The melting pot

In a local education supplement today there is an advertisement for the Stroud Steiner free school. The ad asks parents to fill in their support survey.

If the team are going to resubmit their application next month, I hope they will not be including signatures from parents who expressed an interest last time and who thought the proposed school would be opening next year. Many of these children will have settled in at other schools by September 2016, and other parents may well have done some research on anthroposophy since they were initially approached.

Steiner’s belief system does require thorough research, if children are being sent to a school run according to the tenets of this doctrine.

It would be presumptuous to include in their figures families who have not shown support recently.

On the “vision” page of their website they encourage supporters to read so they “know what they are signing up for”, the Steiner school team say

“Please note: although the ethos of Stroud Steiner Free School area derives from Steiner’s work on child development, the school will neither promote nor teach his wider philosophy, which he called “anthroposophy”.

Since anthroposophy is the raison d’être for Steiner schools, and any school bearing the Steiner name must be accredited by the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, who oversee the way anthropsosophy is incorporated, this is an entirely misleading claim.

Steiner schools are the movement’s method of ensuring their creed does not die out; the “inner work” the teachers do on impressionable young minds, with or without their parents’ consent, ensures a steady trickle of people willing to take Steiner’s ideas seriously, and jobs for enthusiasts, where they don’t have to mix with what they see as the wicked outside world. They are essentially melting pots for anthroposophy.

Telling children evolution is a reductionist concept (according to the Steiner curriculum book) and giving credence to imaginary beings and all kinds of pseudoscience is indeed teaching anthroposophy. So is eurythmy, and so are the Steiner prayers. And so are the festivals, if parents look behind the façade of “seasonal celebration”.

“…interpretations of Steiner’s ideas have changed over time,” they say, in connection with a statement about “some of Steiner’s Anthroposophical writing [which] relates to race and ethnicity”.

In fact devotees, including the *best* Steiner teachers, follow Steiner’s indications slavishly and quote him endlessly. They write books on how best to include his ideas into education. The lectures he gave on races and ethnicity, and how they affect and are affected by “karma” are fundamental to the “work” on child development so beloved by the free school team.

Instead of being told that anthroposophy is somehow irrelevant to what this school sets out to do, parents should be encouraged to research anthroposophy thoroughly before they fill in the survey, and not just to “read the vision statement” as the school website advises.

It is time for the people behind this bid to come clean about what this school would really be doing to children, not hide behind the oft repeated mantra about “not teaching anthroposophy”.

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122 comments

  1. Helen

    Someone asked a very pertinent question on the “anthroposophy and education” page of the Steiner school website about the reason for delayed reading, but did not get an answer there.

    The phrase about “we will neither teach nor promote…” is repeated on that page too.

    • phawitvliet

      All my working-life I have been a Steinerschool-teacher (about 40 y.) Teaching children to write and to read takes more time – the course of the first grade, in general, in my classes. A letter is an abstract ‘thing’; its form had as well could been different. It has nothing to say to a child. When we look in history we see in former cultures that the letter was an image that had much meaning for the user. We try to give the child an image for a letter, so that a connection takes place. We tell a story about a bear; paint it, draw it; walk rhythmically on a poem or verse about a bear, so that the child get acquainted to the sound B (not beee, the alphabethletter). This goes for more letters, till there are so many that reading can start with the familiar sounds. At the same time we practice drawing ‘round and straight’ all kind of directions, good sitting attitudes and pencilholding attitudes. In the way and time a child can handle this. All this takes some more time. Most children ‘love’ the letters and that means what was strange in the beginning, is now ‘a friend’.
      See: Audrey Mc.Allen: ‘teaching children to write and to read’.
      This means ‘food’ for the child’s phantasy.To have phantasy is one of the most human capacities. Wenn Steiner speaks of these capacities, he also mentions the phantasy. But by developping the child’s phantasy by teaching letters this way, I am not ‘carrying anthroposophy into the class-room’.
      When St. emphasizes the importance of a child’s rhythmical life and I support this by rope-skipping, I am not carrying anthroposophy in the class-room.

      • Jim

        Oh dear – where to start?

        Anyone who has not spent 40 years in Steiner teaching and therefore retains some objectivity can read this and say “that’s what we mean by bringing anthroposophy into the class room”. All your assertions about children’s learning are derived from Steiner rather than actual educational experience. Of course reading has to be learned but the capacity for abstraction is innate in children and begins to show very early. Even from the age of 2 you can see it developing, initially in a hit and miss fashion ( eg a small child saying “I’m sit downing” having grasped the use of “ing” in forming the participle but not yet being sure where the verb ends ). And similarly at 3 or so they may well be recognising letters, understanding that they form words and knowing that words represent things or actions.

        It is also simply wrong to say that in former cultures letters were images with a meaning. Some were pictorial, others not, and in some that appear pictorial the image represents not the thing it resembles but a syllable with no obvious connection. But perhaps you were thinking of the ancient language of Atlantis?

        And don’t you think your emphasis on fantasy and rhythm ( backed up by references to Steiner ) is bringing anthroposophy into the class room? Of course it is.

        • phawitvliet

          @Jim
          (I’m a Dutchman)
          I gave an answer to the question: ‘why more time’. I gave some reasons. That is why and how it is done in Waldorfschools.
          By saying ‘of course it is’ you don.t give evidence to ‘anthroposophy – what so ever in the class-room. So give examples, please. I’m anxious to know where the anthr. is in what I meant by fantasy and rhythm.
          (Pieter HA Witvliet)

          • Jim

            Hi Pieter

            When we talk about anthroposophy in Steiner schools no one is suggesting that children are given explicit lessons in anthroposophical theories or made to study Steiner’s writings. So in that sense supporters can continue to claim that they do not teach anthroposophy, despite the fact that it underlies all aspects of the teaching, the festivals, the verses ( or prayers ), the way children are categorised and so on. This point has been made here and elsewhere countless times but still we hear the same denial.

            I realise you were answering the question “why more time” but my argument is that the reasons are unfounded and dogmatic. Children should not be forced to read before they are ready but neither should they be held back when they are ready because of dogma.

            When one has worked in the same environment for a long time it is naturally difficult to see things from a different perspective – that applies to all of us. But when that environment is as static, all pervasive and backward looking as the Steiner worldview it must be so much harder. So when you explain the importance you give to fantasy and rhythm solely by reference to the authority of Steiner can you not see that you are implicitly bringing in anthroposophical assumptions? By focussing on the child’s natural imagination you are not merely engaging with it but manipulating it along anthroposophical lines. And delaying reading has the useful effect of reducing outside influences on the child and increasing dependence on the class teacher.

            Similarly the notion of a child’s “rhythmical life” is a purely anthroposophical one, it has no meaning outside the Steiner worldview. You are using the rope skipping to support some sort of “spiritual” fantasy.

            Just because you may never mention the word “anthroposophy” to a child does not mean that you are not feeding it to them every day.

            • phawitvliet

              Your remark ( ) despite….on. ( ). When you say ‘underlies’ you are right in a certain way. This ‘underlying’ is a basis: the insights of Steiner in what a human being is and – and here we come to the point: the reforming of these ideas in methods. I gave a few examples: insight in the importance of fantasy: methods of developing this fantasy. The little child as a being of ‘will’; method: learning with movement. Etc.
              Whatever ‘alternative’ pedagogue you will study, you always will find something that underlies – otherwhile there could not be spoken of ‘alternative’.

              Your remark ( ) So when you…..assumptions?
              What make you conclude that I solely refer to Steiner? I react here on ‘what is about Steiner’ so I try to explain what he meant. But I can do this because there is much support for Steiner’s vision, simply to be seen in what others say about the importance of children’s fantasy. When a well-respected Dutch professor in early-child development says: ‘Young children learn most by playing, not by intellectual methods’ – we have the basis of Steinerschool Kindergarten.

              Your remark ( ) Similarly …….fantasy.
              How can you say that a child’s rhythmical life is purely anthroposophical. Maria Montessori e.g. spoke of the 3 R’s for a healthy development of the child: Rhythm!; rest, regularity. And every mother or father of a baby can tell you how important the rhythmical periods of feeding and sleeping are. And, sitting here and you there, we are constantly in rhythmical processes: breathing, sleeping, eating, day/night, seasons so on, and so on.
              That is not an invention of Steiner’s – it is life itself. And that is what Steiner tried to do for educators: description of life itself. Description of nature. And pointing out that it is necessary for a child when it is educated, that the educator is co-operative with nature. The child has an natural need to move; so enabling movement while educating, is supporting nature – not supporting Steiner!

              Your remark: Just because—day
              As you can see in my above remark – what you call ‘anthroposophical feeding’ is meant for the teacher. He reforms it to ‘natural feeding’ – (among others: fantasy, artistic, creative things, rhythmical things, such as rope skipping.
              When the teachter does well, he reforms Steiner’s insights: all for the benefit of the child!

  2. Nick Nakorn

    Indeed Helen; I have yet to read the new interpretation of the racial hierarchy and how it is supposed to function compared to how Steiner says it functions. As far as I can tell there has been no effort whatsoever to thoroughly critique Anthroposophy from within the movement and to come up with modern interpretations – mostly because none of it stands rational scrutiny in the first place so there can be no rational response other than complete rejection. For us such rejection is easy because we are mostly rational in our deliberations, but, for people who regard ‘spiritual revelation’ as having a higher status than rational argument, pretty much any old made-up rubbish can be made to look impressive. Yet such ‘spiritual’ revisions do not seem to be forthcoming because to admit to them would be to say that Steiner was wrong and that’s something the Anthroposophists are not prepared to say in other than very vague terms.

  3. j

    Steiner was very keen to promote an education that enabled individuals to become independent and free thinking, able make rational decisions. Looking benesth the surface his writings and lectures include ideas that are very strange – Atlantis, a battle being waged for dominance of our souls by disincarnate beings etc. Yet my daughters were helped greatly by attending a Kindergarden, they were so happy there, and adapted well into the state primary at age 6 or 7, leant to read later but soon caught up. His ideas on the importance of nutrition, rhythm, imagination, emotion etc in growing children are surely a refreshing.antidote to the relentless testing and cramming that many politicians want to promote, so we can compete with the likes of South Korea. Also the importance of avoiding spending too much time on screens and electronic gadgets that is emphasised in Steiner Schools is surely important and borne out by experience . Even Steve Jobs kept his kids off the technology. Look how many disillusioned and lost young people emerge when starved of a proper human education.

    • Helen

      Thanks for the comment j.
      There’s that word again – “rhythm” – would you care to explain it to us?
      Yes, there is some “very strange” stuff there – and some downright nasty stuff. Beneath the surface? Only because Steiner followers try to keep it that way. Atlantis is in the Handbook for Waldorf class teachers, you know – not beneath the surface at all.
      It’s funny how supporters of the Steiner system always highlight the “independent and freethinking” part – that’s what the blurb says on the kindergarten leaflets, isn’t it? Independent from what? Freethinking meaning what exactly? Free to think there might be a spiritual world around us that can only be perceived by those who have clairvoyant “insight” perhaps? Free to believe in karma? Free to believe the gnomes are watching them? Free to believe crops grow better when you stuff a cow horn with manure and bury it in the soil?
      There is the suggestion that Steiner children are allowed to use their imagination and emotion, whereas other children are not. How insulting.
      Similarly the ridiculous notion that Steiner ‘s ideas on nutrition and “screens” are refreshing – personally I agree on healthy diet and encouraging children outside rather than in front of the tv, but I don’t need a school to tell me “Steiner says…”
      Your criticism of “relentless cramming and testing” is to me a straw man argument – our children were not subject to this in mainstream schools and I am afraid the myth is perpetrated constantly by the Steiner movement to criticise other schools.
      When it suits them they will hold up Finland as an example, but here you use South Korea. I did not want my children to compete with those from South Korea, just for them to have a decent education without indoctrination with pseudoscience and superstition, and that is what they got.
      Sadly if this Steiner free school goes ahead, many children in Stroud will be subjected to exactly that indoctrination, all at the expense of the tax-payer.

