bill wood’s research and bristol steiner free school

The new Bristol Steiner Free School — applying for state-funding as a free school — made a claim on their website about the success of former Steiner students, referring to an Australian study. I wrote a post about the Bristol Steiner school a while ago. After a while, Joe Evans, who is involved in the school, named and also managed to locate the study, or a part of it, which you can find here, or via Joe Evans’s comment here. It’s a study by Bill Wood. It’s worth reading the old thread to find out more; it contains an interesting discussion not only about results and elusive research but about how this prospective Steiner free school, like so many others, does not succeed to present (or perhaps even figure out) its connection to anthroposophy. The folks at the Bristol Steiner school hade found their information about Wood’s study and its results from the Australian Steiner school association which made these claims in this document (see p 5):

This means that they claim significantly more Steiner students than mainstream students go on to higher studies.

Ulf Ärnström has read Bill Wood’s study, and has focused on the percentage of waldorf school students entering university compared with students from other schools. He writes in a comment:

Hello again Joe – and others interested in the truth of the claims of superiority of Mount Barker Waldorf School. You can easily check the figures for yourself in the link provided by Joe above.

Now if you could raise the percentage of pupils entering university from 14-16% to 44% it would be truly extraordinary. And that’s what Steiner Education Australia says in the report which Joe found here:

Fortunately for the Adelaide University which lends credibility to the report, that’s not what Bill Woods, the author, says. The figures are based on such an embarrassing misunderstanding it’s almost unbelievable. This is what Bill says:

” … the rate at which school-leavers entered university in South Australia during this period was approximately 40 percent.”

There are in fact percentages of approximately 14 and 16 percent mentioned elsewhere in the text, but intended for a completely different analysis, a “comparison of the ages of ex-MBWS students attending university and the ages of the wider university student cohort.”

So shouldn’t the Mount Baker school and Joe be happy that 4% more of their pupils enter university? I don’t think so. At least not until someone can show that the family background of their parents is comparable to mainstream schools. Usually Waldorf parents are better educated which means their children should be more successful academically. In the part of the report Joe managed to find, there is no data on this. Which also invalidates the figures about the better grades by those who entered the university doors.

I’m not saying Mount Barker is a bad or mediocre school. For all I know it could very well be a fabulous place of learning. And they are certainly not responsible for the lack of reading and mathematics skills of the author of the Steiner Education Australia text. I am saying that as far as I and Joe can know at the moment, we cannot even honestly testify that one single Waldorf school on the other side of the planet is better than mainstream schools.

And Joe, you and your friends in Bristol have even bigger problems than that. If you want to give parents and authorities an accurate and honest picture of the evaluations of Waldorf pedagogy, you should tell them something completely different. To make a long story short, there are no studies I am aware of which shows that Waldorf education is superior to mainstream education. Quite the opposite. The best so far, and the only one taking the influence of family background into account, is a Dutch doctoral dissertation by Hilde Steenbergen (2009). It clearly states that Waldorf is a bad choice if you care about reading, writing and math. Of course you might get something else from Waldorf pedagogy, but it seems you have to pay for that …

There are a few more things to say about this. With the Steiner students, the number 49% seems to include vocational studies too. I’m not sure if ‘vocational studies’ can be translated into ‘university studies’ straight off. Perhaps someone would enlighten us in the comments. At least, to be able to determine the true value of the claim, this has to be sorted out. Also, the number 49% (used in the Autralian document) appears to be wrong, and should be 44%, that is, 4 percentage points more students from the waldorf school attend university or vocational studies compared to students from other schools who go on to university.

MarkH also read the study and found that the claims that waldorf students do as well as other students, once they have entered university, might also be flawed. Mark writes:

Unfortunately, there’s a serious problem in the section on student grades once they’re at university, which I think invalidates your statement that ex-Waldorf students significantly out-perform their peers from other schools.

Woods considers the grades obtained by the entire cohort of ex-Mount Barker Waldorf School students, who attended 3 different universities: The University of Adelaide, The University of South Australia and Flinders University. His control group consists of students from only the University of Adelaide. Now, UoA is a very distinguished institution in the equivalent of the US Ivy League or the upper reaches of the UK Russell group. The other two universities… aren’t in the same league. Is it possible that courses are less demanding there than at UoA? Could it be easier to obtain higher grades? Woods doesn’t take this possibility into account at all.

If I were examining Woods’ thesis, based on this extract alone, I’d be tempted to fail him.

Mark’s comment is particularly relevant, since one of the claims Bristol Steiner school makes, based upon Wood’s study, is that ‘students who had been at Steiner/Waldorf schools […] significantly outperformed their peers from other schools’. This claim seems questionable.

This is, of course, by no means an exhaustive coverage of Bill Wood’s research. But it’s an indication that perhaps the Bristol Steiner school and others who might feel inclined to make similar claims should investigate these matters further. To attract parents to one’s school based upon a possible misrepresentation of research results is not the best idea. And everyone should always be wary when Steiner schools present research that supposedly shows glowing results for Steiner education (even worse when they do it without providing any references or when the study in question is almost impossible to locate). Sometimes they haven’t even read the research themselves, as was evidently the case with Bristol Steiner school, regardless of whether their appreciation of Bill Wood’s work was right or wrong.

‘a different class’ (on steiner education in the guardian)

There’s a new article about Steiner education in The Guardian and I’m sure everybody has read it and is talking about it already. On the upside, some negative sides of waldorf schools are mentioned. On the downside, the article is pretty lame, as though the guardian of the newspaper threshold had been preventing a decent job on this topic. The comment section is only for the brave, those of you who can stand a certain amount of stupidity. Apparently, the waldorf drones have been brought out in daylight, to submit positive comments that reek of advertisement brochures. (Tell me, how can a parent who investigated Steiner education 20 years ago, and then decided not to go there, still regurgitate all the right buzzwords?)

Jeevan Vasagar starts out the article by presenting to the readers a picturesque portrait of the Hereford Steiner academy. Trevor Mepham, the academy’s principal, talks about common sense, curiously enough, and about vitality and twinkling eyes. As for mind-blowing wisdom, he proposes that the human being needs a ‘relationship with the natural world’. It’s difficult to understand why this would have to be obtained within the framework of Steiner education though. Or why people would be willing to compromise a good education to obtain, for their children, a relationship with the natural world — as if you couldn’t have both. Of course, Trevor Mepham thinks waldorf education offers both. Critics would say he’s wrong — perhaps even that it offers neither a meaningful contact with the natural world nor a good education.

