anthroposophy without waldorf

Daisy, who was writing a BA dissertation on waldorf critics and criticism (but who might have given up by now, grinding her teeth and tearing her hair from her head in frustration), asked if waldorf education was perhaps better off without anthroposophy. My answer is no (you can read about it in the previous post). Walking in the forest this evening, one thing hit me: is it not the other way around?

That is: is anthroposophy not better off without waldorf?

It certainly can exist without waldorf. (Unlike waldorf which can’t exist without anthroposophy.) But I wonder if it is not possible that it would be better off without it than with it. I suspect — I don’t know — that the answer might be yes.

And in the case of waldorf more and more wanting to distance itself from anthroposophy or at least be more or less deceptive or dishonest about it — why would anthroposophy allow itself to be bogged down by this? Moreover, waldorf education is suffering under PR-related problems, it has to deal with political issues and meet regulatory demands of all kinds, there are various practical problems, worst of all among them, there’s having to be able to staff all these schools with competent teachers who are also anthroposophists (or at least people who know a fair bit about it and sympathize with it). It’s almost impossible. Yet, when people hear the word anthroposophy, they usually think: waldorf schools! Waldorf education, in the eye of the public, must seem to hold a fairly dominant position in anthroposophy, being, to a certain extent, where anthroposophy is publicly displayed. It’s through waldorf, if at all, people know anthroposophy exists, and even though they don’t know what it is, they often associate to waldorf when hearing the word anthroposophy. Depending on how the waldorf education movement evolves, it might not reflect well on anthroposophy.

Diana posted two comments to my questions:

Interesting. I’ve always assumed anthroposophy was embarrassing Waldorf, but maybe Waldorf is embarrassing anthroposophy – holding them back in completing their true mission, rather than helping.

In conversations with (often disingenuous) anthroposophists about Waldorf teacher training, who want to downplay the way anthroposophy dominates the teacher training, I have pointed that it’s not that the training includes anthroposophy … it’s more that anthroposophy includes Waldorf teacher training. I think this is something like what you’re getting at. I think you’re on to something.

As this was not among Daisy’s questions, or related to her dissertation, I thought we could ponder this question in a brand new thread. Does anyone else have any thoughts?

97 thoughts on “anthroposophy without waldorf

  1. This question needs to be answered by someone knowledgeable but here is my two pennies worth anyway.
    What would be left without Waldorf? This is not a rhetorical question.
    The medical centres seem to exist to serve the Waldorf schools mainly, and I get the impression the Christian community does too. The Camphill community I think is fairly small.
    As I said once before, Waldorf I think of as a petri dish for anthroposophy, providing a meeting place, and of course gainful employment for anthroposophists.
    Would anthroposophy retreat to Switzerland?
    All that would be required would be enough income generated somehow to maintain the Goetheanum. Perhaps a few car boot sales a year would be sufficient.

  2. You’re right — it would be interesting to see an answer from someone knowledgeable. I wonder what anthroposophists think of anthroposophy severing its ties to education? Is it even a possibility… (You’re right about meeting place & employment — these things are important.)

    My question doesn’t only apply to education, when I think about it now. One could equally well ask what would happen if anthroposophy lost any or all of the other practical applications?

    There is a lot left though. At least, there could be. The ‘theoretical’ stuff. The spiritual stuff.

    I’m afraid it’s pretty expensive to run the Goetheanum so they probably would need more than schools anyway… Dealing (biodynamic of course) drugs. Possibly.

    ;-)

  3. hi, my name is Darsi and i from Peru..im a eurythmist and a waldorf alumna ( please forgive my misspells).
    I love reading this blog find it very refreshing.

  4. So, where would new Anthroposophists come from if not from Waldorf recruiting? Just people stumbling onto Anthroposophy? It’s not that popular. It wouldn’t be like… Hey, I’ve heard of Buddhism – think I’ll give it a try. Anthroposophists would have to actively recruit new Anthroposophists. Waldorf does this far better than they could do it without Waldorf. Their attitude is, “win a few, lose a few” – assuming people who try Waldorf and don’t like Anthroposophy will just move on. I’m here to say, it doesn’t always work that way.

  5. I think providing employment and activities for anthroposophists is one of the main functions of Waldorf, and for that reason alone anthroposophy won’t be severing their ties to Waldorf any time soon. In addition to employment, Waldorf schools provide community for anthroposophists, some of whom have trouble functioning anywhere else. Amid the more-or-less normal community of Waldorf families (most of whom aren’t anthroposophists), some people find it possible to assimilate and find things to do with their time and be accepted or at least tolerated, whereas outside the cultish setting they are folks who have a hard time getting along – not just in terms of holding a job but socially etc.

    I saw examples of this a number of times in our Waldorf days. There would be suddenly be an unfamiliar, offputting, unsmiling person just sort of hanging around the school, inexplicably – sitting in the classroom or popping up on the playground or garden. It would be hard to get a clear explanation from anyone as to who they were or why they were there. They were just randomly “volunteering” or “helping for a few days,” a “European friend in town,” perhaps, but they didn’t seem really comfortable “helping.” They would turn out to be a personal connection of one of the teachers’, perhaps, but they seemed to have no idea what to do around children and we would have to strain to make them feel comfortable. Sometimes they scared the children. Eventually I would realize this person was just a floating anthroposophist, dropping in for a little while because they had nowhere else to go and nothing constructive to do, owing to mental illness or perhaps severe social phobia or introversion.

    More than once, such an extremely awkward person turned out to be an actual anthro big shot …

  6. Alicia –
    ‘There is a lot left though. At least, there could be. The ‘theoretical’ stuff. The spiritual stuff.’
    That is what I meant I think by the retreat.
    Glockler et al could just write articles in German to their heart’s content.
    But who would buy the books if not the people who found anthroposophy through Waldorf?
    Maybe it will be saved by the internet after all. I can imagine (in Pete’s words) stumbling onto anthroposophy more likely this way than any other.

  7. Thing is — I agree that it (waldorf) is an important venue, most of all for providing jobs for anthroposophists. But I don’t think it’s necessarily healthy. I suspect that without the practical applications, not just waldorf, there would be fewer anthroposophists and less money within the movement. But that seems reasonable to me. They’d still be offering something to people who want it. As is the case now, the movement would be much more active and larger (in number of anthroposophists) in german speaking countries. I find it difficult to understand how non-german speaking anthroposophists get by even today — most of the relevant stuff is in german.

    Sure, with waldorf there are people. But what good are people who don’t know anthroposophy and don’t really care to know it — how good are they for anthroposophy anyway? What’s the point? People who just want the superficial things — what do they need them for? Same when the schools want to distance themselves from anthroposophy (which they sometimes do) or with teachers who don’t know much about it anyway. If that is true, I don’t know what good waldorf does anthroposophy. Eventually, it must fall like a house of cards.

    Helen — yes, the internet. Definitely.

    Diana — ‘Eventually I would realize this person was just a floating anthroposophist, dropping in …..’ — this was such a funny description. I can vividly imagine…

  8. For the record, I haven’t given up! I’ve been quiet for a few days, however, as I had a different assignment to work on last week. Will catch up properly with posts and stuff soon.

  9. What is interesting to me is that I’d never heard of Anthrosophy until I got disillusioned with my son’s progress in a Montessouri school and went looking for alternative. Everyone has bad school experiences I know but nobody ever has with Montessouri it seems. I felt terrible but I pulled my kid out after Kindergarten due to his misery and constant comments from his teacher about how ‘far behind he is; learning disabled; etc…’ So, I went looking at the Waldorf school.

    So! I check out private schools and only one that takes any interest is Waldorf, due to my kids mental delays. It says right there ‘Waldorf School of Pittsburgh—an anthroposophy school’ in packet I got. It talks about Steiner. I don’t care my kid loves it there. He is learning. Learned to read independently by end of first grade (nothing stellar, just low typical reading of those I can Read level 1 type books), but Montessouri and other private were telling me he was severely reading delayed and would probably need additional tutoring and aides to help him learn to read.

