replies to jan luiten on education and the spiritual world

In regard to the discussion over at the Local Schools Network blog. Because we have had these conversations with Jan earlier on this blog. Because some of it may, as Thetis pointed out, only serve to bemuse the regular LSN-blog readers. I quote myself in full and provide selections from and links to Jan’s comments.

Jan wrote:

I think it is important in life to be open to new developments and phenomena.
When people state: “there is no spiritual world” they are closing themselves of for new developments. When they are rigid in this conviction they are fundamentalists.

I replied:

Jan, good stuff. But what’s it doing in the educational system?

Schools for children are not appropriate venues for the spiritual ‘journeys’ of grown-ups. Or people who are supposed to have grown up.

Jan wrote:

The thing is that when you deny the (possible) existence of a spiritual world, anthroposophy must appear as a building of nonsense. This is the way DC indeed describes it. I am not impressed by that. His blog is a sceptic blog. Sceptics dogmatically deny the existence of a spiritual world, in fact not very scientific.

I wrote:

Jan — why does it matter to you that a skeptic denies the existence of a spiritual world? No skeptics tells you cannot hold a belief in (or conviction, or knowledge of, or walking a path to, or whatever else) the existence of a spiritual world. It is perfectly alright. You have a right to believe in the spiritual world.

But I, as a child, had a right to be spared the spiritual beliefs of anthroposophists — a right anthroposophists were not willing to grant me. So — if you have a right to your beliefs, don’t you think other people have the right to their beliefs and the right to reject your beliefs and not to have to be subjected to them?

Also — and it seems to me we have discussed these issues before — there is a problem when you ask other people to help finance your spiritual beliefs, and you ask that they do this involuntarily through the tax system. I know that I have called your attention to tax funded scientology primary schools. We have them in Sweden, thanks to the free school system — which, by the way, I support. But I don’t think tax payers should be forced to finance extreme cults. You have to draw the line somewhere. But where is that, exactly? Whose spiritual convictions are worthy of public support? Scientologists? Islamists? (Anthroposophy is, like, nice in comparison. But, as said, where do you draw the line?)

And what about those children who get their education and their lives fucked up in these institutions?

I see you constantly obsess about your spirituality and how skeptics don’t respect it. But you very rarely seem to realize that education is there for the students and not to bolster your spiritual self-confidence. You very rarely want to reply to what I say, because you know I was a student in one of these schools — and I guess you somehow realize that, just like you have a right to your spirituality, I had a right not to be subjected to it. Isn’t that correct? And perhaps you understand that children’s rights aren’t always respected.

The reason seems quite apparent to me: parents and teachers who want to pursue their spiritual ‘journeys’ are all too eager to sell out the rights of children.

‘Since Darwins time modern biology has been developed further, so is anthroposophy may it be less spectacularly.’

So what stops anthroposophists and waldorf proponents from saying, ooops, Steiner made some bad errors, and explain what these errors are and why they are now to be rejected? That would help prove that anthroposophy has developed.

(Knowledge of biology has, of course, developed and continues to develop because biology is a science. Nobody needs to feel attached to hypotheses that have been disproven…)

Jan wrote:

The issue here is not of a personal level although it may seem to be so to you.
For me it is about the possibilities of development for our societies (political, social, cultural, economical) and yes, for human kind in general. […]

[Spiritual science] can offer humanity a chance to comprehend better the things they meet during their lives on this planet (and afterwards), including their own life.

I say it c a n , that means you have to do it yourself, but the anthroposophical methodology can be a great help on this road.[…]

Anthroposophy as a cultural factor will make our societies more human. […]

Finally it all comes down to a right understanding of what anthroposophy really is.

I wrote:

Nothing wrong with that either, Jan. But you would have to make a good argument in favour of anthroposophy and its merits in these areas. Like everybody else who has political ideas. Anthroposophy isn’t convincing — or, let me rephrase that, anthroposophists don’t do a great job. It seems to me they sit in an ivory tower, feel superior, expect to be exempted from criticism, and (they have the nerve!) ask everybody to pay for their stuff without knowing what it entails.

It doesn’t work! [I meant that the convincing doesn’t work. Anthroposophy might not ‘work’ either, but that wasn’t what I was thinking of, actually.] But you are, like everybody else, free to promote it as a political philosophy, as a spiritual philosophy, or in any which way you like. But you can’t demand automatic respect for your beliefs or that they be adopted by others without evidence or argument. And as far as funding goes… you have to prove that what you offer is worth paying for. And that it isn’t just some crazy spiritual junk. You are competing with scientologists for the money…

*

I also now notice that in that same comment, Jan writes about the education system in Finland, and imagines that with society approaching the ideals of social threefolding, schools would gain more freedom from state interference, like in Finland. As far as I know, the demands that schools show results are as high in Finland as they are anywhere else; they might even be set higher than in countries like Sweden. But with highly skilled and competent teachers, Finland might be in a position where according more freedom to teachers is actually an option that leaves children better off as compared to more state control; it does have to do, I would guess, with the quality of teacher training and the professional status of teachers (Finland excels). And Steiner schools in Finland are (or were, at least, but I don’t see why this would have changed much lately) required to prepare their students for national tests — they have to pass the same final exams as students in other schools to graduate, for example. It seems to me that the schools are free as long as they accomplish their tasks — but they don’t get to decide freely what these tasks are (and waldorf schools would, no doubt, want to decide on that themselves — to be ‘free’, right Jan? though it is only about the freedom of parents and teachers, not about the freedom of children, which I have pointed out ad nauseam).

112 thoughts on “replies to jan luiten on education and the spiritual world

  1. good of you to pin down the relevant points on a venue concerned with English schools. I wonder how readers of that site perceived Jan’s comments – which must have seemed bizarre and irrelevant – though Janet Downs is perceptive (and has searched for herself).

    We’ve discussed these things so many times with Jan, the debates are circular.

  2. I hope she found herself btw ;)

    In her google searches she found Peter, but didn’t mention The Sun at Midnight, which might appear as a neutral source.

  3. ‘good of you to pin down the relevant points on a venue concerned with English schools. ‘

    Well, if I did, it’s because the relevant points are international. I think they are, really. The regulations are local, of course, but the basic principles are as valid in the UK as in Sweden. I said what I would’ve said about the situtation Sweden. Not that my principles are the law here — even though I would, of course, prefer that…

    The Sun at Midnight is good — but hard to find, perhaps. It might be worth it to point to the book and website http://www.sun-at-midnight.com/index.page. Googling Peter serves you a multitude of links to Sune’s projects and a few to links to his pal Daniel Hindes…

  4. When Jan says “I think it is important in life to be open to new developments and phenomena. When people state: “there is no spiritual world” they are closing themselves of for new developments. When they are rigid in this conviction they are fundamentalists.”, I can’t help thinking that this is a type of ‘deepity’ inasmuch as the statement, if it were true (it isn’t), would apply equally to anyone who does not believe in something that others believe in; indeed, it applies to Jan in his conviction that science is not the best way to model reality – really, these spiritual types are so closed minded… especially to evidence.

  5. Very true Nick. Also, the notion that “skeptics deny spiritual reality so actually that isn’t scientific” is confused, though we hear it often from religious believers. The basic skeptical position is not that there is no spiritual reality, rather that in the absence of evidence for spiritual reality, it makes sense to proceed as if spiritual reality didn’t exist. Any time evidence presents itself, the true skeptic is interested in hearing all about it. Many skeptics hold spiritual beliefs, and many more are quite interested in examining credible evidence on such questions.

    Furthermore, believers often assert that if you are “closed” to the possibility of spiritual reality, that’s so sad because you’re closing off the possibility of being convinced of it. Why would that be? Why is spiritual reality supposedly so shy about presenting itself? If there’s a spiritual reality why does it apparently play coy with nonbelievers? If it’s true, if it’s a grand truth about the universe, why in the world would it be so delicate and fragile and easily frightened, or so unwillingly to interact with a wide variety of people of different beliefs? Wouldn’t the opposite make more sense – that spiritual reality would provide *more* evidence to convince the skeptics, rather than less? Step right up, spiritual reality, and show us what you’ve got. Skeptics are often quite interested in and open to such possibilities. I’m a very good example myself – as anthroposophists have frequently pointed out to me, I’m extremely interested in spirituality, and would be quite excited for some convincing evidence of spiritual realities to present itself to me. What I mostly see, however, is humans deluding themselves, and fighting among themselves; that seems to me to constitute most of what believers call “spiritual reality.” It’s not really a pretty sight.

  6. marvellous! I always hear the word ‘deepity’ said in Dan Dennett’s American accent – humorously but certainly not deeply.

    The word ‘spiritual’ is used to fulfil a great many functions and becomes meaningless unless qualified, imo. It can hardly be expected that those outside a movement accept the existence in any real (non-fictional) sense of a complex cosmology invented – or clairvoyantly channelled – by a mystic/philosopher, however bossy or self-important his proponents. That doesn’t rule out skeptics having rich emotional, imaginative or even, if they want to use the word, spiritual lives.

  7. quick comment on Alan Gurbutt’s post – a soap-box on a random corner which I’m responding to in an equally random way – I don’t think it has much to do with Francis’ article. I’m a great fan of the Enlightenment and wouldn’t exchange it for the Endarkenment, so would advocate ensuring that all children have access to understanding how science works and how to spot Bad Science (the Ben Goldacre module). This rules out Steiner schools at one stroke, leaving me free (as a skeptic) to indulge the riotous imagination my ‘regurgitated’ education was not able to place any limits on at all, though my school really wasn’t as good as the education in many state schools now. After all, the ‘current environmental meltdown’ means that we need students who are able to think critically, scientifically and imaginatively – and to understand how important it is not to forget our history – in this case it’s imperative to understand the history and dynamics of anthroposophy and not imagine the Steiner movement can move on from its roots (whilst adhering to the pedagogy).

    Alan G doesn’t like testing. A portfolio of skills and achievements has been suggested as an alternative but it’s generally considered too difficult to implement across such a large cohort of students. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, or that the current model should stay the same. I’m not sure what this has to do with Steiner schools, which will always attempt to opt out of any criteria not serving their highly peculiar ends.

  8. Nick — it’s a kind of deepity applied by people who often aren’t prepared to take their own admonishments of others seriously enough to apply the same thinking to their own attitudes. I mean this generally and not about Jan. There are probably more blatant cases.

  9. Diana — very well put.

    And there are, of course, many skeptics who are into spiritual stuff. Not just theoretically, I guess.