Among the good things about the article is the space given to waldorf school science teaching and the findings of Mark Hayes, who has read a book on the Steiner science curriculum. One that, moreover, was recommended to him by the movement itself.

Darwinism, the book notes, is “rooted in reductionist thinking and Victorian ethics”, while homeopathy is given as an example of “an effect that cannot be explained”. A typical passage on biology reads: “A reductionist biology which states or implies that the human body is a machine … is not one which nourishes the adolescent’s deepest concerns. The current theories are just that – theories. They have not been in existence long and though presented as ‘truth’ they will inevitably change.”

Mark is right to point out that anthroposophy is the basis of the education. This, of course, should have been the focus of Trevor Mepham’s lyrical exposition, but waldorf proponents frequently leave that side of it out. Better, they think, to talk generally about sufficiently nice but rather unspecified things, and let the parents make their own interpretations to suit their own minds, than to spell it out: anthroposophy. Jeevan Vasagar also makes his own interpretation, one which suggests that maybe he’s not too familiar with how, when and why anthroposophy influences Steiner education:

There’s little evidence of this philosophical backdrop [ie, anthroposophy /a] in the Herefordshire school’s everyday life, however.

Perhaps, I conclude, he just doesn’t know what to look for. (Perhaps he didn’t really get access to all aspects of the school’s everyday life, either.) He continues:

It’s clear from talking to the pupils that they don’t regard Steiner as a religious movement.

This, of course, comes as no surprise whatsoever. Their parents and teachers don’t regard the school as a religious/spiritual movement — at least not in public, even if they are anthroposophists. So why would the children do that, and especially children who may not even have heard much about anthroposophy? You see, that’s just not how it works. Steiner schools don’t ‘preach’ anthroposophy (if they did, I’m sure people would be less deluded and more capable of making decisions not regretted later). They work with anthroposophy as their foundation and immerse children in an anthroposophically ‘appropriate’ environment. That’s the point of it. What you get from talking to the children is a consequence of this approach. That they don’t recognize Steiner education, or even anthroposophy, as a religious/spiritual movement is all par for the course — it’s supposed to be that way.

Another highlight is, of course, the presence of Melanie Byng (woof!).

She feels embarrassed to admit that the aesthetic was part of the appeal. “An ordinary nursery seems messy, crowded, full of plastic. In a Steiner kindergarten, they use natural materials – wood, wool, everything very neatly and pleasingly arranged.”

But the academic part of the experience showed itself to be quite a disappointment, she says. I think not a few parents have discovered the same. And it isn’t embarrassing to fall for the aesthetic part. Even I could do that, and I should know better. Ironically, going back to the beginning of the article and looking at what Vasagar writes, one gets the impression he’s falling, at least a little, for the same things.

Vasagar’s lack of real insight shows most spectacularly, however, when he writes that ‘eurhythmy‘ is ‘a Steiner exercise involving stretching and hopping to music.’ Stretching and hopping to music, well, that’s a description that could work for comical purposes (perhaps), but as information it’s simply pathetic and entirely inadequate. He ends the article by saying:

But it’s not just a matter of attractive wooden furnishings and organic food – Steiner schools offer a radically different take on the world.

They do indeed ‘offer a radically different take on the world.’ What a pity that The Guardian fails to tell us much at all about that take on the world. Because an account of what that ‘take on the world’ entails would have been truly interesting and informative.


Read also the BHA’s comment on the article.

‘schools of pseudoscience’

Steiner education poses as great a threat to children’s science education as creationist schools, it is claimed in a letter to The Observer this morning:

‘However, not enough attention has been paid to two equally grave threats to science education, namely Maharishi and Steiner schools. Maharishi schools follow the educational methods of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, guru of the transcendental meditation movement, while Steiner education is based on an esoteric/occultist movement called anthroposophy, founded by Austrian mystic Rudolf Steiner (“Holistic unit will ‘tarnish’ Aberdeen University reputation“). […] Anthroposophy is centred on beliefs in karma, reincarnation and advancing children’s connection to the spirit world.’

Perhaps this little push will at least help journalists and even the Steiner schools themselves to present Steiner more honestly. No, he wasn’t simply a scientist, philosopher and educationalist. He was indeed a mystic who founded an esoteric, spiritual movement, and the waldorf school movement came into being as a part of this anthroposophical movement and based its methods upon its founder’s anthroposophical ideas. It’s not always easy for people outside the movement to know what is actually taught as science in these schools. This post is worth reading again, too. Should someone want to explore the waldorf/steiner from waldorf/steiner proponents themselves, this little book is potentially of some use, though I fear it gives a far more reasonable picture than reality.

perhaps not entirely honest (about bristol steiner free school)

One of the prospective Steiner free schools, Bristol Steiner Free School, offers this presentation of Steiner education. To begin with, they neglect to present Steiner himself in an honest way which would shed light on who he was and what he accomplished not as an academic but as a founder and leader of an esoteric movement.

The school boasts about ‘joy in learning’ and ‘experienc[ing] the richness of childhood’; one can argue that these are misleading claims, or, in any case, that waldorf education does not set itself apart in this regard. But I will focus on a few other aspects of the presentation. This is a particularly bold claim:

The Steiner curriculum is a flexible and adaptable set of pedagogical guidelines.

For a type of education that has looked pretty much the same for 90 years, that shuns development and new ideas, that avoids to bring in anything modern (including technological aids), the statement would be surprising, were it entirely honest. An education which, many decades later, diligently follows the advice and ‘indications’ presented by its founder, Rudolf Steiner, the ideas about child development put forth by anthroposophy (more or less considered immutable truths, as far as education is concerned; at least, so-called spiritual science is not doing anything much to improve on or modify these ideas) and is ultimately governed by the anthroposophical movement (which, on the whole, has not proven itself to be particularly flexible and adaptable). Moreover, whatever the Bristol Steiner Free School claims, there’s not much room in waldorf education for flexibility and adaptability concerning the education of the individual child. The education is for the most part a collective experience — the children all do the same thing, at the same time, at the same pace. For example, there are no text books, so all students are supposed to copy the subject matter at the same pace from the blackboard and be able to follow the teacher’s instructions, given verbally and collectively. But these are just examples. The school explains: ‘Whole class, mixed ability teaching is the norm’. What that means, in this context, I do not know.

Let’s continue to another bold claim, no, an audacious claim.