  4. Helen

    In reply to Pieter
    Maria Montessori also believed in a “spiritual force that guided human development” so in that sense there is a similarity with Steiner.
    You say there is much support for Steiner’s vision (clairvoyant vision, you mean?) and it is noticeable that followers such as yourself are always looking out for studies which seem to fit in with anthroposophy such as “Young children learn most by playing, not by intellectual methods’ “. Yes, that is why they play all the time! My children’s reception class at school was full of play activities – painting, playdoh, dressing up box, building bricks and so on, but also importantly, books, which Steiner classrooms do not allow.
    Pieter, if you have spent all your working life teaching in a Steiner school maybe you also attended a Steiner school as a child? You may never have entered a “normal” classroom and seen the amount of “play” and “moving around” that goes on.
    The rhythm of life…yes, it is there in all our lives. We all know there are routines; seasons, days and nights, meal times, bed-times, play-time, home time – so what? What is different about these rhythms in a Steiner school from any other? Why the constant reference to this “rhythm”? If all you are saying is routine is important in a child’s life, well, yes, I agree. But I don’t need a clairvoyant to tell me so.
    You seem to muddle nature with “natural”. Nature has a special significance in anthroposophy, doesn’t it? It is explained very well on Waldorf watch.

    • Helen

      And Pieter, I had a look at your blog in Dutch, and you have an article about whether anthroposophy is science or a belief system, or pseudoscience. You quote a professor as saying that there can be “no comprehensive understanding” from science, which has
      “a limited understanding.”
      You say anthroposophy provides a colourful palette for life – presumably by this you mean it provides alternative explanations – in other words, those which are not science. Surely you must agree that pseudoscience has no place in the classroom. Parents are free to impose their alternative views on children if they see fit, but schools should not be, and this is precisely what happens in Steiner schools – anthroposophical ideas about human development and history are introduced into the curriculum at the expense of real science, all because people like you believe in Steiner’s “visions”.

    • phawitvliet

      ==You say there is much support for Steiner’s vision (clairvoyant vision, you mean?)==
      I mean the outcome of his clairvoyance. And yes, I am always looking to articles, opinions, discussions, dealing with the same subject, but not only those that agree with Steiner. When he once said the intelligence is formed by handactivity, then we now see, that he was right
      Yes, that’s why they play. But the point is, that – anyhow here in Holland, little children get lesser and lesser time to play in Kindergarten. Our economy is considered as a ‘knowledge-economy’ and that’s why children should learn intellectual stuff as soon as it is possible. And some scolars warn for this slash-and-burn education; as Steiner did almost a century ago. And when enough parents think these points important for their children, they have a right – under certain conditions – for a school that practices these points of view.
      For me it does not matter whether Steiner’s sayings are clairvoyant or not. I have seen them again and again as very worthful, proved in practice.

      No, I did not attend a Waldorfschool in my youth. I got acquinted to the Waldorfschoolprinciples when I was schooled as a teacher at a state-school. Of all the systems I had to study, Steiner’s looked to be the nearest to the child’s nature.

      The difference in rhythm: the whole approach of ‘composing’ the day-time in an ‘in-out’: that it is breathing soundly. Limb-activity (movement): out; listening to something –(rest) in. Artistic activities: drawing (out) –learning by heart (in). This is just in general; but very different from the approach in Dutch schools: 1 hour language; 1 hour arithmatic; 1 hour geography; 1 hour drawing; 1 hour limb activity etc.

      (nature and natural is at the moment not clear to me: I’ll watch ‘waldorfwatch)

      • Helen

        Ah yes, the breathing in and breathing out – complete nonsense in my opinion. Anthroposophy also has it that the world breathes in and out at different times of the year, according to descriptions of the Steiner festivals.
        You asked me top scan the page on Atlantis in the handbook, I can’t scan the page I am afraid. The book is only about £12 and well worth the investment. It refers to “looking towards the sixth epoch”, (p 46) and also to the “Third Atlantean epoch”(p37) and says that teachers cannot expect to find fulfilment from their work “in the immediate earthly present”.
        There are also “incarnating exercises” on page 38 and on page 21 a recommendation for teachers to read Steiner’s book “Occult Science.”
        I am quite shocked that you studied Waldorf Steiner education as part of teacher training at mainstream college. Did you find out about anthroposophy whilst you were there or only when you started working at a Steiner school?
        Actually, if trainee teachers were told about anthroposophy here, it would save an awful lot of trouble – people would soon back away from Steiner schools, rather than finding themselves drawn in. Perhaps it should be a compulsory measure to warn people.

  5. Jim

    Pieter – no one is denying that there are certain natural rhythms or cycles involved in our lives and nature but they are simply what they are, not signifiers of some mystic significance. So the heart is a pump but a pump works best when it operates smoothly whether it is pumping blood or hot water around a central heating system. Likewise children need periods of eating, exercise, rest, mental activity etc – Steiner is not saying anything exceptional in that except when it comes to some of his spiritual and pseudo scientific descriptions of these “rhythms”.

    The way Steiner fetishises ordinary things such as this is like someone stoned staring in wonder at their own hand incapable of talking sense. Or if you prefer like primitive people seeing magic forces all around them.

  6. David Clark

    Hi Helen,

    Just picking up briefly on the “Melting Pot” theme and matters arising that relate to an appreciation of the heart. I’m not quite sure how you and/or Jim may relate to this theme. I’m also wary of straying too far from the header theme. My everyday and mundane context is that of a First Aider considering life signs. Over the years, I have acquired texts that explore different aspects of heart function in the context of the circulatory system. You may imagine that, being familiar with Rudolf Steiner’s indication, I am quite intrigued by this variety of explanations.

    As a practitioner, I know that rhythm and the pulse form a significant element of diagnosis, potentially defining situations requiring emergency action. As you know, there are a variety of bodily symptoms that can also reflect cardiac or circulatory problems. Many and varied perhaps, but not too mystical.

    Being pragmatic, I accept that functioning of the embodied heart is important for our well-being. In this way, my empirical interest in circulation transcends rhetorical questions of whether the heart is a pump. As an “Anthroposophist”, you may guess that I’m very interested in the technical possibilities for scientific discovery that may be afforded by the newer imaging and scanning technologies. While science progresses over time through enquiry and the pursuit of evidence, everyday decisions still have to be made.

      • Helen

        It’s ok I knew what you meant by that. But the rest of what you said is not clear. Your adherence to anthroposophy has coloured your view of science and you seem to be hoping that one day mainstream science will prove Steiner’s clairvoyant visions were accurate. Until that day I maintain that Steiner schools should refrain from teaching pseudoscience.

        • David Clark

          Hi Helen,

          Not so, I’m afraid. There’s no space for dogma and abstraction in empirical first aid practices. A Popperian (Karl Popper) view of scientific endeavour would presume scientific progress arising through testing of current knowledge and falsification of hypotheses. Are you suggesting that challenging results of Anthroposophy may somehow trump such logically rigorous approaches? I am not. Are you a scientist?

  7. phawitvliet

    Helen: you said ‘Ah yes, the breathing in and breathing out – complete nonsense in my opinion.’
    So you call what you do yourself 18 times a minute ‘complete nonsense’. Then it is difficult to discuss. For me it is an enormous reality. Sleeping-awaking-all these ‘ins’and ‘outs’ are. And they are given us by nature. When a baby cries for food, we react by giving it some. And when I see children play in the playground I see ‘the hunger’ to movement. And when someone tells me ‘use this movement to teach the children arithmatic’, and in doing so, see that he is right, I am not pleasing this someone, but I am doing right to the being of the child. And when this someone has a lot to say about how to teach and to treat children, and I see over and over again how right he is, I am not pleasing him or the movement he belongs to, but I am doing the children well.
    Somewhere in your article you say: Steiner schools are the movement’s method of ensuring their creed does not die out’. If I were to be offended, I should be after such remark.
    As if my struggling to give all the best to the children was ‘carrying out a method of’ etc.
    You, using this blunt remark, will not be offended too, I hope, when I say that this is great nonsense.
    Steiner gave us a lot of indications how to teach children: for the benefit of the children; When we take him seriously in that way, we also have to take him seriously – which I did – in his remarks on ‘anthroposophy’ in the Waldorfschool. In over more than 40 places in his about 180 lectures on education, he emphazised the fact that the school should not be ‘anthroposophical’. Here, after scrolling, you will find them in German and Dutch.
    So, when I asked you after ‘Atlantis’ I was anxious to know what is written in the book. For Atlantis should not be a subject of the history-lessons in the 5th form. Because Steiner’s Atlantis is anthroposophy and according to his own words….
    A few times you spoke of ‘pseudo’. I sometimes react on blogs like this – it is clear the owners are strong opponents of all around Steiner. They keep saying this and that, not seeing that they are using mantra’s in the same way they judge as a weakness of their opponents. ‘Pseudo’ is one of the mantra’s.
    At the same time they – without words – declare by that, they know what is ‘not-pseudo’ and to that it is to which everyone should act. Mostly they do not, or do not want to see, they are forcing other people to believe they believe in.
    When here was said: anthroposophy is just there for the teacher as a background –and in fact only the insights on human and childdevelopment, education and teaching, the opponents call it ‘denial’. So they know the truth!
    When they believe in a kind of education, it is a fundamental right; but when others believe in an other kind of education, it is a fundamental right too.
    In fact ‘stop Steiner in Stroud’ is anti-democratic.

    • Helen

      I am being blunt but also honest when I say I think all the stuff about breathing in and out is nonsense, – I think it would be wrong of me not to tell you what I really think about Steiner ideas on human development, I do not want to offend you, but I will not pretend to take them seriously. Yes, we all breathe in and out, that is stating the obvious, as is what you say about children wanting to move – are you suggesting this idea is only used in Steiner education? because that is not so.
      As MarkH eloquently put it on the Wynstones Exam Results thread – “Piaget, Bruner and Vygotsky had lots of good ideas about education that often also appear in Steiner schools, but without the karma, incarnating souls and cosmic flap-doodle that Steiner associated with them. Guess what trainee Steiner teachers are required to study?”
      You and I agree that anthroposophy should not be taught to children, but as Jim said above, after 40 years exclusively in the Steiner system, you cannot see that this is precisely what happens in those schools. The part about Atlantis in the handbook you mention is striking because it so casually included in a reference book for teachers, as though there is nothing unusual whatsoever in referring to work on Ancient Egypt as a study of “the Third Post Atlantean epoch”. This is a perfect illustration of how far Steiner teachers have strayed down the path away from reality, and they don’t even realise it has happened. This book was not meant to be read by the public, that’s for sure, and as such, is of great use to those wishing to find out something about what goes on in Steiner teaching.
      It is very sad for the teachers, the children, and their parents that this straying from reality has occurred. You say it is your fundamental right to believe in an “other” kind of education. Yes, it is, but it is parents’ fundamental right to be informed about what kind of education they are choosing.
      You personally Pieter, may not see Steiner schools as a way of perpetuating anthroposophy, although you say you take it seriously. Nevertheless, were it not for these schools, the creed would not continue.
      Not “anti-democratic” but “anti-secrecy” would be a good description of this site.
      By the way it was you who used the word pseudoscience on your blog – what conclusion did you come to – I can’t translate well enough from Dutch.

      • phawitvliet

        I have not yet told you, that I also worked – though a very short time, but not so long ago, after my retiring – in state-schools, Roman-Catholic-schools and even Islamic-schools.
        The education was very intellectual and hardly there was given any attention to artistic, creative activities, movement, fantasy as I knew and experienced them in my own teachter-life. I have hardly seen music-teachting; did not see musical instruments ( in the Islamic school I was not even allowed to play the recorder)
        A few weeks ago in a Dutch newspaper was the complaint of music-teachers of the bad level the state of music-teaching is here in this country. All my teaching-life I haven’t skip a day singing and playing, thanks to Steiner’s opinion of the importance of Music for our being a human.
        I know that more educators and education-systems speak of things you will find in steinerschools since they were founded.
        But in fact it is not important that others say what Steiner said or v.v. the importance is that it has been, or is said for the benefit of children.
        But whoever you study – I did – in Steiner’s insights, clues, working out themes for the subjects you will not find a more thouroughly well-considered system. Not for the purpose of Steiner himself, not for the purpose of anthroposophy or anthroposophists – only for the benefit of children. And seen broader: for society, even for the world.
        And here again: I do not say that teachers in other systems do not strive for this; but I say how I did it with the insight of Steiner’s – that is, in all the possibilities you have in teachting children the subjects they have to learn.
        I myself don’t call me ‘anthroposophist’ and even do not want to be called so. I have anthroposophy as a possibility of knowing myself and the world and to understand children and the means to help them growing up.
        Very less teachers here are a member of the anthroposophical society and do not call themselves anthr.
        They have not the slightest interest in putting anthroposophy in their schools, only the things they need to treat children in a childrens’way, to develop their (artistic) abilities, to make them respectful to others and to the creation.
        It is all striving, but human’s work and not always succesful of well-done.
        You (and other opponents) want to link steinerschools to sects. But they are not – also anthroposophy does not fulfill the criteria to be called so.
        So this is a cheap means of insinuation.
        (to be continued)

  8. Ramon De Jonghe

    I think Pieter HA Witvliet has a problem with the difference between idea and fact. The idea is that Rudolf Steiner would have meant there shouldn’t be anthroposophy in the steinerschool curriculum. Fact is that there is (a lot of) anthroposophy in the curriculum.