    So, I learned about anthrosophy through google and through school’s mandatory parent meetings. Since I’m Jewish I wanted to not like it and now I understand it more but don’t feel I’m anthrosophist but I also don’t really get what the school ‘teaches’ that is anthrosophy. If I sent my kid to one of local Jewish schools it says in their pamphlets: early dismissal and shabbat is celebrated Friday, Hebrew is taught, prep for Bar/Bat Mitzvah. I really don’t think I get it for anthrosophy in school. Is it just that the rooms are a certain color? My child never mentions Steiner or anthrosophy: I did ask once if he knew these terms and he had no clue. They don’t teach anything that I can tell. No anthrosophy classes for example. To me it seems maybe it would be like sending your child to live with monks who live a certain way but don’t ever tell the kids why.

    One thing I read which nobody EVER mentions is that the lady who started Montessourri schools was an anthrosophist. But, that school is not associated with anthrosophy. So, Waldorf without anthrosophy could work in that way: really many people might not know what anthrosophy is without Waldorf schools (but in reality the Waldorf school my kid goes to tells parents about anthrosophy and makes us come to mandatory parent meetings on it BUT my child has no idea what it is…maybe it is something they would learn in high school? but this school doesn’t go to high school. Honestly I don’t see how Waldorf SCHOOL has anything to do with teaching kids anthrosophy as it seems they live an example and the kids’ parents would need to explain it to them. Teachers aren’t.

  10. Hello!

    If this is true:

    ‘It says right there ‘Waldorf School of Pittsburgh—an anthroposophy school’ in packet I got.’

    It’s great, it’s actually exemplary. But also highly unusual. I have never seen a waldorf school — neither a private one or a tax funded one — describe itself as an ‘anthroposophy school’.

    Sometimes anthroposophy is mentioned — but not always. More often, Steiner is mentioned, but not as an esotericist but as a philosopher, scientist, educationalist. Or something. So that you don’t really get a picture of what he was about.

    Maria Montessori was not an anthroposophist, she was a theosophist. And as far as I know, the Montessori schools have no incoporated much of that in their methods. Theosophy is not the basis of Montessori pedagogy. Anthroposophy is the basis of waldorf pedagogy — and that isn’t changing.

    By the way — I’m not arguing that waldorf schools teach anthroposophy or tell the kids things about Rudolf Steiner. I would almost prefer it if they did, to be honest. It’s a true pity the kids can’t even recognize the words when they hear them. Much better to do it openly, than to immerse kids in an environment seeped in anthroposophy or to teach them according to anthroposophical ideas without making the ideas explicit to them ever. I’d prefer for there to be anthroposophy classes — I think the children, at least once they get older, deserve to know more about these teachings and the environment they’ve spent so many formative years in.

    ‘I really don’t think I get it for anthrosophy in school. Is it just that the rooms are a certain color?’

    No. Perhaps time to find out a bit more?

  11. ‘Honestly I don’t see how Waldorf SCHOOL has anything to do with teaching kids anthrosophy’. no, it’s true, you don’t see. But it’s all still there, in spite of you not seeing it.

  12. You summed it up better than I did…

    B t w, in my post, do I argue that waldorf schools teach kids anthroposophy? I have no recollection of that. Must read it again…

  13. those critical of Waldorf don’t say they teach the kids anthroposophy – at least directly. But if it’s irrelevant, why is it there at all?

  14. precisely. Nobody thinks waldorf students will return back home after a day at school telling their parents their most recent lesson in anthroposophy or regurgitating anthroposophical theory.

  15. They do not teach anthroposophy directly, because they have a better pedagogy. For young children, they teach through song and dance, verse, storytelling, puppetry and pageantry. These are far more effective methods, and they do inculcate the central myths of anthroposophy. The simplest example I can think of to explain it to you is the Michaelmas festival, celebrated in September in most Waldorf schools. The veneration of the archangel Michael is a central motif in anthroposophy, and the kids learn it through the festival. They will never have a test on the subject of who or what is Saint Michael, however.

    I am quite interested in your claim that the school sent you materials calling the Pittsurgh Waldorf school an “anthroposophy school.” could you tell us exactly what it says? I got quite excited and went to explore their web site. Sadly, there is nothing ilke this there at all. We find:

    our mission, our story:
    http://waldorfpittsburgh.org/story/

    about waldorf education:
    http://waldorfpittsburgh.org/waldorf-education/

    Under “Resources,” there are the predictable links to “Why Waldorf Works,” an AWSNA site that does NOT mention anthroposophy on the front (I have not explored every page there, but the page entitled “What is Waldorf education?” does NOT mention anthroposophy). There is also a link to Sune Nordwall’s sites, which are the most abominably sites on the anthro-Web. Then of course, there are a bunch of articles about how play is important for children. (Ya think.)

    More to say but going to stop here ‘cus I’m having that old problem typing in this weird box – can’t see half of what I’m typing, hope it is not typo-ridden.

  16. My point, which I lost track of in typing that mess, was that the prominent pages on the Pittsburgh school site do NOT mention anthroposophy. Not in any way, shape, or form. I’m not guaranteeing the word doesn’t appear SOMEWHERE on that site, I did not look at every page, but it is COMPLETELY ABSENT on the welcoming, “mission” “history” “resources”-type pages, and the links are all to typical Waldorf promotional sites that minimize anthroposophy is they get around to mentioning it at all.

  17. Please, Waldorfmom – seriously – please could you check that packet and tell us just what it says about the “anthroposophy school”? I have never seen such language in Waldorf promotional materials in the US; this would be quite unusual.

  18. Wow. Sorry. I seriously was not trying to be controversial.

    It was literally the school name at the top of an insert in this packet of information and forms for applying to first grade that I got.

    Just a header: The Waldorf School of Pittsburgh with next line (sort of like a subtitle) that says ‘an anthroposophy school’. That is it. Just the header. It then showed images of kids in ‘Morning Garden’ playing in the rain, another picture of a boy reading a book with caption stating ‘4th grader reading’, a picture of kids who seem to be playing a handclapping game captioned ‘second grade math’ and a picture of a group of kids knitting that is captioned ‘first grade handwork’.

    Sorry for the confusion! Seeing that subtitle was first time I ever heard of anthrosophy. My point being without Waldorf school many would not know about anthrosophy. Then they have those mandatory parent meetings 4 times a year which talks about it.

    Diana, I never even put together the St. Michealmas celebration with the philosophy but that definately makes sense as my son will have the same festivals every year! He didn’t really seem to pay attention this year but I see your point. By grade 8 it would seem a really important event. I can’t believe I never thought of that!

  19. ‘They will never have a test on the subject of who or what is Saint Michael, however.’

    And they will never be taught that this tradition is important because it’s anthroposophical.

    I actually made a google search of the site. (Go to google, type: ‘site:http://waldorfpittsburgh.org anthroposophy’ in the window.) There are six hits for the word ‘anthroposophy’. Three of them are job descriptions. Two hits are about individuals who serve on the faculty and on the board. Then there’s one that is the school parent handbook, where anthroposophy is mentioned in the context of a couple of recommended books. Not otherwise, as far as I can see.

    It is indeed remarkable if the school is describing itsel as an ‘anthroposophy school’. Not just because it’s unusual, but it’s actually against what they’re supposed to be doing. For Dog’s sake, even Steiner said they weren’t going to be called ‘anthroposophy schools’…

    ‘More to say but going to stop here ‘cus I’m having that old problem typing in this weird box – can’t see half of what I’m typing, hope it is not typo-ridden.’

    It’s idiotic. But these days there’s a solution. Before you start to type, put your marker in the box. Click enter lots of times until the box is expanded enough, then begin to write. I know it’s annoying… But at least it’s not auto-collapsing anymore. (Not for me, at least.)

  20. ‘Wow. Sorry. I seriously was not trying to be controversial.

    It was literally the school name at the top of an insert in this packet of information and forms for applying to first grade that I got.’

    It’s actually more interesting than it’s controversial, though I suppose it is in some ways controversial too! A waldorf school describing itself that way would probably endear itself to critics more easily than to the waldorf movement at large!

    It is highly unusual though — it is, in fact, so strange, so unique, that I would be elated if you had that insert/packet still and could take a picture of it for us!!

    As for Michaelmas — I think all grades celebrate it, in some way, but the ‘dramatic’ staging of Michael battling the dragon is for the lower grades.

  21. no, it isn’t controversial, it’s very interesting. I was involved with Steiner Waldorf schools for years and didn’t understand why half the stuff went on. You’re not alone, waldorfmum.

  22. Red faced. I came home and went to packet and right to the form. It the subtitle is a qoute about develop free humans credited to Rudolf Steiner, Founder of Waldorf Education. Like every one said i desperately searched every title and nothing on anthrosophy anywhere! Geez, now I do feel silly.