‘… Steiner schools have an enviable reputation for imbuing an ethos of intellectual curiosity, motivation, creativity and self-expression.’

Is that so? Not only a reputation, but an ‘enviable’ one. I agree that some former waldorf students are capable of self-expression, but having seen some others express themselves, my respect, over all, is quite weak. The claim about the ‘ethos of intellectual curiosity’ leaves me quite baffled. What does the Steiner school offer to back up this ‘enviable reputation’?

For example, an Australian study comparing the academic performance of students at university level found that students who had been at Steiner/Waldorf schools (the terms are interchangeable – the Waldorf School was the first school run according to Steiner’s educational principles) significantly outperformed their peers from other schools in both the humanities and the sciences.

So that’s another study — I haven’t read it, and first didn’t know what they were talking about.* They don’t offer a reference, so how are people going to know and how are they going to be able to check it out for themselves? Often with these studies, there is a lot to be said about methods, interpretation and, finally, the presentation of the results by the waldorf movement for promotional reasons, which is why providing a proper reference is paramount. In short, the research, upon closer inspection, is often found lacking rigour, it is flawed and interpreted dishonestly… and presented deceptively. As for this study, I don’t know it. (There are other studies. I’d like to recommend Ulf Ärnström’s comments in this thread, and here.) In general, good research on waldorf education is sorely lacking. In addition, they then claim that the ‘Steiner Academy Hereford has built a strong record of educational excellence within the state-funded sector’, a claim which is highly questionable. (Hereford and its results have been discussed in several places on the blog, for example here, there are relevant links to inspection documentation in that thread.)

The new free schools, they write

… can have a great deal more freedom in how they teach and in how they measure success.

This, of course, is what waldorf schools have always wanted. More money, less accountability. They want to teach their own curriculum, based upon anthroposophical ideas and ideals, and they want to control, inspect and evaluate their own work according to their own standards. The problem is — they should have to show that how they teach works and that they are successful first. Only then is it possible to discuss whether it is — academic results apart — a reasonable idea to state-funding of an education based upon an esoteric worldview. It might be, but the burden of proof is on the waldorf movement.

There’s an interesting FAQ as well, I thought perhaps we could discuss it, too, in the comments. If you want.


*As I was finishing this post, I got to see this post on Sune’s blog. I assume that’s the Australian study the Bristol School is talking about (why no reference?). I’ve not read it, but have come across Gidley’s name before. It would be interesting to hear if anyone knows about this study (viewpoints? links? criticism of it?). I’d caution you to take Sune’s post with an entire ocean of salt. As usual. I mentioned other studies and their flaws. But I guess Gidley’s study may be the exception to the rule — maybe this is the one?? If so, you’d still have to weigh it against the results from the other studies. Here’s an article by Gidley in the Waldorf Library (and here’s another selection of writings). She is, apparently, a waldorf school founder and waldorf school teacher, later turned academic, with 30 years total of waldorf experience. Interpret that as you will. That list of her articleswill probably seem a bit suspect to the skeptically inclined reader. Here’s Gidley’s PhD thesis: ‘EVOLVING EDUCATION: A Postformal-integral-planetary Gaze at the Evolution of Consciousness and the Educational Imperatives’. I like that: a postformal-integral-planetary gaze.

Addendum: no, it was another Australian study, not the one Sune mentions. See discussion thread.

money, pr, the free school applications and the swsf

From the Steiner Waldorf School Fellowship’s financial report:

We had a donation of £88,000 from the closure of Drayton Manor Trust. This money is with Hermes Trust and is out on loan to schools. Our trustees have agreed to leave it with Hermes Trust for the time and review annually. There is a year’s notice to withdraw this and the money can then be drawn down over five years. We also had donations from ASGB – £2,937.50 towards our PR work and a further £5,000 to help with Free School applications. Sturdy Edwards Insurance Company gave a donation of £400 and we had £416.46 from the closure of Johnshaven Kindergarten. We also received £15,861 from various Camphill Communities. We are grateful for those individuals who make regular donations to SWSF. [Emphasis added. /a]

The sum recieved from the Anthroposophical Society is not huge — £3000 for PR and the £5000 for free school applications. But one might still ask: why does the Anthroposophical Society pay for waldorf school PR and the free school applications (to obtain state-funding for the schools)? Why do anthroposophists have any interest in helping schools and organizations which want to distance themselves from Steiner and anthroposophy (there are many more examples of such behaviour)… were it not for the fact that the distancing itself is a PR move?

I think these donations prove — unsurprisingly — that anthroposophy and the Anthroposophical Society have an interest in Steiner education and its success (or the appearance of success) and also in obtaining state-funding for these schools.


bbc news on exeter steiner school

Free schools are one of the coalition government’s flagship policies, promising more freedom for teachers and more choice for parents.

We’ve been discussing the already existing Hereford Steiner Academy lately as well as the new Frome Steiner Academy that opens next autumn (if things go as planned). Today, BBC News has an article about a possible state-funded Steiner school in Exeter. The quote above is from that article. The ship of fools has been borrowed from wikipedia. (I don’t know what made me think of it. Ships, flagships, et c. Wasn’t Hereford the Steiner movement’s flagship school? How’s it sailing? Well, I digress… Exeter, at least, has almost a seaside location. Just because one likes gnomes, doesn’t mean one has to get lost in the woods. One can set sail instead.)

Interestingly, the BBC article just so happens to sound much like an advertisement brochure written by SWSF. They quote someone, but it’s not apparent whom it is:

A Steiner education aims to provide equal attention to the “physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural and spiritual needs of each pupil” in a system “designed to work in harmony with the different phases of the child’s development”.

They also call Steiner an ‘educationalist’. There is more to it than him being an ‘educationalist’, really. And then:

Administrator Jenny Salmon said: “There are a lot of people in Exeter who would benefit from it but they can’t afford to come here.

They would benefit, she claims. Does she know? How?

“I feel it is a fantastic education. One style of education does not suit everybody.”

I have no doubt Steiner proponents feel it’s a fantastic education. The question is if it really is. I don’t even need to say it isn’t — I just wonder why the media all to rarely seem to question statements like those.

The proposed school, which will prepare children for GCSEs, will be inspected by Ofsted, but will not follow the national curriculum.

