kingdom of childhood (novel)

This is most likely not literature of the more sublime kind. I don’t actually think it’s worth reading, but still…*

Initial critiques of Bowie resident Rebecca Coleman’s manuscript “The Kingdom of Childhood” suggested it was too dark. When protagonist Judy McFarland, 43, becomes involved in a sexual relationship with Zach, 16, a student at the Waldorf School where Judy has taught for 19 years, they begin a tense and tangled affair.

[…]

“The Kingdom of Childhood” also touches on the philosophy of Waldorf schools. Founded by Austrian Rudolf Steiner in 1919, the Waldorf curriculum is based on an early 20th-century idealistic philosophy that advocates the use of natural materials, imagination and artistic elements in the education of children.

The book’s title is both a reference to the main characters’ plight and to Steiner’s handbook of the same name, Coleman says.

“I think pretty highly of the schools, but when you have an environment that is that idealistic, the stakes are that much higher for things to go wrong,” she says of the book’s educational setting. “Although Judy is pretty bad, Zach is a pretty good kid and draws from what he learned [in school] to figure out a way out of the situation. I feel it’s affectionate toward the system, but I am curious to see how the Waldorf community receives the book.”

Article h/t Dan Dugan.

This appears to be from a description provided by the publisher:

An emotionally tense, increasingly chilling work of fiction set in the controversial Waldorf school community, it is equal parts enchanting and unsettling and is sure to be a much discussed and much-debated novel.

I’m not sure about that.

(Image borrowed from Adlibris. Is that supposed to resemble the evil witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel?)

*Edit: to avoid confusion, I’d just like to say it’s got to do with my taste. From the description in the article and the one by the publisher, I just know it. I mean, this: ‘”The Kingdom of Childhood” is the story of a boy and a woman: sixteen-year-old Zach Patterson, uprooted and struggling to reconcile his knowledge of his mother’s extramarital affair, and Judy McFarland, a kindergarten teacher watching her family unravel before her eyes’ just fails to excite me.

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151 thoughts on “kingdom of childhood (novel)

  1. Bahaha… Replying on the phone, I though you wrote in the archangel Michael thread…!! (I didn’t check properly… I thought — wow, Michael, not specific to steiner ed!?! ;-))

    Totally agree though, answering the right topic this time, that it’s not specific to steiner education. If it’s more or less or exactly as common in the waldorf environment, I don’t know. It is, I guess, a more interesting environment to use for the plot of a novel though!

  2. It could have been written about Highland Hall it seems. They’ve had this kind of teacher/student relationship problem several times in the past. I don’t know if it’s common to all Waldorf schools, but it seems common enough at Highland Hall.

  3. There is one thing that may make it worse: the tendency to ignore problems instead of dealing with them. Hoping they’ll just go away. Or that nobody will notice. Or that you can bluff yourself out of a crisis. Waldorf schools have these fantastic communities that everyone has to believe are fantastic, or the image crumbles. Bad things happening detracts from the feeling of being blessed.

  4. Must be the sense of the “individual” not being incarnate. Age in relationships appears to have less meaning when you believe this. If you find your “soul-mate” – and they happen to be in a 16 year old’s body… so what? My ex’s parents had over 30 years difference in their ages. This doesn’t seem to be problematic for Anthroposophists… sick puppies that they are. (No ruffense to Mr. Dog.).

  5. There was an article not long ago in a German newspaper:
    http://www.welt.de/vermischtes/article13637331/Wenn-eine-41-Jaehrige-einen-14-Jaehrigen-liebt.html

    Not about waldorf, but a highly interesting read.

    If one person is 30 and the other 60, it’s one thing. But if one person is, let’s say, 14 and the other 44… 30 years difference is quite something else. Which is not to say that a 14 year old and a 44 year old can’t have a lot in common on a personal level and have a great friendship. But the sexual aspect, well, that’s another matter again.

  6. OK, author here, stalking poor Alicia via Twitter searches on the book title… I find that comment about Highland Hall very interesting. I’d just like to say, when I wrote this book I was not aware of *any* such relationships that had taken place in a Waldorf school (which is not to say I assumed they had never happened, but it wasn’t based off anything specific). I’ve been reading up on Steiner and Waldorf schooling for 21 years, my own son attended a Waldorf preschool, and I chose that as the novel’s setting for two reasons: 1) because it was something I’m interested in enough to spend two years researching and obsessing over it as I wrote the book, and 2) because what happens in the story is, by my judgment, the antithesis of what should go on in a Steiner school. Everything Steiner taught about education centered around a conscious, mindful way of building the consciousness and morality of a child and adolescent, and on protecting it from negative influences. So what Judy McFarland does in the book is in total opposition to what she has worked toward and professed all her life. That makes for a more tension-filled story and higher stakes for the characters.

    I certainly don’t object to someone saying the book isn’t to their taste– I knew quite well when I wrote it that it isn’t a story for everyone. And I hear you, Alicia, when you say (yesterday) that if people want to know about Steiner they should read Steiner. But I *will* say that Steiner is quoted in it quite a bit, right from the first page, and while he (and Waldorf schools in general) don’t go uncriticized, I think this will introduce his work to a much wider audience, and that’s a good thing.

  7. You’re very much welcome, Rebecca!!

    Perhaps I’ll end up reading the book anyway — if there are Steiner quotes and all! There was another book — Souls of Terror — published less than a year ago. The genre isn’t my usual reading taste, either, but I read it anyway, because of the Steiner/anthro connection — it’s kind of funny to read a book where you can really pick up all the references. (See: http://soulsofterrorbook.com/)

    I definitely think a waldorf school — and the entire waldorf community concept — makes a lot more interesting background for a novel. Mainstream schools are boring, in a certain sense — they don’t have the same strong traditions, the same gathering around commonly held ideas and convictions, the idealism (that so easily comes to border on the extreme).

    What happens in your book seems to be the antithesis to anything that should happen in *any* school, of course. It isn’t appropriate anywhere. Some social settings may be more prone to let stuff go undetected. People doing bad or harmful things will happen everywhere, of course, no matter high ideals, et c; how they’re dealt with may differ from one setting to another. People who believe in a kind of dream sometimes choose not to see, because it destroys the dream. (As a side-note: a teacher from my own old waldorf school — he was, as far as I know, properly waldorf trained and all — was caught trafficking children from Haiti to Europe for sex. Whatever I might think about the ethos and ideals of waldorf — doing things like *that* is not a part of them. But people who do such things can still subscribe to the finest ideals, and it’s not always so easy for people around them to know –.neither in waldorf, nor elsewhere. Superficially having ideals may, in some cases, be a perfect cover…)

  8. Thanks for that link!! I’m reading now — very interesting!

    I was a waldorf student myself (from age 3 to 12) and, perhaps needless to say, I know the christmas light ceremonies ;-)

  9. I could never do anything right either. They are very rigid. Sadly, I think quite a number of waldorf classrooms are just like your son’s — depending, perhaps, on how closely the teachers adhere to the dogma they’ve been taught in teacher training and by older mentors. Not everything is Steiner’s fault; in some ways, waldorf may have become more fanatical than he may have intended. And also, stuck in time.

  10. That is fascinating stuff all around (and I will need to read that book you mentioned, now– I’ve got it open in a tab). Your comment about the ideals being a perfect cover, in some cases, is so true– happens often enough with pastors/priests/etc, after all. I agree, of course, that a teacher/student affair isn’t appropriate anywhere. But Waldorf parents are a different breed– you don’t put your kid in such a school, and pay the premium it takes to keep them there, unless you place an extremely high value on giving them The Perfect Childhood. The parents and students should have a reasonable expectation that this isn’t a public high school where seedy things happen because it’s the same as the general population of their region– these are “the elect.” That’s why I think the stakes are higher.

    You’ve seen my blogpost now (thanks for the tweet!) so this is clear enough by now, I’m sure, but I really am of two minds about the whole thing. I think most American kids could stand to benefit greatly from more Waldorf techniques and materials being incorporated into public education, and so in my view, the more people know about it, the more opportunities there are to cherry-pick from it, for lack of a better term. But Waldorf schools, and Steiner, are definitely not above criticism. *Any* school of thought followed slavishly or to its extreme tends to work out poorly.

    I just saw your most recent comment… that’s too bad, if my son’s experience was more ordinary than I had hoped. He wasn’t the only kid whose parent pulled him out of that class, either. On some of the blogger comments about my book, it’s odd to see some people refer to the Waldorf as a “modern-day hippie” school. I go out of my way, at one point in the book, to talk about how highly structured it is– but it’s true that many of the families that attend those schools are very liberal and hippie-like, even though at its core the program is not freewheeling or even very creative. I think people have a hard time understanding Germanic schooling methods. They can’t understand how something can be both earthy and rigid at the same time.

  11. Hi Rebecca, and welcome. You wrote: “But Waldorf parents are a different breed– you don’t put your kid in such a school, and pay the premium it takes to keep them there, unless you place an extremely high value on giving them The Perfect Childhood.” That’s absolutely true.

    On the flip side, Waldorf schools aren’t exactly forthcoming about their philosophy, what’s behind their methods, or even what they teach the children. So, parents who pay a premium for this education are also expected to put a tremendous amount of TRUST in the teachers. When that trust is shattered – as it so often is, it is particularly painful to the parents… especially when you remember many sacrifice much to enter Waldorf with an expectation of that “perfect childhood” for their kids.

    So… what are Waldorf schools doing TODAY to earn the trust of the parents who put their children there? Unfortunately, nothing.

  12. I agree. It seems like the tendency is to whitewash the underlying spirituality so it comes across as quaint but mainstream Christianity, when that’s really not what it is at all. That’s not to criticize the belief system, but to agree that it’s downplayed. There are a couple of scenes in my book where the main character’s daughter goes off on her– well, I’ll just quote, it’s faster–

    [“The thing is,” Maggie continued, “I’ve realized I spent eighteen years sheltered under all this nonsense, learning all this stuff that doesn’t matter, from people who are generally hypocrites… and then out in the real world, once I stopped fighting it, I realized the world doesn’t explode if you admit fairies don’t exist and you can’t dance your way to a higher consciousness. It’s a matter of being logical.”
    “I suppose that’s where the Baptist Church comes in.”
    She raised her eyebrows slightly and strung a long piece of mozzarella into the air. “Redemption is logical,” she said. “Compared to a lot of that crap I digested, it’s practically Newton’s Law.”
    I nodded. “So this is what rebellion looks like, in one of my kids.”
    “I’m not rebelling. This is who I’ve been all my life. I just didn’t have the language to talk about it, since all they speak at Sylvania is New Age gobbledygook. I never fit in at that stupid school and you know it. All I ever wanted was to be a regular person in a normal American family. One where I can go to a barbecue on the Fourth of July that isn’t full of people telling their stories about how they got out of the Vietnam draft.]

    I admit it’s enlightening to me, though, to hear it validated outside of the specific Waldorf-critics sites. I agree with Alicia that the philosophy may well have been taken to an extreme that Steiner hadn’t intended. Steiner had so MANY ideas and was so driven by his new ones that I feel like Waldorf education should be more dynamic, and more in a state of evolution, than it seems to be. But I feel uncomfortable extrapolating my own experience with it to say things about the system as a whole, so it’s very interesting to read criticism from people closer to it.

  13. Oh!! Now I really will have to read your book!!

    This is a very hurried comment, because I’ve got to run (I’ll be back later): about being the ‘elect’ — yes very much so. (And this was the case here in Sweden too, although waldorf education has been publicly funded since I started school — i e, the beginning of the 80s. And even though some parents choose waldorf because that was practically the only option aside from public/state school.)

    ‘I go out of my way, at one point in the book, to talk about how highly structured it is– but it’s true that many of the families that attend those schools are very liberal and hippie-like, even though at its core the program is not freewheeling or even very creative. I think people have a hard time understanding Germanic schooling methods. They can’t understand how something can be both earthy and rigid at the same time.’

    This is SO true.

    Another aspect of this is that waldorf is often presented as an option if you want to avoid pressuring the child. But the pressure in waldorf is just different. It’s not intellectual, but if your child is not good at the activities valued in waldorf… the child will feel pressured! Your son probably felt this too — even a small child knows when everything s/he does is ‘wrong’ and the grown-ups are displeased. S/he may not understand why, but the feeling is there.
    Not that some pressure can’t be a good thing — sometimes. But it would be silly to imagine it’s not there, just because it’s not about learning the alphabet or the multiplication tables (which I probably would have excelled at) — and that’s what they do. Not everything is soft and pleasant because it’s ‘artsy’. There are all these rules to follow — and sometimes they aren’t even explicit.

    The good things often mentioned — art, fairytales, going out experiencing nature, and so forth — are not specific to waldorf; I mean, you don’t need the underlying philosophy or special waldorf training to implement them. I can see, thought, how parents might think there’s too little of these aspects in mainstream education — and then waldorf stands there, with open arms, and the surface looks very attractive, but sometimes another reality emerges after a while.

  14. “Another aspect of this is that waldorf is often presented as an option if you want to avoid pressuring the child. But the pressure in waldorf is just different. ”

    This bears repeating. The “peer” pressure is often supported by the teacher in Waldorf environments. The supporting of bullying isn’t uncommon at all. Waldorf teachers think there’s a karmic reason children should be bullied by one another. The pressure of being an outcast in a school where there are no other outcasts can be enormous. Then there’s pressure to be dumb… to believe in stuff that isn’t real. To some kids, surviving in a Waldorf environment requires closing off their mind.

  15. Also knowing your paintings are never good — but since nothing is ever explained in words…

    I got detention for not sewing a horse quick enough in kindergarten. I would call that pressure — even if it’s not intellectual. I would have had a much easier time understanding and coping with more academic pressure.

    But then of course also the pressure of the group an not to forget a subtle pressure to consider yourself lucky even if youre not.

  16. Typed a reply andgot error when posting. Trying to remember what I wrote.

    Yes, pressure from the group (and there’s a lot, it’s not really ok to be different or be ‘yourself’). Also a subtle pressure in the myth that we’re all so happy and blessed… When you know you aren’t. Pressure from unrealistic expectations.

    But there’s also a pressure if you don’t live up to standards in the subjects waldorf focuses on, i e various non-academic pursuits. There’s a lot of pressure in these ‘artistic’ subjects and what’s worse: nobody ever explains the whys and hows properly!

  17. “But the pressure in waldorf is just different. It’s not intellectual, but if your child is not good at the activities valued in waldorf… the child will feel pressured! Your son probably felt this too — even a small child knows when everything s/he does is ‘wrong’ and the grown-ups are displeased. S/he may not understand why, but the feeling is there.”

    Yes– yes– I completely agree (not just with this but with your and Pete’s posts all around). And these anecdotal stories that support it (detention for not sewing fast enough in K?!) are so interesting. My son DID clearly feel this, and similar to what I said on my blog post, the breaking point for me was when I felt that even though the other kids liked my son perfectly well, the teacher was fanning the flames of the notion that they didn’t, because SHE didn’t. At the time I didn’t know about all the karma stuff, and once I learned that it made it all make more sense, and made it more sinister as well.

    “There are all these rules to follow — and sometimes they aren’t even explicit. ”

    So true– glad I’m not the only one who thought so. This goes for the families as well. I don’t know about in Sweden, since you say it’s publicly funded, but there’s an uncomfortable socioeconomic component to it in the U.S. Ostensibly they discourage academics and academic pressure at too young of an age, which is (mostly) fine. The teacher was always getting on my case about the fact that I let my son watch TV– he only watched PBS/educational shows, but it was still TV. But there were a large number of kids at the school who went straight from AM Waldorf preschool to PM French immersion preschool, and nobody said a word about that. And plastic and mass-produced toys were strongly discouraged, unless they were Playmobil, which for some reason were exempt and every Waldorf kid owned entire armies of the things. I got to feeling like it was a class issue: expensive, imported, or wealth-associated things were overlooked even if they violated the folkways, but God help you if your kid watches “Blue’s Clues” or plays with Fisher Price animals. That *really* goes against the teachings of a guy who started the school for the children of cigarette factory workers, but somehow it works out that way anyway.