    Pieter knows this, but blames individual teachers for it. Typical for anthroposophists to blame individuals and not their guru. We know out of his own writings Rudolf Steiner tried to mislead almost everyone who didn’t agree with his phantasy.

    (…) ‘We must worm our way through…[I]n order to do what we want to do, at least, it is necessary to talk with the people, not because we want to, but because we have to, and inwardly make fools of them.’

    Rudolf Steiner, Conferences with Teachers of the Waldorf School vol.1, SFS Publications 1986 (…)

    It seems that those who fully agree with Rudolf have the same practice.

    I’ll give a rough translation of what Pieter HA Witvliet said on his own blog about Atlantis(15/01/2013):

    (…) Those familiar with the work of Rudolf Steiner, know he often refered to Atlantis.

    And in the way he talked about Atlantis, Atlantis is anthroposophy. And because anthroposophy shouldn’t be in the curriculum – these are Steiners words – it should be obvious not to make Atlantis subject of f.e. history class in the 5 class.

    However, this does happen, and thus critics have a point. (…)

    http://vrijeschoolpedagogie.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/atlantis-in-klas-5/

    Original Dutch quote

    (…) Wie vertrouwd is met het werk van Steiner weet dat hij uitvoerig heeft bericht over Atlantis.

    En zoals hij over Atlantis spreekt, is Atlantis antroposofie. En omdat antroposofie geen inhoud van leerstof hoort te zijn –het zijn de woorden van Steiner –zou het gemakkelijk voor de hand moeten liggen Atlantis geen onderwerp te maken van bv. het geschiedenisonderwijs in klas 5.

    Dit gebeurt echter wel en daarmee hebben de critici een punt.(…)

    Thus critics have a point.

    • Helen

      And on blaming individual teachers for using anthroposophy in schools – yes, that is a common method of denial. Defenders of Steiner schools say it is up to individual teachers to interpret anthroposophy – indeed that was what the principal at Hereford Steiner Academy told our MP Neil Carmichael when he went to visit. Problem is that the teachers are trained to use as much anthroposophy as possible on their training courses, and the SWSF makes it clear that anthroposophy is required in Steiner schools. There is really not much room for manoeuvre for individual teachers – especially when we see what the Steiner curriculum book says about teaching science, history, art – it’s full of anthroposophy.
      The people at the top of the schools are anthroposophists – often members of the School of Spiritual Science. Any teacher who did not include anthroposophy would be a rebel, and probably not last long.

  9. Jim

    Pieter – I see no point in responding to your nonsense about breathing but I cannot let your description of this site as “anti-democratic” go unchallenged. I’m afraid it shows the standard anthroposophist’s response to criticism which is to deny, mislead and finally to attempt to close down criticism by denying its legitimacy or ultimately by legal threat.

    You, and other Steiner supporters, have been given ample free space to respond to criticisms and your comments in turn have been responded to. In short, a democratic debate. I contrast this with attempts to enter into debate with pro-Steiner websites, and in particular the one promoting the proposed Steiner Free School in Stroud – you will see on those sites nothing but pro-Steiner comments for the simple reason than any comment which is not supportive is rejected. There is no attempt at debate. It is the Steiner movement which is anti-democratic.

    • phawitvliet

      The problem with Ramon the Jonghe/Verachtert is that he is constantly showing short-sighted thinking and manipulating. I was not an anthroposophical teacher. I did not teach anthroposophy; I used anthroposophical insights, reformed to a method of teachting. When I used Maria Montessori’s ‘sandpaper letters’ I was not a ‘Montessorian teacher’, nor a Daltonist’ when I had the children work in groups or let the older pupils help the younger in reading.
      This false use of ‘anthroposophical teacher’ is to manipulate: look, Witvliet is an antroposophist, Osswald is, so Osswald’s opinion is Witvliet’s opinion. (The Greek already said of insane thinking: a human goes on two legs and he is featherless; a plucked chicken goes on two legs and is featherless; so a human is a chicken)
      So in the case of ‘democracy’, I have nothing to do with Osswald’s opinions.
      What I really mean, not what de Jonghe/Verachtert is suggesting, is that in the Dutch Constitution are guarenteed certain freedoms. Religion, education e.g. When all kind of conditions are complied with, groups of like-minded can build churches or establish schools. When this is the case in Stroud it is a democratic right people have to establish a Waldorfschool. And trying to avoid this is in my opinion an anti-democratic deed. Just as protesting against the building of a mosque when the builidng is legal.
      The same applies to ‘taxes’. In the 70s pacifists protested to the fact that of their tax-money weapens were bought. Of course the protests were rejected because it had been democratically decised that weapons were bought and paid with the income-money of the State.

  10. Ramon De Jonghe

    About the anti-democratic. In May 2012 I attended a lecture by Florian Osswald, president of the Pedagogical Section of the Goetheanum. During his lecture Osswald stated that ‘democracy never works’.

    Other remarks about democracy made by Florian Osswald: (…) ‘A group never works. you cannot give a task to a group, only to individuals. (…) Making basic democratic decisions is always a problem. In school you need a different system, because people can always protest. Trust is the problem of democracy. (…) Democracy is war. We let individuals decide e.g. pension plan. Two people decide. How to decide on these people? We cannot decide, only experts can tell what is good. (…)

    In the light of Osswalds statements it’s rather ironic that an anthroposophical teacher starts slivering about anti-democracy.

  11. phawitvliet

    @Jim,
    You said: ‘There is no attempt at debate’
    Sorry, Jim, I try to debate here, but the answers I get do not point at a serieus debate: ‘nonsense this, nonsense that’. ‘denying this and that’. ‘cosmic flap-doodle’
    When I say other things that are believed here, ‘I am denying’ ‘such as ALL anthroposophists do’, but I am acquainted to this in discussing with opponents: generalizing and prejudices monopolize the ‘conversation’.
    When in my car-instructionbook it is said that to drive forward, I have to use the first gear. When the rear is used, I do not go forward. But the designer of the car, nor the workers in the factory are to be blamed for that, but only I myself. So when a Waldorfteacher brings in Atlantis in the history-lessons, only he is to blame, because in Steiner’s curriculum you do not find the slightes clue for that, on the contrary: on over 40 spots is the warning not to make the Waldorfschool a world-view school!. These are facts and it has nothing to do with denial.
    What you say of certain web-sites: ‘you will see on those sites nothing but pro-Steiner comments for the simple reason than any comment which is not supportive is rejected.’is what I can say of anti-Steinercomments in the same way. I sometimes try to debate on what has been said, but my answers and other points of view that could bring the criticism in another light is rejected, not only that, but refused: my reactions are not even placed. And – if a reason is given – it’s almost always ‘not appropriate’ or too ‘ad hominem’ and all other kinds of lame excuses. They just use their ‘discussion’ for exposing their points of view again and again and believe these are the truth.
    Take this ‘(…) ‘We must worm our way through…[I]n order to do what we want to do, at least, it is necessary to talk with the people, not because we want to, but because we have to, and inwardly make fools of them.’
    It is remarkable that de Jonghe/Verachtert never uses the original German text, but a wrong translation. The German expression is ‘eine Nase drehen’. But there is no dictionary translating ‘eine Nase drehen in ‘to make a fool of’.
    When you study the context in which these words were used, you come to quite other conclusions. The oppononts’ strategy – yes, they have several – is avoiding the context and taking the words fit for damaging. In Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner – 1919-1922 (GA 300a. GA 300b; Anthroposophic Press, 1998; page174 /176). the translation ‘tweaking their noses’ is used.
    De Jonghe/Verachtert, calling himself ‘an independent reporter’, is insulting the profession of reporter here, for a himself respecting reporter, reports of all sides, so at least de Jonghe/Verachtert could have been mentioning the other translation. But no: with this translation you cannot harm; so he lets it out, manipulating and misleading the readers.
    The criticism, however, does not have much results: all over the world the number of schools is increasing; more and more parents see the benefits this kind of education brings to their children, anyhow to most of them.

    • Helen

      Pieter – I almost feel sorry for you…you seem to be a well-intentioned former Steiner teacher who convinced himself he was working in the best interests of the children. Now you are trying to convince us too.
      But there is a big problem with Steiner teachers, you included, who think they know what is best for the children, and if that means keeping quiet about anthroposophy, they will do that.
      I think you would like us to say “it’s ok, we know YOU don’t teach anthroposophy, it’s only one or two rogue individuals who promulgate ideas about reincarnation and karma, elemental beings, alternative ideas on human biology and development and stop children from having books to read.”
      But this isn’t true. Everything you do in the classroom as a Steiner teacher stems from the fact that Steiner believed humans are “threefold” and that the way to make sure they become the kind of human who can satisfy these spiritual fantasies is to allow the ethereal body to incarnate, then the astral body, etc etc. All the Steiner “pedagogy” and “methodology” dressed up as valid educational theory (and which sometimes luckily coincides with popular methods used in other schools) is designed to help children spiritually in the first instance, isn’t it?
      Parents are not told this, and it is deception. Did you ever advise a parent to read up on anthroposophy before they enrolled their child? or did you say to yourself they didn’t need to know the reasons for the bizarre way the Steiner school is run?
      Here in the UK Steiner teachers are trained in anthroposophy and how to use it in the classroom – even the art techniques are spiritual exercises. Are you telling us you didn’t know that? After 40 years? But is it explained to the children (and the parents) that they can only use certain colours and techniques at each age for spiritual reasons? I think not.
      This is deception – and on a grand scale, too – it happens in Camphill communities too – “Art therapy” is big business in these residential homes, where residents pay to do watercolour painting with anthroposophists.

      “Tweaking noses” – that is a way of insulting people – if carried out literally it would be considered assault now, and I am sure even Steiner meant it metaphorically to mean…”making fools of people.”
      http://karenlynnallen.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/nose-tweaking-ultimate-insult.html

      It is a common defence for Steiner followers to say he has been mistranslated, but the translation of more and more of Steiner’s lectures and writing, even the “classes” which were kept secret for decades, has worked not in favour of anthroposophy, but against it.
      Most of the time Steiner was trying to make sure people didn’t realise what was going on in the Waldorf school, so they didn’t “break its neck“.
      What a shame the whole sorry enterprise wasn’t nipped in the bud back then, in 1920s Germany.

    • Jim

      Pieter – when I said “there is no attempt at debate” I was referring to the pro Steiner websites. They simply do not publish anything which questions their view. I agree that you are debating and I welcome that and I hope that you at least appreciate that your views are published here.

      You say that other sites critical of anthroposophy do not publish differing views. I’ll take your word for that though the ones I have seen appear to welcome disagreement precisely because they want a debate ( even if sometimes it may become too aggressive ). The difference is that the pro sites are generally selling something and so do not want to make their prospective customers aware of the disagreement.

      On the democratic question – I’m sure you would agree that those who disapprove of Steiner education have a democratic right to make their criticisms known and to make those who might consider a Steiner school aware of what they believe to be its shortcomings. So far as the proposed Stroud school is concerned there is a great deal of opposition even from those who are not opposed in principle to Steiner schools. The area already has more school places than needed so state funding for a new school would lead to the closure of existing schools. Parents who would not willingly choose a Steiner school could then be forced to send their children to one.

      Pieter, maybe you do not allow your anthroposophical beliefs to unduly influence your teaching practice but think only of what is best for the children. I hope so but there does seem to be ample evidence that this is not universally the case in Steiner schools.

      I would love to have a more substantial debate but I’m afraid it is difficult to avoid describing nonsense as anything but nonsense. Now if you could take one element of Steiner educational theory, say the idea that the child’s learning capability is determined by the progressive incarnation of the soul, and defend it rationally ( not just by reference to Steiner’s “clairvoyance” ) then we might have something substantial. Would you like to try that?

