliefs to support its existance, I can’t think of a reason why it would become a ridiculous thing like this.

    ‘My son, (who is an atheist), tells me that the only noticeable effect eurythmy had on him was that when he was in Florence he was able to detect the movements of pick-pockets behind him, and grab their hands before they removed his wallet. So maybe it has some use after all!’

    Haha! Although I don’t think that’s the only effect it has (even if the most tangible and useful one!) — simply because that would mean it had less effect than most things we encounter in life. And I don’t believe that is possible about eurythmy. Especially not when it is performed twice a week for many years.

    About the quote Pete posted:

    ‘Are you claiming that pupils in a eurythmy lesson are receiving the ‘content’ you quote above, Pete?’

    I firmly believe that the children receive the message that is embodied in these passages or the consequences of it. Not the words, but the message. They don’t understand it, but those passages provide a pretty damn good explanation to the teachers’ bizarrely dead-serious behaviour and the feeling of doom that surely emanates from this conception of eurythmy as so Important. That the teacher believes the stuff Pete quoted has an effect on them — it’s not lost on the children.

    ‘It is a spiritual practice described by Rudolf Steiner and one he felt to be important for the nurturing of well-balanced children.’

    The only thing I can say with certainty is that he was wrong! At least if he spoke about effects in this life — I can’t talk with certainity about effects in later incarnations… I don’t think I’e ever seen anything so quickly unbalance children as eurythmy had the potential to do.

  25. I appreciate all the responses above but I want to comment at the moment on only one, Alicia says –
    ‘The only thing I can say with certainty is that he was wrong! At least if he spoke about effects in this life — I can’t talk with certainity about effects in later incarnations… I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so quickly unbalance children as eurythmy had the potential to do.’

    I appreciate the straightforwardness of this answer, especially coming from someone who was on the receiving end of eurythmy. There are children/people for whom the whole Steiner experience is highly aversive and this is something the schools need to be aware of and admit, ‘this is not for everybody’. As a head teacher I sometimes encountered this situation that a child who was not happy in my school might well flourish somewhere else and vice versa.

  26. That box again!

  27. That box problem seems to be a permanent torture not a temporary glitch this time. (Do you try what I recommended — expand the box first, pressing enter until it’s large enough?)

    (I’ll remove the last sentence.)

    True, what you say. Prominent waldorf supporters and representatives seem to deny that the schools have any such responsibility though. (I’ve probably written about it many times, but I remember I wrote about it in Swedish here: http://zooey.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/passar-alla-barn-i-waldorfskola-och-om-skolans-ansvar/.)

    And one eurythmy teacher we had was slightly better equipped to handle children, so she worked with the younger children mainly (I think, this was the case with us). The other eurythmy teachers had a knack for making children immediately loathe them. The problem still is, however, if eurythmy has anything suitable or valuable for children. Even if the teacher is not of the most horrifying kind. I would also hazard a guess that it is almost impossible to find enough eurythmists who don’t take eurythmy with dead seriousness.

  28. Melanie asked what would have to be removed from Steiner education to make it feasible and offered immediately the answer, ‘Anthroposophy.’

    I don’t see this. There is a great deal in Anthroposophy which some people (me included) find to be true and life enhancing. I would say it contained truths but not evidence-based truth in the prescriptive way which many adherents of scientific materialism would want it. It definitely goes against the prevailing orthodoxy as expressed by Dawkins, Cox, Gray and many media personalities.

    Where he really fell into error was in his racial stereotyping and some of the things he said to teachers. What makes his racial stereotyping wrong is not that it is NOT evidence based but that it is morally and spiritually repulsive. Even within his own cosmology I feel it clashes with what he says about the divine spark present within every human being (and dog, of course).
    I use my own moral judgement in what I accept from him and would hope others will also.

  29. ‘It definitely goes against the prevailing orthodoxy as expressed by Dawkins, Cox, Gray and many media personalities.’

    You don’t say. And not just the pitifully reductionist one expressed by these flyweights.

    Brian Cox explaining Steiner’s cosmology would be deeply funny. Or better still, Tim Minchin. To music. Using eurythmy. It will happen.. possibly fairly soon, the way things are going in Steinerland.

  30. ‘I don’t see this. There is a great deal in Anthroposophy which some people (me included) find to be true and life enhancing.’

    If they want to keep expanding the movement and increasing the number of schools, if they want to attract more people, they would have to remove anthroposophy. On the other hand, then they’re just going to be ridiculous anyway, and that’s no recipe for success either, and is — sooner or later — bound to make people who do find anthroposophy ‘true and life enhancing’ displeased with the development.

    But also — just because it can be seen as ‘true and life-enhancing’, does it make it a good basis for an education?

  31. and if it’s so ‘true and life-enhancing’, why aren’t its supporters shouting it from the (copper, and thus burglar-alarmed) rooftops?

  32. that would be so un-esoteric! And all the gnomes in the area would be warned, so how would the anthros manage to capture them? Now, that would be the end of waldorf education…

  33. Hollywood Tomfortas · ·

    Alicia,

    Many thanks for taking control of this thread and focusing on the “methods” question. I must take both credit and blame for the explosion of comments on the previous thread only because I succeeded in getting Daniel Perez to join the fun and his arrival ignited the firestorm of comments that almost reached 400. (Did it set the record for most comments ever?)

    Daniel has moved on but I shall invite him back for this new thread, telling him to focus on the two Steiner pronouncements that are really two sides of the same coin:

    [1] the dissolving away of separate Waldorf schools into “education at large” and

    [2] Waldorf is just a method and like a method can be applied anywhere in any school under any cultural conditions.

    I see this is a favorite theme of yours, that Waldorf needs to have its identity as Waldorf maintained and not become “bland” and “watered-down,” etc. And yet those two pronouncements of Steiner are totally at odds with your view. And I find it greatly ironic that Frank and I, who have a combined age of 144 (hey that’s [a] gross!) are both propounding this liberal, progressive, post-modern view of Waldorf losing its old identity whereas you take the conservative old-fashioned view that Waldorf needs to keep the old Waldorf way.

    I sense a real wistfulness in your attitude, Alicia, as if you really wanted what Waldorf could have given you, but instead you were victimized by that terrible teacher. (Just imagine if you had a good teacher at the beginning. Why you might be a Waldorf teacher yourself today with Mr. Dog chasing gnomes instead of rabbits. OK, maybe a canineosophical teacher in a Waldorf Kennel.)

    The point is: you are trying to recapture something lost from your past. And if you can’t find it, then you are demanding that Waldorf schools keep their identity long enough so that perhaps others may find it, if you can’t. But that locks you into focusing on the past.

    Steiner was clear that whatever he taught the first group of Waldorf teachers in Stuttgart was tailored exclusively for them since he saw Waldorf as method (Process not Product)

    But what happened? He dies in 1925 and immediately his followers fill that vacuum with the only thing they could do for their guru cult leader — preserve his work perfectly. And preserve it they did, thus making all his process directives into a literally stoned product.

    (Here I must explain to the non-German speaking readers, the wonderful pun on Steiner’s name that is so appropriate to our time. In German, “Stein” is a noun for “stone, rock.” The verb infinitive form “to turn something into stone” is “versteinern.” And you’ll notice that the name appears right there in the verb: “verSTEINERn.”)

    And what I tried to explain in the previous thread about the skeleton of anthroposophy and saying there are no more surprises to come out of Dornach is that anthroposophy is now “fully versteinert.” That is, “fully ossified” because the GA is complete in English, now that all the forbidden and banned lectures and lecture excerpts have been fully accounted for and publicized by the Critics.

    When Pete talked about all the new stuff — the scandals, Wala, Weleda, Triodos Bank, Gregoire Parra, etc. he was looking at the perceptual side of things (Wahrnehmung). That of course, is always new and always changing in the here and now. What I meant by “nothing new coming out of Dornach” is that the conceptual or explanatory content is now completely out there, completely preserved for anyone and everyone to read about on some blog or another. Thus there is nothing new to enter the conceptual or explanatory purview of the Critics to apply to the ever-burgeoning new situations in the here and now.