  18. Wow, it’s funny you should mention the Playmobil toys. I had to look them up to see what they were and… sure enough… they were the only plastic toys allowed in our home for some reason. I, like you, never understood exactly why… and still don’t.

    Hypocrisy is the name of the game in Waldorf. Two children with identical behavior will be dealt with differently depending on many factors – not the least of which is who their parents are within the community. This strikes very close to home for me since Highland Hall went to extreme efforts to claim my kids as “3rd-generation Waldorf graduates”.

    And, of course, if you believe what they teach in Waldorf teacher training… skin color and other physical characteristics enters the picture when it comes to dealing with a child’s behavior. This should be very disturbing to parents who have trustingly put their children in the hands of Waldorf.

  19. Very quick reply: check if playmobil is german. I think it is.

    Oddly, it was very common in sweden but I never had it and wasn’t aware it was popular among some waldorf folks.

  20. Hi, all.

    At a surface level, the chief problem with Waldorf schools (IMO) is that they so often lie about their intentions, which boil down to promoting Anthroposophy (the occult religion cobbled together by Rudolf Steiner).

    At a deeper level, the chief problem with Waldorf schools (IMO) consists of those very intentions. People who like Waldorf schools often argue that when things go wrong in these schools, it is because Steiner’s intentions have been violated. Actually, things most often go wrong in Waldorf schools when Steiner’s intentions are honored.

    Here is Steiner explaining to Waldorf teachers what their mission is:

    “You need to make the children aware that they are receiving the objective truth, and if this occasionally appears anthroposophical, it is not anthroposophy that is at fault. Things are that way because anthroposophy has something to say about objective truth. It is the material that causes what is said to be anthroposophical. We certainly may not go to the other extreme, where people say that anthroposophy may not be brought into the school. Anthroposophy will be in the school when it is objectively justified, that is, when it is called for by the material itself.” [1]

    Since Anthroposophists believe that their doctrines are the Truth underlying all other knowledge, they think that the presence of Anthroposophy will be “justified” at virtually every point in every subject studied. They may be circumspect about it, bringing their beliefs into the classroom subtly, covertly, but they bring them.

    Not all Waldorf teachers are deeply committed, uncompromising Anthroposophists, but Steiner said that they should be: “As teachers in the Waldorf School, you will need to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit and to find a way of putting all compromises aside … As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” [2]

    Indeed, one of the most important facts about Waldorf schools is that they are meant to spread Anthroposophy: “One of the most important facts about the background of the Waldorf School is that we were in a position to make the anthroposophical movement a relatively large one. The anthroposophical movement has become a large one.” [3]

    Waldorf education is meant to usher students toward true spiritual life, which is inherently Anthroposophical: “As far as our school is concerned, the actual spiritual life can be present only because its staff consists of anthroposophists.” [4]

    Waldorf teachers serve as priests in a religion that recognizes many spiritual powers or gods (plural: Anthroposophy is polytheistic). The goal of Waldorf schooling is not so much to educate children as to save humanity by leading it to Anthroposophy. Waldorf teachers consider themselves to be on a holy mission:

    – “The position of teacher becomes a kind of priestly office, a ritual performed at the altar of universal human life.” [5]

    – “We can accomplish our work only if we do not see it as simply a matter of intellect or feeling, but, in the highest sense, as a moral spiritual task. Therefore, you will understand why, as we begin this work today, we first reflect on the connection we wish to create from the very beginning between our activity and the spiritual worlds … Thus, we wish to begin our preparation by first reflecting upon how we connect with the spiritual powers in whose service and in whose name each one of us must work.” [6]

    – “Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” [7]

    In sum, the goals of Waldorf schooling are inseparable from the goals of Anthroposophy, although Waldorf teachers generally deny this, for fear of a public backlash: “[W]e have to remember that an institution like the Independent Waldorf School with its anthroposophical character, has goals that, of course, coincide with anthroposophical desires. At the moment, though, if that connection were made official, people would break the Waldorf School’s neck.” [8]

    What is Anthroposophy? It is a religion: “[T]he Anthroposophical Society … provides religious instruction just as other religious groups do.” [9]

    And so: “It is possible to introduce a religious element into every subject, even into math lessons. Anyone who has some knowledge of Waldorf teaching will know that this statement is true.” [10]

    Hence Steiner was able to say to Waldorf students: “[D]o you know where your teachers get all the strength and ability they need so that they can teach you to grow up to be good and capable people? They get it from the Christ.” [11] Take care when Steiner and his followers refer to “Christ.” They do not mean the Son of God worshipped in regular Christian churches; they mean the Sun God.

    The key point here (IMO) is to recognize Steiner’s admission that Waldorf teachers are true believers; they believe that they draw their authority from a god. Their work as Waldorf teachers is religious. Even when encouraging their students to love beauty, their purpose is fundamentally religious. “We must, in our lessons, see to it that the children experience the beautiful, artistic, and aesthetic conception of the world; and their ideas and mental pictures should be permeated by a religious/moral feeling.” [12]

    You may like the idea that Waldorf schools are devoted to “a religious/moral feeling,” but you need to recognize what religion Steiner was talking about. Waldorf schools exist to promote a specific, cultish, occult religion: Anthroposophy. Unless you are comfortable with the theology of Anthroposophy, you cannot ultimately be comfortable with Waldorf schooling.

    One final point: Anthroposophy and, by extension, Waldorf education hinge on clairvoyance. Virtually all of Steiner’s’ teachings come out of his claimed clairvoyance, and Waldorf teachers endeavor to develop and use clairvoyance in their own work. The problem in this is that clairvoyance is a delusion — it does not exist. Thus, many of the people who run Waldorf schools are working out of a worrisome delusion, which like all delusions is potentially very damaging. Waldorf students spend their days under the threat of an enormous delusion practiced by well-meaning but misguided teachers. (Not all Waldorf teachers fit this bill. I will reiterate that not all Waldorf teachers are true-blue Anthroposophists. But many are, and Steiner said they all should be.)

    “[W]e must work to develop this consciousness, the Waldorf teacher’s consciousness, if I may so express it. This is only possible, however, when in the field of education we come to an actual experience of the spiritual. Such an experience of the spiritual is difficult to attain for modern humanity. We must realize that we really need something quite specific, something that is hardly present anywhere else in the world, if we are to be capable of mastering the task of the Waldorf school … [We need] what humanity has lost in this respect, has lost just in the last three or four centuries. It is this that we must find again.” [13] Steiner taught that modern people do not have the natural clairvoyance possessed by the ancients, and thus we no longer have direct experience of the spirit realm. By following his directions, however, we can attain a new, higher form of clairvoyance — and here he explicitly tells Waldorf teachers that they should do so. They should develop “exact” clairvoyance:

    “[E]xact clairvoyance unites what otherwise is taken purely intellectually with a view of what is spiritual or supersensible in human beings … Now, if we are working as teachers — as artists in education — on human beings, we must enter into relation with their supersensible [i.e., supernatural], creative principle. For it is upon this principle that the teacher and educator works. External works of art can be created by fantasy and imagination. But, as an educator, one can be an artist only if one is able to enter into connection with the supersensible creative element, the supersensible that lives in the human being’s self. The anthroposophical method of research [clairvoyance] makes this possible and so provides the basis for an art of teaching and education.” [14]

    Steiner said that if a Waldorf teacher does not develop clairvoyance, s/he should at least follow the guidance of colleagues who are (or who claim to be) clairvoyant. Think of the intellectual and even spiritual blindness that can result. If Steiner’s intentions are honored, a Waldorf faculty will consist of deluded individuals leading others who choose to believe these deluded individuals. “Not every Waldorf teacher has the gift of clairvoyance, but every one of them has accepted wholeheartedly and with full understanding the results of spiritual-scientific investigation [i.e., clairvoyant Anthroposophical teachings] concerning the human being. And each Waldorf teacher applies this knowledge with heart and soul … In educating the child, in the daily lessons, and in the daily social life at school, the teachers find the confirmation for what spiritual science can tell them about practical teaching. Every day they grow into their tasks with increasing inner clarity.” [15] So the commitment to Waldorf’s underlying delusion should grow daily.

    Clairvoyance is the linchpin of Waldorf education, which means (since clairvoyance is a delusion) that Waldorf education has no linchpin. Kids educated in a delusional system are clearly at great risk.

    – Roger Rawlings

    (Most of you know that I have a Web site called Waldorf Watch. If you do not know of the site, I invite you to visit: https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/)

    [1] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 495.

    [2] Ibid., p. 118.

    [3] Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p.156.

    [4] Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60.

    [5] Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 23.

    [6] Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 33.

    [7] FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 55.

    [8] Ibid., p. 705.

    [9] Ibid., p. 706.

    Elaborating on this point, Steiner said “[T]his is how our free, nondenominational, religion lessons came about. These were given by our own teachers, just as the other religious lessons were given by ministers. The teachers were recognized by us as religious teachers in the Waldorf curriculum. Thus, anthroposophic religious lessons were introduced in our school. “ [Rudolf Steiner, SOUL ECONOMY AND WALDORF EDUCATION (SteinerBooks, 2003), p. 125]

    [10] Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD’s CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 94.

    [11] Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 29.

    [12] Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 77.

    [13] Rudolf Steiner, DEEPER INSIGHTS INTO EDUCATION (Anthroposophical Press, 1983), p. 21.

    [14] Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), Vol. 1, pp. 207.

    [15] Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), Vol. 2, pp. 224-225.

  21. Roger — thank you, thank you! I must read your comment properly when I’m on a real computer. Scribbling on a small annoying gadget at the moment…

    Rebecca — yeah, the toys, very very special. Lots to live up to for parents. Many mistakes to do without understanding why. I had Lego, not Playmobil. Sometimes I look at these american waldorf blogs though, usually written by very waldorf devoted mothers… and they seem very extreme.

    But it’s not just toys and tv — some people were very fussy about which books the children were allowed.

    As for the detention, yes… it wasn’t anything serious, I was just supposed to stay in while others went out. Which probably in itself wasn’t bothering me — but it was so frustrating, the damn horse. And it’s a clear message — you fail. Well, I was frustrated and I think I cried even (I didn’t usually, not in such situations) and I think (though my memories aren’t clear at all) they thought better of it and I didn’t have to continue. The point is that it’s a kind of pressure — even if in a ‘soft’ subject. I would have loved sitting indoors reading ;-) But that was never on the menu…

    And everybody’s paintings and drawings were constantly on display on the walls. If you sucked at these things it was constantly advertised.

  22. Such interesting stuff… thanks, Alicia, for explaining, and Roger, I read your post with interest. What strikes me about what you said is that, having spent much of my adult life as a Mormon (I attend a mainstream protestant church now but still have a tenuous, ambivalent connection with the LDS church), is that this is very similar to the background on Joseph Smith. Your entire post about Anthroposophists/Waldorf teachers could almost have those terms replaced with Mormon terms and it would still be accurate.

    Pete, one more question, if you are able to answer– these Highland High teacher/student relationships you describe, what was the gender of the teachers vs, the students? I’m curious.

    Alicia, it’s good to have met you. I’m going to keep an eye on your posts via Twitter… I just came back from a book signing and most of the questions I was asked were about Waldorf schools and Steiner’s philosophies, and your blog is a good source for supplying information to those interested.

  23. Thank you Rebecca. They were each the opposite of the gender relationship you describe… older men preying on young girls. There was also a case of a male teacher at Highland Hall being caught with child pornography on his computer.

    Interestingly, there was a case of a female Waldorf teacher who was setting up overnight play dates for her teenage pedophile son. She knew of his problems but still arranged for children to stay with her in her home. The boy went on to molest children at Highland Hall… and Highland Hall, of course, covered it up. The details are contained on my blog of course.

    What I’m most recently concerned about is a pattern that has come to my attention (because I speak publicly about Highland Hall’s misdeeds) which is that several other fathers have experienced what I have experienced at the hands of Waldorf schools… something I describe as a conspiratorial effort to separate a parent who objects to Waldorf (usually the father) from their own children. The parents are frequently in shock while this happens to them with the help of a court system that isn’t accustomed to large communities of people flatly lying about what they do. I thought mine was an isolated case. Identifying this pattern has been an eye-opener.

  24. Rebecca, you say “Everything Steiner taught about education centered around a conscious, mindful way of building the consciousness and morality of a child and adolescent, and on protecting it from negative influences.” Yes, that might apply to Aryan children but clearly can not apply to black and oriental children as they are incapable of high conciousness and morality in the Anthroposophic scheme.

  25. Quite true, Nick. It’s pretty typical for me to look at a philosophy and say, “well, the heart of it is *this*” and focus on the good. I consider things like that to be irritating distractions, and can lose sight of the fact that the hardliners take them very seriously. The fact that I can be critical of the whole Steiner/Waldorf deal at all has taken about 20 years.

  26. Technically, in the anthro scheme, it does apply to all children, since anthroposophists count on the spirit to reincarnate (‘better’ if you do the work right…). Which does not help make the theory more palatable.

  27. Alicia, I think Steiner believed some races incapable; “The methods by which oriental peoples attained access to the higher worlds in olden times have persisted through tradition and even today are still practiced over in Asia as a decadent form of Yoga, by men whose bodily constitution differs from ours in the West. Nothing of this kind could be beneficial to the West.” That quote was lifted from P.S. and his reference is as follows:

    Steiner, “On the Reality of Higher Worlds.” For further examples of Steiner’s negative assessment of Asian spiritual traditions in European contexts see among others Steiner, Luzifer-Gnosis, 370-71; Steiner, Grundelemente der Esoterik, 108-115; Steiner, Westliche und östliche Weltgegensätzlichkeit, 226-39; Steiner, Christus und die menschliche Seele, 98-99; Steiner, Earthly and Cosmic Man; Steiner, Cosmology, Religion and Philosophy; Steiner, At the Gates of Spiritual Science; Steiner, “The Ancient Yoga Culture” in Steiner, The Mission of the Archangel Michael; and Marie Steiner’s Introduction to Universe, Earth and Man.

    Additionally, in Steiner’s version of reincarnation one might be born as a non-white as a punishment for bad deeds in a past life, so not being white immediately suggests to Anthroposophy advocates that the ‘soul’ of the person has committed some terrible act in the past – otherwise they would be born white. Or, the oriental may have been rewarded for good deeds by being born oriental rather than remaining black African or Australian Aborigine. Of course, I think it’s all total and utter rubbish and I don’t believe in anything supernatural. So while it’s technically academic, it’s still a real piece of institutional racism that might well affect the way non white children – or adults for that matter, are treated by Anthroposophists and their sympathisers.

    Which ever way one looks at it, the only unique aspect of Steiner’s view concerning reincarnation (compared to Buddhism, for example) is its intrinsic and explicit racism – it’s fundamental to the scheme; take that away and one is left with nothing attributable to Steiner. So it’s not possible to support Steiner’s version of mindfulness (rather than Buddha’s) without choosing racism rather than not. One can apply the same principles to art, dance, childcare, farming, disability and so-on. My main objection to Steiner’s views is that he has stolen every idea from somewhere else and wrapped it up in a racist and nationalist blanket. Rejecting Steiner totally is the only way not to support his racist scheme as there are plenty of non-racist alternatives for every crackpot idea he’s stolen.

  28. Well, but if we look at what Rebecca wrote:

    “Everything Steiner taught about education centered around a conscious, mindful way of building the consciousness and morality of a child and adolescent, and on protecting it from negative influences.”