    I find myself always trying to justify why waldorf embarrassing because honestly the anthrosophy to me sounds “hokey”. But since I didnt really see any teaching of it or that my kid is doing anything “wierd” in terms of saying he believed in gnomes or such I was just happy he was not miserable like in Montesorri. A lot of things i read about bullying, indifferent teachers, loving how it sounds but not meshing with school is how i felt for his Montessorri time.

    I really don’t know why they do half things they do there, melanie. I just sort of hide behind “but my kid is doing well there; best fit” when my co-workers or family ask. And send my hubby to those required meetings.

  23. It’s good that your child is happier, there are some very nice kindergarten teachers. I’m sure from your description he’s just having fun and is quite oblivious to the ‘stuff’, so don’t worry. I suspect that you may want to keep your options open as he gets older, if you’re already having doubts – he’ll be behind his peers in other schools academically and it’s harder to transfer later. (I’m assuming btw that he is in kindergarten).

    ‘To me it seems maybe it would be like sending your child to live with monks who live a certain way but don’t ever tell the kids why.’

    That’s a great image. How perplexing that would be. Maybe not now, but sooner or later.

  24. Well, don’t be red faced, Waldorfmom, I think we sort of expected it! It was so unusual the school would call itself an ‘anthroposophy school’ that it was almost unbelievable! And I’m really glad you still had the packet and went through the trouble to check.

    I suppose maybe anthroposophy is hokey. More importantly, I doubt it’s a brilliant foundation for a pedagogy. I wouldn’t worry too much about the gnomes though; the children don’t believe in them half as much as the teachers do ;-)

    It’s a good thing your son is happy in school. It’s worth a lot, especially if he was unhappy in school before. As waldorf schools can be weak academically, it might be worth continuing to keep an eye on his progress and be prepared to support him later. If a child is unhappy in waldorf, I would say it’s never worth staying and hoping it will get better. But if the child is ok and happy, it might in some circumstances be the right decision to stay.

    Knowing more about anthroposophy and its role in waldorf education is never a bad idea though!

  25. ha! Posted at the same time as Alicia. The ethereal kiosk occasional agony aunts. It may be time to throw off our shoes and celebrate the very late arrival of the European summer!

  26. We’re still experiencing october-like weather here… Cold, rainy. I need to flee to the eternal summer of the ethereal kiosk, because reality is not delivering. And the nights are dark now, no more nordic lightness. It’s grim, really.

  27. My son did montesorri kindergarten and waldorf first grade. So going to second…one thing that does make me feel like hypocrit is we do plan to enroll him at an after school learning center next year for reading help.

    My hubby says the meetings are about “taking our money” mostly. They talk about Steiner’s writing, importance of no tv on school days, plain toys and tools. Then you can buy books and toys from the school store. Hubby isnt against the school or anything just likes to point out how they push us to read a book called simpliciy parenting for example but charge for everything, high tuition, aftercare, materials fee, tuition protection fees, etc..

  28. I think the after school learning center sounds like an excellent idea. Don’t feel like a hypocrite for it. I don’t think you’re alone, although most waldorf parents perhaps don’t want to admit to taking such steps to ensure their children don’t fall behind (compared to mainstream schools).

    Your hubby is certainly on to something there… I’m not a parent, but it often strikes me that the waldorf/anthro approach to being a parent is far from simple. It’s complicated and expensive.

  29. lol, simplicity materialism! I think you’re answering your own questions here. But I don’t know what your alternative is.

  30. WARNING THIS IS JUST A NON-WALDORF POST (of personal reason for ‘choosing’ Waldorf)

    Yep. I feel like we made a mess of it with schooling. Married, bought house without considering school district reputation, had child, panicked as school district not good starting in Jr. High but glad to learn our elementary school was good. Plan was to do elementary and hope to move or send to private or charter school starting in Jr. High if violence and poor academics still factor. Then when my son was in preschool they re-zoned schools and we were in worst elementary in district, but hopeful. By February of his preschool year prior to Kindergarten though the police were called so many times to the elementary school it made news at least once a month!

    Of course, charter schools and most private had waiting lists by that time. We found a montessori and got in and felt blessed to have found it. 2 hours in opposite direction of either my or hubby’s work but at least it was safe. Then had mismatch and all.

    My son is older for Kindergarten here in US. He turned 6 right after school started. The cut off for the Montessori school was to turn 5 before December of the school year. My son was very mature, had good work habits, socially fine, etc… BUT by end of the school year the kids who started at 4.5 looked like academic geniuses compared to him. He just played away and one teacher described it (accurately I have to admit) that he was just ‘out in lala land’. He barely learned to recite alphabet accurately (didn’t do it until 2 months prior to school ending) and just way way behind. Montessori wasn’t option and of course now none of the private schools or charter schools would take him due to delays: although testing really shows nothing significant (not MR , not autism, not attention, vision, hearing). His I.Q. was 89 which they say is low average and he had poor a verbal sequencing and visual tracking but nothing they felt terribly wrong.

    His MD recommended Waldorf and they let him. They actually raved about him all year. How he was ‘ahead’ of most kids. On first grade assessment he drew a bunch of ‘forms’ and they kept saying how if he can do that he’ll never have any issues in first grade. Waldorf says he is fine and on track. BUT I see he is just where the 4.5 year olds were last year in that he can sound out words and knows 20 sight words so barely reading. But he doesn’t know things his old kindergarten wanted him to know too (like days of weeks, months, telling time, tying shoes). He can count, skip count now and seems ahead of where Montessori wanted their Kindergarteners.

    English and reading would probably be delayed in terms of public school and he’d probably be in reading support classes by now. For some reason though he is really rocking the Russian language and the teacher even asked me once if I spoke Russian in home (we don’t) but we have Russian speaking friends whose kids he plays with sometimes. He can actually hold a conversation with them whereas in past he just knew a few words like ‘good morning’ or ‘how are you’.

    Okay, sorry this is way off topic.

    I guess the tie in to Waldorf is for me it was ‘just a school to get my kid into to keep him out of public school with option of trying to move and get in somewhere else if needed later on’. Then he did so well and was happy there we just get so excited but can’t reconcil to ourselves or our friends why we send our kid to such a ‘quirky’ school. But we were glad that we weren’t seeing any oddities in his behavior and starting to wonder if maybe all the negative stuff has more to do with people’s personal experience.

    Okay….I’ll leave off now.

  31. Thanks for an interesting comment — I’ll read it more thoroughly a bit later today.

    One thing strikes me — though it doesn’t at all surprise me — how waldorf kids have their academic development delayed. Which may help a child like your son because he’s not constantly failing at intellectual tasks compared to his peers. (It makes it evident why children who develop intellectual interests early are bored half to death by waldorf!)

    The form drawing is important. It’s another one of these anthroposophical ideas. Whether it actually helps the child is another matter…

  32. In many ways this thread is, I feel, a really good example of what I appreciate most on Alicia’s blog.
    It includes a Mum whose experience of trying to do the best for her child leads her to Waldorf and some really good straight pointers from Melanie, Diana and Alicia to the real problems surrounding Waldorf Education.

    A major problem is the lack of clarity about the role of Anthroposophy as the basis, the rationale, for just about everything that happens in a Waldorf School, and to me there is no excuse for this. Waldorf Schools should be up front about where they are coming from and why things happen in the way they do. They also should not be seeking public-funding.

    There is one thing Diana says to which I want to add some observations.

    ‘The veneration of the archangel Michael is a central motif in anthroposophy, and the kids learn it through the festival. They will never have a test on the subject of who or what is Saint Michael, however.’

    Imagine a child in a Buddhist School. They will hear stories about the Buddha and they will celebrate various Buddhist festivals. The child’s parents may not be Buddhists nevertheless they like something about the school, they maybe know that Buddhism is in essence a peaceful, compassionate movement.
    So the child is hearing stories and celebrating festivals that reflect that ethos. The child is not learning Buddhism but is experiencing the ethos of Buddhism.
    I would suggest that the same thing is happening in Waldorf. The festival of Michael, the stories etc, evoke a certain ethos, but they do not teach about anthroposophy,

    In my experience very few pupils in Waldorf end up knowing anything about anthroposophy – it is usually only those pupils whose parents are anthroposophists, Also very few Waldorf pupils become part of the Anthro world.

