childhood eroded by modern life

UK newspaper The Telegraph has published an article entitled ‘Childhood being eroded by modern life, experts warn’. In addition to this article, there’s a letter that has been signed by a number of people, or as the paper puts it, it’s a ‘letter from more than 200 experts about how childhood is being eroded by a “relentless diet” of advertising and addictive computer games.’ Many of these experts are either active in the Steiner/waldorf movement or supporters of it. One of them is Richard House:

Dr House told the Telegraph: “The inexorable momentum of modern­technological life is such that despite the awareness raised through the September 2006 Telegraph open letter on ‘toxic childhood’, matters have improved very little.

“We also live in an age of seemingly ever-mounting anxiety; and when the adult world is unable to contain and process its own anxieties in a mature way, they inevitably get projected on to children, resulting in countless well-intentioned but often highly inappropriate intrusions into children’s experience that leave children’s true needs misunderstood and neglected.”

I recommend reading this interview with House that Thetis posted earlier today. Presumably, House — along with the other Steiner/waldorf supporters and anthroposophists who have signed the letter — believe that Steiner education holds the key to rescuing childhood, whatever that means. I doubt that this is the case.

In the interview, House answers the question what fascinates him in the work of Rudolf Steiner:

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 [lots of examples /a].

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. […] 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. […]

House also claims to have discovered ‘Steiner education as an intrinsically healing experience for children.’ He continues:

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!

Steiner education being the right direction, indubitably. As if Steiner education somehow magically removed psychological suffering or the need for therapy. (It does not. In some cases it just messes people up even more.)

He goes on to say:

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

That is, Steiner education. But what’s more ‘natural’ about that? Why does he think it is, by its very nature, healing? He then turns to the old crap about child-centeredness, as though anthroposophical education was more child-centered than mainstream education. (It is not. It is, it seems, centered around the spiritual and social needs of adults.)

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.

There’s an older post on Richard House here.

62 thoughts on “childhood eroded by modern life

  1. The same people behind the Erosion of Childhood campaign are the same people behind the Open Eye/Saving Childhood/Let Children Play campaign. They successfully obtained EYFS exemptions for Steiner early years settings (together with finding a suitable family who was willing to threaten legal action against the DfE) back in September 2009, so what are they doing rolling out this same nonsense again? Perhaps as a last push for those Steiner schools who have applied for Free School funding, I believe they should be hearing any day now.

  2. I’ve made a list of those who I know are involved in Steiner Waldorf / anthroposophy. It may not be a full list, and can be adapted! I’ve been careful not to include those people who I know are more loosely involved, and later I’ll put my skeptic hat on and write a few notes about some of the other familiar suspects.

    I want to make it clear that I am not a fan of advertising aimed at children, that I fully appreciate the need for outdoor play (I see this reflected in the best early years settings already) and I’ve seen three children of my own through primary education – one is still there – so I have direct and recent experience. I also have some comments to make about what is NOT said in this letter – but I’ll do that later as well.

    In my view there are some honest and in some cases outstanding signatories on the list, who I would not wish to damn by association. But imo they are a minority.

    Connections with Steiner Waldorf /anthroposophy – some declared, some not declared:

    taken from:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8784996/Erosion-of-childhood-letter-with-full-list-of-signatories.html
    my additions in brackets.

    Joan Almon, Founding Director, US Alliance for Childhood
    ( http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW2902.pdf )

    Professor Martin Ashley, Head of Research, Edge Hill University Faculty of Education
    (co-author of the 2005 Woods Report Steiner Schools in England)

    Christopher Clouder, Director, European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education

    Aonghus Gordon, Founder and Director of Ruskin mill Educational Trust
    ( http://www.rmet.org.uk/freeman-courses-and-qualifications/ )

    Martin Hardiman, Director West of England Steiner Teacher Training

    Sylvie Hétu, writer, trainer, Founder of the Massage In Schools Programme
    ( http://www.massagenerd.com/articles_massage/massage_bio/Sylvie_Hetu.html )