    This would apply to children regardless. Because the spirit incarnated in the non-white person is also ‘worth’ working on, in and according to the anthro scheme. The spirit is not ‘lost’ even though the race is. What I think I’m saying is that an education like that (if Steiner ed were like that in reality) would not necessarily be impossible to apply — even from an anthro viewpoint — in regard to non-aryan children. So, from that viewpoint, it would be wrong to say ‘but clearly can not apply to black and oriental children’. It can, but I’m not sure why parents of black or oriental children would feel comfortable with it. (Though that’s a separate, even if related, issue.)

  29. I’m sorry, I just don’t accept the idea that one can’t appreciate or take to heart any of Steiner’s other ideas without tacitly approving of, or promoting, his racism. I’m very well aware of his views on race (that shows up in my book too), but I don’t agree that it has to be an all-or-nothing approach in which one ideas poisons everything else he taught. You could say the same thing about the Constitution of the United States, or of South Africa, or any nation founded with the belief that some residents are superior to others because of their race, and it doesn’t mean we should throw out the entire constitution; it means we should update it. I’ve dealt with some very similar notions in Mormonism (the Book of Mormon, as “revealed” by Joseph Smith, says certain groups were cursed with a “skin of blackness” for their misdeeds against God), and seen for myself that the entire well doesn’t have to be poisoned by a backwards idea if the adherents mutually agree to move on from it. Now, whether the Waldorf schools DO move on from it in practice is something I don’t know.

    I also don’t agree with the notion that he “stole” his ideas. It’s very common for philosophers to synthesize a variety of ideas that may be popular in their culture at the time, or are drawn from history, into a cogent whole. Waldorf educational philosophy, and its success as far as being practiced at a thousand schools worldwide, is quite unique. Its aesthetic is very unique as well. I think a culture as Disney-fied as mine can really benefit from some of the practices of Waldorf schools, and I will readily credit Steiner for promoting those ideas I believe are beneficial. But do I have to think that if I believe Grimm’s tales have something to offer children, my white children are more capable than black children of understanding them? Of course not. That’s ridiculous.

  30. ‘I’m sorry, I just don’t accept the idea that one can’t appreciate or take to heart any of Steiner’s other ideas without tacitly approving of, or promoting, his racism.’

    I’m with you there, Rebecca. And I don’t think it’s impossible for anthroposophy to deal with the racist tenets and the movement’s past — the chief criticism would be that they haven’t (sufficiently, if at all). They are more prone to ignoring there is an issue at all. Once it is accepted that Steiner made errors, it’s a much smaller problem rethinking anthroposophy. I would think.

    ‘It’s very common for philosophers to synthesize a variety of ideas that may be popular in their culture at the time, or are drawn from history, into a cogent whole.’

    Yes, that’s what he did. If the whole is always cogent with him, well, I don’t know ;-) But he read a lot, borrowed from many, put together his things. Few ideas were entirely his own — hed had lots of inspiration. Not necessarily bad. (Although he did borrows some bad things — he could have avoided the theosophical root race theory, e g!!)

  31. Alicia and Rebecca,

    I think you’ve both missed the point. If one has a choice between a scheme of reincarnation that includes racism and one that does not, one might consider choosing the non-racist version; why give any publicity or power to the racist version? Clearly, the same principle should apply to ‘spiritual’ matters (not that any of them are true in my view) as one would give to any other matter – I have used the same argument in my opposition to Biodynamics.

    Another example: When I was involved in Green politics in the 1970’s 1980s and 1990s I read the environmental policies of all the political parties. One year I read the environmental policies of National Front (A British fascist organisation) and it happened to have a very good environmental policy, but that did not stop me condemning them utterly. After all, all of the ideas encapsulated in the NF’s green policies were available elsewhere – as Rebecca says; ” It’s very common for philosophers to synthesize a variety of ideas that may be popular in their culture at the time, or are drawn from history, into a cogent whole.”

    So we are all able to take the ideas we agree with and promote the people, organisations and ideas that most suitably represent our own synthesis. Again, I hope that all non-racist people reject Steiner and Anthroposopphy utterly and choose the non-racist non-Steiner versions of the bits they find attractive. It’s not as if there is a shortage of ‘spiritual’ schemes to choose from. I would also disagree entirely that any of Steiner’s writing is either cogent or whole.

    Rebecca, you say “You could say the same thing about the Constitution of the United States, or of South Africa, or any nation founded with the belief that some residents are superior to others because of their race, and it doesn’t mean we should throw out the entire constitution.”

    Well, yes we should throw it out. One should not accept a constitution until proper human rights are recognised. One is not denying the good ideas but one is denying the power of those responsible for the racism.

    We are all responsible for combatting institutional racism by rejecting racist organisations and creeds in favour of the non-racist versions. Not to do so is to absolve oneself of the responsibility to effect change.

  32. I think there’s never been any question the Steiner schools welcome children of all races and believe that their pedagogy “works” on children of all races. The soul is thought to be able to progress, so by their own reasoning, children with darker skin ought to need Waldorf even more than lighter skinned children. And technically, even if you have light skin, you can regress in future lifetimes, and come back with darker skin. So when you look at someone’s skin color, in anthroposophical terms you are seeing the effects of acts or spiritual status from the LAST incarnation, not this one. The darker skinned child could well be worthier, or more advanced, spiritually than the lighter skinned child. All of this, they use to convince themselves that they aren’t racist. Technically they aren’t judging the darker-skinned child as less worthy than the lighter skin, you see, because she or he may already have atoned or “learned their lesson,” spiritually speaking. You can’t tell by skin color, therefore, whether the person is advancing or regressing; you’re only seeing the effects of past progress, or past devolution.

    I think then, that the real question is, as Alicia, says, why in the world any parent of a non-white child would want to put up with any of this for a millisecond. Obviously, if you reject it all as loopy, the parents of white children shouldn’t be very happy about it, either; but because of existing racism, the parents of darker skinned children – it seems obvious to me – have more to worry about, in how their child will be perceived or treated. It would be simply absurd to try to pretend this scheme doesn’t support judgments on the basis of skin color.

  33. (Okay, I have to agree about the lack of cogency. I meant that philosophers often do that with ideas– synthesizing many and making them cogent altogether– not that Steiner necessarily achieved it. I would hate to be read as having said Steiner made perfect sense ;-))

  34. I have a headache, but one short comment: I can’t personally see why anyone would have to reject all of Steiner just because one rejects a certain part of the teachings. (There are other silly things one would have to wonder about, not just the racist parts.)

    If I find an author whose work speaks to me, for some reason or another, I don’t reject the entire opus just because I also find ideas in it that I can’t agree with. I may even reject most of it, yet find bits and pieces that I value.

    But, then again, I happily eat biodynamic food too.

    I also feel it’s problematic to say anything at all — I’m ‘white’, I live in a rather segregated place, I guess I am, culturally, very european. From an anti-racist multicultural perspective, as they appear today, I’m probably part of the problem rather than part of the solution. At least that’s how it feels, lots of the time. It’s like totally out of fashion to think old Swedish authors speak to you more than non-european authors do. (The US is quite close of course.) I wouldn’t be as happy living in Africa as I am living in Sweden. I don’t have the same feelings for these other parts of the world. I don’t, frankly, think they seem as nice. I am culturally limited, I guess.

    If we had to give up every old author and thinker who uttered things that are unacceptable today, well, the remains of our cultural heritage would be rather meagre. It’s not just racism or nationalism. There are all these old misogynists, too. So I’m quite in favour of a pick-and-choose approach instead of a total rejection approach. What other options are there? I don’t know any.

  35. ‘I think there’s never been any question the Steiner schools welcome children of all races and believe that their pedagogy “works” on children of all races. The soul is thought to be able to progress, so by their own reasoning, children with darker skin ought to need Waldorf even more than lighter skinned children. […]You can’t tell by skin color, therefore, whether the person is advancing or regressing; you’re only seeing the effects of past progress, or past devolution.’

    Exactly this was my point — that, from the anthroposophical perspective, waldorf education is not wasted on the ‘wrong’ race, because the ‘individual’ is supposed to transcend race. In anthroposophical thinking. BUT this does not make the ideas about races less racist. It just means that theoretically, waldorf education can be applied as anthroposophically ‘successfull’ (again from that perspective) to any child. It would NOT* be anthroposophically useless on a child incarnated in a non-white, eh, vessel…

    *Edit: a lost ‘not’…

  36. “I can’t personally see why anyone would have to reject all of Steiner just because one rejects a certain part of the teachings. ”

    The issue for anthroposophists is clairvoyance. If you give up the idea that he was clairvoyant, you can readily pick and choose among his teachings. But most anthroposophists would not want to give up the idea that he was clairvoyant. That is after all thought to be the source of most if not all of his teachings. Once you say the source is questionable, you have to at least be willing to question and doubt pretty much everything he said. Again, for most of us that is not a problem; that is a given, no matter how great the teacher, it is possible for him or her to be wrong about some things. Anthroposophists have to decide for themselves just how big a problem that is for them, but so far, all indications are that they generally consider it a pretty big problem.

  37. ‘The issue for anthroposophists is clairvoyance. If you give up the idea that he was clairvoyant, you can readily pick and choose among his teachings.’

    Well, exactly. It may be a problem for anthroposophists who are committed to the idea that Steiner was clairvoyant (and even perfectly clairvoyant if there is such a thing — though how would we ever know…), but to anyone else, it really isn’t an issue. He was a guy who spoke a lot.

  38. The tenets of Anthroposophy include racist ideas. If you had to define Anthroposophy, you could not do it without a definition of the spiritual and racial hierarchies Steiner put in place. If the racial hierarchies are thrown out, the foundation for the spiritual hierarchies Steiner constructed would be in jeopardy. Could we believe any of Steiner’s science, if it is admitted that Steiner’s ideas about the physiological differences between the races were revealed for the nonsense they are? Could Waldorf curriculum continue to support Steiner’s ideas about Atlantis? If not, which “mythology” would they consider keeping? Can/Will Waldorf teacher training willingly stop teaching how children of color require different treatment than white children? Will they stop teaching new teachers that children are divided into temperaments? Will they give up on the ENTIRE idea of reincarnation / spiritual development through the races? When we talk about racism in Anthroposophy/Waldorf, we’re not talking about the bathwater…

  39. Well, but if we’re talking about picking and choosing things, as opposed to have an all-or-nothing approach, we could just as well do without the spiritual hierarchies — or whatever else. The result, at one point, would cease being anthroposophy, I guess. But for the individual, it shouldn’t be impossible to pick and choose without feeling that racism poisons everything.* (Schools are a different matter — they adhere to a central ideology, which — bad or wrong — we’d expect teachers to share, or we wouldn’t know what to expect from the education.)

    * With ref to what Rebecca wrote and which I agree with: ‘I’m very well aware of his views on race (that shows up in my book too), but I don’t agree that it has to be an all-or-nothing approach in which one ideas poisons everything else he taught.’

  40. ‘Will they give up on the ENTIRE idea of reincarnation / spiritual development through the races?’

    If they wanted to, I don’t see why they couldn’t rethink that. Is the race element really so significant that it couldn’t be ditched? Of course, this would require anthroposophists to confront the issue rather than ignore it. And for some, it would mean accepting the race issue is there in the first place (and stop trying to justify it by saying the spirit can transcend its present incarnation/race).

  41. Peter S. has pointed out many times that there are many variations on the belief in karma and reincarnation that place no significance at all on race. There is no theoretical reason you can’t have a theory of karma and reincarnation that simply makes no mention of race.

    Personally, I find it a little confusing to think about. I’m almost more (logically; not ideologically) sympathetic to Steiner’s version, which includes race. I mean, the way I understand it, if you take the meaning of karma seriously, it means that everything has a meaning. Everything. So how do you get into picking and choosing that certain things are meaningful and others just aren’t? If karma *exists*, it makes sense that what race you “incarnate” into is meaningful. On the other hand, this actually shows why karma can’t exist – it simply can’t work. If everything is meaningful, nothing is meaningful. Always, we’ re going to have to decide that some things are meaningful and some things aren’t. Being human, we’re wired to select what is meaningful to us, whether personally, societally, culturally etc.

    So – I guess this a little long winded or circuitous … but what I’m trying to say is in PRACTICAL terms there is no reason they can’t ditch the racial theories. It would take some logical and metaphysical contortions, but religious ideologues are good at that. Given that the whole notion of karma and reincarnation simply cannot be true – on the level of REALITY, i.e., what can actually work – there’s no reason that should present a practical obstacle.

    Or put more simply, they can believe whatever nutty thing they want anyway; the fact that the whole theory does not and cannot make sense should be no obstacle to amending the theory in any way they desire.

  42. ‘I mean, the way I understand it, if you take the meaning of karma seriously, it means that everything has a meaning. Everything. So how do you get into picking and choosing that certain things are meaningful and others just aren’t? If karma *exists*, it makes sense that what race you “incarnate” into is meaningful.’

    Yes. But you could decide race is insignificant; it’s only about physical traits, et c. That the meaningful aspects lie elsewhere: in intelligence, artistic talent, running fast, being able to smell a bunny at a distance of 1 km, I don’t know what else. Sure, it would have to involve deciding which things are meaningful and which aren’t, but that is probably done anyway. And, as you say, it doesn’t really matter; making sense is not the most important concern anyway.

  43. “If karma *exists*, it makes sense that what race you “incarnate” into is meaningful.” Only if you put “value” on the different races. Karma and reincarnation can work without placing a racial hierarchy in place… very easily. We incarnate over progressive lifetimes learning from each previous lifetime. We can even say one lifetime has to balance the previous lifetime (or more) if that’s necessary. What we consider karmic “punishment” becomes very revealing, however. Even Steiner thought up all types of karmic punishments, some racially inspired, others as silly as “feeble-mindedness” (then again, you could get that from eating too many potatoes too…). Unfortunately, when one takes the problematic stuff out of Anthroposophy, one is left with very little that was original to Steiner. Personally, I think they should dump everything Steiner said after Philosophy of Freedom.

  44. ‘it means that everything has a meaning’
    Imagine walking through a crowded market place. You are besieged by myriad impressions. Maybe also your feet hurt and you feel as if you have a migraine coming on. A bird flies over and leaves a dropping on you shoulder, someone steps on your toes, the noise is unbelievable, seeking to retreat from the chaos you see alleyways, you turn a corner and you fall over the feet of someone, you apologise, you begin to talk. This person turns out to be the one you will spend your life with.
    Now which bits of this experience are meaningful and probably karmic. ALL the detail of what you experienced in the market place is largely irrelevant; its only importance lies in the fact you tried to escape from it. Turning the corner which led to you falling over the feet of that special someone, THAT was karmic. Why did you turn that corner rather than another one? Chance? Or one could say you turned that corner because it led to you falling over the feet of the person you are karmically connected with. But you did it unconsciously. With your conscious mind you didn’t know what would befall you, but your higher being did.
    So does everything have a meaning? i would say not.

  45. It seems to me that gender has a far greater impact on the way that any life unfolds than race. By saying this I am not intending to in any way diminish the effects of racial discrimination, but over and above the frameworks of race, class, caste, differences of intelligence, talent, capability, etc., gender inequality and gender based abuses affect more human beings negatively. Of course I am largely speaking of the abuse of women by men.

  46. “It seems to me that gender has a far greater impact on the way that any life unfolds than race.” … “Of course I am largely speaking of the abuse of women by men.”

    Is that in response to my post on karmic punishment? If so, I’m going to repeat “What we consider karmic ‘punishment’ becomes very revealing…” Steiner said we simply go back and forth between genders BTW… without necessarily attributing “higher” and “lower” status to the genders. He could have easily taken the same stance about the races. He chose not to… Oh wait… his clairvoyance told him it was otherwise… ;)

  47. I was just at Costco shopping and visited the book isle. There it was, “The Kingdom of Childhood” ~ I started it this afternoon and I’m hooked!

