The Dutchman

Today I met a Dutchman – a member of the first class in anthroposophy, no less. I do not think he was a regular on the stall in town where they collect signatures for the new Free School.

The other two people knew the stock answer “we do not teach anthroposophy” , but this fellow, when asked why potential recruits were not being told about anthroposophy in any of the leaflets being distributed, explained helpfully;

“It is best not to tell people at the beginning – they might think it is a religion.”

Such obfuscation is of course not uncommon in the promotion of Steiner schools. It is rare to hear the real reason put into words however. I do hope parents may be learning some of the questions to ask about Waldorf now. Sometimes it is possible to get an honest answer, as I found out today.

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16 comments

  1. Stroudskeptic

    Researching the “first class”, such as the link you give above to the goetheanum website, is very instructive in shining a flashlight into the beliefs of the anthro core that they try to hide from both us, and their own outer circles. See http://www.sun-at-midnight.com/excerpts_search.page?search_for=first+class which also details the rest of the book “Sun at Midnight”. See also http://www.southerncrossreview.org/79/class-1-word.html for the english text of the first of RS’s “first class” lectures which he wanted to be kept secret and hidden. I am trying to fish out the other lectures from the web and willpost them here if I find them.

  2. Clementina

    Helen,
    I have the strong impression that everything you describe is generated by a bad, personal experience that you or your family might have had with Steiner Education or a particular Steiner school. I am sorry if this is the case as I have had personal connections with the Steiner Schools, Camphill Communities and anthroposophical education and I think I have enough insight to ‘identify’ with what you are telling us.
    On the other hand, if your aim is to stop Steiner Education and anything associated with it in the Stroud area, I think you might have have taken the wrong path and possibly what you are doing is going to gain the opposite effect of what you wish for.
    All your accounts, comments and descriptions appear very one-sided to the reader and are not objective enough to persuade many people that Steiner Schools are bad. Apart from that, there are a lot of inaccuracies – just to put it lightly – regarding a lot of facts.
    One example: Anthroposophists have a particular dress code or are vegetarian. Some might be like the rest of the population!
    That’s not true at all. I think that people and events are put in boxes and stereotyped.
    My son goes to a Steiner kindergarden, he has special needs and he is so happy there! Eurythmy, to this point, is the best therapy we could hope for.On the other side, I would not dream of being vegetarian and I like to wear black leather and red lipstick. Another example: when I was pregnant and I saw the midwife, she assumed that I would not want to have any scans as she knew about my interest in natural living and also anthroposophy and the Camphill Movement. She could not be more wrong.
    My view is that there is no black and white. There is bad and good everywhere. I agree that blind belief in something, sectarian and cult practices are damaging. But I have never felt the pressure to adopt any philosophy, any religion, any way of being. I have the power and the responsibility to decide what I want to be and do. Some people associated with anthroposophy might give the impression of being part of a clique and to be intolerant and I am sure that there are even some who are exactly like that but this is not exclusive to Anthroposphy. It happens everywhere. The last example. I married in the Christian Community as my husband grew up in a Camphill Community. I am Catholic. Nobody ever said to me that, because of this reason, I should give up my religion. My son was then baptised in a Catholic church.
    I hope you can see that people can find for themselves what is good for their family and children without the necessity of a campaign against Steiner and his affiliated. :)
    Thanks for reading!

