In the Sacramento Bee today, ‘Public Waldorf schools booming in Sacramento — but are they legal?’:
While enrollment climbs, the district faces a lawsuit this summer from a Northern California group that claims the Waldorf system cannot be separated from founder Rudolf Steiner’s religious philosophy, making public Waldorf schools ineligible to receive taxpayer dollars.
The People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools filed the lawsuit in 1998, and after several appeals, a trial is set for Aug. 31 in Sacramento federal court.
“We are excited to finally make it to court,” said Debra Snell, president of PLANS. “These schools are spreading like wildfire. It’s a nationwide concern.”
The students, though, wouldn’t recognize religious if it bit them in their noses. As usual:
Bentley said he was attracted to the art focus but heard murmurs that Waldorf was religious-based. He says he knows now that it’s not.
And, in addition, lots of people don’t recognize the spiritual elements of waldorf education as religious, or they don’t realize that religious and spiritual are pretty close to each other and that ‘holism’ and ‘consciousness-raising’ and whatnot are just other ways to describe a worldview based essentially on belief in all manners of stuff that cannot be objectively observed.
“All of us know that a Catholic-inspired school wouldn’t fly, but many people aren’t aware of new-age religions, so they sneak in the back door,” said Snell, PLANS president.
“We are trying to make a point that it’s easy for schools to be duped and people to be duped,” Snell said. “We don’t blame the schools for doing this. These people are really good and deny that this is religion.”
The public waldorf schools have led to a decrease in enrolments at private waldorfs. But even in private waldorf schools ‘where religion can be taught, Waldorf educators say their philosophy is not religion-based.’ However, both teacher training and the pedagogical foundation are the same, whether a waldorf school is operated privately or publically.
Private and public school teachers receive the same training, said Betty Staley, director of the high school training program at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks.
“We want (teachers) to know what the philosophy behind Waldorf is, although it’s not taught in the school,” Staley said. “It’s called anthroposophy and it’s the philosophy of the human being. In public school, they would not ever mention the spiritual, but it’s important for (teachers) to know it, so it’s not a secret.”
That comment by Betty Staley is perhaps the most important in the entire article. They won’t mention the spiritual, and it wouldn’t be taught to the students directly (indirectly, though, it is), but it is important. It is the foundation. It is what it is all about, and what Rudolf Steiner wanted waldorf education to be about. Anthroposophy applied to education.