    Tom Hart-Shea (formerly appearing as falk.ramaren, who has at last been consigned to the ether! or back to the future where he came from!)

  33. Occasionally as falk ramaren too! I’m so happy to have you here under your own name though!! (I just wanted to say this quickly — I’ll be back later.)

  34. Tom — ‘So the child is hearing stories and celebrating festivals that reflect that ethos. The child is not learning Buddhism but is experiencing the ethos of Buddhism.
    I would suggest that the same thing is happening in Waldorf. The festival of Michael, the stories etc, evoke a certain ethos, but they do not teach about anthroposophy,’

    I think that’s pretty much what happens. In a certain sense, this is a kind of ‘teaching’ too, but very different to how teaching happens in schools otherwise. And certainly different to the kind of preaching that goes on in church.

    One lesson from this tradition is that Michael is important, and reading more about anthroposophy, you come to understand why, although as a child, you don’t know that.

    I find the michaelmas business fairly benign as long as it’s not lied about, in which case the lies become toxic, no matter how benign the tradition itself is. Eurythmy is worse and the kids have to practice it regularly (with often unstable teachers), while michaelmas is an occasional celebration.

    ‘In my experience very few pupils in Waldorf end up knowing anything about anthroposophy – it is usually only those pupils whose parents are anthroposophists’

    And — the irony — some of those who were the unhappiest in waldorf! But, as I’ve said before, I believe it would be a good thing if pupils ended up knowing something about anthroposophy. That things were made more explicit to them when they get older — I think, somehow, they deserve to know what is the foundation of the education and environment they’ve experienced for so many years.

    Funnily, my parents were not anthroposophists, and I had a good hunch anthroposophy was some kind of religious-type worldview even though I quit waldorf fairly early.

    On the other hand — I have a feeling the word ‘anthroposophy’ itself was not treated as a suspicious, dirty word back then. Even parents who weren’t anthroposophists (it wasn’t rare — rather more common than not — at least one parent had such leanings) were very positively inclined to anthroposophical things. Today, with the movement’s expansion, tax funding (here in Sweden) and the need to attract parents who are not so inclined, I have a feeling that has changed.

    ‘formerly appearing as falk.ramaren, who has at last been consigned to the ether!’

    I imagine there’s a special sofa in the ethereal kiosk for cast off avatars…!

  35. Waldorfmom — ‘I guess the tie in to Waldorf is for me it was ‘just a school to get my kid into to keep him out of public school with option of trying to move and get in somewhere else if needed later on’. Then he did so well and was happy there we just get so excited but can’t reconcil to ourselves or our friends why we send our kid to such a ‘quirky’ school. But we were glad that we weren’t seeing any oddities in his behavior and starting to wonder if maybe all the negative stuff has more to do with people’s personal experience.’

    I’d say the negative stuff is both — it’s both criticism of and skepticism towards the pedagogy itself, the schools, the underlying philosophy and, in some cases, personal experiences.

    Quirky or not — there are much worse reasons for choosing and staying in waldorf than your reasons!

  36. I thought I’d heard it all. But this takes the biscuit. Joan Jaeckel, some kind of waldorf charter guru (? am I right?) suggests an interesting interpretation of michaelmas:

    ‘Joan Jaeckel: To me, personally again, the Michael saga of saving the light from the light-eating dragon fits right in with daylight savings time.’

    There’s a link to her text here:
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/24883

    I haven’t actually read her post, only Pete’s comment, but I thought this interpretation of michaelmas was silly enough to warrant mention in this thread. It’s dishonesty gone laughable.

    Overall, Jaeckel’s attempts at reinterpretation of waldorf tradition and her attempts to explain things are often ridiculous and confused.

  37. Her post with the comment is here: http://www.elriocharterschool.org/the-nitty-gritty-a-father-asks-the-hard-questions/

    The “hard questions” seem to be along the lines of – will this school be Waldorfy enough… he’s concerned, for example, about whether they will include eurythmy… Really? Eurythmy is this dad’s big worry? Mainstream dads tend to ask about stuff like football – or at worst, math… but Eurythmy? Why would he be worried about THAT?

  38. I’m sorry, but nobody who isn’t an anthroposophist proactively wants their kids to have eurythmy. The most brainwashed bliss-ninny doesn’t go around pleading, “When can we have eurythmy?” No one’s even heard of eurythmy before Waldorf, and after their kid is in Waldorf, the average Waldorf parent would tell you eurythmy is odd, a little disturbing, they don’t quite know why it’s done, and their child doesn’t like it. They wonder why there isn’t an ordinary gym class, or why the school doesn’t field a sports team or two, and why enrolling kids in sports outside the school is discouraged.

    I haven’t read the whole thread that is linked, but if someone is whining that the school doesn’t have eurythmy, that someone is an anthroposophist. Or a complete idiot.

  39. This one sounds like he was invented by Joan herself, who obviously is an anthroposophist.

    Why would he not want the anthro content of the morning verse but at the same time want the eurythmy? Illogical.

  40. Oh, ugghhh uggghh uggghh. I am slowly working my way through her completely disingenuous comments trying to control my rage level. She describes private Waldorf schools as having an “un-regulated, community ownership model.” YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. Waldorf schools will be “unregulated” or “owned by the community” when HELL FREEZES OVER. This is simply an outrageous lie. How does she say things like this to parents keeping her face straight?

    Yeah, I read all the nice innocent dad’s questions and they have “plant” written all over them. He’s obviously an anthro insider, not some ordinary dad in the “community ownership model.”

  41. Blood pressure boils higher …

    “we are still developing our views on parent involvement.”

    Oh, like hell you are. Joan’s views on parent involvement come from Rudolf Steiner and haven’t changed an iota and won’t change an iota. The faux-reasonable sounding “We’re still working this out” tone is complete crap. There is no “preliminary thinking” about how to do Waldorf with people like this. The thinking was done 100 years ago and people like Joan Jaeckel view it as their life’s mission to implement it. Period. The appearance of “adapting” is stagecraft.

    Listen to this:

    “Our preliminary thinking is has two parts. (1) The most basic form of ”parent involvement” is simply being there: choosing your child’s school, being open and positive about your child’s teacher, and supporting your child’s school experience at home. While some people might consider this not enough, we tend to think this is actually alot.”

    The translation here is very simple. After you have chosen the school, we expect you to be positive about the school. That’s it. That’s “parent involvement.” “Community ownership,” I don’t think so.

    That’s her “preliminary thinking” and that’s going to be her final thinking, too. She’s a mummy, her views haven’t changed since she incarnated in Egypt several thousand years BC.

    ” (2) Once the school is formed, and even during the forming process, it is up to parents themselves to shape the kinds of activities they want to do at school as long as those activities are aligned with the core vision of Waldorf education and the social ecology of the particular school.”

    Yeah – just wait till you find out what the “core vision of Waldorf education” turns out to mean: it doesn’t mean YOU are wanted around the school, unless you are simply working like a dog for them, knitting or sewing or building furniture or cleaning or cooking. Your OPINIONS will not be wanted.

    “In general, our philosophy tends towards an integral field of ”home” without teachers being present and an integral field of ”classroom” without parents being present and a third field of “community” where home and school intersect.”

    This is a lot of words to get across that “classroom without parents being present” part (note how that’s buried in the middle of that contorted sentence). STAY OUT is the take-home point, but it’s a bit blurred amid the heaping mounds of bullshit, with integral things intersecting yada yada.

    Anyway, “home without teachers being present”? Are you SERIOUS? There is no form of education today where teachers are more intrusive into the child’s home life. They may not be sleeping in your guest room, but they’re in your home all right. It starts with the “home visit” before they will even enroll your child and pretty soon they are telling you want color curtains to put in the child’s room, and trying to convince you you shouldn’t play recorded music in your home, it will “damage” your child.

    Whew. It’s years in the past for our family. But it makes me so angry that they continue to get away with functioning this way; they’ve been challenged so many times, by so many families, who find out way too late what they’re getting into, yet they just bob and weave … open another charter, in another Waldorf-naive town. There’s always fresh victims who have no idea what this deceitful anthrobabbling means, or how carefully strategized their approach is. The talk of “community ownership” simply makes me see red; the woman is a liar. An egregious liar. She wouldn’t know a “community ownership model” if her community walked up and introduced itself to her; all community ownership means coming out of her mouth is that she believes that she, as a student of Rudolf Steiner, knows how things ought to be done. As soon as these naive people will let her set up her “community ownership” shop, she’ll set about doing it that way – anthroposophically. Just stay positive!

