Acknowledging “Spiritual Content”

Some Steiner schools are much more generous with their information than others. I have noticed that as criticism grows and state-funding has become an issue, schools here have been updating their websites and a lot of pages are “under construction”, meaning information can be hard to glean.

A Steiner school in Australia is quite refreshingly open about its anthroposophical practices.

In some instances they have been economical with the truth, in my opinion, but in general the FAQ is the kind of section that would be of use to parents in this country – especially if it was provided in the leaflets parents pick up when they are initially approached by a smiling “Waldorf Mama” in the High Street.

In a section on “What is the spiritual content of our curriculum?” the following useful information is provided;

The curriculum in a Steiner school is imbued with spiritual content. We strive to treat all children who have come into our care as individual spiritual beings in a process of developing into conscious human beings…While Steiner teachers study Anthroposophy (wisdom of man), it is not taught to children but is used as a basis for our understanding of the human being and child development.”

Perhaps they really believe this; they believe that having eurythmy, and other Steiner inventions on the curriculum is not “teaching anthroposophy”.

Further on in the FAQ – “Why bible stories in class 3?” Some puzzled parents must have asked this – after all the school says it is “not religious” – but at least the question is answered.

Bible stories do not have to be taught in Class 3. However if teachers should choose to use them the pictures given in these stories – of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, learning from past mistakes, great faith and courage, patience, humility, forgiveness and the supreme authority of God the Creator – are very appropriate for the developing consciousness of the 8 to 9 year old child.”

Hmm. The supreme authority of God the Creator is considered appropriate in a “non-sectarian” school…?

The Handbook for Waldorf Class Teachers confirms that bible stories are taught in this country too as part of the “main lesson” – it’s just that the schools here choose not to mention it to parents before they are safely within the fold. (There is a reminder for teachers in the Handbook’s lesson guide for literature that this is not a religion lesson, in case they forget.)

The section continues;

It becomes clear that if people are to live in harmony together some sort of rules of conduct are necessary. In the Bible stories the Ten Commandments represent these rules of conduct

Actually, some of the 10 commandments are remarkably unhelpful when it comes to living in harmony – they could be considered as a hindrance.

Apart from this, Steiner schools, including this one, claim to respect the religious beliefs of all their families; in which case, the first four seem particularly inappropriate.

Here they are as a reminder;

And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea,      and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.
  5. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
  6. Thou shalt not kill.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shalt not steal.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

The next 6 may be considered more helpful, but are found as “golden rules” in almost all societies, regardless of religion. In a school which claims to be non-religious it is odd to find the Ten Commandments as part of lessons.

On the whole I congratulate this school on being a lot more open than most of the Steiner schools here in the UK.

A Free school group providing this much information when parents are first recruited may not find people so happy to sign up, however.

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5 comments

  1. Helen

    We have our share of faith schools here in Stroud, but at least they are advertised as such. Steiner schools have as much if not more religious/sectarian content as any of these, but they are not letting on.

  2. Jim

    I’ve heard people say don’t make a fuss about “faith” schools – after all we had RE and religious assembly at school and it did no harm. I think that is a mistake; the current schools seem very different.

    What we had was a state school with a bit of Church of England sprinkled over it. The C of E was like the dead remains of religion, not potent enough to infect but like a vaccine just enough to give life long immunity. RE was usually left to the school thicko, ie the PE or geography teacher.

    The current lot don’t seem to be like that at all. They actually believe all that nonsense and even if they don’t go so far as to teach creationism they do have a definite indoctrination agenda. And that’s why they should not be allowed in state funded education.

    • Helen

      Oooh that’s harsh! Do you have something against PE and Geography teachers? My dad was a woodwork and technical drawing teacher – I don’t think he was ever asked to teach RE, there were plenty of specialists in that field.

      I was just reading the independent’s version of the “children don’t know bible stories” news item today. The article itself is unremarkable but the comments are great.
      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/children-and-parents-dont-recognise-famous-bible-stories-9114255.html

      I cannot think of any other religious group apart from Steiner that would get anywhere near enough support for a free school here. Even another Catholic school would be superfluous given the presence of St Peter’s a stone’s throw from Wynstones.

      • Jim

        Maybe I was particularly unlucky – I had one who taught PE, geography and RE! It used to be common for RE to be a fill in subject for those who taught the less central subjects. But that is going back a long time.

        But my point was that the current generation of “faith” schools seems to be a very different proposition to the half hearted religious content of the old state schools. I think you’re probably right that around here only the Steiners could be a serious threat, at least I hope so. It was encouraging to discover that one of the more extreme Christian schools in the area, the School of the Lion, closed about a year ago. So it’s not all going one way.

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