Michaelmas time again.

Yes, all over the world in September Steiner schools are preparing for their Michaelmas festival.

Here in the UK it is sold as an Autumn festival, but in the Southern Hemisphere it takes place in Spring. It doesn’t matter though, because what the anthroposophists in these schools are really celebrating is not the season or the harvest, but the “Age of Michael”, as re-imagined by Rudolf Steiner.

Often parents recruited into Steiner schools know nothing of the real reason for Steiner festivals, and why they are only celebrated at Steiner schools. To their surprise, it is not simply a celebration of the harvest as they may have expected, but a story about the Archangel Michael killing a dragon with his sword. The story is acted out.

In some Steiner schools there is a more autumnal festival for the benefit of parents, but there is also a “Michael” festival just for the children in school time, to which families are not invited.

As Rain17 has pointed out on twitter, why don’t Steiner schools tell parents what is going on?

“ What is the “Michael Age”, & why not inform parents about what #Steiner’s views of the year 1879 have to do w/their kids?”

A Steiner parent has written about her surprise in finding out what a Steiner festival was really all about.

After initially feeling she had “wandered into a foreign country” and “wondering what Michaelmas had to do with kids and dragons” this mother was only too happy to fall in with celebrating Steiner’s anthroposophical festivals, fortunately for her, and has posted a photograph of the wooden swords made by the children in a Steiner school.

Some parents, even those who are teachers themselves if a recent comment here is to be believed, have no objection to finding out they have entrusted their children to people who spend school hours inculcating occult ideas to children on the quiet. Others however, feel betrayed and deceived, or worse, see their children suffer the damaging effects of these beliefs.

Do anthroposophists feel that if they fully explained what they do in schools and why they do it their schools would not be in demand?

 

 

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23 comments

  1. Nick Nakorn

    Like so many religious concepts, complex ethics are reduced to ‘morality’ tales that very often recommend violence as an answer to conflict; the dragons are labelled ‘evil’ and the idea of ‘evil’ is couched in terms of otherness, of satanic forces that can be embodied in human or semi-human form. What we have is a religiously inspired inculcation to violence towards people who are not understood or who might be categorised (in Anthroposophical terms they are categorised by Steiner’s racial and eugenic pronouncements) as less than fully human. The fact that Christy Corp-Minamiji thinks it’s a good idea to teach children such values makes one wonder about her ethics and politics and the political positions of other Steiner/Waldorf parents and supporters. It is no wonder that many of us feel so strongly opposed to Anthroposophical organisations but it is horribly worrying that so many find peace and community from their support of ideas of violence and division.

    • Helen

      Yes, it’s strange that these wooden swords are ok in an ostensibly peace-loving environment such as Steiner.
      I wonder if the fact that the swords are wooden make it ok in Steinerland? Would a wooden gun be acceptable?
      I can’t imagine any other type of school encouraging/teaching children to fashion weapons, especially in celebration of a festival – but we mustn’t forget that these schools are firmly of the opinion that whatever Rudolf Steiner said must be adhered to. Nothing has changed for close on 100 years.

      • Nick Nakorn

        For some reason a wooden sword thrust into an animal, albeit a mythological animal, is supposed to represent overcoming adversity. I too thought about whether wooden guns would be acceptable – hand-crafted AK47 anyone?

        • Helen

          “…hand-crafted AK47 anyone?” – I’ve never seen one on the Steiner craft stall in town. Perhaps they are kept under the table for those who ask. I will keep an eye open for the swords next time – but maybe they are not on display – too many awkward questions to answer.
          We were told at school about Helen Keller as an illustration of overcoming adversity as I am sure most children are, and the story always remains in the mind. I guess Michael and the dragon is always in the minds of Steiner children.

