There have only been a couple of investigations into Steiner businesses that have done more than skim the surface of what goes on. BBC southwest did an interesting report on the Frome Steiner Academy, and last year a Newsnight report uncovered some of the accounts of bullying resulting from the belief in karma.
The majority of stories however take the Steiner movement at face value – that goes for Camphill, biodynamics and Steiner schools.
The latest is a report in yesterday’s Observer on a Steiner school the actor Tilda Swinton has helped to found in Scotland so that her children can have a kind of non-education; this is provided by principal teacher Krzysztof Zajaczkowski, formerly of Botton, who does not appear to be a qualified teacher, counts Bothmer Gym as one of his specialisms, and is described as working class, presumably to stop readers presuming this kind of education could be elitist. The local Moray Steiner school only took children up to the age of 14 so an upper school was required to “provide schooling without the stress of tests”.
The reporter Aaron Hicklin accompanied a group from the school on their annual trip to Colonsay, where the main purpose according to Tilda was “chillaxing”, and based his report on this. His obvious enjoyment of the trip and the impression made on him by the Swinton style of parenting resulted in a complete avoidance of any examination of what Steiner education means – he probably never heard the word anthroposophy. The principal teacher clearly knows all about it, but perhaps keeps that information to himself; for example the reasons for the flashmob style javelin throwing and the lack of football is not mentioned. Merely this remark;
(Competitive sports are generally frowned upon within the Steiner system, but exceptions are made for those associated with the ancient Olympics.)
There are anthroposophical reasons for this but they pass Hicklin and his readers by.
There is one quote from Steiner about freedom, and a mention of the “individuality” Hicklin thinks is encouraged in Steiner schools – he seems to have swallowed the SWSF propaganda leaflet whole.
“Meeting the emergent future” is a phrase used more than once on the school website, and relates to reincarnation in anthroposophy. Indeed Steiner followers see the future incarnations of the children in their care as predominantly important – the ethos page of the Drumduan website mentions; the ability to get a job comes well down the list of priorities.
This newish school is not officially Steiner but Moray Steiner school most certainly is, and the Drumduan website contains the usual derogatory description of mainstream education where they say children “sit at desks for much of the day at school for over ten years”.
Tilda Swinton’s privileged children and those of the other parents who pay to send their children to Drumduan may get by without any qualifications on leaving school, but what about children who do not have the connections to make their lives easier in the real world?
The real story is not about a small group of school children enjoying fish and chips on their school trip, but about the clear and present danger of education based on anthroposophy.