new masters degree in steiner ed (+ more paradigm shifts)

NNA reports that there is a new ‘postgraduate Steiner education degree programme’:

A new Masters degree course in Steiner education looks set to be launched at Canterbury Christ Church University in England.

The programme, which has been set up in collaboration with the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship by John Burnett, programme director of the Steiner Waldorf BA degree at Plymouth University, and Alan Swindell acting on behalf of the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, has now successfully completed the initial stages of preparation.

According to an announcement by the two organisers, the design of the new programme has been agreed and will have advanced to formal validation by the university’s approval committee in the very near future.

This seems just great, or perhaps not:

“A central aspect of this work will be a critical exploration of the role Steiner education might play in an uncertain world of shifting paradigms and social disintegration.”

In an uncertain world of shifting paradigms? Give me a break. What happened to actually helping children acquire knowledge and to teaching them basic skills? Reading, writing, maths, science, history, art — all very useful basics even in an uncertain world of shifting paradigms… (whatever that is — I’m not sure at all that the world is more uncertain now than before or that the ‘paradigm shifts’ are more traumatic or likely to render invalid what we know about the world now).

Read more.

26 thoughts on “new masters degree in steiner ed (+ more paradigm shifts)

  1. I liked your description too (on twitter):

    ‘what an utter loon he is. A whiskery looney tune. Gnome-loving bonkers tea-drinking Brit-looney tunes. Archbishop of loons.’

    Maybe the gnomes will teach the program. Oh, I guess not. Then there would be some use to it. They eat paradigm shifts for breakfast. So that they won’t hear anymore about them during the day.

  2. This is a straw man argument. Nowhere in the announcement you link to does is say that children won’t be taught the core subjects. You’ve made that up.

    The world is changing rapidly, globalisation, technology is moving rapidly. If biotech takes off the way the electronics industry did we can expect another technological revolution. Ok, the language of the announcement might be a bit flowery but I think you’re taking a bit far to be so dismissive.

  3. ‘Nowhere in the announcement you link to does is say that children won’t be taught the core subjects. You’ve made that up.’

    It’s Steiner education. I’ve written about that in post after post. I’ve been through that kind of education myself. Not making it up.

    And OF COURSE they wouldn’t write that in the announcement — how could you even think they would? That’s an announcement issued by an anthroposophical organization, isn’t that blatantly apparent? Critical thinking, hey? Treat it as a press release, an advertisement. That’s what it is.

    They don’t agree they neglect to teach children what they need — it goes without saying. They think they offer a superior education. I don’t agree.

    ‘The world is changing rapidly, globalisation, technology is moving rapidly.’

    This is no different from other time periods. The telephone was a big ‘paradigm shift’ too. And so forth. The TV. The computer. Heck, even the printing press — although back then many kids didn’t go to school at all.

    Globalisation or technology (or whatever else you could say is ‘changing rapidly’) don’t make basic knowledge and skills irrelevant. If kids learn science, they will benefit from it — they will have gained an understanding — regardless of the speed of scientific progress (as far as concrete results are concerned). Reading and writing, knowledge of history, of all these things — none of this becomes obsolete because society is changing. Which is why, in education, people need to focus on what has lasting value. Kids will learn modern technology just fine anyway. They don’t need some old fart of a teacher explaining to them how a computer works. It might be worth remembering something: it’s always the boring, slow-witted, middle-aged people who think stuff is changing too rapidly. The children don’t — they’re young, and were born into what these old farts find it difficult adapting to.

    An educational program that announces its middle-aged old-fartiness fears of the modern world should disqualify itself immediately. It will never be of any help to those kids who are living very much in this world, now, no matter how fast it changes. They don’t need misplaced hysteria; they need to learn how to read, write, count, understand science (et c), because these skills and this knowledge are what they’ll be using to make sense of the world, again no matter the speed of change.

    The alphabet doesn’t change. Maths is the same as ever. The basics of logic have been with us since antiquity (and perhaps even longer). The classics are still good. There is a lot to do. A lot to teach and to learn that won’t lose its actuality any time soon, if ever.

    Some adults freak out over modern technological gadgets. I suggest that adults learn to cope with their inability to handle progress, instead of letting their fears run amok themselves, with education and with the lives of children (who can cope much better because they’re not middle-aged farts, yet).

  4. I wonder if these paradigm-shift-hysterics are ever miffed that, despite it all, the alphabet stays the same. Human nature, too, remains largely the same. Nothing much happens, except we get faster internet and nicer telephones.

    Edit: I mean, there we are, on our smart-phones, typing our As and Bs and Ts and Ks. Even Gutenberg himself would be able to decipher the text. The task is to get the letters in the right order and to use them to say something meaningful. That has always been the challenge — for thousands of years. And it still is — the whole of humanity ought to laugh the paradigm-shift-crazies into oblivion. Because most of the paradigm shifts are just figments of their imagination — these old farts think they’re important, and because they’re important, they live in particularly important times! ‘Everything that is important must happen in my life-time! And it better be NOW, because I’m getting old… and I don’t understand what goes on anymore…!!’

