Racism permeates Steiner’s view of human development and affects how children are taught in Steiner schools. Proponents still rebut this routinely and casually. This blog has readers who may be unfamiliar with other critical forums and websites, so it is worth mentioning the issue here.
The whole foundation of the so-called “methodology” or “pedagogy” of Steiner schools is inherently and incontrovertibly racist. Even in his time, Steiner’s worldview must have been considered racist by most Europeans.
Jim mentioned the subject in his letter to the Guardian, and as you see a proponent trotted out the familiar denials.
Jim was asked to explain the basis of his point about racism, which he did, before his letter was accepted.
The whole of Steiner’s teaching on human history is based on his idea of the origins of human life on Lemuria and Atlantis (mentioned in the teacher’s handbook) and the supposed development of the races since that time, which he set out in detail. He was very specific in his descriptions and all his other ideas about education stem from these bizarre notions.
Anyone who thinks these ideas are not used in schools should get a copy of the Handbook for Waldorf Class Teachers which talks unashamedly of looking “towards the sixth epoch”. (Meaning sixth post Atlantean epoch)
The historian Peter Staudenmaier says on Waldorf critics;
“It [hierarchical evolution through the races] is a central strand in his [Steiner’s] teachings, and it runs throughout dozens of his published texts and lectures. It is one of the core ideas around which Steiner’s conception of spiritual advancement is built. It is crucial to his theory of reincarnation in successively higher forms, to his overarching framework of cosmic evolution, and to his essential contrast between spiritually progressing and spiritually stagnating souls.”
In his PHd on the subject of Anthroposophy from 1900 – 1945 in Italy and Germany, Staudenmaier translated Steiner’s words;
“Ever since the Atlantean Race began slowly to disappear, the great Aryan Race has been the dominant one on earth.”
The Steiner defenders who claim there is no racism point out that the schools include children (and some teachers) from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, as if this proved their point. They also claim that Steiner’s worst statements can be simply cut out, as if removed with a surgical knife, leaving no trace of malignancy. Unfortunately the disease has spread throughout the body of anthroposophy.
In the case of parents on the fringes and less familiar with anthroposophy, they may really believe this defence .
But the anthroposophists and experienced teachers know that Steiner education follows Steiner’s own version of human history and that all his ideas about child development – used in schools, are based on it.
In denying complaints about the racist foundation of their practices, they do not say that Steiner was wrong about human development. They simply maintain that the particular racist statements Steiner made “will not be taught to children”.
Roger Rawlings includes examples on Waldorf watch of how racist theories are taught to children, and I have already written a post about the proof that anthroposophy is being taught in Steiner schools.
Of course the schools admit children from all so-called “races”, as must all schools. Similarly the Camphill Communities admit adults with all kinds of physical and mental conditions. As part of their belief in reincarnation, anthroposophists take on the challenge of the extra “help” they believe certain individuals are in need of, to prepare them for future “incarnations”.
Doing the spiritual work
The way anthropsophists view their “task”, whether it be in residential communities, kindergartens, schools or colleges, is that it is largely therapeutic. They believe that each individual needs “work” – specifically meditation – in order to develop spiritually, and thus travel along the “path” to the ultimate goal of heightened spiritual awareness. Time and again I have read how in the eyes of these believers, children benefit from the spiritual work of their teachers, and at the same time the teachers are benefiting themselves from these efforts.
This is from an article from the Waldorf Library in 2008 (aimed at Steiner teachers) on supporting the development of movement in children;
Through inner spiritual work [meditation] one can become sensitive to the hidden forces behind movement and tune into what wants to evolve as the child’s destiny. As Rudolf Steiner says, “To be a teacher and educator one must work with what is taking place in the depths of human nature” (Steiner, Study of Man, 67).
It then goes on
How does one educate the young child under three? Rudolf Steiner’s answer to this question is very clear. The child educates himself under the guidance of spiritual beings. The adults around the child contribute through their own self-education.
Parents are not informed about the kind of “inner spiritual work” teachers are doing with their children.
Consider also the effects all this meditation has on the individual.
An anthroposophist’s life is supposed to be one of meditation. This is how they spend their time; trying to improve spiritually. And their “task” as teachers is to introduce children to this path, subconsciously, and stealthily. We have proof of this.
An article this week by Gregoire Perra called “The distancing of time and reality in Steiner Waldorf schools and in anthroposophy” describes compellingly the freedom he now feels to really live his life, now that he is no longer restricted by the constraints of anthroposophy. He feels he wasted the years spent meditating as an anthroposophist and Steiner teacher and that those years, in his 20s and 30s were not “lived” at all. That period of his life as an individual was stolen from him, he says.
I mention this to try to explain how the anthro way of life influences the way Steiner teachers see their role. They see themselves primarily as spiritual guides for the children, as Steiner decreed in his racist worldview.
In the case of races other than “Aryan” the amount of spiritual work required is greater. These unfortunates, according to the Steiner view of humanity, have more to do; further to go along the “spiritual path”.
This article provides an overview of “The problem of racism” in Steiner schools, and includes a drawing by Steiner of his take on the evolution of humankind, from “lower to higher forms”
Steiner’s 1907 lecture refers to both apes and Indians as “decadent side branches” of evolution.
Rudolf Steiner, 1907. Menschheitsentwickelung und Christus-Erkenntnis (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1981)
Here is a statement from the article;
“Though adherence (and awareness) certainly differs amongst teachers, it is impossible to remove Anthroposophy from the Steiner school pedagogy, from the required reading on the teacher training courses, from the mission of the schools.”
Anthroposophy is not a creed that “contains racist elements” as some would claim, it is racist in its entirety, and should not be the basis for any kind of education in this country, especially state-funded education.