Steiner schools have an agenda; that much is clear from their promotional material. You may read the phrases “child-centred” “holistic” and “creative” as harmless, even positively beneficial, or perhaps you look deeper and realise they are important in an entirely different way to staff and families who *know* about how anthroposophy works. Either way there is also the admission now on websites that anthroposophy is the framework for Steiner schools, despite the claims that it is “not taught to the children”.
Steiner school brochures often claim that they protect children “from the harmful influences of broader society” – these include television, computers, certain sports, foods and even some clothing.
Is this compatible with promoting British values? Is the Steiner idea of what is harmful in line with the rest of our society?
In June the Department for Education (DfE) launched a consultation on “strengthening powers to intervene in schools which are failing to actively promote British values”. It is a response to the Trojan Horse affair where schools in Birmingham were found not to be sufficiently preparing children for life in this country.
The values under consideration are;
- the rule of law
- individual liberty
- mutual respect
- tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs
The list is designed to contain what is considered desirable in education; a reiteration of what is important in our society.
The last three are of concern when we consider the way Steiner schools seek to establish the superiority of their own lifestyle choices over those of the rest of us; this is illustrated by the comments here and letters to the local press from people who have been convinced that only Steiner education is good enough for their child, and the idea that the outside world is wicked, degenerate and full of people unaware of the “true wisdom” of Steiner values; a myth perpetuated in the Steiner community.
So much for mutual respect.
Individual liberty is something Grégoire Perra has written about at length in terms of the way anthroposophy affects those who come under its influence; its cult-like behaviour has a way of closing the minds of followers and turning them into different people, incapable of making decisions and asking questions; he should know, as a member of the cult from his youth, and now on the outside.
Tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs.
Well this is an easy one to make claims about on paper. On their websites Steiner schools say they welcome families of all faiths, that they are “non-denominational”. They sometimes speak about a Christian ethos, and indeed the teacher’s handbook includes details of specific bible stories, especially creation stories, to include at each age level. These are included because they are helpful in anthroposophy in introducing young children to the idea of a god and that humans are not animals, but separate and evolving according to Steiner’s dogma.
Families who leave often cite the copious amounts of religious chanting, apparently Christian festivals, and references to god and Christ as a reason for the feelings of isolation. Families with religious beliefs at variance with anthroposophy have particular problems.
Lyra referred to the Steiner curriculum book in a comment; “The Educational Tasks of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum, (2000) …The book is edited by Tobias Richter and Martyn Rawson with contributions from Trevor Mepham, John Burnett and Christoper Clouder – all First Class members of the School of Spiritual Science.”
This book does not contain references to any of the British values, and indeed the references used, the works recommended for study, the plays performed, and the theories held up as examples, are mainly German, as recommended by Rudolf Steiner (I recommend a look at this curriculum book).
The DfE is clearly concerned about religious extremism, and yet there are calls (according to a blogpost on the Local Schools Network this morning) for more religion to be included in education, and the Spiritual Moral Social and Cultural standard I mentioned in a previous post is also brought into the discussion.
The reaction to the events in Birmingham, an attempt to strengthen British values, could be seen as having an unspoken aim to bring the historical religious faith of this country back to prominence, by insisting it is included in education. The last thing we need, in my opinion, is a return to religious indoctrination in schools, where currently there is in general a happy situation where religion and its divisive outlook is dying out among young people, with fewer and fewer regarding it as relevant to their lives.
The Government consultation ends on Monday morning, 18th August, and it is possible to submit comments until then.