      • phawitvliet

        ( ) On the democratic ….
        I fully accept the right to disapprove, but that is not the same as ‘stop Steiner in Stroud (nice alliteration, though), when it is a legal right to found a school. By your explanation I also understand the other difficulties.
        As for your other question. I am quite willing to answer – every question – if I am able to.
        But you start putting a question =the idea that the child’s learning capability is determined by the progressive incarnation of the soul=,which I do not understand. What is ‘progressive incarnation’. Do you refer to ‘something anthroposophical’ (where can it be found then), or to the mere fact of a child’s growing up and getting more capability to learn?
        (a busy weekend, can’t answer you before tuesday)

  12. Ramon De Jonghe

    How sad can it be. A man (X) shows up on my website, next disappears because a victim of one of his colleagues made alligations towards that colleague, then returns (with his wife) under an alias (Y) and presents himself as a colleague of X. And then this man is talking about manipulation. Oh dear, oh dear…

    Quote Pieter Witvliet: (…)This false use of ‘anthroposophical teacher’ is to manipulate: look, Witvliet is an antroposophist, …(…)

    That’s odd. Pieter Witvliet stated on one of his many defamatory weblogs that he – and I quote him literally – ‘worked as an anthroposophist on a waldorfschool’.

    About anthroposophists who mislead

    Quote Pieter Witvliet: Take this ‘(…) ‘We must worm our way through…[I]n order to do what we want to do, at least, it is necessary to talk with the people, not because we want to, but because we have to, and inwardly make fools of them.’
    It is remarkable that de Jonghe/Verachtert never uses the original German text, but a wrong translation. The German expression is ‘eine Nase drehen’. But there is no dictionary translating ‘eine Nase drehen in ‘to make a fool of’.

    Never uses the original text? On my website I published an article about antroposophists and their practice of misleading the public, in which I refer to this specific Steiner quote.

    In the article I quote – besides the English quote – also the original German quote, so anyone can compare both quotes. The context for Steiner’s assertion ‘ to make a fool of’’ is in order to get the Steiner / Waldorf school through . Thus, the recognition of the school is the motive to mislead the public.

    The article I wrote deals with misleading practice of anthroposophists, their aversion to otherwise-minded and how this all leads back to Rudolf Steiners ‘vision’. This aversion I also recognize on Pieter Witvliets blog. These are some of his quotes:

    Pieter HA Witvliet (…) Anyway : it is the tendency : we ( Waldorf ) stand for this ; the others ( government !) can ( in this case ): eat our shorts ; go to hell, take a hike etc etc. (…)

    (…) I do not know those people but if they do not come out of Waldorf education, to me their opinion is not worth much. (…)

    (…)As ” school principal” I was formally responsible for the implementation of certain government policies. Also, at that time I was obliged to have conversations with councilors , with officials, but also with the inspection.
    It needs no further explanation that I was sitting there as a ” waldorf guy ” with the firm intention to stand up for my school.
    In many cases it was wiser to nod and then to do what was in the best interest of the school. To strife was hopeless , but also unwise : losing a lot of time that could be better spent . (…)

    Does this looks like someone who wants to debate waldorf or anthroposophy with otherwise-minded?

    (sources for those quotes can be found here: http://www.antroposofia.be/steinerschool/wordpress/overheid-kan-van-steinerschool-naar-de-pomp-lopen/ maybe Google translate can be of assistance, because the texts are in Dutch)

    And omg, this is even more hilarious. Jim poses the following question:

    (…)I would love to have a more substantial debate but I’m afraid it is difficult to avoid describing nonsense as anything but nonsense. Now if you could take one element of Steiner educational theory, say the idea that the child’s learning capability is determined by the progressive incarnation of the soul, and defend it rationally ( not just by reference to Steiner’s “clairvoyance” ) then we might have something substantial. Would you like to try that? (…)

    EXACTLY the same question was posed to Pieter Witvliet (when he was visiting my site under one of his various aliases) by a visitor of my website and – I’m not making this up – Pieter answered: ‘I am a little short on time, but as soon as I can I’ll give you an answer’. We never heard of Pieter again and the visitors of my site are still waiting for his answer.

    And although on this website Pieter gave the argument he cannot answer Jim before Tuesday because of a busy weekend, I noticed that Pieter has been very active on his own blog this weekend.

    But I’m curious what this imposter is going to come up with next, haha.

  13. Pingback: Focus op Antroposofie | Dutch waldorf teacher Pieter HA Witvliet tries to convince British Steiner critics of his anthroposophical beliefs| Stop Steiner in Stroud
  14. Jim

    Hi Ramon – it sounds like Pieter is better known than I had realised! Like you I have no great hopes for his response but what the hell – let’s give it a try.

    So Pieter – you don’t understand what I mean by “progressive incarnation”? Maybe I should have used a different name though it seems a reasonable term for what I understand by Steiner’s notion that in addition to the physical body there are 3 other invisible bodies incarnated at roughly 7 year intervals – the etheric, the astral and the ego. Is it not the case that Steiner pedagogy links these incarnations to the childs developing capability for learning? So reading is not taught until the etheric body incarnates at about 7 years old. More abstract thinking develops around 14 and so on. Would you agree that is broadly correct ( if brief ) outline of Steiner’s view? If not please clarify.

    There seem to be 2 areas for dispute here – 1) does child development fit into these 7 year phases, and 2) if so is it for the reasons Steiner claims.

    Whilst I think everyone would agree that a child’s learning capability develops over time there is no reason to say it fits the proposed 7 year phases. It is truer to say that the phases are predetermined by the theory and then the child’s development is retarded in order to fit the theory. So most children are perfectly able and eager to learn to read and write well before their 7th year. Children as young as 3 or 4 spontaneously start to pick out letters and words as parents read to them.

    But let us for a moment suppose that Steiner’s 7 year phases were in fact borne out by observation – what of his explanation? We might then suppose that he had by accident stumbled upon an interesting fact but that his explanation was nonsense, which his claims of clairvoyance would do nothing to dispel. What evidence is there for these invisible bodies? None whatsoever. Indeed what evidence could there be? The only evidence you could try to bring is that the changes occurring at the 7 year intervals must have some explanation but there would be so many more plausible ones which could be advanced. And besides, the phases are imaginary.

    So what you have is an implausible explanation for a non existent phenomenon. Not much of a basis for a pedagogy.

    But maybe you say I ( and maybe some Steiner teachers ) am misinterpreting Steiner. Maybe he didn’t literally believe in these etheric and astral bodies but was just using poetic language to illustrate his thoughts. And maybe he didn’t intend the 7 year phases to be followed too rigidly. Maybe, but that would make him a very bad communicator and besides if you keep softening his words he ends up saying no more than “children grow up and learn stuff”. True, but hardly original.

    So Pieter, what is your view on this?

  15. we escaped!

    I think that this conversation/debate is a classic example of trying to get a response to a question when dealing with a Steiner school.

    It is simply not acceptable by any standards.

    Parents, be aware, that this type of reply is what is to be expected when you enrol your child into a steiner school. You will never get a straight forward answer – not one that makes any sense anyway!

    This blog is honest and open. It is a safe place for honest facts, and that is something that many pro steiner folk cant escape. If you dont like to hear our honest accounts of true facts and experiences, go elsewhere to express your views. If not, be prepared to answer straight forward questions.

    • Helen

      It has become part of the Steiner culture to be economical with the truth. They convince themselves parents do not need to know what is being done with their children, and to them the deception is a normal part of school life. Frightening.

  16. phawitvliet

    Before going on I have to make a remark on the intervention of Ramon de Jonghe/Verachtert. With his ad hominem writing about me, he is obviously trying to damage me here.
    I am not going to defend myself. That would draw this blog and these reactions down to the level of gossip.
    I only mention it to show another strategy of opponents (related to my remarks 27-07-14 9.12am)
    One thing I want to point at. I said ‘I am not an anthroposophist’. I asked de Jonghe time after time not to call me so then. He kept doing so. In the playground you would call him a pest, a nuisance. One I said indeed ‘working as – but then I used quation marks an ‘antroposophical’ teacher. These marks are often used to indicate quite the other way of what you mean. As you can see in the quation de Jonghe uses: the quation marks around antroposophist are left out! He knows they are there: he even emailed me this quation – with the marks! He does not seem to realize he is the Greek thinker.
    So let me go on with the discussion which I try to carry out on a fair level.

  17. phawitvliet

    (Follow up 25-09) You said: ( ) ‘Now you are trying to convince us too.’
    I hope you see this remark is a little bit suspicious. I just tell here how I worked in my schools and why I did things in a certain way. I have not the slightest interest in convincing you or anyone else
    ( ) ‘who think they know what is best for the children’,
    Everyone working in education has chosen the ‘system’ which he believes to be the best. (I hope). For how could you work with dedication in a system you don’t believe in. So what is the problem with Steinerschoolteachers in doing this as well?
    ( ) Keeping quiet….
    Suspicion again. What is it that ‘should be kept quiet’.
    You speak of ‘reincarnation and karma’. These are (not only) anthroposophical ideas and being so, they do not belong in the school. Or do you believe that there are teachers so clairvoyant that they can ‘see’ what is best for the child by knowing his ‘reincarnation’ and ‘karma’?
    Steiner never spoke of these items in his about 180 lectures on education as ‘pedagogical means’. At the highest it can give you more respect for the child, ‘who are you in fact’; ‘through your incarnations you have become who you are; I don’t know nothing of this, but I try to lead you respectfully further on your way here and now.’
    So it goes for ‘the little folks’. They occur in fairy-tales e.g. These are told in Kindergarten and class 1, but have also nothing to do with what Steiner said of higher or lower spirits’.
    Then you made a remark on books in the class. ‘Steiner would not have’ etc. From where do you have that?

    • Helen

      I can never guess what will happen next on this blog but here we go with explaining to a Dutch (anthroposophist?) Steiner teacher how anthroposophy is used in the Steiner school. You will know this already Pieter, even though you claim not to, but I will take the opportunity to tell any interested parents reading this…
      The way reincarnation and karma feature in these schools is explained on Open Waldorf, a useful website which says it is neutral in the field of Steiner education.
      http://www.openwaldorf.com/academics.html
      The site says this; “The curriculum of the Waldorf School aids the process of the child’s development from the aspect of reincarnation…So keep in mind, when you hear Waldorf teachers talk about “child development,” they could mean something different than you might think. Fortunately, Steiner says a lot about this alternative theory of child development, and much of what Steiner says is freely available online”. There is a useful table setting out how each of the child’s three bodies develop…
      Then they provide links. They also suggest, for comparison, looking at more mainstream views on child development, as this puts Steiner’s *special* ideas into focus.
      So you only teach children up to age 7 or 8 about elemental beings? Oh right, not to worry then. And Steiner did indeed mention them; http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA102/English/AP1961/InfBei_index.html
      They’re all there; the gnomes, undines, sylphs, goblins…
      You do indeed think you know better than parents what is best for the children – otherwise why didn’t you explain carefully to each prospective parent what the Steiner take on “child development” really is, and let them decide based on this information?
      And you try to convince us your teaching was not anthroposophical…now where have we heard that before?
      Finally, on books removed from the hands of children, read MarkH “My encounter with Steiner Education“.