    Dr Christopher Houghton Budd, Centre for Associative Economics and Visiting Lecturer, City University, London
    ( http://www.steinerbooks.org/detail.html?id=0948229187 )

    Susan Howard, Coordinator of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (Spring Valley, NY); Co-ordinator, International Association for Steiner-Waldorf Early Childhood Education (Stockholm); Director, Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher Education, Sunbridge Institute (Spring Valley, NY)

    Frances Kane, Leader of Association Administration, Association of Waldorf Schools of North America

    Graham Kennish BSc (Hons), Educational Consultant/Trainer
    ( http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=128630300499875 )

    Dr Brien Masters, Director of the London Waldorf Teacher Training Seminar (1983–2009)

    Richard Masters, Manager, Hermes Trust
    ( http://www.hermes-trust.org.uk/ )

    Patrice Maynard, M.Ed., Leader, Outreach & Development, Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, Ghent, NY

    Janni Nicol, Steiner Waldorf educational consultant

    Lynne Oldfield, Director London Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Training Course, author of Free to Learn

    Dr Sebastian Suggate, Department of Education, University of Regensburg
    ( http://homeeducationheretic.blogspot.com/2010/01/no-benefit-in-learning-to-read-early.html )

    Jill Taplin, Steiner Early Childhood Consultant (and Steiner kindergarten teacher)

  3. Plus of course Richard House: http://www.hawthornpress.com/articles/Human%20Scale%20Education.pdf

    ‘I am a great advocate of Steiner education, having trained as a Steiner Class teacher and Kindergarten teacher, and having worked as a Kindergarten and Parent and Child group leader since 1998. Even Neale Donald Walsch, in his celebrated book Con- versations with God, found that, when asked, “God” Her- Himself advocated Steiner education as the nearest thing currently existing on the planet to a genuinely child- sensitive and humanly appro- priate learning experience for children.’

  4. so what? Readers may ask – if some of these people – a minority – are involved in Steiner ed or anthroposophy (albeit with an undeclared involvement).

    Because they have an agenda, and it’s better that we know what that agenda is. Anthroposophy is a relatively obscure esoteric (occult) sect – when its followers feature in these numbers, we should start asking questions.

  5. Con-versations. Indeed.

    Well, if god approves then… WAIT! Dog does not approve. And Dog is higher in the spiritual hierarchy.

    Amazing attitude by the way. I wondered what god answered when the taliban asked him for educational policies. Something else, I take it.

    Thanks for the list.

    Mule — presumably other people are against letting children play. And they want to destroy childhood. Childhood equals eurythmy lessons. That’s so helpful to the preservation of childhood. And if it depresses children, then it’s wrong in the heads of children (presumably because they have already been destroyed by modern culture).

  6. No, it’s totally ok that people involved in steiner ed or anthroposophy sign a letter or promote what they believe in — it’s their right. What they believe in should not be hidden away though. And they aren’t always wrong either — I agree, just to name one example, that children benefit in a number of ways from being outdoors. The question is why these people promote this — and what other things they are promoting but that they aren’t open about.

  7. Oh it’s getting worse. Well, I have a feeling there are more of them.

    Wasn’t there a homeopath too? Not the same category, of course, but I hesitate to call a homeopath an expert on education.

  8. Is it me or is the word adult used in the place of parent? My experience is that there are more parents on this planet that love and want the best for their child.

    Today it seems that varying degrees of dysfunction is the new normal in the average family ~ and that is okay! I would rather have the dynamics of an evolving family in place rather then send my child to a school where the teachers and ‘adults’ are working out their fantasy of education on innocent children!

  9. ‘My experience is that there are more parents on this planet that love and want the best for their child.’ absolutely! And some parents face great difficulties. The real enemies of childhood are poverty, low expectations, inequalities. Chaotic lives. Real early years deprivation from which some do not recover. This should have been the thrust of such a letter. Why wasn’t it?

