The emphasis placed on the individual’s freedom of choice means that it might not be the right environment for unmotivated or lazy pupils …

Hey, waldorf schools are perfect for unmotivated and lazy pupils. You’re not there to learn anything anyway, so it will suit them perfectly. On the other hand, children who are motivated to learn and make academic progress will be very unhappy.

Wishy-washy painting goes splendidly with laziness. It doesn’t require anything. Just pour the splish-splash over the paper. Do nothing. Wait. Eurythmy is dance for the lethargic. Even the daftest, laziest child can flash a piece of silk in the air and wave her arms around.

Wanting to read or write or learn will, however, make you an unwanted element in the waldorf classroom. So much for ‘freedom of choice’!

Unlike most mainstream independent schools, where achieving the highest academic results is a priority, Steiner schools will not push their pupils, but expect them to provide their own motivation – or not.

No! They will be prevented from finding an outlet for their motivation — if they’re motivated towards intellectual pursuits. If children’s drives align with what waldorf provides — a rather bland concoction of uninteresting activities, ranging from flute pling-pling-plonging to moving around slowly in a stupid manner while wearing ugly robes — then, sure, these children will be alright. They may not be motivated, exactly. But they aren’t motivated to do anything else either, and at least most kids find pleasure in driving the eurythmy teacher to the brink of (in)sanity (providing she isn’t already there, which isn’t unlikely at all…).

The motivated child with brains will be left to wither away, bored out of her wits, regarded as a complete misfit by children and teachers alike. That’s waldorf education. In my eyes. I can’t imagine an intellectually motivated child being happy in a waldorf school. That would require one highly unusual and unorthodox waldorf teacher — one who could see the child’s needs and drives and not hate them. I believe a majority of waldorf teachers are utterly incapable of this.

Steiner children retain their childhood and “innocence” for longer …

This lie is only possible to maintain if you have no idea what goes on in waldorf schools. Retain childhood? Rampant bullying and teachers turning a blind eye… now, how’s that supposed to help you ‘retain childhood’? I object to violence being reinterpreted as innocence. The only ones who are pretending innocence in waldorf schools are waldorf teachers and parents. They really desire for their children not to grow up, so they pretend the children don’t engage in cruel activities. They pretend waldorf children aren’t as nasty as other children. They’re plain wrong.

[Steiner] can provide a strong supportive environment for pupils who have experienced social difficulties in other schools.

It’s more likely that Steiner pupils need to flee to other schools because of ‘social difficulties’ in Steiner, isn’t it? Is ignoring bullying a ‘strong supportive environment’ for anyone but the bullies?

And, no, contrary to a claim in the article, there’s no evidence that waldorf schools produce more happy children than other schools. In fact, I bet they produce exactly as many unhappy children as other schools — possibly even more unhappy children. I really dislike the unquestioned assumptions made in this article: that regular schools don’t produce happy children, that regular schools aren’t for motivated children, that regular schools don’t provide freedom or choice. Waldorf proponents pretend that waldorf schools provide something other schools don’t — and, in reality, other schools may be better than waldorf at providing these things. Maybe they believe this, but if they do, it’s only because they aren’t all that interested in what other schools are actually doing; they already ‘know’ their education is based on a true understanding of the human being. And, again, we may ask what they really mean when they talk about ‘freedom’. Certainly not the freedom to be who you are, if who you are is incompatible with anthroposophical dogma deciding what’s proper or improper for a child.

This is one shoddy piece of promotional junk.


14 thoughts on “bullshit

  1. Unsurprisingly, they seem in no hurry to moderate comments. (8 days later…)

    I took issue with one thing in particular, the supposed distancing of the SWSF from Anthroposophy, which is patently not true. If I may, here’s the comment I tried to post:

    “We considered a Steiner school for our son and were careful to do our research on Anthroposophy, their underlying philosophy. I’m glad we did.

    I’m not sure I’d agree that the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) distances itself from Anthroposophy. From the specifically racist ideas that Steiner had, yes, there is a disclaimer. However, the language used in the programme for the SWSF Easter 2011 conference is deeply Anthroposophical: http://www.steinerwaldorf.org.uk/downloads/documents/EasterConference2011Programme.pdf

    Prospective Steiner parents would do well to familiarize themselves with concepts such as ‘incarnation’, ‘karma’ and the ‘child study’ before deciding whether it is for them.”

  2. I was surprised there were no comments but thought that perhaps nobody had discovered the post yet… That they aren’t letting comments through explains a lot. Thanks for posting your comment here, Mark. I agree.

