Child study – part 2

Child study is a form of assessment unique to Steiner schools – because it is anthroposophical. No other schools think it is important to use Rudolf Steiner’s “indications” on the best way to assess how a child is doing and make decisions about their future education.

Parents must accept child study as part and parcel of Steiner education. The SWSF are strict about their involvement in the way schools are run, it is all detailed in the membership criteria documents.

The SWSF are prescriptive about “how the school carries out child studies, in-service, staff development, research & study (please refer to SWSF Code of Practice).” (Page 9 of the accreditation document), and recommend meditation as an aid to teaching and learning.; “methodology & curriculum is determined & developed through a process of individual action & deep reflection (including meditation)…”. (page 17)

So exactly what takes place in Child Study? It is an element of staff meetings which according to Kevin Avison who compiled the Handbook for Waldorf Class Teachers, “draw upon the intentions of the future”. When he says the future, he is talking about the Sixth post Atlantean Epoch (page 48 of the handbook)– don’t forget, we are only in the fifth at the moment. He says that the fulfilment of Steiner schools’ educational work is “not to be expected in the earthly present.” I hope all Steiner parents understand this when they sign their child up – it would be disappointing if they were expecting results in their present incarnation, and have to wait until a future one.

It has three stages, as detailed in the Handbook for Waldorf class teachers, and takes place among staff, without the presence of the child or their parents. The handbook says parents *may* be invited to stage 2 if it is deemed appropriate.

Stages 1 and 2 begin with the soul calendar which has no explanation in the handbook – clearly Steiner teachers are all au fait with this already, having been indoctrinated – sorry, trained –  at anthroposophy college.

It is to do with astrology and the time of year the child was born, and involves a special Rudolf Steiner verse being recited by the staff. Also a candle is lit.

Here is a sample verse from the RS archive;

Natur, dein mütterliches Sein,
Ich trage es in meinem Willenswesen;
Und meines Willens Feuermacht,
Sie stählet meines Geistes Triebe,
Dass sie gebären Selbstgefühl,
Zu tragen mich in mir.


Stage one is largely a description of the child based on observation by the class teacher. These observations  are on

  • height
  • weight
  • build
  • proportions

Sound reasonable? No, not at all; not like any staff meeting should sound. What business is it of teachers to discuss a child in this way?

Next, the staff discuss how the child sits, stands, walks, and runs – and staff may attempt to imitate these. (yes, really – It’s all there on Page 47.)

Next comes the child’s facial expression and “gaze”. Then “other features” – specifically eyes, nose, ears and hands, followed by laterality. (This last point was written about in a post here.)

This really does happen – I have witnessed it over coffee in the staff room.

Next the staff discuss the child in relation to the three Steiner “qualities” of thinking, feeling and will.

“If there is time … some of the above may be dramatized or drawing might be used to indicate certain qualities”.

So the staff act out how they think the child behaves.

Stage two ; after considering the child’s so-called temperament (sanguine, choleric, melancholy or phlegmatic), constitution and character type, the staff consider “if the child were a landscape, a plant, or an animal, which and why?”

Then; “imagine the child in a particular cultural epoch…”.

Anyone want to explain that to us?

Finally the teacher reads out the birthday verse he/she has written himself with some indication of the “intentions within it”. I have heard Steiner followers try to pass all this off as showing how much they care for the children, but I am afraid this doesn’t wash. It is absolutely no business of theirs to assess children in this way, apart from being a complete waste of tax-payers’ money, and a betrayal of trust on the part of the teachers. Parents do not want their child judged according to her appearance or the way she walks. It is all nonsense, and it is being done without the knowledge or permission of parents.

Stage three asks “What is this child asking me as a teacher and all of us as colleagues in the school?”

The children and their parents are asking for a good standard of education, not for guidance into the sixth epoch, which is what Steiner teachers want to give.