    But there are more varieties of spirituality than the one offered by anthroposophy. And other ways to pursue ‘transcendent experiences’ or spiritual enlightenment — if that’s what you want. Interestingly, anthroposophists often behave as though they don’t have any competition in the field. I suppose that’s an attractive thought (for them) but the consequence is an immense overestimation of the merits of anthroposophy… how unique it is, how it would transform human existence and society if people would just begin to understand how necessary is… how it can accomplish something different from what could be accomplished through other ways of thinking, reasoning, experiencing, organizing society, et c. But you’d have to show everybody how special anthroposophy is — and it seems to me anthroposophists aren’t doing that. (They can’t agree on what it means to ‘do’ anthroposophy ‘right’ — I think even open-minded Jan himself has claimed other anthroposophists have got it wrong — how does he know? And what’s it supposed to tell us? About this wonderful philosophy that’s got the potential to change the world according to Jan — only his interpretation of it? And, oh wait, it’s a method — how cab he know the results someone else gets are wrong… maybe they were reached through application of the very same method…. Subjectivity yields different results, so who do we trust? Apparently we ‘should’ trust someone, lest we run the risk of applying the method incorrectly ourselves… Oh so complicated… And bring this into politics or education or…)

  10. Thetis — right! I have to accept that to some people this spiritual world — whatever it is in their interpretations — is important, but to accept it as a fact of ‘reality’… Well, now, this would be highly complicated because, for one thing, it would have the effect that we’d have to accept contradictory conceptions of the spiritual world as simultaneously and equally valid. And to make societal decisions based upon this… oh dear Dog.

  11. Thetis — I’ll have to read Garbutt’s comment first, but… all this stuff against testing… I think people who are against it believe that people who think it might be a good idea put a lot more emphasis on it than they actually do. I think testing is good, among other thkngs because it might be a way to gain information about schools that are failing, because these schools are failing the children and that’s not a trivial matter. Testing is one way to know these things, albeit not the only thing to look at.

  12. yes – this is why the idea of Britain’s HRH as future ‘defender of faiths’ rather than ‘the faith’ is so ludicrous. Defender of what? And from whom? (I am not a monarchist – did you guess?)

    I agree with you Alicia about conceptions of testing – which at primary level can be useful for teachers (what haven’t I taught you?) and benign for children. That’s the case in our local school. Exams are not such a bad thing, we’ve been going through the hard slog of these ourselves recently. There can of course be additional markers of achievement, for schools overall and for children as individuals. The problem is you can’t force employers or universities to accept school-leavers on the strength of these alone, and they will generally ask for the evidence they’re used to unless the candidate is for example an outstanding performer or has sporting or artistic talent and is aiming for a relevant career. Consensus would be needed.

    Garbutt has a site with info about dyslexia, which I imagine explains his concern for children who struggle with academic work. I wonder if he knows how poor Steiner schools are faced with reading/writing difficulties. I can cite two examples of students whose chances have been ruined by Steiner ed and its failures re what is called dyslexia – I know them both pretty well, their experience is one of the reasons I bother with this.

    I can’t help wondering how Mr Garbutt would be faring had we not had the Enlightenment. It would be pretty rough for you and me, Alicia, as women AND atheists, particularly for you as you’ve been avoiding both marriage and the nunnery in favour of following a Dog of your own choosing.

  13. Great discussion, very relevant to current concerns.
    Testing is not a big deal here in our public school. My son was tested beginning in 2nd grade. Testing lasts for about 4 days. The day is broken up into hours and there is considerable amount of time given to stretching, going outside and eating healthy snacks. NO harm done.

    I receive his test scores each year and I appreciate having this knowledge as it pertains to my son and the school in general.

    I think that if parents are against testing it may have more to do with their lack of knowledge about the reason behind testing. In addition I think it is a good thing for schools to be transparent as to the progress of the student and the teacher’s ability.
    We often hear about problems with ‘teaching to the test’ personally I feel my son was challenged acedemically throughout the last 6 years of his public school experience.

    Frankly I am stumped by parents who choose Waldorf and have little to no knowledge about what or how their child is learning – yet they are against testing!

  14. thank you Margaret! I felt I’d wandered from the point, but it is that fear of testing that motivates many parents to seek out Waldorf in the first place.

  15. Most importantly and because I have a greater understanding of the repressed learning that occurs in Waldorf, I am grateful for the fact that he has had many opportunities throughout the years to study, research and present ideas and topics that HE is interested in. This has kept his love of learning alive ~ children are seekers of knowledge ~ not fluff!

    Testing is a miniscule piece of the total learning package.

  16. ‘… in favour of following a Dog of your own choosing.’

    Horrible prospect. It could be even worse: a society favouring cats. Horror! HORROR!

    ‘Frankly I am stumped by parents who choose Waldorf and have little to no knowledge about what or how their child is learning – yet they are against testing!’

    They have so much confidence, so much belief, in the whole waldorf package. They think that everything will be ok. It’s all they ever hear. If the waldorf kids are behind their peers, it will still be ok. No reason to worry. They don’t need to know more. So they don’t need the tests either.

    True — it is a miniscule piece, the testing. It really is. If it isn’t, it should be. Avoiding testing is not the best idea — to consider, and reconsider, the focus of teaching, learning, testing — well, that’s worth doing.

  17. He Alicia, you wrote,
    “You very rarely want to reply to what I say, because you know I was a student in one of these schools — and I guess you somehow realize that, just like you have a right to your spirituality, I had a right not to be subjected to it. Isn’t that correct? And perhaps you understand that children’s rights aren’t always respected”.
    As far as I know myself this is not the case, maybe this plays a part unconsciuosly?
    How do you call it when children are very unhappy on regular schools and also feel abused by the adults who know what is best fort hem?. There is no principle difference to me. In one school there is one convinction, on the other another. Critics say there is a difference: regular schools are supposed to work on a scientifical basis, this is not the case on Waldorf schools. I think in the end that is not correct. Recently many publications on education want to explain human behaviour by the functioning of the brain. In Holland a scientist has stated: We are our brain. Does this become the scienticl basis in regular schools? To me this is materialistic ideology. One-dimensional. The denying of the human “I”. I think there is no more chance on violation of children rights on Waldorf schools than on regular schools. Besides: in the teacher training for Waldorf there must be much attention for modern theories on education. Waldorf teachers should know these theories.

    And more:
    “Nothing wrong with that either, Jan. But you would have to make a good argument in favour of anthroposophy and its merits in these areas. Like everybody else who has political ideas. Anthroposophy isn’t convincing — or, let me rephrase that, anthroposophists don’t do a great job. It seems to me they sit in an ivory tower, feel superior, expect to be exempted from criticism, and (they have the nerve!) ask everybody to pay for their stuff without knowing what it entails.”

    I think you are right here. But now, on the influence of critics and criticism I hope it becomes clear steps have to be made. The Waldorf schools in England have a great opportunity to make moves forward. They should study all theories on racism, know all about the mechanisms of prejudice and stereotypes, and discrimination, and present themselves as schools with less racism than other Britisch schools. They should not feel themselves to good to do that.

  18. Jan:

    “in the teacher training for Waldorf there must be much attention for modern theories on education. Waldorf teachers should know these theories.”

    Must be or is? Can you direct us to some evidence that Waldorf teacher training includes “modern theories on education”? Which Waldorf programs are now incorporating these theories, and which theories?

    “The Waldorf schools in England have a great opportunity to make moves forward. They should study all theories on racism, know all about the mechanisms of prejudice and stereotypes, and discrimination, and present themselves as schools with less racism than other Britisch schools.”

    Wait … why should they present themselves as having less racism? Is there some evidence they have less racism?

  19. Diana — ‘Wait … why should they present themselves as having less racism? Is there some evidence they have less racism?’

    I think Jan means that their goal — towards which they should work — ought to be less racism as compared to other schools or society at large. More like as in they should materialize as such schools. From the context, I gather that it can’t be about presentation only.

    When I wrote the passage about anthroposophy that Jan replied to I meant anthroposophy, though, and not just the race doctrines (I wasn’t even thinking of them).

    But, clearly, if anthroposophists aim at knowing all this
    ‘all theories on racism, know all about the mechanisms of prejudice and stereotypes, and discrimination’
    they will know more about racism than most people ;-)

    Jan — ‘As far as I know myself this is not the case, maybe this plays a part unconsciuosly?’

    For me or you or both of us? Well, I guess it could be. I’ve been, I think, objecting to the assumption that children’s rights align with parents’ rights. It’s my impression that this is less important to you. And that maybe it’s easier to argue your points with Thetis, who’s another parent and who will raise objections towards waldorf ed that a parent would raise.

    ‘How do you call it when children are very unhappy on regular schools and also feel abused by the adults who know what is best fort hem?. There is no principle difference to me.’

    As far as suffering goes, there’s no difference. I think what makes waldorf different than other types of schools is the deep-seated belief both parents and teachers have in the method, in the school environment, in the ‘philosophy’ — in everything around it. This, I believe, is an impediment to seeing reality as it is — and to understand the needs of a specific child. I’m not suggesting mainstream schools always succeed — I know they don’t. But people who put their children in the local state school have not ‘seen the light’ as it were — they have not acquired a personal conviction in the package, a conviction that is larger than education itself.

    ‘Critics say there is a difference: regular schools are supposed to work on a scientifical basis, this is not the case on Waldorf schools. I think in the end that is not correct.’

    I think we’re far away from an entirely science based pedagogy — but waldorf is probably further away than other forms of education. But, yes, I do think it’s a good idea to take pedagogical research into account, if and when there is such research.

    ‘Recently many publications on education want to explain human behaviour by the functioning of the brain. In Holland a scientist has stated: We are our brain. Does this become the scienticl basis in regular schools?’

    This is perfectly reasonable idea as far as scientific research is concerned. But this is, I guess, ‘crude’ neuroscience — not all neuroscience is directly applicable to education. I don’t think it matters to the efficacy of an educational method if the human being, in this case the child, is his/her brain or something else or something more. E g: we could determine the efficacy of a certain method of teaching reading, without determining what a human being ‘is’ — it doesn’t matter if human consciousness is the brain, only physical processes, or if there’s a spiritual element. Moreover, I don’t think it’s the place for the schools or the teachers to decide on existential matters. From a neuroscientific perspective, it might be entirely appropriate to say that the human being ‘is’ his or her brain; seen from a number of other perspectives this is just either irrelevant or we entertain other ideas about what it is to be human (or whatever, really). Case in point: the law. Most legal conceptions of responsibility and agency and guilt (and I could go on) are quite at odds with neuroscience — in fact, you often read articles on how neuroscience will render the entire construction of criminal law into historical junk. That’s plain wrong, because the legal conception of man was not and is not meant to be scientific — it can’t be. What I’m trying to say is that whether it is ‘just the brain’ or not… is often beside the point. The same goes for thinking we should only pay attention to the mighty brain and its processes — and let knowledge about this guide our every decision, be it in education, politics, social sciences, law… Science can be a great guide. But it doesn’t change the fact that we’d still have to decide how to use the knowledge we’ve gained in the best possible way.

