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.