Denying anthroposophy

According to the Stroud News and Journal today the campaigners for the proposed Steiner free school now have 900 children signed up.

I assume most families will have at least 2 children, so I guess that is around 450 families.

Looking at parenting websites like bathmums  it seems people are willing to move to a town where there is a state-funded Steiner school, so some of the 450 families may come from outside the area.

The campaign group have a post on Anthroposophy and Education (written in August this year…)

Whilst extolling the virtues of Steiner’s “mystical truths” (anthroposophy) as beneficial in education, they simultaneously  claim “We will neither promote nor teach anthroposophy.”

Why is this? Why do they think it necessary to make this claim? What do they think parents would object to?

They single out one aspect;

“…some of Steiner’s Anthroposophical writing relates to race and ethnicity. His ideas on race reflect the racism of the time and place in which he lived, and have been rejected within Steiner education.”

Steiner’s nasty opinions on differences between the races stem from his belief that human life began on Atlantis, and as I mentioned before, Atlantis features in the “Handbook for Waldorf Class Teachers”, on page 37. Anthroposophical teachers believe that some races of humans need to develop more “spiritually”, before they can become equal.

If the members of the campaign group really believe his views on race have been rejected, they are sadly misled. I suggest they get a copy of the handbook which is widely used in schools.

I have also drawn attention to  how important reincarnation can be within the  Steiner “ethos”, and how this can have an impact on school policy. The consequences for families from bullying can be devastating.

If the group are worried that parents will object to anthroposophy being used in school, why be a Steiner school?

If the school were to run devoid of anthroposophy, it would not be a Steiner school, would not be allowed to be called a Steiner school, and would not have anything to do with the SWSF.

From talking to someone manning the stall in the High Street, it seems she had been told (by anthroposophists?) the school “will not be in the SWSF”.

Well, I have news for you. The school WILL need to be accredited by the SWSF;

“Initiative groups intending to apply to the government via the “Free Schools/Academy route would need to apply for endorsement of their proposal by the SWSF before submitting their application to the Department for Education. Endorsement is additional to registration as an Interest Group & this should precede a “free school” application. Without endorsement, a free school would be in breach of the SWSF trademark & no such applications can be authorised. New publically-funded settings would follow the same path of accreditation as independent Steiner Waldorf settings.”

On the SWSF site there are membership criteria documents .[ the page has been changed – here is the new one ].They say;

“Registration, including subscription, is prerequisite for any group wishing to use the  title “Rudolf Steiner” or “Waldorf” with regard to their educational activity (Service Mark 1289689 registered in part A of the register covering educational services included in class 41 under the provisions of Act of Parliament)”

The SWSF give detailed descriptions of how Steiner schools must conform to their requirements. For example, schools must show that they carry out Child Studies and Eurythmy. They also need to show that they have “suitably qualified” teachers. We have already seen what is regarded as “suitably qualified” in Steiner terms.

Despite the belated attempts by the campaign group to deny they will be using anthroposophy in the proposed school, there is still a massive lack of information for families from the campaign group on exactly what being a Steiner school means.

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7 comments

  1. MarkH

    There’s an interesting difference between the latest SWSF membership criteria document linked to here and a previous version from just a couple of years ago: http://www.steinerwaldorf.org/downloads/documents/membershipcriteriaJune2011.pdf

    The earlier document includes the criteria that “(a)There has been adequate preparation, including anthroposophical study and
    b) An Anthroposophical impulse lies at the heart of planning for the school, including the Waldorf curriculum.” The latest version has replaced this with a vague mention of the “fundamental principles of Waldorf education”.

    Is this a change in policy or are the SWSF trying to deflect attention from Anthroposophy, perhaps for the purpose of getting Free Schools funded?

    The SWSF document does refer to the European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education principles statement: http://www.ecswe.org/downloads/statements/ecswe_principlesstatement.pdf which does not mince its words on the importance of Anthroposophy with its “intangible, spiritual dimensions of existence and reality” which of course “elude current standards of evidence, proof and verification”. At least they’re honest.

    The SWSF also describe best practices in their affiliated schools: http://www.steinerwaldorf.org.uk/downloads/MC-COP-2013.pdf which includes the provision for regular visits by an Anthroposophical doctor and the specific requirement to obtain parental consent for the use of homeopathic medication…

  2. Helen

    Yes Mark, I wondered that too. I only realised this morning that the wording of the membership criteria had changed. The fact that they still require proof that anthroposophical elements are included does not indicate a change in policy however.
    The visits by an anthroposophical doctor is one of the most scary aspects, in my opinion.
    My daughter had a heart murmur at birth and I certainly would not have been happy entrusting her health to one of these practitioners (see stroudskeptic’s link in the last comment on “From the web”.)
    For a school to obtain consent to use their own unvalidated form of medical treatment on children is worrying.
    According to the curriculum book for Steiner schools Chemistry lessons are used as a place to teach about homeopathy.
    I wondered why chemistry is the most popular science subject, and I think this explains why.
    (That and Steiner’s interest in alchemy, shared by anthroposophists at The Field centre.)
    For more on this see earlier post “Anthroposophical Medicine – mistletoe, anyone”.

  3. Helen

    I just found this neat comparison by Roger Rawlings for the “we don’t teach anthroposophy” claim ;
    “For a moment, let’s accept this disclaimer. How reassuring do you find it? Consider this analogy. Imagine a school that says, “All of our methods are based on voodoo. However, we do not teach voodoo to the children.”
    Would you be reassured? Would you send your child there?”
    Waldorf watch https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/who-gets-hurt

  4. Helen

    Another meeting about the Stroud Steiner Free School Initiative is scheduled this week. Reading this article http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3528 before, (or instead of) attending the meeting will help inform parents of what they may not be told by ” the team”. There are three parts to the article.

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