  18. phawitvliet

    Helen: though you have a lot of remarks in the last reply that I should like to answer, I first will try answering Jim.
    Hellen, Jim
    Helen, you asked me about ‘pseudo’and what I wrote about that on my Dutch blog.
    The Dutch existential phenomenologist Prof.Dr.Luijpen wrote about science. He said physical science claims to be the only science that can know the truth. But saying that it uses a non physical scientific statement, but a philosophical one. That physical science can describe the truth of her field of research is a possibility. But with her language she cannot describe philosophy, being a humanity. Saying the truth on other fields, she must leave to other disciplines.
    When a boy calls his (girl) – friend ‘lovely’ he calls her ‘an existing subjectivity’
    Meaning he as a subject is connected to her as a subject by expressing this ‘lovely’. He also can make her part of physical science; when he puts her on the scales. The scales say: 65 kilograms. But the scales say the same for a sack of potatoes of 65 kg. The scales cannot say ‘lovely; physical science has (a.o) to deal with measure, weight and number, it cannot distinguish between ‘lovely’ and potatoes.
    And when it does want to say something of ‘lovely’ it has to make ‘lovely’ as something of measure, weight and number. Something physical, material.
    We all know that we do not want to be loved because of our 65 kgs, but because of our ‘lovelyness’. I mean ‘who we are’. Our person, our being.
    Einstein once said: ‘pure logic cannot give us knowledge of the emperical world; all knowledge of reality begins and ends with experience.’ In the book ‘War of the worldviews, science vs. spirituality’ from which I quoted Einstein it is continued: ‘In modern physical science observation cannot be loosened neither from human sensory perceptionsystem, nor the system of human reasoning. (said by Mlodinow, the science-writer of the book)
    And this is exactly what Goethe already did and Steiner worked out, e.g. in GA 9. He starts there with ‘experience’. Someone walking in a meadow; seeing (perception) the flowers. Enjoying the colours (existential subjectivity). The meadow as ‘outer’ world; the feelings as ‘inner world. He calls the outer world ‘physical world, the inner: soul. It is obvious that the world of soul is different, comparerd one person to another. But looking at the flowers, studying them is finding a world with has nothing to do with my feelings. We find laws of growing; qualities etc. A far more objectiv world. A third world. So Steiner speaks of a threefold world, we are part of. The given world that surrounds us and that we can perceive with our senses; an inner world-our feelings and a third world – the world of how things are, which we can mentally learn to know. Three worlds described as ‘body, soul, spirit. A threefold man.
    Everyone’s experience is also that body, soul and spirit are not there at once, but that they develop during growing up (and during life!) Caring and education help this development.
    (to be continued)

    • Nick Nakorn

      Phawitvliet, Actually, there has been a huge amount of science around the human experience of ‘lovely’ in both the social science sphere and within neuro-science; comparing the weights of a person and a sack of potatoes to show that science can not explain ‘lovely’ is just nonsense. Einstein was not meaning that science was not adequate but that it was, and is, a predictive and descriptive model and not ‘reality itself’. That does not mean that any old pseudo-science is valid or that one opinion is as good as another. As for Steiner and Goethe, they should have taken Einsteins advice and not thrown reasoning out of the window… But as you’ve abandoned reason altogether with the above comment I don’t suppose you’ll be amenable to any rational change of direction.

  19. Jim

    Pieter – I wasn’t sure you were attempting to respond to my comment until the last paragraph of yours, and the “to be continued” suggests maybe I should wait before giving a full response. But there is enough to disagree with in what you have said so far to make a start, so I will ( though with little hope ).

    Scientists are mostly quite modest when making claims about other fields – it tends to be the press and “popular science” writers who make extravagant claims about how science has “explained” love or discovered the “gay gene”. They take a probabilistic or statistical finding and present it as if it were a simple mechanistic claim when in fact no such claim was made. And of course that suits obfuscators such as yourself when trying to argue the inadequacy of science. It is actually those who subscribe to nonsense such as anthroposophy who are most likely to make false scientific ( measurable ) claims and then deny or falsify the evidence to support them.

    I actually sympathise with your view that we want to be loved because of who we are but sadly given the amount of time, money and effort people put into measurable physical aspects of appearance in order to be loved I wonder how true this is.

    When Einstein compared logic and experience he did not intend experience to be referring to some private inner world of the imagination but to the world we all see and feel around us – the one which can be measured, weighed and counted. And he certainly was not being dismissive of logic. So science starts with the observable and leads via a theory of what is observed to predictions of what should be observable. As in Einstein’s case it may take decades before technology enables these observations to be made but when they are they further root the theory in experience. So when we speak of pseudo-science in relation to Steiner what we mean is that it is not rooted in experience, the theories advanced are not plausible and they make no predictions borne out by experience. In fact perhaps we should redefine the word “spiritual” as meaning “not”. Thus “Spiritual Science” could be translated as “Not Science”.

    Finally, you refer to “everyone’s experience of body, soul and spirit”. I have to tell you that I have no such experience. I have a body and mental activity which are connected in some very complex way but soul and spirit belong in fairy tales along with gnomes, undines and the rest.

  20. phawitvliet

    As I pointed out last time: we live in a given world; all that surrounds us makes an impression upon us. We react or keep quiet and think things over, (and react then nor not). This given world Steiner called ‘physical’; the power, strenght, possibility to make, what we experience, to our own inner world: ‘soul’. As we can experience by our self, this ‘making our own’ is always accompanied by feelings of sympathy and antipathy and all the varieties of what we call ‘feeling’. When a farmer and I walk through a meadow, I can be delighted (feeling) by the beauty of dandelions; the farmer may hate them (his feeling) So what we feel can differ a lot compared one to another. (subjective). But when the farmer and I study the dandelion and we find the laws of its growth, these laws are independent of our delightment or hate. These laws are even indepentent of the fact that we are there or not. This world of its own Steiner called ‘spiritual’ world. The more your thinking is not blinded by your feelings the greater the opportunity to discover this objective world. Soul opposite spirit is more or less ‘like and dislike opposite that what IS.
    But there is more:
    Plants, animals and human beings live. But what is life. Is life the result of material, mass, a quality of it, or a quality of its own, forming material and keeping it in the shape of a plant, animal of human being. Up till now there has not been raw material, mass that produces life. As long as we can look back we see life disappear, leaving mass behind: when plants, animals or human beings die. This complex of strength, power to bring unstructured mass in a ‘whole’ (Gestalt) Steiner called ‘etherical body’, body in the signification of ‘strength’. Qualities are: growth and multiplication. It is a kind of architect, a builder, a defender against illness, weakness, a fighter for our health; an anti-death power; an anti-gravitation power (plants!) With this power we are gifted by nature when we are born.
    As for education: in the first years we hardly can. Nature is so to speak dictating us what to do. Sleep and food in rhythmical! periods. ‘Become a friend of nature’ Steiner once said. And when you look at a child’s development you will see that growth (nature) plays a very important role. Between 0 and 7 a child dubbles its weight a few times! Another nature-given thing is the power of imitation. All over the world children imitate. In his unique position – vertical- foremost human, a child only comes by imitation, as the ‘wolf-children’ proof. And another important quality: playing. A child cannot leave out playing. It is serious for him.
    When we must study a lot, for an exam, or we have problems to solve, hard thinking, we feel tired, it causes sleep. We are going to look pale. Keeping constantly awake would lead to death. So in a certain way we can say that ‘learning’ that is also too much impressions of vision and sounds, thus too much awake, can take too much power away of what in fact was meant for growing.
    All these insights led to what Waldorf-Kindergarten is now. And there is a lot of learning as well. To get in contact with natural material; colours, in playing a child can experience a lot and develop abilities to solve all kind of problems. When tales are told the child learns a treasure of words and phrases.
    Life shows itself in rhythm: study plants where you see life in the purest form; study heart and lungs or the working of the liver etc. Kindergarten supports this rhythmical life. They are not there for Steiner, nor for anthroposophy or anthroposophists. They are there, as all Waldorfeducation for the benefit of the children.

      • phawitvliet

        Helen,
        With your answer you prove what I said. My writing made an impression upon you and your reaction is ‘disliking’. By studying Steiner you learn to see these things. You said: ‘that WAS utterly boring.’ The only thing that becomes clear is, that you think/find this so. That goes for ‘twaddle’ as well.
        Jim gave a few other explications on what I said. That can make discussions interesting and though I don’t agree with him, I ‘m not going to mention his words being ‘nonsense’. I take his opinions seriously and reflect on them. One can always learn.
        I am very sorry to learn you cannot have this attitude. Antipathy is the overwhelming feeling that blocks up you. By hating daffodils you will never learn how beautifully they are composed.
        You turn to be out the next opponent in row: you know best about Steiner(school) , other meanings are nonsense. For me it means: ‘stop discussing in Stroud’.

        • Helen

          Usual protest – Steiner followers say the only reason critics disapprove of Steiner education is because we don’t know enough about it. I am afraid that just doesn’t wash. If we studied Nazism more would we say that was beautifully composed too?

          • phawitvliet

            I do not say you know not enough; you almost force me to say you know too much. You know that other ways of thinking, other things than you got acquinted to, or other opinions of education are nonsense. Without real prove.

            • Rain17

              Instead of trying to convince outsiders that an educational institution rooted in dragon-fighting archangels, reincarnated mysteries of Golgotha, and racialized karma is somehow nonreligious, why can’t Steinerites just subsidize your preferred pedagogy on your own dime?

              If you think we who have actually sat down and read some anthroposophy are too dim to get it, why must the state — who almost surely won’t get it, are equally certain to smack it down when its true nature is discovered — endorse your religious/occult endeavors with what is supposed to be secular, nonsectarian money?

              What is the point of making nonadherents and outsiders subsidize Steiner institutions?

    • Nick Nakorn

      Phawitvliet, I think we all have read enough Anthroposophical/Steiner writing to know that his whole mixture of magical/mystical/racist nonsense adds up to no more than a blood-and-soil cult. No amount of ‘deepities’ from you or any other supporters of Anthroposophy will persuade critics that rational, collegiate and scientific methods should be displaced by racist mysticism. You seem to think antipathy is a bad thing, but our antipathy is towards Steiner’s racism, intolerance and dismissal of evidence – in effect you’re saying that those opposed to Steiner’s fascism are somehow at fault while you, as a supporter of it, are occupying the higher moral ground. I’m not interested in you personally at all, but as a group, supporters of Steiner and Anthroposophical organisations are simply racists to be opposed. If you want to be on the right side of ethics and morality, please drop your support for Steiner and his apologists.

  21. Pete Karaiskos

    “They are not there for Steiner, nor for anthroposophy or anthroposophists. ”
    Why lie about this very basic fact? Spreading Anthroposophy is the ONLY reason Waldorf schools exist. They exist to make the world a better place through the spreading of Steiner’s ideas… and for NO other reason. The one common thread I’ve found in all Waldorf supporters is their natural proclivity toward dishonesty. Just be honest for once – is it possible?

    • phawitvliet

      So Pete, you are in fact telling me that I am lying. And at the same time using some indoctrination to put me aside ‘just be honest for once -‘
      You are accusing me of dishonesty, thus: ‘who accuses, proves’.
      ‘They exist to make the world a better place’! Yes, what’s wrong with that, or do you think the world is good enough now. Not by spreading Steiner’s ideas, as you say. But as you say so, come on and give me a concrete example.
      You seem to know a lot of Waldorfeducation. Then you will know children learn to play the recorder. As you say it’s all there to spread anthroposophy, can you explain to me how that is done by making recorder-music?
      And let’s work things thoroughly out: your choice to which I shall answer; and you answer to my choice: now the recorder.

          • Rain17

            Thanks, phawitvliet. I do notice that on the website for Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training in the US, there are plenty more than GA34 and GA 293-311 on the Required Reading lists. Discussions With Teachers, for instance, shows up on various 2nd and 3rd year teacher training course lists, like this one: http://bit.ly/ZRhPGd

            Besides Steiner and the authors of, say, Parzival and Faust, what other authors do you read?

            • pieter ha witvliet

              When I look at the list and try to remember what I had to read at the time I started a training-course (in the evenings, because there was not a day-school then) the first books were GA 293/294/295. Not one after another, but at the same time, because GA 293 is the theory, the others how this theory is transformed into method. (By the way: this is exactly what Steiner said later – up till now I found 49 spots on which he urgently said: this school is a method-school, not for anthroposophists, not to teach anthroposophy, but insights of how a child develops reformed to pedagogical/didactic activities. In my above reactions I gave examples what is meant by that)
              Of course I thought it logic then that one learns more of what this anthroposophy is. From this point of view books GA 9 en GA 4 are supporting – but: without having read them you easely can do your job. Of course I do not know the reasons for the choice of books on the (link-list), but when I see ‘How to know higher worlds’ , I only speak for myself: I shrug my shoulders because you need time for that –regularly daily practise. And as a student do you have it? The same for ‘Calendar of the week’.
              What books I read? Well, shortly I started the course I was asked to become a class-teacher; and in preparing my lessons I needed a lot of time to fulfill the daily tasks. What I read most were magazines, such as ‘Child and Man’ and books on backgrounds of the subjects (writing, arithmatic etc.)
              During the time I studied the other ped. GA’s and other books of Steiner and other important thinkers for me (Luijpen, Rosenstock-Huessy) and many more.
              But, as you are speaking of races;: in the ped. GA’s they are not spoken of. Consequently they cannot be subject of Waldorfteaching. You cannot find one single connection between ‘race and Steinerschool’. Moreover: whatever Steiner might have said on whatever subject, the point is, what I as teacher say. Or we as a group of teachers of (a=one) school; not even ‘the’ Steinerschool.
              The same can be said of ‘re-incarnation and karma’. For me interesting subjects. But for my practical work they had no meaning, beside more questions. When I see a child with problems I ask myself where do they come from: heredity, early childhood, or a result of former life? This might can give you more seriousness to help the child, but is not necessary for helping it. And as I know nothing of this fomer life, I cannot take measures based on that. And I think, up till now, no teacher can. And if one should say he could, I would deeply doubt him (or her).