  10. many of these experts don’t come across the truly underprivileged children. The ‘problem’ facing steiner school teachers is that this parent group can afford to buy their children computers and iphones.

  11. I mean, affording the wooden Ostheimer toys may not be within reach for lots of people, neither financially nor — I don’t know how to put it — socially/culturally?!

  12. Of course, enjoying nature is free — but this takes parents who understand to do it themselves. The school, obviously, has to educate and to improve the intellectual (and possibly other) options for the children — regardless of their home environment. And, in particular for children from poor home environment, will they gain more from eurythmy than from learning to read and write properly?

    (Sorry, commenting while cooking and visually impaired — studid eye glasses. Feel easily distracted.)

  13. very good observations! There’s a great deal of snobbery involved. Also a fair number of commercial interests – those who make a living lecturing or selling books that worry the middle classes.

    London parks heave with families btw – of all cultural backgrounds. It’s one of the things I like most about such cities.

  14. That’s what I hate about cities — the parks and recreation areas are filled with families, LOL! And nurseries and schools on weekdays.

    Culturally, it’s pretty segregated, though. People often keep to the areas where they live, and where I live, the only non-Swedes are Europeans, Americans and Australians. But there are very nice recreation areas in or near the suburbs too. I have no idea who use them though. The thing is that they’re there — and you don’t have to choose waldorf to enjoy them.

  15. ha ha! At least you know what you like. I must have spent years in parks, but a friend from the Czech Republic once told me: ‘You British and your green spaces! No wonder your property prices are so high. Think of all the houses you could build here!’.

  16. I prefer empty parks. I’m totally against people of *all* cultural backgrounds. All that matters is their physical distance to me. Dogs are ok.

    Sorry, I’ll stop hijacking this thread for nonsense now.

    But how come that the steiner folks think they’re the only (?) ones who make sure children can enjoy nature? I don’t have any personal experience from non-waldorf kindergarten myself, but I see public nurseries and pre-schools out in the parks and in the forest every day.

  17. What’s nice about London parks is that they’re so big that they don’t feel too crammed — imagine what they would feel like, with that population size, if they weren’t so large!

    (Some people actually want that here too — to build all green areas… everyone wants to live in the city, demand is MUCH higher than supply, so why should those who already live hear enjoy green areas while lots of other people can’t even get the opportunity of somewhere to live in the city? and so forth. But of course it’s also a question of air quality. And, actually, of making sure that children who live and attend school in the city can have areas to play. And so that there are areas for other people to walk or run or whatever — but maybe that’s a luxury.)

  18. I’ll go take pics of the park where I spent my childhood one day. It had lots of drunkards and a very scruffy and old jewish graveyard! (I hope it’s still scruffy, because it had such atmosphere. The graveyard was behind high iron fences though.)

  19. lots of fascinating graveyards in london too. Wonderful angels etc. Must drag myself away though from discussing Victorian childhood.

    Skeptics will have recognised from the list:

    Baroness Susan Greenfield – I liked this blog post:
    http://umrscblogs.org/2011/08/15/is-the-internet-dangerous-taking-a-closer-look-at-baroness-greenfields-concerns/

    with a comment from the excellent Dorothy Bishop:
    http://umrscblogs.org/2011/08/15/is-the-internet-dangerous-taking-a-closer-look-at-baroness-greenfields-concerns/#comment-878

    and:

    Patrick Holford, CEO, Food for the Brain Foundation
    http://holfordwatch.info/holford-myths/

    Why let evidence get in the way of anything? These people might as well be politicians ;)

  20. I would like to remind skeptics of Veronika and Paul Robinson, Editors, The Mother magazine.

    I love the Mother Magazine, It’s a woo-stuffed loon-fest, even if, like me, you carried your babies in slings and never used formula and so on.