    ‘Besides: in the teacher training for Waldorf there must be much attention for modern theories on education. Waldorf teachers should know these theories.’

    I agree. But is this happening in reality?

  20. “But, clearly, if anthroposophists aim at knowing all this
    ‘all theories on racism, know all about the mechanisms of prejudice and stereotypes, and discrimination’
    they will know more about racism than most people ;-)”

    Yes – his comments have a familiar whiff of grandiosity, and leave one with the uneasy sense that his concerns are more about PR for Waldorf than reality. Why would a school system wish to set itself apart as “knowing everything” about racism or somehow being less racist than other schools? That’s just PR talking points. Concern about *actual* racism would not manifest this way. If they are concerned about actual racism, one good place to start would be dealing with the racist remarks of their own founder (Steiner), not trying to figure out how to sell themselves as knowing all the latest theories about racism. Waldorf isn’t the only system we could accuse of this, of course; my point is that getting all PC about racism isn’t the sort of cosmetic change critics of Steiner’s racism would be looking for. It would probably be just another way to avoid or distract people’s attention from the actual racist problems that plague them – the fact that their founder believed in reincarnation in stages through advancing races, for instance, or things like “The white race is the spiritually creative race” etc.

    Jan Luiten sounds to me like he would be interested in a way of keeping stuff like THAT out of parents’ attention. This isn’t progress. Most of the Waldorf schools have already figured out that it is good to show brown-skinned children on the school web sites and that sort of thing.

  21. Well, even if it wouldn’t be about PR, it would sound unrealistic and if, against the odds, it was feasible at all and if it was something they (meaning the schools and the movement, not Jan) really attempted, they’d be shooting over the goal. Or what you would say in English, I don’t know. They don’t have to become the archangels of anti-racism or anything. But perhaps they do need to study what Steiner said, reconsider what is taught in their teacher seminars, and eventually (and honestly) reject the stuff that should no longer be embraced (by teachers and teacher trainers in their work) and thus no longer be allowed to seep into pedagogical practice. This is not just about racism — there are issues that are, in pratical terms, more problematic because they turn up in every waldorf classroom.

  22. yes – it isn’t just about racism.

    Every day Roger posts more evidence that parents, government departments etc are well aware of not only the nature of Steiner ed, but how problematic it is. An balmy esoteric movement seeking tax-payers’ cash is heading for trouble in the age of the internet.

    If you’ve come across the work of a neuroscientist like say, Simon Baron-Cohen it’s clear ‘materialistic’ will not do. Neuroscience is so much more complicated – and so much more interesting and kinder and more human than any loony anthro-baloney – Jan, ask yourself just once what British teachers think when they read your bizarre comments on the LSN – in fact do the empathy test, take your mind off that thread – thus far you’ve show little interest in what anyone else thinks or feels –
    http://glennrowe.net/BaronCohen/EmpathyQuotient/EmpathyQuotient.aspx

    I expect Diana will score highly but I’ve asked the team for a special Dog version for Alicia ;)

  23. Thetis, this is ad hominem. You are not attacking or critizing my ideas or conviictions but how (you thinik) I am as a person.

  24. Alicia, Diana, I really don’t want to keep things out of the attention of parents (Diana). No, there should be full clarity in every aspect. They (Waldorf schools) have to make clear that there is a discussion about Steiner and racism, that there is no consensus about what racism is, and that is against the basis of anthroposophy to be racist etc. There are enough arguments, and not only the ones I have mentioned.
    Now, what I said about the brain was just an example, and of course neuroscience isn’t nonsense, and I really believe it is complex and that it could not just be materialistic. The main point however is: there are several conceptions about the image of man on which education is built. But the ones that do not recognize a human being as a spiritual being claim superiority. This is not correct.

  25. Jan – I’ve only the evidence of your (many) comments.

    I have questioned your ideas and convictions, so many times – we go round in circles, it gets us nowhere. Make a better case. Show an interest.

  26. Jan – where is it against the basis of anthroposophy to be racist? Case not made. Absolutely the opposite. And we have heard you mention Memmi. And it is not good enough. And you do not hear us. And so it goes on.

    Explain what you mean by ‘spiritual being’. You really have to do this, it isn’t a joke. Explain what you mean. Explain what it is you’re advocating – what it is that other educators don’t understand about human beings. Because so far this is all the solipsistic posturing of religious zealots.

  27. Jan, there is nothing there. There is no argument. There is just the special pleading of the religious – who have the right not to be offended.

    Make a better case.

  28. yes, do you have one?

    Jan – imagine how your comments on the LSN appear to British teachers, civil servants from the DfE, journalists and casual readers.

    Yesterday – as it happens – I was talking to a friend who has to put up with anthroposophists at the outer reaches of the organisation he – let’s say – influences. ‘They’re narcissistic bastards,’ he said, he was laughing, ‘So holier than thou. And for what reason? I ask you. They’re like a religious cult!’ I rolled my eyes.

    It would have been better if they’d learned to be more modest, they might have even made greater gains.. but no – they lack the necessary imagination to see how others might view their extraordinary claims – although to be fair, Steiner knew it.

    It is a little late to be polite when there is so little money, and when children are so important, and when the skin of these narcissistic bastards is so rhinocerous-thick.

  29. The reason it is so difficult for Steiner schools to move forward on the racism issue is that it is definitely NOT against anthroposophy to be racist. Beliefs about higher and lower races, races being destined to die out, the white race being the race of the future, are part of anthroposophy. How then can it be “against anthroposophy” to be racist?

  30. Thetis, I meant “apology” instead of “excuse”, but leave it.
    Did you ever understood what I meant by: “anthroposophy should not be identified with the anthroposophical subculture?” I know what the journalist meant, but why should development not be possible within this subculture?
    You really don’t have to patronize me about what I am doing on local schools network.

  31. Diana what you stated is a terrible prejudice.
    Anthroposophy is not the same as “what Steiner said”. The lectures and books of Steiner form a basis for the anthroposophy but there is no 1: 1 identification. Anthroposophy transcends Rudolf Steiner. Anthroposophists made their own thoughts about “races” and racism. In a reply to Pete Karaistos I wrote.
    “ To me there is not such a thing as an European race, neither African race, nor Asian race etc. I myself avoid the as much as possible the use of the word “race”, because I think there is no ground in reality for it. Although we may say there is ONE human race with many differences within. These differences are not so big that we can speak of distinct races. But in the daily way of speaking the use of this concept is very unclear, like the use of the concept racism. People easily use this concept (race) when they want to name large groups. I think this not correct and confusing”.
    Anthroposophy has no fixed content.
    But now about what Rudolf Steiner said. Again in a reply to Pete Karaistos I wrote:
    “I don’t think Steiner was a racist. I think that Steiner could have used another concept instead of race to describe what he wanted to. He would most likely had done this when he had lived in our time. Certainly, also without the word “race” it is possible to have racism. But you cannot say Steiner had the intention to legitimate the causing of disadvantage by a supposed superior group to another supposed inferior group(cf. Memmi)”.
    I do not think Steiner wanted to say that there are higher and lower “races”. The white “race” is not the end of evolution. The thing is that in a next incarnation you will have to experience certain things (based on what you did and experienced in this life).
    It is possible that, being a white male, the life as a black woman offers you the best opportunity/circumstances to experience these things in a next incarnation.

  32. “Diana what you stated is a terrible prejudice.”

    Nonsense.

    “Anthroposophy is not the same as ‘what Steiner said’.”

    What Steiner said is the basis of anthroposophy. This is no different for any religion. Obviously followers and believers are all individuals and follow the guru in idiosyncratic or personalized ways. These are truisms, not something specific to anthroposophy. It isn’t “prejudice” to speak of anthroposophy in terms of what the founder taught. Those who deviate in any significant way from what he taught, aren’t anthroposophists.

    I am having trouble formatting this so I will stop here and continue in a second post.

  33. Jan:
    “I don’t think Steiner was a racist. I think that Steiner could have used another concept instead of race to describe what he wanted to.”

    What Steiner “could have” done is not at issue. All we have from Steiner is what he did in fact say and do.

    ” He would most likely had done this when he had lived in our time.”

    That’s very nice, Jan, but he didn’t live in our time.

    “Certainly, also without the word “race” it is possible to have racism. But you cannot say Steiner had the intention to legitimate the causing of disadvantage by a supposed superior group to another supposed inferior group(cf. Memmi)”.
    I do not think Steiner wanted to say that there are higher and lower “races”.

    He may not have “wanted” to say that, Jan, but he did say that.

  34. Racism is not the same thing as discrimination, prejudice, or bigotry. You may have some of these concepts confused, Jan. The Steiner schools absolutely don’t, to my knowledge, discriminate against children of any particular race in terms of admission to the school and they probably don’t very often discriminate against students who are presently in the school on the basis of race. None of that has anything much to do with the founder’s racism, which is not really an arguable point, since it’s in his published writings and lectures.

  35. Jan — ‘that is against the basis of anthroposophy to be racist’

    But is it? Not only are there anthroposophists who seem quite able to combine the two, but you have emphasized that anthroposophy is just a method; it’s not doctrines. If it is a method, how can a belief, let’s say in a hierarchy of races, be against the basis of anthroposophy? The method, i e, anthroposophy, would only be a means to reaching a conclusion about something (e g, race). If anthroposophy is the method — does it tell us anything about the results achieved through application of this method? Because, if it does, does it not contain a concrete doctrine on what’s right and what’s wrong? E g, the idea that some belief is ‘against the basis of anthroposophy’?

    Thetis — ‘I expect Diana will score highly but I’ve asked the team for a special Dog version for Alicia ;)’

    Yes!! I really do need a dog version. I suspect that mr Dog would score higher on the human test than I would, though, so that begs the question which test I’d really need… (I score very low on the human empathy quotient test.)

  36. Jan — ‘I do not think Steiner wanted to say that there are higher and lower “races”.’

    Yet, he said it. Anthroposophists don’t have to live by this as though it were the truth, of course, but what modern anthroposophists do with Steiner’s teachings don’t change the content of these teachings. And, of course, I very much consider it a good thing that anthroposophists don’t take Steiner’s every idea as literal truth. But it becomes slightly silly when they try to claim that Steiner didn’t want to say what he did in fact say.

    ‘The white “race” is not the end of evolution.’

    No, and nobody said that’s what Steiner said, because that’s not what he said. The fact that the white race is not the end of evolution does not change the hierarchy, however — he still placed the white race above the other races as being more spiritually developed. It being (or not being) the end of evolution is neither here nor there.