            • Pete Karaiskos

              “You cannot find one single connection between ‘race and Steinerschool’. ”
              Except that Steiner’s ridiculous racist ideas are in the Waldorf TEACHER TRAINING materials. Why not leave those things out of Waldorf teacher training? The reason (since I know you won’t answer honestly) is that race is one of many criteria Steiner teachers use to evaluate a child – in the case of race, it has to do with the child’s spiritual progress. Other things Waldorf teachers use to assess children are the temperaments, head size, hand dominance, teeth, dexterity, the child’s artwork and much more. A teacher at my children’s Waldorf school taught in physiology class that the blood of people from Europe is more “evolved” than the blood of people from Africa and Asia. This happens to be what Steiner believed. Coincidence?

            • phawitvliet

              Whatsoever is read by a Waldorfteacher-student he ought to know what Steiner said on anthroposophy in the school. (In the meantime) I found 50 spots now (see link september 24 7.05)
              GA 293: ‘We will not teach anthroposophical doctrines’, GA 297: ‘We will not bring the contents of anthroposophy in our school’; GA 307: ‘Anthroposophy is for grown-ups and is not to be brought into Waldorfschools’. Etc.
              So “a teacher…..Coincidence?” No coincidence, I think. And not what Waldorf should be either!

            • Pete Karaiskos

              ‘We will not teach anthroposophical doctrines’,
              Yes, Waldorf people often lie. Steiner told them to. What’s your point?

              Here I show where Steiner’s taught that Anthroposophy could be brought in without the knowledge of students and parents.
              http://thewaldorfreview.blogspot.com/2014/08/is-anthroposophy-taught-in-waldorf.html
              Oh, and it’s required reading for Waldorf teachers.

              “And not what Waldorf should be either!”
              And yet, it’s EXACTLY what Waldorf IS. Coincidence?

  22. Pete Karaiskos

    Why the recorder and not the piano? Waldorf discourages MANY instruments for younger children. Why? I know they have their reasons… but there’s no science behind ANY of them. Why limit children who just want to make music to just one instrument? You and I both know there’s a “pedagogical” reason why Waldorf schools do this. Why don’t you explain it to the parents who are also wondering about the Waldorf logic behind this nonsense? The harm isn’t that children learn to play the recorder – the harm is in the attitude that EXCLUDES everything BUT the recorder for young children. It’s shameful – and you put it out there as if it’s something Waldorf can be proud of. I’d be embarrassed about it if I were you.

      • phawitvliet

        You do not answer to my question. You are putting new ones. Before I answer to them, let’s first finish what I asked you. Remember: Waldorf is ONLY there for spreading anthroposophy.(4-10: 4.22pm)
        I say ‘Playing the recorder is a Waldorfthing. So how will anthr. be spread by that. Explain, please.

        • Rain17

          Being forced into playing recorders in Waldorf is identical to being forced to do eurythmy/anthroposophy dance in Waldorf, as well as being forbidden from using black and neon pigments.

          None of those pedagogies have anything whatsoever to do with “art” or “child-centered” “creativity”, though you wouldn’t know it from Waldorf marketing materials.

          Moreover, they are found in one institution and one institution only: the one set up to peddle Rudolf Steiner’s esoteric fantasies to the post-World War 1 captains of German industry after [The] God’s Favorite Superiors lost and were made to pay reparations for. So this is not a co-incidence.

  23. Ramon De Jonghe

    PHA Witvliet says: You are accusing me of dishonesty, thus: ‘who accuses, proves’

    That’s not so difficult. See my comment on September 28, 2014 – 4:25 PM

    I’m not saying Pieter HA Witvliet is lying all the time, but he lies a lot. The man was so proud for the fact that he, as a school principal, had mislead the government, he had to cry it out on his weblog.

    When I once called him for an interview, his wife (a eurythmy teacher) answered the phone with a fake name, told me that I was wrong connected and that no Pieter Witvliet was living there. After a few more questions Mrs. Witvliet had to admit she made up a fake name and handed over the phone to Pieter, who started to insult and diffamate me for about 15 minutes. When I asked him why he was swearing so much, he answered me: ‘I must diffamate you to stop you etc…’.

    Another prove for Pieter HA Witvliet his lies one can find on my website http://www.antroposofia.be/steinerschool/wordpress/brief-van-de-dag-full-version/comment-page-1/#comment-2035

    On 31/01/2011 at 14:52 a visitor named Joost Alfrik commented on my website: (…) ‘Pieter does not want to see his name here, because of the low level of your abuse section But otherwise he believes wholeheartedly on how we do justice to the truth about the Waldorf School.
    That we also occasionally get together and then perhaps even send something of a similar IP address, does not influence the content of the discussion. It is too hot for you and this way you get rid us.
    If you really have a backbone, you do not remove this and just start the discussion with me, knowing that I am not doing this alone, but with Pieter.(…)

    Almost 2 years later, on 04/12/2012, Pieter HA Witvliet comments on the blog of one of his anthroposophical peers and explains that he was behind the pseudonym Joost Alfrik.

    Pieter HA Witvliet: (…) For one year I used the pseudonym Joost Alfrik.(…) http://antroposofieindepers.blogspot.com/2012/11/koe-knuffelen.html?showComment=1354621772655#c7791032771381305354

    It’s stunning how someone like Pieter HA Witvliet, who exposed himself as an imposter by showing up in the same discussion under various names, still thinks he can be taken serious. Like if today Bill Clinton would say ‘he never had sex with this or that woman’ we would believe him. But I understand that when an anthroposophical teacher could act for more than 40 years like a pope, it has to be difficult to see that outside the cult people aren’t so easy to convince to buy nonsense.

      • Ramon De Jonghe

        Pieter HA Witvliet, I’ve seen the comment, but you’re obvious not able to distinct ordinary gossip and plain facts who prove you wont hesitate to lie and cheat to defend your anthroposphical ‘school’ and beliefs.

        Aren’t it anthroposophical teachers who always state: ‘Not what is said, but who says it is more important’?

        And yes, I think it is important that we know who we’re dealing with. Anyway, after a few of your posts most of the readers get the point: it’s all anthroposophical twaddle.

        You tried it in Holland, but even anthroposophical websites banned your diffamating comments. Then you tried it in Germany, and as you and I know, you got banned. And now you hope (with your 40 years of ‘experience’) to be taken serious in the UK. Well, I think you missed more than one train, because every well educated person can see that there is too little subject-matter in your story telling.

        Maybe you should go and try to reflect on yourself and the cult which you’re btw defending kind of clumsy and compulsively.

  24. Rain17

    Hi phawitvliet,

    Are you aware of the criteria for how a recorder comes to be the required instrument for a child’s music education? Or the violin? Or a woodwind?

    If you do know (the answer is: through anthroposophically-derived perception of a child’s “temperament”, see Discussions With Teachers, p. 29 http://www.donotlink.com/ltA ), can you tell me what that has to do with musicianship?

    Please let me know how this behavior makes the world better, because I’m not seeing it.

    • phawitvliet

      You mix up two different things. You refer to a means of choosing an instrument for a (= one) child. Where I refer to is: All children from class 1 off play a recorder. Temperaments have nothing to do with that choice. Criteria for the recorder are only practical: It is an easy instrument; not too expensive; an excellent means to develop voluntary movements that are needed for good hand-writing. And the other well-known criteria for a good music education may also be reviewd.
      So the question remains: how does recorder-playing bring anthroposophy into the class-room.
      (As for a better world (and music): read your famous Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice V-1)

      • Pete Karaiskos

        “It is an easy instrument; not too expensive; an excellent means to develop voluntary movements that are needed for good hand-writing.”

        Recorders help to develop voluntary movements? Are you kidding me? Would you be surprised to learn that children can develop voluntary movements all by themselves? And NO – none of the movements used in playing the recorder are used in handwriting – no finger movement is required for handwriting – only gripping an implement. Do you think people reading this are idiots? Do you think parents are idiots? Again, why the nonsense answers? Why not answer honestly? You keep feigning superior knowledge while demonstrating how little you actually know about children and education. It’s sad to watch.

        • phawitvliet

          ‘Only gripping’. You seem to deal in blunt remarks. What matters is how this grip is. And as it is a grip of the fingers, it goes without reason that the fingers must be fit for it. This fitting is also reached by practising all kind of exercises, s.a. finger-plays and playing the recorder as well (8 fingers!)

          Music is essential in Waldorfteaching.
          How interesting !

          • Pete Karaiskos

            “What matters is how this grip is.”
            If they’re learning the recorder in order to grip a pencil – that’s nonsense. It’s what you’re saying, however. Here’s an idea… learn to grip a pencil by GRIPPING A PENCIL. That the recorder is used to strengthen the fingers for gripping a pencil is just pure nonsense. Again, why lie about this? You certainly can’t believe it. NOBODY would believe you teach recorder so that children can grip pencils – so why say it? Are you THAT dishonest that you need to support your first ridiculous statement with yet another one? Just admit recorders don’t do anything for physically advancing writing skills. Are you so stuck on the spiritual value of recorders that you think they benefit children in some mysterious way that other instruments don’t? Since you are unwilling to be honest, why don’t I help you.

            Waldorf likes recorders for young children because they are simple. No moving parts (which would be Ahrimanic). Heaven forbid a child touch a piano – which has hammers striking strings and pedals that move up and down… WAY too complicated for young children. Violins – same thing – too mechanical – and you have to TUNE them. That’s ghastly. Clarinet? No, sorry… still some mechanical stuff going on there. Drums? Maybe drums might be simple enough – right? Oh no… Drums are “tribal” instruments – so those are out too for the early grades. Young children can have a flute. Pentatonic at first, soprano recorder after that.

            You asked above how recorders spread Anthroposophy. The obvious answer is they don’t – by themselves. Recorders aren’t unique to Anthroposophy. Eurythmy, of course, is another thing – but for recorders, the Anthroposophy is in the songs chosen. The songs the children play follow the curriculum – so naturally, since the curriculum is all about spreading Anthroposophy – the recorder songs will follow suit. There are entire books available of Waldorf-approved recorder songs for children. It isn’t as if the children choose their own music, is it?

            If you want to move on to strings, we can talk about why the phlegmatics get the cello.

            • phawitvliet

              Sometimes reading is difficult. I nowhere said that playing the flute is just for a better pencilgrip. So nothing ‘in order to’. You judge your own chosen sentences well!
              discussing in this atmosphere==dishonest this, lying that, ridiculous so=is too far below my standards of respect and pliteness. The rest of your reaction, but for one sentence, is so far from reality that answering is not possible. Falling out of the frying-pan into the fire: Thanks for your help.
              ‘You asked above how recorders spread Anthroposophy. The obvious answer is they don’t.’
              Here we are!

      • Rain17

        I was speaking specifically of the recorder as chosen for an individual child. We definitely know what the use of temperaments means as regards the spread of Rudolf Steiner’s occult fantasies. But you didn’t answer the question about what instrument-assignment via perceived temperaments has to do with “arts education”, which is how it is marketed and sold to parents. Or why a child who would rather play something other than their pre-assigned instrument runs the risk of getting the “not properly incarnating into their body” treatment.

        Care to answer?

        • phawitvliet

          But I was speaking of the recorder as chosen for the whole class. It may be different in England, but in all the 40 years I worked in different schools, all children played the flute – not a pentatonic one, other schools did. In some schools the lyre was played by all children.
          My answer to: ‘the question….’ is: nothing, from my Dutch point of view. The choice for an individual instrument lies at home; parents decide. Your remarks on ‘instrument and temperament’ make the impression on me that you have heard something about it, but do not know the rights of it. There are a lot of character-qualities descriptions, s.a. ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’. These qualities are also used by Steiner combined with a certain intensity and a certain relation to time. This might sometimes be helpful by choosing an instrument; but there are several reasons to choose on other grounds.
          ‘runs the risk…..’ I have been accused here of being ridiculous. Nice to share me…..’

          • Rain17

            Either you are attempting to hide something, or you don’t know yourself that the criterion for forced instrument “choice” is out of the horse’s mouth itself.

            If you still have a copy of Discussions With Teachers, 1919, turn to page 29:

            Suggestions were presented for the treatment of temperaments from the musical perspective and by relating them to Bible history.

