I know it’s fairly unattractive, not to say small-minded, to be the person who says I told you so. But I’m going to be that person now. Here. I told you so.

The effort to unite waldorf pedagogy and mainstream pedagogy in a state school in Germany has failed; the Waldorfbund has decided to revoke the right of the school to use the waldorf label. This is not the first time, but what’s interesting is that it’s been openly discussed. Here’s from an interview with Henning Kullak-Ublick in Zeit Online:

ZEIT ONLINE: Das darin besteht, einige Waldorfelemente an einer staatlichen Schule einzuführen. Warum ist das so schwer?

Kullak-Ublick: Es gab leider von Anfang an einen großen internen Widerstand. Auf der einen Seite wollte man sich gewisser Elemente bedienen, auf der anderen hat man sich von ihnen distanziert. Das ging schon bei der ersten Pressekonferenz los, als der Schulsenator Ties Rabesich ohne Not von Rudolf Steiner abgrenzte. Diese Ambivalenz blieb stilbildend. Waldorf wurde sukzessive rausgetrieben, bis wir irgendwann sagen mussten: So, das können wir jetzt nicht mehr Waldorf nennen.

ZEIT ONLINE: Sie hatten also Angst, dass die Marke verwässert.

Kullak-Ublick: Angst nicht, aber der Name Waldorf steht für eine pädagogische Philosophie, die man nicht beliebig uminterpretieren kann. Was wir davon in Wilhelmsburg umsetzen wollten, war ohnehin schon ein absolutes Waldorfminimalprogramm. Das haben wir akzeptiert. Aber auch dieses Minimum wurde in der Praxis zu oft gar nicht oder nur formal umgesetzt.

You see, here’s the thing. Every time, for years, when I said waldorf isn’t a random collection of cutesy things and cannot be just what you wish it to be — when I pointed this out to oftentimes mendacious teachers and usually dreamy-eyed parents — I was basically told I was an idiot. Waldorf is different everywhere. Nobody has to follow any rules or be anything they don’t wish to be. Waldorf teachers can take anything they like from anthroposophy. There’s no formula to be followed. It’s all so very individual! And so on.

I was the idiot, the one who supposedly made things up — tried to make things out as something they weren’t. I knew nothing, just as I supposedly can never know anything about anthroposophy. In trying to say that waldorf can actually be defined, explained and understood — that there is something to be said about what it is, a core that is somewhat constant, temporally and geographically — I was wrong and deserved being hit on the head by people who feel themselves towards their own personal “facts”. Because that’s where the problem was, really. It never had to do with the actual and factual situation but with spouting self-serving nonsense based upon emotional preferences.

It’s worth pointing out that neither Kullak-Ublick nor the Waldorfbund are more fundamentalist, die-hard anthroposophist or fossilised remains of some pre-historic era than those waldorf folks who deceive everyone including (quite often) themselves. Quite the opposite. Knowing what you are and what you do and what you’re talking about is necessary in order not to be fundamentalist.

I feel a certain glee, I must say. What about all those waldorf representatives who happily say that waldorf’s got virtually nothing to do with anthroposophy or Steiner anymore, those teachers who brag that they don’t even read Steiner and take no interest in anthroposophy — what about all of that in order to secure public funding or attract customers? What about all those attempts to wipe out what it is about, whether this cleaning operation is genuine ignorance or just for the sake of public relations?

When you distance yourself from Steiner and when you drive waldorf out of waldorf, there comes a point when the result can no longer be called waldorf. Waldorf isn’t something arbitrary. It’s not just a label that can contain anything you fancy. Just as I always used to say!