  48. Pete:
    “What we consider karmic “punishment” becomes very revealing”

    I think you’re right. What we’re saying is that the beliefs about karma, and what is karmic and what is not, reflect assumptions that precede or predate the belief in karma. If we already hold racial prejudices, or a belief that racial differences are meaningful, it seems reasonable to us that karma would involve incarnating in different races. If we don’t already think that, it won’t occur to us to attach racial meanings to things when we talk about karma.

    That is, of course, what I thought anyway … but I realize it’s not an approach an anthroposophist can wrap his mind around, because anthroposophists don’t tend to spend much time thinking about karma as a theory constructed by human minds, but rather treat it as a revealed truth or a revelation of how things really are.

  49. Falk, it’s a case of world views that cannot be reconciled. As you can see the gist of comments from the people here who don’t believe in karma is that karma is an explanation we invent for ourselves, a way of finding or assigning meanings to things that happen to us or happen in the world that we want to understand. In the example you give, our closest relationships are very meaningful to us and it is human nature to construct stories or narratives that enhance that meaning or locate the meaning of our personal stories in something larger – grander themes about the way the world works. We ALL think quite naturally that the way we met a loved one was somehow meant to be.

    There’s just a very big difference between having these thoughts and telling ourselves these stories versus believing that really the universe has actually arranged things this way specially for us. This just defies reason – there isn’t any conceivable known mechanism by which such a thing could work (“higher beings” arranging billions of individuals to trip over something in the street at exactly the right moment, in order to meet their future spouses?)

    In reality, we fall in love with who we fall in love with out of a variety of reasons, including timing, personal circumstances, personal readiness or desire for a certain type of relationship – just where we’re at – and, certainly, a whopping dose of chance. AFTERWARDS we tell ourselves we had to trip right there in the street on that day at that time. All the thousands of other times that we tripped over something in the street, and did NOT meet our Mr. or Ms. Right, are lost moments, meaningless.

    And if THAT PERSON hadn’t come around that corner at the moment we tripped in the street, guess what? Someone else would have.

    I realize the anthroposophical answer to the impossibility of connecting this pretty idea to reality is to extend it to many lifetimes. As a metaphor, reincarnation and karma make good sense to me. I can easily reflect on patterns in my life and in my family and realize that often I’ve learnt a particular lesson too late for it to be any use to me – wouldn’t it be great if I had another lifetime to do it over, or get it right? Unfortunately, it’s mistaken to believe this is literally true. Sad, but true, Falk, to quote a soap opera title … we only have “one life to live.”

    Ok that’s tonight’s ethereal ramble …

  50. Diana: I apologise in advance for the tendency I now seem to have to post videos instead of adding anything, but as a skeptic .. here’s a song from a fellow skeptic..

  51. “If karma exists, it makes sense that what race you “incarnate” into is meaningful.”

    The phrase that is purely speculative here is, ‘it makes sense’. It may make sense and yet be far from the facts, and what counts in karma are the facts. In the christian gospel there is the story of the woman taken in adultery. If you were looking at karma as a kind of rationalisation of things that happen, you might think this situation, that the woman was about to be stoned to death, was something she had brought on herself (she does not deny that she had broken the jewish laws), and was therefore karmic. But the Christ says to the crowd, ‘let he who is without guilt cast the first stone’. And after a while they have all disappeared. Why does this happen if it was in the woman’s karma to be stoned? Rudolf Steiner says the situation was really to do with the karma of those who wished to stone her. This is what I mean by, ‘what counts in karma are the facts’. A superficial view may not reveal what is going on at all, and drawing conclusions on the basis of ‘what makes sense’, may be way off the mark.

    I would like someone to point me to a passage in Steiner’e work where he actually states that a karmicaly occurring situation is a punishment.

    “….believing that really the universe has actually arranged things this way specially for us. This just defies reason – there isn’t any conceivable known mechanism by which such a thing could work .”

    The universe is the way it is. It is we who arrange things. A certain impulse in us makes us journey to a far distant land, we think we are going because of our work, but there we encounter something and our life’s orientation changes. In the example I made up the market, the bird etc, are already there. They would be there even if we were not. It is an impulse in me that makes me take the fateful step. It is not a question of mechanisms.

    Choosing to incarnate in a particular race may be karmically important or it may not.

    Steiner got a lot of things wrong about the significance of race, but after about 1912/13 he began to see more clearly that what is important is the essentially human in each and every one of us. He says quite clearly in many places, for example in ‘The Work of the Angels in the Astral Body’, that we have to learn to see each and every human being as an expression of the divine. As he became more and more aware of the importance of the Archangel Michael for our age, he stressed more and more the cosmopoiltan nature of this being. I believe that Steiner began more and more to see the limitations of (his own) eurocentric world view.

  52. Steiner was still spouting off racist stuff – practically until he was on his death bed. In fact he saved some of the worst for last. His most famous comment about the races is from 1923. He died in 1925.

    “On the one hand there is the black race, which is the most earthly. When this race goes toward the West, it dies out. Then there is the yellow race, in the middle between the earth and the cosmos. When this race goes toward the East, it turns brown, it attaches itself too much to the cosmos and dies out. The white race is the race of the future, the race that works creatively on the spirit.” (Rudolf Steiner, “Farbe und Menschenrassen”, lecture in Dornach March 3, 1923, in Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde, Dornach 1993, p. 67)

  53. I would like someone to point me to a passage in Steiner’e work where he actually states that a karmicaly occurring situation is a punishment.

    I’m sure Diana is as tempted as I am to bring some for you… but I happened to find this one on the same page of quotes I’ve collected. Here he’s assessing a child – Maybe you don’t consider a head that is “pressed together” a punishment, but it appears Steiner is suggesting this – if you read the whole assessment, you will see what I mean:

    “… Here (in the front) as we remarked, the head is pressed together. In all
    probability this points back to a purely mechanical injury, either at birth or
    during pregnancy, a mechanical injury in which we can see nothing else than a
    working of karma …” [Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR SPECIAL NEEDS
    (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998), pp. 106-110.]

    “Mainfestations of Karma” has lots of examples of this BTW…

  54. Do you consider death a punishment? If so:

    “In the autumn we experienced the death of a member’s child, a child seven years of age. The death of this child occurred in a strange way. He was a good boy, mentally very much alive already within the limits set for a seven-year-old; a good, well-behaved and mentally active child. He came to die because he happened to be on the very spot where a furniture van overturned, crushing the boy so that he died of suffocation. This was a spot where probably no van went past before nor will go past again, but one did pass just that moment. It is also possible to show in an outer way that all kinds of circumstances caused the child to be in that place at the time the van overturned, circumstances considered chance if the materialistic view is taken … Studying the case in the light of spiritual science [i.e., Anthroposophy] and of karma it will be seen to demonstrate very clearly that external logic, quite properly used in external life, proves flimsy in this case and does not apply … [T]he karma of this child was such that the ego, to put it bluntly, had ordered the van and the van overturned to fulfil the child’s karma.” [Rudolf Steiner, THE DESTINIES OF INDIVIDUALS AND OF NATIONS (SteinerBooks, 1987), pp. 125-126.]

  55. We don’t know what Steiner meant by ‘head pressed together’, it may have been a rather graphic way of describing the head, in the way one could say that a person has a ‘narrow’ head or a ‘bulbous’ forehead. Maybe not very kind if said in the person’s hearing, but maybe a graphic way to communicate to a colleague the characteristic he wanted to draw attention to.
    And no I wouldn’t count accidental death as a punishment.
    What he is saying is that the higher being of the child brought him to the place where he would meet his death. Not a comforting thought to many people, I agree, but if the parents were anthroposophists they may have found comfort in it, knowing the child would live again and believing that the death was not simply a random accident.
    Steiner believed that nearly every death occurs in just such a way,
    I would be interested to know exactly where he says that a karmic event was a punishment. I have not come across a case were he uses such terminology.

  56. “We don’t know what Steiner meant by ‘head pressed together’, it may have been a rather graphic way of describing the head, in the way one could say that a person has a ‘narrow’ head or a ‘bulbous’ forehead. Maybe not very kind if said in the person’s hearing, but maybe a graphic way to communicate to a colleague the characteristic he wanted to draw attention to.”

    He was describing a “special needs” child (see the book title)… and the child was right there (although Steiner treated him like he wasn’t) listening to every word Steiner had to say about him.

    “And no I wouldn’t count accidental death as a punishment.”

    So, the child’s “karma” was to be run over by a truck… and you don’t consider that a “punishment”? OK… what kind of “good” stuff can a person do in a previous life time that would warrant being run over by a truck as a child in this lifetime? Not a punishment? Really?

  57. It seems to me that most self-declared prophets (or in this case, an alleged clairvoyant who basically serves the same role) play into the “Just-world Hypothesis,” which is the human psychological tendency to try to work out how incomprehensible things must be part of a whole that makes perfect logical sense. One of the most glaring uses of this is, of course, the caste system (in India, but also in Japan concerning the burakumin, and elsewhere). In this case Steiner is using the idea of karma in the same manner– the “everything happens for a reason” concept, mercilessly applied, to try to make some sense out of why a child would be hit by a truck or born with hydrocephalis. Since he incorporates Christ into his spiritual system as well, it’s worth mentioning that this is a highly un-Christian idea at least the way Jesus taught it (which is the only one that matters to me). When Jesus was asked why a man was born blind, and given the choices of whether it was the sin of the man himselfor the sin of his parents that caused this fate, he said it was neither– that the man had been born this way so the work of God could be revealed, and he then healed him. You could say this is some version of karma as well– that there is still a higher purpose for the affliction– but the way it actually appears in Christian theology, it centers on promoting the glory of God, not on the actions of the individual.

    But we all know the anthroposophic idea of Christianity bears very little resemblance to traditional or Biblical ideas of it, informed as they are primarily through clairvoyance.

  58. I’m trying not to get too much into referencing my own book in this very interesting discussion, but in it, I make reference to the German children’s book “Struwwelpeter” throughout, and I think it works well alongside a lot of Steiner’s ideas. “Struwwelpeter” (with which Steiner was almost undoubtedly familiar, since it was written in 1845 in Germany) is a book of moral tales– heck, you probably know what it is– that all come back to the idea that the kid had it coming because his actions led to his or her downfall. Steiner’s theories about karma are really pretty unoriginal given his culture– sort of an Eastern frame put over a very Teutonic picture. I don’t think he can really be blamed for that, so much as for not coming up with a better idea himself.

  59. Falk :
    “And no I wouldn’t count accidental death as a punishment.”

    I’m just skimming, hope to read this more carefully later, but quickly, this makes me laugh.

    Once again … I have had this conversation a thousand times with anthroposophists – why is it that in these conversations we have to insist that anthroposophists take their own doctrines seriously?

    Falk dear .. if karma MEANS anything, then the whole frikkin’ point is that the accidental death is a punishment. It is not accidental after all! The child brought it on himself. Get it?

  60. If I choose, out of my own wisdom, to experience something that to others may appear unpleasant or difficult, I am not punishing myself. When Sydney Carton chooses to go to the guillotine in place of Darnay, he is not punishing himself.

  61. Falk :
    “I would like someone to point me to a passage in Steiner’e work where he actually states that a karmicaly occurring situation is a punishment.”

    OK… how about:

    “Now remember what I have often said about the life during the kamaloca period. After the etheric body has been laid aside as a second corpse, man lives the whole of his last life backwards. He goes over all the experiences which he has had, but not in such a way that he is indifferent to them. During the period in kamaloca, as man still possesses his astral body, what he has gone through brings about the most profound experiences in feeling. For example, let us suppose that a person died at the age of seventy. He lives his life back to his fortieth year when he struck a man on the face; he then experiences the pain which he gave to the other. A kind of self-reproach is thereby called forth; this then remains, so as to compensate the matter in a future life. You will understand that as in this period between death and a new birth there are all kinds of astral experiences, that which is experienced by us as an action imprints itself all the more surely and deeply into our inner being, and contributes to the construction of our new body. Thus, if even in ordinary life we are so strongly affected by certain experiences, especially if they were accompanied by feeling, that they are able to bring about later a depression of spirits, we shall understand that the much stronger impressions of kamaloca life are able to express themselves so that they work deeply into the organisation of the physical body.

    Here, then, you see a stronger form of a phenomenon which on careful observation you are able to find, even in the life between birth and death. The ideas which meet with no hindrance from the consciousness will lead to other irregularities in the soul — to neurasthenia, to various kinds of nervous diseases and perhaps also to mental diseases. All these phenomena present themselves as causal connections between earlier and later events, and furnish us with a clear picture of them.

    If we now wish to go further with this idea we may say that our actions will, in the life after death, be transmuted into a powerful emotion. This emotion which is not then weakened by any physical idea, not limited by any ordinary consciousness — for the brain is not then necessary — is experienced by the other form of consciousness, which then works down more deeply. So it is brought about that our actions and the whole nature of our previous life appear in the constitution of our whole organisation in a new life. Hence we shall quite easily understand that when a person who in one incarnation has thought, felt and acted very egotistically, sees before him after death the fruits of his egotistic thoughts, feelings and action, he is filled with strong feelings against his former deeds. This is in fact the case. He develops tendencies which are directed against his own being, and these tendencies, in so far as they have proceeded from an egotistic nature in the previous life, express themselves in a weak organisation in the new life. (The ‘weak organisation’ here refers to the being, and not to the external impression.) Therefore we must clearly understand that a weak organisation can be traced back karmically to egotism in a previous life. Let us go further.

    Let us suppose that in one life a person manifests a particular tendency towards telling lies. This is a tendency which proceeds from a deeper organisation of the soul; for if a person only follows what is in his most conscious life he will not really lie. It is only emotions and feelings which work up out of his sub-consciousness which lead him to this. Here again we have something deeper. If a person is untruthful, the actions which proceed from untruthfulness will again arouse the most forcible feelings against himself in the life after death, and a profound tendency against lying will appear. He will then bring with him into the next life not only a weak organisation but — so Spiritual Science shows us — an organisation which is incorrectly built, so to speak, and which manifests irregularly formed inner organs in the finer organisation. Something is there which does not agree and this is due to the previous tendency to lying. And whence came this tendency to lying? — for in that tendency the person already has something which also is not in order.

    Here we shall have to go back still further. Spiritual Science shows that a fickle life which knows neither devotion nor love — a superficial life in one incarnation — expresses itself in the tendency to lying in the next incarnation; and in the third incarnation this tendency to lying manifests itself in incorrectly formed organs. Thus we can karmically trace the effects in three consecutive incarnations: superficiality and fickleness in the first incarnation, the tendency to lying in the second, and the physical disposition to disease in the third incarnation.

    Thus we see how karma is connected with health and disease. ” “Such is the connection which exists between our life of good or evil, our moral and intellectual life in one incarnation, and our health or disease in the next. ”
    Manifestations of Karma – LECTURE 3 – KARMA IN RELATION TO DISEASE AND HEALTH

    Still not satisfied Falk?

    OK, how about Lecture 4 – THE CURABILITY AND INCURABILITY OF DISEASES IN RELATION TO KARMA, where Steiner actually PROCLAIMS “our errors do not go unpunished”. Do you still claim Steiner punishment… Read a bigger snip below:

    “From this we see how, in fact, our errors from the ahrimanic forces within us, including such voluntary errors as lies, etc., develop into causes of disease, if we do not merely consider the one incarnation, but observe the effect of one incarnation on the next. We see also how the luciferic influences in the same way become the causes of disease, and we may in fact say, ‘our errors do not go unpunished. We bear the stamp of our errors in our next incarnation.’ But we do this from a higher reason than that of our ordinary consciousness — from a consciousness which during the period between death and a new birth directs us to make ourselves so strong that we shall no longer be exposed to these temptations. Thus in our life, disease even plays the part of a great teacher. If we study illnesses in this way we shall see unmistakably that an illness is a manifestation of either luciferic or ahrimanic influences. When these things are understood by those who under the guidance of Spiritual Science wish to become physicians, the influence of these healers on the human organism will be infinitely more profound than it can be today. “

  62. When a seven-year-old is crushed by a passing van, and we say that he “brought it on himself,” this is punitive, Falk. Hate to break it to you, but this is not nice. This belief system needs to be removed from children’s environment.