    And that milestone I believe is the crucial tipping point in the ongoing war between the Critics and Defenders. (Which, BTW, is a War of Public Relations). What I am saying is that the Critics no longer have anything new to add to their EXPLANATORY arsenal because that arsenal is entirely equipped by the source material of Steiner’s ossified statements in the GA.

    Furthermore, this “tipping point” is actually now to the great advantage of the Critics because the final pieces of the ossification process were all these forbidden/banned lectures with the juiciest racist content like the “shifty-eyed libidinous negroes” and the coming race war between the whites and yellows, and those degenerate races going extinct. I mean, how could the Critics NOT win all these PR battles with juicy racist content like that?

    However, sometimes the best strategy to win a war is to allow and accept the losses of many battles. And that is why I tried to inform Daniel Perez about all those nasty suppressed lecture excerpts in the previous thread — in order to show him how the Waldorf Defenders are defending the indefensible in Steiner, and thus have already lost the PR battle.

    So now that Steiner has become “fully versteinert,” then all his indefensible statements are hanging out there in their full ugliness for all to see. And that’s what I mean by “no more surprises.”

    I’ll explain more later, Alicia, but let me stop here by saying that I am actually more supportive of Melanie’s position to get rid of anthroposophy than of yours to keep it. I say it a different way than she does, though. I say we need an “Anthroposophy without Steiner based on a Christianity without Christ.”

    I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but trust me, it is. I never got the hang of Steiner’s Imagination-Inspiration-Intuition exercises, so instead I worked to develop my faculty of Counter-Intuition. Mr. Dog will understand.

  34. ‘(Did it set the record for most comments ever?)’

    Nope. It needed 80 more comments to break that. (The thread about Wala and Weleda paying for smears of researchers and critics of altmed was over 450 comments.)

    ‘instead you were victimized by that terrible teacher.’

    Hm. Which one of them? I’m not talking about one teacher, I’m talking about many bad teachers. The class teacher was not at all so bad, I don’t feel victimized. I consider her a rather good teacher working in a shitty system that couldn’t function. But I have no idea which teacher you’re talking about.

    ‘The point is: you are trying to recapture something lost from your past. And if you can’t find it, then you are demanding that Waldorf schools keep their identity long enough so that perhaps others may find it, if you can’t. But that locks you into focusing on the past.’

    I have no problem finding the anthroposophical elements of the waldorf education I had, if that’s what you mean. I simply urge that waldorf schools today are honest about what they are.

    ‘I mean, how could the Critics NOT win all these PR battles with juicy racist content like that?’

    I personally am not in a PR battle, and, moreover, I don’t use those juicy bits because I think they’re not entirely irrelevant but mostly so. I don’t think they have much to do with what waldorf education is. They’re interesting in other respects, but that’s something else. (No, correction, they aren’t so interesting, but how waldorf proponents deal with them is quite fascinating.) But surely, one could stir up a lot by focusing on them all the time. They’re what people get agitated about. I think it’s a pity — lots of aspects that are more relevant to waldorf education are being forgotten when people are flinging race quotes at each other as monkeys flinging turds.

    ‘I say we need an “Anthroposophy without Steiner based on a Christianity without Christ.”’

    Perhaps an anthroposophy without waldorf. Which I’ve suggested.

  35. “Perhaps an anthroposophy without waldorf. Which I’ve suggested.”

    That would be the best. Then Anthros could just go away and believe whatever they like – and do so without HARMING ANYONE’S CHILDREN!!!

  36. Hollywood Tomfortas · ·

    Perhaps an anthroposophy without waldorf. Which I’ve suggested.

    You know, there would have been an anthroposophy without Waldorf had not Emil Molt opened his big fat trap and asked Steiner about helping educate the children of his Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory workers.

    Same thing with eurythmy. Imagine if Lori Schmidt’s mother did not bother to ask Steiner in 1912 about a career in movement for her daughter.

    Look at this little tidbit on wiki-answers about it.
    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_eurythmy

    Same with the Christian Community. It was the Lutheran ministers who asked Steiner about re-invigorating their religious services. Prior to that, Steiner didn’t give a rat’s ass about religious denominations and rituals.

    The point is that Steiner would not have created any of these “daughter movements” on his own, pre-emptively. Rather, he would do nothing until somebody asked him to help out in some area or another. But then of course, once he started, you just couldn’t shut him up.

  37. Melanie, I was not suggesting that Dawkins et al are fly-weights. In Steiner’s cosmology reductionist materialism is a valid point of view. Someone who understands it fully can see the truth in it.

    “why aren’t its supporters shouting it from the (copper, and thus burglar-alarmed) rooftops?’
    “If they want to keep expanding the movement and increasing the number of schools, if they want to attract more people, they would have to remove anthroposophy.”

    I have no interest in converting anyone else to my point of view. Those who need anthroposophy will find it.

    I write on Alicia’s blog not to persuade anyone but to try and set the record straight about Steiner , anthroposophy and Waldorf. I chose Alicia’s blog because it has the most cogent contributors, interesting points of view and witty repartee. I enjoy reading it.

    One of the biggest mistakes the Steiner Schools have made has been trying to expand provision rather than improve the quality and professionalism of what they do.

  38. And in the Ethereal kiosk one finds canineosophy, of course!

  39. Nobody minds what you do with your religious impulses, as long as you keep them away from children and guns.

    You could start your own esoteric movement if you feel so dispirited about this one, why not? Could be the making of you.

  40. that was in reply to Tom M.

  41. Tom HS: ‘set the record straight’. Who for? The casual reader? Steiner Parents who may be passing? In reply it becomes necessary to set it straighter. This could be a hospital ward with an unruly patient who keeps kicking off the sheets. You think you are Matron. Every now and then it becomes necessary to call security.

    What is this ‘scientific materialism’? Does it have an actual meaning, or is it purely an insult?

  42. “You know, there would have been an anthroposophy without Waldorf had not Emil Molt opened his big fat trap and asked Steiner about helping educate the children of his Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory workers. ”

    Naw… Steiner had already written a book about education… He was definitely into it almost a decade before Molt. I thought you knew this stuff Tom?

  43. “Those who need anthroposophy will find it.”

    And those who DON’T need it? Thanks to Waldorf schools, they’ll find it too… only difference is… they won’t be told what *it* is. What Waldorf schools do is underhanded AND criminal. Anthroposophy will be around long after Waldorf has been dismantled. Waldorf is to education what homeopathy is to medicine.

  44. Melanie says, “Tom HS: ‘set the record straight’. Who for?”

    For anyone who is interested enough in the conversation that they care about the truth of the content.

    For example, if I came across a public blog where people were discussing the history of English involvement in Ireland and I felt they were mistaken in what they were saying I would ‘try to set the record straight’ according to the best of my knowledge.

    Presumably one of the reasons Alicia discusses these things on a public blog is that she wants other people to comment, to hear other points of view, even if they don’t match her own.

    I appreciate Alicia’s integrity, the way she is open about her thoughts, feelings and her life challenges. It really does not matter to me that she doesn’t share my point of view, but I think she cares about truth and would want to know if she is mistaken about something.

    “scientific materialism” is not intended as an insult. The phrase is shorthand for a prevailing world-view.

  45. Eugene Schwartz: http://www.michaelhall.co.uk/school-life/news/2012/10/22/inspirational-talk-about-steiner-education-this-week/

    ‘Waldorf methodologies continue to outpace even the most ambitious school reforms and mainstream educators are taking notice.’

    I would question the veracity of these statements. I hope Mr Schwartz is candid about karma however, as he was at Rudolf Steiner House. Available here:

    http://millennialchild.com/Resources/podcasts.html

    Epic stuff.

  46. Tom what do you mean by ‘scientific materialism’?

    You implied that the truth of anthroposophy can’t be perceived by those lost in the dark shadow of ‘scientific materialism’. But I think if you really intend to set store by that term (and I suspect you didn’t think that hard before using it) you take a simplistic, reductionist view of modern science, and of the individuals you mentioned by name.

    Steiner’s insights should be subject to analysis by those external to the movement. If that’s impossible, they can’t be said to be ‘true’. They are as yet unproven hypotheses (you could say philosophical propositions made as a basis for reasoning, without any assumption of their truth) or fantasy. There’s nothing wrong with fantasy. (Of course we know it’s called ‘spiritual science’, and there are various assumptions, but you could call a fish a rabbit and it would still be a fish).