Not by the SIS then? Prepare for GCSEs, but there was at the same time another article, also BBC, which questioned how these academies handle the GCSEs. Steiner parents may be happy anyway — some of them, I’ve heard, have seemed prepared to let their children remain at home on days when tests have been administered. It would be interesting if the BBC asked a few more hows and whys.

hereford steiner academy and the software ag stiftung

Hereford Steiner Academy is the first — and still the only — state-funded Steiner school in the UK. It’s situated in the small village of Much Dewchurch in Herefordshire. The school is, in fact, bigger than the entire village. For the Steiner school movement, establishing and receiving funding for one Steiner school is a big step — it gives an indication that further funding, of more Steiner schools, is an open option. And it shows there’s a possibility to gain free school status for several more — or even all — Steiner schools. In short, the Hereford Steiner Academy signified hope. The Hereford Steiner Academy had to be a pioneer, and it had to be successful (how successful it really is has been discussed in previous comment threads on this blog — from the inspection reports, it turns out, maybe not so).

In an old article in TES, tweeted by @lovelyhorse_ this morning, it is told that the Steiner Waldorf School Fellowship has received money from two private donors:

The Steiner fellowship has raised nearly a million for the project from two sponsors – a parent and a German software firm. The rest will come from the Government.

(In fact, it has turned out, a lot of money; not just for the education, but the school also asked for £ 16 million for their buildings. Some more info and arguments here.)

One might ask why a German software firm wants to invest money in a Steiner school in the UK. One might ask why, were it not already apparent. The software firm is the Software AG in which the Software AG Stiftung (the foundation) holds shares. This foundation is well-known for donating money to various anthroposophical enterprises and causes. The company was founded by Peter Schnell, an anthroposophist, who is still active in the foundation’s board of directors. There’s nothing peculiar about anthroposophists wanting to establish a foundation to further anthroposophical projects, of course. There’s no reason for them not to. And this foundation sits on a lot of money; in 2008, almost £ 700 million. In that year (the Hereford Academy was established in 2008, which is why I chose 2008 as an example), the foundation donated £ 7 million to educational causes alone. (Here you can read the annual report.)

The more interesting question is why the foundation is not mentioned by name in the UK documents. In Hereford Steiner Academy’s Expression of Interest (a form submitted to the government’s Department for Education), there’s only a reference to a donation by ‘Stiftung AG’ (which is just pure nonsense: it would be like saying there’s a donation from ‘ltd foundation’, and leaving out the actual name that distinguishes this legal entity from others, it’s name is Software AG Stiftung). The document reads:

The Steiner School Fellowship is the sponsor and they have found sponsorship monies from Stiftung AG, and a private donor with connections to Steiner schools.

Why does the SWSF not want — or is it just a mistake? difficult to know — to reveal the actual name of its donor? Is that because it would become apparent that strong anthroposophical interests are involved in the establishment of the first state-funded Steiner school in the UK, because it’s supposed to pave the way for further funding? The Software AG Stiftung is quite clear about its intentions; they see state-funded alternative education as a right that should be promoted. And they’re speaking about waldorf education, of course. The projects the foundation gives funding to are anthroposophical. Nothing wrong with that. But why does the SWSF not want to say so? Maybe because the organistion has done a lot to tone down the allegiance to anthroposophy. These are ‘just’ schools with a great pedagogy… nothing to do with odd, esoteric beliefs. Of course, if the SWSF was really thinking of rebutting Steiner or discarding of anthroposophy, then there’s no believable reason why they would be getting money from this foundation. Anyway, it doesn’t stop here.

If you then try to access the Hereford Academy’s funding agreement — an agreement between the academy and the Department of Education — you’ll soon notice something odd. If you look at the table of contents, there’s a reference to ‘Other relevant funding’ (on p 3). However, when you try to view the paragraphs in question (64-67), they’re simply not there. In fact, the entire page has been redacted, and the document jumps from page 19 to page 21. There is no page 20, where paragraphs 64 to 67 ought to appear. Apparently, the public is not supposed to see where the ‘Other relevant funding’ comes from. Why is this information not public? It does not seem to be something to keep confidential. So what if a wealthy German foundation donated money for an anthroposophical cause? So what? If the private donor (said to be a parent, and a person with connections to the movement) had legitimate reason to demand privacy, the same cannot be said to apply to the Software AG Stiftung. Actually, I don’t see why the Software AG Stiftung would not be proud to have helped established the first state-funded Steiner Academy in the UK. But perhaps the SWSF is embarrassed. Perhaps it doesn’t want to be asked the question: why does this German foundation show such an interest in British education?

(Neither the website of the SWSF itself, nor the website of the Hereford Steiner Academy, mentions the Software AG Stiftung. It would seem as though they don’t want to credit the foundation.)


Edit: It hit me when I read the funding agreement that Annex 1 (of 6) was missing (5 and 6 are also missing). I was just sent an email about something called Annex A, which I presume might be the same as Annex 1. Quote p 1 in the funding agreement: ‘Whilst releasing the majority of the Funding Agreement will further the public understanding of Academies. The whole of the Funding Agreement cannot be revealed. If Annex A was to be revealed under the FOI act, DCSFs’ commercial interest would be prejudiced, which could result in the less effective use of public money.’ [Removed emphasis. /a] I wonder if any formal decision has been made to withold p 20, sections 62-67 in the agreement document itself as well? Where is it, if so? On what grounds was it made, is perhaps an even more interesting question. (Edit, again: sorry for previous misquote, the document does not allow copy-paste.)

hello leeds!

Leeds Steiner school has written a letter to the city of Leeds. One reason for the letter is that the school hopes to secure public funding in the future and hopes for Leeds to support it in its striving. The Steiner free school in Frome as well as (before that) the Hereford Steiner academy have met local opposition. Presumably, it’s wise of Leeds to tackle this head on. (I assume the school is reapplying to become a state-funded free school, perhaps the blog readers can enlighten us.) I’m not a Leeds local, not even a Brit, but I thought I’d reply to Leeds Steiner school’s letter anyway. Because I can. And because I noticed how they avoid using that dreadful and scary a-word.

A Steiner school in the heart of our city would offer us […] a new and special partner in pedagogical excellence.

Do we know that? Do the Steiner schools have a record of pedagogical excellence? I didn’t know. How come, then, they need their own inspectors? If there’s excellence, surely any inspector would see it — without carrying Steiner-coloured glasses.

… Steiner offers answers to most of the issues that mainstream education has been struggling with …

That seems highly unlikely somehow.

Steiner education is a fully formed philosophy education and long experience of delivering education.

What does this mean? It’s a ‘philosophy education’?

It is founded on the idea of community and of communication.

