Second free school bid

As most people now know the Stroud Steiner free school Initiative group has applied for the second time. The decision will not be known until March, but will be made before then.

I have written to the department for education to object to this bid, and I know from last time that the views of local people will be considered in the decision-making process. Jim set out the reasons for objecting extremely well back in January this year.

Nothing regarding “need” has changed since last time so there really does not seem to be any reason why the decision should be different.

According to a report in the local press there were issues with the “governance model” and “affiliation with existing Steiner Academies”. We do not know specifics or how these have been addressed.  Of course the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship will be having their say.

I urge everyone to write and object. Here is the address I was given;




  1. we escaped!

    Have recently spoken to a friend who has been doing work for Ruskin Mill. He had absolutely no idea it was associated with steiner and anthroposophy! This friend had previously warned me about the cult school we had our child enrolled in!

    This is a very good example of how people unwittingly get involved, with no knowledge or clue of the true nature of anthroposophy. You only find out if you are already aware, accidently come across critic sites or become a victim of their abuse.

    • Helen

      Isn’t it scary how people are supporting the Steiner movement without realising? Of course that’s why they don’t put anthroposophy on their websites as I pointed out. If Rudolf is mentioned it is as a “philosopher” or “doctor” to make him sound respectable. Most people believe it too. But that example with your friend shows precisely how the whole spin operation works.
      People don’t even know that biodynamics is pure Steiner.

  2. Nick Nakorn

    Thanks ‘Anon’. I’ve just read the article; quite disgusting. In my view, the whole concept of Karma ends up with adherents believing that eventually everyone gets what they deserve and thus their place in society, however unjust, is appropriate and unavoidable. It’s deeply conservative and, worse, a justification for a stratified society in which the powerful blame their victims for everything.

  3. Helen

    The whole idea of karma, apart from being an inappropriate one on which to base a school (even if the parents ARE informed) is a strange one if you don’t live in a society where it is the norm. (Anything seems normal if you are brought up with it I suppose.)
    A kindergarten parent told me she was ok with the concept of karma as she found it in that group, but without wishing to sound condescending I do wonder if people have thought it through. It really does imply that everything is predestined as Nick says, which is a horrible idea for the children in the care of people who take this seriously as Steiner followers do. It really goes against everything our education system is supposed to represent – opportunities for everyone.
    The way anthroposophists view the role of parents as incidental and even harmful to the spiritual development of children, and the “fatalistic” attitude to their behaviour and achievements is detestable when looked at closely. Most parents seem satisfied not to look too closely until things start to go wrong – it’s not surprising because on the surface there is nothing to suggest anything is wrong. Disturbing.

  4. David Clark

    It is good when parents are involved with the education and well-being of their children. Indeed, it is very important for all concerned. Wherever possible, this interest and concern should be encouraged and facilitated on a practical level. Sadly, it is all too often a case of “too little, too late”. Disturbing.

  5. Jim

    It is interesting the way the idea of karma is used in the west. The doctrine in the earliest Buddhist texts is quite remote from predestination. The word comes from the Sanskrit for ‘action’ and by extension also refers to the consequences of action. So it is chiefly concerned with ensuring that we choose the right actions here and now, not because some god has given us a set of rules but because those actions have consequences.

    But in the west the emphasis is all on trying to explain our current state by reference to actions in past lives, whether to justify present success or excuse current difficulties. This is quite a different way of looking at it, as is said above appearing to justify peoples present position in life. This was not the way those Buddhist texts intended it and interestingly Buddhism is having a minor revival in India precisely because it rejects predestination and the justification of the caste system that goes with it.

    I refer to the west above but of course not having lived in a Buddhist country it may well be that popular belief is much the same there too. People are subject to the same prejudices the world over.

    • Nick Nakorn

      Indeed Jim, how a religion is lived is often utterly different from how it was written. I’m from a family of Buddhists, though I’m not an expert nor a Buddhist. From what I gather, it is common for modern adherents to believe in the ‘reap-what-you sow’ via reincarnation. But my father, who spends a fair amount of time at his monastery, says he doesn’t believe in reincarnation at all. Clearly, there’s a whole raft of different beliefs within both Buddhist and Hindu versions of reincarnation. But, with the ‘here and now’ version of Karma somehow affecting the future in mysterious ways, there’s still the inference that there is some kind of spiritual meritocracy at work that mitigates against fighting for social justice. Having said that, my Dad’s monastery is virtually the local social services while many down-town temples spend all their income on gold leaf for the statues and other self aggrandizing projects. So it seems there’s no rule, just people.

      • Jim

        I find aspects of Buddhism fascinating because underneath some of the superstition there is a strain of pragmatism and scepticism. So, gods may or may not exist but if they do they are beings like us that live and die, didn’t create us and do not control us. Rather like our relation to ants.

        And an analysis of suffering which traces it to psychological roots rather than a price to pay for the prospect of eternal bliss if we follow the dictates of our heavenly father ( a truly fascistic notion ). True, that can lead to passivism in the face of social injustice but it also recognises that even with our material needs met and a just society we may still feel angst and discontent.

        From a western perspective it’s hard to tell whether this psycho/philosophical Buddhism is merely stripping away the accretions of 2500 years of popular belief or is in some way distorting the original message. But reading some of the abhidhamma texts you find remarkably little of the notion of karma affecting the future in mysterious ways. Rather it’s that in the absence of any sort of persisting soul all we are is a series of fleeting mental states, each conditioned ( karma ) by its preceding states. Note that the term used is conditioned, not predetermined so leaving the possibility of controlling this flow of mental states.