  63. Regarding Pete K’s first quote. Nowhere does Steiner use the word punishment.
    And when talking about it in the second one, the context is better described by what Steiner says later, ‘Thus in our life, disease even plays the part of a great teacher.’ This use of the word punishment is untypical as he usually speaks of karma in terms of compensation, balancing, ameliorating, teaching, etc, which is the essence of his revelation. I.e., that we CHOOSE to undergo experiences which may be regarded as unpleasant in order to balance out some tendency we had in a previous life.
    Diana is just repeating herself. When children do it we call it, ‘broken record’. (A phrase that may not mean anything to the digital generation)
    I would be interested to know what she thinks the denouement of , ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, is about

  64. >Nowhere does Steiner use the word punishment.

    I think you are missing the gist of the critics’ argument. It isn’t about what words Steiner used. We are making an *evaluation* of the doctrine. Sorry but we don’t all just read Steiner and take what he said as literal truth. When a person says a seven year old child who has been killed in an auto accident CHOSE such a fate, this is a punitive attitude. (That’s putting it mildly.) When you then autistically repeat that we must find the word “punish” in this person’s statements somewhere, or else you won’t be able to understand that what you are hearing is punitive, what can we say? We do not relate to the material in the same manner as you do; we question it, rather than accepting that it conveys truths. It is a simplistic approach to a text to assume that if a particular word, such as “punish,” is not therein, the author cannot be advocating or endorsing punishment. Of course Pete found the word “punish” in some Steiner text, but the punitive essence of karma is evident in many texts that probably don’t contain this word. Steiner doesn’t say, “Well, if you do this, then here is your punishment.” He ASSUMES this. Behind the sickening story of the seven year old run over by the van, is the ASSUMPTION that a seven year old can possibly have committed “errors” that can only be “balanced,” “ameliorated” (whatever word you like better than “punished”) by a fatal traffic accident.

    I’m not exactly a member of the “digital generation,” by the way.

  65. > disease even plays the part of a great teacher

    In Steiner’s day, and in Steiner schools still … it was assumed that teaching would include punishing students for misdeeds. “Teaching, “balancing,” “compensating” – the language does not change this. Punishments often involve efforts to compensate someone whom one has wronged, or balance bad actions with good ones. That doesn’t make them not punishments.

  66. The claim that a seven year old “chose” to be hit by a car is revolting.

    Believe what you like about your own life, meditate on your own karma. It is not a philosophy that ought to play a role in working with children.

  67. ‘Believe what you like about your own life, meditate on your own karma. It is not a philosophy that ought to play a role in working with children.’

    That should be written above the entrance to every Waldorf school anywhere in the world. It would make people think, which would be a good thing to do at the beginning of their association with these schools, rather than perhaps a little late in the day.

  68. Falk said: “Regarding Pete K’s first quote. Nowhere does Steiner use the word punishment.”

    Well, if you’re looking for that particular word (which I actually found for you BTW) you have to blame the translators, not Steiner. Steiner probably never uttered the English word “punishment”… so by that logic, you’re right. Did he describe what all people universally recognize as punishing results in the consequences he developed for how karma “manifests” itself in people who behave “badly”? Absolutely!

  69. Ah, Pete, good idea. Anyone is free to believe whatever they like.

    However I would add a quote by Hitchens:

    “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

  70. I find this discussion of karma and punishment very enlightening, I never realized how dangerous this complex of ideas is. I thought it was charmingly exotic, like a more colorful version of “original sin”. In my view, most major religions are sort of married to special narratives, and anthroposophy takes this narrativizing tendency to the extreme by extending a persons life story through incarnations, races and epochs. The “child psychology” is also a kind of simplified “story”.

    If I am right in portraying anthroposophy (which I mostly know through reading about it) as “story fundamentalists”, poetry of the non-narrative kind should present a real challenge. Does anyone know what attitudes and practices around free poetry writing are common in Steiner education? Did he write poetry himself?

  71. When I write about Steiner on Alicia’s blog I am always stating how I understand what Steiner meant by what he said. I am no expert. I only represent how I understand anthroposophy.

    When reading the transcribed versions of lectures he gave almost a hundred years ago and bearing in mind that he did not have time to check all these transcriptions and bearing in mind that I am always dealing with a translation (my german is only very basic), I use my own sense of what seems to be a truthful and moral way of understanding what his teaching was.
    One also has to take into account the style of german intellectuals born in the 1860’s and his own particular style which often has a choleric quality.

    Pete says, ‘Behind the sickening story of the seven year old run over by the van, is the ASSUMPTION that a seven year old can possibly have committed “errors” that can only be “balanced,” “ameliorated” (whatever word you like better than “punished”) by a fatal traffic accident.’

    Steiner in this case does not mention ‘errors’, he just says it was in the child’s karma, i.e., something that was chosen by the higher being of the child. All we can ‘assume’ from this case is that the individuality chose to have a very short life in that particular incarnation. The karmic reason may have nothing at all to do with the past, but the short life may be a preparation for the future in some way.

    It is an assumption that karma is always a consequence of what we have done before; it can equally be a preparation for something we are working towards.

    Thetis says, ‘However I would add a quote by Hitchens:

    “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

    What is the evidence for ,’All people should be equal before the law’.?
    What is the evidence for, ‘Lying is wrong’?
    What is the evidence for, ‘When the Roses speak I pay attention?’.
    On Hitch’s proscription it would seem that most of human morality, poetry, literature, probably most of the arts can be dismissed since they are not evidence based theories about the world.
    Any good first year student of philosophy will tell you that an ‘ought’ cannot be derived from an ‘is’. There is no evidence for moral truths, nor for the concepts used in law to do with natural justice. Assertions of right such as one finds in the American constitution are not based on evidence. On Hitch’s dictum we can dismiss all that stuff.

    No-one has yet addressed the issue of Sydney Carton’s altruism.

  72. ‘What is the evidence for ,’All people should be equal before the law’.?’
    I’d hazard some people believe this should not be so, until recently women, for example, had far fewer rights in law than men. We’d have to make our case – even to provide evidence to back up our assertion. I’m sure we’d have some success.

    ‘What is the evidence for, ‘Lying is wrong’?’ There’s no evidence for moral truths because there are no absolute moral truths – morality is a human construct, contingent, altering over time and within cultures. Lying is sometimes not wrong. Sometimes lying is a wiser course of action than telling the truth – sometimes it’s a criminal act. However, there may be a great deal of evidence strewn about the place indicating that telling a particular lie led to a singularly uncomfortable situation. Unless of course you are a politician and can wriggle your way out of it.

    ‘What is the evidence for, ‘When the Roses speak I pay attention?’.’ Ask the Prince of Wales, I believe he listens to Roses. I only ever call them roses, and I never listen, even as a poet I don’t listen to flowers. To do that you need to eat the plant food instead of spraying it round the base.

    Anyway, I can’t speak for such a very great intellectual, his prose style alone is inimitable. If you want to be persuaded by Hitchens of the strengths of the American Constitution, read him on the subject.

    We both know what Hitchens means though: let’s not beat around the burning bush. Anthroposophy demands we believe a very great deal without the slightest evidence. This should give us pause.

    Dickens btw was a great dramatist as a novelist, frequently reading his work aloud. “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known…’ would certainly have quickened the nerves and caused the ladies to raise their handkerchiefs to their cheeks, reflecting on the noble sacrifice of a previously ignoble character, on his love for his friends in a final act which in his last moments imbues his life with meaning.. it is pure Hollywood…

    I don’t think Dickens thought it had anything to do with karma though.

  73. Ulf said:

    “If I am right in portraying anthroposophy (which I mostly know through reading about it) as “story fundamentalists”, poetry of the non-narrative kind should present a real challenge. Does anyone know what attitudes and practices around free poetry writing are common in Steiner education? Did he write poetry himself?”

    fascinating! And your comment about narratives. Interesting line of thought.

  74. Thetis says,’There’s no evidence for moral truths because there are no absolute moral truths – morality is a human construct, contingent, altering over time and within cultures.’
    That is also the Marxist view, used to justify the abuses perpetrated by Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc.

    ‘Lying is sometimes not wrong’. This is the kind of thinking lying behind both Marxist and Nazi propaganda.
    It is interesting the bed-fellows one finds once one denies there are any absolute moral truths. Both these ideologies would say lying is not wrong so long as it serves the cause. They would also say it is ‘wrong’ only in so far as it works against the aims of the party, i.e. it is not an efficient way to get things done -for no other reason.
    ‘Sometimes lying is a wiser course of action than telling the truth,’ ie, if it serves your own selfish motives to lie, as many British politicians believe. Or it may be a wiser course of action for an altruistic reason. Maybe to save someone else’s life. After all Sydney Carton effectively lies by pretending to be Darnay.
    It is always wrong to lie but sometimes one has to do what is wrong to serve a higher cause.

    Dickens was a great dramatist but what makes the drama wonderful is that it is about real human dilemmas such as are sometimes faced by ordinary people. Some people ARE faced with the possibilty to make a great sacrifice for someone else.

    Dickens probably did not subscribe to notions of karma but he was deeply concerned with the moral responsibility which all humans are tasked with. Karma is a development of that same moral responsibility.

    I am one of those foolish fellows who believe women should have equal rights with men regardless of any evidence for or to the contrary. I also believe children should be protected from predatory adults. But I have no evidence for that belief. I also think it is wrong to kill but I believe I would kill to protect my grand children or any other child I saw in danger.

    Do we need evidence that people of different skin colour should be equal before the law?

  75. I think we are losing sight of the point. Certainly literature, poetry etc. can be “dismissed without evidence” in some contexts. Literature, poetry, mythology have many purposes – to delight, entertain, inform, console, comfort, transport, enlighten, etc. This is a very different matter from devising a program on which to base children’s education. There you had better have more than poetry or one man’s flights of fancy. Poetry belongs in your curriculum, taught as poetry. So does mythology, religion, song and dance, painting and drawing etc., all of which will be full of imaginative content, and no one is calling for eliminating this because it is not “evidence-based.” But no single song, dance, work of art, or artist is going to provide you with a reasonable theoretical basis for a curriculum or a pedagogy. For that you need to do some REALITY-BASED research into how children learn and develop. Stories about astral bodies are just that, stories, they aren’t connected to anything that is known about how children develop and A LOT is known about how children develop.

    Again, I am perfectly happy for you if you believe “karma” explains events in your own life. I am not at all happy when you devise a child development scheme in which a seven year old in a traffic accident must be seen to be somehow learning spiritual lessons. I don’t care if you tell me he’s atoning for previous errors or “preparing for future incarnations.” I say go and learn something EVIDENCE-BASED about children, how they learn and develop, what works in schools, etc.

    Tend to your own spiritual needs on evenings and weekends, please, away from my child.

  76. Well said Diana, I do have a career based on education and evidenced based, scientifically proven facts about how children develop. Waldorf offers little or none of this.

    Back to the Kingdom of Childhood, one thing I appreciate about Rebecca’s book is that she makes the characters real. The perfect Waldorf teachers ~ well they are not so perfect and she takes great pains to describe the tortured souls who profess (at least on the outside) to know more than the parents. This along with a good dose of comical beliefs the teachers have about Waldorf education and how the children see right through them makes for good reading.

  77. Falk said: “Steiner in this case does not mention ‘errors’, he just says it was in the child’s karma, i.e., something that was chosen by the higher being of the child. All we can ‘assume’ from this case is that the individuality chose to have a very short life in that particular incarnation. The karmic reason may have nothing at all to do with the past, but the short life may be a preparation for the future in some way.”

    That’s all very comforting. I suspect that is why karma was invented in the first place… to explain tragedies like this example.

    “It is an assumption that karma is always a consequence of what we have done before; it can equally be a preparation for something we are working towards.”

    And when someone interferes with someone’s karma? Then what? What if someone at the last moment saved the child from being crush by the truck. Was it NOW the child’s karma to be saved? Or would the higher being who set up the circumstances for the first accident have to create the circumstances for yet another accident to kill off the boy?

    Fortunately, it hasn’t been any of my children’s karma to be run over by a bus. But their karma so far has been to have to struggle through life because of a few indecent, immoral people who collect under the name of Waldorf Education. Waldorf people especially don’t think there’s anything wrong with lying… they are convinced that “Sometimes lying is a wiser course of action than telling the truth”. We’ll see about that.

  78. I would not question Pete’s negative experiences with Highland Hall, but I do question generalisations like this one, ‘Waldorf people especially don’t think there’s anything wrong with lying…’. It is not being a Waldorf person that makes one a liar but the actions of the individual. As it stands Pete’s comment is a negative stereotype.

    I am interested to know whether Margaret and Diana also believe,’There’s no evidence for moral truths because there are no absolute moral truths – morality is a human construct, contingent, altering over time and within cultures.’

    ‘And when someone interferes with someone’s karma?’ This is a misconception. Karma is a pre-birth intention. Things may prevent someone from achieving what they intend, in which case the intention can be fulfiled in some other way.

  79. Roger just posted a “punishment” quote from Steiner on his website:
    “An immoral action not only implies a subsequent karmic punishment; it is rather in the most fundamental respect an action that one definitely ought not to do … If [for example] one steals, one plants into the essential human being the seed that will cause one to develop a slimy, repulsive substance and to surround oneself with pestilent odors in the future … In stealing, man places into himself something that amounts to the same thing as a flaying of the human being.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SPIRITUAL RESEARCH FOR MORAL ACTION (Anthroposophic Press, 1981), GA 127.

    Falk said:
    “It is not being a Waldorf person that makes one a liar but the actions of the individual. As it stands Pete’s comment is a negative stereotype.”

    It would be, if Steiner hadn’t INSTRUCTED Waldorf teachers to lie… many times. He told them to lie to parents, to the outside world, to lie about prayers, to lie about the presence of demons in children’s bodies… Steiner made lying not just something that’s acceptable but something that’s NECESSARY for Waldorf teachers. I may be stereotyping by suggesting Waldorf teachers follow Steiner’s instructions.

    “Karma is a pre-birth intention. Things may prevent someone from achieving what they intend, in which case the intention can be fulfiled in some other way.”

    So, another truck accident – or something similar must be arranged to fulfill the child’s higher being’s intention. The kid is going to die, no matter what… it’s just how we kill him that’s at issue, right?

  80. Falk asked:
    >I am interested to know whether Margaret and Diana also believe,’There’s no evidence for moral truths because there are no absolute moral truths – morality is a human construct, contingent, altering over time and within cultures.’

    Yes. People who believe THEIR morality came down on stone tablets, or can be read in etheric “scrolls,” are often quite dangerous.

    Keeping firmly in mind that your notions of morality are tied to time and place and circumstances, society, culture, religion etc., is a much better plan for managing not to harm a lot of people around you.

  81. Ok, I’m going to try to say a thing or two. First, if it hasn’t been linked already, Rebecca wrote a blog post that relates to this discussion:
    http://www.rebeccacolemanauthor.com/2011/10/mormonism-and-anthroposophy.html

    falk:

    ‘It seems to me that gender has a far greater impact on the way that any life unfolds than race. […] Of course I am largely speaking of the abuse of women by men.’