    • Christy Corp-Minamiji

      It’s easy to attach an identity to a byline – to blame, to disagree, to judge. I’ve done it myself. But, the writer is more than her name. Behind every faceless byline on the internet is a real person – with real values, dreams, goals, and feelings. And yes, real flaws, too.
      I’m sorry for whatever has happened in the lives of those of you who would question the ethics of a stranger based only on a few paragraphs that you read through your own lens. I can only guess that there is powerful hurt there somewhere, and that makes me sad.
      I’m not responding to the criticism of my essay to argue or to try to change minds. Different beliefs and opinions are what make life worthwhile. I’m just here to introduce myself, to put a virtual face to the name whose ethics have been called into question.
      I’m not some brainwashed cultist. I’m a mother, a writer, a scientist, a friend, a lover, a runner, a dreamer, a thinker. I have plenty of flaws if you’d like some to criticize. I’m stubborn, klutzy, and sometimes selfish. I procrastinate. I’m a terrible housekeeper. I’m all too apt to hide behind humor. And I’m incredibly awkward at parties.
      I’m also practical, idealistic, the most prepared camper you’ll ever meet. I’m a loyal beyond reason to those I love. I can bake birthday cakes in almost any configuration. I’ve been known to quote Shakespeare while performing a Caesarean section on a cow. I think about everything. All of the time. I love – intensely, painfully, and unconditionally.
      I believe in working for peace, justice, and acceptance for everyone. Seeing my name equated with eugenics and warmongering hurts. Yes, I’m also sensitive.
      You don’t know me. You know only that I wrote about a topic where you have strong feelings. Great. Come discuss them with me. I can’t offer a glass of wine or a cup of tea over the internet, but you’re more than welcome to stop by my blog, read a bit, and share your thoughts. Conversation is so much easier than anonymous anger.

      • Helen

        Christy -thanks for commenting.
        My anger is not anonymous, as you see, but it is real. I am angry that parents enter the Steiner system without understanding what they are getting in to – as you clearly did. It worked out ok for you (although your children may not agree later) but as you must know, that is not the case for many families.
        Nick and I do wonder why parents like you think it is ok to teach children about the “Michael Age” as part of their schooling, and to make swords. Why use this Rudolf Steiner idea from over a century ago to teach them that, as you say in your post, “dragons are real”? There are much more worthwhile and less questionable ways to teach about overcoming adversity, are there not?
        I did assume you were a real person, and that makes it worse; Real families are being hurt by getting involved with Waldorf Steiner, because of the secrecy. A question was asked by Rain17 on twitter, as I mentioned in the post. I wonder what are your thoughts about why Steiner do not tell parents about Michaelmas and the rest of anthroposophy *before* they sign up. We could have the discussion here or on your blog – I would prefer it here, because a lot of people in this town are being asked to support a new Steiner school, but they are not making an informed choice.
        Don’t you think parents should be told the truth about anthroposophy instead of the denials we get from those who know and could provide information?

        • Christy Corp-Minamijij

          Helen,

          Thanks for responding. I actually didn’t enroll my children in a Waldorf school from a position of ignorance. My academic background is in medicine, so I am a compulsive researcher. I looked into Steiner, anthroposophy, and thoroughly reviewed the school’s curriculum before enrolling them. I also read blogs and articles examining both sides, before determining that the curriculum was one that would suit my children’s personalities.
          At our school, the concepts of Michaelmas are used symbolically in reference to confronting one’s own fears and prejudices (shadow selves, “dragons”). I don’t always agree with every pedagogical stance, nor does my children’s father. So we engage both the school and our children in conversation where we disagree.

          Our school is a private, tuition-based one. So those of us who support it do so of our own free wills. I don’t know how I would feel about being financially expected to support a school with which I disagreed. I think that would be upsetting.

          • Helen

            You say you researched it all thoroughly – yet you were bewildered by the festivals – how come?
            You are a scientist and yet you sent your children to a school where science is not respected – evolution is “Victorian and reductionist” according to the Steiner curriculum – and “the heart is not a pump” according to anthroposophy.
            Paying for a Steiner education is different from indirectly, through taxes, paying for a school we disagree with, but the secrecy about anthroposophy is the same either way; I guess you don’t want to answer the question in my previous reply?

            • we escaped!

              Wished we had researched steiner. To our shame, we didn’t. We trusted the school. Big mistake. Life lesson!

              We walked blindly into the world of Steiner and anthroposophy. Then we ran!