    Or you could say that anthroposophy is a religion, which I believe it is.

    You could say that the truth is in there if only scientists were prepared to develop the right tools. That the akashic chronicle is real in the same way that that a rock is real, rather than the way Narnia is real. Narnia was real to me, as a child. The world of the imagination is a part of our reality – it’s part of our consciousness. Part of our amazing brains.

    If you want to improve education, you need well trained, motivated and well-supported teachers, a good relationship between teachers and students, less political meddling, decent resources and so on. In England we need to make our education system less divisive, but we seem to be making this problem worse. I don’t have the answers but I suspect research might help – if anyone in government took any notice of research. So it’s great for my kids atm, but it was always going to be great for my kids. Even in Waldorf, the children of the educated middle classes find it easier to survive their education.

    There’s no point me coming back to this thread to say I don’t think Waldorf is very good – I don’t think it is. I can’t think of anything worse than imposing one class teacher on children for seven years, in fact I’ve witnessed it leading to all sorts of abuses. The relationship students are supposed to have with their teacher in a Steiner school is distinctly dodgy, in my view, even when it’s going to plan. But then I am a fan of democracy in schools, and greater student voice, and the teaching of critical thinking from a young age, and the rights of children. It has made my second son a thorn in the thick hide of his grammar school, but being certain they must be seen to be right about everything they pretend not to notice.

  47. “For example, if I came across a public blog where people were discussing the history of English involvement in Ireland and I felt they were mistaken in what they were saying I would ‘try to set the record straight’ according to the best of my knowledge.”

    I’ve tried that on Anthroposophical blogs… it turns out, they’re not *public* blogs after all…

  48. speaking of eurythmy, this is very funny:

  49. it isn’t Vorsprung durch Technik, is it?

  50. Bell Paynter · ·

    Hi, Melanie. Trotting back in here. I can’t help myself. When you say the following things, I wonder how you ever got involved in Waldorf in the first place? (If you don’t mind my asking?)

    “My children were at two Steiner schools in England. I was a trustee, for a while, at one of them. I know ex-pupils, ex-teachers, members of the SWSF and some of the former teaching staff at the University of Plymouth. It’s an accident of fate that this is the case. I didn’t plan it. Had I known what this was I would never have had anything to do with any of it. I would have been revolted.”

    and

    “I can’t think of anything worse than imposing one class teacher on children for seven years, in fact I’ve witnessed it leading to all sorts of abuses. The relationship students are supposed to have with their teacher in a Steiner school is distinctly dodgy, in my view, even when it’s going to plan. But then I am a fan of democracy in schools, and greater student voice, and the teaching of critical thinking from a young age, and the rights of children.”

    Given the strong values you apparently hold (and have held), how did it come to pass that you sent your kids to two Waldorf schools and got so heavily involved? I can’t tell you how many people I meet who share your general outlook…hear a thing or two about Waldorf (like the class teacher thing)…and then promptly move on, knowing its not for them. I hope I am not winding anything up here but its curious to me how someone could get heavily involved in something they detest on principle. Or, am I reading your experience incorrectly? Was it only after your experience with Waldorf that you discovered you held these values? I am not trying to debate you or anything; just trying to understand.

  51. Hollywood Tomfortas · ·

    Melanie!

    Excellent find on Eugene Schwartz! Truly a blast from the past for me since I’ve known Eugene since I met him in 1980 when he was a class teacher at the Green Meadow Waldorf School in Spring Valley, NY, which happens to be the alma mater of our recent Waldorf Kioskian, Daniel Perez.

    I see that his talk at Michael Hall was just this past Tuesday. I’m not sure if he’s just beginning or ending a European tour, which of course has to include a pilgrimage to the 5th Post-Atlantean HQ in Dornach, but I shall diligently endeavor to contact him and invite him to the Kiosk. He may not take the plunge like Daniel did, but I will certainly relay your questions to him abut the vast, uh, “cognitive dissonance,” as it were, between his Michael Hall lecture on Waldorf methodologies and all his karma and reincarnation lectures.

  52. Earlier Melanie, said, “You implied that the truth of anthroposophy can’t be perceived by those lost in the dark shadow of ‘scientific materialism’. But I think if you really intend to set store by that term (and I suspect you didn’t think that hard before using it) you take a simplistic, reductionist view of modern science, and of the individuals you mentioned by name”.

    I have a degree in philosophy from Exeter, graduating 43 years ago, my memory is a bit rusty, so I will call for a little help from Wikipedia –

    ‘In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter or energy; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance, and reality is identical with the actually occurring states of energy and matter’.

    I wasn’t implying anything, I stated quite clearly that materialism whether ‘reductionist’ ‘eliminative’ or ‘scientific’ is true from a certain perspective. I believe Dawkins and Cox, both scientists, are materialists in the sense given above, I would be very interested to hear about it if they are not. I know there are many variations of the definition given above- attempts to explain the phenomena of consciousness within this paradigm – I don’t imagine it is a simple explanation.

    I call it an orthodoxy because many adherents of materialism refuse to countenance that there is any other valid way of seeing things. For example in the God Delusion Dawkins says that all claims for God’s existence are “hypotheses about the universe”, and therefore the exclusive province of science and reason.

    I don’t know of any serious theologian, or philosopher dealing in teleological themes, (the latter being one way to characterise Steiner’s work) who thinks that they are making “hypotheses about the universe”. Dawkins insistence that it is so is simply a dogmatic assertion.

    Gray seems to believe that his own consciousness is an illusion, and that what is meant by truth is an idea which serves the evolutionary process, in which case we can ask is his hypothesis true? How would we evaluate any evidence he brought to support his theory unless by asking is it true that it supports the theory or false?

  53. Bell – ‘I hope I am not winding anything up here’

    No, I’m scarily cool. Things are not always as they seem, however nice people are.

  54. Tom M – will there be a dissonance? He’s generally pretty candid, from what I can tell. I applaud him for that.

  55. Tom H – goodness, refer away. If if weren’t for wiki we’d have to consult a passing philosopher. I’m not ignoring you – it is after all very interesting – but will have to come back later.

  56. [...] about… what is it now, I’m out of the loop again — anthroposophy without waldorf, waldorf without anthroposophy…? I hope Rudi recognizes me when he wakes up from his [...]

  57. .. shall we move over to the other post? Bring your glasses…

  58. Tom: ‘I chose Alicia’s blog because it has the most cogent contributors, interesting points of view and witty repartee. [...] And in the Ethereal kiosk one finds canineosophy, of course!’

    I adore my readers and comment contributors! They are so lovely and wise (mr Dog nods).

    Melanie: ‘Tom HS: ‘set the record straight’. Who for? The casual reader? Steiner Parents who may be passing?’

    Wait a second! Think about all those who are half-asleep on the sofas and who don’t say anything much. Found one snoring behind a table last night, between comments. Don’t know who they are but I think they like to listen. Various kinds of spiritual beings frequent this place of course.

    Tom: ‘Presumably one of the reasons Alicia discusses these things on a public blog is that she wants other people to comment, to hear other points of view, even if they don’t match her own.’

    True. It’s interesting, though, that when beginning to blog I think few people have any idea how they will feel about and deal with comments. I certainly didn’t! It’s more fun to write when the readers are not only an anonymous bunch you know nothing about and who don’t know about each other. More fun this way.

    ‘… would want to know if she is mistaken about something.’

    Yes, please.

    ‘“scientific materialism” is not intended as an insult. The phrase is shorthand for a prevailing world-view.’

    I find this claim (re scientific materialism being the prevailing world-view) very interesting, because I’ve heard it often from anthroposophists. I do wonder if it really is true — a significant majority of the earth’s population, even of the population of relatively secular Europe, holds religious/spiritual/supernatural beliefs.

    Melanie: ‘it isn’t Vorsprung durch Technik, is it?’

    I assume not… I’m not sure it’s any kind of Vorsprung at all. We’ll see who arrives first to the next epoch… ;-)

    Bell P: ‘I can’t tell you how many people I meet who share your general outlook…hear a thing or two about Waldorf (like the class teacher thing)…and then promptly move on, knowing its not for them.’

