In the Steiner curriculum book (Richter -Rawson) there is no subject called “biology. Instead we have “Life Sciences”.
Upper school life sciences focuses on “the awakening thinking which guides the young person towards some clarity on the great issues of identity and meaning which rise up before him increasingly: Who am I? What is life for?”
Whilst these may be interesting questions to debate, perhaps in a philosophy session, with family and friends, or maybe in church,(if that is your family’s preference) this aim for life sciences does not seem to place significance on the science of biology as we know it.
Steiner lectured on “The four human group souls” in Berlin in 1908. These four turn out to be the Lion, the Bull, the Eagle and Man.
In the curriculum book there is content suggestion for class four life sciences. Here are the first two;
- The polarity of the human head and limbs with the human form of the trunk. (Yes, well, I never said it was like biology).
- A small selection of familiar and unfamiliar animals to use as the basis for characterisations and relationships referred to above. Examples the cow, mouse and lion…it is far better to create a rich experience with a few well-chosen creatures than to attempt too many with the danger of the lesson becoming just “nature study”, valuable as that may be.
Yes, nature study would be valuable. Of more value than this introduction of anthroposophical ideas to the classroom. The Eagle gets a mention later.
This may have passed me by if I had not read Gregoire Perra’a account some time ago of how Steiner’s doctrine is subtly taught to children. In the English translation of his essay “The Anthroposophical indoctrination of students in Steiner Waldorf schools” he says
“The invisibility of the indoctrination process depends primarily on the public’s ignorance about Anthroposophy.”
He explains (this is in France, remember), “In the fourth grade Waldorf students study zoology and tackle the physiology of various animals, like the lion, the cow and the eagle.”
So we find the same animals studied in the same class in both countries, because of Steiner’s lecture.
Mr Perra says in an analysis of the exercise books he has posted on his blog “For 90 years Waldorf students have learned about the same animals; octopus, mouse, beaver, deer, horse, cow, wolf, eagle and lion. The teacher makes students aware that each of these corresponds to the three poles of man (human tripartite entity) and the idea that the animal kingdom emanates from the human – an anthroposophical concept”
The former Steiner school teacher says “The teacher simply makes one or two changes each time to avoid arousing the suspicion of parents or inspectors”.
Having read the life sciences curriculum, what stands out is the determination to impose on students the idea that humans are not to be considered as part of the animal kingdom.
“a reductionist biology which states or implies that the human body is a machine, and the human being an animal…is not one which nourishes the adolescent’s deepest concerns and unspoken questions. The current theories are just that – theories. They have not been in existence long and although they are usually presented as “truth” they will inevitably change and the task of teaching adolescents should not be to suggest that such theories are true.”
“Young people’s thinking is now mature enough to appreciate that there are alternative scientific viewpoints than the ones currently portrayed in the textbooks or through popular science and technology.”
We know how Steiner schools feel about technology – they have done their best to get out of teaching it, and only do so reluctantly.
A lot of Steiner teaching is done orally or by copying from the blackboard. Having read the curriculum book I assume it is considered a better way of covertly imparting anthroposophy, which cannot be set out in text books.
In the general themes for class 4 life sciences;
“Above all the children need to gain a feeling for what is truly human through having the body upright, the hands free, with the power of speech and self-awareness”.
A clearer rejection of evolution than the Steiner curriculum would be difficult to find. Yet how are parents to know their children are being educated in an alternative theory of evolution?
The Steiner schools are taking it upon themselves to educate children in this way unbeknown to parents and the authorities. They assume the responsibility of answering the “unspoken questions” they believe children are asking. And the answers they give are not those to be found in accepted scientific theory.