  5. Oh no … not the dreaded paradigm shift. They’re coming thick and fast! Best get on board the spaceship, quick.

  6. I guess the logo must be coincidence but it is eerily resemblant.

    As for Peter, I have to assume he doesn’t know. How else would he come to the conclusion that a report from an anthro org would include bragging about delayed or inevitably postponed learning…

  7. If the archbishop has something to do with it, it’s some kind of uni with christian affiliations, or? Maybe it’s something christian? Trinity? Or maybe they thought it looked pretty.

    Nevertheless I wonder if this uni is known for stuff like this — are they giving basic anthro courses too? Ordinary waldorf teacher training?

  8. absolutely.

    House and Open Eye co-founder Graham Kennish failed to point this out during their campaign, they even managed to fool a lot of prominent people into signing their ‘save childhood’ petition without that majority understanding their real agenda. If you frighten enough parents and educators (Sue Palmer and her book Toxic Childhood springs to mind) it enables anthroposophy to sneak into mainstream education through completely dishonest means.

    This dishonest behaviour happens with alarming regularity within the anthroposphical movement.

  9. Peter, I really see no problem with a Masters course teaching one guru’s version of esoteric Christianity and mystical Eastern philosophy, so long as they don’t call it teacher training. The reading list for the old Plymouth BA in Steiner education (google for it) was an eye-opener.

    Canterbury Christchurch does seem to have some sort of affiliation with the Church of England, beyond the archbishop being Chancellor. The real boss of course is the Vice-Chancellor, one Prof. Robin Baker.

  10. I have a slight problem with it anyway because I expect a masters degree to have an academically relevant foundation. Sure, anthroposophy is perfectly fine as a topic of (academic) study, for example in religion or history or whatever angle one might find — but not if the program is based upon the assumption that anthroposophical doctrines hold the truth, be it about child development or anything else.

    I suspect they don’t quite know what they’re taking on board. Or perhaps they’re really looking for that spaceship and the steiner folks offer a suitable vehicle…

    Mule — yep. People don’t always know. And other people pretend they’re offering salvation, although most of the thing they offer — on the surface — are not unique. It’s what they don’t openly display that’s pretty unique…

  11. And, when it comes to teaching and studying spirituality from the ‘inside’, i e, as a personal path of belief (or whatever), I don’t see what that has to do with higher education. It’s perfectly fine to hold that the human being has an astral body — but its existence or nature will never be anything but a question of spiritual conviction. Just to name an example. And steiner ed’s foundation is full of similar stuff — which really has no place in higher ed, not as factual basis of a field of study.

  12. “Sure, anthroposophy is perfectly fine as a topic of (academic) study, for example in religion or history or whatever angle one might find — but not if the program is based upon the assumption that anthroposophical doctrines hold the truth, be it about child development or anything else.”

    Naturally, I couldn’t agree more. :-) I’d add to your list of objections the habit anthros have of referring to their beliefs as ‘science’, as in spiritual science.

    “I suspect they don’t quite know what they’re taking on board.”

    Sadly, I’d be surprised if they did. I’m pretty sure it’s being sold by the SWSF purely as a teacher training course, rather than Anthroposophy 101.

  13. did anyone see this under latest news from the SWSF back in June?

    ‘Friday, June 17, 2011
    Canterbury Christ Church University and SWSF collaboration: Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and a new Masters Programme.

    SWSF has been working closely with Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) on two exciting new projects: the development of a route by which experienced Steiner Waldorf teachers can gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and also the launch of a new Masters programme leading to MA Education (Steiner Waldorf).

    There are many talented and experienced teachers in our schools whose status as qualified teachers has never been fully recognised. We believe that appropriate acknowledgement of professional status should not be denied to colleagues simply because they have learned and applied their skills outside the maintained sector. This belief is shared by colleagues at CCCU and also by the Training Development Agency, (TDA), the government body responsible for teacher education.

    Many of our teachers would welcome the opportunity to engage as equals with state teachers, to have their own practice better understood and to learn from and contribute to current `mainstream` practice. Many see the acquisition of QTS as one way of coming closer to realising these aims.

    We are delighted to report that the first cohort of teachers is now being signed up to the pilot scheme.

    This development is not only significant for the professional development of individual teachers: whilst independent schools and the newly established Free Schools are able to employ teachers without QTS, there is a concern shared by many in the sector that QTS may one day be a requirement for staff in all schools, regardless of funding.

    The proposed Masters is expected to begin at Easter 2012. It will be a three year programme and will provide an opportunity to expose Steiner Waldorf theory and practice to appropriate scrutiny in a research based environment. In addition to attracting those currently engaged in Steiner education it is expected to be of interest to educationalists from a wide range of back grounds both in the UK and abroad.’

    and there was I thinking they were going to ask for more exemptions..

  14. I’m renting a Brit Steiner space on Alicia’s blog to mention Dr Richard House – I’m convinced one day I’ll wake to find the man is a parody. Until then:

    ‘EJOP: We know Rudolf Steiner greatly influenced your work. What mostly fascinates you about Steiner’s philosophy?