  37. Diana, you have a fixed idea about what anthroposophy is and what Steiner said.
    It is a wrong idea, but it seems you want to cultivate it.
    The cultivation of prejudices is for some people more convenient than really want to know what anthroposophy is and apparently you are one of them . I made a study about prejudices in general and I know they are hard to change.
    King Prejudice rules as ever, together with his lady Queen Stereotypia which you know all to well too.

  38. Jan, I seem to remember — though I can be wrong and misremembering — you writing that some other anthroposophist(s) had (have) the wrong idea about anthroposophy. How do you know you’re not the one with the wrong idea?

  39. Alicia’s right, Jan. You can’t have this both ways. If there is no content to anthroposophy, why do you keep insisting that in fact your content is right, and racist anthroposophists’ preferred content is wrong? Makes no sense. Each would have an equal claim to being right following your own logic.

  40. “Diana, you have a fixed idea about what anthroposophy is and what Steiner said.”

    Er … it’s a good idea to have a “fixed idea” about what Steiner said. That’s one thing that is indeed fixed: what the man said. We can’t change it. Many anthroposophists today would like to duck certain things Steiner said, or pretend he didn’t say them, or pretend his meaning was ambiguous, and I don’t blame them. But they need to recognize that that is a very different matter from repudiating them or renouncing them or standing up to insist that anthroposophy take a different course.

  41. And as to “what anthroposophy is,” anthroposophists seem to mainly promote this notion that it is “only a method” with “no content” when content that is objectionable to outsiders is pointed out. The rest of the time, if you listen to anthroposophists converse among themselves, you’d sure get the impression there’s some content there. Anthroposophy includes thousands of lectures, essays and books’ worth of content, Jan.

  42. Sorry I keep writing multiple posts. For some reason (probably my computer, or my confused brain), things seem to keep jumping around on the page for me.

  43. This is what Jan wrote to Falk a while ago:

    ‘Falk, I am sorry but your conception of Anthroposophy is not very adequate.’

    https://zooey.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/the-ethereal-kiosk-and-the-waldorf-movement/#comment-9021

    (I thought that was rather funny, because it doesn’t make sense unless you reinterpret is as: ‘I have a different conception of anthroposophy and do not agree with yours’ — though the whys are still lacking…)

    Falk also asked a question which was, I think, referring to Jan, in addition to whoever it was who had commented in that thread:

    ‘You now have two people on the blog claiming anthroposophy is a ‘way’, or a ‘method’. I would be very interested to hear them say what this ‘way’ IS without referring to any of Rudolf Steiner’s revelations.’

    https://zooey.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/a-bright-future-on-zajoncs-light/#comment-9794

    (It’s a question that could be posed to many more anthroposophists than these two.)

    Diana — it’s no problem. I hope the page isn’t jumping around all the time (or for everyone) though! It does seem a bit bothersome…

  44. Oh yes – the idea that anthroposophy doesn’t have any content is a perennial theme from anthroposophists who feel anthroposophy is being criticized. We might almost say it’s part of the crucial content of anthroposophy.

  45. Jan, I certainly don’t need to apologise to you or to anyone else, I’m astonishingly moderate in the circumstances. It is after all my country and the education system which involves my children you people want to fuck with, my tax money your movement wants. Nor was I aware of any rules on this blog – I had a good look round the back and all I could see were a few words scrawled on a wall – ‘no cats’. I have no idea what you’re like in person. I have only the evidence of your (many) comments. In my opinion, based on these comments, particularly on the LSN, you show little interest in the thoughts or feelings of others. You may think that you do, but convincing me would take some evidence.

    ‘King Prejudice rules as ever, together with his lady Queen Stereotypia which you know all to well too.’

    Diana is so brilliant she hardly needs any help from me. But I think the Emperor of Steiner Spin is naked – in fact the man has not one shred of clothing. Fortunately his consort the Empress of Self-Knowledge has a mirror (and a very large feather).

  46. (Blush) Come now :) if you call me brilliant you will only egg me on and I have quite a few rivals here in brilliance if so, including She Who Does Not Tolerate Cats (lord knows why we are friends given this egregious prejudice …)

  47. ‘Nor was I aware of any rules on this blog – I had a good look round the back and all I could see were a few words scrawled on a wall – ‘no cats’.’

    That is indeed the only rule worth remembering ;-) When Rudi asks me to evict some trouble-making anthroposophist (usually some high-strung eurythmist insisting on violating the no-eurythmy rule — oops, another rule!), I hand him another cognac and tell him he might have been running anthroposophy but he isn’t running the ethereal kiosk. Besides, we welcome all emperors and empresses — particularly the more affluent ones who regularly bring us champagne from their own chateaus. Naked emperors may be asked to put on a pair of trousers, though. Not that they have much to show for without trousers, one has to concede; and they never bring champagne (they’re more likely to bring empty sermons… and bore us all to sleep). These naked emperors are always somewhat disappointing. So much bragging for so little. Sorry, I digress. Oh, I notice the Emperor of Sublime Paradoxes is munching on a some biodynamic treats over there in the corner…

    There usually is a method to any madness, as we say in the kiosk.

    *

    This said, I don’t mind anthroposophy being a method. (I wouldn’t mind seeing Jan explaining how his idea of this method looks.) We’d still have to explain all the content though — and, most importantly in this context, the content taught to and used by waldorf teachers. Because that is real, too, no matter how individual anthroposophists make use of anthroposophy in their own lives.

  48. ‘including She Who Does Not Tolerate Cats (lord knows why we are friends given this egregious prejudice …)’

    Not even the almighty Dog will be able answer to this one. But we have to accept that there are mysteries beyond comprehension and explanation.

  49. It was Thetis, I believe, who came up with the name ‘the ethereal kiosk’ — I made a new header, but forgot to hang the ‘No cats!’ sign on the gate… Mr Dog will be mad.

    ‘No cats! No eurythmy!’

  50. So. Method.

    Is anthroposophy, or does it contain, method? Yes. And it’s an idea I sympathize with because, in principle at least, it leaves it up to the individual to accept or reject the findings of Steiner or other anthroposophists. I understand why that’s attractive. And I don’t deny there’s this element of method in anthroposophy — but I also suspect that anthroposophy is not so different from other spiritual ‘paths’ in this. And, in the end, the question is how anthroposophists treat anthroposophy — as a method or as a set of doctrines.

    Is that all anthroposophy is? Hell no. We’re discussing waldorf education. It’s ridiculous to think that waldorf is the outcome of individual applications of an anthroposophical method rather than the realization of established anthroposophical dogma.

    If it were about method (or a ‘way’ for the individual teacher to master whatever it is s/he needs to master), we wouldn’t see the waldorf doctrines applied so meticulously in waldorf schools all over the world. If anthroposophy is this spiritual path of freedom, and if this is the method that waldorf teachers are supposed to apply, it certainly is interesting that the outcome is so similar to doctrines put in practice. In particular since you can read — and this is what the waldorf teachers have studied when they were in training — about all these very specific waldorf elements that are supposed to be put in practice. Or is it that this way, or walking this spiritual path, leads to the same results for everyone? The same content that is taught by Steiner and by later waldorf gurus? If this is the case — and, it seems to be, if anthroposophy is a method, and this method is applied to waldorf, then this method must lead to uniform results — what’s the difference between method and content? Between ‘way’ and doctrine?

    If anthroposophy were anything like the scientific method, I would expect that, were a certain hypothesis correct, all people using the method would reach similar results, i e, that the hypothesis was right.

    The difference, however, is that anthroposophy is spiritual — and there’s no way you’re going to make anthroposophy more sciency by claiming that applying the same spiritual method all these teachers have come to the conclusion that the colour black must indeed, for spiritual reasons, be removed from the children’s crayon boxes. All the teachers may, in particular after studying the established waldorf reasons for this practice, agree that this is how things are to be done — but these are still their subjective experiences, based less on independently applied method than on received knowledge (I suspect); there’s no objective data, no factual back-up. Because that’s not what the anthroposophical method can provide, even if the teachers had actually used it in the concrete circumstance.

    But of course they don’t use the method like that. They would have no time left after all the spiritual investigations they’d have to do to make the simplest everyday classroom decisions. They simply have to rely on — yes, indeed — content. Content they’ve learnt from others.

  51. this is an extremely good comment. Unfortunately I have just been to see ‘Harry Potter and the Last Anthroposophist’, in which Prof Dumbledore says the immortal words: ‘It may all be in your head, Harry, but that does not mean it is not real,’ before ascending on a flying salamander. So, until tomorrow..

  52. That’s exactly it, Alicia.

    If anthroposophy is a valid method, then one would assume that results of this method would tend to be, if not uniform, at least similar. And somehow, when Steiner’s devotees pursue spiritual researches, they do indeed tend to confirm Steiner’s findings. (Those who don’t, had better keep quiet about it; there isn’t a lot of tolerance in anthroposophy for people contradicting or challenging Steiner.)

    Most Waldorf teachers, I agree, would quite agree that they simply have no time for spiritual research. I’m very familiar with the lives of Waldorf teachers. They work very hard, from sun up to sun down, just dealing with their classes. Their concerns are practical, and they are very tired. They are not confirming or challenging Steiner; they simply need to know what song to sing, what story to tell, what activities to do in the classroom. They need a curriculum. And that is what anthroposophy gives them. Lordy, if there were no content in anthroposophy … it’s just a ridiculous notion.

  53. Quick before I have to go to bed…
    ‘Oh, you really have called the blog The Ethereal Kiosk!’

    Yes. I had this irresistible need to change something. I wanted to change both the image text and the picture itself. I’m a bit divided about this image though; its air is too romantic, and it has too little of the kiosk’s decadence. Naturally, that’s only the garden. The inner realms of the ethereal kiosk should perhaps not be revealed visually to the uninitiated general public. It’s a bit like a secrect society, albeit not totally secret.

  54. ‘They are not confirming or challenging Steiner; they simply need to know what song to sing, what story to tell, what activities to do in the classroom. They need a curriculum. And that is what anthroposophy gives them. Lordy, if there were no content in anthroposophy … it’s just a ridiculous notion.’

    And if there weren’t, how could waldorf schools and their proponents market waldorf schools to prospective parents? Even if they’re dishonest about many things, they still present a waldorf content — this is what waldorf is, this is what we think we (want you to think) we provide. It’s not like ‘our teachers are on a path and anything can happen, la la la’… although that would perhaps be as accurate as the dogmatism, because that is actually the attitude everytime dogma does not have the answer…

  55. It’s a silly conversation I’ve had numerous times with anthroposophists. Periodically, one of them has a postmodern epiphany and declares that there’s really no such thing as Waldorf, either. This is very entertaining from my vantage point – I don’t have a child in a Waldorf school. If I were a Waldorf parent, I’d be a little peeved to learn I was shelling out all that tuition money for a school that was no different from any other school, despite having sold itself as something not just special, but truly unique.