No, it’s founded on the idea of anthroposophy. That’s the idea. That’s the point. That’s the reason it exists.

… children have benefited from the deep understanding of child development that Steiner education brings.

Again, this ‘understanding’ is the anthroposophical understanding of child development. It’s deep. If you buy it. It’s deep enough to drown in. If you’re not a good swimmer.

There is a constant connection to the rhythms of the world outside of the kindergarten, the changing seasons, the festivals and holidays.

Surprisingly, the seasons change for everyone. People celebrate festivals, there are holidays. These are aspects of normal life in the real world. Quite banal and unexciting as this seems, it’s actually true: there’s nothing exotic or unusual about seasons, festivals and holidays. Sure, these things can be fun and rewarding, but enjoyment of them is not limited to the waldorf/steiner community.

The world within the walls of the kindergarten are similarly a place of routine, where children can feel secure in the patterns that are created by the day’s structure, whilst at the same time progressing at a pace that is consistent with their needs.

Consistent with their needs… according to what anthroposophy teaches about children’s needs. This is essential. Leaving it out is deceptive. Stop deceiving, or you don’t deserve the support of the people of Leeds.

Personalisation is implicit in Steiner. […] Based on 7 year cycles, Steiner recognises distinct stages that a child must navigate and that we all too often stifle in our education system.

Exactly. Steiner. Now we’re getting there, talking about Steiner is a step in the right direction. Just make sure you’re always explicit about this; and, also, make sure you don’t forget that very important a-word.

What does ‘personalisation’ mean? And how does it relate to what comes next: there are stages — neatly ordered in 7-year cycles — that a child must navigate. Is this personalisation? And has it occurred to you that, in the process of implementing anthroposophical teachings about stages the child must go through, you’re stifling something else instead? That, perhaps, you even suffocate some children’s personalities when you try to squeeze them into your preordained stages, your schedule, your methods, your understanding of how things ought to be (but aren’t, in reality, because children are individual human beings)?

In Steiner we do not start formal learning until the age of 6 but learning certainly takes place.

You start it as late as you can get away with. Thus, when you start it varies from country to country. Always seeking exemptions.

Children learn to use their hands and their bodies with confidence, their minds through sharing and observation and exchange their own ideas whilst listening respectfully to others.

This is something you dreamt?

Each time we ask our teachers to sit our children down to learn to read and write at 4 and 5 years old we are dismissing the children’s instincts to get up and find out for themselves and we lead them to the disengagement that I and so many others are powerless to reverse …

What do you think happens when you’re dismissing children’s instincts to want to learn to read and write at 4 or 5? Some children do want exactly that, whether you believe it or not. But, right, I forgot, books are not natural. So it’s ok to stifle that impulse. But I can tell you one thing: reading and writing does not lead to disengagement, and instead of trying to find ways not to present the opportunity to children — in some cases even actively discouraging children from engaging in these activities — you should do everything to ensure they have a choice, lest they be disengaged and, eventually, begin to find all education boring, because it doesn’t stimulate their intellectual needs (the ones you deny exist).

… Steiner’s holistic approach demands attention.

No. Not if it doesn’t meet the needs of the individual child. All it taught me was to day-dream. To imagine I was elsewhere. To avoid the perpetual boredom.

Where Synthetic Phonics insists on using Visual, Aural and Kinaesthetic prompts to aid learning (adopting the multiple intelligences principles) Steiner, uses rhyme and rhythm in song and dance and thereby nurtures memory of language and number, through pleasurable activities that are inherent human impulses.

Pleasurable? Why is any of that more pleasurable than learning to read a book or do maths on a piece of paper? I just don’t get it. Maybe the singing and clapping and dancing just don’t make any sense to some children? How do you plan to handle the needs of these children so that they too find their time in school stimulating?

When we arrive at formal learning, Steiner has laid foundations of communication in its insistence on the speaking and listening imperative that we are ‘grafting on’ in mainstream education.

Blah blah blah? What is this supposed to mean? The ‘insistence on the speaking and listening imperative’, eh? Is this supposed to be good?

There is an emphasis on oral repetitions of stories and when we arrive at the curriculum we move through literature with genre following the child’s developmental arc; fairytale>fable>bible>myths, thereby also accessing a ‘classical’ arc.

Developmental, according to anthroposophical ideas about development.

Children learn to write using their own words …

No, they learn it copying the words and texts the teacher writes on the blackboard. To pretend anything else is plain silly.

The process is wholly organic.

Is this… what? Holistic, organic, well… what are these words supposed to mean? And why does mainstream education not seem to need them? Strangely, the same words are used to sell vegetables.

Steiner has no need to revise its attitude to technology, as current government advice suggests.

No, why on earth revise a silly attitude to something?

The Steiner philosophy teaches that the most important tool a child has is their own mind …

and then tries to persuade the child not to use it too much or at all. Because it’s much better to delay intellectual development and do eurythmy instead.

We move seamlessly into History, which is taught in a linear way …

Yes, but it’s old myths taught as history. Old myths are good and interesting. But they aren’t actual historical records; they belong to the history of beliefs, the history of religion, of literature. Fine. But don’t get things mixed up. Be clear on what you’re teaching. (Perhaps one or several of this blog’s readers would like to remind Leeds of what is sometimes taught as history in waldorf schools…?)

Steiner has a determination of global responsibility that encompasses languages other than English …

A global responsibility that stretches all the way to the German language. Because, oddly, since Steiner was German, all waldorf school students — apart from those who already live in German-speaking nations — learn German as their first foreign language. Steiner’s global responsibility was, in fact, German-centered and, well, not all that global, come to think of it. Though he kind of would have liked things German to gain global importance, I’m sure. (German is good. I like German a lot. I didn’t learn much German in waldorf though — despite having, for several years, a German teacher who was German!)

The abstractions that our children are asked to encounter at too early an age in mainstream education is something that many of our children fail to negotiate.

Eurythmy is another thing many children ‘fail to negotiate’. However, that does not seem to stop Steiner schools from using it in education.

Leeds is one of 5 major cities in this country. It should be at the heart of educational excellence.

And Steiner education is taking it there? That certainly remains to be seen and until I’ve seen it I remain skeptical. Has Steiner education ever taken a city, a village or even a small community to educational excellence? Show me.

‘holy awe before the task and reverence for the child’s pre-earthly life’

Continuing on the topic of previous posts (the UK situation), I located, on my computer, some notes from a meeting that took place at the anthroposophical Crossfields Institute in 2008.* Many prominent waldorf educators, teacher trainers and officials working in the Steiner organisations attended. Among them Christopher Clouder, Kevin Avison, Jeremy Smith.