  42. ‘The translation here is very simple. After you have chosen the school, we expect you to be positive about the school. That’s it. That’s “parent involvement.” “Community ownership,” I don’t think so.’

    It’s even more than that, I think — it’s about being positive about the school and adapt to the school. She’s basically saying it’s parental involvement to adapt the family’s lifestyle (at home) to the ideals of the school. Parental involvement is not to let the needs and desires of parents influence the school. I’m not sure how she manages to pull that off as parent involvement or as a sign of community ownership. It’s more like: the school ‘owns’ you and your family and the community than the other way around.

    ‘That’s her “preliminary thinking” and that’s going to be her final thinking, too. She’s a mummy, her views haven’t changed since she incarnated in Egypt several thousand years BC.’

    ROFL!

    [Jaeckel:] ‘…it is up to parents themselves to shape the kinds of activities they want to do at school as long as those activities are aligned with the core vision of Waldorf education…’

    The pivotal words are ‘as long as’… I agree (with what Diana said), just wait to hear the core vision and how fundamentalistcally it is interpreted, and you’ll find there’s not much place for ‘shap[ing] the kinds of activties’…

    ‘Anyway, “home without teachers being present”? Are you SERIOUS? There is no form of education today where teachers are more intrusive into the child’s home life.’

    And, as you say, where the school wants so much say in the childrens’ (and families’) lives at home.

    I suppose community ownership is just reinterpreted as: ‘other people pay, we continue to do things our way’. If paying is owning, I guess that’s it. Expecting influence from your ownership? Pah!

  43. We ALL work as a community here… Oh, and by the way… you and your kids are no longer welcome in our community. Have a nice day!

  44. I’ve placed a comment linking this page to Joan’s blog page… ;) Joan’s dishonesty won’t allow her to publish the comment of course, but I’m keeping track of which of my posts she has removed… just in case.

  45. I just noticed, the blog is filed under ” Inventing markers for public schools inspired by Waldorf education” – that would explain the content.

  46. I’m told Joan Jaeckel and our other good friend, Patrice Maynard (mentor to the child-abusing senator’s daughter) share an office here in California. These people represent AWSNA. Maynard is teaching at Highland Hall’s teacher training program… ensuring we have enough Waldorf-trained teachers to fill all the new charters.

  47. “She’s basically saying it’s parental involvement to adapt the family’s lifestyle (at home) to the ideals of the school. Parental involvement is not to let the needs and desires of parents influence the school.”

    Yup. The original is SO condescending: “The most basic form of ”parent involvement” is simply being there: choosing your child’s school, being open and positive about your child’s teacher, and supporting your child’s school experience at home. While some people might consider this not enough, we tend to think this is actually alot.”

    Words fail me for how much this bullshit infuriates me. It will sound positive to so many new families, who don’t get what it means. Well, thanks for telling me I am doing “a lot” just by choosing your school. I understand what you really mean – karma led my child to this school, since you are her “real,” spiritual parents and my husband and I are just “heredity,” and the most important we could possibly have ever done as parents was to enroll her in the Waldorf school. Now we should understand our job is done, and let y’all take over. Now all we need to is stay positive, no matter what kind of crap you roll out?

    All stated to assure me I’ve “done a lot” as a parent. The director of our school was also a master of this kind of condescending rhetoric. Who asked your opinion on how much I’ve done as a parent? How about some accountability FROM THE SCHOOL TO THE FAMILY?

    Parent involvement at school, to the rest of the world, does NOT mean “Enroll the child then just stay positive.” No Joan – that is not enough. Responsible, involved parents are not going to see it that way – not after they understand what you really mean.

  48. “it is up to parents themselves to shape the kinds of activities they want to do at school as long as those activities are aligned with the core vision of Waldorf education”

    Right – parents, feel free to shape the kinds of activities you want to do at school. As long as what you want to do at is sew costumes for Saint Michael and the dragon or core apples for the Advent candles or stand around at open houses explaining to prospective parents that “Hitler actually closed all the Waldorf schools.” If you have any other ideas that you think the kids might enjoy or you decide to look into the fake Waldorf history for yourself, you’ll quickly find out you are not “aligned with the core vision” after all. If you thought the “core vision” was encouraging creativity, “learning at their own pace,” or emphasis on natural materials – or perhaps you were told the “core vision” had something do with “child development theory”? – you’ll soon find out there’s a problem. Just stay positive!

  49. Football? Pop music? Drums instead of flute? Disco dance instead of eurythmy? Black crayons instead of red-orange-blue-yellow? There are so many things that are not ‘aligned with the core vision’…

    ‘Well, thanks for telling me I am doing “a lot” just by choosing your school.’

    Now, you redundant vessel for the foetus, bugger off, be positive and supportive, and don’t ask any questions!

  50. http://www.mothering.com/community/t/1351485/waldorf-child-but-highly-academic-what-do-we-do

    Parent asks: We would transfer her into a Waldorf school in a heart beat – but she is highly academically inclined. The thing she likes most about school is learning to read, write and count – in apparently the traditional way.

    What should we do? What are the options for children that are kind and gentle but also academic?

    Peter Reeve
    “I might be able to help. My wife and I had four children. Both of us are trained Waldorf teachers, so naturally when our children came along we wanted for them to have a Waldorf education.This was 35 years or so ago. Actually all four were educated by the Steiner approach from 7 years old to 19 and all continued on to higher education. The eldest in particular is academic and is now a young professor at an American university. She was very bright as a child so I think you would call her academic. Before she went to school we had her at home as we lived in the country, so the four children played a lot together, drew a lot, heard stories that my wife and I told or read to them, sang nursery rhymes, moved and danced, and were outside in nature a great deal. I never encouraged the eldest girl to read or write as I knew she could come to this in time, indeed when she was aged nine she took to reading quickly and never looked back. I would say to you, if you like the sound of Waldorf education, just wait on it. There is so much else one can do with young children. Leave it to the grade teacher when your child enters the first grade. Even if you think your child is bright, or brighter than the others, just let her move along at the pace of the group. There will be other children who have different kinds of gifts and they will be able to learn from each other. In the end, your child will find her own way into life. Don’t worry.”

  51. Here’s Joan pretending to have the last word on Waldorf and racism:

    http://smrtlernins.com/2010/11/16/ask-a-smrt-homeschooler-about-the-waldorf-method/#comments

    “While the people on this discussion can and will think what they wish, I did want you to know that the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) undertook a study of exactly what Steiner said that either is or could be construed to be racist and declared Steiner as flat-out wrong on those statements. ”

    Yep… sure they did…

  52. This is the kind of thing Diana is talking about:

    “The basis of our philosophy is the conviction that the growing child is both physical and spiritual in nature: the child’s physical body is a vessel for the incarnation of the soul and spirit. There has never been, and there never will be, anything in the school’s philosophy, pedagogy or practice that is in any way racist or prejudiced by design.
    —The Waldorf School of Princeton Parent Handbook”

    They don’t get that what they leave out of (and how they apply) the first sentence makes the second sentence a ridiculous LIE.

    “The child’s physical body is a vessel for the incarnation of the soul and spirit” – AND OVER THE COURSE OF MANY INCARNATIONS, THE VESSEL MAY ACHIEVE IT’S HIGHEST MODERN INCARNATE FORM… WHITE!

    Steiner explicitly told Waldorf teachers that skin color is an important indicator of spiritual development. If Waldorf schools don’t understand what racism is, they have no business claiming there isn’t any racism going on in their schools.

  53. From the AWSNA document Alicia linked to:

    “The spiritual aspect of the child is nourished through the teachers’ shared understanding of each child as a spiritual being.”
    —Lake Champlain Waldorf School

    And guess which school hired the racist Waldorf teacher from Highland Hall?

    http://thewaldorfreview.blogspot.com/search?q=lake+champlain

    “We strive to create an education that serves our families and our community.
    —Faculty and Staff of Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School”

    Guess which school hired the Highland Hall teacher who permitted hitchhiking?

    http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/2010/03/highland-hall-students-hitchhiking.html

  54. Those who embrace Steiner’s philosophy believe that this path of inner development helps individuals to develop and strengthen moral forces and to awaken spiritual capacities that slumber within every person. —Merriconeag Waldorf School, Parent Handbook

    Now read what happens if you DON’T embrace Steiner’s philosophy at Merriconeag…
    http://thewaldorfreview.blogspot.com/2012/05/merriconeag-waldorf-school-reviews-by.html
    How do these spiritually evolved teachers and administrators react?