    I hope Oliver James: http://neuroskeptic.blogspot.com/2010/05/does-oliver-james-damage-brain.html is stuck in a lift soon with only a stack of old editions of the Mother.

    http://www.themothermagazine.co.uk/aboutus/index.shtml

    and here is the anti-vax site linked to the Mother Magazine: http://www.vaccineriskawareness.com/

  21. They’re worth reminding of, although, having viewed their magazine a couple of times, I have to say I personally feel no pleasure at being reminded.

    (I forgot the biggest group of people in the park/area where we walk: tourists. It was a nice, warm evening, almost felt like summer. But dark. Even in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, in late September, we encountered some German tourists.)

  22. I just wonder what Geoff Barton is doing on the list – he’s a head from the comp up the road from me, and the only headteacher on there. He does have an internet presence, he’s on twitter and so on and often comments on educational matters. I wonder if he knows what the underlying message in this ‘letter’ is all about.
    I think the main thing to remember is that nothing changed after the last letter, and probably nothing will change this time either. Patrick Holford’s signature appearing and staying on the list is a bit of a faux pas though don’t you think? I tweeted about him last night when I spotted it – I do like the list, it’s a good way of having all the quacks and cult members names in one place though eh?

  23. Oh. Richard House is in the latest issue of Mother mag too!
    http://www.themothermagazine.co.uk/latestissue/

    Writing about — surprise! — ‘[t]he erosion of childhood’.

    The other articles are as juicy as ever: what about ‘the breastfeeding doll’?

    For a horror story, you could order ‘The Birthkeepers’. Or ‘The drinks are on me’.
    http://www.themothermagazine.co.uk/bookshop/

    No, I can’t look at this stuff.

    In downloads, two articles by dr House again:
    http://www.themothermagazine.co.uk/downloads/

    Esther — ‘I think the main thing to remember is that nothing changed after the last letter, and probably nothing will change this time either.’

    You have a point…

    ‘it’s a good way of having all the quacks and cult members names in one place though eh?’

    Well, *if* there were only 200 of them, in total, there would be nothing to fuss about in the first place.

  24. These people will go on handwringing about “lost childhood” in perpetuity. They exist in every era. The latest gadgets and technological advancements or amusements are destroying the innocence of childhood and this time it’s forever, the end of civilization. They’re the same people who moaned and wailed over novels in the 19th century, or predicted the disintegration of society when movable type was invented and scribes weren’t needed to copy out books by hand anymore (an activity that actually is cultivated in Waldorf …)

    And yes, this is a familiar phenomenon, letters and petitions and projects to “save the dear children” that are about 87% anthroposophist if you count the signatories and probably 100% anthroposophist in origin and inspiration, yet curiously are not identified as such. If you’re ‘in the know’ you recognize many names, and if you’re not, there’s nothing that would clue you in.

    Which is how they want it not only so that parents googling will not find undesirable information, but also because some of the signatories themselves do not understand that the project is anthroposophical (or what anthroposophy is), and it’s better if they not find out, or some of them would withdraw, and rather resent being exploited.

  25. Oh, that’s so it. Brilliantly put.

    Also, the perspective is strange, to the point of being ignorant — childhood lasts longer now than a hundred years ago. Then children had to work. They had many siblings and the families had little to survive on. Except for the very few rich people. Even kids who went to school usually had to work in the home — what do children do today? Nothing. They rarely have any duties whatsoever. Much less do any of them have to start help supporting the family or their younger siblings. Or help in the farm. Or whatever was the case.

  26. Children had to grow up quick — even if there were no computers. And, I guess, if the family could afford to send them to school a little longer, the pressure to succeed was on.

