Le laxisme Steiner-Waldorf

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A different perspective on why a Steiner Free school has been judged as requiring improvement.
A translation below.

La Vérité sur les écoles Steiner-Waldorf

Ou pourquoi les écoles Steiner-Waldorf ne sont en fait pas une pédagogie !

Sur le site de la Fédération des écoles Steiner-Waldorf en France, on trouve depuis plusieurs années un article faisant mention de l’existence en Grande-Bretagne de deux écoles Steiner-Waldorf entièrement subventionnées par les subsides du Gouvernement britannique. Le message est clair : les écoles Steiner-Waldorf réclament le droit à être subventionnées intégralement, comme le sont les établissements de l’Education Nationale, au nom de la liberté pédagogique en matière d’éducation. Selon cette argumentation, le fait de payer des impôts devrait ouvrir le droit aux parents d’inscrire leurs enfants dans une école pratiquant la pédagogie de leur choix. Mais, dans les faits, ces beaux principes s’avèrent très problématiques dès lors qu’ils s’appliquent aux écoles Steiner-Waldorf. En effet, pour que des établissements scolaires puissent prétendre à des subventions de la part d’une collectivité, il faut au minimum qu’il s’agisse bien d’un projet…

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7 comments

  1. Helen

    (My apologies for any errors in translation – Helen)
    by Gregoire Perra
    Steiner Waldorf laxness
    Or …Why Waldorf is not in fact a teaching method !

    For several years on the Waldorf Schools Federation in France website, there has been a section mentioning the existence of two Waldorf schools in the UK which are fully funded by grants from the British Government. [free schools]The message is clear: Waldorf schools claim the right to be fully funded as institutions of Education, in the cause of freedom in education.

    According to this argument, the act of paying taxes should buy the right for parents to enroll their children in a school practicing the teaching methods of their choice. But in reality, if applied to Waldorf schools, these fine principles are very problematic. Indeed, in order for schools to qualify for grants from a community, you need to provide a minimum standard of education, not something else. However, in Waldorf schools, the project at the heart of these facilities is not education, but religious reality – even if that goal is not openly stated. It is to insidiously promote a new religion called Anthroposophy, not to educate and train students from a pedagogical perspective.

    This is evident from the publication of the inspection report from a British Waldorf school [Exeter] which was released through the intervention of the BHA (British Humanist Association) This report has now been translated and published on the CLPS site .(secular circle for the prevention of sectarianism) It notes serious educational deficiencies, as the reader will notice.

    Of particular note is the problem of teachers lax attitude vis-à-vis students. The acquisition of knowledge and the development of the students’intellectual faculties do not seem to be the concern of the teachers in this school, because nothing is done to further their development, quite the contrary. Inspectors note that students are not encouraged to develop their academic abilities. They even notice that, in general, Waldorf teachers at this school do not seem to worry enough about raising standards. Nothing is done, for example, to help lower achievers to catch up, and no effective measures are taken to curb high levels of absenteeism. Finally, they find that the teachers do not set targets that would help students to progress.

    The British inspectors therefore logically make recommendations that would improve the structural laxity problem. What they do not understand, with their lack of knowledge of anthroposophy, is that these failures are not incidental, but deliberate. It’s not a lack of organization that is responsible for the fact that Waldorf schools do not do what it takes to develop the faculties of gifted students or even just normal students. It is actually because they do not want these powers to grow!

    It is because Waldorf schools are not actually about teaching!

    All parents of Waldorf schools find out the laxity of these establishments in the end. It is no secret! In Waldorf schools where I myself was educated, laxity was the rule. Students did not care about anything. They were kept in a credulous and dreamy state. Developing their powers of reason was avoided at all costs. Their imagination and their subjective feelings were stimulated as much as possible, on the other hand. Students were atrophying cheerfully. They did not progress in their work. They learned almost nothing. You never asked about their knowledge. They showed disrespect to adults. Teachers let students repeatedly beat other students in the playground with impunity. Minimum safety instructions were never met. Etc.

    We know that all Waldorf schools have this structural defect! But often this is said to be something desirable, or that defects will be corrected one day. Inspectors sometimes even imagine that their actions will force these schools to improve. What parents, like inspectors fail to realize is that it really is deliberate laxity! Indeed, in a Waldorf school, they do not want smart students to develop their potential! Or for intelligence to be developed in general.

    For teachers in these schools, intelligence is an evil power, it must be contained and channeled. In their anthroposophic esoteric doctrine it is a gift from evil supernatural cosmic entities called Lucifer and Ahriman. This is why everything is done to keep students in a dreamy religious atmosphere as long as possible, disconnected from the rational apprehension of facts, to protect them from evil temptation that could corrupt their souls. This is the danger of “materialistic intellectualization”. They want to save their souls by making them encounter Christ, in the words of Rudolf Steiner himself:

    “Today, we must teach in the knowledge that with each child we perform a rescue, he must bring each child to find the impulse of Christ during his lifetime, to make him reborn.”

    (Rudolf Steiner, page 33 of the book entitled To understand in depth the pedagogy of Rudolf Steiner.)