  3. Helen

    What an interesting comment, thank you.
    Firstly you (and others in the past) are wrong to assume I have had a bad experience with Steiner Education. My brief experience with it as an employee was many years ago and I forgot about it for 20 years!
    Yes, I found it bizarre and off-putting due to the rituals and habits of those involved, but I just shrugged.
    You have recognised my aim – it is indeed to put the brakes on the relentless expansion of anthroposophical businesses in Stroud, by informing people of the belief system and its tenets. From comments here it is clear that local people (myself included until a couple of years ago) knew nothing about anthroposophy as the basis of BIodynamics, Camphill, Steiner schools etc, so it seems we are achieving something.
    In that way, yes, my descriptions are one-sided – they are my views on this particular creed; in my view it is not one which should be used in schools – especially at taxpayers’ expense.
    You say there are inaccuracies here (do you mean differences in opinions on Steiner?) and single out my comments on dress-code. Jim and I were making the point that parents who are attracted to Steiner education frequently say they want something “alternative” but in selecting Steiner are opting for a community that has habits of its own, such as dressing in a similar way themselves. I know they don’t all wear pink and brown, but people seem to want to identify themselves as part of a group, despite rejecting mainstream culture. Steiner is prescriptive in other ways too.
    I can’t help having a chuckle at your statement that belief in something sectarian is damaging, and that you have never felt pressure to adopt any religion, followed by identifying yourself and your son as Catholic.
    Time and again anthroposophy is associated with Catholicism and Quakerism, each being contradictory to each other and yet preferable it seems to all those associated with them than the stone-cold rejection of any kind of belief in the supernatural.
    By the way – do anthroposophists really object to scans? That’s a new one.

  4. Helen

    I just realised Clementina – your GP is probably at St Lukes – the anthroposophical medical practise in Stroud. Hence the assumption that you wouldn’t want scans.

    • Clementina

      I answer the last question first. No, my practice was not St. Lukes! I think that the midwife made an assumption as my husband grew up in Camphill and I had interest in Steiner education, curative education and anthropophy.
      Not so productive to judge and assume as we all have our own history, whether we are anthroposophists, catholics, protestants, atheists and so on.

  5. Clementina

    I did not assume you had a bad experience in the past. I do not like to assume, single out, categorise, create judgements that create limits. It was just a thought. Thank you for clarifying it has not been so. It could be traumatising otherwise.
    My question is: do you think you are giving objective information re Steiner education to people when you admit that these are just your one-sided view that, as a reader, I perceive as rather negative and inaccurate? Do you think you are doing a favour to people when you are only giving partial information?
    When I talk about inaccuracies, I do not talk about differences of opinions but about events that are described as matter of facts when they are not. One example: children leaving Steiner education are not able to make it in real life and they live in a bubble. I have met very sound people who went through Steiner education. One is my husband. His brother went through Steiner education and has a PHD. I know a doctor who has been through Steiner Education and I could make a long list. I also feel that the philosophy is misinterpreted. Steiner is quoted, extrapolated from a context and commented on in an instrumental way so that his teachings are translated here into something negative, with the possible purpose of persuading people of how bad it is.
    Yes, there are people that, while adopting anthroposophy or simply sending their children to a Steiner school start to homologate to a particular way of dressing, eating and so on. I think that there can be worse things in life but it might be good to tell readers of this blog that there are also other people, and I tell you that there are very many, who are in favour of Steiner Education but would never wear rainbow socks, have dreadlocks or stop eating pork.
    I do not understand the chuckle bit, to be honest. I do not like cults as I do not believe that limiting oneself in one type of knowledge, belief or philosophy is of any advantage to the human being. What I meant is that I was raised as a Catholic since birth and I was never forced, pushed or even asked to join the Christian Community just because my husband grew up in Camphill and I married in a Christian Community. Maybe, I can offer something else to chuckle about in the future.
    You talk about tax payers. I am one and I pay for a lot of things I do not like in the mainstream sector but I have no choice. Would you not think that it is nice to support freedom of expression and if parents would really like to have Steiner education in this area, then we could support them towards this aim?
    ‘Anthroposophists object too scans’ is like saying ‘Everyone likes apples’. It is the same concept again and again. Confining people in boxes is too restrictive, I find.

  6. Jim

    We all make assumptions all of the time and most of the time they serve us fairly well. I think it was Woody Allen who said ” I like prejudice – it saves so much time”. However sometimes we mistakenly apply an assumption, which may well be generally valid, to an individual. If this is pointed out we should accept it with good grace – it does not necessarily affect the general validity ( or otherwise ) of the assumption.

    I think it is quite unjustified to accuse this site of being one-sided. Of course it is presenting a criticism of Steiner education – doesn’t its name give a clue to this? The author, and many others, believe that those choosing Steiner education should be made fully aware of the central tenets of anthroposophy. It is true that they ( we ) also believe that these tenets are pernicious nonsense but that is a belief others can only choose to share or not once they are informed. It does appear to be Steiner school practice not to inform parents in this way.

