logs

Those are lovely birch logs outside a bakery — where you can get the best biodynamic bread, by the way — earlier this spring. I just liked the way the sun touches them. I have to apologize for lack of activity on the blog lately. I feel, at times, that I ought to just quit it altogether, as far as the waldorf steiner bit is concerned; I’m not sure it makes much sense to keep it up in the present form and I get the feeling that what I am doing — jumping between topics — is not what people reading this want and I’m not giving them the scathing stuff about waldorf they desire from me. The obvious solution is to just quit that part of it, instead of being burdened by it, when I can’t deliver or deliver the wrong things and let people down. To move on and go on writing about other things. I’d like to write more fiction. I’d like to write silly things. I still feel a relief I didn’t expect to feel from quitting doing anything related to the UK free school situation — maybe that is a sign. A sign I should quit more. I’m not sure what will happen with the blog though; it’s sadly restricted to topics related to anthroposophy and I, sadly too, seem unable to transform it into something else. Perhaps I’m not actually unable to do it, I just fear the consequences. When you have a niche, you’re supposed to stay true to that little corner of interest, aren’t you? And I’m not sure if it would make any difference were I to write more other things — I’m still categorized in that little box that says ‘waldorf critic’. I don’t like it. I’d like it if people enjoyed what I write because it’s useless rather than because it’s occasionally useful. Just for a change.

Or, in any case, I’d just like something fun to happen.

Why can’t something fun happen? Why does the world seem so empty?

I’ll try to think of something.

Unfortunately, I can’t even post any new photos because my computer is failing (no, I still haven’t got a new one, and am having decision related anxiety because of my indecision; I probably need both homeopathy and curative eurythmy at this point…). The camera is full of lovely pictures — I’m hoping — but they have to stay there because I have no back-up system in case the computer goes down. It’s all a big hassle really. I spent a night and a day on the island recently, digging a ditch and a hole in the palm of my hand. Still looks as though I’ve been crucified; if you lot were more superstitious, I’d try to convince you I was the new Judith von Halle. And with all the raining that this summer has consisted of, ditch-digging was an extraordinarily muddy affair, even on a very dry plot of land such as ours. The night was rainy too, and, in the little box of a house I’m using when I can’t stay in the big house (which is actually very small) it seemed as though we were trying to sleep inside a waterfall (mr Dog was highly suspicious; this is not right, he said). In the morning, I discovered I had missed watching a fight between swans — the sea by our beach was full of white feathers. So, you see, nothing is happening — nothing at all. Summer is freezing cold.

Well, I’ll try not to disturb you with more nonsense, for the time being. I’ll go back to browsing through and deciding on what to do with months old photos — deleting or saving? I’m deleting most — while trying to cure my headache. Despite the eye operation and new glasses that are always dirty (all that smudge — I hate it! hate it!), I don’t seem to be able to get rid of these damn headaches or the feeling that my vision is often blurry. The headaches neatly combine my fear of blindness and my fear of brain tumours. My karma, I guess.

32 thoughts on “logs

  1. My day job requires me to do quite a lot of negative campaigning – basically constructing arguments about why things shouldn’t happen, backed by as much evidence as possible, and carefully unpicking other people’s arguments about what they think should happen. So I have to say that I have some empathy with your position as a writer whose blog is based around being against something.
    In my own job I have started to wonder whether positive campaigning might not be more effective in the long run – focussing on what we do want and not on what we don’t want; working to persuade people of the merits of our vision not the failings of the visions of others.
    People do try and do things that I think are wrong – things that make me angry and that I would like to try and stop. But campaigning against things is a draining, negative business – endlessly having to build up a head of righteous indignation about what other people choose to do with their lives rather than putting my energies into the creative work of making the things that I believe in come to life.

  2. ‘basically constructing arguments about why things shouldn’t happen, backed by as much evidence as possible, and carefully unpicking other people’s arguments about what they think should happen’

    No evidence of you doing any of that here.

    ‘…your position as a writer whose blog is based around being against something.’

    that isn’t what this blog is about.

    Alicia isn’t in the UK, she isn’t a parent and she’s written about Waldorf schools and sometimes about English free schools because it interested her – to a certain extent the latter because her friends interest her. She’s never campaigned.

    It is positive, however, to defend what you love. ‘The defence of science and reason is the great imperative of our time’. You won’t be allowed to slip your hands into taxpayers’ pockets without facing scrutiny.

    You have several unanswered questions littered about the web, Joe Evans of the Bristol Steiner school. What a coy fellow you are.

