waldorf tales

once, many years ago, when I was a small child, three years old, my mother decided to send me to an anthroposophical school. It took 9 years until reason prevailed and I was finally allowed to leave. My mother probably still, to some degree, believed in waldorf education, despite its massive failures. Perhaps she continued to believe it to be a blessing — not just for us, or for me — because that was how it was touted and she didn’t know much about the reality I was living in. I had eventually given up protesting. I thought I was going to die there — that I was going to die before I was able to break free (I’d stopped believing in ever being free, so mostly it was a non-issue — I endured it, I didn’t live, I was living like a dead).

Waldorf was like being in a corked up bottle, like being behind glass, it was suffocating and restraining; not fitting in, you’d have to have your limbs severed. All the while you’d be told — untruthfully — that you were in the best place in the world and that the world outside would treat you even more callously. That ripping your own self away — smothering your soul, stifling any remaining individuality — was a small price to pay for being in paradise. You should learn to love the restraints placed upon you. You should learn to love your abusers or you’ll deserve even more abuse in your next life due to your inability to resolve or endure the present interpersonal conflicts.

The foundation of the philosophy of freedom is the ability to tolerate — even to desire — these restrictions. In practice, freedom means learning to love your subordination, and thereafter continuing to choose it voluntarily; because subordination is a noble desire, you subordinate freely. The philosophy of freedom is an excercise in living restricted, to raising walls that limit your capacity, staying within and loving those walls being there — it is to be conscious of there being something else outside, and yet have no desire for it. To fear the outside is noble. To fear being forced to remain within boundaries — physical and mental — is ignoble. It is to be a materialist (in both senses of the word). Subordination is freedom only in that it absolves everybody from responsibility. And that is exactly what happened.

I was isolated from the world and I knew it. The parallel universe of waldorf childhood couldn’t replace the real world and it couldn’t replace the world of books, culture and entertainment. We always knew we were deprived of something. I knew it. I knew everything important took place outside the waldorf bubble, and that everything that took place within it, meant violence to my own nature. I could never be happy there, and it was wrong of people to imagine I could. I could never exist there without being damaged because I couldn’t be repressed to such a degree I’d find the prevailing waldorf culture to be a road to freedom rather than a cul-de-sac.

I was isolated in myself living in a torturous world that was in itself isolated from the real world. There was no sense of community, no sense of having anything in common with anyone. Leaving was a relief. In waldorf, you weren’t an individual — you weren’t important as an individual, you weren’t even seen as an individual. If you adapted, you were good. If you failed in this, you were a traitor, a gangrenous growth to be excised from the healthy body of anthroposophy. In either case, you were expected to suppress your individuality, or at least you were expected to pretend you were suppressing it. Every aberration was severely punished, group thinking always victorious over the child. There was no room for the extraordinary or for the odd. There were no nuances between good and bad, right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate. There was no mercy on an outsider.

4 thoughts on “waldorf tales

  1. Felix is a waldorf teacher who’s been engaged in an active campaign — orchestrated by people like J Smith and TheBee — against people who write negative things about steiner/waldorf education. He’s expressed som highly weird ideas.

    See, e g, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/9886, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/9775 or just put “Felix” in the search box and enjoy…

    Diana described him accurately: “this Felix is a sad sack. Barely literate, and I almost wondered if the simple-mindedness was a clown act.”
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/9776

    As for the question put to me: In my childhood, obviously. Lasted 9 years before I got away from the situation.

  2. Felix – it’s this way with childhood, especially with creative types – like Proust for example, have you ever come across Le Researche de Temp Perdu? (I suspect even so you couldn’t tell a madeleine from your arse.) Recollection of childhood doesn’t dull with time. Sometimes it intensifies.

    Anyway you know it wasn’t very long ago in this case: your question is, as usual, spiteful. Get your own blog.

  3. It certainly changes with time, but it doesn’t get duller. I think there perhaps are more emotional nuances with time.

    That’s what I thought to — that the comment was spiteful (because it was, after all, Felix). It would alter the post if what was described took place 10 years ago or 25 years ago. It would still be childhood described by somebody who has grown up. There’s a whole ocean of difference between these perspectives, no matter how many years have gone by.

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