The Debate continues

The decision on a new free school in Stroud will be made at the Department for Education, but the debate rumbles on in the town.

Each week someone has a say in the local press; either a parent, a pupil, a Steiner supporter or critic writes a letter, or sometimes there is a report speculating on where any new school might be located, or whether there is demand.

This week is no exception with 3 people commenting on the fact that the money would be better spent on existing schools, and two responding to criticisms of Steiner schools from the previous week.

There is a report on the OFSTED inspection of a Steiner college recently downgraded to inadequate, and the news that an executive principal from Glasshouse College has been brought in to implement changes.

Two letters in defence of Steiner schools base their opinions on a local independent Steiner school; a parent claims that the GCSE and A level results “compare favourably” with local grammar schools. It seems this unfortunate parent who took her child out of an “over- subscribed and highly academic and competitive state secondary school” for unstated reasons, has been misled by the results statistics from the Steiner school, which do not tell the whole story as has been discussed here before.

How much research did this parent do, I wonder?

The other letter is from someone who has “grown up with many Steiner friends and watched them develop into some of the most amazing young people on this earth”.

This person, (who may or may not be Steiner educated themselves?) has bought into the myth spread among the Steiner community that they are superior in most if not every way to those on the “outside”. He or she says they are “understanding, empathetic and expressive”.

Very likely.

Seemingly unconnected but undoubtedly a symptom of the concentration of Steiner followers in our area is a letter against vaccination. The writer is a supporter of the Steiner free school initiative, and is expressing the view commonly held in the Steiner community that vaccines are harmful to health rather than beneficial.

If Steiner open their free school, Stroud will become even more of a hotbed for this kind of misinformation; a haven for those opting out of modern life; a return to a kind of medieval type lifestyle where we all live in poverty and disease for want of education and reason.

A frightening thought for those of us who do not subscribe to a New Age Steiner fantasy.

 

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6 comments

  1. Nick Nakorn

    The rise of exceptionalism within national, cultural and religious groups is worrying; from an historical perspective. Exceptionalism has actually been in general decline over the last 200 years but, regardless of having a world war within living memory and countless other wars and genocidal conflicts more recently, it seems it’s OK again to espouse the idea that signing up to spiritual nonsense makes one a better person. It might only be a thin end of a very long wedge but, to take the metaphor further, the longer the wedge, the easier it is to climb and there is a danger that the progression towards peace will be halted.

  2. Helen

    Yes, interesting. People do seem to like being part of groups, perhaps it is the extent to which they identify themselves with a group that can make this dangerous.
    If anthroposophists restricted their activities in a similar way to Quakers for example, and when setting up schools, colleges and care homes were entirely honest about it, I would not regard them as a threat.
    “signing up to spiritual nonsense makes one a better person” – I suppose that stems from the decline of traditional religion and the way religion has always portrayed itself as somehow beneficial to the individual and to society as a whole – not something I agree with, but still widely accepted. Spirituality (whatever that is) is seen as a substitute.
    The way Steiner schools mention spirituality in a vague kind of way seems to appeal to some people, or at least to appear harmless, but Steiner’s version is so specific, and the detail once examined so unpalatable, it really bears no resemblance at all to most people’s idea of spirituality.
    Apart from those already familiar with anthroposophy, parents joining Steiner will probably not initially see it as joining any kind of cult or exceptionalist group, but will gradually be led down this path.
    Without necessarily meaning to, they take on the characteristics of the rest of the school community. Parents taking their child to Steiner kindergarten may not initially see it as a step towards separateness, but that is nonetheless how the Steiner movement operates.
    .

  3. Jim

    Bringing the Steiner nonsense and opposition to vaccination together I suppose it’s the best defence there is for the CofE. Exposure at an early age to an inert form of superstition confers a lifelong immunity to the more virulent kinds.
    But seriously, I never imagined as a child rejecting religion that it would one day be back stronger and more hideous than ever. If anything I thought I should make the most of the opportunity to protest against because soon there would be nothing left to fight. Naive eh?

  4. Helen

    Since you were a child there seem to be even more limits on what is acceptable in terms of criticism too. No-one would have taken any notice of the students at LSE wearing Jesus and Mo t-shirts a few decades ago, now it’s a huge issue.

  5. Jim

    There’s an interesting report today that the Public Accounts Committee says that so far £240m has been spent building 42 free schools in areas that didn’t need them. There are other criticisms too but the question still remains – how will Gove respond? Will he listen or push on with his customary recklessness whilst he still can?

    • Helen

      I suppose he can’t be seen to back down.
      I heard Margaret Hodge on the Today programme this morning saying that the high profile problems with three free schools in particular recently only came to light because of whistleblowers, and that the problems should have been uncovered through official processes. The system relies on free schools complying with requirements, and the speed at which so many of them have opened has meant risks with financial management in particular.

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