    Waldorf parents, you should ask for your money back if they start telling you there’s nothing different about this school. There’s supposed to be LOTS of unique things about Waldorf, lots of very specific content. It is so specific, often if you found yourself magically transported to a Waldorf school on the other side of the world, you could find the same pictures on the walls, hear the teacher telling the same stories etc. We hear many amusing variations of this; I remember hearing about a South American school that hung heavy drapes on the windows in December in order to light candles and create an appropriate atmosphere for Advent, that is, basically pretend they were in central Europe or Scandinavia.

    I’m very impressed by the new blog name! Obviously, this blog has really been “The Ethereal Kiosk” for some time; it’s just now found its name … but I do hope it will continue to prominently feature Mr. Dog and His Chewbones.

  56. Alicia, It is clear to me that the consequence of understanding anthroposophy as primarily a methodology is, that the content of anthroposophy should be constantly updated. That applies to all what Steiner has written or said, but in our time especially to the area of “race”and racism. This does not imply the disconnection of Steiner and anthroposophy, on the contrary: the methodology he gave, stands. The discussion about “race”and racism is in fact a big wakeup call and also a great opportunity. Thanks to the critics. The big question is: will the anthroposophical movement indeed wake up?

  57. Alicia:” Jan, I seem to remember — though I can be wrong and misremembering — you writing that some other anthroposophist(s) had (have) the wrong idea about anthroposophy. How do you know you’re not the one with the wrong idea?”
    Good question. I was, and still am a critic within the anthroposophical movement. I have continuously asked myself the question why is this movement in such a deplorable state? As you know, I came across the anthroposophy by the books of Steiner. I did not know any anthroposophist before. I recognized the importance of the anthroposophy. But when I entered the anthroposophical subculture it was a disappointment. I had the feeling the importance and the modernity of the anthroposophy was not recognized within this subculture. What is the problem here? Has it to do with how anthroposophy is understood by these people? It must be.
    One of my explanations is that anthroposophy was and is too much taken as a doctrine. Too little free thinking (at that time I was studying political science, and was trying to understand what social threefolding is ). I have no patent on the truth, and I don’t want to claim that I am the one with the right conception of anthroposophy, but I know for sure that anthroposophy was not meant as a doctrine, as a Steiner belief, or as a dogmatic ideology.

  58. Alicia, to your comment that beginns with “so method”.
    I agree with Thetis (sic!) about the quality of this comment.
    I will react on that comment today, but I need some more time.

  59. Jan:

    “This does not imply the disconnection of Steiner and anthroposophy, on the contrary: the methodology he gave, stands.”

    How could the same methodology first tell you that race is very important, a marker of your spiritual status, and that humanity has evolved through progressive races – and then tell you that race is NOT a marker of your spiritual status and that humanity has NOT evolved through races?

    I’ll first tell you the answer I’ve heard from anthroposophists countless times (maybe yours is different): race USED to be important but isn’t anymore. Of course, this doesn’t cut it. If it USED to be important, if it pretty much explained the course of human development and civilization, then guess what? it’s still important.

  60. “there’s no way you’re going to make anthroposophy more sciency by claiming that applying the same spiritual method all these teachers have come to the conclusion that the colour black must indeed, for spiritual reasons, be removed from the children’s crayon boxes.”

    That’s a very good example of the “content” of anthroposophy. Waldorf kindy teachers do not remove the black crayon because they did spiritual research and determined for themselves, reading the Akashic Record or something, that the black crayon is bad for the children. They remove it because, working in a Waldorf school, that’s what you do, it’s what you’ve been told is the way it should be done. It’s the content of anthroposophy.

  61. Diana, “How could the same methodology first tell you that race is very important, a marker of your spiritual status, and that humanity has evolved through progressive races – and then tell you that race is NOT a marker of your spiritual status and that humanity has NOT evolved through races?”
    As I see it, race was not a marker for spiritual status , how did you get to that interpretation? As I understand the individual comes first, not the group.

    “there’s no way you’re going to make anthroposophy more sciency by claiming that applying the same spiritual method all these teachers have come to the conclusion that the colour black must indeed, for spiritual reasons, be removed from the children’s crayon boxes.”
    I would say:only do things you really understand. Don’t do it because everybody does, or out of haqbit or tradition.

  62. It just seems very odd to me that an educational methodology that insists on certain restrictions – shows a lack of trust in the child’s (and future adult) capability and right to come into his or her own truth. Don’t we all have this right to ‘awaken’ in our own time?

    Waldorf teachers seem to keep a tight reign on the child while honoring the Anthroposophical guidelines. Then it seems Waldorf tries to justify their ‘rightness’ with some ‘recent’ research that can be misconstrued to justify ANY methodology!

    All of this while concealing from parents the true intentionality behind the method.

  63. Jan:

    “race was not a marker for spiritual status , how did you get to that interpretation?”

    Steiner said:

    “one can only understand all that is spiritual in the correct sense if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin.” (Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde, p. 52, from his 1923 lecture on “Color and the Races of Mankind”)

    “As I understand the individual comes first, not the group.”

    Yes indeed, because the individual reincarnates, right? We’ve been over this. The fact that the individual reincarnates does not mean the theories about the races aren’t racist, in fact just the opposite.

  64. Jan:

    “only do things you really understand. Don’t do it because everybody does, or out of haqbit or tradition.”

    I hope this advice isn’t intended for Waldorf teachers. A Waldorf teacher who doesn’t want to do it just because Steiner said, is often risking her job.

  65. Alicia,
    I think inmost cases the evidence of anthroposphical statements must be found in life itself, the experiences in life. Does the anthroposophy give plausible explanations for certain phenomena or not?
    The anthroposophical methodology means that the user of it includes spiritual factors in his research. Parts of this methodology are e.g. phenomenology (biology) and symptomatalogy( history, political science). But the methods of natural science are not at odds with anthroposophy when applied to physical phenomena.
    To do observations in the spiritual world yourself you have to do certain exercises by which you can develop senses. By these senses you can do this observations. This is in the line of the normal, regular human development. Many people will have these skills in the future.
    Anthroposophy is just a short cut of a general human road.
    About education:
    Writing this comment I did some googling and came across a publication of Ewald Vervaet a developmental psychologist. His point is that dyslexia is caused by too by learning to read too early. In Holland the number of dyslectics is increasing since the schools had to begin earlier with reading with the children. In Denmark there al far less dyslexia because of the fact they start with reading when the children are 61/2 years old. Just to show an example of confirmation of a part of the anthroposophical theory.
    I think as a Waldorf teacher (which I am not) you should know all about general concepts of anthroposophy. Also you have to know the general pedagogical theory and developmental psychology( both regular and anthroposophical).
    But you should never take them as a dogma and act out of a dogma . Stay true to yourself and act out of yourself out the person you are at that moment. Never dogmatically.
    (I try to do this as a teacher on a regular school not being trained as Waldorf teacher )

  66. This is exactly what I mean by people misconstruing research. I have never heard of Vervaet ~ I was taught the scientific child developmental stages of Piaget and Erikson.

    Anthroposophy was never discussed in my six years of private/public college because It is not scientific it is esoteric.

    I currently work with children and I can tell you that children do not just ‘start to read too early’ rather it takes 2- 3 years for children to understand (build) the skills involved with reading. I have worked with children that WANT to learn to read, actually they practically beg for it!

    I have detected dyslexia in young children (3-4) and it had nothing to do with reading! It has to do with an inability to follow simple songs, movements or sequencing. So here is another example of how Waldorf tries to justify their methodology by bringing in ‘research’. Dyslexia is a brain based issue not a reading issue.

    Good try Jan but again the ‘method’ you subscribe to for not honoring a child’s natural desire to learn is based on Anthroposophy not science.

  67. Jan, what you write is so full of woeful ignorance it is hard to know where to start. I think you may be one of those anthroposophists who have learned a lot of what they know through the distorted lens of anthroposophy. “Symptomatology,” for instance, is a term with a particular meaning in anthroposophy. The rest of us don’t use “symptomatology” to mean history and political science! I can’t tell if you really learned this sort of thing innocently in this manner, or if you know this is anthro bafflegab and just figure we don’t know.

    Similarly I think it is very sad how some Waldorf teachers truly believe they know a lot about “child development,” when what they really know is anthroposophy. If they have no idea what the term “child development” means to people who have actually studied it, they can learn some terribly ignorant stupid stuff in Waldorf training that is straight anthroposophy and they are dead certain it is really child development. They don’t intend to deceive Waldorf parents when they talk earnestly about a child in terms of “child development theories” that are really just Steiner.

  68. Likewise, Margaret, Jan probably earnestly believes that other experts think dyslexia can result from learning to read too early. If one didn’t know anything about reading or how reading is taught, one could actually take this seriously. Anthroposophy thrives on ignorance.

  69. Margaret, Diana
    “Likewise, Margaret, Jan probably earnestly believes that other experts think dyslexia can result from learning to read too early. If one didn’t know anything about reading or how reading is taught, one could actually take this seriously. Anthroposophy thrives on ignorance.”

    I do not know that. I happen to came acros this publication of a regular developmental psychologist. Like I sad it was an example. An example for how how regular scientists could provide evidence for anthroposophical theory.
    Not wanting to understand eh Diana, rather play catch as catch can on me.

  70. Diana said:
    Jan:
    “race was not a marker for spiritual status , how did you get to that interpretation?”

    Steiner said:
    “one can only understand all that is spiritual in the correct sense if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin.” (Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde, p. 52, from his 1923 lecture on “Color and the Races of Mankind”

    What is your definition of racism Diana?

  71. I think it is very regrettable that the famous Van Baarda report (antroposofie en het vraagstuk van de rassen) has not been translated. I think is very important that both, critics and defenders have access to the full version of this report. I think only a few critics and anthroposophists in Holland have momentarily read the full version.
    In chapter 8 (110 pages) of this report (that should be translated with priority) , an extensive oversight is offered of what Steiner said or wrote about “races”. Chapter 9 is about Waldorf schools and “races”. The report makes very clear Steiner was not a racist.
    But persons like Diana will always find ways to “prove” the opposite, thanks to King Prejudice

  72. I’m getting back to this thread later but…. The dutch report. I’m not surprised that a commission of anthroposophists manage to conclude that RS was not a racist. You could argue against this — and, if nothing else,there are racist components in RS’s works. With that inconsideration, I find it slightly beside the point if he *was* a *racist* or not. Lots of people were. But how do modern anthros engage with these racial elements? that’s the big question.