  3. A – I always appreciate that you offer the truth about Waldorf education.
    Over the years I have observed that boys (in particular) tend to be highly competitive. I think that Waldorf schools in particular do not acknowledge this (almost primitive drive) that some children have when it comes to sports or academic matters. The absence of this one concept alone would drive
    some children into complete boredom and bullying tendencies.
    My thought that some children are highly motivated by competition would be completely lost in a Waldorf setting ~ true?

  4. Definitely. And unless such children find a ‘suitable’ (in waldorf terms) for this need they will either be depressed or they will develop various problem behaviours. I think this applies to girls and boys alike — though boys might be more prone to avting out while girls tend towards depression. But that’s a big maybe. Some boys sure were depressed and silent ftom boredom. Some girls were violent. Phlegmatic children may be ok — but some of them were cruel so I guess their phlegmatic nature may have been depression too.

    (I know I’m using the temperament vocabulary here… It does come to use occasionally. I’m using the terms in their everyday sense.)

  5. Mark H:
    “Prospective Steiner parents would do well to familiarize themselves with concepts such as ‘incarnation’, ‘karma’ and the ‘child study’ before deciding whether it is for them.”

    Yes, so it is. I have pointed it out several times here at z and elsewhere.

    True, what you have written, alltogether.
    The a/s/w do not acknowledge what is common sence in several matters.

  6. Indeed, they should. Unlike Mark, they often don’t. I suspect some don’t expect these things in educatiom. And they’re told so many nice things about how good waldorf is. It may look good. People have little reason to ask theright questions (and discover they don’t deserve to get amswers) until things are already going wrong. I e, way too late.

  7. Linking to

    “Teacher training programs are Pedagogical Section work, not of the school, but of the society.”
    (The “society” in the text Alicia quotes means “The Anthroposophical Society”.)

    “Bullshit” is the proper label for the answer a parent receives when asking about Anthroposophy in the school: “Oh no, we do not teach Anthroposophy here!”

    Not directly, of course, as hiding is an endemic part of the a/s/w.

  8. Yep. And you don’t need to *teach* something for it to be present everywhere.

    You could even argue that the impact is even more powerful when it isn’t taught. I’d very much prefer if anthroposophy was taught instead of being allowed to permeate every aspect of the school. It would transform anthroposophy from a silent, puma sneaking around to a purring kitten. It would be rendered practically harmless. But teaching it to children is not part of the philosophy, except that waldorf proponents try to ascribe this myth to critics.

  9. “You could even argue that the impact is even more powerful when it isn’t taught.”

    I have long argued this; it is the heart of their pedagogy and it is a very effective and deliberate pedagogy. Anthroposophy’s child development theory holds that children learn *better* by imitation and unconscious absorption of symbols and themes than by direct instruction, or abstract concepts, prior to age 14 (birth of the astral body). They do these things on purpose, it is not just that they happen to be into myths and stories and puppetry and song and dance. The pedagogy is focused this way because it is considered the correct way to teach young children (and I think they’re right).

    Conveniently, this also allows them to deny they teach anthroposophy – because a parent can’t ever walk into a classroom and see, for instance, a definition of “anthroposophy” written on the chalkboard. That won’t ever happen, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t teaching anthroposophy. They have a *better* way to teach anthroposophy.

    And by the time the kids are in high school, there’s really no need to teach the abstract concepts. Things one has learned at a very early age through stories and symbols are deeply embedded. One will then be receptive to the abstract concepts when the time is right. It needn’t be in a Waldorf classroom. Those whose karma is to “come to” anthroposophy, will come.

    All of this is much more insidious, much worse, than outright instruction in the beliefs of anthroposophy would be (the way, for instance, kids in Catholic school often have to take a theology class around 10th or 11th grade; it would really be much better if Waldorf high schools would offer direct instruction in anthroposophical doctrines).

  10. And former waldorf students will go into the world propagating the myth that anthroposophy has little to do with actual waldorf education. They can’t even spot the blatant anthroposophical aspects of it.

  11. They come out with a worldview colored by anthroposophy in ways they couuld not put into words (because, in fact, it hasn’t been put into words for them). They don’t know which aspects of their worldview are anthroposophical. They’ve learned big pieces of anthroposophy without knowing they’ve learned it.

    The folks running a Waldorf school know this. It isn’t to be discussed with parents, only in faculty meetings.

  12. Alicia and Diana (and Thetis who just isn’t around for the moment), you put it all very well into words. I only use one word when it comes to the “Oh no, we do not teach Anthroposophy here!”: the whole a/s/w business is about indoctrination.

    (By the way, the MacMillan English Dictionary, New Ed.: indoctrinate to teach someone a set of beliefs so thoroughly that they do not accept any other ideas = brainwash).

    The a/s/w are certainly not the only ones using this strategy, any sect does.

  13. I’m not sure they manage it fully (the indoctrination), but to a certain extent they do, and very subtly. It’s a tricky movement in this regard.

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