Dr Richard House

Dr Richard House has replied to my letter in Stroud Life last week and asked for compassion for those who support both the Green Party and Steiner education.

Green party policy to oppose free schools has provided them with a dilemma, because Steiner supporters are powerful within the local party.

In his letter he was very critical of mainstream education, (as Steiner proponents always are) labelling it damaging, child unfriendly, and toxic, and the children who attend these schools as “hapless”. He maintains that these criticisms are compelling and legitimate.

He does not mention his involvement with anthroposophy; his time as a Steiner class teacher, as a kindergarten teacher, and as the founder of an anthroposophical publishing company.

Dr House must know rather a lot about anthroposophy and the way it is used in Steiner schools, and yet all he mentions in his letter is that oft-repeated bit of spin about Steiner Education being “child-centred” – as if other schools are not.

He says there are complex ethical demands for people like him who support both Steiner schools and the Green party Policy on free schools which he says “place the individualistic self -interest of the few above the needs of the community as a whole”. Clearly he is in agreement with party policy.

He then makes the following rather surprising statement;

“…according to the logic of Helen’s position, one could equally come out and criticise the Greens for not coming out strongly in favour of the free school!”

Really? Does he think so many local Green party members are “within the Steiner position” as he puts it?

I have spoken personally to three party members who most certainly would not take kindly to that assumption, including the Mayor of Stroud. I have been told that support from the local Green party was not even luke-warm when the free school group approached, ditto the Town Council, and stone cold from Labour .

Instead of asking for compassion for those who “have to sacrifice their beliefs because of conflicting ethics”, Dr House, who describes himself as one of the “thoughtful people” should give some thought to making sure parents are fully informed about Steiner education before they sign up. Many of them have never even heard of anthroposophy, and yet sign up their children to the care of anthroposophists.

Dr House – tell them how Steiner’s clairvoyant visions are put into practice every day in Steiner schools. Tell them what Steiner teachers’ true intentions are – to lead children down a special path to spiritual awareness, and ultimately to clairvoyance.

The way Steiner beliefs and pseudoscience are woven into the curriculum and a critical attitude to science and technology is fed to the children is an important part of Steiner education. Dr House is well positioned to inform parents of this, and yet he chooses not to.

Green party members who oppose free schools now have another opportunity to fall into line with their party policy on free schools, if the Initiative group really are still planning to re-apply. We await their campaign in opposition with interest.

 

 

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17 comments

  1. Rain17

    I am going to add a new tag to my blog: misuses of compassion. As for mainstream schools being called “damaging, child unfriendly, and toxic”? by an anthroposophy educator? Lol, please. Pot meet kettle.

  2. Helen

    Dr House believes Steiner’s clairvoyant “insights” are important according to his piece in Mother Magazine;
    “… Rudolf Steiner happened to have a deep insight into perennial wisdom and developmental insight about children that the vast majority of us simply don’t possess. So Steiner education isn’t right because it’s Steiner education, but because it’s founded in perennial wisdom and developmental insight that are potentially available and accessible to all of us.”

  3. Nick Nakorn

    I read Dr. House’s article for the Mother Magazine and could not imagine any serious academic institution awarding a doctorate to someone for whom rationality was so unimportant. I’m also disgusted that he should ask us to feel compassion for people who wish to support a racist doctrine; as usual the racists claim a dilemma for themselves (requiring our compassion) and blame the victims of their racism (our skin colour means we have been spiritually lacking in our past lives and have not achieved Aryan perfection) for the racism itself. As for non-white children in State Schools – one shudders to think what Dr. House might think of them.

  4. Helen

    I see Dr house has responded to the Guardian “extremist” article by describing mainstream education as toxic again, and Steiner education as “enlightened”.
    I suppose he thinks he has been enlightened by Steiner’s insights, including the racist ones still used in Steiner schools today, such as the peach-coloured walls – the colour of human skin. The “anthroposophical colour system is explained here
    http://www.colorsystem.com/?page_id=1301&lang=en

  5. Jim

    How exactly does he support both Steiner schools and the Green Party policy on free schools? I can think of two ways – one is to say OK to Steiner schools but not to state funding. In that case where is his dilemma?
    The other option might be no to free schools but all state schools to be run on Steiner lines. Now that would be a truly horrific notion but perhaps given his antagonism to mainstream education that is what he really wants.

    • Helen

      I was about to say yes, he would love all education to be Steiner, but then thought no, I am sure there is an element of inverted snobbery about all this. Sometimes people enjoy deviating from the norm. If the norm was following Steiner what would they do instead? How would they make themselves think their child was more “rounded” than all the others?

      • Rain17

        I believe it was PLANS in the states who pointed out that Steiner himself would have been against state funding of Steiner schools. But then, my experience is that these people are so selective in what they believe and don’t believe when it comes to what the man actually wrote.

        • Helen

          Well they are certainly selective in what they say they believe…

          Some Steiner people don’t want state-funding for their schools, they anticipate difficulties if there are compromises to be made – look at how Aberdeen closed rather than make the changes required by the inspectors.

  6. Jim

    On the matter of compassion – well I do have some sympathy for those Steiner free school supporters who believed what they were told about the nature of the school and are disappointed that it has been refused. I can only hope that the opposition the proposal aroused will encourage them to find out more. Perhaps then they will come to see it as a lucky escape.