  3. Alicia, I’m sorry I don’t have more time or – whatever it might be – ummph – to reply with anything substantively encouraging or optimistic, but I do hope you go on writing about whatever you feel like writing about. Who cares if the readership who wants scathing criticism of Waldorf education goes away? I too have pretty much run out of steam on that topic.

    The little bird, with its small scrap of something, among the tables and chairs is a terrific photo. It really seems to capture the mood of the post, and it captures my mood, which is bleak these days too.

  4. Run out of steam, yes. That’s how I feel about it. It’s a pity — by this time I feel I begin to know things. O t o h, perhaps that’s why some things become boring.

    I’ll be back later… I’m tired, almost got stuck in Järna. How’s that for living dangerously as a ‘waldorf critic’…!! (Note: that’s a joke. But it’s a strange place.)

  5. Thanks Melanie — that’s what I would say to Joe too. And, no, I’m not campaigning.

    As for negative vs positive campaigning — I have occasionally pointed out that it isn’t very attractive when waldorf schools or proponents obsess about how detrimental mainstream education is. Often they manage to flaunt their ignorance, too, in the process, which of course adds to the bad impression the negative focus gives you.

  6. glad you’re not stuck in Jarna!

    Everyone runs out of steam, but there are always new voices (unfortunately, because if Waldorf schools were honest with others and with themselves, there might not need to be). Having free schools in England will cause trouble for this movement. They have big plans – but there just won’t be the punters.

    I’m sorry your mood is bleak, Diana. I hope it lifts soon.

  7. It just has such an air of determination … “I’m little, but I’m still important. Let’s find something for breakfast.”

  8. … and as far as campaigning goes, what nonsense. Would anyone ever be able to stop something that is wrong by doing positive campaigning?

    Doing positive things is brilliant for PR. If you have a product to sell, be it Weleda arnica cremes or waldorf education, sure, being positive is a great thing. To be honest at the same time — even greater.

    But if we’re going to discuss why public funding of Steiner schools might be a bad idea, it just won’t do to engage in positive campaigning.

    And I point this out not because I’m campaigning or because I think it’s self-evident that no waldorf schools should ever receive tax funding (depending on the political and educational system, there may be room for it or not — provided the education meets the standards and doesn’t fail the kids, of course…), but because it’s so blatantly obvious. You *have to* point out why such a decision is bad, why it’s a risk and so forth. How on earth would positive campaigning even look?

    But, as for myself, I’ve only done this out of interest, during the last few years. And I’m not interested in ordinary education, so to do something positive about that — how boring! Believe me, though, *if* I were campaigning, I’ve missed *so many* chances of getting my voice heard!

  9. I think when Steiner supporters scold us that we should do something “positive,” all they really mean is talk about something ELSE. Leave them alone, stop talking about THEM. They wish that if we do not have anything good to say about Steiner/Waldorf, we should not say anything at all.

  10. Diana — I’ll send you a larger version of it, if you want, just tell me!

    He’s feasting on crumbles that people have dropped during the afternoon, so it’s his evening snack!

    You’re actually right it captures something of the mood of the post, although it didn’t occur to me when I posted it! (It was shot the same day as the birch logs…)

  11. Diana — yes, in most cases I think that’s the underlying desire on their behalf. They only need a way to say it that sounds, on the surface, reasonable.

  12. Thank you, I would love a larger version! I save many of your pictures even when I don’t comment – when you get famous, I want to be able to back up my claim that “I knew you when” :) I did already set this as my desktop background. I’ve been using a series of your “gates to nowhere” as my screen saver for awhile now. They make me wish I was wandering in a distant, gentle green place, stumbling across mysteries and ruins …

    I don’t know if it is my failing eyesight, or your aesthetic preferences (camera settings or angles), or the different qualities/cycles of the light in nothern Europe, but I apparently have a lot of trouble sorting out the time of day in your pictures. I definitely thought that picture was early morning, rather than evening. I was certain the bird was looking for breakfast.

  13. Ah, yes, the day I get famous!!

    ‘They make me wish I was wandering in a distant, gentle green place, stumbling across mysteries and ruins …’

    Exactly the kind of places I imagine myself wandering in… Of course, if you take snippets of mundane reality, you can almost create the right impression.

    Looking at that picture, I wouldn’t know if it’s a morning or evening picture either — it could very well have been a morning picture. I wish I was up early mornings more frequently… but I’m rarely out taking pictures then. Except on the island, but almost never in Stockholm.

    I’ll send you the bird!