Christopher Houghton Budd is said to have given an ardent speech; looking at the summary, I can vividly imagine that. Here are a few points from it:

Are teachers clear enough about the place of the Pedagogical Section?

He means the one associated with the School of Spiritual Science.

The state has no business in education, and if we had a professional association that was self-defining and self-administrating, then there would be no need for the state.


The two issues of accreditation and financing should never be linked, for example when the state makes funding conditional on a particular curriculum.

He concluded his talk with an emphatic question regarding state funding: Is it right for a state to collectively collect tax and selectively distribute it?

Indeed, what he is saying is that the state has a duty to pay, but should not require anything in return for the financial investment. Is it right, I wonder, to ask the tax-payers to pay if the service provided is of little value? Should the state just blindly pay for whatever people want? I guess the answer, in this case, is a resounding yes. But this does not mean we shouldn’t ask the questions. (By the way, this is what many waldorf organisations and proponents in all countries feel — and sometimes express. We should at least be thankful when they do express it clearly. Even if I personally can’t agree with what they want.)

John Burnett spoke too; claiming, among other things, that we’re ‘stepping into post-modern uncertainty’. Trevor Mepham (Steiner Hereford Academy, nowadays — note that this meeting took place before the Hereford Academy had secured state funding or just around that time) spoke too, about teacher training and accreditation of teacher training and such things.

In essence, it is mostly about planning, recording and paperwork! They do not mention the children or the teachers as learners; there is no emphasis on ‘soft skills’ (i.e. reflection), or consideration of how a child learns and grows.

No consideration for… how the child learns and grows according to anthroposophy? No reflection? Well, now, the state of modern education sure is dire.

Mepham then finds guidance in Steiner (which is hardly surprising and, given the context, understandable… and I’m much happier when this guidance is stated explicitly). What teachers need, among other things, is:

Holy awe before the task and reverence for the child’s pre-earthly life

Moving away from Mepham, other issues listed as having been on the agenda during the meeting included:

Inspiration from the original source – Rudolf Steiner


How do we combine the esoteric background underpinning Waldorf theory and practice with the prevailing academic, economic and exoteric culture of contemporary society?


Referencing anthroposophy

Later in the document, anthroposophy is also mentioned, for example in regard to training of teachers (a ‘body’ for ‘quality control’ of anthroposophical education needed). Interesting document, overall. But it should make people think.


* I don’t know if it’s available online, but you might try to search for: A Summary of the Steiner Waldorf Teacher Training Meeting – from a personal and organisational perspective 28 August 2008 11:00am – 4:30pm at Crossfields Institute’. Edit: I was too lazy, but my readers aren’t (thank Dog!), so here it is: pdf.

‘no anthroposophy, no steiner values’

This is a tricky one. My first reaction was: there are two alternative interpretations here, either the people at Leeds Steiner school don’t know what they’re doing or they’re trying to mislead or deceive the public. Neither alternative reflects very well on Leeds Steiner school, which is a member of the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF). But… and there is a but: the question asked provided the school with a cop-out. As everybody knows, waldorf schools claim they don’t teach the children anthroposophy or the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. This is a ‘truth’ worth discussing though. Sometimes what Steiner taught his anthroposophists is actually taught to waldorf school children. The teachers study Steiner’s work when they study to become teachers. (We’ve recently talked about history education and the culture epochs on an other blog thread; one might reasonably ask if this is not a school subject where the ‘facts’ of anthroposophy seep through to the students in a direct manner. And, in any case, teaching a subject such as eurythmy is to teach anthroposophy. What else would it be?) This said, anthroposophy is always indirectly present. Let me get to that.

But here’s the question that left Leeds Steiner school with the opportunity to exclaim ‘No anthroposophy, no Steiner values’:

First, no they won’t teach the national curriculum, they have their own Steiner curriculum. Second, here’s the problem. Steiner schools claim they don’t teach anthroposophy to students and, of course, if someone asks if they will be ‘teaching anthroposophy’, it’s pretty easy to deny it (and hope there won’t be any more questions). This does not mean that anthroposophy is not the foundation of the entire school down to every detail of the curriculum. This in no way implies the school isn’t immersed in anthroposophy. But Steiner schools aren’t supposed to teach anthroposophy; I think even Steiner was clear on that: the tenets of anthroposophy weren’t to be taught… but he doesn’t object to teaching some of the ‘facts’ derived from ‘spiritual research’ and waldorf schools have done so in the past and will most likely continue to do this (or at least they’re unable to distinguish between scientifically established facts and spiritual fancies and thus getting things mixed up due to ignorance).

All this means is basically that waldorf school teachers won’t stand in front of their classes giving lessons on anthroposophy. It’s more likely anthroposophy will never be mentioned, but still have a huge, though less direct, influence on everything that happens in the school, from the subjects that are taught, how they’re taught, when they’re taught to how teachers interact with students to the traditions and rituals that are observed. But anthroposophy won’t normally be talked about. (Given the influence it has, I think it should be talked about. The children, at least when they’re older, deserve to know about it, in a direct way, in order to help them make some sense of what they’ve experienced.)

This, unfortunately, means that Leeds Steiner school probably felt honest and upfront about the answer, even though it is, in effect, an answer with a potential to mislead. The reason is that people are possibly unaware that there exist, in this context, some welcome opportunities for waldorf schools to deny teaching anthroposophy while still operating fully according to anthroposophical beliefs and adhering strictly to ‘Steiner values’. As they should do, if they want the label ‘Steiner’.

Sometimes it appears as though, when speaking or writing publicly, Steiner schools would rather denounce Steiner and anthroposophy. They’d rather not be too tightly associated with Steiner’s name or with anthroposophy, even though they really should thank anthroposophy and Steiner, without whom they would just be… schools, and probably not very interesting ones at that. (Even the SWSF has wished to ‘rebut’ Steiner.)

I would seriously want to ask a school like the Leeds Steiner school why they’re so happy to announce their lack of committment to anthroposophy and Steiner values — if this is what they’re doing in the reply to Jan; certainly they don’t seem too eager to expand on their actual association with anthroposophy and we’ve certainly seen similar behaviour from other schools and waldorf proponents –, when, in fact, they’ve chosen to use the name ‘Steiner’ and when they’ve chosen to belong to the Steiner movement. Because, actually, Steiner, waldorf and anthroposophy are not concepts without content. They mean something, and choosing such a school (or avoiding it) is a decision based upon what these schools are. Well, at least — that is how it should be. But waldorf schools are sadly all too happy enrolling the children of uninformed parents — and are constantly surprised when it turns out that parents are sometimes not all that happy when they find out more.

