An account by a former Waldorf pupil of their treatment at school, including physical attacks which the teacher chose not to notice, reduced me to tears when I read it a few months ago.
Bullying is an issue which surfaces when ex- Waldorf pupils and parents speak out.
As has been described elsewhere, the teachers are guided by anthroposophy which, with its notions of “karma” provides a dubious framework for the way children are allowed to interact at school. (Their behaviour being seen as dependent on previous “incarnations”, and influential for the next).
To put oneself in the place of this victim, who has to live with the memories of such experiences in to adulthood, is difficult for someone like myself who had a reasonably happy experience at both primary and comprehensive schools.
To suffer at the hands of other children with no-one to intervene and no-one to turn to must be devastating for the person’s psychological well-being.
But what about the rest of the children in the school?
We know the effects of domestic violence on some children who grow up to see this kind of behaviour as normal family life. The cycle can repeat through the generations.
So this begs the question of how the children who witness unchecked bullying in their school are affected by the experience. Clearly the victim will be affected, but all the other children will see this kind of behaviour as something to be tolerated, even something normal.
Bullying is not only physical of course. The desire to make an individual suffer may be realised in more devious and imaginative ways. Much of the malicious and spiteful victimisation we see from time to time by people who think of themselves as “spiritual”, may be the result of having watched the way bullying is dealt with in a Waldorf Steiner school.
As a parent I can only imagine the horror of finding one’s own child has become a victim of bullies. Our role is to protect our children, and when they are at school this duty should be shouldered by the staff. From reading accounts, it seems those who control Waldorf schools somehow manage to convince parents that the fault lay with the child who was the victim, rather than with the policies of a school whose “guiding light” is anthroposophy.
We view with pity the plight of prisoners who have entered a life of crime after a childhood devoid of kindness, and with no guidance in how to treat others with respect.
Perhaps the experiences endured by children who have witnessed unchecked victimisation of individuals should also help us to view with more understanding the behaviour of those who later in life enjoy inflicting pain.