  27. I agree, 150 years ago (ish) a law was brought in to stop children under twelve working. I think there has been a lot done to lengthen childhood since then, and the introduction of compulsory education until 18 (which is happening soon I believe) only extends this time. Being a child, for me, is about having no responsibilities, no job, no bills to pay, no dependents to support. It’s not all about bloody well playing outside! My children, this weekend alone, have been to stagecoach, played musical instruments, cycled up and down our track, been to the garden centre, recited times tables, read books, and PLAYED ON THE COMPUTER (we also watched a movie last night – how damaging). This is a fundamental part of their childhood, not an erosion of it.
    Get with the 21st century for christ’s sake. Yes, children need to play, but they also need to prepare for adult life. As a teacher, even without compulsory Gov testing, I regularly test the children, most of the time they don’t even realise that I’m doing it. Without it how can I know what they know? Without knowing what they know, how can I plan for the next piece of learning? Summative testing is a fundamental part of me doing my job properly and does not harm the children in any way. Sometimes they even get a sticker (the most prized reward of the primary child).
    The current education system is pretty fantastic, it manages to provide for the majority of pupils the majority of the time. Given the enormity of the task I think this is pretty excellent. Obviously, there are always improvements to be made but not actually teaching them is not one of them.
    If parents have a problem with lack of outdoor play and overuse of computers, I suggest that they take the PS3/WII/DS/tellybox away from the little darling and buy them a swing.
    Here endeth…

  28. We had a very anthro teacher from Germany who used stickers as rewards in a kind of game based on word knowledge. In the earliest grades.

    (I’ve got to go. Will return later!)

  29. what were they stickers of?

    The list of signatories continues to be interesting.

    Professor Peter Abbs, University of Sussex – http://www.peterabbs.co.uk/pp003.shtml

    ‘From time to time one can be haunted by a paralysing dread: that we are stranded at the beginning of a new millennium in a culture where all spiritual resources have been spent, where shopping is the last world religion, where the latest Tesco is the last cathedral and where the concept of consumerism is the last idea.

    It is as if one had dreamt of the vast ocean or high paths over the Alps and woken to find oneself confined to a shopping arcade for the rest of one’s life…’

    What did they do with the Alps? Have they been fenced-off? The lower slopes were crowded the last time I went there. I am not a fan of shopping malls (I don’t think they call them arcades, unless they’re off Bond Street – though I don’t think that’s where he’s thinking of) but I want him to define what he means by ‘spiritual resources’. The US, which has the largest malls in the world, also has a huge number of church-goers. Perhaps their churches aren’t spiritual in the way he’d like? At any rate Brits fight fiercely for their open spaces, their forests, their moors. We have a culture of gardening. It is of course a responsibility to enable children who live in cities to take part in that culture, but this is understood.

    at any rate here is Prof Abbs stocked (on back-order) by anthroposophical publisher Ceres Books – http://www.ceresbooks.co.nz/Books/The-Arts-and-Sciences/Literature/page1

  30. Some were flowers, some were animals. Even photos of animals. Animals were more popular than flowers (at least I thought so). Never cartoon characters or superman and such though.

  31. My mum called the department store a church. Even back when we were in waldorf. She likes nice things. Utterly materialistic interest even if you never end up buying most of them. Of course, anthros liked ‘nice’ things too, and produced nice things. She thought.

  32. I just looked at photos from the alps (waiting in my parents apartment, being bored). 20 years ago they were certainly not fenced off. And you could enjoy them regardless of background in anthro/waldorf.

  33. The nice department stores were based upon conceptions of the higher worlds. Places like Ikea were based upon someone’s idea of hell. Then there’s everything in between.

    Btw, I tweeted you a picture of a couple of Steiner ed officials.

  34. >Professor Peter Abbs, University of Sussex – http://www.peterabbs.co.uk/pp003.shtml
    ‘From time to time one can be haunted by a paralysing dread: that we are stranded at the beginning of a new millennium in a culture where all spiritual resources have been spent, where shopping is the last world religion, where the latest Tesco is the last cathedral and where the concept of consumerism is the last idea.
    It is as if one had dreamt of the vast ocean or high paths over the Alps and woken to find oneself confined to a shopping arcade for the rest of one’s life…’

    This is standard end-of-days rhetoric, and I think we can rest assured that when the cathedrals he admires were built, there were boring people then, too, whinging that the cathedrals were probably weakening society in some irreversible way, unleashing sinister impulses, dark powers abroad, ad nauseum. (If nothing else, a lot of workers were killed building them.)