  7. folkdevil

    Hi
    Just coming out of the woodwork to leave a supportive comment. As a Stroudie who has dared to post up criticism of anthroposophy on my facebook account, and got into hot water for it with Steiner and Steiner-sympathetic friends, I just want to say thanks for putting this blog together and well done for being a focal point for opposition to Steiner stuff in Stroud.

    I am a Green Party member who (in line with policy ;) ) is against free schools, although I do think we could do with a lot more variety and choice in our schooling system. Personally I am a home educator and home ed advocate.

    Anyway, it’s not easy to stand up against Steiner in Stroud, I’m personally not often brave enough to say what I really think, though it’s good to find allies. I am friends with one of the main organisers of the Steiner free school campaign, who is absolutely lovely and kind and I find it so hard to reconcile this person with the abhorrent worldview of anthoposophy. One of the problems of the circles we move in…

    As someone keenly interested in childhood and play, people usually assume I am pro-Waldorf for their fluffy educational approach, but nothing could be further from the truth.

    Anyway, I could bang on for paragraphs more – this whole issue is a real concern of mine – but I’ll stop for now… you may find me commenting again on future articles now I am following your blog.
    Cheers.

    • Helen

      Thanks, your support is much appreciated. I am sure there are many more Green party members like you!
      You are right it is not easy to discuss the Steiner issue around here without giving offence – there’s a lot of denial and lack of understanding about exactly how anthroposophy is at work locally.
      There are two faces to Steiner – the warm and friendly one and the rather sinister and downright unpleasant one lying just under the surface. Separating the two is impossible, as more people are now realising.

    • Nick Nakorn

      It is certainly difficult and awkward at social events, parties and so-on, where a great many people are favourable to Anthroposophy; I’ve found myself often quite alone in my views. The question I keep asking is; what, for them, would be a deal-breaker? If not the racist doctrine and woo, then what? My genuine worry is that many otherwise kind people are absolutely ripe for manipulation by political forces for whom the denial of rational argument plus a bit of racist ‘blood and soil’ is merely a means to a far-right agenda. It takes very little to tip people from a vague dislike of ‘the other’ to actual action against the perceived ‘inferior’ group. In the 70s I expected to suffer violence from my peers and I did – many of their parents’ generation had experienced combat or imprisonment in S.E Asia and any ‘yellow’ person was fair game for them. But things improved hugely in the 80s and 90s and then flattened out a bit in the noughties. Since then, things have got worse again. With UKIP on the rise, nationalism and jingoism becoming normal again and ‘political correctness’ (one of the mechanisms that made all the improvements possible) is now thought to be a bad thing. Incidents like the N.Devon ‘panto’ called Snow white and The 7 Asylum Seekers caused a real split and many people rightly complained. While that was going on, areas of N. Devon became dangerous as the previously disempowered young racists found they had a lot more allies than they had previously thought. I could cope with the monkey chanting but then there was the contractor who refused to work for my employer because I wasn’t white, the gang of road-workers who ran me off the road with their lorry (they too had monkey chanted me a few days earlier) and then the two trucks, 8 men with dogs and guns who shot all around me and then left as rapidly as they had arrived. These things are not unconnected to my open and vociferous objections to racism. All it takes is an ‘uppity’ wog to turn white mild annoyance into dangerous violence and worse.

  8. Jim

    Helen is right about the difficulty of separating the “nice” and the “nasty” aspects of Steiner in day to day contact with people in Stroud. Hard as it is for me to to understand I’m forced to conclude that there are Steiner sympathisers who really are as nice as they seem. ( I rule out the real hard core of course ). But what does seem characteristic of them is a simple unquestioning attitude – the sort of attitude which when directed towards other people we would call “non-judgemental” and find admirable but which is more worrying when directed towards anthroposophy. Whatever the explanation I find it best with them to adopt the same attitude I do with other religions – if they stay off the subject ( in words and actions ) then so will I.

    It is alarming how racism seems to be becoming acceptable again, not just lurking beneath the surface. I’m not aware of any incidents as bad as those Nick describes happening around Stroud but its bad enough to hear my friend’s teenage children expressing without embarrassment attitudes which would not have been acceptable 10 – 15 years ago. It is also very curious. Stroud is quite rural and overwhelmingly white. So does lack of diversity foster these attitudes? Yet I’m also convinced that part of the reason Steiner is so big in Stroud is that it is so white. That is why Stroud, with surplus school places, is targeted for a Steiner free school while Gloucester, with a shortage of places but ethnically more diverse, is not.

    Not that I’d wish a Steiner free school on Gloucester!

    • Rain17

      I know what you mean, Jim. But it’s become easy for me. Since my problem with Steiner/Waldorf is not personal, and if any person is kind to me, they receive kindness in return, regardless of stripe or life station. That includes any Waldorf parent, student, or teacher I might meet up with on the street or at the grocery store or at my SO’s children’s playdates.

      But endorsing Waldorf systemic racism and institutionalized whackjobbery with my presence? That’s hopping abord the Nopetrain to Nevergonnahappenville. As someone still more or less immersed in the boundary-bluuring Waldorf lifestyle, my SO is just now in recent months beginning to understand the importance of professional distance and detached cordiality. In the Waldorf setting, it has become a true lifesaver for me and I would also say our family life.

    • Helen

      Thanks for the link, I hadn’t seen that. This time I see he refers to mainstream education as “factory farming” and the teachers as carrying out a technical exercise. He doesn’t care how many creative and dedicated teachers he insults whilst trying to bolster Steiner methods.

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