    “People who support Waldorf ascribe to an unquestioning belief in the “teachings” of Rudolf Steiner. They are passionate! Hopefully, you’ll get a great teacher. Otherwise, you’re child is stuck from 1st grade ’til 8th. There is only the “Board” to talk to – mysterious, apparently made up of other teachers – no principal, not easy to voice concerns and see results. Your child must dress and eat according to acceptable guidelines. If you don’t conform your family is ostracized. Too much parent involvement! “Therapy Sessions” is how one parent we know describes “parent evenings.” The EC was more diverse in our experience – much more cultish and rigid later… They are suing people who leave the school for legitimate reasons, so don’t sign a contract!”

    “Politics amongst the admin is full of egos, an inability to take meaningful action, and rarely holds each other accountable in support of an individual family. A large part of the delivery of a Waldorf education depends on the teacher’s ability to meet each child’s needs with sensitivity and support (including supporting the parents). If u have bullying concerns or other problem(s),it’s difficult to feel heard at Merriconeag without entering a series of meetings where, if offered, solutions are vague and dismissive, or the responsibility is left up to the parent to back off, pay for extra tutoring, Eurythmy, Speech, etc. The admin. is often not very supportive, and as a result, families leave disappointed, for multiple reasons. Unfortunaltely, the delivery of a quality Waldorf education is being compromised at this school. If you can handle the politics, dishonesty, & volunteering, welcome & enjoy! “

  55. Diana says, ‘all community ownership means coming out of her mouth is that she believes that she, as a student of Rudolf Steiner, knows how things ought to be done. As soon as these naive people will let her set up her “community ownership” shop, she’ll set about doing it that way – anthroposophically.’

    There are Steiner schools in England where the ‘community ownership’ value is being touted. It can’t work because of the ‘core values’ in Steiner education. These cannot be changed to suit the whims of the community.

    There is a misunderstanding amongst some parents that because there is no hierarchy in the schools decisions about what goes in the schools are arrived at democratically – nothing could be further from the truth.

    There IS a set of core values and these give Steiner education its distinctive character. They can’t be changed without destroying the essence of the education.

    This has happened in England at a school called ‘Potterspury Lodge’. It was a Steiner school but is no longer. The school is honest and open about this. Steiner is no longer mentioned in their name or on their web-site. The only clue to what the school used to be is that an advent garden is mentioned in their seasonal festivals (Michaelmas is not!)

    I fear that quite a few of the groups trying to make Steiner ‘free-schools’ in England have illusions of them being ‘community’ schools.

    There are ‘community schools’ in the state system in England but this appellation does not mean that they are run by the community. The name is used for a school campus where many different socially inclusive activities are based, playgroups, after-school care, youth clubs, adult education, fitness classes, social gatherings etc – all under the one roof.

  56. “he is highly academically inclined. The thing she likes most about school is learning to read, write and count – in apparently the traditional way.

    What should we do? What are the options for children that are kind and gentle but academic”

    I just don’t understand what these parents’ problem is. Why do they even think they HAVE a problem? What should you do with a kid who enjoys learning read, write and count? I dunno – LET HER LEARN TO READ, write and count? They do tend to be useful skills. Just a thought.

  57. Tom: There is a misunderstanding amongst some parents that because there is no hierarchy in the schools decisions about what goes in the schools are arrived at democratically …’

    Yup, and unfortunately, some waldorf proponents do little to rob the parents’ of this illusion. Some even promote the illusion themselves (like Joan J). Eventually, parents would find out but by that time, hopefully (from the perspective of the school), they are so immersed in the culture of the school and have absorbed ideas and practices as their own that they don’t notice they actually didn’t have much of a say!

    ‘There IS a set of core values and these give Steiner education its distinctive character. They can’t be changed without destroying the essence of the education.’

    And, actually and this despite the lack of parental influence (which I suppose can be frustrating at times), is also something of an asset: it means waldorf education is somewhat predictable. If the schools are only honest and open about what they are, what they do and what they want, the parents know what they’re choosing and can decide whether they want it or not. If the schools changed through constant democratic decisions of the school community, there would be little predictability and scant possibilities of knowing what one can expect. There would be no point in having a brand name common for these kinds of schools — in the end they wouldn’t be a certain kind of schools at all. (By the way, there’s another related ridiculousness: when steiner promoters insist that all steiner schools are different so you can’t extrapolate from one to another. Which, of course, is silly: many many things are similar, not to say identical, from steiner school to steiner school, because of, among other things, shared core values, but also a common set of ideas, traditions, ways of doing things.)

    Pete quoted the AWSNA’s PR goldmine:

    “We strive to create an education that serves our families and our community.
    —Faculty and Staff of Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School”

    On the one hand — is this what they truly do, or what is it they serve, really and truly? And, on the other hand, don’t all schools in some sense aim to serve families/children and the community? (of course there’s a subtle difference between serving ‘the community’ and ‘our community’… they may not have thought of it.)

  58. WaldorfMum,

    Maybe this is where I remember the reference to anthroposophy? When google the school name the description underneath has it. My guy just started second and seems to enjoy it so far. This is my ‘worry’ year as reading is a real challenge for him so like I said before I’m getting him extra outside help in that but still anxious to see how his reading is by end of year.

    When I searched Google the first result I get is the school web page :

    Waldorf School of Pittsburgh
    waldorfpittsburgh.org/Cached
    Waldorf education, nursery school and elementary school Pittsburgh: progressive schooling with the ideas of Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy.

    7 Google reviews”

  59. Oh, look, there it is. How odd — it’s only on google! When you click on the link and arrive on the school’s website, the word isn’t there anymore. Well, actually, it IS there, in the source code, which is why google picks it up, but it isn’t visible on the website itself (how silly of them!).

    Good luck to him with second grade! Extra help sounds like a good idea. (And try to make it fun, if it’s possible.)

  60. “When you click on the link and arrive on the school’s website, the word isn’t there anymore.”

    Don’t that sum it up! That sums up the whole situation. Someone – possibly a clueless parent, “helping” do volunteer PR or set up the web site – probably originally wrote out “schooling according to the ideas of Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy” – and before it went live on the web page, the word “anthroposophy” was REMOVED by some other someone – an anthroposophist. Anthroposophy was there, and then it’s gone, before the document goes where parents can see it. As a matter of policy, mention of anthroposophy is removed before materials aimed at parents go live.

    Too bad parents can’t look at how the web site was structured behind the scenes, and what parts were red-inked by an anthroposophist – the director, or a board member, or senior faculty in the “College of Teachers” – before the materials were published.

  61. Here it is, by the way. (Twice. Look for ‘description’ and ‘keywords’.)

    I guess it happens that someone uses words in the description and as keywords that aren’t used in the text on the website. But in this context, it’s simply suspicious — why not use the word ‘anthroposophy’ on the website as well?

    If someone wants and searches for ‘anthroposophy + waldorf + pittsburgh’ they’ll find the school’s website, and won’t notice some of the words aren’t mentioned on the website itself. And parents who don’t actively look for anthroposophy won’t be confronted with it.

  62. Right. It seems a clear case of someone naively put the word there, and someone else removed it. Prior to distributing to prospective parents. That is the story of Waldorf education.

    In reality few people would search for “anthroposophy + Waldorf + Pittsburgh.” They search for “Waldorf + Pittsburgh.” That’s the whole problem. They don’t know to put “anthroposophy” in that box too, usually because they’ve never heard of the word before they heard of Waldorf. If they have heard the word, and they’ve been to an open house or information session at the school, if they asked about anthroposophy they have been assured by teachers that there is no real relevance, nothing to investigate there, because the philosophy is not taught in the school, it’s just something that some of the teachers have studied, along with all their great coursework in child development and how to paint rainbows. Many parents are dissuaded from giving more mental energy or focus to the thought at that point. Why would you, if everything seems wonderful and the teachers have assured you this is not really connected to the school? It would never occur to most parents that a school might hide its underlying philosophy!

    Only parents who are already suspicious or concerned, perhaps because they’ve been surfing around already, or because a friend or relative has said something negative about Steiner or tossed out the word “anthroposophy,” would think to google the terms together at that point.

