Interview with Rene Querido. Querido is a prominent figure in waldorf education (as well as in anthroposophy, I guess), and has long experience in training waldorf teachers in the US. (It took me a while before I realized I was commenting on a old article which must be ten years old now. Anyway, since I went through the trouble, and Rene Querido said a couple of crazy things, here it is.)
the Austrian philosopher and educator Rudolf Steiner
Most importantly, though, he was the founder and leader of an esoteric movement and a spiritual guru.
Anthroposophy remains in general, poorly understood and little recognized outside Europe, despite its many achievements.
Achievements, well… But that’s the point: people are supposed to enjoy the ‘achievements’ without asking too many questions about foundations, unless they are among those who are willing to adopt these foundations as their own worldview. This means, I would say, that among most Europeans too, anthroposophy is poorly understood and little recognized. To Rene Querido’s replies, then:
I usually say we need [to establish a waldorf school /z] a group of dedicated parents who are prepared to find out something about Waldorf education and about the spiritual background of anthroposophy …
Or a group of dedicated parents (preferably with money to waste) who buy into the myth of waldorf as a paradise that will rescue their children from the dreads of mainstream schools. It’s a lot more beneficial for waldorf if not all parents are too curious about anthroposophy. It’s enough that anthroposophists — parents and teachers — focus on anthroposophy and the rest of the customers remain in the (relative) dark about it. Querido is then asked what is missing from mainstream education that makes parents flock to waldorf.
… most state schools don’t meet the needs of the children …
And parents delude themselves that waldorf education meets the needs of children to a higher degree than state schools do. Again, because waldorf schools present themselves as something they are not. Just because you claim to meet the needs of children doesn’t mean you’re actually doing it. But fooling people — who are scared and nervous to do the right thing and to save their children from various types of horrirs — is easy.
… it’s not only of course the intellectual abilities that have to be promoted so to speak.
And waldorf schools thrive on the myth that mainstream schools only promote the intellectual sides of a child’s life, while in reality waldorf is probably the one option which offers the most uniform education.
It’s the whole child. And the whole child consists of body, soul, and spirit.
What parts of the child does the waldorf school educate? What’s the difference from state school?
So it depends upon how you look at the child. If you think of a child as a spiritual being who incarnates and brings something with her or with him …
That’s what every parent needs to know before enrolling: waldorf teachers think the child is a reincarnated spiritual being, and will act accordingly. This world-view isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, though admittedly it attracts a select group of people.
… we feel that Waldorf education is holistic and it touches upon the hands, the heart, and the head… in that order …
Yes, because of the supposed development of the physical, the etheric and the astral bodies — that’s an anthroposophical belief. It does not necessarily provide a more ‘holistic’ conception of man than any other belief system does.
So that in the younger grades we do a terrific amount of activity and then out of the activity the heart is warmed, the feelings are warmed, the artistic life becomes creative.
No, it’s imitation, imitation, imitation. And as for the statement that ‘the heart is warmed’ — how? and how would you know that? how would you know that the heart has not been warmed? Is waldorf a better heart-warmer than other types of education? Am I cold-hearted to be skeptical of outlandish claims like these?
And out of the creativity the head awakens.
Out of the constant, mind numbing imitation, the head becomes bored to death and the child begins to despise the entire notion of education. That could happen — and does happen — in waldorf too.
Parents then, not always very consciously go into a Waldorf school …
Indeed, it is the parents who are in a dreamy state. Not the children…
… and they see the paintings, they see the work, they notice what the children are like …
They see the fantasy. They see a fairytale and prefer to ignore reality.
Many of [the students] of course have gone to the major universities and have done very well. […] they’ve worldwide interests, they’re cosmopolitan […] they take a great interest in people […] The interest in people predominates and a great sense of compassion and wanting to help.
Except all those waldorf school students who did not succeed. Except those waldorf students who were taught only the absence of compassion through the rampant and unchecked bullying in waldorf schools. Waldorf is perhaps all right for those who enjoy high social status in their peer group. For others, it’s not so much fun. Compassion and wanting to help — no, not so much. Not in waldorf. Though, for some reason, most waldorf schools, even the most troubled, continue to boast about their students’ social skills and compassion and feeling for others. I don’t know why. Reality check fail.