    Isn’t it true that the dutch commission excluded some parts of RS’s teachings right away? I e, in such a way that they weren’t even considered in the investigation? E g the root race stuff? Isn’t it also true that focus was to compare RS’s statements to modern laws and regulations on discrimination? That’s not the same as racism. It’s a whole other game.

    As for the other comments, I’ll be back. Sorry if I’m repeating something that’s been said already.

  73. I know there was a full discussion of definitions of “racism” here awhile back, and since I didn’t follow it I’m hesitant to rehash things that I think Alicia, Jan and thetis (maybe others) covered fully. Suffice to say, Jan, that notions like spiritual status reflected in skin color meet ANY criteria you could possibly think of for racism. It does not matter how narrowly you define the term, and I am fully familiar with the logical pretzels Steiner’s defenders will twist themselves into to convince themselves Steiner’s teachings do not meet some painfully contrived definition of the term. But there really is no definition so narrow that Steiner’s teachings about race would not fit it. Unless perhaps you insist that racism has to include actual extermination of other races (and we’ve heard anthroposophists claim that, too; Steiner didn’t urge that other races be exterminated, so he wasn’t a racist!)

  74. Jan, this sort of “bounces off of me and sticks to you” tactic – calling me prejudiced in every post – is lame. Clearly I am not the one in thrall to prejudices. This just detracts attention from your guru, who claimed that Asians were spiritually adolescent, Africans have boiling passions, and whites are the spiritually creative race.

  75. “Ewald Vervaet a developmental psychologist. His point is that dyslexia is caused by too by learning to read too early. In Holland the number of dyslectics is increasing since the schools had to begin earlier with reading with the children. In Denmark there al far less dyslexia because of the fact they start with reading when the children are 61/2 years old.”

    I can’t reply to what this man has written since I can’t read the language. It is absolutely not the case that any link between “reading too early” (however you define that) and dyslexia has been proven. This is what I mean by showing your ignorance, Jan. You state as if it were obvious and well known to everyone that there is less dyslexia in Denmark because of the age children start reading. This is definitely not the case.

  76. The lesson here is that it’s problematic to cite one expert voice in defence of a claim – a developmental psychologist or a writer – Memmi – because they somehow support your previously held opinions. The only people convinced by cherry-picking evidence or individual perspective cited as fact are the credulous. Unfortunately none of us can say we’ve never been amongst them ;)

  77. Sweden starts late too. Lots of dyslectic kids anyway. I suspect the knowledge how to detect dyslexia early has increased. As far as I know, early intervention and assistance is crucial.

    It doesn’t really matter though, does it?

    Dyslexia — or the risk of it –is not the reason for late reading in waldorg.

  78. Exactly. I’ve just been sitting through a (very basic level) statistics seminar, and couldn’t help think of this dyslexia question. Perhaps Jan will surprise us and it will turn out that he and/or the Dutch researcher he cited (Vervaet) knows of or has conducted a study that used multivariate analysis to properly control for a wide variety of potentially confounding variables in the Danish children’s experience, and still showed a strong association between “early reading” (defined in a specific, clear and defensible fashion) and dyslexia. I’ll be surprised if so. We would need more than one such study to consider the association a strong one, but if he/she comes up with even one study, that would be interesting. Jan?

  79. Diana — fixed it.

    ‘I’ll be surprised if so.’

    I’ll be too. And I’m sure that someone who knows about this (I don’t) is able to find studies showing the opposite. I figure, there must be a reason why people in education talk about early intervention and the importance of it. If there is no early reading/writing, how could there be early intervention?

  80. Diana — ‘It is so specific, often if you found yourself magically transported to a Waldorf school on the other side of the world, you could find the same pictures on the walls, hear the teacher telling the same stories etc.’

    This is true. It’s also why what, e g, Diana writes makes so much sense to me — I recognize the things she writes of her experiences as reflections of my experiences. The difference is I was a child, so my experience is from an other angle. But the fact that we’re on different continents seems rather less important. We’ve seen the same things in waldorf classrooms — things that are specific to waldorf and don’t appear in other educational systems.

    ‘I’m very impressed by the new blog name!’ — credit goes to Thetis, I think she was the one who first used it. And, yes, there will be lots of chewbones and canineosophical discourse. Can’t live on anthroposophy alone!!

    Jan — ‘the content of anthroposophy should be constantly updated’ — sure. It *should* be. That’s not a bad idea — in anthroposophy or elsewhere. But is it? Constantly updated, I mean. When have anthroposophists updated anthroposophy? I’m not seeing a lot of updating, to be honest. I understand that you’d like to see updating; and I agree with this. But this doesn’t make the updates happen among anthroposophists.

    ‘The big question is: will the anthroposophical movement indeed wake up?’

    If anthroposophy is a method, I suppose it’s up to anthroposophists to wake up. Individually. I’m not sure that will happen.

    Re this comment:
    https://zooey.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/replies-to-jan-luiten-on-education-and-the-spiritual-world/#comment-10556

    It is then even more odd that you thought Falk had the ‘wrong’ idea about anthroposophy, or the wrong whatever it was. Falk, I take it, is less doctrinarian than lots of (if not most) other anthroposophists — and that is exactly what you’re asking for! So how could Falk, whose relationship to anthroposophy seems at least as free as your own (possibly freer), be doing anthroposophy the wrong way? It seems that, if you’re right about what anthroposophy ought to be, Falk is an eminent example of this modern anthroposophy!

    Jan to Diana:

    ‘As I see it, race was not a marker for spiritual status , how did you get to that interpretation? As I understand the individual comes first, not the group.’

    The soul/spiritual quality of the individual is ‘expressed’ in skin colour. Individual comes first, not race. That’s why the individual has incarnated in a certain race, with a certain skin colour. Because the individual needs it. That’s why there’s a racial hierarchy. (Oh. Diana had already replied.)

    ‘I would say:only do things you really understand. Don’t do it because everybody does, or out of haqbit or tradition.’

    Well, then, that leaves waldorf education in big trouble. Habit and tradition and ‘everybody else does it’ — that’s waldorf. They have their own habits and traditions and they staunchly stick to them.

    Margaret — ‘Then it seems Waldorf tries to justify their ‘rightness’ with some ‘recent’ research that can be misconstrued to justify ANY methodology!’

    Oh, yes. All the time…

    Jan —

    ‘I think inmost cases the evidence of anthroposphical statements must be found in life itself, the experiences in life. Does the anthroposophy give plausible explanations for certain phenomena or not?’

    Yes. But how’s it going with the evidence? I mean, if anthroposophists want to impress people who are not anthroposophists, the evidence must be of such nature and quality that other people can see the value of it.

    ‘To do observations in the spiritual world yourself you have to do certain exercises by which you can develop senses. By these senses you can do this observations. ‘

    Yes, this is basic anthroposophy, with which, I think, most people here are familiar with (incl those you consider prejudiced).

    I’m not — and I think very few people are — protesting the choice of individuals to engage in such exercises. And I’m not saying that the individual experience can’t be that of having developed the senses or a ‘spritual eye’ or whatever. What I object to, however, is counting this as objective evidence — evidence that should, somehow, impress other people. I will be impressed by the results, if they’re good; whatever they are, art, literature, et c. By that I mean the objective, outer manifestations of such inner activity. But this won’t convince me that this person really has developed the senses. Or that it is somehow down to the use of anthroposophical methodology rather than an inherent capability of the person him-/herself. I don’t see anthroposophists doing things that impress me more than the things other people do — in fact, I don’t see all that much to be impressed by in that corner. So, really, in the end — what does all this spiritual exercise amount to? Some kind of satisfaction for the individual, I suppose. But what is there to convince the rest of us of the general splendidness of anthroposophy?

    ‘An example for how how regular scientists could provide evidence for anthroposophical theory.’

    The problem for anthroposophy is all the instances when regular scientists provide evidence that is antithetical to anthroposophical theories. And this probably happens fairly regularly — only that anthroposophists are likely to ignore it.

  81. Diana said: ‘perhaps Jan will surprise us and it will turn out that he and/or the Dutch researcher he cited (Vervaet) knows of or has conducted a study that used multivariate analysis to properly control for a wide variety of potentially confounding variables in the Danish children’s experience, and still showed a strong association between “early reading” (defined in a specific, clear and defensible fashion) and dyslexia.’

    ha.

  82. Thetis … “ha” was pretty much my feeling, and we’ll be told we’re prejudiced again. However, Jan, all it would take to convince us otherwise would be a study like the one I described. You’ll see how fast our “prejudices” drop away if such a study exists.

    That “early reading” could cause dyslexia is not impossible given certain possible considerations. I don’t think it’s very likely, though. I think there are children who do not enjoy reading, or avoid reading, because they were pushed or pressured to read before they were ready. They might appear to have reading difficulties; they might even end up with real difficulties of some sort, if they fall behind as a result. You can turn kids off to any subject if you handle it wrong or just make a kid miserable learning it. Their difficulty wouldn’t be dyslexia, however. Dyslexia is something specific, and given current understandings of dyslexia, the age at which instruction begins is probably completely unrelated.

  83. And if there was such a study, showing this, it would not, as Jan suggested be evidence that anthroposophical theory was correct — and that scientific research proves it. Because anthroposophy doesn’t delay reading/writing to prevent dyslexia — but for an altogether different reason. (One for which I doubt there’ll ever be any scientific substance. That’s not its nature.)

    I feel that we’re also asked to argue against not what anthroposophy is (in practice) but what anthroposophy is as an ideal in the minds of individual anthroposophists. This ideal may convince them, but for other people reality is far more convincing.

  84. What bothers me about this racism question is not whether Steiner was a racist according to this or that definition of racism. What worries me is that these instances of racist thought that he expresses have been so exaggerated. It’s like anthroposophists *have to* deny that these statements contains some rather appalling racial stuff. They have commissions trying to say that, oh, it wasn’t racist, really, even though it may sound so — rather than have commissions saying that Steiner said some things that seem unfounded. (Now, that would be some work in that department…)

    What worries me even more is that the entire issue of waldorf education comes to revolve around the answer to the question ‘was Steiner, according to some or other definition, a racist?’ — but, really, if you think about it, that is quite irrelevant. If waldorf had evidence that it does indeed provide a superiour method of teaching and if waldorf had left the Steiner-in-error behind — why would we even be here still harping on about these few racist statements? They aren’t *that* important.