  63. … unless they are anthroposophists, but even then… or especially then, they’d already know that a waldorf school provides (or tries to provide) what they want, regardless of the words.

    Usually keywords are supposed to be words that describe what the site or the business or whatever is about. If mr Dog had a website, one keyword would be ‘canineosophy’, of course. But then you usually, too, use that word on the website. As far as I remember, Waldorf Pittsburgh barely even mentioned ‘anthroposophy’ anywhere, so it wasn’t only that it was absent from the starting page.

  64. I have another recent example of this kind of shenanigans. You might remember the freedom of information request I put into the Hereford Steiner Academy asking which among their staff are card carrying members of the Anthroposophical Society: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/staff_professional_affiliations

    The subsequent discussion included reference to the application form for recruiting new staff, which asks prospective staff about their “awareness of anthroposophy”. A few weeks later I noticed a new version of the application form on their website with this phrase replaced by “awareness of the pedagogy of the Steiner-Waldorf curriculum”. No other changes.

    I noted this change in an annotation to the FOI request.

    Now the old version of the application form is back on the website!

    Perhaps somebody thought it’d be better to admit to the relevance of anthroposophy than to be caught playing these silly games? One can only hope…

  65. Haha! That is actually both funny and tragic. I noticed (on twitter) when you wrote that they had replaced ‘anthroposophy’ with ‘…Steiner-Waldorf…’ but I had missed that they also changed it back later. One might mistakenly get the idea that they are trying to look as silly as they possibly can.

    The bad thing is, when you know this is happening, it is funny, but how frustrating it must be for people to deal with these behaviours in real life! Probably, they first simply excuse them as mistakes. But the pile of odd and silly keeps growing. You try to get things sorted, but the people in charge don’t want that, and need to find new silly to cover up old silly. And around it goes.

  66. Well things are certainly making more sense for me then. I was 100% sure that they had that header I mentioned in my first post and KNEW just what document it was on. I bet it was on a document and they took it off! I got a set of documents when I initially visited school then a bunch of forms in an email and more forms in the mail and eventually I noticed I had a bunch of replicate forms and when put them all into his 1st grade binder I parred them down to 1 copy of each form. I really had a clear image of anthroposophy in a specific form title and was shocked when I went to that form and it wasn’t there.

  67. Mark – and Waldorfmom – that is fascinating. Though not a new story. Really simply unbelievable – remove “anthroposophy” while outsiders are looking, basically, then put it back when the coast is clear.

    It comes down to money. The word “anthroposophy” disappears when the revenue stream is at stake – in front of prospective customers, state inspectors, funding authorities, journalists, etc. Other people don’t like anthroposophy and talking about it threatens the revenue stream. When those people leave, and anthroposophists can talk among themselves again – and recruit other anthroposophists – the word reappears.

  68. It disappears from all kinds of anthroposophical institutions. One, the Rudolf Steiner Seminar in Järna (I had a photo of their ‘road sign’ once, you found it creepy, Diana!), has changed its name to Center of Culture Järna (my translation). The House of Anthroposophy became House of Culture (that’s not even recent). There are several similar examples.

    As though the *words* were the problem.

  69. WaldorfMom — WordPress *now* sent me a comment you submitted days ago, it had been spam-marked. I’m not sure why I suddenly got it in the spam box — three days later!

    I’m glad you submitted the comment again though. It seems to have gone through automatically the seconds time (you’re not the only one having this problem here lately, so if anyone else gets caught in spam and you have a copy of the comment, just submit it again, as it can be a while before I see the spam-box).

  70. I have just stumbled across the comment section of this blog and I have to just remark on how helpful it has been for me.

    I live in the US. In the upper Midwest. I have a three-year-old daughter for whom I have been searching out preschool options. A year ago we started a mommy and me class at our local school, Waldorf school.

    We had friends who had transferred their fourth grade son there and had felt the environment to be one that was welcoming and refreshing especially in comparison to our local public school.

    I had only come across Waldorf school when I had met a few adults who had come through a program in Oregon. I have to say I was taken by how “free-spirited” the young woman was. She truly seemed someone who was a person who thought outside the parameters of what I would normally think of in terms of education. I should preface all of this with the fact that I am a writer and went through postgraduate studies in creative writing –and it was through this network of ecologically minded, liberal, creative artistic sorts living in the American West that I first heard about Waldorf.

    I am also however highly intellectually inquisitive and focused. I wanted to do my deal due diligence concerning the school. As I began my Internet search I learned more about the spiritual/religious side of Steiner education. When I asked the teacher a woman who is a long time Waldorf educator… Educated in California I felt as if she really evaded my direct questions concerning anthroposophy and its connection to their Waldorf school (a private, tuition based school I should add).

    I was always trying to reconcile this disconnect I felt between in the environment which itself is so homey and welcoming… And the teachers which, on the surface seemed very welcoming but somehow I felt there was a coldness beneath it but I couldn’t quite put my finger on… I remember one Time in particular when the kindergarten teacher gave an introduction to the incoming Toddler class about these souls being reincarnated to this place for a purpose… And while there was part of me and that was intrigued and my new age whatever was almost seduced by at… The rational part of me kept sounding the alarm. The singing, the cooking, the back to basics homey seduction… But when you looked at some of the teachers in repose their faces seemed so stern.

    What I can say is I keep coming back to the term seduction… I will walk away from it and think to myself this is not the place for my daughter’s intellect to be nurtured… But then when I’m back in the physical space I find it hard to imagine her in any other environment. I am really struggling with this decision.

    I have an appointment with the Montessori school in our area this coming week and I will be interested to kind of see the differences. Our Waldorf teacher was aghast that I would even think about it. “Their brains are not ready for that intellectualism” it’s will “take them out of their body”… There is also the part of the warm and true we are so happy to see you here… Come back come back… That I personally am trying to reconcile…having felt relatively isolated in the social environment having moved back to the Midwest from the West where the cultural life is so different. I have never found my community here and suddenly here is this community trying, it seems, to pull me in.

    Anyway I find this conversation very useful. I find myself in the middle of this debate with whether or not we enter this community.

  71. Alicia, do you remember the large thread, roughly “this is Waldorf beneath the surface”, must have been late Spring 2010? May be helpful for Wordgirl to read, but difficult to find in all the information on this blog.

    Also, Wordgirl,
    have a look at http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3528&cpage=1
    and at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waldorf-critics/message/10626 (Waldorf vs Montessori). http://liberalconspiracy.org/2009/07/23/pseudoscience-is-not-a-valid-educational-choice/#comment-56618 comment nr 79, Nick Nakorn, par 4 onward is a concise description of Waldorf. (Well, to learn how to distinguish between categories is not the objective of Waldorf educ, I would say.) Also comment nr 94.

    Alfa-Omega

  72. Wordgirl, as confusing as it seems, trust your instincts. What you are describing is absolutely word for word what it is really like – the seductiveness complemented by a nagging discomfort has been described by many people. The “coldness” you sensed is anthroposophy.

  73. Wordgirl — thank you very much for your comment! A very perceptive description of what it can be like. I can really understand what it is like — confusing, conflicting emotion, conflicting wills. The coldness, I’m afraid, is very real, and the children notice it — at least children who are sensitive to it. It’s there even in many waldorf teachers who are basically not all that bad. (Some are horrible and shouldn’t be working with children at all, but that’s another matter…) Many parents probably don’t notice it. There’s a very strange blend of warmth (and a welcoming atmosphere on a superficial level) and then that coldness lingering a little under the surface.

    Alfa-Omega — ‘Alicia, do you remember the large thread, roughly “this is Waldorf beneath the surface”, must have been late Spring 2010?’ — oh, dear. I can’t remember but will think about it, my memory might return after a while…

  74. Thank you, Melanie.
    I come by up and then. I feel, however, I have nothing to say which I haven’t said previously. With a parent in the state of consideration, like Wordgirl is now, I wanted to share my “kernel observation”:


    In a regular community comprehensive or non-confessional free school, there is an agreement, not written but assumed, that the school does a job in education, while the children still are their parents’ children. I never felt, neither as a parent in a regular community comprehensive or non-confessional free school, nor as a teacher in a regular community comprehensive or non-confessional free school, that this fact (the children are their parents’ children) was questioned upon.