            • Christy Corp-Minamijij

              My bewilderment was less about the festivals themselves than about how they would play out in practice.
              I’m not sure of the curriculum in all schools, but I have to say that in our school kids are well-versed in the sciences, including anatomy, physiology, and yes, evolution. My eldest who graduated from our Waldorf school in 2013 and transferred to a local public school has had consistently high marks in biology last year and chemistry this year. She was not at all unprepared, nor was she taught anything inaccurate.

            • Christy Corp-Minamijij

              Sorry, there was no deliberate evasion of your questions earlier. It’s just been a busy weekend in my world! :)
              I absolutely think parents should be told about anthroposophy and how it impacts the curriculum and how the teachers integrate it. We have some teachers who are more rigid followers of Steiner than others at our school, and I’ve had extensive and candid conversations with all of them.
              Again, I can only speak to my experiences, not those of others.

      • Rain17

        I write under a pseudonym because I just do not trust the anthroposophy community. I see first of all how they regard and treat each other, and also extend reprisals the children of others they do not like.

        Others may be in various states of mediation or dialog with their respective schools over policies or issues and may not have recourse to speaking about those situations openly.

        If you’re in a setting that is or seems more open, you might not be able to understand or be in a position to judge those who post anonymously.

  2. David Clark

    Hi Nick,

    You wrote: “It is no wonder that many of us feel so strongly opposed to Anthroposophical organisations …”

    Yes, I can appreciate and understand that view.

    • we escaped!

      We only speak from our experiences too. We have no good experiences and we have nothing proactive to say about our experience at a steiner school.

      If you aren’t aware of our experience, please read our previous comments on this blog, this should give you a full rounded view.

      We are normal, honest, straight up people. Had we been made aware prior to enrolling our child into such an institution, we would never have signed the contract.

      Please continue to strive for your truth, and we will continue to strive for ours.

      Note-
      We are all very busy people with a life outside of this blog. But we will keep posting and asking questions in the hope of a good answer.

  3. Helen

    Christy – in reply to comments above; it sounds as though you are single-handedly keeping those anthroposophical teachers at your school inline! As a parent who did research, do you think other families who choose your school are sufficiently informed, and if not, have you made any effort to try to correct this lack of openness? It would be a great service to your community if you did. Or perhaps this would not be acceptable in the eyes of those who run the school.

    • Helen

      On the festivals though – I don’t think you understood them at all when you put your children in to Steiner school. You say they are telling the story of St George and the dragon – have you read MarkH’s post on Michaelmas in “The Heavenly Host” on Steiner’s Mirror? An anthroposophical teacher trainer specifically says that is not what they are doing. If they were, it would be in April in our country – not sure about yours…
      You say in your “Epiphany” blogpost in the Waldorf category the following;
      “Waldorf parents often find ourselves in a perpetual state of justification – justifying paying private school tuition despite cutting every other corner of the family budget (a particularly difficult justification in a city like Davis with a renowned public school system), justifying why our 7 year olds can’t yet read, justifying the weird aversion to television and video games, justifying school festivals layered with incomprehensible overtones of both Paganism and Christianity.”
      Did you know you would be doing this when you chose Steiner education? Justifying to whom – to outsiders, to other parents at the school, or to yourself?
      You also blogged that you lost your home but still carried on paying school fees. This ties in with Gregoire Perra’s account of how parents will not give up Steiner education under any circumstances – due to believing the myth of its superiority.

  4. Christy Corp-Minamijij

    Hi Helen,

    Actually, our school is quite open in what it discusses with parents. Our school board consists of parent volunteers and a faculty liaison. Curricular decisions are made by the faculty and pedagogical advisor. The ultimate say in communications between parents and faculty is given to the school administrator. However, the administrator answers to the board. So there is a system of “checks and balances” in place.

    As far as our family’s financial choices go…well, those were ours. However, there were many more factors at play than “house vs school” — geography and our family’s overall health chief among those.

    When our children first started school, public school was not a valid logistical option for us. Our eldest began her education in a Catholic school (a system with its own checkered history, but with many good educational principles). By the time she finished first grade, it had become obvious this was not a system to which she was well-suited. She excelled academically and hated every minute of it.

    If you want to know the reason we have kept our children at their Waldorf school, it’s simple. They love to go to school there. We don’t hear “I don’t want to go to school.” Instead we hear, “When will vacation be over? I miss school.”