    I suppose it depends on what you hear, and how honest what you hear is. It might be difficult to grasp the problems with, e g, the class teacher thing, unless you’ve seen it. Especially if it’s presented as a brilliant idea. I don’t know. And with many other things with waldorf, parents are badly informed. They don’t understand just how significant the academic delay is, they don’t understand that the children won’t catch up any time soon. Because they aren’t told. And, generally, I suppose, people trust that teachers know what they’re doing and they trust the promises they’re given by the school. You’ve got to do that, to be able to send the kid there. I don’t know, I’m not a parent. But waldorf is pretty good at seducing parents who are unhappy with mainstream society, who want something different, who want something nice and pleasing to the eye. Perhaps they’re ready to put up with some things that don’t appeal to them just to have what they, at least at first, see as advantages of waldorf.

    Tom: ‘For example in the God Delusion Dawkins says that all claims for God’s existence are “hypotheses about the universe”, and therefore the exclusive province of science and reason.’

    He says that? I’ve read the book, long ago, but don’t remember. I would have thought he’d allow such claims to be the province of fiction too. At least.

    Interesting. All of it. I’m eagerly looking forward to Melanie’s reply…!!

  59. ‘.. shall we move over to the other post? Bring your glasses…’

    Yes! But we cannot take the eurythmy football video with us, Rudi is allergic to eurythmy. (What’s so funny about that video is that the voice-over is reading the, oh, you know, what are they called… the football reporter? Anyway, the football reporter’s words at the end of some important game. But with that very strange anthro rhythm and intonation. Now I’ve suddenly forgotten the english word for that particular art form too. It’s hilarious because it’s so wrong.)

  60. ‘ I would have thought he’d allow such claims to be the province of fiction too. At least. ‘ Touché , Alicia, or in this case ToShea!

  61. ‘I call it an orthodoxy because many adherents of materialism refuse to countenance that there is any other valid way of seeing things’

    Without wanting to second-guess either Dawkins or Cox, I’d suggest that either is quite capable of countenancing (accepting as possible) alternative explanations for phenomena. One could not accuse either scientist of a failure of imagination.

    But they would suggest that there needs to be sufficient evidence to take seriously a theory as unlikely as Steiner’s – karma, reincarnation, elemental beings etc. since the evidence points to matter and energy being sufficient to explain beauty, jealousy, all the complexities of our intimate interactions with the world around us. I personally don’t see why elemental beings can’t be one or the other, and doubt that there’s a need for a separate magisterium to explain a fairy, if fairies existed. Which luckily (if you are wary of Puck) isn’t the case.

    Human consciousness isn’t understood, but there isn’t any evidence that the answers lie outside matter and energy. Or there isn’t any evidence yet. Produce the evidence, as PZ Myers says about a giant christ walking across the landscape, and scientists would be eager to investigate. Then, of course, karma and reincarnation and archangels would cease to be supersensible, and gnomes would be seen to be subject to the process of evolution, and it could get much more interesting.

    But of course the fun for anthroposophists is in being outside science, outside what can be understood by scientific materialists – to coin the term. There is their evidence, which is subjective – and not just in terms of personal narrative (accepted in the academy) it claims to be evidence of eternal verities which the rest of us cannot understand without taking a parallel (subjective) path of initiation. And thus anthroposophists talk themselves out of the argument, and into obscurity.

    Anyway, Alicia writes:

    ‘I find this claim (re scientific materialism being the prevailing world-view) very interesting, because I’ve heard it often from anthroposophists. I do wonder if it really is true — a significant majority of the earth’s population, even of the population of relatively secular Europe, holds religious/spiritual/supernatural beliefs.’

    I agree – I think this too.

  62. ..I’m pondering the bizarre space outside matter and energy and yet not supersensible (not even a word in my online dictionary) occupied by archangels, suspended in a celestial fish tank. It’s the ethereal kiosk’s cod Summa Theologica.

  63. How am I going to be able to sleep now, I can’t stop laughing!

  64. maybe they can nip out through a wormhole?

  65. the archangels? I’m sure they can! Otherwise, Michael would not be hovering around the gates of the ethereal kiosk… Or are we all in the celestial fish tank?

  66. Melanie actually wrote:
    “Human consciousness isn’t understood, but there isn’t any evidence that the answers lie outside matter and energy. For herOr there isn’t any evidence yet. Produce the evidence, as PZ Myers says about a giant christ walking across the landscape, and scientists would be eager to investigate. Then, of course, karma and reincarnation and archangels would cease to be supersensible, and gnomes would be seen to be subject to the process of evolution, and it could get much more interesting…” which disappoints me greatly because – although she hasn’t a clue about the meaning of things – Melanie would have offered a more intelligent argument for her viewpoint. All I must do to shoot you down, Melanie, is demand that you produce evidence that the items you listed above do NOT exist. You see? You can’t, so we are in the same boat. The difference is that I am enjoying the view and you are denigrating it as an illusion. Frank

  67. I like the fish tank analogy. Of course when you’re in a fish tank, and very isolated, you can swallow a lot of crap… (hook, line and sinker, so to speak). And there’s certainly a lot of crap floating around in an isolated society (like any Waldorf school). What one fish pulls out of his ass, the rest of the fish are ready to swallow… they don’t know any better.

    As people who are outside the fish tank and can see it for what it is, we Waldorf critics are always tempted to be good caretakers of the tank. While the old fish are quite happy swallowing each others crap, Waldorf critics feel the baby fish deserve better. As good caretakers, Waldorf critics have been introducing a new “filter” in the tank… so that not so much crap is floating around. We call that filter “critical thinking” – and the filter works extremely well at clearing up the water. When the crap that’s Anthroposophy is filtered through critical thinking, Anthroposophy’s substance becomes very clear… almost invisible. Great news! The embargo has been lifted and critical thinking is, once again, available to everyone. If you’re having trouble installing your filter, feel free to drop by the Ethereal Kiosk for help.

  68. Ted Wrinch · ·

    I just dropped in to contribute a bit of caninosophy, that’s come my way. Dogs yawn to match us and our moods (though our cute little spitz does a whole lot all on her own), and the research is from Alicia’s neck of the woods:

    Bone Tired: Study Shows Yawning Dogs Empathizing with Owners

    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/technology/2012/10/bone-tired-study-shows-yawning-dogs-empathizing-with-owners/

    T.

    Ted Wrinch

  69. hello Frank!

    it doesn’t work the other way.

    I can’t prove there isn’t a celestial teapot orbiting the earth. But if you want to convince me that there is, you have to at least bring me a cup a tea.

  70. I became an involuntary cockney in that last comment! Cup ‘a tea Frank? Put down yer soft porn me old china and pull up a chair. ‘Ere’s a bit of Bertrand Russell, what a geezer!

    “Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”

    Clever bloke.

  71. Professors Cox and Dawkins would not suggest they were able to disprove the existence of the celestial teapot, in fact Dawkins employs the teapot in The God Delusion:

    “What matters, is not whether God is disprovable (he isn’t), but whether his existence is probable.. Some undisprovable things are sensibly judged far less probable than other undisprovable things.”

    Of course a great many people don’t agree with this reasoning, and the debate will continue as long as there are humans, because we’re humans. However in terms of this thread – basing a school pedagogy on a vast heap of highly improbable things is not a very good idea. It is more serious than Michael Gove basing the English history curriculum on ‘Our Island Story’ imo, even if he throws in ‘1066 and all that’ which, for American readers, is a similar though even funnier book.

    probable….

  72. Yes, Russell was a clever bloke. But he has used a silly example. He is treating God as a physical object.

    There IS no ‘evidence’ that would convince me of the reality of the spiritual world. It isn’t the sort of thing there can be evidence for. It is something in the realm of ‘how life has meaning’ and those are issues that can only be addressed by the self-aware individual out of their own experience of being a living person. In that word ‘experience’ i include everything our culture gives us.

    Whenever someone claims to have ‘evidence’ for the existence of the soul or of ‘life after death’, or of the existence of angels, etc., I always think, ‘Aye, aye,- here come another cock and bull story’.

  73. word got away at the end there, Pete, get a net!

