Do Steiner supporters have a problem with logical debate? A guest post by Jim

Having been reading and commenting on this site ( end elsewhere ) for some time I am forced to the conclusion that the majority of Steiner supporters are incapable of handling argument in a coherent and logical way. Now I know that may sound to some as though I am simply saying “you don’t agree with me therefore you are illogical” but I really don’t mean to say that. It’s not unusual to disagree with someone and end up agreeing to disagree because neither party can find some incontrovertible fact or deliver an absolutely conclusive argument. But with Steiner supporters that rarely seems to be the case.

Looking back over the discussions which have arisen from the postings on this site I would suggest there are broadly 3 types. We could call them those who write in sadness, those who write in anger and those who write with intent to mislead.

The writers in sadness are those who write feeling hurt that anyone should say such terrible things about the schools that they or their children know. They experienced the rituals and so on as harmless or “spiritual” in some warm fuzzy way. They aren’t really arguing the issues at all but simply saying for them it was not a bad experience, to which one can only say “good”, or ( if their children are currently attending Steiner school ) ” I hope you’re right”.

Those who write to mislead tend to be the anthroposophical zealots and as expected they will argue at great length and bring in all manner of references to give a semblance of academic credibility to their claims. There is a logic to their arguments in that they will often try to establish some agreed premise and from there proceed to justify an unsound conclusion, perhaps by subtly changing the definition of some key terms along the way. Or they will misrepresent a piece of scientific research so as to support a piece of Steiner pseudo science. For example the claim that the heart is not a pump was supposed to be supported by a paper which merely demonstrated how other parts of the circulatory system were involved in regulating blood pressure. This is quite deliberate sophistry and it’s only to be expected from the zealot.

But the ones that bother me most are the ones who write in anger. Often they don’t start out obviously angry but just stating some piece of Steiner dogma in contradiction of whatever the original post or the previous comment said. When someone replies to challenge their point they are likely to respond either by going off at a tangent or by a non sequitur. Eg “Steiner could not have been a racist because on coming to power Hitler immediately closed all the Steiner schools”. Both factually incorrect and even if true proof of nothing – do you imagine any Jew able to demonstrate racist credentials was spared? Typically these writers fire off a series of short comments with little connection to each other or to the comments to which they are supposedly responding. In short they show an inability to develop a rational argument and a frustration with those who do. That’s when the anger becomes apparent and the accusations of narrow rationalism, reductionism and so on come out. Or worse.

The reason this bothers me is that I don’t know whether this sort of mental inarticulacy is a consequence of their Steiner background or merely something which predisposes them to accept Steiner’s ideas. To be fair there have been a couple of writers critical of Steiner who showed similar characteristics, and at least one so incoherent it was hard to tell if he was pro or anti. But it does seem to be a strong Steiner characteristic and entirely consistent with Steiner’s disparagement of analytical thinking. If it is a consequence rather than a precondition there is yet another good reason to be concerned at the growth in Steiner schooling.



      • Steve

        Sorry Daid, but what’s logical? Vilifying, shunning and smearing throughout the local community parents who want their children to be safe, instead of dealing with the actual problem? Is that what’s logical?

        • David Clark

          Steve. Thanks for the question. By being logical, the initial comment seems clear, yet it somehow also pushes the reader away.

          • Steve

            I’m sorry David, but this makes no sense at all. I have no idea what you’re referring to. At all.
            Let me rephrase my question: is it logical for Steiner schools to vilify and shun families who raise legitimate concerns, rather than deal with those concerns?

            • David Clark

              Thanks Steve. No problem, no. Yet I don’t see myself as a Steiner advocate either and am unable to help you there. Hence my difficulty with approaching your first statement.

  1. Chris

    In my experience of the local Steiner community, this piece really hits the nail on the head – it has opened my eyes to something that was staring me in the face! I agree with and support every word. Vey perceptive indeed.

    • David Clark

      Thanks for the interesting comment. Living away, I visit a “local Steiner community” at times as a geographical outsider. By way of contrast, it is highly interesting to get a glimpse of the embodied experience of an outsider in a “local Steiner community”.