    Richard House: To put the record straight, Rudolf Steiner’s influence has only come quite recently – from about 1998 onwards… – at least as far as I am aware!… What most fascinates me is the sheer, scarcely believable ‘life output’ of this extraordinary human being. Indeed, in the History of Ideas, one of the most abiding mysteries of the twentieth century is just how one of its most inspired, original and wide-ranging thinkers and seers – Steiner – is so comparatively little recognised, or even known of, in the range of disparate fields on which he has had, and continues to have, such a profound influence. The deliverer of over 6,000 lectures in his lifetime, his full collected works come to a staggering 350 volumes (Freud’s number about 40); and his lasting legacy includes uniquely innovative ‘impulses’ in fields as wide-ranging as curative education and social therapy (the world-renowned Camphill Communities); biodynamic agriculture (precursor of organic agriculture); holistic (anthroposophical) medicine; architecture and design; the arts (Eurythmy, painting, speech and drama); organisational consultancy; ethical banking and finance – and, of course, Steiner (Waldorf) education.

    The extraordinary neglect of his vast corpus has been attributed by some to his quite unashamed esotericism and explicit engagement with ‘the divine’ through his discipline of ‘spiritual science’, which perhaps led – both in his own lifetime and since – to his shunning by conventional academia. (In his early, ‘pre-esoteric’ career, incidentally, Steiner was a widely respected philosopher and scientist.) More likely, I think, is that his thorough-goingly and then quite unfashionable holistic approach to human experience was quite simply decades ahead of its time; and it is only now, when so-called ‘new paradigm’, post-modern epistemologies and cosmologies are thankfully beginning to undermine the Zeitgeist of modernity, that his remarkable insights, which both incorporate yet also transcend modernity, are beginning to attract the rich attention they deserve. Certainly, Steiner was a relentless scourge of the one-sided materialism that prevailed in his day, and he brought a spiritually informed perspective to his educational worldview, which viewed the human being as far more than a material body. In this sense, his work has profound relevance to what we call ‘transpersonal therapy’ – but that is another story.

    EJOP: Albert Ellis once said that the future of psychotherapy and psychology is in the school system. Do you agree with this?
    Richard House: In a sense, yes – the ‘sense’ I am referring to being the very reason I became increasingly disillusioned with therapy in the mid-1990s, and in the process discovering Steiner education as an intrinsically healing experience for children. In other words, perhaps an urgent evolutionary task is for humankind to create cultural forms which help children to have healthy, empowering childhoods, thereby short-circuiting the need for remedial adult psychotherapy and counselling; and in this regard, surely education is the place to start – and especially as modern schooling systems are commonly moving in exactly the wrong direction!

    However, there is an important note of caution I want to make here. The current fashion of ‘professionalising’ children’s difficulties can so easily miss the point. My own strong conviction, rather, is that it is a far better use of our creative energies to strive for the creation of natural schooling environments which are, by their very nature, intrinsically healing – rather than seeing ‘Child Psychotherapy’, ‘School Counselling’ and the like as yet another professional opportunity or ‘career niche’ for ‘Professionalised Therapy’ to colonise within modern culture.

    Rudolf Steiner himself emphasised the healing aspect of any genuinely authentic educational experience, illustrating how imaginative knowledge based on truth is intrinsically healing and health-giving. As he said exactly 80 years ago now, ‘Our whole Waldorf School pedagogy has a Therapeutic character.’ Critics of the soulless utilitarianism of modern mainstream schooling systems (myself included) have repeatedly stressed the untold, long-term emotional and developmental damage that the fashionable ‘surveillance culture’ is perpetrating on today’s children, with its anxiety-saturated obsession with assessment and testing, and its forced cognitive early learning at absurdly young, developmentally inappropriate ages. Perhaps those of us whose practice and world-view are still informed by spiritual sensibility and child-centredness could profitably commit at least as much time and energy to the political task of challenging the cultural/political sources of the current malaise – in which ‘child abuse’ in routinely committed against children by and through modern technocratic culture – as we do to ‘therapising’ childhood problems once they have been created. Put differently, I would like to see a plethora of child healing practices flourishing and weaving themselves into the very fabric of modern culture, rather than witness the sad spectacle of an ascendant, professionalised ‘Child Therapy’ mechanistically bolting itself on to the fields of education and health care.

    EJOP: Are there any other editorial projects you would like to initiate in the future?
    Richard House: One that is currently ‘in process’ is a book on the relevance of Rudolf Steiner’s work to therapy and counselling….’

    Dr House: ‘The extraordinary neglect of his vast corpus’ is very easy to understand. The man was an occultist who invented a magnificent cosmology believed only by loons.

    Like most people, I don’t want my children to have a healing experience at school. I want them to get an education. And other things, including to have fun and make friends and put on plays or play in an orchestra or join the rugby team & so on. Frankly I want them to learn to read and write, and in the local state primary they do this wonderfully well.

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