            Phlegmatics: Harmonium and piano; Harmony; Choral singing; The Gospel of Matthew; (variety)

            Sanguines: Wind instruments; Melody; Whole orchestra; The Gospel of Luke; (Inwardness of soul)

            Cholerics: Percussion and drum; Rhythm; Solo instruments; The Gospel of St. Mark; (Force, strength)

            Melancholics: Stringed Instruments; Counterpoint; Solo singing; The Gospel of St. John; (Deepening of the spirit)

            Now turn to page 34, regarding the following graphic, http://bit.ly/1v2wZ84 :

            They depict another characterization of the four temperaments. The melancholic children are as a rule tall and slender; the sanguine are the most normal; those with more protruding shoulders are the phlegmatic children; and those with a short stout build so that the head almost sinks down into the body are choleric.

            As for what I’ve “heard”, it’s more like seen with my own eyes; not just the struggle but the punitive result. I hope you’re not going to tell me this determination and use of temperament isn’t part of Waldorf/Steiner pedagogy, because it will be very hard to believe you.

        • Pete Karaiskos

          “Sometimes reading is difficult. I nowhere said that playing the flute is just for a better pencilgrip.”
          Sometimes remembering what you said is difficult. “And as it is a grip of the fingers, it goes without reason that the fingers must be fit for it. ” Remember that?
          “The rest of your reaction, but for one sentence, is so far from reality that answering is not possible.”
          Only you would know your reality and if answering is not possible. I suspect what you mean here is that answering TRUTHFULLY is not possible. I can, of course, see your dilemma – you’ve backed yourself into a corner and can’t find your way out. No worries. Just know that the readers of THIS list notice those things. So answer or don’t – I’ll continue pointing out the flaws in your arguments and exactly how you are being dishonest. I’m one of your more “aggressive critics – so it’s best to ignore me – at least that’s what I’ve been told.

  25. Ramon De Jonghe

    Maybe it’s beside the question, but it’s strange that a Dutch anthroposophical teacher is interfering in a discussion about English steinerschools.

    Why? Everywhere I hear anthroposophist cry out that one cannot compare one steinerschool with another, one cannot generalize when it comes up tu steinerschools. Another (pseudo)argument of anthroposophists is that one cannot criticize steinerschools without having experience in the field.

    And here whe have a Dutchmen who pretends to know the English steinerschool system as if he works there. But anyway, thanks Pieter, for pointing out that it is justified to generalize steinerschools. We know they are all alike all over the world.

  26. MarkHayes

    “how does recorder-playing bring anthroposophy into the class-room.”?

    The mere act of playing the recorder clearly doesn’t. But then playing the recorder is hardly unique to Steiner education. Would it be ok if a child wanted to play an electric keyboard? If not, why not?

    You have to look deeper to find the anthroposophy.

    For example, we might ask why pentatonic melodies are preferred to diatonic in the earlier years. According to http://waldorfmusic.org/let-there-be-music-the-music-curriculum-in-the-waldorf-school-grades-1-8/ pentatonic melodies have an “unfinished quality” that is particularly appropriate for young children “still fresh from the spiritual world”. This is echoed in Richter & Rawson, the curriculum book most often used in the UK, which says that pentatonic melodies “conform with the child’s soul configuration.”

    • phawitvliet

      “how does recorder-playing bring anthroposophy into the class-room.”?

      The mere act of playing the recorder clearly doesn’t.
      So the remark ”Waldorf is ONLY there for spreading anthroposophy.(4-10: 4.22pm)” turns out to be a blunt remark. A lack of subtle distinction; and with these lacks Waldorfteaching is judged!!!?

      Beside playing the recorder there is a music-teaching hour a week (and of course the dayly singing in the class-room or in the hours foreign languages are taught) and in this hour all kind of musical instruments can be used; the instruments are the children’s own, but they all can be brought, so to answer your question also the key-board.

      • MarkHayes

        My point is that what makes Waldorf education distinctive is the pervasive anthroposophical motivation for such small details as which musical scale to use. This is not subtle, but neither is it often discussed with parents.

        Is the pentatonic scale for younger children idea familiar to you?

        Each child bringing their own instrument from home sounds like fun, if potentially a recipe for chaos! I hear that the rather expensive wooden Choroi pentatonic flutes are quite popular though.

        • phawitvliet

          Is the pentatonic’…..Ýes, as it is to many others
          An education-method such as Waldorfteaching in which music plays an important role because it is so typical human, brings children into contact with all kind of scales: e.g. mode, mixolydian. And though Steiner has spoken of these scales, by singing a pentatonic song Waldorf is again not only there to spread anthr.

          I did not say ‘each’ child. At the end of the link you gave you see a group of children with different instruments (what I meant)

      • Pete Karaiskos

        “The mere act of playing the recorder clearly doesn’t.
        So the remark ”Waldorf is ONLY there for spreading anthroposophy.(4-10: 4.22pm)” turns out to be a blunt remark. A lack of subtle distinction; and with these lacks Waldorfteaching is judged!!!?”

        Gee… did I say the RECORDER was ONLY there for spreading Anthroposophy? You made the strawman argument about the recorder… and, again, anyone can read this. “Subtle distinction” I know – substituting “recorder” for “anthroposophy” but you had no problem doing it and then defending it as if that was what I said. Is that what you do to your students? Try to confuse them with strawman arguments? Is that a substitute for intelligence? Steiner wasn’t a big fan of intelligence you know.

        I “judge” Waldorf teaching as someone who has been deeply involved in the Waldorf movement. Even Steiner said it was OK to “judge” after having experienced fully.

    • Rain17

      Something to consider about eurythmy, Marie Steiner, and the pentatonic is that the African-American artforms of blues, jazz, and thus mostly all of what we know as classic and modern “rock and roll” is based on the pentatonic scale. So her 1926 freak-fit about the Ahrimanic distribution of “inane” “negroid elements”, aka grammophone records, takes on a deeper (and kind of hilarious, absurd) significance.

      http://wn.rsarchive.org/RelAuthors/SteinerM/CreSpc_index.html

      • Helen

        Rudolf and Marie seem to have been remarkably well suited.
        The SWSF and the Steiner school start-up hopefuls often try to deflect criticism of anthroposophy by saying we mustn’t forget he was writing 100 years ago – but surely this would not have been acceptable even back then?
        A new-found appreciation of modern music and dance is something those who have rejected Steiner education sometimes use as part of their rehabilitation.

        • Rain17

          Yes, I recently commented to a friend on Twitter that Steiner/Waldorf advocates want it both ways. When it comes to the endless fount of problematic social and religious views, the line is ‘oh but he was writing 100 years ago,’ he was a ‘product of his time,’ ‘we can’t judge him then by our standards now,’ and such.

          But when it comes to what an early childhood visionary genius he was, then he is so forward-thinking and, suddenly, ‘was so ahead of his time.’

          Meanwhile, the entire pedagogy and curriculum is based on 100+ years old ideas from the late-Victorian period. This is somehow supposed to yield such innately superior, high-achievement students, in 2014. Maybe they can kid a few name-dropped ‘Silicon Valley tech CEOs’, but they’re not kidding me.

  27. Jim

    Phew! I’ve been away for a few days ( not realigning my chakras – just a holiday ) and have just caught up with these comments.

    Pieter – sorry to disappoint you but I have to say I share Helen’s opinion. The discussion with you is going nowhere. You state the obvious fact that two people will, for perfectly understandable reasons, have different feelings about something ( eg a field with dandelions ) but then you extrapolate from that a world of spirit and etheric bodies. It’s just vague spirituality that does not address the question I put about whether the supposed phases of a child’s incarnation are meant to be taken literally or just as a metaphor. By waffling in this way apologists for Steiner try to make it all sound harmless and wholesome, just another new age movement, but it is the foundation upon which all the more objectionable elements of anthroposophy are built.

    The discussion has moved onto music. Could it be that the recorder is favoured as a device for scaring away any parents who insist on visiting? Mark comments on the Waldorf propensity for controlling every small detail, and I think that is the key. That urge to control is common to cults and totalitarian regimes everywhere. It doesn’t actually matter what is chosen so long as the choice is made by the cult leader and not the followers, The rationale can be invented later.

    • Nick Nakorn

      Jim, I agree; it’s almost pointless engaging with Anthroposophists because they never answer a straight question and never volunteer a rationale for their ever-changing and vague beliefs. If one asks a question about a specific point the topic is soon changed to another equally illusive area. There’s huge danger in those cultish tendencies and I just wish parents and other camp-followers would get specific about the values they do and do not agree with.

      • Jim

        Nick – I fear you are correct but I keep hoping that I’ll find one willing to say “whilst I find things of value in anthroposophy there is also stuff that’s just plain wrong”. Or to say that of course such and such “isn’t meant to be taken literally, it just illustrates a moral value”. We might still disagree but at least it would indicate the possibility of a discourse. It is the sheer completeness and impregnability of the irrationality that is most disturbing.

        Pieter – perhaps we could try once again with a simple question. Do gnomes and other elemental spirits exist? This may not be the most important question but for critics it is one which reflects the silliness of anthroposophy. It seems to me that this could be answered in one of four ways. A straight yes or no, a denial that Steiner ever taught this, or an explanation in symbolic terms. Actually the last two are just elaborations of the answer “no” so perhaps you could give a yes or no first before elaborating.

    • phawitvliet

      Why are you so sure I am disappointed?
      Clairvoyant? I am not at all disappointed. My only little disappointment is the level on which some try to discuss: with much ad hominem. But I know in these cases it is a means to look bigger (greater) by pressing someone down. Steiner’s advice: try to learn to distinguish in your life what matters and what not, is often a great help, and because Steiner’s: practically as well: it saves a lot of time and wasted trouble.
      Your : ‘is going nowhere’ implicates you know where it has to go to: To what you think and to where you believe in. That is almost: you possess the truth? After ‘nowhere’ you seem to have forgotten ‘for me’.
      I pointed out already OCTOBER 4, 2014 – 6:02 AM that the complex of life forces (say etheric body) is real for me as far as I can experience its qualities. So literally or metaphor is not interesting for me; existential subjectivity -OCTOBER 1, 2014 – 12:01 PM
      With the explanation of Steiner and others (read a random article on burn-out) this sounds logically to me: you have to pass an exam and are nervous and have a stomach-ache you experience the interaction between these life-complex forces and what is felt.
      OCTOBER 4, 2014 – 6:02 AM I told how the existence of these life-forces leads to a certain organisation of the Kindergarten.

  28. David Clark

    Hi Ramon,

    You wrote: “Everywhere I hear anthroposophist cry out that one cannot compare one school with another, one cannot generalise when it comes up tu steinerschools”. I can appreciate the frustration of many enquirers.

    While speaking to parents, I referred to the unique qualities of their child(ren) and the family’s particular experiences of school life. As you may expect, our discussion of these matters could extend to the particular teacher and presentation of the curriculum. A conversation may also extend to wider matters and resources in the local community. So, in this sense of focus on particular child, family and teacher, I would consider each school to be quite unique. I am aware that community life can be far from ideal.

    Picking up on the generalisation theme. Clearly, the schools are related by their curriculum. In a very real sense, this is the specific community’s task set out in an abstract and conceptual form that is shared more widely. For me, the way in which this is done must be a research question, the fruits of which can be shared with care. For example, I had various questions about the world of adults from Pete’s video. Of course, various ethical issues were raised, some being hotly debated in the English/UK jurisdictions just now. Was he there? Who was behind the camera and so on. What message was intended by a series of anonymised images portraying the children and a community event?. OK, I took a message, but was it clear? Could Pete have expressed it in another way?

    I still reckon Helen’s advice to potential parents is sound. Do the research before making decisions. Incidentally, Pete’s video prompted me to look at the Spring Garden Waldorf School web site. I can recommend the “Research” section. It gives links to mainstream resources that I have not seen elsewhere. At various points, Helen has referred to internet sources. While it may be difficult to trust internet sources, use more than one. Working on safeguarding matters with a Diocesan children’s choir locally, I hear parents discussing potential schools and their expectations. Great idea to visit schools and speak with people.

    • Ramon De Jonghe

      Hi David Clark,

      Speaking to parents, do the research, visit schools etc etc…

      For me the most important measure is what realy goes on in anthroposophical schools and less what happens during f.e. orchestrated open school days, what indoctrinated parents or teachers tell, what is written in antroposophical propaganda, what the Steiner doctrine prescribes, etc.

      What realy goes on in this schools one can sometimes hear of those who turn their back to the cult, aren’t damaged too hard and still have the guts or/and energy to speak up. Most of the others are too afraid for reprisal.

      • David Clark

        Hi Ramon,

        Many thanks for responding.

        “Most of the others are too afraid for reprisal.”

        I will reflect at some length on that comment.

