On the Defensive

A letter to the Stroud News and Journal today responds to recent letters against the proposed Steiner free School. The writer says that work by Steiner students he or she has seen has “depth and breadth” and combines into “single pieces of well-researched work”.

The writer also criticises the current system delivered by the National Curriculum, saying it has “no clear understanding of child and human development” and “delivers subject-based specialisms that take little account of the whole individual”.

This kind of response to criticism of Steiner is pretty much standard, the Steiner defenders failing to address specific criticisms or to mention anthroposophy at all.

Instead they pick out aspects of mainstream education they see as lacking quality, and imply that Steiner Education is a preferable alternative.

Of course “child and human development” in Steinerspeak is not what many people would assume it to be; not what is studied by trainee teachers who will have QT status. Instead it refers to spirituality.

The “whole individual”? Hmm. 12 GCSEs, 3 A levels, D of E awards, numerous after school activities, music tuition and a commitment to the fulfilment of each child’s potential by dedicated professional teachers – this is our experience of a local comprehensive. Nothing lacking at all.

Whatever the defects or the strengths of mainstream schools, and these will vary depending on your local schools and the requirements of your child, parents can pretty much guarantee that their chosen school will do what it says on the tin. They know there will be no occult methods used on their child, and that teachers will be working towards goals as set out in the government’s aims for education, not quietly following the plan of an Austrian Mystic whose outdated, questionable doctrine can have disastrous consequences for families and individuals.



  1. Helen

    Realistically academic achievement is probably not at the top of the priority list for Steiner parents. But exactly what is it they think they are getting that is lacking at a comprehensive? Is it just the uniforms they don’t like? Really?
    Uniforms serve a useful purpose in preventing a hierarchy based on fashion – such as that mentioned by a Steiner student – the “cool” kids being at the top.
    Fashion is also a divisive issue in American state schools, where in general there are no school uniforms.

  2. Jim

    I was never very keen on school uniform, though I can accept the argument may have more weight today with the greater commercial pressure on kids to be ‘cool’ ( or should that be ‘sick’? – I can’t keep up ). Recent stories in the Guardian suggest that some academies may be going too far with disproportionate punishments for minor uniform infringements. And there are also schools which stipulate clothes must be bought from specific shops, never the cheapest, undermining the argument that uniforms keep costs down.
    However, don’t the Steiners also have an urge to control dress, specifying colours and materials? This isn’t in itself important until you see the dogma behind it.
    Now I’m pretty relaxed about uniform because restricting choice of dress is far less disturbing than restricting freedom to think, which seems to be the Steiner way..

    • Helen

      A good point – there are subtle “rules” for those in the Steiner club, and style of clothing does seem to be one of them. Fabrics are natural and colours are usually pink or brown, I understand. Shoes are probably vegetarian, same as the food.

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