    Not just that. It’s probably, in general, a larger determinant of how life turns out. For a large majority of people who live totally normal lives. If karma has anything to do with it, remains a mystery to me though ;-)

    Pete:

    ‘Steiner said we simply go back and forth between genders BTW… without necessarily attributing “higher” and “lower” status to the genders.’

    I think this going back and forth thing is quite a fascinating aspect of Steiner’s reincarnation ideas.

    Diana:

    ‘We ALL think quite naturally that the way we met a loved one was somehow meant to be.’

    Well, I tell you, mr Dog and I were meant to be ;-) It’s interesting because it’s impossible to think about it in any other way. He with someone else!?!?! No, I’m sure the universe arranged it like this!!

    falk:

    ‘Why does this happen if it was in the woman’s karma to be stoned?’

    It happened because it wasn’t really in her karma to be stoned! It just seemed so, but it wasn’t.

    ‘Rudolf Steiner says the situation was really to do with the karma of those who wished to stone her.’

    Yes, theirs. And hers.

    ‘It is an impulse in me that makes me take the fateful step.’

    But we have impulses all the time, from when we wake up to when we fall asleep. Most impulses don’t lead to anything life-changing — in fact, very few do.

    ‘that we have to learn to see each and every human being as an expression of the divine.’

    I often see anthroposophists (I don’t mean you now) quote this or tweet this, and I often wonder how it relates to their reality and to their own interactions with other people. Because some of these anthros seem to see every critic as an expression of the demonic ;-)

    Ok. Will continue soon. Mr Dog is nagging. Must take him out for a leak. Or for sending his pee-mails or whatever.

  82. Rebecca:

    ‘It seems to me that most self-declared prophets (or in this case, an alleged clairvoyant who basically serves the same role) play into the “Just-world Hypothesis,” which is the human psychological tendency to try to work out how incomprehensible things must be part of a whole that makes perfect logical sense.’

    It’s pretty much the same role, yes. If not even a nearly identical role. And that was exactly what Steiner was doing (not that the whole always made perfect sense, but that was the intention).

    As for the Christ stuff, yep, I’ve understood that this may be a ‘thing’ for christians, because Steiner’s version is, well, different (for me, as an atheist, it’s no significant problem that Steiner changes these myths to fit his worldview). I guess one reason he did incorporate Christ at all was that his audience had mostly a christian background, some wanted to continue. Perhaps it made sense. It differentiated him from the Theosophical Society too. Personally I would prefer a concept that centers on the actions of the individual rather than promotion of the glory of good (re: ‘but the way it actually appears in Christian theology, it centers on promoting the glory of God, not on the actions of the individual’). I can somewhat better relate to that ;-)

    ‘“Struwwelpeter” (with which Steiner was almost undoubtedly familiar, since it was written in 1845 in Germany) is a book of moral tales– heck, you probably know what it is– that all come back to the idea that the kid had it coming because his actions led to his or her downfall.’

    I think these tales are told in waldorf schools, aren’t they? (I’m not sure!)
    I know some of the tales from my childhood (the title tale, e g), though not necessarily from waldorf.

    Ulf:

    ‘In my view, most major religions are sort of married to special narratives, and anthroposophy takes this narrativizing tendency to the extreme by extending a persons life story through incarnations, races and epochs.’

    Indeed! This is why, when anthros talk about biography, they sometimes mean something other people don’t have in mind at all ;-)

    ‘Does anyone know what attitudes and practices around free poetry writing are common in Steiner education? Did he write poetry himself?’

    Yes, he did. Verses, as somebody probably said already. Also mantras, like these contained in this volume here: http://bdn-steiner.ru/cat/ga/268.pdf

    There’s a lot of reciting verses in the education. When children learn to read, copying from the blackboard. Every child is also supposed to memorize a verse that is special for him/her and given by the teacher, and then recite it for the class regularly (it’s part of the morning rituals). Those verses are supposed — is my impression — to help the child’s spiritual development. The students don’t write their own texts or verses — at least not at that age (I quit waldorf after 6th grade).

    falk:

    ‘One also has to take into account the style of german intellectuals born in the 1860′s and his own particular style which often has a choleric quality.’

    I have never before seen an anthroposophist describe Steiner’s style as having a choleric quality!! I think it’s correct, but… you don’t see it very often. Well, never. Perhaps because it points to less than perfect personal balance? Not the superior wisdom guy handing out truths in a pleasant manner.

    ‘All we can ‘assume’ from this case is that the individuality chose to have a very short life in that particular incarnation. The karmic reason may have nothing at all to do with the past, but the short life may be a preparation for the future in some way.’

    Yes, but even in punitive theory, there is such a thing as punishments that are supposed to reform the individual — it’s not about retribution but about change and the future. So even if karma is both backwards and forwards related, it could still be punitive.

    Thetis:

    ‘There’s no evidence for moral truths because there are no absolute moral truths – morality is a human construct, contingent, altering over time and within cultures.’

    Precisely.

    But that is one difference between ‘is’ claims and ‘ought’ claims (which falk mentioned). We could — and often should — demand evidence for claims about what is, fact claims about the world as it is. About what ought to be — in terms of values, morals, laws — we can only offer our best arguments for or against something.

    Steiner does offer a lot of insights into how the world — the universe — is. These are claims that could be backed up by evidence (rather than arguments centering on values, morals et c), were there any. They could, ie potentially.

    falk:

    ‘Thetis says,’There’s no evidence for moral truths because there are no absolute moral truths – morality is a human construct, contingent, altering over time and within cultures.’
    That is also the Marxist view, used to justify the abuses perpetrated by Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc.’

    May be — but this doesn’t mean their arguments were good and should be accepted and, even less, supported by the rest of us. We don’t need higher truths to reject evil ideas — only our own thinking. Hopefully. Or we’re back in a place where an authority — the god(s) — has to lay down the rules. We can’t be good unless ordered to be good. Which really deprives us of genuine responsibility. So what’s the alternative to making arguments about normative issues? And to being aware that some arguments are shitty and lead to suffering and decreased freedom — and that such arguments will always be there and we need to be aware they are because then we can reject them consciously, knowingly?

    ‘I am one of those foolish fellows who believe women should have equal rights with men regardless of any evidence for or to the contrary. I also believe children should be protected from predatory adults. But I have no evidence for that belief. I also think it is wrong to kill but I believe I would kill to protect my grand children or any other child I saw in danger.’

    The wonderful thing is that most humans — at least in this time and this place — believe this; in other words, they have come to see that there are many good arguments for such an approach (liberty, well-being, and so forth). Without having to resort to belief in higher truths, higher beings and powers or karma!

    And, no, there’s no need for scientific evidence either — equal rights for women and men is a normative issue. The biological difference between men and women is a scientific issue, however, and claims in that field should be backed up by scientific evidence. Such findings can’t *determine* the outcome of normative discussions, though.

    falk:

    ‘I am interested to know whether Margaret and Diana also believe,’There’s no evidence for moral truths because there are no absolute moral truths – morality is a human construct, contingent, altering over time and within cultures.’’

    In some ways it’s better that there are no absolute moral truths — but instead good or bad arguments about morality and values. Imagine that there was an absolute moral truth and it turned out the taliban had it right all along. Absolute moral truth it may very well be, it’s still not a world we’d want to live in. I mean, thank Dog morality has changed just over the past 100 years. It’s pretty new to think that equal rights for men and women is self-evident. But if ‘absolute moral truth’ were revealed — who knows what it would be? Better, perhaps, to say there are good arguments for equality!

  83. Wow, look what happens when I get busy for a day… sooo much to respond to, so I will try to keep it brief:

    Diana– I have really appreciated your comments re: the repugnant idea of a truck accident being a part of a child’s spiritual growth process. I agree completely and I personally can’t stand that point of view in any belief system, regardless of whether it’s my own or someone else’s. Not to be too TMI, but my younger sister died when I was a young teenager and every time someone said that it had a higher purpose or that she was in a better place, I wanted to punch them in the face. If someone chooses to frame their experience or their family’s experience that way, by all means go for it, but what hubris to try to tell someone else why their horrible experience really makes sense when you think about it.

    Thetis– love the Hitchens quote. Quite apt, and I agree with it (I am, mostly, a big Hitchens fan).

    Margaret– thanks very much for the comments about my novel. I have been very curious whether it would pass muster among people who know the Waldorf system intimately, because in spite of all my research I couldn’t bring myself to go into a school under some kind of pretense and snoop around, or “visit” or whatever. I mean, I’ve been in the schools many times, but that was as a parent of a student, not as a nosy researching writer. But it felt wrong to lie and claim I was just checking the place out as an option for my kids, and impossible to say “I’m actually researching for my book about a teacher/student affair. Mind if I cast a critical eye on your institution here? I want this to be as authentic as possible.” So I used every other source (Waldorf-Critics, blogs, YouTube, Steiner’s writings, “School as a Journey,” etc) BUT that. And hoped it would come out believable.

    Alicia– thanks for linking to my blog post. Where the Christ stuff is concerned– I think this is clear enough, but my comments about that (glory of God rather than individual acts, etc) are not to say that I’m pushing Christian belief, but to point out that Steiner’s Christ-stuff would be objectionable to a lot of mainstream Christians. And while that is pretty unimportant in the scheme of things– at least in my observations, Waldorf parents are a pretty secular lot– but on a personal level some of those teachings really rub be the wrong way. For a Christian I have an awfully low tolerance for religious BS, but that’s my own problem.

  84. Rebecca – no one should agree with Hitchens (or anyone) all the time – apart from anything else he says women can’t be funny, and of course he’s wrong about that ;)

    He provokes in his absence though.

    ‘Can be dismissed’ doesn’t mean ‘should’ or ‘must’. The obligation to provide evidence lies with those who make extraordinary (unsubstantiated) claims. They cannot demand to be taken seriously otherwise.

    Morality is a human construct, yes – we can’t rely on gods. They’re too fickle. We have to debate and continue to debate our commonly held morality – one moment homosexuality is illegal (and immoral) in other cultures still women’s faces are hidden – I think we can and should extend our hard-won freedoms to other cultures even at the risk of seeming ‘imperialistic’. I feel strongly about this. But still: I know that I might not be right. What’s good about liberal democracies is that we are at liberty to debate these things.

    Hitler and Pol Pot were motivated by ideology into actions which they believed were correct, justified. The nazis did not think of themselves as immoral – the German people weren’t coerced en masse into agreeing. We have a historian of Nazism reading this thread who often comments on this elsewhere..

    The churches don’t have a good record – they haven’t won the right to be the bastions of our morality or better, ethics. I just listened to accounts of the Catholic church in Ireland removing children from their parents, first because they couldn’t be supported, and later because the parents were .. subversive, difficult.. the casualties of these actions are right now discovering that their origins are not as they were told, that coffins were buried without housing tiny corpses, only stones. In their defence, the church says that its nuns believed they were acting in the best interests of the children.

    Anyway, Rebecca you have real guts imo, take a seat on one of the bountiful sofas in the ethereal kiosk.

  85. Diana – in other words Hitchens isn’t talking about literature, his statement is specifically aimed at the reverence demanded of the rest of us for unsubstantiated claims made – in his case it is usually by religion. And yes it is going off the point to apply this to claims made by poets, within poetry, about their personal relationship with plants.

  86. Rebecca: ‘Where the Christ stuff is concerned– I think this is clear enough, but my comments about that (glory of God rather than individual acts, etc) are not to say that I’m pushing Christian belief, but to point out that Steiner’s Christ-stuff would be objectionable to a lot of mainstream Christians. And while that is pretty unimportant in the scheme of things– at least in my observations, Waldorf parents are a pretty secular lot– but on a personal level some of those teachings really rub be the wrong way.’

    Yes, and I totally understand that it would be objectionable to many mainstream christians. Some of it, I would say, would be objectionable for secularists too — if they were more aware of it. For different reasons perhaps, but still objectionable. People don’t really bother to find out what the beliefs are and how deep they go — unless it perhaps clashes with their own beliefs. I suspect some non-religious parents just see some angel fluff and fairy-tale myth stuff and… well, it can’t be so bad. Or something. And if you’re an atheist, you may think it’s not worse than what would occur in a christian school. It’s just that the christian school would probably be more open about it, while waldorf schools are happy for parents to think the angels and gnomes and the ‘verses’ are just pretty fluff that’s there for the children’s imagination and so forth. You know, in a nice way. They don’t preach, and parents think that’s good — and don’t get just how much the beliefs inform the entire school day and the education as a whole.

  87. Thetis– why thank you for the compliment and the invite :-). Additionally:

    “I think we can and should extend our hard-won freedoms to other cultures even at the risk of seeming ‘imperialistic’.”

    If you are a Hitchens fan you are probably already familiar, but “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes some interesting arguments for this. I don’t take Ali’s view as– ha ha– the word of God, but it definitely challenged the anti-colonialist arguments fed to me in college English classes. Also:

    “I just listened to accounts of the Catholic church in Ireland removing children from their parents, first because they couldn’t be supported, and later because the parents were .. subversive, difficult.. the casualties of these actions are right now discovering that their origins are not as they were told, that coffins were buried without housing tiny corpses, only stones. In their defence, the church says that its nuns believed they were acting in the best interests of the children. ”

    This happened in the United States as well in a different form– for an account of it, take a look at “The Girls Who Went Away” by Ann Fessler. It’s about the “Catholic women’s homes” for unwed mothers and how, frequently, after the births of those babies, the women would be told they could keep their babies only if they could pay off an exorbitant bill for their care over those months, and that’s not counting the cases where the children were essentially stolen outright. It’s a heartbreaking book and gets at the same sentiment that the nuns believed they were doing the right thing for the children by not allowing them to be raised by the lower or more immoral.

    Of course, all of these kind of things tend to come together in an argument that people do really shitty things to each other in the name of God, but the fact is that the Communist governments don’t have any better of a track record for being kind to people, and there’s no God involved there. In my opinion what it all comes down to is that people can be really shitty to each other and we ought to resist finding ways to justify that to ourselves. Which brings me right back to Steiner’s interpretation of Karma.

  88. Indeed, there are many ways to justify doing evil things — religious beliefs or doctrines is one. For apparent reasons, it’s been popular historically and is popular still in societies where religion is strong (or religious adherence enforced harshly). You could replace it w other beliefs. Like communism. Any ideology with supposedly higher goals. Probably any belief that puts a lofty goal higher than individual liberty.

    (I’m quite a fan of Hirsi Ali. Islam needs more women like her to raise their voices.)

  89. indeed! I only note that we cannot – should not – expect a religious organisation to be our moral arbiter. I don’t disagree that other organisations may be as faulty.

    I like Hirsi Ali very much and yes she did change my mind about a great many things, she’s a brave woman.

    Alicia!

    ‘Man glorifies his child but without wanting to acknowledge his own fatherhood.”

    There’s some grand themes in that essay – which era of Steiner’s life is that from?

  90. It’s early! Before theosophy. It is when he was outspokenly atheist. I sometimes wonder how much he did change.

    He’s absolutely brilliant then. I guess that to some that’s Steiner faking it because for this or that reason he couldn’t speak freely about the spiritual. But I think he’s genuine, obviously ;-) No, but at least he did not have strong career reasons to write that. He did have career reasons for the spiritual stuff. It could be as genuine but it was not all of Rudi!

  91. You’ve got to wonder why Steiner didn’t stay true to himself… Pre-1900 he was quite a different person it seems. I still maintain it was Marie’s influence on him that turned his brain to mush… but maybe he was a frustrated opportunist and just sold out.

    Does anyone know when Steiner made his first claim to clairvoyance?

  92. Good question. I’ve got the impression that the first lectures he held for the theosophists were about non-theosophical topics — like Goethe. I have a hunch it might have come gradually, but can’t say for sure. And that possibly his claims were initially more indirect.

    Yes, Marie. Eurythmy was her invention too. He seems to have absorbed things very easily.