    • Pete Karaiskos

      “For example, I had various questions about the world of adults from Pete’s video. Of course, various ethical issues were raised, some being hotly debated in the English/UK jurisdictions just now. Was he there? Who was behind the camera and so on. What message was intended by a series of anonymised images portraying the children and a community event?. OK, I took a message, but was it clear? Could Pete have expressed it in another way?”

      David, I’m not sure what you found offensive in the video. I just picked the first Waldorf student recorder video that popped up on my search on-line – I didn’t go to any effort to find that particular one. It seemed very typical of the Waldorf student recorder ensembles I’ve personally witnessed. Was it the child playing the violin you didn’t care for? Or the child playing the piano? They both seemed very well-adjusted, and very happy to me. Have you EVER seen a Waldorf recorder class where the children were as happy as the little boy on the piano? Waldorf has no business claiming “music” as one of their accomplishments with children. They dumb-down music for younger children just as they dumb-down academics. It’s part of the harm they do daily.

  29. Ramon De Jonghe

    ‘The grip of the recorder’

    A friend of mine is a highly skilled musician, who also is trained as a music teacher at the famous Lemmensinstituut http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemmensinstituut

    A few years ago she was invited to apply for a job as a teacher in the anthroposophical music teacher training (former Hogeschool Helicon, now Hogeschool Leiden). She noticed that not only the students, but also the music teachers, actually had no clue how to use the recorder in a proper way. When she made ​​a remark about it, she got a lot of vague explanations and was dismissed as ignorant.

    Somehow this conversation reminds me of that event. Skilled people who bring up reasonable arguments and who are looking for an underpinned debate based on facts, are invited into the mist (or so called ‘higher insights’).

    Next step (which is almost set): the fog machine starts to falter and then shuts down (hazes?).

  30. Helen

    Sorry to all who have commented as the comments have stacked up while I was unexpectedly out at short notice today. A lot have just been allowed through, so I guess there maybe some confusion about who is answering what.
    Should make more sense from now on; this evening if there are more comments to be made, they will be posted more quickly.

    • we escaped!

      Hi Helen
      I think its apparent that the pro steiners have answered all we need to know.
      My only hope is that the unsuspecting general public read it and draw their own conclusions.

  31. Ramon De Jonghe

    PHA Witvliet says: (…) discussing in this atmosphere==dishonest this, lying that, ridiculous so=is too far below my standards of respect and pliteness.(…)

    Pieter Witvliet, how much respect and politeness is there in your misleading of the public? In your attacks on victims of your pedophile colleagues? In diffamating who is critical about your cult?

    How much respect is there when you show up in a debate about anthroposophy and steinerschools in which you try to make the impression you want to debate on an equal level, but in reality you state that the opinion of people who come from outside the steinerschool system has no value for you?

    I n the past I refered to you as the Dutch Sune Nordwall, but you are even piteous than he is.

    • Helen

      To Ramon de Jonge and Phawitvliet
      I would ask you both now to stop slinging mud – clearly you have had your differences and readers will make up their own minds about the accusations you have each made.
      In future I would appreciate your sticking to the subject matter and leaving out the insults or risk editing.
      Thanks

  32. David Clark

    Hi Helen,

    On reflection as a person biographically connected with Anthroposophy for many years, I reckon it may be helpful to others if I addressed themes of race and ethnicity from my individual perspective as they have been raised repeatedly in assertions and comments on this blog.

    During my avowedly “secular” (non-Waldorf) career, I have found that my simple and clear actions and statements supporting and standing alongside people of other ethnicities have been very costly at a personal level and professionally. Living and working in a cosmopolitan rather than a “leafy” area, I have been astonished both at the ways in which values of humanity can be transgressed on an everyday basis and at the responses of colleagues who have attacked my credibility and moral integrity as a result.

    Turning now to the general burden of critics’ responses on racism. Thanks Helen for including the links. As you may expect, I found the comments challenging as ever. Having read other critical comments on this matter, I am familiar with critics’ views and accept them.

    Restricting myself to contents of this blog and tail, I disagree. While accepting the power and significance of the values expressed, I remain concerned about their application. My reading of the material suggests that lexical references to texts are then treated as the subject of critical discourses in a way that is self-referential. Of course, I accept that such practices may be pursued in schools of the academy. At the same time, I reckon there is a denial that such a thing as spiritual research is possible. Writing from a personal view once again, I reckon these two highly persuasive propositions may frequently be understood as depending upon each other. For me, there is a kind of logic to this process: using the sights and measuring the range to hit a kind of static target.

    I have previously touched upon the significance of research for myself and others. As you may guess, I could take this theme much further and indeed have done so elsewhere. Let it suffice here to say that there are now “new paradigm” research methodologies and that there is an increasing literature on the Geisteswissenschaften in English. Of course, I cannot accept personal responsibility for the wider dissemination of texts, many/ most of which are already in the public domain.

    I hope that this message has explained the painful quality of moral contradiction that I have experienced in my professional life. In the same way, I reckon there is a puzzling ethical contradiction in the way deployment of texts may be understood by some as conveying ultimate truths. I do not make that claim.

    • Rain17

      David said:

      On reflection as a person biographically connected with Anthroposophy for many years, I reckon it may be helpful to others if I addressed themes of race and ethnicity from my individual perspective as they have been raised repeatedly in assertions and comments on this blog.

      During my avowedly “secular” (non-Waldorf) career, I have found that my simple and clear actions and statements supporting and standing alongside people of other ethnicities have been very costly at a personal level and professionally. Living and working in a cosmopolitan rather than a “leafy” area, I have been astonished both at the ways in which values of humanity can be transgressed on an everyday basis and at the responses of colleagues who have attacked my credibility and moral integrity as a result.

      Okay, but that does not address Steiner’s promotion of racialized karma and how it shows up in Steiner/Waldorf schools. Since we’re speaking about “melting pots” in this thread, this utter hogwash is what passes for “multiculturalism” in Steiner/Waldorf :

      Karmically we choose to be born into different races to have a specific environmental, cultural and racial experience. Perhaps this is part of learning how to live together, to grow in awareness and empathy?

      “Karmically we choose…”? Says who?

      Though it was written in 1998, it’s up on the AWSNA (USA) open library site, right now. bit.ly/1kjrait

      In fact, I have noticed a pattern. When asked directly about Stenier antisemitic, racist, anti-Asian, anti-Indian, and anti-African writings, it is not uncommon for a Waldorf supporter to point to the Catholic Church, or “secular” schools…anything to deflect and avoid the question of what is actually taught in Waldorf classrooms, and what their children are actually learning about themselves and the world they live in.

      This kind of duplicity and avoidance of difficult facts does a lot of damage to your movement, even more than if the movement were to be honest about its growth methods, and growth goals.

      At least the Catholic Church issued an apology at Vatican II for its longstanding role in the persecution of Jews via their “they killed Jesus” and “they reject Christ” theologies. In “secular” public schools there is at least the pretext of transparency and recourse for every student and parent.

      You’ll find quite a bit of the latter in Steiner writings; this link to the Ahasver myth, for starters: bit.ly/1oIRgZk . Meanwhile, responsibility and transparency to parents about the curriculum they pay these teachers to teach is unheard of in Steiner milieus.

  33. Jim

    In reply to Pieter: when I say that the discussion is going nowhere that does not imply that I know where it must go, merely that it is going nowhere because your answers are not answers. I quite often find that discussions lead to conclusions different to my starting point, sometimes quite contradictory. But your subjectivism makes discussion impossible – when “true” means “true to me” truth is effectively abolished.

    So reluctantly I have to agree with Nick that it is pointless to continue.

    • phawitvliet

      Jim, I respect your choice of stopping. But you cannot say my answers are no answer, because it is an answer, my answer; moreover you asked my about the etheric body leaving me two choices and I chose one.
      In fact the differences in thinking are to be found in the book I mentiond before: ‘War of the worldviews, science vs. spirituality’, by Chopra and Mlodinow. Thanks anyway for discussing.

  34. phawitvliet

    @Rain17
    When I look at the list and try to remember what I had to read at the time I started a training-course (in the evenings, because there was not a day-school then) the first books were GA 293/294/295. Not one after another, but at the same time, because GA 293 is the theory, the others how this theory is transformed into method. (By the way: this is exactly what Steiner said later – up till now I found 49 spots on which he urgently said: this school is a method-school, not for anthroposophists, not to teach anthroposophy, but insights of how a child develops reformed to pedagogical/didactic activities. In my above reactions I gave examples what is meant by that)
    Of course I thought it logic then that one learns more of what this anthroposophy is. From this point of view books GA 9 en GA 4 are supporting – but: without having read them you easely can do your job. Of course I do not know the reasons for the choice of books on the (link-list), but when I see ‘How to know higher worlds’ , I only speak for myself: I shrug my shoulders because you need time for that –regularly daily practise. And as a student do you have it? The same for ‘Calendar of the week’.
    What books I read? Well, shortly I started the course I was asked to become a class-teacher; and in preparing my lessons I needed a lot of time to fulfill the daily tasks. What I read most were magazines, such as ‘Child and Man’ and books on backgrounds of the subjects (writing, arithmatic etc.)
    During the time I studied the other ped. GA’s and other books of Steiner and other important thinkers for me (Luijpen, Rosenstock-Huessy) and many more.
    But, as you are speaking of races;: in the ped. GA’s they are not spoken of. Consequently they cannot be subject of Waldorfteaching. You cannot find one single connection between ‘race and Steinerschool’. Moreover: whatever Steiner might have said on whatever subject, the point is, what I as teacher say. Or we as a group of teachers of (a=one) school; not even ‘the’ Steinerschool.
    The same can be said of ‘re-incarnation and karma’. For me interesting subjects. But for my practical work they had no meaning, beside more questions. When I see a child with problems I ask myself where do they come from: heredity, early childhood, or a result of former life? This might can give you more seriousness to help the child, but is not necessary for helping it. And as I know nothing of this fomer life, I cannot take measures based on that. And I think, up till now, no teacher can. And if one should say he could, I would deeply doubt him (or her).

    • we escaped!

      If that is the case, then please explain why, when parents complain about bullying, do the steiner teachers refer to karma? They brush it off as if its no big deal and use phrases such as “they must work through their karma”. What exactly does that mean and what kind of answer is that? And how is that resolving the issue of bullying?

      When they are then tackled on the subject they deny saying it. Even when it has been witnessed and recorded?

      When you ask too many questions, you are asked to leave?

  35. David Clark

    Hi Rain17,

    Many thanks for responding.

    Reading your response, I cannot accept the reference to Steiner’s promotion of anything. His conversations preceded the Internet and the text being circulated is a highly redacted one that I would not use for study purposes. My response was rooted in my experience of a (yes, secular) career in public service rather than in the quite different milieux of Churches or schools. To be more specific, my post responded to frequently repeated claims regarding Rudolf Steiner and students of Anthroposophy.

    Thank you for clarifying your point. As you can see from my comments above, I do not clam to have knowledge of the Waldorf classroom experience across the world on a day to day basis. I have previously commented on my involvement with adult education. In part, your views reflect my early commitment to engage with parents on delivery of the curriculum and their views.

    Your comment concerning AWSNA clearly raises important matters. Living outside the U.S., my links with AWSNA are tenuous at best. Like you, I note the publication date. Have you contacted them? Has a later edition been prepared?

    • Rain17

      I think you should contact them and find out, because the AWSNA Open Waldorf Library, SWSF, Rudolf Steiner Archive and other official anthroposophical bodies are how anthroposophy represents itself online. I don’t have any stake in whether or not there is a later version of a document that says “karmically we choose our race,” but I would think you do. I also don’t know where you are located but if you’re in the UK, you might consider contacting SWSF about that point of view, since it was written by Janni Nicol, whom SWSF calls an “early childhood rep” for their organization.

      Speaking of “texts on the internet” and the RS Archive, the second link supplied goes to every time the Ahasver myth is not only promoted but expanded by Rudolf Steiner. So you might also consider contacting the Steiner estate, which manages the Archive, including the translations, and tell them you feel their texts are too redacted for study purposes. Would that not make their work a waste of time?

      Do you feel this view of karma and multicultralism is a widespread view, or is this new to you?

  36. David Clark

    Hi Ramon,

    You wrote: “Next step (which is almost set): the fog machine starts to falter and then shuts down (hazes?)

    This is not my blog or blog tail. Attempting to speak from my own experience and study, I have been trying to appreciate, grasp and understand the wonderful spectrum of views expressed on this tail. Your comment suggests that I should step back now. Many thanks for engaging.

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