  74. Nor is the existence of the spiritual world a matter of probability!

  75. its existence isn’t a matter of probability – it either exists or it doesn’t. However we can use the available evidence to ascertain whether it is likely that a spiritual world exists.

  76. “However we can use the available evidence to ascertain whether it is likely that a spiritual world exists.”

    And that Steiner, of all people, was privy to its inner workings. Yeah, that’s likely alright…

  77. Mr Dog, who likes to shatter my illusions, claims that he only yawns because I’m so boring. But I prefer to believe Ted’s link to canineosophical science.

    I, like Melanie, would like that cup of tea.

    Tom wrote: ‘But he has used a silly example. He is treating God as a physical object.’

    it seems to me quite a number of religious people do too. And the appealing ‘experience’ view on god you present seems far from many people’s gods — gods who has opinions on how life is led, gods who demand things, gods who meddle in the material world…

  78. Yes, there is a lot of superstition around.

  79. Ted Wrinch · ·

    Melanie said:

    “…the evidence points to matter and energy being sufficient to explain beauty, jealousy…Human consciousness isn’t understood, but there isn’t any evidence thatthe answers lie outside matter and energy.”

    OTOH, even Steven Hawking has asked the question as to ‘what breathes fire into the laws of physics’. I would suggest that the absence of ‘fire’ is only a problem because people tend to believe that thought lives only in our heads, in brains. It’s pretty clear that this can’t be the case – we take the idea of an inverse square law and unite it with the facts to be able to understand and explain phenomena like gravitation and electromagnetism (upto a point: no one knows what these forces really are) but this can’t be what nature does. Roger Penrose, co-descoverer of black holes with Hawkings, talks in terms of three worlds, one of which is a Platonic realm of thought, that inter- penetrate to create our world. At any rate, thought is not matter or energy and it’s pretty clear that you need all three to have a universe.

    T.

    Ted Wrinch

  80. Ted Wrinch · ·

    To add to the confusion, this didn’t seem to get through:

    Strange, ‘descover’ should be ‘discover’ – my phone accepted the former. Mr Hawking really is ‘Hawking’ and not ‘Hawkings’ (I did correct it once but it still got lost on my phone, where this comment was posted from). Still, in Frenchy days we did use ‘descovrir’ (Old French) and as I get older I almost think it would be nicer if we went back to an individualism in spelling, like in Shakespeare’s day. Plus, I was very likely French in a previous incarnation!

    T.

    Ted Wrinch

  81. well, y’know, apart from anything else, I’m glad we discuss these matters of our existence.

    We don’t know, do we? But is it probable that Steiner had the answers? – to echo Pete. I think it’s very, very unlikely. Are there amazing things to discover? Absolutely. Let that be the fire in your bellies.

  82. Melanie: “Wise bloke”.
    Yeah, except when he equates God and a teapot – when I would call him a “wise ass”.

  83. “hello Frank!
    it doesn’t work the other way.
    I can’t prove there isn’t a celestial teapot orbiting the earth. But if you want to convince me that there is, you have to at least bring me a cup a tea.”

    Hi Melanie. If I were interested in convincing you of anything, which I am not, I would indeed offer you the cup, which you would doubtless through away along with its contents – without tasting.
    Frank

  84. Ted Wrinch · ·

    “But is it probable that Steiner had the answers?”

    Well, in fact he was well aware of the kind of analysis I’ve outlined above, which can be deepened in many directions, such as the splitting of perception into primary and secondary qualities after the C15, so that physics then had a world of position and movement that could, fex, be captured in Newton’s laws of motion (Steiner covers some of this in his Origins of Natural Science lectures, eg see lecture 5 for more on the two qualities: http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/OriNatSci/19221228p01.html ). But I suppose that one would have to be interested in  seeing what Steiner had said on the subject to verify this.

    T.

    Ted Wrinch

  85. “Hi Melanie. If I were interested in convincing you of anything, which I am not, I would indeed offer you the cup, which you would doubtless through away along with its contents – without tasting.”

    Yes, I suspect one might die of thirst drinking from that cup…

  86. Ted Wrinch · ·

    Melanie mentions the quackometer site: I think Andy Lewis would be better served going after the real villains (assuming there are any), who are much richer, bigger and more powerful than the ‘quacks': big pharma:

    ————————–
    The overmedication of our youth: An interview with Brent Dean Robbins, PhD. The author takes us inside his new book, “Drugging Our Children: How Profiteers Are Pushing Antipsychotics on Our Youngest, and What We Can Do to Stop It,” co-edited with Sharna Olfman, PhD.

    Within the past decade, the use of atypical antipsychotics with pediatric patients has doubled. This massive increase has been primarily motivated by an astronomical rise in diagnoses of pediatric bipolar disorder, which has seen a 40-fold increase in the same time period…

    Drugging Our Children scrutinizes the problem of overmedication in four ways: 1) The role of the pharmaceutical industry in creating a child market for antipsychotics; 2) the impact of antipsychotics on a child’s developing brain and body; and 3) the factors that have led the field of child psychiatry to make a devil’s bargain with the pharmaceutical industry in its relentless promotion of antipsychotic medication as a first-line treatment; and 4) the ways in which American culture undermines children’s healthy psychological development and foments the belief that the lion’s share of children’s behavior and emotional issues are biochemical processes that can be fixed with a pill. But the book does not stop at a diagnosis of the problem; it also examines potential solutions.

    http://www.apadivisions.org/division-32/publications/newsletters/humanistic/2012/04/drugging-our-children.aspx .

    ————————-

    “American culture …foments the belief that the lion’s share of children’s behavior and emotional issues are biochemical processes that can be fixed with a pill.” is materialism in action, of course.

    And this is the tip of a very big iceberg: millions (5 I seem to recall) are addicted to valium derivative drugs in the UK. The Times’ medical correspondent, Ben Goldacre, has been running a series of articles on these kinds of problems, including what the ‘double blind proven’ trials actually consist of (e.g. there’s no requirement that a new drug is any better than the ones it may supercede) and the under reporting of negative trial results. But he hasn’t mentioned the big story in the US recently concerning the payment of doctors by pharmaceutical companies with holidays and free gifts to encourage prescription of particular psycho-active drugs to their patients (the whistle blowers were hounded out of their jobs and vilified for over a decade).

    T.

    Ted Wrinch

  87. Ben Goldacre wrote a book which was published recently.

    Thing is — medicine can be used wrongly, but it can also be used correctly. When the drug is effective and the patient needs it. For quackery, there’s no such positive use. It can only be misused. This is a bit off topic though, unless we’re asking whether waldorf provides the answer to problems with bad education and over-medication of children (in case the latter is a real problem rather than a ghost).

    I don’t think so.

  88. Ted Wrinch · ·

    It probably is rather off topic, overall. But still, at the risk of going even further off, I would say it’s not so simple as to say there is no good use for ‘quackery’ (which includes herbalism from the EU perspective, with herbal medicines being disallowed from claiming any medical effectiveness) or that, opposingly, conventional medicine causes problems simply through being wrongly used. There *are* big commercial pressures, and the kind of medical interventions that are considered are restricted by not only the commercial factors but the world view underlying the ‘medical model’. It’s this, perhaps unstated or acknowledged, worldview that has meant that our medical graduates until recently had been receiving only weeks, out of their four years or so of education, for instruction in the psychological factors of health and why, until a couple of years ago, ‘talking cures’ were almost unavailable on the NHS.

    As for Waldorf: we could talk about the apparently vexed issue of vaccination, something where the positions, pro and con, are also influenced by world-views. But, avoiding that: clearly Waldorf would not make the particular kinds of mistakes in that article, though I understand that you’d want to point out its other mistakes.

    But to finish: medical knowledge, in spite of the amazing advances of the last centuries, is probably only in its infancy and I think we’d all do well to be cautious in making claims for what we think we know.

    T.

    Ted Wrinch

  89. “But to finish: medical knowledge, in spite of the amazing advances of the last centuries, is probably only in its infancy and I think we’d all do well to be cautious in making claims for what we think we know. ”

    Actually, medicine is pretty advanced… except among some people who insist on practicing blood-letting.

  90. Ted Wrinch · ·

    Thoughtful comment, Pete.