    Waldorf laxity can only be explained if we understand that for the teachers at this school it is not a breach or a failure, but a precise target, achieved with consistent practice . They do not want students to develop their intellectual faculties as this may compromise their encounter with Christ!

    So, I think the work of the British inspectors is interesting, in that it deals with the relevant facts. But it is also inadequate, as these inspectors still fail to understand that the laxity they observed is intentional, not accidental. This is not because of structural weaknesses in the methods of the teaching staff, or neglect. The school’s teachers are not doing what it takes to build intelligence and student knowledge because they do not want such capabilities grow!

    Make no mistake: beyond the various country-specific contexts, Waldorf pedagogy is uniform. Uniform in its practice, since it is unthinkingly following the guidance of a guru, but also in executing instructions as if carrying out a religious service. It is as uniform in its serious shortcomings, as in its excesses; the awareness of defects is impossible in a context in which Waldorf teachers are convinced that it was the gods that revealed the principles of his teaching methods to Rudolf Steiner!

    So what interests me in this report is not so much the particular situation of a school located across the channel, but rather what is, I think, indicative of Steiner-Waldorf education in general. Only a person like myself, who has been a student and a teacher in many Waldorf schools, is able to perceive and realize it.

    That is why we must not delude ourselves about the outcome of such an inspection report and how the leaders of a Waldorf school react to it: to survive, they can pretend to implement the recommendations, just as some animals play dead with the approach of danger. But Waldorf educators would not want to incorporate the recommendations of the inspectors, convinced as they are that they know a timeless truth that an inherently bad outside world, with its inability to understand, wants to attack.

    The laxness found in this school is logical as the school does not want students to begin to reflect and become individuals capable of critical thinking, but to save their souls by secretly teaching them Anthroposophy; everything is done to lull them by making them work as little as possible. If Her Majesty’s Inspectors were consistent vis-à-vis this report released today, they would not provide recommendations for Waldorf schools – which, unlike any other, are not really worried about the development of the faculties of their students – just their anthroposophical indoctrination – but they would simply issue a prohibition from operating and from claiming to be schools at all.

  2. Nick Nakorn

    Very impressed, and somewhat envious, with your translating skills Helen :-) The most telling phrase in my view is: “…the school does not want students to begin to reflect and become individuals capable of critical thinking,”. In so may on-line and off-line conversations that I’ve had over the years on the subject of Steiner (and similar beliefs) I have been unable to convince advocates of mysticism that critical thinking is more valuable than personal revelation. Part of the problem is that people unaccustomed to the processes of critical thinking assume ideas opposed to their own are as personal as their own; it’s the atomism of it all that is so frightening and, ultimately, undemocratic. It’s hardly surprising, given the ways in which totalitarian regimes grow from rhetoric rather than analysis, that those of us in the firing line of mystical opinion feel so unsafe with the blind acceptance of it by so many ‘nice’ middle class people.

    • Jim

      In some ways Nick those who think views different to their own are “just personal” are less troubling. The “it’s all relative” and “whatever you believe is true for you” mindset is exasperating but those who have it tend not to push their ideas onto anyone else. And they usually move on to some other fashionable nonsense before long.

      It’s the commitment of the Steiners which is so disturbing, and in its way impressive. I don’t think it’s always true that there is a lack of critical thinking. It’s actually worse than that – they deliberately choose not to apply critical thinking to their core Steiner dogma but are quite capable of using it in other areas. Particularly in defence of those dogma. But it’s not just the Steiner followers who do this – isn’t theology just an elaborate critical apparatus which at its core has nothing but a fantasy?

      • Nick Nakorn

        I suppose so Jim; but it’s a chicken and egg situation in many ways. If a person values critical thinking more highly than personal opinion I doubt that person would be impressed by Steiner in the first place. But, on the other hand, I agree that people do compartmentalize values to an astonishing degree – the mafia boss who loves his mother, the dictator who supports animal welfare and so-on. We are all prone to those inconsistencies up to a point. I agree too that most religions and many political movements are similarly beset with dogma that gets in the way of advancing the human condition. It would be great if we all could get beyond our fantasies but perhaps too many of us have too much to lose by facing stark reality.

  3. Helen

    Gregoire’s posts give a unique insight into Steiner schools, as he was a student and teacher at several schools and also deeply involved with anthroposophy. It is a shame if people outside France miss out on reading them.

    Education really should be free from all kinds of religious indoctrination, and I am optimistic that will happen one day as people become aware of the consequences. The problem with Steiner is of course that it is not overtly religious so it operates under the radar – people do not even think of them as faith schools. Their claim to welcome families of all faiths and none is misleading; yes, they welcome them, but only so that they can work on the children, as Gregoire says, and prepare them to “encounter Christ”. As long as they can do this without anyone realising and objecting they will continue.

    • Jim

      I wish I could be as optimistic about schools becoming free from religious indoctrination. It seems that as interest in religion in the UK declines what remains becomes ever more strident. And we can see the beginnings of US style fundamentalism.

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