As said, Leeds Steiner school is a member of the SWSF. This means the school has to adhere to the criteria set up by the SWSF.

SWSF, in turn, collaborates internationally. The anthroposophical movement’s pedagogical center is the pedagogical section at the Goetheanum, Dornach. The Hague Circle — now reportedly renamed the ‘International Forum’ — is one interesting entity to look at; The Hague Circle has held conferences on important topics, and I’d recommend Leeds Steiner school (and everyone else) to read more about this one, which is especially pertinent to the topic at hand here. SWSF’s membership criteria are perhaps a little less clear about anthroposophy than the Hague Circle is (see my earlier blog post for references). Nonetheless, the SWSF states that

Steiner Waldorf education centres are independent, self-administering bodies that have chosen to associate  in order to promote, advance & develop the method of education, founded upon Spiritual Scientific activity & study as indicated by Rudolf Steiner.

Further down SWSF lists some provisions, among them

a) There has been adequate preparation, including anthroposophical study,
b) An Anthroposophical impulse lies at the heart of planning for the school, including the Waldorf curriculum
c) A registered company with charitable status has been established which includes a wording to the effect that the purpose of the activity is to provide education based upon the principles of Rudolf Steiner (or similar)

On SWSF’s website’s main page, it is stated that the purpose of the association is ‘to safeguard the Steiner ethos’. This, too, actually means something. They’re not just random words we don’t need to take seriously. (By the way, the SWSF’s own description of Steiner waldorf education is lamentably inadequate.)

Leeds Steiner school ought not be so eager and happy to announce ‘no anthroposophy, no Steiner values’. Instead they should make a real effort to explain what exactly this means and to make sure to represent, openly and honestly, the role of anthroposophy in the school.

frome academy, update

The state funded Frome Steiner Academy has updated its description of Steiner education. They aim

… to help every child to fulfill his or her unique destiny …

This life or over multiple incarnations?

… for each individual to develop into a free, morally responsible and integrated person

Unlike other schools which aim to develop unfree, morally irresponsible and disintegrated persons.

The Steiner curriculum itself is well-tried and has a long–track record of successful outcomes

Oh. Is there any reliable research in this field?

[Steiner education] is based on a particular understanding of the stages of child development  …

That particular understanding is based upon anthroposophy. It has little to do with child development as it is normally understood. It is a different thing.

… according to the thinking of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner …

And spiritual leader and guru. Did they forget to say that? How convenient.

This determines not only when each subject within the broad curriculum is introduced, but also the method for delivery so that at all stages the learning can find a natural accord with the children.

It does indeed determine practically everything. But the ‘natural accord’ is more with anthroposophy’s doctrines than with the children.

The school’s ethos will draw on Dr Steiner’s work on child development; but it will neither promote or teach his wider philosophy which is known as “anthroposophy”.

Again, his work was on his spiritual teaching, anthroposophy, not on child development. Anthroposophy is immersed in every aspect of the school. To say it is not taught or promoted is just diverting attention from the important issue — it determines everything, it influences everything, Steiner education is anthroposophical. In fact, it would be preferable if they taught it openly. The children deserve to know what has determined their education and influenced their lives.

hereford academy’s visions

The first — and still the only — publicly funded Steiner school in the UK is the Hereford Steiner Academy. This is from a document entitled Report of the governors for the year ended 31st August 2010. It seems to be a statement of their vision:

To enable children to have a full experience of childhood that can nourish and develop their innate gifts and potentials, so that they may become responsible, free individuals who think clearly, observe perceptively and act considerately and constructively for the good of the world.
The ethos and educational activity in the Academy is informed by a developing body of work initiated by the scientist, philosopher and educator Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Essentially, the education is based on an understanding that each child develops through a sequence of physical, emotional and cognitive stages through an integrated approach to teaching and learning which emphasises the dual aspects of care and learning. Hence the curriculum content & materials and teaching methods relate to the age and developmental needs of the pupils. The teacher is guided by observing and understanding the nature of the growing child and accordingly responds to each child’s potential, emergent capacities and developing qualities with a belief that this education provides nourishment for the body, the soul and the spirit.

I can’t help but think they need to really explain a few words and concepts better, because this text paints an innocuous and deceptive picture. It’s filled with half-truths. Sure, if you know the Steiner texts and previous anthroposophical publications, you know a little about what they’re talking about. Lots of people don’t, however, and may make the wrong decision based upon reading this text and similar (they are by no means unusual). The Academy’s representatives need do be explicit about what they mean by ‘full experience of childhood’, child development and its stages (as envisioned by anthroposophy), ‘innate gifts and potentials’, ‘free individuals’, what’s ‘good’ for the world, what ‘relates to the age and developmental needs’, the teacher’s ‘observing and understanding’, what the ‘nature’ of the child is, ‘child’s potential, emergent capacities and developing qualities’, and, last but not least, ‘the body, the soul and the spirit’. The vision statement is totally inadequate — either you explain what you mean, or you can just as well leave it to everybody’s imagination. This wouldn’t be such a big thing, were it not for the fact that this text has to be interpreted in the light of anthroposophy, and everybody who supports the Steiner Academy ought to know exactly what this means. My hunch is that it isn’t unusual that they don’t. And the school, like most waldorf schools, is perfectly prepared not to be explicit about its foundation and its beliefs. Instead it serves us the usual fluff words that could be taken to mean just about anything — until you know the background of these words and concepts and can decipher them. Instead of talking broadly about child development and the nature of the child, they need to be explicit that their beliefs don’t coincide with mainstream beliefs about development and nature.

In this document, a new book is mentioned; it is about Steiner education and will be published in April by Routledge. See description here. Already in the title, we’re faced with a somewhat insidious assumption: that Steiner schools are ‘meeting the child’. It’s written by people involved in Steiner education, so I guess what is to be expected from it. Another assumption is that other school types can learn from waldorf; interestingly, waldorf educators rarely seem to think they may learn anything from others or from mainstream education. It’s usually more like this: they’re here to save the world and rescue childhood from these dreadful materialistic practices. Other schools should reform and become more like waldorf, while they never need to do anything differently at all. It makes me wonder: what about all those children for whom waldorf is a really bad fit? Why don’t waldorf ever talk about these children before failure is a fact? Then, and only then, does it suit waldorf to say: ‘Oh, but waldorf is not for everyone…’ What about the children waldorf schools can’t meet but who are still stuck in these schools?