    Anyway, he was very dismissive of theosophy before his own turn. I know I quoted him on it — it should be somewhere.

  93. I am way behind reading this long and fascinating thread (aim to try to get Rebecca’s book …) but someone mentioned Steiner’s notion of alternating male/female incarnations. I just read somewhere that in Vodou (at least one form of it), we are thought to reincarnate precisely sixteen times, alternating eight male with eight female incarnations.

    Perhaps I’ll go try to find a link for that, so there is some back-up for what I am saying …

  94. I think reading through the comments above, at least Alicia sees that moral truths are not ‘evidence-based’ , she uses the word ‘normative’.
    By the way, I never mentioned God’s and stone tablets, or any other external source of moral authority. One doesn’t need any such beliefs to know that the abuse of children is wrong. All I claimed was that moral truths are not evidence based, that I could not imagine that any kind of evidence would ever make me change my mind that for example , the genital mutilation of women, or the unjust treatment of a person because of skin colour is, was, and always will be wrong. And I believe that such practices should be fought against whenever and in whatever circumstances they occur.

    Another realm of knowledge where it is inappropriate to talk about ‘evidence based’, would be pure maths. There are mathematical truths which are true through pure logic. No amount of evidence for or against is needed to know that 2+2=4. It was and always will be true.

    Why is this discussion relevant to Waldorf education? Because education is a value-laden enterprise. Margaret claimed her teaching methodology was ‘evidence based’, but she also must use her moral sense for whether it is appropriate to use various methods with children in the class-room.

    The use of corporal punishment in schools was abandoned, not because any evidence showed it to be ineffective, but because many people found it to be a morally repugnant way of treating children.

    I find Christopher Hitchens to be very interesting and often thought provoking . For example, when writing about religious faith, and he says things like, “I don’t see why anyone would want it to be true. A permanent, invigilated, regulated dictatorship, which you are told is for your own good. I can’t think of anything worse.” Even a religious person should ask themselves, ‘Is that what my belief amounts to?’ of education.

  95. Seem to have lost the end of my posting there. What I wanted to say was that Hitch would need to say a hell of a lot more than appeared in Thetis’s slogan to make a coherent philosophy of education.

  96. ‘at least Alicia sees that moral truths are not ‘evidence-based’ , she uses the word ‘normative’.’

    Remember I studied law. In lots of contexts, it would be ridiculous to ask for evidence-base, at least understood scientifically.

    ‘One doesn’t need any such beliefs to know that the abuse of children is wrong.’

    No, one doesn’t. Of course, it doesn’t harm to do research to gain knowledge about what happens to children who are abused. Those results may make it even clearer that our moral hunch (that abuse is bad) is correct. But we don’t exactly need to know more, or understand more, than that the person subjected to abuse suffers from it, and has not voluntarily accepted it, and that it infringes on his/her freedom.

    ‘Because education is a value-laden enterprise. Margaret claimed her teaching methodology was ‘evidence based’, but she also must use her moral sense for whether it is appropriate to use various methods with children in the class-room.’

    But you can still do research — you can evaluate: does method A or method B work more efficiently to teach children to read? For example. Yes, there are limits — but this doesn’t mean there is no point in seeking evidence, comparing approaches, and so forth. That stuff has a place too. Research can provide general ideas about what works and what does not. But, of course, in the individual situation, with an individual child, Margaret would have to use her professional skills and experience, her knowledge of existing research and her moral sense.

    I agree that we don’t need to know that physical punishment is ineffective to reject it as a morally repugnant method. But I also wonder if the knowledge that it does not help us achieve what we want — or rather want from the child — has contributed to a change in attitudes. That knowledge actually contributes to the moral attitude. It’s not all there is, but it could certainly play a part.

  97. ‘at least Alicia sees that moral truths are not ‘evidence-based’ , she uses the word ‘normative’.’

    I think other people said the same thing, by the way.

    I’m not sure moral truths are truths though. I think they’re moral arguments. Some are good, some are, well, less good. Some arguments are incredibly strong and we should be very attached to them because they make civilization and they ensure liberty. Whether they’re ‘truths’ in any ultimate sense — I don’t know. And I’m not sure that’s the most important question. I mean, we could speculate. But it would not make the arguments more or less valid. Killing someone is still a morally bad thing, no matter if we’re dealing with an ultimate truth or just a pretty darn good moral argument against it. Anyway, the rules we make up, based upon our moral arguments, are normative. Human thinking and judgement is used to decide on them, not scientific evidence. Killing ends someone’s life, sure. We can establish that scientifically. But morally that in itself doesn’t tell us anything. It’s not bad information to have, as a help towards making a moral decision, but it won’t make our decision for us.

  98. So here in my little world I see myself as a facilitator of sorts understanding that each child is an individual embarking on their own unique path of learning. What this means is that I respect and honor each child. As a teacher I never assume that a child will automatically respect me rather I MUST EARN the child’s respect and trust. In turn I have never witnessed two children on the same path of learning.

    Teaching children is never black and white simply because every child is different. A teacher should never be seen as the primary source of information/answers. I think that is my main concern with Waldorf/ Anthroposophy or any education that professes to hold the key(s) to childhood and learning.

    My background, education, experience and morality fuels my work with children and hopefully allows me to be an affective facilitator ~ and guess what? I screw up now and then and the children and I laugh!

    Is my belief system on how to educate children founded on religion?
    No.
    Do I have all the answers?
    No.
    Do I think that I know your child better than you?
    Never.

    So here I have no commonality with Waldorf education. Oftentimes Waldorf teachers display a superficial air of superiority that some parents surrender to. I see Waldorf education as deceptive and harmful to children primarily because Anthroposophy leaks into a teachers psyche and manifests as false sense of power over children.

  99. ‘Do I think that I know your child better than you?
    Never.’

    Of course, parents don’t *really* know their child either. But isn’t the ideal situation a sort of collaboration — because sometimes the teacher must see things the parents have missed, and understand things that parents may not have understood. I think: the teacher often sees other aspects of the child. The child is not exactly the same person in school as s/he is at home.

  100. Falk: ‘I never mentioned God’s and stone tablets, or any other external source of moral authority”

    I know. Once again, I’m not referring to something you literally said, I’m *interpreting*. You did not say “A belief in karma is like a belief in something written on a stone tablet handed down from God” – I’M the one saying it.

    Your “pure maths” argument is a little mixed up. Maybe higher maths don’t require evidence (they are reason based, though), but surely 2 + 2 = 4 is not the right example for that. There’s quite a bit of evidence that 2 + 2 = 4.

  101. The moral component argument is quite interesting. No, education isn’t entirely evidence based, but neither is any human activity. If we are talking about the usefulness of karma in the classroom (were we? I know I was, but the thread and my brain have maybe gone elsewhere in the meantime …), the moral component is just as alarming as the evidence-based component. What I mean is, there is NO justification for using this theory: there’s no evidence it’s true, nor in my opinion is it ethical to apply it in working with children. Even if it WERE true it is wrong to make judgments or even faint guesses about other people’s karma. It is a very very bad basis for understanding children in a classroom.

  102. Margaret wrote:
    “As a teacher I never assume that a child will automatically respect me rather I MUST EARN the child’s respect and trust.”

    That is it right there – a huge difference from the Waldorf philosophy. What Margaret said here you will not hear a Waldorf teacher saying. The assumptions are very different.

    The Waldorf teacher starts from Steiner’s megalomaniacal notion that the child should, a priori, venerate the teacher. That it is GOOD for the child to venerate the teacher. So they set about trying to get the child to do this. There is no corresponding notion of the teacher “earning” this, nor any notion that the child has any say in it – that a child might choose whom to venerate, that not everyone is worthy of veneration and children know it, in short, that children are people.

    The child per se is not respected in Waldorf. The child is always secondary to cosmic theories. The teacher is beholden to a project of convincing herself that certain cosmic theories she believes in are true. She is (if following anthroposophy closely) not concerned with the individual child per se, but with putting this big scheme into play in her classroom. This explains why, despite all the rhetoric about the dear children, individual children can be so callously disregarded in so many otherwise baffling ways in the classroom.

  103. Falk – ‘..Hitch would need to say a hell of a lot more than appeared in Thetis’s slogan to make a coherent philosophy of education.’

    It was not my ‘slogan’. It’s a statement by Hitchens which I quoted in a particular context. It was directly aimed at the claims made by anthroposophists about the nature of ‘child development’, and a proposed injunction to parents entering the schools to ask for some evidence for statements so alarming (and occult) that they would be foolish to accept them without evidence. That is, if they have the faintest idea what the teachers have been taught, which they normally don’t.

    It was pithy, a reflection of a pithy remark by Pete.

    But, although I think it’s highly fitting that even the smallest comment by CH can cause a debate veering wildly away from the point at issue, especially when even the hint of a demand for evidence causes such disquiet, I’m not claiming to represent his opinions. That would be unwise.

    I’ll slip in this clip about morality because Hitchens mentions Lucretius:

    Diana writes:

    ‘..there is NO justification for using this theory: there’s no evidence it’s true, nor in my opinion is it ethical to apply it in working with children. Even if it WERE true it is wrong to make judgments or even faint guesses about other people’s karma. It is a very very bad basis for understanding children in a classroom.’

    It’s potentially abusive imo and should certainly be scrutinised, which would mean abandoning any tepid reverence for the religious or quasi-religious by those who would otherwise see no cause NOT to be concerned. What is needed is clear thinking. Unfortunately education in both the US and Britain is so political and ideologically driven, all sorts of ill-evidenced whimsy (and worse) slips through unquestioned.

  104. Diana says, ‘it is wrong to make judgments or even faint guesses about other people’s karma. It is a very very bad basis for understanding children in a classroom’

    I agree 100%.

    My query would be about the extent that this really happens. i know there have been glaring cases where it has. But I wonder if many, if not most waldorf teachers have the wisdom and moral development not to try and do it.

    Thetis says, ‘What is needed is clear thinking. Unfortunately education in both the US and Britain is so political and ideologically driven, all sorts of ill-evidenced whimsy (and worse) slips through unquestioned.’

    With this too I would agree 100%.

    Diana says, ‘There’s quite a bit of evidence that 2 + 2 = 4’. Here she seems to be indulging in a bit of selective observation. I.e., she only notices when 2+2 DO make 4. But for an evidence based statement to really cut the mustard you have to be able to say what would count as evidence AGAINST 2+2=4, and for the life of me I can’t imagine what that would be.
    Maybe Mr. Dog could tell us, He Who Creates Universes With A Wave of His Tail.

  105. Thetis — great clip with Hitchens.

    falk — ‘But I wonder if many, if not most waldorf teachers have the wisdom and moral development not to try and do it.’

    One would hope so — but I’m far from sure it’s the case. I’m sure there are those who don’t. But Steiner did it. And many waldorf teachers take Steiner quite seriously. And sometimes they take his bad advice more seriously than the good advice.

    ‘Maybe Mr. Dog could tell us, He Who Creates Universes With A Wave of His Tail.’

    Magic bunnies. Like, if you have 2 + 2 real bunnies, which makes 4, and then you add a magic bunny, which is not 1, in the strict sense of 1, then you have more than 4 bunnies, but it’s unclear just how much bunny you have. Mr D calls this imaginary numbers.

  106. Ok, regarding 2 + 2 = 4, I am not very good at mathematical reasoning, so I will simply abandon this argument :)

    But on karma in the classroom, I wrote:
    ‘it is wrong to make judgments or even faint guesses about other people’s karma. It is a very very bad basis for understanding children in a classroom’

    Falk says he agrees 100%, and “My query would be about the extent that this really happens. i know there have been glaring cases where it has. But I wonder if many, if not most waldorf teachers have the wisdom and moral development not to try and do it.”

    Okay then. I’m left wondering what is the point of this philosophy, what is the justification for adhering to such a doctrine when it is admitted even by reasonable anthroposophists that it is useless if not downright dangerous in the classroom.

    Once again: I would urge parents to simply choose a school where you DO agree with the philosophy; not one where you have to seek reassurances that the teachers do NOT agree with their own philosophy, or at least do not use it in the classroom.

    Or put the opposite way, Falk, if it’s true, if you really think it’s true, why not use it in the classroom?

    A bizarre situation.

    This is what I say repeatedly to anthroposophists who swear up and down that anthroposophy is not taught in Waldorf schools. If you think anthroposophy is true, why do you also take such care to assure parents that their children aren’t really learning it?

  107. ‘I wonder if many, if not most waldorf teachers have the wisdom and moral development not to try and do it.”

    Unfortunately, this is a very apt observation.

    It’s the same everywhere of course. We’d like to have lots of teachers with maturity and good judgement, and politicians with same, and especially bankers… however…

  108. ‘Once again: I would urge parents to simply choose a school where you DO agree with the philosophy; not one where you have to seek reassurances that the teachers do NOT agree with their own philosophy, or at least do not use it in the classroom.’

    Diana nails it. There’s no way out of that one. There seems very little else to add.

  109. I like to use the Quaker schools as an informative contrast. They are also a religious school, and they feel absolutely no need to avoid exposing the youngest children to their doctrines. They believe in their doctrines, and they set up schools to adhere to these doctrines, thus they don’t have to run around assuring parents their doctrines aren’t taught.

    If your doctrines are things like “Peace is the way” and “There is that of God in everyone,” you will not face parental outrage when parents hear that their children are hearing this in the classroom (after all, that’s often why the parents sent them there). If your doctrine is karma, and includes things like, seven year olds who are killed in traffic accidents “chose” such a fate to “learn spiritual lessons,” then you are always going to find yourselves in this sticky tangle over and over, trying to reassure parents you aren’t actually teaching what you in fact believe, always quelling uproars when this leaks out, as it will repeatedly. This situation will not change. They need to inform parents what they believe, it’s that simple. Or they can not – but the uproars will continue over and over and over, often involving mass exoduses of parents, for the life of the school.

    The Quaker schools here often have huge signs and banners out front, facing major roadways where all passing motorists can get a quick sound bite of Quaker beliefs: “THERE IS NO WAY TO PEACE. PEACE IS THE WAY.”

    I urge the Waldorf schools to adopt a similar open policy. Hang large banners street side: “KARMA IS THE WAY.”

  110. In general, if anthroposophy is so great (or such a great source of inspiration), why not advertise it a bit more? Not to say a lot? It would be a great argument *for* waldorf.

    Anyway, I always say they *should* teach the children about anthroposophy. I figure that if children have spent their education in an environment informed by anthroposophy, they deserve to know more about this. And I mean, by being explicitly taught. They should not go out in the world not knowing where they’ve been — thinking that eurythmy is just an odd dance, and such things.

  111. There is a post here: https://zooey.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/enastaende-bra-skrivet-om-waldorfskolan/ about a book by Ida Jackson who liked her Steiner school, but feels betrayed that they didn’t explain the ideas behind what they did. Here: http://humanist.no/et_steinerbarns_bekjennelser.html Ida describes how she tried to make sense of the religious aspects of her school. Her deeply protestant mother had warned her about catholics. And how do you recognise catholics? They pray to saints. Which was what happened at her school. The conclusion was obvious. I am at a private catholic school! So she joined the prayers, but secretly asked Jesus for forgiveness. I think that is a very moving description of a child trying to make sense of a situation when adults don’t tell the whole truth. She has other, more sinister, examples. And I’d say this is absolutely not a healthy atmosphere for children. Just imagine someone even more vulnerable and less resourceful than Ida here. Could be a good starting-point for a whole novel ;-)

  112. Diana says, “They need to inform parents what they believe, it’s that simple.”
    I also agree with that.
    Too many parents end up wondering what the hell they have bought into.