    If I go to my own experience for once, I can certainly tell you that Steiner’s possible racism was never the motive for my starting to inquire about waldorf and criticize it. Racism was a non-issue. Even if there were teachers who subscribed to racist ideology (I don’t know if there were), Steiner’s or any other, we wouldn’t have known. There were immigrants in waldorf of course, but they were european, mostly nordic. Both among students and teachers. But that was it. And Swedish society wasn’t like the US or the UK. It still isn’t, but it when I grew up, the immigration wave of the 1990s had not yet happened. (Obviously.) Waldorf school was homogenous, but so where public/state schools too. At least in areas where I lived. In a setting like this, how would you even know that a waldorf teacher is influenced by this or that racial idea taken from Steiner’s work? I just don’t know. I might have been disliked or maltreated for many (anthroposophically relevant) reasons; race can’t have been one of them. At least the waldorf teachers I encountered showed without doubt that it’s possible for anthroposophists to dislike blue-eyed children too. What I’m saying is that if anyone thinks racism is the all-important question and that being fair and blue-eyed saves you — then that’s wrong.

    And I wouldn’t be sitting here discussing waldorf at all if I believed that some odd notions of racism in Steiner’s works was the one and only problem with waldorf. And, again, the problem isn’t the things Steiner said but how modern anthros engage with them — this goes for race as well as for everything else. It would, in my opinion, be easier to just ditch the race stuff and try to revise the ideas, than it is to try to justify or excuse it.

  85. I have no doubt that race is what gets people excited though. From the discussions one would deduce that it’s this huge problem — all of waldorf, all of anthroposophy suffering under it. Which, in turn, might make people think that if that problem is out of sight — if they’ve succeeded in excusing Steiner — then criticism would cease.

    I doubt — I have to say — that racism is *the* big big *big* question in relation to anthroposophy — no matter if we talk about the teachings7the philosophy/the religion (i e, ideas) or about individuals practicing anthroposophy.

  86. Well, the importance of these statements to one personally probably depends a lot on skin color. I’m white and my child is white, and when I was a Waldorf parent I wasn’t particularly concerned about the bizarre odd statements Steiner made about race. They didn’t affect me or my family. But if I had a dark-skinned child I think I’d be a lot more personally concerned.

    But I do agree that the present-day response to the racist statements poses a much greater problem than the statements themselves. If the movement could deal with the issue in some appropriate, convincing way, rather than all the bizarre posturing and hysteria, denials and recriminations and paranoia, I don’t see why they couldn’t just move on. They’ll never convince parents of darker-skinned children that Steiner’s statements on race are irrelevant as long as, when they’re challenged, they behave for all the world as if the racial doctrines ARE relevant (because they refuse to convincingly and unhesitatingly repudiate them).

  87. Agreed. And I guess most parents never hear about these statements. Unless a problem occurs people don’t find out. And the less diverse the school is, the less likely are incidents that can be in any form related to the racial stuff in anthroposophy.

    Something that strikes me is how occasionally the lack of cultural or ‘racial’ diversity is used as an argument that waldorf is bad or that people should avoid waldorf. But in reality, people might choose waldorf, like they choose neighbourhood to live in, because they don’t want diversity. People who are in a position to choose don’t send their kids to schools in poor but ‘diverse’ areas — we’re kidding ourselves if we believe this is unique to the waldorf clientele. *I* wouldn’t, if Ihad any interest in having children. I wouldn’t want to live in these neighbourhoods and much less would I be willing to raise children there. So maybe it’s slightly hypocritical to chastize waldorf for a lack of diversity — I am not talking about the race stuff in anthroposophy now, they’ve got to deal with that — when not that many people are willing to embrace such diversity in their actual lives anyway. People are good at talking, and people know what’s appropriate to claim they want. But in reality they aren’t more willing than waldorf teachers and parents to act in a manner that would further diversity. Whatever that is supposed to be. I mean, you know, it’s a matter of honesty. Why do I, personally, not go about my life as though cultural diversity mattered to me? I mean in my very personal choices. I suppose the only true answer is that I don’t care. Perhaps I’m stuck in europeanness. Who knows.

  88. That said, I feel as alianated from most Swedes too. I guess my sentiments might be coloured by my misanthropy… Culturally diverse or not, I stay away from people who behave like people. And I suppose most Swedes do too. Any Swedish small town would provide me with a cultural shock. They’re too far from what I’m used to. Haha.

  89. Well, our family gets PC points for our educational choices in that regard. The school our son just graduated from reflects the demographic diversity of Philly pretty well (which according to wikipedia is 44.2% black, 39.0% white, 5.4% Asian, 4.7% from other races, 3.2% mixed race, 0.2% Native American, 0.05% Pacific Islander, and 12.5% Hispanic and Latino – I can’t vouch for those stats but it sounds about right, though I’d say the school had a higher proportion of southeast Asians). And I’m pleased about that from a selfish point of view – I think it equips him much better to live in the world he will live and work in, than some kid from a very white suburban school or the kids from the waspy private schools here who are scared of the “inner city.”

    That said, if we had to do it over again, we’d probably go ahead and make the dreaded “move to the suburbs” for the schools. We really jumped through hoops (and made him jump through hoops) trying to make schools work for him. If I had to do it again I’d take the easy way out and move to the suburbs where I didn’t have to worry so much about the school, even if it was basically all white. My husband doens’t feel the same, though, you couldn’t drag him to a suburb for anything.

  90. We have a different situation with the suburb vs inner city but nonetheless… One issue I would see if I were a parent is that in some of these suburbs which are hailed for their multicultural mileu (hailed by politicians who can afford to choose not to live there of course) is that in these schools there are no children who speak Swedish natively or in their homes. That’s a language problem though, not a cultural one. But if I were a parent I wouldn’t see the lack of language as something nice. As for culture, I sort of think there’s enough nuisance in school about christmas and whatnot to add ramadan festivities and other religious junk. But if you’re to be multicultural, these schools would have to, I guess. Anything else would be discriminating. I think we should discriminate against all kinds of idiocy, but swedes are probably too attached to their own idiocies to give them up… and I’m too tired of idiocy in any shape or form. I don’t care about midsummer celebrations, but what can I do… I’m not accepting that religious mores of other cultures are pretty though; junk is junk. There’s nothing cute about ramadan. There’s nothing more attractive in african dance than in swedish folk dance. I’m just not interested. And I can’t figure out why schools need to make space for every kind of cultural madness.

    And, frankly, waldorf schools are brimful of their own cultural (central/northern european flavoured) madness. I’m not sure adding more unfounded cultural/religious junk would increase the sanity. More like the opposite…

  91. I’m not saying my son learned all about other cultures – I don’t really think he did. High school is a culture unto itself. It’s not like he was being constantly invited to Ramadan celebrations at friends’ houses or anything like that – not at all. High school creates its own world. (They had cultural festivals and that sort of thing at the school on occasion but the students are all a bit cynical about that stuff.)

  92. Yeah — I can imagine. I think that’s what happens with any kind of traditional celebration. Waldorf traditions too, obviously. Teenagers are too busy figuring out what is cool for themselves to care much about the stuff their parents and teachers are trying to involve them in — be it michaelmas or something multiculturally correct.

  93. Pressed reply too early so I’ll continue…

    I don’t mean to say that children shouldn’t learn about various religious, spiritual or cultural traditions and beliefs; I think they should and that this is an important part of religion classes. I don’t think it should all be practiced though or that everybody is supposed to enjoy it. And that if you don’t, you’re prejudiced. Not that anybody is supposed to *do* ramadan. But you’re supposed to be respectful of religious lunacy. And I think it’s as mad no matter which flavour…

  94. What I’m saying (I think) is — should I have negative opinions about waldorf schools because they are stuck in German culture and (for whatever reason) not too eager to embrace ‘foreign’ cultural expressions when I am myself not the least bit prepared to travel to the suburbs to hang out with and get to know the ‘multicultural’ crowds? I mean it, I’m not the least interested. It’s another world, another subway line; and I find it rather intimidating. I am utterly discriminating. Even if the reason is that I can’t stand people in general, and I’m not interested in getting to know anybody at all. Least of all any — supposedly cute — religious fanatics of any ‘race’ or cultural origin. Yeah, I know that’s prejudiced. I KNOW I OUGHT to be out there getting to know people personally and discover they’re not the taliban. But I’m fed up with people. All people. I don’t want to experience or discover or blah blah blah the cultural multitudes of humanity. I think it’s quite enough with the cultural stupidity of Swedes.

    This, of course, is quite shameful. These are not the feelings of someone open-minded and nice. (Not that I claim to be.) But it’s even more shameful, I believe, to scold waldorf schools for their lack of diversity (I’ve pointed it out myself… at least in the context of explaining why waldorf schools do so well despite their bad methods — they don’t draw kids and families from socially troubled areas), when I’m not really promoting any diversity myself, in my personal life. No, I stay put in my segregated neighbourhood. Happily ignoring any and all diversity modern Swedish society has to offer. I don’t want to experience midsummer celebrations — but given the choice between midsummer festival and some foreign cultural expression (african drums? I have no idea), I’d probably go for midsummer. That’s awfully close-minded, not to say discriminatory. But I’d rather not have anything to do with any of it. I’m happy to read about anything — as long as it’s theoretical, I don’t mind, even though it may not all interest me. But no thanks to ‘experiences’.

    /horrible, close-minded, prejudiced person

  95. Teaching kids about other cultures/religions … a lot depends on how you do it. If it happens naturally because you live in a place with varied cultures and religions and you don’t act like this is any big deal, kids will learn about other cultures and religions and will likely naturally be tolerant. Kids ARE tolerant; you actually have to work to make them NOT tolerant. One of the best ways to make them not tolerant is to act all weird about it and constantly give workshops on tolerance.

    If you artificially stage “Culture Appreciation Day” type stuff, you just get cynicism. There is quite a lot of this going on. This is what I mean about my son’s school – they do “International Day” where the Albanians are all supposed to bring traditional Albanian cuisine, etc., and the kids mostly pay no attention to this stuff. The way ACTUAL tolerance and understanding happens is, the school is full of a very wide variety of people of different skin colors and faiths and ethnicities etc. You borrow math notes from the kid who sits next to you who happens to be Albanian and you hear him on his cell phone speaking to someone at home in some completely unknown language, whatever it is they speak at home … you’re on the swim team with blacks and whites and a Jewish kid who can’t swim on Saturdays ‘cus it’s their Sabbath; your best friend in homeroom is a Muslim girl who wears a headscarf, etc. You don’t talk about Muslim theology with her, you just make fun of the homeroom teacher together. To you this is normal, you’ve never know different. Therefore you don’t have some kind of problem talking to or working with blacks and Albanians and Muslims or whoever. You don’t necessarily come out being able to explain the historic roots of Albanian folk traditions or something; you just come out able to live your life with lots of different kinds of people as if it were no big deal, ‘cus it isn’t.