    I have no doubt that many people do have a good experience of Steiner education. Now please do not read into this parallel more than I intend, but it is also true that many Germans in the 1930s had a good experience of the Hitler Youth and did not go on to be card carrying Nazis. That should not prevent us recognising the purpose as being the propagation of a set of beliefs and attitudes.

    Finally if you wish to see a truly one sided view visit the Steiner Free School website where you will see only glowing tributes to Steiner education. Why? Because unlike this site they simply do not publish any critical comments.

  7. Clementina

    I try not to assume most times. It has shown in several occasions that it does not serve me well, despite what Woody Allen says. One of my favourite directors, by the way! That does not mean I always succeed.

    Helena has admitted that the site is one-sided. ‘It is her ideas that she expresses’, she says. I do not have an issue with that. I am very opinionated and like to share my ideas. I have an issue with that in this context, where a lot of people who do not know anything about Steiner education will read your coloured opinions and maybe will start thinking that Steiner schools are really bad without having sufficient knowledge.
    You say that ‘those choosing Steiner education should be made aware of the central tenets of anthroposophy’. In principle, this is great and I am in favour of informed choice. What I see here, though, is that the tenets of anthroposophy are coloured with your negative perceptions, extrapolated from a context and presented in a way that resemble the support to a propaganda. I was just about to use the example of the ‘russians distributing video documentaries on ex soviet union countries TV, in which american people show their utter ignorance in geography’ but I found it inappropriate, a bit like your comparison of Steiner Education to the experience of Hitler Youth.

    My question is: would you not wish to be more balanced in this blog? Would you not wish to present the negative and the positive so that you become more credible and people can then find out for themselves? Questioning, inspiring critical curiosity rather than judging? Would you not think it is fair that people can make their own views rather than adopting yours?

    Yes, I can imagine that the website of the Steiner Free School is one sided. If I want to promote a school I would not put negative comments. Would you? It is like advertising Coca-Cola and saying that it tastes awful. For a more pertinent comparison, have you seen the website of any school, Steiner or not, that says that the school is bad?

    Eva

    • Jim

      Hi Clementina. Or is it Eva? Or perhaps a gestalt entity? The language suggests maybe not the same author as previous Clementina comments. But no matter – let’s stick to the issue.

      Of course I would not expect a pro Steiner School website to say the school is bad. It is quite proper that it promotes what it believes to be good about its approach. However if it invites comments do you not think it should also publish those which are critical and then attempt to show why those criticisms are unfounded? Instead it simply deletes any critical comments thus creating the totally false impression that the proposed free school is met with universal acclaim.

      This site is opposed to the Steiner Free School but it does publish criticisms of its stance and enters into the discussions we are having now. Are you suggesting it should adopt its opponents position and censor criticism? Or are you saying there is one rule for pro Steiner sites and another for critical ones?

      I’m sorry you chose to misinterpret my reference to the Hitler Youth, despite my caution. My comparison, as I’m sure you really understand, was restricted to pointing out that people can relate to an organisation without necessarily absorbing its ethos. They will enjoy the camp fire sing-songs etc without taking on the hatred. Another example you might prefer would be to say that many people enjoyed the Boy Scouts without becoming Christians. Or that many attend Steiner schools without becoming anthroposophists. However that does not alter the fact that that ethos is what the organisation is there to promote.

  8. MarkH

    “Would you not think it is fair that people can make their own views rather than adopting yours?”

    Yes, of course people should make their own minds up, assuming they have all the relevant information to enable them to do so. I think this site (and others) are important counterbalances to the pro-Steiner voices out there. And of course anybody who’s interested and sufficiently motivated (as they should be if they’re making a choice about their child’s education) can read Steiner in his own words, for free, online.

    Part of what makes Steiner education so interesting is the fact that it is so highly controversial and polarises opinion as much as it does.