Mary Jane Drummond and Sally Jenkinson are two of the authors who contribute. Here’s an earlier post on one of their projects. (Book cover image from Routledge.)

To return to the Hereford report:

The Academy works with the school doctor in order to gain advice and support for all the children who are moving from kindergarten into class 1.

An (anthroposophical, I assume) doctor is called upon to give advice about children who are to begin first grade. Why? Do medical doctors possess special pedagogical knowledge about school readiness?

Speaking of school doctors, parents who wish to enroll their children at the Hereford Academy have to sign an agreement. It’s called a ‘home-school agreement’ and can be downloaded from the school website. Assuming that the school doctor is an anthroposophical doctor, this should scare the hell out of any parent, because he or she would have to agree to:

Enabling my child to see the School Doctor at the Academy’s request and taking my child to any therapy sessions or special needs assessment required by the Academy. I understand this is necessary to support my child accessing the education and the teachers’ ability to meet his/her needs.

Not only will an anthroposophical doctor assess the child’s readiness to begin school (using anthroposophical knowledge to do so), he will also prescribe anthroposophical therapies. This means, e g, curative eurythmy and similar therapies with no real-world effects at all. Luckily, if the therapies are pure fantasy, so are most of the diagnoses made. (The school doctor in my school thought I would die soon. Presumably because my reincarnating spirit was gangrenous.) Another document (entitled Homeopathy Policy) from Hereford makes clear that homeopathy is used to ‘treat’ children.

Also among the things parents are required to agree to is this:

Protecting my/our child from unsuitable and unwarranted access to some of the concerns and worries of the adult world and from unmonitored exposure and un-mediated access to media such as television and DVD, computer games, internet chat-rooms and so on. Medical research shows that screen-based activity such as TV, videos, films and computer games can have a negative effect on children (brain activity, concentration, heart-beat, emotional balance and well-being). The younger the child, the greater the effect. For the well-being of your child and their ability to access the education and programme of teaching and learning, please allow no regular screen-based activity/watching for under 8s, no more than 3 hours a week for 9 to 14s and moderate and selective use for young people aged 15 and over. Please try to make sure TVs and computers are not kept in your child’s room so that his/her bedroom is free to be a place of rest and comfort. (Further reading ‘Remote Controlled’ by Dr Aric Sigman & ‘Toxic Childhood’ by Sue Palmer, amongst others)

I wonder if it is ok for a publicly funded school to interfere in this manner with a student’s home life? And is it really morally acceptable for an educational institution to spread unfounded and misleading junk? Clearly, the intention is to scare parents who don’t know better. Equally obvious is that what science says isn’t what informs waldorf school policies. They only refer to science when they think it reinforces their beliefs. And they will never acknowledge science which contradicts their beliefs. Thus they back up their convictions with stuff like Toxic Childhood. Besides — why can’t a TV in the bedroom offer comfort? (I don’t think it would be a bad idea at all for children who, like I was, are insomniacs.)

misinformation by the independent

From an old article in the Independent:

After the First World War, Steiner was denounced as a traitor to Germany for suggesting Upper Silesia should be granted independence – and the political theorist of the new National Socialist movement (Nazi party) claimed, mistakenly, that he was a Jew. He was the victim of a personal attack by Adolf Hitler, who called on other nationalist extremists to declare a “war against Steiner”. His health began to suffer and he died soon afterwards.

Astonishingly, this article was written by the education editor, Richard Garner. I can only speculate about the reasons; the article reads like a press-release from a waldorf/Steiner organization. Most surprising is the statement quoted above. It’s true that the leaders of the Anthroposophical Society went to some lengths to prove to the Nazi regime that Steiner was not jewish. This, however, was long after Steiner had died. There’s an embarrassing letter (English translation) written — a decade after Steiner’s death — by the Vorstand in Dornach to Adolf Hitler. Why did they do that? Why did they suck up to an immoral regime? Why did they even consider it appropriate to offer evidence of Steiner’s racial heritage? And to continue: Steiner was a victim of a personal attack by Hitler? He called on other nazis to ‘declare a “war against Steiner”‘? The nazis caused Steiner’s bad health, thus killed him? (Is that the implication?) I do wonder where the education editor gets his ‘facts’ from.

Now let’s try to understand why this pathetic piece of promotional junk was written in the first place. Evidently, the education editor left his critical thinking capacity at home that day. If he did any research for the article, it isn’t showing. It seems like he’s blindly repeating what somebody has fed him. It was written in 2007, and state funding for one Steiner school in the UK was about to become reality — the first one to receive state funding, i e, the Hereford Steiner Academy. When the article was published, it was still uncertain if the school would succeed getting what it wished for. It did, and is now the only state-funded Steiner school in the UK. Since then, lots of Steiner schools have asked for funding in the new free-school system; all the applications were turned down, it was reported not long ago.

Garner uncritically reproduces such nibbles of misinformation and delusional thinking as this one:

One teacher summed up the school as follows. A visiting teacher would say of Steiner: “‘Aren’t these the schools where children do what they like?’ The answer is: ‘No, they’re the schools where children like what they do.'”

Why is a journalist buying crap like this? It’s promotional junk, it’s of no value whatsoever as information, it won’t help people understand what these schools are. And it is utterly delusional for any one of the Steiner teachers to believe that Steiner schools are schools where children (all of them, presumably) like what they do. A majority of children hate eurythmy. How do these teachers account for that curiosity? — after all, eurythmy is unique to Steiner schools. And that quote is but an example! The article is a really shoddy case of journalism turned to mindless PR.

So why did Garner bring up the issue of anthroposophy under nazism? Why did he reproduce that misleading information? It seems to me like a preemptive strike — on behalf of the waldorf/Steiner organizations. They knew that the history of anthroposophy would rear its head sooner or later.

When Garner’s article was written, the situation was different than it is today (with the free-school reform underway now). One should ask what (or who) prompted him to write the article, and what that misinformation meant for the subsequent development. As far as I’m aware, the Hereford Academy is still a state-funded Steiner school, though it hasn’t been without trouble. What did politicians and journalists really know about Steiner education at that time, in 2007? How much of the information fed to them by waldorf/Steiner representatives did they swallow uncritically?