    Where I think there is a great deal of uncertainty is about the way the belief in karma impacts on the way the teachers interact with the children.
    You have to be able to see into the spiritual world with the same degree of acuity as Rudolf Steiner himself to know what someone else’s karma is. And I don’t believe anyone apart from Steiner has achieved that or they wouldn’t be making arses of themselves by blabbering about it in public (Ie to their colleagues, the child’s parents etc.)
    So I would say that any teacher who makes such a judgement about a child, viz., ‘I know what is in that child’s karma.’ is self-deluded and needs some sense knocking into them or that they be removed from the classroom.

    I also agree that what happened to Ida (in Ulf’s post) is shameful and should not happen to any child.

    Diana is absolutely right in her comments on Quaker schools and Catholic schools. You get what it says on the packet. I look forwards to the day it is true of Steiner schools.

  113. Ida’s blog posts are really good! (I don’t think she wrote a book — she writes about the book by Kristin Sandberg/Trond Kristoffersen — but if she did, it would be a great book.) Thanks for reminding me (us — do google translate them, they were written in Norwegian, so make the right choice or google will produce even worse gibberish than usual), Ulf!

    falk:

    ‘You have to be able to see into the spiritual world with the same degree of acuity as Rudolf Steiner himself to know what someone else’s karma is.’

    Well. But unless we possess his degree of acuity, we won’t know if he was correct. It’s a bit of a problem.

    ‘And I don’t believe anyone apart from Steiner has achieved that or they wouldn’t be making arses of themselves by blabbering about it in public’

    Yep, that is one part of the problem, although I think that *if* they let these beliefs (e g about a certain individual) influence how they act, it’s better that they blabber about it — how else is someone else to know? Let’s say the teacher makes karmic assumptions about a child *and* lets these judgments impact how s/he treats the child — at least blabbering would alert the parent to the, eh, issue, while keeping quiet would leave the child in that (potentially harmful) situation and the parent without choice (due to lack of information).

    ‘So I would say that any teacher who makes such a judgement about a child, viz., ‘I know what is in that child’s karma.’ is self-deluded and needs some sense knocking into them or that they be removed from the classroom.’

    Yes.

  114. My great-grandmother was said to be able to see people as colors. My father was however advised to stay away from the supernatural by his mother, because she didn’t consider him “stable” enough to deal with it. And I remember a swedish pastor commenting on TV on murders within a christian sect saying something like: “Of course the Holy Spirit is a powerful spiritual force, but you have to be careful to use your own judgement before you act on these kinds of revelations.” The guidelines Alicia is referring to seems to encourage mystical views of children, without corresponding reality-checks.

    The more I learn about Waldorf schools, the more horrified I get at the thought that there are real children there – and the more intrigued I get at the possibilities to use this setting in a novel for exploring e.g. the sensemaking of a child in this mysterious world, full of hidden secrets. Like what Ida describes in her article (Thanks Alicia for telling me that she didn’t write the book I thought, then I don’t need to read it, and her article is more than enough if you can read norwegian or have Google translate it)

    Let´s hope Rebecca writes another novel. If I would do it (I can play the recorder, why shouldn’t I be able to write a novel ;-) I’d give it the title “The Nude Empress”. Feel free to steal the idea …

  115. why can’t you write the novel, Ulf? I would call it ‘The Naked Empress’, because it’s a more sonorous title. But that’s in English and you may prefer another language.

  116. Ulf:

    “My great-grandmother was said to be able to see people as colors”

    That’s a neurological condition (synesthesia). It can be genetic or induced by various drugs or neurological insults.

  117. Falk:
    “And I don’t believe anyone apart from Steiner has achieved that or they wouldn’t be making arses of themselves by blabbering about it in public (Ie to their colleagues, the child’s parents etc.)”

    The problem is not that they’re blabbering about it in public, Falk, it’s that they are NOT blabbering about it in public (and rarely to the child’s parents). Can’t you see that? Proselytizing it would be far preferable.

    “So I would say that any teacher who makes such a judgement about a child, viz., ‘I know what is in that child’s karma.’ is self-deluded and needs some sense knocking into them or that they be removed from the classroom.”

    I don’t think it’s very common that they are saying, either to themselves or openly, “I know what is in that child’s karma.” It’s more a matter of allowing for this possibility, causing a hesitation to act in circumstances that to any other teacher would clearly require action, or resulting in daft and sadistic schemes like the ones Alicia’s teacher came up with to force a child who was being bulled to spend quality time with the bully.

    These people are rarely going to say “I know what is in that child’s karma.” We would all be better off if they would get clear what they believe, understand why other people object to it, and then if they still believe it, defend it plainly and openly, without subterfuge, without weaseling, and without backing off from the implications of their own belief.

    A person with a clear and well-thought-out belief is much more likely to be able to defend it and discuss it openly. Many anthroposophists are conflicted about this belief system. They often understand it makes outsiders utterly purple with rage and they know something is wrong, but they aren’t sure what, or they don’t have the guts to back away from Steiner (risk of losing job, lifestyle, etc.).

    Perhaps I should clarify I know what some Waldorf teachers think because I attended faculty meetings. What is said in faculty meetings is not generally said to parents, much less to the public.

  118. ‘The guidelines Alicia is referring to seems to encourage mystical views of children, without corresponding reality-checks.’

    Yep. There’s such a risk…

    Btw, the murderer in the sect case got texts from god on her phone. Reality check would have told her they probably came from another human being. Maybe she believed so many unrealistic things that one more just didn’t make her think. Her basic assumptions about reality didn’t tell her that it was unlikely god was texting her.

    But yes, as Diana says, synesthesia. I think Steiner might have been synesthetic. (I think I have some mild version of it too, because I associate numbers and letters and words with colour.)

    Re the book — it’s worth reading anyway!

    Diana: ‘resulting in daft and sadistic schemes like the ones Alicia’s teacher came up with to force a child who was being bulled to spend quality time with the bully.’

    This was practiced with other children too, I’ve heard about it from adults who (presumably) had other teachers than mine. In my case, it was kindergarten; I think the other stories I heard referred to school. It must have been a method used by several waldorf teachers in any case.

    ‘A person with a clear and well-thought-out belief is much more likely to be able to defend it and discuss it openly.’

    Yes. And I think karma and its implications for school and education would be much less of a problem if they were able to discuss it and defend it openly — much better than if it is used silently. Even parents who don’t exactly believe in it themselves would respect it more if they were told about it than if they just find out by accident. (That sort of thing just leads to resentment.) Usually, if you can talk about something openly, it’s not half as bad as it seems if you have to hide it.

  119. I agree. There are in fact customers for a school that understands children according to temperaments and karma and soul development and openly teaches intelligent design and that ancient Atlantis was real and that Europeans have more complicated blood. I feel bad for the children, but from the strict recruitment point of view, I don’t think it’s the disaster the schools apparently fear. There would be less of a revolving door. The customers recruited would be more likely to stay. Scandals would diminish in frequency and intensity if most of the parent body “got” what the school was about.

  120. Absolutely. And I think that with karma and reincarnation and the temperaments it’s even more so — while with the blood of Europeans, more people may balk at that. (Or at least, they may attract two different sets of customers, not always overlapping.) Still, I do think there should be an official requirement to teach real science not make-believe (which is easier to require here where all schools are publicly funded). But as far as the values and beliefs that underpin the school are concerned, I’m certain there are many parents who can accept karma and reincarnation as models and explanations, also in education and whatever else goes on in a school. It’s not that different from other beliefs that also influence how people act and react. Unfortunately, parents who are not anthroposophists themselves tend to have a rather fluffy appreciation of what it’s all about. Maybe a dim notion that anthroposophists believe in reincarnation, but not really how they think about it and what they believe. And, besides, it’s not taught to the children… (which magically transforms, in the well-meaning open-minded parent’s head, into ‘it has no influence on the education or the school’).

  121. Even the typical New Agey Waldorf parent may be a little put off to hear specifics of anthroposophy. No parent likes to think somebody else’s belief system is unduly influencing his/her kids. This is why Waldorf parents in general, even those who are sympathetic to anthroposophy, would prefer not to hear a lot about it.

    The question is how many parents are actually customers for a true, unapologetic anthroposophical education for their children. I don’t know. It is a smaller parent body than the present, that is certain. Could they effectively recruit more? I don’t know, I think it is not impossible. Lots of people don’t like anthroposophy … but lots of people might like anthroposophy who simply haven’t heard of it, because of the stealthy, indirect, cautious recruitment techniques. Advertise openly! Put up posters and scrawl “Anthroposophical education” across the front page of the web sites. People WILL show up to hear what you have to say.

    What I do know is that the schools would become more stable and less scandal-prone and lose a lot fewer families after kindergarten and the early grades. I posit that this would offset the loss of families who didn’t belong there in the first place, and drastically cut down on negative press and lawsuits.

    They should do the math. I think it might be worth it to them.

  122. There aren’t enough Anthroposophists to support the Waldorf school system. So, how do you create more Anthroposophists? You draw them into Anthroposophy… How? Through the Waldorf system. Waldorf schools are the missionary arm of Anthroposophy. Most missionary groups gain new recruits by doing good missionary work. Anthroposophy believes its missionary role must be accomplished by stealth. Steiner himself started them down that path, and they haven’t wavered from it yet. Parents who enter Waldorf schools don’t realize they are the secondary targets for conversion to Anthroposophy.

  123. Right I know, but open recruitment is something they have not tried. It would not only be more ethical, it might bring in a surprising number of new customers. To you and me, that sounds impossible, but (as anthroposophists are fond of pointing out to us), most of the world believes in a spiritual something-or-other, why not anthroposophy? It is not more ridiculous than many other belief systems, it is just less well known.

  124. Maybe they should run fewer schools — focus on doing what they do with as high quality as they can possibly attain and on avoiding to piss people off. Which they inevitably do when they are not honest. I don’t think they ought to be scared of scaring people away who don’t like anthroposophy. Maybe there wouldn’t be a thousand schools worldwide. But that is ok. What would be so wrong with having 150 schools? If they do it well, they might have more success with this than with trying to attract the masses.

    ‘It is not more ridiculous than many other belief systems’

    It’s true, it’s not. I might even personally prefer it to some other belief systems. In fact, yes. But in general I have a thing for openness and honesty and discussing things rather than hiding them.

  125. Exactly. The idea that 1000 schools are better than 150 schools is materialistic, is it not? Especially if 900 of those 1000 schools are poorly run and scandal-plagued?

  126. Superficially one might get the idea that they’re more about quality than quantity. But looking at how they act and their eagerness to spread (even when resources, and not just financial ones), it seems more like they’re trying to achieve quantity — at any cost. Looking at Sweden, I think if they had 3 schools, they could pull it off. They would have to keep only the best teachers, get rid of the rest. Even — preferably!! — teachers with formal teaching qualification and/or university degrees. In addition, waldorf training. Quality would attract people and they could afford to pay good teachers a salary that good teachers would expect. It would attract the right families, the right students. They might even have to reinstate the waiting lists. Well, that might take quite a lot of efforts. Strangely, they’re free of charge… and not popular! There are not enough anthros to fill 40 waldorf schools, we’re a tny country. And there are not enough non-anthros who are interested. (That might change — but only if they did something about the quality, something that would put them in the competition with other free schools.)

  127. I’m skeptical about the “quality” of any Waldorf school. When I try to think of the “best-of-the-best” in the way of Waldorf teachers, I’m hard-pressed to come up with anyone who faithfully represents the ideals Waldorf sells parents. Is there anyone in the Waldorf school system/movement who is promoting “individuality” in the students? How can they? They would be working against a system intended to create cookie-cutter kids… a system that breaks off the sharp edges and grinds down any parts that stand out until you can’t tell one child from the other (kinda like Waldorf architecture isn’t it?). What Waldorf teachers believe they are creating isn’t based in reality (if they believe they’re producing individuals that is…).

    Are they producing “free thinkers”? Again, how can they? They are leading kids down dead ends like intelligent design and away from fact-based ideas like evolution. To Waldorf teachers, this means “freeing” the child’s mind to accept spiritual things (especially Anthroposophy).

    Are they producing “socially aware/responsible” citizens? Once again, how can they? Waldorf grads are the most socially isolated kids in the modern world. Few venture outside of Waldorf circles when they are in school (parents too). They are taught a curriculum that devalues science and history and ignores current events and social studies. So, how can Waldorf grads be socially responsible citizens when they are denied access to the very information that they require to become such?

    What would a good-quality Waldorf school look like?

  128. I am skeptical too, I must say, and I don’t know how they would do it. I think it would have to involve a re-evaluation of goals and methods. I suspect that can’t happen as long as they don’t start to think critically about what they’re doing. The first step, I would say, should be making sure the teachers are properly educated. The teachers need to know science and history and all of that. Steiner is not enough. And these tendencies to isolate the school from the rest of the world — I think they’re plain destructive. Ok, they want to do things differently, but they must find a way to do their thing and still be a part of the world, or the education willl be a disaster. I don’t know how — but if they want to take on the responsibility of education, they’d better figure it out. Logically, it would be easier to find competent people to staff 150 waldorf schools than a thousand. I think they’d run short even then. But, obviously, they would have to find out how many schools they can realistically have. If any. If there can’t be any good-quality (or at least decent) waldorf schools, then, well, maybe there ought not be any at all. If they want to show the world that there can be such waldorf schools, then they’d stand a better chance of succeeding if they focused their resources and began to think about what they are trying to achieve and whether the methods are any good or need to be modified. But to even think about these things requires knowledge. Incompetent teachers won’t ba able to do it.

  129. oy vey that was a ton of reading…all good and certainly thought provoking..thank you for ALL your wisdom!

  130. There seems to be a UK edition of the book now, Dan posted a link to a review in the Guardian on the critics list.

    ‘Don’t underestimate the power of this book to get under your skin. Its genuinely disturbing plot lurks behind the homely story of Judy, a forty-something kindergarten teacher in a Steiner school in small-town America. The Steiner philosophy contributes important elements to the book’s subtly constructed moral scaffolding: childhood should be “pure”, untainted by adult concerns.’ http://bit.ly/JH8W5D

    (Still haven’t read it, so I can’t say much now either ;-))

  131. Hi Alicia! Yes, the UK edition just came out, and I was very pleased by the Guardian review. It goes on to say, “The impossibility of achieving such purity is gradually demonstrated by flashbacks to Judy’s childhood in rural Germany.”

    Clicking through the bit.ly link didn’t work for me, so here’s the full link if anyone is looking for it:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/may/15/kingdom-childhood-rebecca-coleman-review?newsfeed=true

    Thanks for the heads-up that it was mentioned on Waldorf Critics. Response to the Waldorf aspects of the book– which has sold quite well in the US and is starting to appear on bookstores’ bestseller lists in the UK– has been quite interesting. I’m always asked to talk about it in radio interviews and I get a lot of email from readers who say they never heard of such a schooling system before they read the novel. Much of the time they suspect I invented it myself and are very surprised when they Google it and discover there are a thousand such schools around the world. I have also seen a blogger review in which the blogger highlighted an aspect of the story’s framework– a measles outbreak due to the school’s low vaccination rates. I’m glad the story is increasing people’s curiosity about Steiner schools, as well as inspiring some real thought about how issues are addressed in insular communities and what we’re really doing in the effort to protect children from outside influence.

  132. Hi Rebecca!

    ALL links I’ve tried to post on the internet today seem to have failed one way or another. I must be the victim of some ahrimanic influences that mess up my link shortening!

    Thanks for posting one that works!

    It was indeed a very good review; I understand you were pleased with it!

    ‘I’m glad the story is increasing people’s curiosity about Steiner schools, as well as inspiring some real thought about how issues are addressed in insular communities and what we’re really doing in the effort to protect children from outside influence.’

    I agree completely. Also, that’s one aspect that makes waldorf schools interesting settings for novels. Or movies. Lots of potential there!

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