Information Technology and Ahriman

I happen to agree with one of the policies used in Steiner schools; restricting television for young children makes sense to me – there are much better ways to be spending time, and there may be content we consider unsuitable.

Apparently it can be in a Steiner home-school agreement that children will not watch tv before the age of 8. I wonder what the punishment for non-compliance is?

We can decide for ourselves how to deal with this at home – we do not need a school to instruct us, surely?

When some parents count this as a reason for choosing a Steiner school, do they realise why the policy is in place?

Anthroposophists consider that computers, televisions, photo-copiers and so on are the products of Ahriman. Lucifer and Ahriman are demons, according to Steiner; Ahriman being the demon of intellect, worldly knowledge, science and technology.

Steiner gave a lecture at Dornach in 1914 explaining it all; Lecture I: The Balance in the World and Man, Lucifer and Ahriman.

So the necessity of introducing children to technology produces a problem for Steiner schools.In the Steiner curriculum book (Richter and Rawson) we find a very short page on Information Technology, beginning with

“There is no question that Steiner Waldorf education has to come to terms with the present and future important subject of computer technology. There is however as yet no firmly established understanding as to the appropriate ages for introducing the different aspects of this.”

Among aspects of the subject to be included is the influence of computers, including

“… the possible negative, obsessional  and anti-social aspects”.

The section concludes as follows;

“The creation of a comprehensive curriculum for information technology has yet to be completed…”.

By contrast the National Curriculum programme of study for ICT says;

“The increasing use of technology in all aspects of society makes confident, creative and productive use of ICT an essential skill for life. ICT capability encompasses not only the mastery of technical skills and techniques, but also the understanding to apply these skills purposefully, safely and responsibly in learning, everyday life and employment. ICT capability is fundamental to participation and engagement in modern society. ICT can be used to find, develop, analyse and present information, as well as to model situations and solve problems.”

What do parents think? Is computing Ahrimanic, or an essential skill for life? Not such a tough decision surely.

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8 comments

  1. Jim

    Leaving aside the Ahrimanic aspect, restricting access to IT and books has the practical benefit ( for anthros ) of shutting out opposing views. A well established and widely practised indoctrination technique.

    I still recall the realisation as a child that my teachers were not always right and that I owed this discovery to the ability to read. Nothing learned since has been as important.

    • Helen

      Yes shutting out opposing views – very effective. A couple of students have referred to their “Steiner bubble”. They seem to recognise the fact that they have been brought up and educated in a sheltered community, and reading their comments, I think there is ambivalence about this.

  2. Jim

    In the spirit of openness I should confess – I worked for 30+ years in IT so must accept that the demon dwells within me.
    More seriously a friend considered sending her daughter to a Steiner school and got as far as the home inspection. She expected some comment on the TV and computer but was taken aback when asked if the crowded bookshelves could be moved out of the child’s sight!

  3. MarkH

    Top tip for would-be Steiner parents: If you must have a TV, computer, books etc. in the house, before the teacher’s home visit throw pastel coloured silk sheets over them. (See eurythmy gowns for inspiration.) This will help mitigate their effects on vulnerable young souls and will instantly identify you as part of the Steiner in-crowd.

    Some well known Anthroposophists have much to say about the spiritual effects of modern technology. Sergei Prokofieff, one-time head of the General Anthroposophical Society in Dornach, finds that Steiner prophesied the world wide web in a manner akin to Nostradamus. He is concerned about the logos used by some internet companies and identifies the number 6 with the letter w: www=666. Oh dear. David Icke has nothing on these guys.

    Eugene Schwartz, a prominent Waldorf educator in the US, wrote a lengthy response to Prokofieff’s article in which he has much empathy with Prokofieff’s concerns but argues that modern technologies have some value in as much as they can help further the Anthroposophical cause (and sell Schwartz’s teacher training materials). See http://zooey.wordpress.com/2010/01/03/spiders/ for links to both articles and some critical commentary.

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