  96. You’re not a horrible close-minded person. I know just what you mean and largely feel the same. It’s when it’s artificially imposed, I think, that any intelligent and sensitive person rebels and says “Leave me alone.” Well, not all, I suppose. Some people thrive on such stuff. But I’m with you generally, I’m maybe not QUITE so far on one end of the misanthropy spectrum (misanthroposophy?) as you, but I’m pretty far out there too :) I frequently think of things I would like to do and have to remind myself that I don’t really want to do them after all because it would involve getting to know new people or joining a club/group that would have its own personal dynamics and drama and I just can’t really take any more personal dynamics or drama than I’ve already got in my life … I have to really balance the things I do in my life that involve people with the things that don’t, with a preponderance of the latter, to stay sane. In this way animals really are much better :) People and their baggage will suck you dry.

    Honestly this would amuse you – yesterday I was in the grocery store and I was seriously thinking, I am always thinking mean things about people (junk going on at work etc.), people drive me crazy, I have turned nasty, I am under a lot of stress with my mother’s situation etc. (and my mother is the main person whose baggage I have to carry at the moment, and there is no way out of it), and I must seriously make an effort to think nice things about people and be forgiving, of myself as well as others. I will stop thinking mean things about people, it isn’t healthy and it does no one any good.

    THere is a woman who works at my grocery store, just collecting the carts and doing small tasks like that, who is perhaps a little “simple,” presumably why she does a job like that, and I have a very guilty conscience about her because she frequently annoys me and I have to force myself to smile and be friendly. She is just one of those people who tends to the small details of things and is upset if something is out of order. A number of times she has told me I put my cart in the wrong place. So yesterday just as I was thinking I was going to try very hard not to be constantly thinking snotty things about people, she appears as if on cue, I was in the ladies room and the towel dispenser did not seem to be working and I gave it an extra couple of whacks to try to get a towel to come out and there she is all of a sudden saying, “Oh, be careful, you’ll break it if you do that” and I nearly jumped out of my skin. I must have looked daggers at her because she then said, “I’m just saying, it will break, that’s all, that’s all I’m saying” and I’m thinking furiously, “No, you nitwit, it is already broken, it won’t dispense towels” and I had to laugh at myself thinking the universe is trying to tell you something, Diana, you said you were going to try to be nicer, here’s your chance, this woman is perfectly nice, how can you think such evil things about her? It’s a challenge …

  97. Oh, this is so true — and not just for kids. I think it applies to adults too. Because on another level, politicians like to stage things too — and it just comes out completely silly and people become more cynical rather than more tolerant.

    ‘The way ACTUAL tolerance and understanding happens is, the school is full of a very wide variety of people of different skin colors and faiths and ethnicities etc.’

    I think this is true. But I don’t think many schools like this exist. I can’t say I know, though. But given the segregation of residential areas in Stockholm — I assume that the schools look similar; i e, the swedes have left. But, no, I don’t honestly know. We had lots of immigration in the 1990s, which means it’s fairly recent. Also, people have clustered in areas which are very segregated from the rest of society — the swedes and the european immigrants who came here in the 60s have moved away to ‘better’ areas by now. So you could debate how diverse these ‘diverse’ areas and schools really are. I suspect people who grow up there don’t come out more able to live their lives with a lot of different people — no more than people who grow up elsewhere. With the free school system parents in ‘bad’ areas can choose to send their children to schools in ‘better’ areas, but parents in ‘better’ areas will never send their kids to schools in ‘bad’ areas. And I don’t really think girls become more tolerant of foreign cultures if their parents have the bad taste to send them to schools where ‘whore’ is an appropriate assignation for girls who don’t live up to certain religious ideas. The culture stuff is really ok only as long as certain fundamental values are shared. If the muslim girl with the headscarf actively represents a culture where the value of women is diminished — where women are either household slaves or whores… I don’t believe that encountering that girl’s brothers would enhance anyone’s cultural open-mindedness. Maybe I’m just too old. Maybe things will be different. Maybe they already are. But I would never send a child to a school in an area where lots of people swear by the literal meaning of the koran; I wouldn’t send a child to a school full of christian fanatics either. It’s like being tolerant about intolerance, and I’m not. I might even prefer a non-diverse waldorf school to any of this cultural shit from the dark-ages.

    ‘Kids ARE tolerant; you actually have to work to make them NOT tolerant.’

    Having once been a child among other children — I guess we all have, LOL! — I’m convinced of the opposite. I find children incredibly intolerant of ANY deviance from what’s ‘normal’ in their eyes. I believe you have to work on them to make them more civilized, more tolerant. Children are merciless towards anything just mildly different. Absolutely merciless — and evil. Say you have eyeglasses. Children will call you an idiot. Say you have a brown spot on your nose. Children will think you deserve to be shot in the head. Such were the children I spent my childhood among (though I made these examples up; I didn’t have glasses or a spot on the nose). Maybe they were unusually intolerant and evil; but that is, apparently, possible.

  98. ‘It’s when it’s artificially imposed, I think, that any intelligent and sensitive person rebels and says “Leave me alone.” Well, not all, I suppose. Some people thrive on such stuff.’

    Ah, yes yes! Some people thrive on it. Others feel… nauseous…!

    ‘I have to really balance the things I do in my life that involve people with the things that don’t, with a preponderance of the latter, to stay sane.’

    Very true. As I get older, the more I realize how essential it is to prioritize… to be able to choose. Because choosing to do everything or the wrong things leads to such an imbalance and an inability to do what matters… or in the end, to do anything meaningful at all… because you’re just too exhausted. Or too far from sanity…

    ‘I had to laugh at myself thinking the universe is trying to tell you something, Diana, you said you were going to try to be nicer, here’s your chance, this woman is perfectly nice, how can you think such evil things about her? It’s a challenge …’

    It really, really is. Huge challenge. And that story could so be about me ;-) My first inclination is always towards evil thoughts and negative interpretations, despite the best intentions to change and *be* and react differently. (I should perhaps practice some of Steiner’s advice in Knowledge of…)

  99. And, speaking of state-funded free schools, we end up with the situation that if we fund one group’s schools, we’ve got to fund other schools of other wacky cults too; thus: state-funded christian and islamic sect schools. Although these schools may provide a shitty education equal to waldorf, I bet anything that they’re way more intolerant. What is the reason a parent might want to choose a sect school? Obviously that the child won’t mix with children of other beliefs or no religious beliefs. No parents who are not muslims would send their child to a muslim school. You could of course reasonably ask what religious beliefs in the child’s home has got to do with education — the child is supposed to learn the same things no matter which school the child attends. So what’s the need for these segregated schools? It’s odd how these schools are usually defended by people who are very much pro-diversity. I guess they represent some kind of diversity.

    It would be intolerant and against diversity *not* to offer funding for all types of groups. No matter how intolerant these groups’ attitudes towards the rest of the world are.

    I’m always curious what Steiner school defenders who promote state-funding of Steiner education think of these other religious sect schools and the funding of these schools. Secular society clearly allows for anthroposophy in a way a sectarian christian or muslim society would not. And yet the same anthroposophists think that secularists are the enemy.

  100. Yesterday was, no doubt, the worst day possible to talk about tolerance and intolerance, diversity and feelings about it, religious fanaticism, et c. Well, suffice to say, I’m following the news from Norway; this is absolutely awful.

  101. So. On a day like this. What is Sune tweeting?

    sn

    sn

    I have been impressed by Stoltenberg. I’m not impressed by Sune. Why, Sune, do you think it’s ok, today of all days, to assign critics status as hate crusaders or hate group members? Why? It’s despicable. Absolutely despicable. You know very well that criticism is not hate. You know that there’s no hate in disagreeing with your position. So why do you engage in this disgusting rhetoric? I wonder if there’s no inkling of an insight within you that what you do is way more reprehensible — I might even say hateful, because tweets like these at a time like this seem tinged with, I don’t know, hate? or at least some very unpleasant feeling — than anything Thetis or I or any other critic has ever done?

  102. Yes Alicia, some terrible news these last couple of days, and for you in Sweden, so close, it must be very sobering. We’re thinking of you here.

    Sune Nordwall, words fail me.

    Alicia, Diana, Thetis, some brilliant posts, thank you.

    Jan Luiten, your beliefs, paths of enlightenment, spirituality are yours; they shouldn’t play any part in education, particularly if those involved shroud what they are doing. If my children want to become anthroposophists they can choose it when they decide for themselves, not be simmered in spiritual gobbledygook by stealth.

    Education, like the BBC should be fair, inclusive, broad, diverse, honest, clear, reliable with facts, impartial; and there should be a hoo-ha if it strays. It should also be fulfilling, informative, creative, and evolve and change with current thought and ideas. I reckon Steiner education fails on most counts.

    Jan, your posts about Steiner and race are frankly ludicrous on so many levels, (and whether anthroposophy has “fixed content”) the answers you’ve received remain unchallenged.

    Jan Luiten:
    “It is possible that, being a white male, the life as a black woman offers you the best opportunity/circumstances to experience these things in a next incarnation.”

    As for this, would being a “black woman” be a good place to be anthroposophically speaking do you think? Do you know any black women Jan? How do you think they would discuss Steiner’s proclamations about skin colour and absorbing spirit?

    Is that the collective wails and screams of anthroposophists I can hear bothering the archangel as they watch the Sunes Felixs Ewouts and Jans perform irksome acts of self sabotage? Ouch.

  103. I understand now why Sune was tweeting this garbage.

    Well, Sune, I have teenage children. I don’t need to express my horror at events in Norway on twitter (though I read a harrowing account which I did retweet) it serves no purpose and there’s nothing I can do to help any of the grieving parents/grandparents or siblings or friends of those lost.

  104. Cathy:

    ‘Education, like the BBC should be fair, inclusive, broad, diverse, honest, clear, reliable with facts, impartial; and there should be a hoo-ha if it strays. It should also be fulfilling, informative, creative, and evolve and change with current thought and ideas.’

    Indeed! And I don’t see why such an education — contrary to Jan’s belief — can’t be delivered independently of the teacher’s spiritual convictions. I e, it doesn’t matter if the teacher’s personal worldview is that of a secular humanist, an atheist, or of a spiritual or religious person (or anthroposophical for that matter). Because, as I’ve said, the school doesn’t have to — and should not — be either ‘materialistic’ or spiritual in outlook. It’s irrelevant.

    As for the black woman thing, I wonder why skin colour have anything to do with opportunities, whether necessary or not. I mean, if skin colour is the only difference. Why would it matter? Or what is meant with this utterance? (I mean Jan’s.)

    Thetis:

    ‘I understand now why Sune was tweeting this garbage.’

    I don’t.

    He hasn’t expressed horror either, not from any one of his accounts. I’m not sure I have either, though perhaps indirectly. But I basically think the horror is self-evident.

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