  14. Alicia – on positive campaigning, I suppose what I mean is that regarding Steiner Schools, there are lots of parents in the UK – many of them with children at Steiner Schools – who like lots of the educational practices in Steiner Schools but have no interest in the history and the philosophy. So if someone were to use the Free School system to start a chain of schools that offered an alternative to mainstream schooling that took the most appealing and successful aspects of Steiner Schools but left behind the mysticism, substituting a more evidence-based approach, a great many parents would probably choose those schools instead of Steiner Schools. If it was done well enough, it would probably put a few Steiner Schools out of business.
    Now, I know that for all kinds of reasons, you’re not in a position to do that, but that’s what I’m talking about. And since no-one is doing that, and (we’ve been told) the Department of Education prefer to do business with Steiner Schools than untested independent schools in the Free School process, then people who are looking for an alternative to mainstream education will continue to work through the Steiner education movement, and you all will continue to get cross about it.
    Melanie – my presence here has always been to argue for what we in the Steiner Academy Bristol group (to use our new name) are trying to do. I haven’t come here to argue against anything. I don’t especially mind if you and others don’t like Steiner Schools, but I thought that it would be good to try and present the other side of the argument in as reasonable and friendly a manner as possible, because that’s just how I am.
    But I have, as you say, ‘left unanswered questions’ here, because I gave up arguing. It’s really a pretty futile argument – you guys think what you think, some other people think what they think, and meanwhile I’ve got a job, I’m doing the Free School project, I’m chair of a charity, I’ve got two children to look after and frankly life is too short. Which I took to be the underlying point of Alicia’s original post.

  15. ‘… there are lots of parents in the UK – many of them with children at Steiner Schools – who like lots of the educational practices in Steiner Schools but have no interest in the history and the philosophy.’

    I do, of course, know there are such parents. I think it’s silly! It’s as silly as leaving the ‘mysticism’ behind — many, if not actually all, of these practices that people desire have their foundation in this mysticism or are inspired by its ideas. Celebrate it and be happy about it. In some ways that would be, I think, more fruitful than trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. If what’s fruitful matters.

    ‘… people who are looking for an alternative to mainstream education will continue to work through the Steiner education movement, and you all will continue to get cross about it.’

    I don’t think I’m actually cross about it, but anyway… I’m not entirely sure why you’re not cross with the DfE and the Steiner movement and why the Steiner movement isn’t cross with you, as you don’t seem too fond of the ideas that carry their organisation!

    I have a feeling you either don’t know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, whom you’re co-operating with and where this is actually going to end. Or perhaps you do know, but for all sorts of reasons prefer not to seem too attached to anthroposophy.

    After all, some of these prospective free schools seem rather unrealistic in judging how many pupils they can attract, and this in fairly small towns. With the numbers I’ve seen for some schools (don’t remember if one of them was Bristol), it must be vital for them to attract mostly non-anthro parents.

  16. ‘But I have, as you say, ‘left unanswered questions’ here, because I gave up arguing’ no, Joe, it’s because it was too difficult.

    You’re either a fool or a liar, or both.

    Democratic ed trumps your claims – and you can have a democratic ethos in mainstream schools too, which is doubtless the best use of recourses. ‘Alternative ed’ is so often an expression of the narcissistic whims of parents. Dem ed is more challenging – it isn’t about you. All of this present nonsense is about you, not the children.

    There’s no such thing as Steiner lite. You’re very unlikely to get your school in Bristol because the DfE is shy of Steiner’s race doctrines – and you should know what you’re in by now, But you’re
    rattled, aren’t you? You’re not the first, Joe, in a long line of the Steiner movement’s useful idiots.

  17. Alicia writes: ‘I have a feeling you either don’t know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, whom you’re co-operating with and where this is actually going to end’

    Absolutely. But you keep coming back here, perhaps to justify the process to yourself. In case one of us has a paddle for your trip up shit creek.

  18. I’ve seen all this before. I’ve been part of a Steiner initiative – the same cast manifests. The parents are never in charge. The semi-darkness gathers and they soon find themselves lost – especially fathers. There’s a hierarchy, and one ex-parent told me he knew he was a long way down its ranks. This isn’t what a school should be about – this is an elaborate fantasy; a game for adults.

  19. The Steiner Academy Bristol has its own website, although I think it’s basically the same as before (discussed in an earlier post):

    http://steineracademybristol.org.uk

    Reading the FAQ, we learn that Steiner was ‘an Austrian writer, philosopher and educationalist’. No mention of anthroposophy.