Practical life very often deadens the spirit, but spiritual striving very often, not always, but very often becomes selfish. It is not a giving but wanting for oneself: blessedness, happiness, contentment, all those sales points of so many of the spiritual movements today. And fundamentally a spiritual path should lead one to be more practical and more able, more giving, more loving in the world — with one’s fellow human beings.
It’s just that anthroposophy isn’t succeeding. It’s not conducive to a greater love for ‘one’s fellow human beings’ than any other path. Anthroposophists are no more ‘loving’ than rationalist skeptics. (Some of us have experienced some anthroposophists are less so, but perhaps it’s unnecessary to draw any general conclusions about this at the moment.)
… I think it’s perhaps fair to say that especially since the beginning of this century, we have crossed the threshold of consciousness.
A fact, but only from the anthroposophical viewpoint. It’s nothing more than a belief; it’s the anthroposophical conception of the evolution of the world and the human being.
The human situation can only be solved as a social situation if we are able to develop new powers of understanding. I think there will be more and more young people born with supersensible insights or the beginnings of it.
Perhaps not. Imagine, though, waldorf teachers on the look-out for children with potential ‘supersensible insights’. Will these beliefs really be helpful in education?
… I think there are illicit ways of coming into the spiritual world, through drugs etc …
… we should be careful that we go through the gate in the right way …
The anthroposophical way. Or are there alternative, ‘right’ ways? How do we know which way is right, if we don’t wish to put our blind trust in the insights of the spiritual aristocracy?
… anthroposophy has the task rightly understood of meeting evil.
I doubt that anthroposophists are particularly well-prepared for this task. I remember waldorf teachers who were unequipped to handle a group of unruly kids.
… work spiritually in situations which are very very dark and offer a great sacrifice in doing so.
I don’t think the world needs more martyrs for great imaginary causes.
… you have a Waldorf school in the slums …
The vast majority of waldorf schools are not the slums though. The vast majority of waldorf schools cater to families which are economically and socially stable. The vast majority of schools which cater to poor people or operate in slum areas are most definitely not waldorf schools. So who are really doing sacrifices? (Another relevant question is: do children in the slums need knowledge or do they need eurythmy?)
The lying, the machinations against human beings, it’s absolutely dreadful.
Well, yes. Though sometimes it seems to me anthroposophists aren’t lying less than other people. Some of them seem to be quite skilled at it too.
… I also think and this is perhaps very typical of anthroposophy that it speaks of the reappearance of the Christ, but not as a physical being, not as a physical incarnation — but on the etheric plane, the plane of the life forces.
And this will be helpful… why, exactly?
One can oneself find ways of, what shall I say, entering into these deeper aspects by imagining or sitting in an absolutely darkened room for a while and then lighting a candle and noticing that the darkness was huge and the candle is very small but that one candle can transform the whole of the darkness.
Well, yes. But you don’t really need spirituality or anthroposophy or the Christ for this. You don’t need anything, except a candle, a room and a (functional) brain.
And I think that’s the nature of the spirit of the human being.
Nice but trivial.
At the end of the interview, there’s a list containing a few ‘facts’ about waldorf education (most of them presenting the ideal picture of what waldorf proponents like to believe waldorf education is). Here are two of them:
Waldorf educators acknowledge within every child a spiritual core that is far greater than the immediate presence. To allow this individual genius to manifest as completely as possible is the teachers true task.
And waldorf education does not have a religious nature? It’s not based upon religious beliefs? The ‘task’ of the teacher is not a question of faith?
Teachers see children as whole beings in the process of realizing their potential rather than as empty vessels in need of filling.
LOL! But, sadly, empty vessels in need of filling is quite an accurate description — of waldorf’s own view of the child and the task of the teacher. Children aren’t able to think for themselves; they are only able to imitate or absorb what is shown them or taught to them by a person in an authority position. This reason for rejecting other educational systems could as well be attributed to waldorf — without much effort. It’s in alignment with some of what Steiner taught about the child’s development. Though, for some reason, when waldorf educators fill empty vessels (or help activate their supposedly incarnating spirits), they’re doing a good thing, fulfilling a spiritual task — while regular teachers, who are trying to give their students knowledge and skills, are doing something presumably insignificant in terms of the spiritual future of mankind.