    >The US, which has the largest malls in the world, also has a huge number of church-goers.

    You got that right; we got plenty of both malls and megachurches over here; some of the churches are bigger than the malls. Do you have those on the other side of the pond, or am I right that they are a peculiar American thing? Enormous, nay hideous, gigantochurches?

    In fact – irony alert – the Waldorf school in our town rents space on a campus belonging to such a megachurch. (The building they are housed in is not church-like, however.)

    >Perhaps their churches aren’t spiritual in the way he’d like?

    Safe to say.

    >at any rate here is Prof Abbs stocked (on back-order) by anthroposophical publisher Ceres Books – http://www.ceresbooks.co.nz/Books/The-Arts-and-Sciences/Literature/page1

    Exactly thetis, and this is how it is – if you keep digging you will find more. It’s rather depressing that this goes on (anthro stealth projrects); we were going through this years ago, and their modus operandus hasn’t changed a whit.

  35. >I can never find the exits.

    Nor are there clocks. It’s a self-contained world, they don’t want you to remember you have a life outside that you should get back to. There are a lot of similarities to church; it’s like church only you don’t have to sit still or wear nice clothes. Perhaps we’ve hit on the real reason spiritual people frequently decry consumerism, shopping etc. The shopping malls are competition. They’re not a conflicting impulse in society but a competing one.

  36. Esther:

    >Being a child, for me, is about having no responsibilities, no job, no bills to pay, no dependents to support. It’s not all about bloody well playing outside! My children, this weekend alone, have been to stagecoach, played musical instruments, cycled up and down our track, been to the garden centre, recited times tables, read books, and PLAYED ON THE COMPUTER (we also watched a movie last night – how damaging). This is a fundamental part of their childhood, not an erosion of it.

    Very important points, IMO!! These idiots don’t want to “save” childhood, they want to co-opt childhood for their own purposes.

    My estimation of the success of the schools (non-Waldorf schools, that is) might not be so sunny as yours, but I agree that overall the schools that exist are doing a pretty remarkable job of “saving childhood” compared to how it was, say, 100 years ago. The schools let some kids down, but they also save some kids from hopeless circumstances at home or in the community.

    Yes, it is sad – and telling – that anthroposophists’ attention is focused on such things as the internet and the video game box, at the expense of things that REALLY destroy childhoods, like poverty, hunger, war – which they have little to say about because all that stuff’s karmic. (Why then, is it not karmic to play video games? oh well)

  37. Nope. No mega-churches here in Sweden. Wouldn’t be enough church-goers to fill them.

    It’s not necessarily a bad thing that anthro publishers publish non-anthro books though? Or that their bookshops sell non-anthro books. Of course, the bad side of it may be in giving off the impression that someone supported them who really didn’t.

  38. They are indeed a competing impulse.

    (Our favourite department store — not really a modern mall, it’s a classical institution… almost — does have a clock. One big clock inside for one thing; it’s part of the original architecture perhaps. But they have a rotating clock on the roof — visible even from afar ;-))

  39. Here are the trolls I mentioned (or not, not explicitly). http://twitpic.com/6qw5h2/full

    Notice the small gnome standing there. He wonders if the trolls are going to buy wooden waldorf toys for all that cash or if they plan on building schools. He suspects it will get dangerous for gnomes around here.

  40. I am not really up to date on his latest doings, but yes, David Elkind has been a useful prop for Steiner/Waldorf for years, though he himself is not anthropop. In years past I tried to hash this out with Waldorf defenders who parroted Elkind in the mindless fashion that Sune Nordwall spews lists of celebrities. To the best of my knowledge Elkind’s research does NOT support most Steiner pedagogy. If Elkind thinks it does, it’s Elkind’s fault for not looking closely enough. There is overlap, and Elkind is a bit off on some things in my view, a bit touchy-feely, but he’s not NUTS.

