My e mail to Joe Evans (Business Manager) and Angela Browne (Principal) at Bristol Steiner Academy.
Joe told me this week that there was no danger of horrible experiences similar to those documented on mumsnet happening at their Academy, because they have a “different approach” and their teacher, Phillip Wright, is “in favour of a critical discussion about Steiner’s work and of creating a more outward-looking and forward-facing ethos within Steiner education generally”.
Dear Joe and Angela
It is interesting that you mention Philip Wright and his PhD.
You say “within the Academies we are taking a different approach in many ways to the independent schools” – and yet your first class teacher was himself a teacher from an independent Steiner school, and one who has immersed himself in anthroposophy for many years.
You say Phillip Wright is very much in favour of a critical dialogue about Steiner’s work, but I wonder if you have read his document “Constructing ‘geo’- exploring the epistemological frameworks of Steiner-Waldorf and mainstream approaches to geography”?
In order to understand what he is getting at it helps to have some knowledge of anthroposophy.
Far from looking at ways to modernise the curriculum, he writes at length about how anthroposophy influences what children learn in Steiner schools and attempts to justify it, but without explaining which parts of Steiner’s teachings should be dropped. In fact he spends much of the article suggesting how the Steiner teachings should be incorporated into the mainstream.
In his study, Phillip Wright admits that
“…there is a real need to know how Waldorf pedagogy works to develop the intellect.”
In fact, the intellect is considered “Ahrimanic” – that’s why Steiner schools delay reading and writing as long as possible – children are still too busy remembering their past lives, according to this belief system.
In the article he continually refers to what “Steiner said” and maintains that
“…geography in the Waldorf context cannot be separated from the philosophy that underpins it. For Waldorf education to gain more credibility in the academic world the impact of this philosophy on its curriculum knowledge needs to be understood and rigorously defended.”
So he does not advocate changing the Steiner geography curriculum in order to gain credibility, instead, he maintains that those in the mainstream sector need to “understand the impact” of anthroposophy, and those on the inside need to defend it. Rigorously.
This is typical of Steiner proponents, who claim that the reason we are critical of Steiner methods is simply because we do not have sufficient “understanding” of anthroposophy.
“Whereas the mainstream geography curriculum is, to a large extent, shaped by the intellectual streams flowing down from academia …the geography curriculum in Waldorf schools is closely tied to the developmental needs of the child, as understood by anthroposophy.”
“As understood by anthroposophy”. That is the problem you have at Bristol. Your class teacher believes in the “developmental needs of the child” according to anthroposophy, nothing to do with normal child development.
Phillip Wright writes contemptuously of the rational, scientific mainstream teaching of geography, where “physical and biological laws” are taken into account, but eulogises on “the pre-modern cosmographic dream” where “mental picturing” and “imagination”(clairvoyance) are used.
“…should Waldorf education even concern itself with such academic questions of knowledge which, it could be argued, are marginal to its holistic view of the child and [spiritual] educational goals?”.
He proposes that it should, but then presents reasons why this is unlikely ever to happen; the “class teacher” method where the main lesson is taught by one teacher for 8 years every day, ”strengthens the position of the class teacher as knowledge authority” and the questioning from the children is dependent on “nuances of voice, emotion and meaning”.
I think he is making the point that not much is documented in a Steiner lesson, and it is difficult to know exactly what the “narrative” has been in any given lesson.
Angie Browne and Joe Evans, how much do you know about anthroposophy, ie the physical, etheric and astral bodies that Phillip Wright accepts and works by? This is after all what Phillip Wright regards as ” developmental needs of the child”.
Maybe not much, if so, he is at an advantage.These are occult beliefs with no place in a school funded by tax-payers, where parents send their children unaware that of how the belief system is used or why.
This class teacher thinks it’s ok to base his lessons on the “wisdom” of an Austrian mystic from 100 years ago, because he accepts this wisdom as “the truth”, as is evident from his study.
This is explained very well by Roger Rawlings on his Waldorf Watch website.
The site is American, but Steiner schools work in the same way all over the world. Grégoire Perra’s workbooks from his schooldays contain copied drawings and writing which are almost identical to those of children in the States.
The anthroposophical assumption that a child has lived before, and that karma influences her present life, is an abuse; a child has a right to a decent education where teachers are not living out their fantasies according to Steiner’s clairvoyant visions, and imposing them on the children in their care.
In his conclusion Wright says
“… it could be argued that the explicit metaphysical nature, universal claims and, to some extent, didactic tone of Steiner’s anthroposophical teachings present obstacles to the up-dating of the educational system that arose from it. Dialogue between Waldorf education and the wider academic community (educational, philosophical and scientific) has, as such, been relatively limited and views remain considerably polarized.”
I am afraid Joe, your statement that “all Steiner schools are different” and that Steiner is a developing system is false; whether you really believe it or whether you are also attempting to deceive, I am not sure, but Philip Wright and others, including the SWSF will be ensuring that Steiner’s doctrine remains at the centre of your school’s practices.
Families continue to get hurt, due to the concealment of anthroposophy. A small child should not have to leave his school within a couple of weeks of starting, due to insufficient information provided to parents. This would simply not happen in mainstream.