a matter of private belief

The propose state-funded Bristol Steiner Academy has published a statement on anthroposophy, as was advertised by Joe Evans on Andy Lewis’s blog. In it, the school says:

We recognise the importance that spirituality and religion have for many people; however, we believe that they are matters of private belief.  We will therefore neither promote nor denigrate any particular religious or spiritual beliefs. Our school will uphold the right of all individuals to hold their own beliefs and values, remaining neutral and inclusive on all matters of religion and spirituality.

Because of this, we will neither teach nor promote Anthroposophy. Individual staff and parents are free to come to their own interpretations of the philosophy that Steiner saw as the basis for his ideas, accepting or rejecting the spiritual elements according to their own private beliefs. We are committed to the practice of Steiner education, but this can be approached from many different viewpoints; this diversity can only enhance the vitality of our school.

As I already asked, on Andy’s blog, one wonders what those different viewpoints are, from which Steiner education can be approached. Other than that, all I have to say is what I have already said. I do wonder what impression the school wants to give when it, misleadingly, states that spirituality is a matter of ‘private belief’. In Steiner education spirituality is patently not merely a matter of personal belief, and the school is doing nobody a favour by pretending it is so. In fact, it does itself and all those who don’t want an education founded upon anthroposophy a huge disservice.

In addition, I strongly question this misleading claim:

Steiner himself insisted that his ideas should be tested and disputed rather than being simply accepted and this critical spirit has allowed Steiner education to evolve to meet contemporary needs.

Whether Steiner ‘insisted’ this, might itself be disputed (he did, but he also spoke and acted in ways that are contradictory), but what is clear is that his followers and, specifically, waldorf teachers, teacher trainers and other proponents of the pedagogy have done very little of the sort. I do not see how anyone can actually truly believe that Steiner education has evolved to meet contemporary needs with the help of a sense of critical spirit. Rather, the opposite is true: Steiner education is in difficulties because a critical spirit has been so sadly absent, and the method has not been able to evolve and it certainly has trouble meeting contemporary demands and exist in (or accept the ways of) contemporary society. This situation might not be what Steiner envisioned or hoped for, but it is really quite strange to claim something that is so patently untrue. Even waldorf supporters often admit that there has been too little change, too little adaptation to new circumstances and too strong an attachment to the past and to old dogma.

I would like to ask the Bristol Steiner Academy this one thing: which of Steiner’s ideas on education and child development have been tested and, in the spirit of critical questioning, rejected? Can you name even one pedagogically relevant tenet that has been examined — and trashed as invalid or irrelevant? Just one?

The school then concludes:

Steiner education works.

Oh well, then, move along, nothing more to see!

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5 comments

  1. “I would like to ask the Bristol Steiner Academy this one thing: which of Steiner’s ideas on education and child development have been tested and, in the spirit of critical questioning, rejected? Can you name even one pedagogically relevant tenet that has been examined — and trashed as invalid or irrelevant? Just one?”

    That’s a very good question. In another thread, I’ve questioned if anything has changed between the Waldorf schools who themselves claimed to be in complete alignment with the Nazi vision, and the Waldorf schools of today. Certainly, something must have changed, right?

  2. I’m extremely curious about the answer to that particular question. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely it will ever be answered. I do think if what I suggest has happened, there would be examples.

  3. If anything at all has changed in Waldorf, there should be some indication of it. Waldorf schools today are the EXACT SAME Waldorf schools who claimed to be in COMPLETE alignment with Hitler’s Germany. Have they replaced any lessons since then? NO. Have they changed their curriculum in ANY way? NO. Do they look at children differently today than they did during Hitler’s time? NO. So Waldorf schools TODAY are the very same schools that claimed to be just what Hitler ordered.

  4. “…he also spoke and acted in ways that are contradictory.”

    Do you now if anyone has compiled a list, with references, of Steiner’s contradictions? I know I’ve come across them at least a couple of times while reading his lectures but, unfortunately, I didn’t take notes and I don’t recall the topics.

  5. I don’t think there is such a list, but it sure would be fun reading! Considering how much he spoke (and in detail on all kinds topics which he lacked expertise knowledge in…).

    (Re the other comment — I hope it works with the subscription even if I didn’t let it through moderation! I think it should.)

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