    Elkind basically says harmless things like “Don’t push children to read too early.” I may personally think this is a bit simplistic, and that certain kids probably should be pushed a bit, but the real issue is that Elkind doesn’t apparently have a clue that by “early,” anthropops mean, like, eight year olds. I believe he is on record saying first graders shouldn’t be pushed to read. I don’t quite agree, but it’s still a far cry from saying THIRD graders shouldn’t be pushed to read.

    Elkind also says “limit TV’ – but if you look for the actual citation, he says something like, “Limit children to 2 hours TV a day”!! Well, to a Waldorf educator, 2 hours of television is equivalent to child abuse. But they’ll parrot anyone who says “Limit TV” and pretend that person is a Waldorf supporter – if they’re famous, or a renowned expert.

    So yes, he’s a historic case of someone being used by Steiner pedagogues who doesn’t really support their case, even though he may be partly to blame himself if he THINKS he supports their case because he doesn’t know exactly what their case consists of.

  41. ‘Elkind basically says harmless things like “Don’t push children to read too early.” I may personally think this is a bit simplistic, and that certain kids probably should be pushed a bit, but the real issue is that Elkind doesn’t apparently have a clue that by “early,” anthropops mean, like, eight year olds.’

    Or that by ‘pushing’ some of them mean ‘letting children see there are books with text’… in the extremer versions.

    ‘Elkind also says “limit TV’ – but if you look for the actual citation, he says something like, “Limit children to 2 hours TV a day”!! Well, to a Waldorf educator, 2 hours of television is equivalent to child abuse. But they’ll parrot anyone who says “Limit TV” and pretend that person is a Waldorf supporter – if they’re famous, or a renowned expert.’

    It’s insidious. Other than that, I can’t add anything — it’s just not the way to work, if you want to be honest and decent. I guess that some of them know what Elkind actually wrote — and that they misrepresent the stuff and are then quoted by hundreds of drones who actually have no clue what Elkind really said.

    Re the book, Thetis — oh dear dog.

  42. Speaking of the erosion of childhood I am again reminded of the myth that waldorf doesn’t put pressure on children. It does — it’s just a different kind of pressure. If you don’t excel at the subects waldorf considers important — you are very aware you’re failing. I failed constantly despite having an aptitude for traditional school subjects. They just weren’t valued highly in waldorf. And knitting and eurythmy and wet-on-wet painting and flute play — I simply sucked at all these things. And did feel quite a lot of pressure — or rather like a constant failure. With bad self-esteem on all accounts.

  43. Two comments from twitter re the second article – Dorothy Bishop: ‘I see full house of evidence-free supporters: Sigman, Goddard Blythe, James, Greenfield’
    And Ben Goldacre: (3 tweets pieced together): ‘those guys get everywhere, because they’re what scientifically ignorant journalists wish scientists looked like. They offer drama, topicality, certainty, long lists of accolades and letters after name for authority, and they throw in nice technical words. it’s almost like they’re a dramatic parody.’

    Very smart. Now the Telegraph needs to listen to him! And perhaps notice the Steineristas clinging to anything that however tenuously backs up their claims, or suggests their pedagogy might have an answer. Without mentioning anthroposophy, of course.

  44. Apparently Richard House is busy saving childhood again — and in the same newspaper, Telegraph.

    http://tgr.ph/zppfHC

    ‘Alternative curriculum’ — that’s waldorf I guess. At least for House. Here he talks about ‘discovering Steiner education as an intrinsically healing experience for children.’

    http://www.ejop.org/archives/2005/11/therapy-beyond-modernity-interview-with-dr-richard-house.html

    (Thanks to Melanie for linking to it on twitter.)

Comments are closed.