There’s a video here, but I don’t seem to be able to watch it.* However, it’s still possible to read the very short article. It’s worth reading, too. Heiner Ullrich, professor of education, says (if I may make an attempt at a summary, because the points he makes are important; if you read german, read the original) that although anthroposophy isn’t taught, the waldorf school is immersed in it and cannot be understood without tracing the ideas back to Steiner; to believe it’s possible to have waldorf education without Steiner philosophy is a mistake.
Anthroposophie werde zwar nicht als Fach gelehrt, durchdringe aber das Schulleben und die Unterrichtsinhalte, meint dagegen der Mainzer Pädagogik-Experte und Steiner-Biograf Heiner Ullrich. “Es ist vieles dort nicht ganz verständlich, wenn man nicht den Schritt auf Rudolf Steiner zugeht.”
Eine Waldorf-Ausbildung auch ohne Steiner-Philosophie für sein Kind haben zu können, ist aus Sicht des Experten ein Trugschluss. “Die Waldorfschule ist wahrscheinlich die Reformschule mit dem stärksten weltanschaulichen Hintergrund, die wir haben.”
He then explains that waldorf functions as a replacement for a religious community. And waldorf education becomes a kind of life project, not just an education. For many children, he says, waldorf is not a good match, and they can feel trapped and want to get out. (Indeed.)
He also criticizes the lack of scientific foundation in the teacher training, the absence of school books and the practice of having one teacher teach the class for eight years.
*After writing this, the video finally played. It begins with a former waldorf student and her father. They’re discontent with her time in the waldorf school. She transferred there later (at 11 years of age), and was astounded to hear the teacher read a poem by Steiner. It was about humanity as the crown of creation; a discussion ensued, and she said humans and apes have common ancestry, the teacher replied that he thought such a notion stupid. She felt harrassed by the teacher and left the school.
The video mentions some anthroposophical concepts in passing, such as karma, reincarnation, astral bodies. Critics say, they say, that waldorf is a school that indoctrinates children in anthroposophy.
Another education researcher, professor Heiner Barz, has asked waldorf students what they know about anthroposophy and Steiner. They know practically nothing (hardly surprising), so his conclusion is that the charge of indoctrination — or that waldorf educates towards anthroposophy — is without foundation. Of course, I’m going to make an objection to this — the students don’t need to know anything about anthroposophy or Steiner in such a way that they know what they know or have done or been through is or is based upon anthroposophy or Steiner. They don’t need to know any of this, and still they have absorbed anthroposophical content. And as for indoctrination — as I’ve said many times, I would find it preferable if anthroposophy was taught, directly, because then it becomes (more of) a conscious content, rather than something just absorbed unknowingly while students remain utterly ignorant of the worldview that’s shaped their school years. They don’t even know a school subject such as eurythmy is anthroposophy; that’s nothing but very sad ignorance, for which they, themselves, are not responsible.