    For me, whether I have to justify the expense to my friends, family or self, or justify to people on a blog ;) my philosophy regarding education boils down to one thing — my kids. If they are learning, loving to learn, and growing into healthy, compassionate, thoughtful, and thinking people, then it’s worthwhile. And thus far, that is exactly what is happening.

    • Nick Nakorn

      “When will vacation be over? I miss school.” I think that any school that convinces the children that life in school is better than life at home might be considered to be brainwashing the kids; unless, of course, home is really unpleasant. Like in so many cults, children start to be alienated from parents.

    • Helen

      I see why you took offence, but Nick is right about the way Steiner schools create an environment where parents become secondary in a child’s life.
      Anthroposophists believe that children have reincarnated (you know all about that) and that the parents are simply the vehicle which brought the child in to the world, and that they can have a damaging effect on a the spiritual development of the child. This alienation from family members was mentioned by Pete K in his open letter on the Waldorf review. So in that way there is definitely a cultish effect on individuals.
      The way Steiner teachers try (and succeed, in my short experience in a class) to make the class into a “tribe” (it’s even written down in the Handbook for Waldorf Class Teachers) contributes to this pulling away from the family. You have written in your blog about bullying within the class and how one class “couldn’t hold a teacher” and how they were finally being brought together and made into a “family” – a word you continually use when talking about the class.
      Does your school celebrate Mother’s Day? Gregoire Perra wrote on his blog about why most Steiner schools do not – a very close relationship with parents is not desirable in the eyes of anthroposophists.
      I am not criticising your parenting at all – you are obviously an intelligent woman who wants the best for her children, and your strong personality and awareness of anthroposophy will pull your children through, I am sure.
      But it is unfortunately the case that the bizarre beliefs of some teachers in Steiner schools have had, and continue to have, disastrous effects on families.

    • Nick Nakorn

      Christy. I was not angry with you (or angry at all when I wrote my comment) and the remark was not intended to be offensive; it was a criticism of Anthroposophy that Helen has expanded upon. Anyway, Anthroposophists, and those who support them, are much, much more insulting to me. They think I’m from a ‘lower race’, have to be ‘educated by whites’, can not be ‘creative’, hide my ’emotions behind a permanent smile’ and that I am ‘degenerate’ and closer to an animal than a white person. If you think my strong opposition to a racist cult is offensive then I can only think you support the values I’m criticizing.

      • Rain17

        There are a couple current discussions on the Waldorf Critics list right now with a professing anthroposophy evangelist, that demonstrates exactly the thoughts and behaviors of their missionaries – people who believe Rudolf Steiner’s fantasies of whites being from Jupiter, put here to lead humanity into the next phase of evolutionary development; and that people who disbelieve these irrational facts will go the way of the Wandering Jew.

        I routinely hear from less rabid Waldorf supporters, online and off, that Rudolf Steiner is an educational genius who was ahead of his time in so many ways. When what he actually wrote about so many things is brought up, the answer is, well! that was then but this is now! they don’t teach THAT to the children!

        Meanwhile, it’s said no anthroposophy is taught to the children. And yet, the children are required to do mandatory anthroposophy dance once a week. So which is it?

        If faculty and staff — some of whom MIGHT actually believe children of African descent are the Mercury race — are willing to misrepresent themselves to parents and the public on that basic a level, just what else MIGHT children be taught that it’s said they’re not.

  5. David Clark

    Hi Helen and others,

    I have tried to offer “Waldorf-related” adult education in a school setting. As a result, I found that it has been quite difficult to encourage a process of critical and independent learning and engage others with it. Looking back and reflecting on numerous responses, I now reckon there are many powerful blocks. These extend beyond my personal limitations as a wannabe educator of “Anthroposophy” to adults. Taking up this task, I aimed to reach out and stimulate fresh questions about the education. Among families with school age children, time pressures must be recognised and respected as a key factor. Beyond this, the “chalk and talk” back to school venue may be quite unattractive to adult students looking for mature conversation, enquiry and sociability as well as (possibly) new ideas and feelings of trust. Of course, the content will be quite unfamiliar and/or challenging (both to myself and others) as all of us carry our own beliefs, expectations, knowledge and values.

Any thoughts?

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