  1. Nick Nakorn

    The basis of Child Study is so utterly revolting it’s hard to know how to comment otherwise. I dread to think how Steiner’s slightly disguised eugenics sits with the so called ‘liberal’ parents who know about it – I suppose in the same way that countless other educated people have squared it; all the way to the gas chambers. Steiner doesn’t advocate genocide but he does predict it, based upon his support of the superior Aryan, and he does not say it should be avoided.

  2. Helen

    I agree – it’s totally repulsive. For that reason I conclude that many parents do not even know it goes on. I see that Kevin Avison does not seem to approve of parents being present, and from many accounts Steiner schools, colleges and care homes have not been rigorous in their record keeping.

      • Pete Karaiskos

        These initial (ridiculous) assessments impact the child throughout the process. “If you put on a play, you should cast the characters according to the temperaments of your students. You might, for example, ask your cholerics to play Julius Caesar, and you might cast your sanguines as the messengers, since they would enjoy running in and out with the news. The melancholics love philosophical roles. … The phlegmatics, on the other hand, like the parts where they can sit and think, removed from the central action of the play.” (From “Waldorf Education – A Family Guide” – p. 65-66 The Role of Temperament in Understanding the Child by Rene Querido)

        That carries into putting all the phlegmatic “lazy” kids together in the 5th grade Olympics – and giving them their own color so that they can be distinguished from children with different characteristics – precisely by the color of their tee shirt.

        Coincidentally, just today I was reading about Steiner’s twisted ideas which are along the same lines on Rudolf Waldorf Answers:

        “We are actually trying to avoid a war of white mankind versus colored mankind. By spreading Anthroposophy throughout the world, we expect, very soon, people on savage continents will start incarnating into white (or whiter) bodies.” Rudolf Waldorf

          • Pete Karaiskos

            This teacher has skillfully identified and separated the cholerics, sanguines, phlegmatics and melancholcs based on their body shape, genetics and character.

            Here’s a good photo gallery:

            For readers who don’t know, once a teacher decides your temperament, you ARE that child… you are forced to play out that role in everything from the school play to athletics. Don’t worry – there aren’t just four categories. Temperament is only one of many Steiner concepts teachers use to pigeonhole children. “Large-headed” children are dreamy while “small-headed” children are prone to be more intellectual. Doctors in Steiner’s early Waldorf schools tried to actually measure children’s heads to determine this characteristic – but when they couldn’t match up their data to Steiner’s, it became clear that, as with the temperaments, Waldorf teachers and not doctors were best suited to determine who are the large and small headed children. And, of course, anyone who believes Waldorf teachers take all these imaginary things into consideration and somehow ignore a child’s race when making determinations about them – after all that Steiner taught about how the spirituality of the child is impressed on the color of the child’s skin – is quite delusional. The child’s race, and the child’s heritage is a huge factor in how Waldorf teachers assess the child.

            So “honoring childhood” (mind if I Americanise the spelling? – wait, I mean Americanize) doesn’t enter into the picture. It’s about pigeonholing children to make the teacher’s job a little easier. And so the child is “honored” in the first grade by having their teacher find exactly the right pigeon hole for them – the right label that will be placed on that child throughout the child’s encounter with the school. Teachers will use that label and apply it to any situation the child may find themselves in. Child beat up another child? That’s the choleric coming out… no need to worry. Child got beat up? He’s a phlegmatic – he’s got thick skin. Child miserable every day at school? Obviously a melancholic!

            Like you, I find it difficult to find any “honor” in this.

  3. we escaped!

    The school my son attended have never acknowledged our repeated requests to provide us with copies of his child study reports/notes.

  4. jrbando

    Let’s be clear: to treat children in a particular way on the basis of some pseudo mediaeval claptrap, and for instance to tell children who are depressed that there’s nothing to be done about it because it is their immutable temperament, that is child abuse. And now it’s state funded child abuse.

  5. Rain17

    Anybody seen “And Finally – Appendix M”? Klassy piece of work tells anyone anything we need to know about Waldorf/Steiner contempt for both students and parents.

    • Helen

      Yes – appendix M in the handbook is a bizarre bit of anthroposophical honesty about what their real methods are. Clearly it was never intended for outsiders to read, but as you say it is very revealing.

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