One of the serious defects of Steiner education, according to distressed families, is the way bullying is (not) dealt with. Teachers not only fail to intervene, but have punished the victims, rather than the perpetrators; some teachers seem to believe that some children can “deserve” to be victims because of “karma”. Victims have been expelled or prescribed extra “therapies” such as eurythmy.
A commenter here mentioned that
“…few months ago the SWSF had a workshop for all the schools who wished to attend about how to properly deal with bullying: to seriously eradicate the notion that children are meeting their karma when bullied.”
The former Steiner school student also stated that it is not that he is associated with Steiner but that he likes to read and research before he has a serious discussion. And that he had friends in Steiner schools.
The SWSF is the organisation that oversees and monitors all the schools in this country that have the words “Steiner” or “Waldorf” in their name; the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship.
According to the commenter, “Little Thoughts”,
“…senior members of the Anthroposophical Society addressed the attendees around the myths about “karma” and why any link with bullying is nonsense.”
Several aspects of this information strike me as significant;
- A group of teachers in Steiner schools was addressed by “senior anthroposophists”. This is despite the fact that defenders of Steiner education always try to deny links with anthroposophy.
The Anthroposophical Society page on Wiki gives this information about the “classes” of Spiritual Science;
The Anthroposophical Society sees the School of Spiritual Science in Dornach as a centre for its activity. The School will be composed of three classes. Members of the Society will be admitted to the School on their own application after a period of membership to be determined by the leadership at the Goetheanum. They enter in this way the First Class of the School of Spiritual Science. Admission to the Second or Third Classes takes place when the person requesting this is deemed eligible by the leadership at the Goetheanum
I don’t know which “class” you have to be a member of before you become “senior” and thereby qualified to instruct Steiner teachers.
- The “myths about karma”. For most of us the idea of karma is a myth anyway. Which are the myths for the senior anthroposphists? It is hard to see how they can claim now to say Steiner’s version of reincarnation is wrong, without renouncing anthroposophy entirely. There are many books and articles about how to use karma in schools.
“The study of karma is an important chapter of spiritual science and an important chapter for the teacher.”
…says Roy Wilkinson on page 83 of his book The Spiritual Basis of Steiner Education.
There is also a whole chapter in the book on “Destiny and Karma: Education for Eternity”.
If it is a myth that karma is used in Steiner schools, why was the advice from senior anthroposophists thought to be necessary?
3. “..any link with bullying is nonsense”.
Nonsense how? Nonsense to say that Steiner teachers have allowed bullying to go unchecked because of their belief in karma? This is often the response from Steiner defenders who say it is ridiculous to imagine a teacher would do such a thing.
If so, why this meeting?
Perhaps though we could read this sentence as
“Although we believe in karma and that it affects our lives including our health, (See Anthromed articles), our relationships with others, and the choices we make daily, this should not extend into allowing vulnerable children to be victimised.”
Perhaps the SWSF worry that some teachers have got the wrong end of the stick about karma – how odd, considering they have mostly been specially trained and instructed to read Steiner’s books.
With Karma, if the teachers are “doing it wrong”, what is the correct way to interpret it? I would love to have been at the meeting – perhaps there is a transcript or a recording somewhere? I know Steiner people are good at filming events, despite their express disapproval of technology.
Why are senior anthroposophists going to the trouble of addressing Steiner teachers in the UK on this matter – probably travelling all the way from Switzerland to do so? Because the reputation of Steiner schools is being seriously damaged by survivors who do not keep quiet about their experiences.
Before the internet there was no way for people to share their accounts of bullying, and the way the consequences are were dealt with by Steiner schools. More accounts are appearing all the time on forums and websites as a warning to parents considering this type of education, and it seems the SWSF, or perhaps Dornach, have decided the time has come to do some damage limitation.
This workshop (assuming it did take place) was not trumpeted loudly for the information of the public, because it is an admission that there is a problem with systematic unchecked bullying in Steiner schools. This admission has never been made before, as far as I know.
The claim that there are just as many cases of bullying in any other type of school is often made, thereby totally sidestepping the issue of how it is dealt with by teachers.
Where bullying is dealt with effectively in a school the result is that everyone knows it is totally unacceptable. But when it is allowed to continue not only do victims suffer, but a bullying culture develops, where children absorb the idea that it is ok to victimise others.
As Little Thoughts says, this workshop could be viewed as a “positive start”, but look at the starting position; it is well behind every school that doesn’t have a belief in Karma in its “guiding philosophy”.
How long will Steiner education take to catch up – assuming they want to change their ways – and why should we allow a system where teachers have to be “told” not to allow bullying because of a belief in karma?
The Department for Education need to look at the implications of this SWSF workshop taking place. It is an admission that there is an endemic problem with Steiner schools.