    In a Waldorf School, which builds upon and is meant to promote Anthroposophy, the parents are regarded as guardians whom the children have chosen at birth. As I have comprehended it, these parents-guardians are responsible for the “daily maintaining-job”, while the anthro/steiner/waldorf cult is responsible for what the child will develop into.

    Of course, the sect cannot reveal to a presumtive parent at a Waldorf school the essence of Anthroposophy: a regular parent, initially attracted by the pleasant, aestetic surface and the seemingly open arms, would then take his/her child and run away*****. The mission of developing the souls would halt, loosing the souls to develop. In addition, the Waldorf school would miss customers, necessary for enhancing the number of pupils, from the few innate to the Anthroposophy community, to the amount neccesary to run an operation.

    ***** unless the alternatives, a community comprehensive for example, seems even worse. The parent may not see the hidden dangers of leaving his/her child in the care of a sect, while the deficiencies of a community comprehensive may be more apparent.

  75. Alicia, Alfa-Omega, Diana — I can’t express how grateful I am to have found this community of thoughtful, thorough discourse — I spent a fevered night last night combing through so many links on the internet; it has been the strangest experience to have read many of these links before (I’d even questioned my teacher about the PLANS site) but then I’d read all of these rebuttals — which would dismiss those critical of Waldorf as histrionic — and then to find out that so many of those pieces were written by the same person; I was stunned. I have to say that in this world — as it is changing so rapidly with technology — as urbanites feel increasingly more separated from the natural world — as there is this panic concerning impending ecological tipping points — Waldorf is uniquely positioned to attract people –and I’m just still reeling from the truth beneath it. Our teacher keeps saying to the incoming toddler class “take what you want and leave the rest” — which is really toned down from even her discussions last year — it has made me think that they have had some kind of conversation about community outreach and how to temper your position to keep people coming back. “Of course the Waldorf ideal is what we all strive for” she will say…and now that is the phrase that is haunting me a little bit — because, what?! What also strikes me is the observations that many teachers don’t even fully understand the philosophy — and that seems quite anti-intellectual to me as well.

    It’s true that they bill themselves as this ‘arts-based’ school — and as it is so welcoming and so idyllic upon entering — those boots all lined up on the shining hardwood floor of the halls — the walls strung with dried vines, the vaulted ceilings and light — the singing teachers as they fill basins of water and set out vegetables for making soup — and woolen crafts — I honestly felt it to be so much a wish fulfilled (for me, I should say) — that I am currently grieving what I THOUGHT it was. I still read much about how students can certainly thrive there — how they can come out such well-rounded thinkers etc… but I suppose what I’m left with is that many of the tenets I like best about what I thought the school was — earth-centered, whole-child focused, kind and gentle — well this is something I do in my home — and we have the great privilege of being in a part of the world where we can connect to nature and immerse ourselves in it and we do — both for ourselves and our children — and I am left with the fact that I can take the elements of rituals tied to the seasons, connectedness etc. and integrate that into our lives without the rest. I’m still so perplexed why so many highly connected, successful people are choosing this for their children — I remember reading this article in the New York Times last year when we began in the toddler class and I felt somehow vindicated in our choice — my fears calmed: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silicon-valley-technology-can-wait.html?pagewanted=all

    Let me say again that I really appreciate your quick responses and thoughtful dialogue — this seems one of the rare places where you really are engaging all sides in a reasoned and civilized debate.

    I’ve put you on my reader so I’m interested to follow along here,

    Best,

    Wordgirl

  76. Hi Wordgirl, Clearly, this is an important and sensitive, yet wonderful time for you all. Very best wishes. Many years ago, I had the task of choosing between a local state school and a Waldorf School.

  77. Wordgirl,

    I have been a regular teacher at a Waldorf school some years ago, for a few months only. I had the opportunity, too, to meet other members of the sect, outside the school. Initially, I was impressed by the aestetic environment and the ecology concern, too. I stll feel sorry for “what it could have been”, sorry for several people whom I appretiated. It took only weeks for me to experience the not-so-nice hidden aspects. I still cannot fully grasp how/why those of the people there whom I appretiated and still appretiate, how/why they remain (as far as I know).

    I think that the best explanation is that within a sect, any sect, what’s positive is very positive, and what’s negative is very negative. There must be a firm platform, firm reason, to stay, to be part of these large “ups and downs”. The only such a platform which remains viable is a genuine believe in what ever it is the sect — whatever sect — believs in. Own, from within comming, believe.

    I asked Alicia to bring forward the docs, which are not presented to presumtive parents, because the best advice I can give is: discover what it is about. See, if this is, if this ever can be, yours from within. You can start here:
    https://zooey.wordpress.com/2010/05/29/supervising-the-attacks/#comment-3058

    I cannot even imagine otherwise than for anyone, to leave own child in the care of a sect can only happen as a concequence — not prior to — having choosen the life within the sect.

  78. PS:

    Wordgirl, at the Waldorf school I was a part of for a while, I the non-orthodox who didn’t conform to the sect-psychology, I was the one without TV.

  79. hello Wordgirl,

    alfa is very kind and wise, it’s good to see her back here.

    I’m glad you’ve found this out now, because the dream is very alluring and hard to abandon. My sons were in Steiner (Waldorf) ed for five years. Leaving the kindergarten where the younger one was proved difficult, but outside the air was cleaner. We’d been lulled into a kind of stupor.

    There isn’t any reason to take a risk on this cult. You don’t need to be Good – just good enough.

  80. Thank you, Melanie.

    Wordgirl,

    as you are/were in the process of choosing between Waldorf and Montessori, you can try the following:

    sit down to Google and compair:

    do you find any (how many?) self-help sites for former Waldorf pupils/parents/teachers, and for former Montessori pupils/parents/teachers?

    do you find (after much detective work) some “Montessori-The Bee”? (The Bee, Mycroft, Excalibor, several other aliases, some of them making impression of belonging to a mother)

    do you find pages up and pages down in local papers, forums, websites of “wonderful!!!” AND “terrible!!!” for Waldorf resp. Montessori?

    (There is more work to do, but this above will take lots of time as it is.)

  81. Alfa: thanks for finding the old thread!

    As for attracting customers, I think they could be a lot more honest if they didn’t try to run more schools than there are families who really feel enthusiastic about both the schools and the ideas behind them. (That is, also, if they wanted to be honest, however, they don’t.)

    Wordgirl: ‘but then I’d read all of these rebuttals — which would dismiss those critical of Waldorf as histrionic — and then to find out that so many of those pieces were written by the same person’

    Haha! Yes. And it is common practice for this person to use many aliases…

    They all claim to ‘take what they want and leave the rest’… this is what you hear from waldorf schools, teachers and other waldorf proponents all around the world. Yet waldorf education is very static and very uniform. That wouldn’t be the case if people — also teachers and schools — truly made their individual choices.

    But I can really see what you’re looking for. You’re looking for something that fills the gaps that ordinary schools and kindergartens fail to fill. Because they do, to an extent, fail. And waldorf thrives (or attempts to thrive) on this failure.

    I think it is possible that some teachers don’t know much about the philosophy. In some cases, I’m sure it is so. In other cases, however, it’s more like they don’t want to show that they know or give you the information, because you’re already too inquisitive. You want to know things they’re reluctant to speak about, especially since they must notice you’re not the kind of parent they prefer — the one who falls blindly in love with their attractive offer. The parent who is so enchanted that there are no questions, just bliss and love! (They’re easier, these parents with rosy-coloured glasses. Of course, nobody would admit to falling for a school in such a manner, everybody wants to think they’re in charge… nonetheless, waldorf parents often fall in love and fail to see warning signals.)

    You’re quite right that many of the things — crafts, arts, contact with nature, traditions/rituals — can be implemented at home. And to replace at least some of the computer/television time with other activities doesn’t seem like a bad idea. I suppose a non-waldorf school offering some of this — and other aspects that parents think are attractive — would be an option lots of people would cherish. It would perhaps be more difficult — the reason anthroposophists ‘succeed’ is partly a result of ideological fanaticism.

    Alfa: ‘I still cannot fully grasp how/why those of the people there whom I appretiated and still appretiate, how/why they remain (as far as I know).’

    It’s difficult to understand. But even when people are unhappy (some aren’t), they remain. We remained for 9 years, despite tons of issues. It has a hold on people and people often have the wrong idea about the world outside — it seems more awful than it is, thus waldorf becomes the ‘only’ option, i e, what is conceived of as the least bad option of many bad options.

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