  91. Ted Wrinch · ·

    Turns out my figure on psychology training days looks rather optimistic (I thought I remembered reading recently that they’d increased it: the issue is certainly being talked about now). Ed Miliband has jumped on the bandwagon and from an article on that we find:

    “Rethink Mental Illness praised Mr Miliband for making mental health a priority, particularly improving the training of NHS staff: “As things stand, you can become a doctor having only studied mental health for a few days.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20117661

    T.

    Ted Wrinch

  92. “As things stand, you can become a doctor having only studied mental health for a few days.”

    Not much different than the requirements for becoming a Waldorf teacher.

  93. Ted Wrinch · ·

    Pete,

    It’s a popular issue – 500+ comments in a day – as is the problem of narcoleptic addiction, for kids and adults. Stepping back from your Waldorf obsession for a moment would perhaps let you see things more clearly, show a little compassion, and gain balance and perspective. You don’t seem much further on in this respect than during our days together on WC (calling me ‘dim’ on the New Book thread here takes us right back to then, doesn’t it?).

    T.

    Ted Wrinch

  94. Frank – I suspect you would put the milk in first, or something equally appalling.

  95. Ted – Alicia’s right, pharma is under scrutiny from British skeptics (although they don’t all like that term, or the American spelling) specifically Goldacre.

    I get the impression American healthcare providers tend to medicalise childhood conditions faster than their counterparts in the UK – that’s private healthcare for you.

  96. Ted Wrinch · ·

    I noticed Alicia’s reference to the book, Melanie, and was somewhat aware of his sceptics credentials (it was pretty obvious, reading between the lines in his Times’ pieces). But I’m not really interested in who takes up the cudgels so much as the issues, and this really is the tip of a (populist) iceberg – won’t bore you with details. I agree regarding differences USwards.

    T.

    Ted Wrinch

  97. Ted: I’m not sure why all of this is relevant here (although I can guess) but you suggest ‘the world view underlying the ‘medical model’ itself (and not just unethical behaviour by medics and drug companies) is obstructing mental health provision.

    What is ‘the world view underlying the ‘medical model’?

    Prof Edzard Ernst has a new blog, and proves amongst other things that Germans do have a wry sense of humour.

    http://edzardernst.com/2012/10/a-new-blog-on-alternative-medicine-why/

    He is familiar with anthroposophy.

  98. Ted – your point is that Andy Lewis should be addressing issues other than Steiner schools. Your example though is extreme – from a culture more medicalised than ours in Britain.

    We could talk about mental health provision in the UK and GP training, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Andy writes about that one day – the NHS is under significant threat.

    But for now, he’s writing and talking about Steiner schools, and anthroposophy, and there’s a surprising amount of interest.

  99. Ted Wrinch · ·

    Melanie,

    The worldview is the same one we – well Tom H-S and I – have somewhat critiqued, and which you apparently endorse.

    From what I’ve seen, Steiner’s children are only a small part of Andy’s appetite. But he seems to go after the small fry in the waters of poor medical ethics – homeopaths, acupuncturists, etc, who, in my experience, do not make mega bucks and provide a service that people – mostly – value, whatever one may think about the ‘science’ underlying it all. My impression is that he is impinging on peoples’ freedom to choose how they wish to be treated medically.

    Though that US horror story caught my eye – I’m quite surprised that the Americans here seem unconcerned by it – there are lesser stories in the UK: the mis-prescription of benzodiazepines since they were de-recommended (you probably know the exact expression) in the mid-80s, for one (there are victim support groups that have been set up in the last few years, frequently by sufferers whose lives have been wrecked).

    T.

    Ted Wrinch

  100. “calling me ‘dim’ on the New Book thread here takes us right back to then, doesn’t it?”

    Naw… it was a fresh comment.

  101. Ted – ah, ‘scientific materialism’?

    Assumptions behind our understanding of mental health change as society alters. There’s controversy over classifications in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and its British equivalent. You may well be right to question medical models. However imposing on individuals a ‘spiritual’ view of their condition could be seen as presumptuous and harmful. That’s not to say that a GP (for example) would or should ignore an individual’s own religion, culture etc.

    There are lots of things Andy could write about. Perhaps, since he’s busy right now, you could set up a blog to discuss medical ethics?

    ‘My impression is that he is impinging on peoples’ freedom to choose how they wish to be treated medically.’

    I see it more as impinging on quacks’ freedom to mislead the public and make money out of selling dubious nonsense to the vulnerable or gullible, or the NHS.

  102. Ted Wrinch · ·

    Hi Melanie,

    Materialism, yes. Put alternatively, the consequence of this is to favour the outer over the inner, as in preferring to treat people as a flow of biochemicals – it creates presuppositions, which is what I’ve been providing examples of. It’s not really anything to do with people’s religion or culture, at least in the West. Imposing anything on people would be a bad idea, in my view.

    On ‘nonsense’ – well that would depend on your worldview!

    But I’m not sure we’re really getting anywhere here; my feeling is we’re more talking past each other than connecting – must be the worldviews!

    Bye,

    T.

    Ted Wrinch

  103. Ted Wrinch · ·

    ‘Do, do, do; dah, dah, dah, is all I want to say to you’ is playing as I drink my macchiato and (seruptitiously sp?) eat my carrot, and I wonder if Sting is right and this is all we can say to each other sometimes. I’d guess you’d not be much in favour of his invisible sun either.

    T.

    Ted Wrinch

  104. I had a macchiato this morning too. It was a double. My small daughter (who was covered in fake blood and wearing fangs) had a hot chocolate with marshmallows.

    It’s never goodbye is it? People always come back to look. I agree though that there’s very little point us having this conversation, so I suggest we don’t. Perhaps we’ll meet again some other day.

    It’s not as simple as ‘materialists’ treating people ‘as a flow of biochemicals’. For a start, we don’t all respond in exactly the same way to stuff. We’re complex bundles of DNA and each of us is unique. I imagine medicine will develop to be more individualised, if as a culture we can afford it, and many of the interventions that happen today will be seen as errors. Plus you don’t have to be ‘spiritual’ to have ‘soul’, or empathy. Or to be capable of considering an individual’s religion or culture – their personal narrative – as part of their care. It happens. But docs need the resources to give the best care, and that may become more of a problem.

  105. Actually, companies selling homeopathic medicine seem to be making ‘mega bucks’, which is even more shocking when one considers the fact that what they’re selling is — nothing! When people are misled — by, e g erroneous claims of efficacy for these medicines — how are they ‘free’ in their choices? To make a free choice, you must know what you’re choosing. Fraudulent claims don’t aid that process, and this applies, obviously, to all kinds of medical claims, no matter who makes them, whether a homeopath or a conventional pharma company. Although since homeopathy contains no active substances, their claims fo rmedical efficacy are usually fraudulent by default.

    ‘My small daughter (who was covered in fake blood and wearing fangs) …’

    We’re very impressed, mr Dog and I.

  106. She has Mr Dog as the screensaver on her ipad. Oh the forces of Ahriman! He has his tongue curled round his nose too.

  107. Without Ahriman, it would be much more difficult for mr Dog to spread the message of canineosophy. Tongue curled around nose is a powerful tool. Because of cute factor.

  108. I’m going into the homeopathic heroin business. I wonder if I can get in trouble?

  109. Hollywood Tomfortas · ·

    Greetings Tom H-S!

    How splendid to meet a fellow philosopher at the Kiosk! Since one of my degrees is in physics, I shall call it by its earlier name of “natural philosophy” so that I may lay claim to some measure of philosophical parity with you.

    And Melanie, I must say that with your references to Dawkins and PZ Myers, you have thoroughly and efficiently prepared the epistemological grist for my ontological mill. So shall we start milling around?

    Now it is very easy to see that the most ardent and unquestioning followers of Rudolf Steiner are caught in a “time warp,” as it were, that can be accurately dated to the year 1925, when he died. Being utterly unable to follow in his footsteps, his followers did the only thing they could which was to freeze-dry, as it were, his utterances and writings for posterity.

    But it is not so easy to see that modern scientists, especially those suspicious “scientific materialists” in the field of biology, find themselves uncannily caught in the same time warp as the Steineristas. You see, Werner Heisenberg first published his Uncertainly Principle in German in 1925 and Kurt Goedel published the proof of his Incompleteness Theorem in mathematics in 1931.