  2. Jim

    I should perhaps have made it more clear that what I referred to as mental inarticulacy is not something I think is exclusive to Steiner supporters – it seems to underlie much new age thinking. But what is much more specific to Steiner is the possession of a well entrenched educational system geared to developing and validating it. That is where the danger lies.

  3. Jim

    Dave Jasper – if you would like to explain why your comment is relevant to this post it will be considered for publication but at present it seems to have no bearing on the issue and hence needlessly contentious. Contentious but relevant is fine!

  4. Jim

    Dave has replied to my request for clarification so here are his comments, combined but otherwise unedited:

    Talking about Hitler:

    Zionism was supported by the German SS and Gestapo.[3] [4] [5] [6] Hitler himself personally supported Zionism.[7] [8] During the 1930’s, in cooperation with the German authorities, Zionist groups organized a network of some 40 camps throughout Germany where prospective settlers were trained for their new lives in Palestine. As late as 1942 Zionists operated at least one of these officially authorized “Kibbutz” training camps[9] over which flew the blue and white banner which would one day be adopted as the national flag of “Israel”.[10]
    The Transfer Agreement (which promoted the emigration of German Jews to Palestine) implemented in 1933 and abandoned at the beginning of WWII is an important example of the cooperation between Hitler’s Germany and international Zionism. [11] Through this agreement, Hitler’s Third Reich did more than any other government during the 1930’s to support Jewish development in Palestine and further the Zionist goals.
    Hitler and the Zionists had a common goal:Â to create a world Jewish Ghetto as a solution to the Jewish Question.

    ( This seemed to be going in an irrelevant and possibly anti-semitic direction hence my request for clarification. Dave’s response follows…….. )

    You said, ” do you imagine any Jew able to demonstrate racist credentials was spared?”

    The link proves otherwise.

    In fact The Nazi regime conferred honors on many of the 100,000 Jews who fought in the German army in the Great War, even on some who had already escaped to Palestine.

    ( This was followed by…… )

    What I meant to say Jim, is Zionism racist? Land, blood and soil.
    Does Theodor Herzl ring a bell?

    So Dave – what to make of your comments? I’m not sure if you are just having a bit of harmless nitpicking fun or whether you belong to the anthroposophical zealots who write to mislead. In case you have forgotten the original point was the logical fallacy that Hitler’s disapproval of Steiner means he ( Steiner ) could not be racist. This still stands and nothing you have said alters that. Hitler was quite prepared to oppose any rival groups racist or not.

    Before deciding on genocide the Nazis did indeed explore other methods for ridding Germany of its Jews but are you seriously suggesting that this was out of solidarity with fellow racists? It is true also that some Zionist groups exploited the fear and colluded with the Nazis to encourage migration to Palestine, in much the same way as Netanyahu is doing though with far greater cause. But this hardly amounts to a common goal for Nazism and Zionism.

    As for your final point – is Zionism racist? I’m not sure – I don’t think that would be a fair description at the period we are discussing, when the drive was for a home free from persecution. Now that Israel has become the persecutor it’s a different matter. References to Palestinians as “cockroaches” and Palestine as “a land without a people for a people without a land” echo apartheid South Africa, of which Israel was a staunch supporter.

    • Dave

      >As for your final point – is Zionism racist? I’m not sure – I don’t think that would be a fair description at the period we are discussing,<
      Theodor Herzl. Read up on him.

  5. David Clark

    I’ve just taken a further look at Jim’s comments at the top of this blog. Do emotions affect the ability to deploy logical argument? Probably.

    • Jim

      I don’t think there is any doubt emotions do affect logic, and most of us are well aware when it happens. So we back off, cool down and then return to the debate.

      But I refer specifically to those who start off calm but illogical and only seem to get angry from frustration at being unable to argue effectively.

  6. Steve

    @David Clark

    Have run out of reply option. Thanks for saying it isn’t logical (although who in their right mind would claim that it is? :)

    The fact that you’re not a “Steiner advocate” merely reinforces my point: Steiner advocates don’t discuss this article with us, whether logically or otherwise. Why not? Surely if Steiner schools are so fantastic, trying to destroy families as they do must be all fine and dandy, and something to celebrate, no?

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