    In the ‘about Steiner education’ section the Australian study is said to provide evidence that Steiner students ‘significantly outperformed their peers from other schools in both the humanities and the sciences.’ But at least the study is there to read for those who so wish. I think that to make the claim is quite questionable given the doubts raised in discussions — doubts which, considering that Joe has read the threads (even if he has decided not to respond!), are clearly known to the group behind the Bristol Academy. To give up arguing with critics (for whatever reason) is one thing, but one day someone might ask you to defend that claim on the website — perhaps some parent who begins to doubt whether his/her children will actually manage to significantly outperform students from other schools… and subsequently to doubt whether the study or other studies actually provide good evidence for that rather bold claim.

    And surely it’s one thing to debate such things on a website and with people who aren’t involved in this school as parents or even to justify them to yourself, and another to be faced with the task of justifiying the claim to one or many disappointed parents.

  20. Hello Joe,

    I hear what you’re saying about positive campaigning and life being short. However, when you come across something that is both very interesting and ethically dubious, it’s hard to just let it pass you by.

    “(we’ve been told) the Department of Education prefer to do business with Steiner Schools than untested independent schools in the Free School process”

    A few years ago the DfE wouldn’t meet with a Steiner school group without a representative of the SWSF being present. I don’t know if this is still the case, but it’s consistent with what you’re saying here. The SWSF have been lobbying the UK government on the subject of state funding for many years.

    You might not personally be too interested in anthroposophy, Joe. I don’t know, you haven’t really said. However, I have a suggestion for you. Why not be more explicit about its role in your free school proposal? Explain that the school will be an anthroposophical community, offering what you believe to be an excellent education but also with study groups for parents, a biodynamic garden and a resident anthroposophical doctor. (You may not be planning those things at the moment, but they are common features of Steiner schools.) I predict that it will have no effect on your demand. It may even attract more people. It will appeal to those who are looking for a community, those spiritually hungry wanderers. If the DfE will fund evangelical creationists…

    Why not? What have you got to lose? Will the SWSF let you do that?

  21. I have a vague recollection of Joe telling us that in the free school process it was irrelevant whether the school was steiner or not and that they could leave the label later. That the pedagogy and the affiliations were not important. Now the dfe only talks to swsf steiner schools.

    It’s in the old thread somewhere.

    I find this very remarkable. If this is true, it does make me wonder even more about dishonesty and so forth.

  22. Here’s the comment I was thinking of:
    https://zooey.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/perhaps-not-entirely-honest-about-bristol-steiner-free-school/#comment-16047

    ‘we will control our own school – how we teach, how we recruit, how we monitor and evaluate our work and so on. If we feel that our values are in danger of being compromised by being an ‘official’ part of the Steiner school movement, we can of course remove ‘Steiner’ from our name and carry on – it won’t affect our funding.’

    In another comment:
    https://zooey.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/perhaps-not-entirely-honest-about-bristol-steiner-free-school/#comment-16051

    ‘We can’t get money from the taxpayer just for being a Steiner school. We have to put together a detailed bid based on how we would run our school; if that’s approved, we get funded. If at any stage before or after approval we feel that membership of the SWSF would compromise our ability to run our school in the way that we had proposed, we are probably obliged to drop the Steiner branding; at any rate, our school’s funding would depend on our plan and not on the Steiner brand name.’

    Compare that to this in Joe’s comment above:

    ‘…the Department of Education prefer to do business with Steiner Schools than untested independent schools in the Free School process, then people who are looking for an alternative to mainstream education will continue to work through the Steiner education movement…’

    It does appear as though the funding depends not on the plan alone but, actually, on ‘the Steiner brand name’ because without it, you’d just be an ‘untested independent school’ the DfE wouldn’t want to ‘do business with’!

    I’m not sure what to believe — that the crowd behind the Bristol school is ignorant or that it’s disingeneously taking advantage of both the DfE and the brand name Steiner/waldorf… or a third alternative, that you’re thinking it’s easier to attract parents if perhaps the school is not really a true Steiner school although of course you, the swsf and the dfe all know it is, i e, you’re trying to eat the cake and have it too.

    I just don’t know, but I don’t think things add up.

  23. Many free school applications will be for “untested independent” schools in the wider sense. I think what Joe means is that if you’re claiming to have a Steiner ethos, the DfE would view sponsorship by the SWSF as beneficial and even a requirement. That may well make later rejection of their sponsorship a problem. Perhaps Joe could clarify.

    The SWSF do seem very hands-on with their brand management. All the state funded schools have taken the name “Steiner Academy X”. I note that the Frome and Exeter Academies will “neither promote nor teach [Steiner’s] wider philosophy, which is known as anthroposophy” according to their websites. The same form of words, the same party line. It’s a shame.

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