    (At this point I would like to assure Alicia that in developing these ideas at the Kiosk, that I shan’t go off on a tangent that would veer way off the topic of Waldorf methodology. I will always strive to relate the exposition back to Steiner and his methodology. For example, my above invocation of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is deeply connected with my own discussions, ca. 1976-78 at the University of Texas Austin with physicist John Archibald Wheeler (1911-2008) about possible ways to resolve the famous Bohr-Einstein debate over the nature of reality. I presented Prof. Wheeler with a speculative gedanken-experiment that showed how a certain approach Rudolf Steiner made from his PoF days (when Rudi himself was atheistic) could at least provide a new angle on the ontological impasse. He listened and ruminated, finally telling me that my idea, though engaging, had “too much meta- and not enough physics” in it. He suggested I take my ideas to a Department of Metaphysics somewhere. Well that would be the Ethereal Kiosk.

    Actually, I finally parlayed the ideas into a full length metaphysical Shakespearean style comedy that I had produced at the U of Texas in 1989. Twas called “Cosmic Eggs and Quantum Bacon,” and Melanie you will be excited to learn that a main character in the play was God herself, played by a woman of course, who spake in rhymed couplets.)

    Therefore I am excited to add to the topic here since Melanie and Tom H-S got into a discussion about Bertrand Russell’s orbital teapot and Richard Dawkins “God Delusion,” I shall endeavor to apply Goedel’s concepts of “undecidability, inconsistency and incompleteness” to the God question. In short, Goedel proved in 1931 that there are propositions in formal mathematics that are true but not provable to be true. Neither can their negations be proven true.

    I realize I am jumping over a lot here, but the argument does apply directly to the God question: God may exist in truth yet such existence cannot be proven to be true and its negation — that God does not exist — may be true but also cannot be proven true.

    So in terms of the logic structure, then the only rational and logical position to take about God is that of the agnostic, who realizes that God is rationally speaking, an undecidable proposition. Of course undecidability is only a problem in logic since we humans blithely decide dozens of undecidable propositions every day. It’s just that we decide them on the basis of belief not reason. We make all kinds of hops, skips, jumps and of course leaps of faith to decide them.

    And so my problem with Dawkins’ position is not anything he argues, but rather his starkly hypocritical stance. You see, it’s all well and good for him to castigate and condemn religious people, especially Muslims for their God delusion. Yet he fails to acknowledge that he himself is equally deluded by his own belief in the negation of God, since he has no proof or evidence or any rational basis for such a conclusion.

    Atheism requires as much a leap of faith as any theism. And indeed that is why I classify myself now as a “Catholic Atheist.” For a good 3 decades of my life, say from ages 20-50, I was a very logical, quite rational agnostic. But since I was born and raised a Roman Catholic with a strong faith, then I was dissatisfied with being agnostic because I had nowhere to park my need to believe in something beyond me. But when I became an atheist in 2002, I felt a great relief because I was able to put my faith somewhere. But I don’t delude myself into believing that I am being a rational being by doing so. No, it is quite irrational, unlogical and of course quite emotional of me to believe this way, but there it is.

    Now I hope we’ll continue this discussion further because I also want Tom H-S to bring his philosophical wisdom to bear on a Gedanken experiment that I have developed extending the Cretan Paradox in order to explain why people like Dawkins must also scapegoat and vilify people who do not share the other pole of this “belief antinomy.” It extends out to cover why Waldorf Critics must scapegoat Anthroposophists and indeed why modern science today must scapegoat and condemn the folks they call pseudo-scientists.

    For now I leave you with a quote by Douglas Hofstadter, from his 2007 book
    I am a Strange Loop
    “In the end, we are self-perceiving, self-inventing, locked-in mirages that are little miracles of self-reference.”

    Do you see yourself as a strange loop, Melanie? Such looping becomes all who visit the Kiosk.

    Fr. Thomasius, Pontifex Aetherius Kioskiensis

  110. I have the Hofstadter book. Dennett, who reviewed it, was very kind to his friend, who was in profound grief after the death of his wife. I bought it because it was being read for consolation by a friend of mine, who was also in grief and confusion at the end of a relationship which he’d convinced himself was more profound than it was. We (the scientist in the house and I) felt the same way about the book.

    Actually, it is Dawkins’ position that we cannot be sure god does not exist. Did you imagine anything different? I watched this debate at the time, and don’t remember Rowan Williams saying anything at all, but sort of burbling kindly nonsense; which is perhaps all the CofE has left as it contemplates its flock of godless cultural Anglicans. Dawkins even applauded our education secretary’s gift of a King James’ bible to every school in the country, on cultural grounds. He just won’t be as absolute as people want him to be, damn him.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9102740/Richard-Dawkins-I-cant-be-sure-God-does-not-exist.html

    And there you are, Tom, a godless cultural Catholic.

    If you think Dawkins has it in for Islam, you should see what he’s saying about Mitt Romney. Dog help you if your compatriots elect that one.

    And now I think I will leave the professor to represent himself.

  111. Hollywood Tomfortas · ·

    Ah, Melanie! Many thanks for that clip of our esteemed Prof. Dawkins talking with the Archbishop. I found myself wistfully wishing that the “other Rowan” were playing the prelate. I mean, of course, Rowan Atkinson. Surely Mr. Bean is old enough now to sprout white hair if he ever grew a beard. I could just picture his bug-eyed expressions at Mr. Dawkins’ provocative statements.

    In a later comment, I shall wax prosaic about the “Dubious Dawkins Dodge” in re: the atheism vs. agnosticism debate, but for now I would like to address your comment about the imminent election over here in the former colonies. I am fascinated by your evident conviction that it actually matters who wins this election next Tuesday. Of course your sentiments are shared by a myriad of my fellow countrymen and women on this side of the pond, but some are quite, well, not quite apathetic about it, but, let’s say, dispassionate about it, at least enough not to vote for anyone.

    Now lest our discussion veer off into the heated tangential realms of American political discourse, I shall endeavor to steer this ocean liner of a conversation back to the ungainly topic of Waldorf Education and its alleged methodologies.

    Just this morning I read the weekly column of a former teaching colleague of mine at the — according to Pete K — exceedingly controversial Waldorf school known as Highland Hall, located in the municipality of Northridge, smack in the middle of the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles. (Northern Kingdom.)

    The author is Michael Ventura who writes a column called “Letters at 3 AM” for the Austin Chronicle weekly newspaper.

    (Oh, just a side note for you Melanie: since your husband is an esteemed Professor of Bonkerhood at an eminent British University, then I heartily recommend that both you and he read this 1992 best-seller co-authored by Michael Ventura and psychologist James Hillman called: We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy — And the World’s Getting Worse )

    When I arrived at HH to teach physics and maths in 2003, there I met Michael Ventura who had been teaching English literature and writing at the high school since 1998. He was quite an extraordinary — nay even legendary — figure at the school, not only a fine teacher of writing and literature, but more importantly also a force of great solace and unity for the community especially in the anxious times of the original 9/11 attacks when students and parents were quite apprehensive.

    Amazingly enough, Michael and I suddenly resumed a conversation we had broken off 26 years earlier. You see, back in 1977, I had rented the very same apartment in Austin, Texas that Michael was vacating in order to seek his fame and fortune in Los Angeles. As I was helping him move out and he helping me move in, we actually discussed, among many other things, the topic I mentioned above, i.e., the ontological implications of the Participatory Anthropic Principle of John A. Wheeler, the physics legend at our local great Texas university.

    At any rate, without further ado, may I present the most recent column by former Waldorf teacher Michael Ventura. I will quote the end of his article.

    http://www.austinchronicle.com/columns/2012-11-02/letters-at-3am-things-like-that/

    ====================
    If you vote for the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, you vote for a man who takes foreign policy and economic advice from the same people who advised Bush-Cheney. You vote for a man beholden to those who support vicious legislation against women, the uninsured, the undocumented, and the poor.

    If you vote for the Democratic candidate, President Barack Obama, you vote for a man who presides over unprecedented warrantless surveillance and a Patriot Act on steroids. You vote for a man who claims the right to arrest you without warrants, detain you without trial, and, if he feels like it, personally order your assassination without judicial or congressional oversight of any kind.