        It’s interesting that your father does not believe in reincarnation – is that view very unusual? If you believe in a soul I suppose it’s not a great leap to envisage it popping up in another body. But Buddhism, having done a very convincing demolition job on the notion of soul, still claims that personal identity persists from one life to another. This is not in the form of any persisting entity but in a causal ( karmic ) chain of mental states. Clearly not conscious mental states ( since we have no knowledge of previous lives ) but a sort of mental DNA ( my analogy so don’t take it too far ). I always found this the weakest part of the analysis – almost as though something had to be found because otherwise the answer to “how do you end suffering?” would simply be “kill yourself” and that was not acceptable.

        Sorry Helen – I know this isn’t a Buddhism discussion site. But it’s interesting that when you dig beneath the surface superstition you find serious thought whereas with anthroposophy the deeper you dig you just uncover more superstition and more stupidity.

        • Nick Nakorn

          To be honest, I’m not sure how common his view is Jim. I also asked him if he had any idea how many Thai people believe in God and, though he had no figures, thought it was about half. But he also pointed out that a huge number also believe in ‘spirits’; each with a particular subject specialism – water spirit, house spirit etc.. etc.. much like the multitude of Hindu gods. These spirits were regionally different too. I haven’t had the money to visit recently so I don’t know when my next conversation with him will be – but I hope it is not too far away – apart from anything he is in his mid 80s so I never know which visit will be my last. Walking down his street I counted the number of ‘spirit houses’ outside the gates or front doors of the houses and it looked like less than half to me. But Thai Buddhism is made up of many hybrids; Hindu Buddhists, Atheist Buddhists and even Catholic Buddhists so looking for consistency is not easy! Much like the huge number of Christian denominations here. If I walk from my flat in Buckfastleigh to the shops I go from Glebelands, down Church Street, past the Catholic Church, past the Methodist Church, past the Steiner Christian Community Church and, if I also then go to the bus stop I’ll past the Anglican Church too. On the bus I’ll go past Buckfast Abbey and St. Boniface Conference Centre. All within a mile of my flat. So I’m often reminded how crazy are our own versions of ‘sprituality’.

  6. Helen

    Steiner rejected the more Eastern aspects of theosophy and broke away to form his own belief system, anthroposophy, but still kept karma in there, and reincarnation. But he adapted it for his own purposes. Isn’t it also true that karma is used as a kind of appeal system in Eastern religions, a bit like confession in Catholicism?

      • Helen

        There may be as much spirituality in Montessori schools once you are in, I don’t know, certainly Maria Montessori had similar influences to Steiner. There does not seem to have been damage done to children and families however, and nor is there much criticism. Perhaps I haven’t searched far enough.

  7. David Clark

    Thanks Anon for the links. For me, these are very persuasive accounts which have been written from quite different perspectives. I do not find either article to be as self-evident as you seem to suggest. Indeed, each one resonates powerfully with me, challenging my comprehension and confronting me with more questions.

    I’m not sure about the needs and possibilities of Stroud in 2014. In urban parts, many children are invited to share early fruits of their diverse family and faith cultures with others in the classroom. We may discuss religions and belief systems, yet I reckon teachers welcome expressions of raw experience. Can it be said that spirituality is in the classroom at such times? Perhaps an answer to this delicate question may rest in adults’ intentions and responses. Of course, parents may carry questions of belief, conviction or faith in quite different ways. Is respect relevant here?

    Notions of the “West” are quite interesting and varied. There are forms of western spirituality and these have assumed their own form, spreading over time. Of course, the culture of the Enlightenment is a different stream, teaching us so much yet also offering the possibility of gaining understanding.

    For many years, I have grappled with possibilities of applying karma and reincarnation. Somehow, these principles have seemed quite counter-intuitive despite my efforts to study and understand. Having met people who bring insights from quite different forms of heritage I still feel quite blocked.

    • Jim

      David – I don’t know what you mean by “applying karma and reincarnation”. I could understand it if you were talking about using them as themes for some literary or other artistic work – in that context their truth or falsity is irrelevant. It’s simply a question of whether they make interesting subjects.

      If you’re talking about applying them in life then they are not techniques or materials to be applied. If you believe in them then they are just facts to be dealt with. If you don’t believe in them then there is nothing to apply.

      Can you clarify?

  8. David Clark

    Hi Jim and Nick,

    Many thanks for these helpful questions. Apologies for the lack of clarity in my comments. No, I don’t believe in karma and reincarnation and cannot apply them. While these have been matters of personal and private research interest and study, my reflective efforts to date have been unsuccessful. For this reason, I clearly cannot claim to have grounds for a personal belief in karma and reincarnation, “western” or otherwise.

    Living as I do in a highly diverse community, there are many who readily refer to their clear beliefs in everyday discourse and apply that knowledge in life. I do not experience this as a controversial matter.

    Some may claim that pursuit of karma and reincarnation may be explained or understood through forms of discourse. I disagree firmly with this view.

    With others, I am diverted by artistic, dramatic and literary “genres” that make use of karma and reincarnation as powerful themes. Likewise, I greatly enjoy the mental disciplines involved in studying legal history, for example.

    On reflection, I can echo Helen’s comment on the importance of local people and their views.

    • Nick Nakorn

      David, but doesn’t it worry you that the Anthroposophical view of reincarnation via a racial hierarchy will, if not actively opposed, will attract racists? I’m assuming the diverse community you live in is in and around the Loughborough/Leicester area. How many members of your Anthroposophical Study Group are non-white?

      • Jim

        Nick – you’ve put your finger on the issue with Steiner and reincarnation. Whilst I don’t believe in reincarnation I’ve never felt it was of itself an immoral position. But when you link it with an imagined racial hierarchy then it becomes one.

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