Grégoire Perra has written about how difficult it can be to remove your child from a Steiner school when you are dissatisfied, – more difficult than one might think.
First he describes the difficulties parents face in leaving, then there are practical suggestions to help. Here I have tried to explain his post in English; apologies for any errors.
Since 2011, following the publication of his article entitled “the indoctrination of students in Anthroposophy in Waldorf schools” he has been asked to help many people to exit children from different Waldorf Steiner schools, in France and Belgium and in Switzerland. Families who contacted him had encountered many problems that make something that would normally be simple, seem laborious and even arduous. He says he always asks relevant organisations in the field of sectarian problems to take over, having neither the vocation nor the skills to assume such a role, but he sometimes offers to be available as an advisor to clarify situations that only a former student and Waldorf teacher would be able to understand.
The difficulties may be psychological, administrative, and social, he explains;
The psychological difficulties often stem from the tendency of these schools to make parents feel guilty when they start talking about the fact that this method of teaching has defects and is no longer suitable for them. They are told that they did not actually understand the fundamentals of what is offered in school; they are offered long interviews in which everything is done to change their mind and question their opinions or even make them forget the serious facts that motivated their decision. Often after these interviews, the parents do not understand themselves what happened or what was said and especially how it could be that they finally opted for a decision that may have been the opposite of what they intended .
To understand such phenomena he says, they should know that the anthroposophic teachers of these schools have means of persuasion that go well beyond ordinary ability. It is not just their well developed rhetoric, but also the way they accentuate certain tones or certain words, like hypnotists, following the advice in mental manipulation that Steiner had given to teachers in the first Stuttgart school.
Thus, it is understandable that during these often lengthy interviews, parents’ minds are changed by what they hear, as few people are used to dealing with this kind of thing and able to resist it.
On administration, Perra says that schools will make it difficult for parents to effect the transition to another school simply by delaying paperwork. Another tactic by the schools is to insist on meetings, or to falsely claim that families must stay until the end of the year when there is no legal requirement for this.
The difficulties parents face socially are clear according to Perra; on entering a Steiner school a family is immediately drawn into a small, apparently warm, close-knit community of parents and teachers; There are kisses every morning, everyone is on familiar terms, joint meals and activities are organised, etc. All this is done deliberately to create a cohesive social group which it is actually hard to get out of, a kind of extended family or clan. Soon, to question or express doubts about what happens at school or about the methods used is seen as a sign of weakness, stupidity, or even as a betrayal.
Sometimes dissatisfied parents are led to believe that they are the ones who are being unreasonable, when they are not.
At the end of the post are some general pieces of advice, in his words;
- Do not go to the suggested meetings. They have no other purpose than to confuse, make you change your mind or just to stall. However, if you agree to go there, be sure to stay for a fixed time only: beyond 45 minutes, I advise you to get up and leave after saying goodbye; the Steiner teachers may remain seated to show that they want to continue or may say phrases like “no one will go out of this room until we have reached an agreement”. Sometimes, without the consent of parents, some schools keep minutes of these talks; if such a document is sent to you, I recommend you immediately contest any inaccuracies in writing.
- When your decision is made, you must immediately stop communicating not only with the school staff, but also with other parents, even those that you think you can completely trust. Indeed even comments made out of the school environment are likely to be immediately forwarded and could then be used against you.
- Never take the word of the admin staff of a Steiner school. For example, if you are told your child’s record has been sent to the new school, check what it is with the institution in question; if you don’t, you risk missing deadlines and having to leave your child in Steiner school for an extra year (which is actually the purpose of the manoeuvre). Keep all the documents you have from this school (rules, letters, children’s work, etc.).
- Promptly contact a person from a competent association – [Grégoire recommends the UNADFI in France – the National Union of Family Associations of Defence of the Individual and cult victims. In the UK we have CIC which is a charity providing advice and information for victims of cults, their families and friends, researchers and the media.]
- Pay what you owe to these schools; leave no shadow behind which would then be likely to be used against you, especially if you decide one day to testify publicly.
- Record in writing as soon as possible all the facts and elements that led you to make your decision, being as specific as possible in the details, even those that seem insignificant. Also do not hesitate to formulate what were your thoughts, your doubts, and your difficulties in fully realising the situation.
- When your decision is made and your child is out permanently do not under any circumstances set foot in the school again, even to look for belongings your child may have left behind there!