    Those are the choices offered. It’s that kind of election.

    Good luck.
    ========================

  112. Your pal Ventura may be a wonderful writer and teacher, Tom, but politically he’s the worst kind of bleeding-heart, clueless asshole. Give him my regards. Frank

  113. Hollywood Tomfortas · ·

    Frank,

    How dare you diss a fellow native Brooklynite. That is definitely going on your (Akashic) Record!

  114. What’s he doin in LA then? I’ve found that the farther Booklynites get from the home sod, the dumber they get – west, that is, South don’t count.

  115. Hollywood Tomfortas · ·

    Actually, he left LA 7 years ago to re-locate to Lubbock, Texas.

    Are you then calling my beloved Los Angeles Dodgers stupid?

  116. Dear Friends and Subscribers,
    The Current issue (November-December) is now sending signals from your cyber-doorstep at http://SouthernCrossReview.org
    On the Editor’s Page I placed one of my articles about the Social Triformation, and a Book Review about one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a long time.
    Then in “Fiction”, a short story of mine in English and Spanish (one of my all-time favorites), and one by the Argentine writer Julio Cortázar – also bilingual.
    Anthroposophy: Robert Powell joins the 2012 Mayan calendar literature from an astrosophical viewpoint. (December 22 is the date to watch.)
    Translation of Rudolf Steiner’s Class Lesson Nr. 7 from the School for Spiritual Science follows, as well as the continuation of his Karmic Relations lectures and those concerning the history of the Anthropsophical Movement.
    Under “Poetry” we offer several poems by Rainer Maria Rilke as well as an original one by Eric G Muller about Mahatma Malala – the heroic young Pakistani girl.
    Until next year – Enjoy!
    Frank

  117. I wonder what Malala will do with her life?

    My husband’s bonkerhood work isn’t about psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioural therapy has a better evidence base. Dull, but true.

  118. I wonder too. Although most of all I hope she gets to have one. I heard she’s out of immediate danger (to her life), but going back to Pakistan surely must be dangerous?

    I thought CBT was a kind of psychotherapy? Bonkerhood therapy.

  119. Tom:”Are you then calling my beloved Los Angeles Dodgers stupid?”

    Yes! They moved from cosmopolitan coolest kulture to sunshine and money. Walter O’Malley reincarnated as a batgirl for the Dogpatch Pukers.
    http://offthedribble.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/nets-opener-in-brooklyn-has-shades-of-old-and-new/?ref=sports

  120. ‘Bonkerhood therapy’. How reassuring. I don’t think it’s a clinical term.

  121. It’s essential to distinguish clinical terms from… other terms.

  122. I wrote:
    “The most important raison d’etre for Waldorf schools, Alicia, is to serve as models for public education (imho). So there is no reason why Waldorf pedagogy, which is, after all, a method, cannot be taken over in toto by public schools, as is the case with charter schools (I’m told). If in Israel or Japan, or even the USA, they don’t do a Christmas celebration, fe, that’s OK – whatever works there. That doesn’t mean that all schools would be obliged to use Waldorf pedagogy. We’re talking here about freedom in the cultural sphere…”
    And several friends here got all upset, bothered and bewildered, having misunderstood me. I did not say “no anthroposophy” – decidedly not. Waldorf pedagogy is based on the anthroposophical understanding of the nature of the child – and/or human being. No secret about that, although some people here seem to think there is. It includes concepts like life after life, reincarnation, etc. Some people (no names, please) don’t want to have anything to do with an educational method which is based on something whch also includes such rather general concepts. Well, I think they have an inalienable right to send their children to a non-Waldorf school. But I also think it would be beneficial if non-Waldorf schools practiced Waldorf pedagogy – or elements thereof – without their personnel necessarily being antroposophists. But they should recognize and announce where they got it from. Frank

  123. Ted Wrinch · ·

    Where do I post this?

    This seems like a special posting for Pete the K. He’s been draining Highland Hall coffers – he says to the tune of $100ks – and conducting a propaganda war against them for years, but the likes of Crosby, Stills and Nash have been refilling the coffers and articles like this redressing the propaganda battle. Now, who do we think is going to win this competition, I wonder? I particularly love the: ‘Fully 98% of its high school graduates move on to renowned colleges and universities; 42% of Waldorf graduates pursue college majors in mathematics or science.’. Pete, what’s going on, mate? They shouldn’t be getting this kind of stuff through after all your work, should they?

    —-
    Northridge, CA (Top40 Charts/ Highland Hall Waldorf School) On October 3, Crosby, Stills & Nash gave a benefit concert to support two area schools, Highland Hall Waldorf school and CHAMPS. The special benefit pre-show reception and concert took place at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, and raised over $55,000 for each school.

    “I have been very fortunate to have attended public schools, in which the arts were honored and respected. As a musician, I see this as an integral piece of a child’s development and ability to thrive” says Stephen Stills. “Sadly, the arts have lost much of their presence in today’s world of education. I am representing two schools, Highland Hall Waldorf School and CHAMPS Charter High School, in their fundraising efforts. These two tremendous schools give as much priority to the arts as they do strong academic curricula. I am proud to have my children attend these fine learning institutions and feel privileged to contribute to their success.”

    Highland Hall will use the proceeds to fund the art and music programs which are an integral part of the Waldorf curriculum in pre-K through high school.

    “We are grateful to Crosby, Stills and Nash for the financial support this concert provided Highland Hall, and for Stephen and Kristen Stills’ commitment to supporting arts-integrated education,” says HighlandHall’s Director of Community Development, Bari Borsky.

    Highland Hall Waldorf School, located in Northridge, CA and founded in 1955, exemplifies the rich educational traditions of the Waldorf School movement. Its unique approach to learning successfully addresses the changing needs and capacities of children at each stage of development from Pre-K through High School. Fully 98% of its high school graduates move on to renowned colleges and universities; 42% of Waldorf graduates pursue college majors in mathematics or science. Featuring a curriculum of academically challenging lessons infused with arts and hands-on learning, Highland Hall provides students with a solid academic foundation, the ability to think creatively, a sympathetic interest in the world, self-confidence, and an abiding moral purpose.

    http://top40-charts.com/news/Rock/Crosby-Stills-And-Nash-Benefit-Concert-Raises-Money-For-Highland-Hall-Waldorf-School/83903.html

  124. Hey, I’m glad my friends Crosby, Stills and Nash are helping Highland Hall out… and just in time for them to give the money TO ME!… They’ll need a LOT more than 55K though.

  125. Frank: ‘Waldorf pedagogy is based on the anthroposophical understanding of the nature of the child – and/or human being. No secret about that, although some people here seem to think there is. It includes concepts like life after life, reincarnation, etc.’

    Well, exactly. Remarkably many schools and waldorf proponents don’t seem to want to recognize these things today. Some don’t even want to mention the word anthroposophy. And when it’s mentioned, they try to brush it off, as though it were a stain on the eurythmy gown.

    The more waldorf schools (and in Sweden, the waldorf teacher training college) becomes interested in securing public funding, the less inclined they seem to be to practice openness.

    Simply put — they are too reluctant to say or write what you just wrote. Even though it shouldn’t be a problem, it apparently is. And I do think it gets worse, the more eager they are to find customers and funding, because they then need to attract people who don’t find reincarnation, et c, appealing enough.

    Ted: ‘I particularly love the: ‘Fully 98% of its high school graduates move on to renowned colleges and universities; 42% of Waldorf graduates pursue college majors in mathematics or science.’’

    I don’t believe this. I don’t have time to find out, or to discuss it, but I think if someone started to dig (perhaps Pete has), it would soon be discovered that this is highly misleading. I’ve seen similar bogus claims before. They should avoid exaggerating that much, because it’s too transparent.

  126. Alicia: “I don’t believe this…” Nor do I. Frank

  127. Ted Wrinch · ·

    Nor do I!

  128. ‘Fully 98% of its high school graduates move on to renowned colleges and universities; 42% of Waldorf graduates pursue college majors in mathematics or science.’’

    So there must be at least ONE school with this success rate. Which one? Anybody?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 766 other followers