  9. Clementina

    Hi Jim,
    you might think it is a different people making the comments and you are free to do so – confusion with names might have given this impression – but it is me all the way through.

    As you said, let’s stick to the issue. If negative comments are deleted on the Free Steiner School, then this is not right. It is very fair to point this out.

    I do not believe in pro and against websites and I do not believe in censorship in any form. Freedom of expression is the way forward. I prefer informed views though.

    I just want to ask you where your impression or idea that Steiner schools want to promote an ethos come from. I am just curious. I also want to ask: what, in your view, would be the consequences of promoting such ethos? In general, I still do not understand why, in your view, it is better not to have another Steiner school here, rather than have one, if this a wish of a lot of families.

    Mark, I am all for balance. I think that adhering blindly to any movement, organisation, philosophy etc…can be dangerous as it restricts and isolates.

    My concern is that, by reading the negative view of Steiner education that is given here, people will even be scared to go further and read and gather the info that has a more objective nature.

    I have a deep interest in Steiner Education, as in other forms of Education that, in my view, respect and support the natural development of the child without pressure and also focus on play and imagination as very important part of a child growth and not only into intellectual attainment. Montessori education interests me too.

    For me this idea comes after attending mainstream education from primary school to university and having had the horrifying experience of feeling under the pressure of succeeding, competing and being through exams from a very young age. I also forgot very quickly about play and art, which I have now very pleasantly rediscovered.

  10. Jim

    Hi Clementina,

    I don’t think it is realistic to say lets have no pro or anti websites ( or newspaper articles, TV programmes etc ). It might be tempting when you come across some of the really rabid sites which seem to contain only abuse but that is not the way to achieve balance. Balance comes from having access to opposing views, bringing the issues into the open and debating them. It does require some effort on the part of the audience to seek out these differing views and one thing this site does is prompt people to do this.

    You ask a couple of questions. Why do I not want a Steiner school here in Stroud? There are two parts to this – firstly I disapprove of Steiner education and do not think the State should fund it. We’ll come back to that. The second reason is that Stroud is already over-supplied with school places ( unlike Cheltenham or Gloucester ) so a new free school will drain funding and result in school closures.

    The main reason I disapprove of Steiner education is quite simple – anthroposophy. Now I know that schools always say ” we do not teach anthroposophy”. The very fact that they feel it necessary to say that is revealing; it implies they recognise it would put many off. But nonetheless its concepts permeate Steiner education.

    I would also question whether it respects the natural development of the child as you say. Rather it imposes a set view of child development based on ideas about the ‘incarnation of the soul’ which, to put it politely, are rather fanciful. And as for the art – one of the criteria I considered when looking for a school for my son was the nature of the work displayed on the walls. One school was dismissed because the work was confined to a few pinboards “to avoid damaging the walls”! At the Steiner school I was shocked by the absolute conformity of all the artwork displayed. No room for individuality there.

    This is not to say I am totally happy with state schools. I agree that years of intervention have left many schools demoralised and teaching to the test. The answer is to improve these schools, not to introduce Free Schools whether Steiner or or ‘Faith’ based.

  11. Clementina

    Hi Jim,
    I think our debate is exhausting as it is quite obvious that we cannot reconcile our differences. And that’s fine. It is ok to have different points of view.

    I only want to make the readers aware – if they haven’t become already aware – that some descriptions and presentations of Steiner Education that they find on this blog are extremely negative and not necessarily correspondent to what Steiner Education is and wants to achieve. So, I want to invite everyone to do more research before deciding that a Free Steiner School in Stroud or anywhere else is absolutely bad.

    Thanks

  12. Helen

    Clementina
    I have often said here that it should be for parents themselves to find out about anthroposophy and its impact on Steiner education before they commit to it. What I have been attempting to do is provide pointers for them to do their research.
    If schools won’t tell parents before they sign up, someone else has to do it.
    Better to know the pitfalls beforehand – don’t you think?

  13. Clementina

    I hope parents will find out for themselves. I also hope they will look further than what has been indicated here in terms of research.
    I am sure that not only pitfalls will be found but something much more interesting, inspiring and beautiful!

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