Vacancy at Ruskin Mill

There are currently several senior vacancies within the Steiner empire headed by Aonghus Gordon at Ruskin Mill.

  • Head teacher at Brantwood
  • College principal at Freeman college
  • Assistant Head teacher for the 6th form at Brantwood
  • Assistant principal at Ruskin Mill

The closing date for this last vacancy is today, and the advert asks for the following;

Knowledge of Rudolf Steiner Holistic Education with particular reference to the works and insights of John Ruskin and William Morris;

The covering letter adds more detail;

The post holder will be expected to embrace, articulate and work with the Trust’s objectives, vision, values, purpose and method, ensuring that the Trust’s paradigm of biodynamic agriculture, Anthroposophical medicine and practical skills education, which is informed by Steiner Education, is maintained, implemented and integrated within the provision of the College.

And in the Job description the following points;

  1. To work with the Therapy coordinator to ensure that there is sufficient provision available for students.

  2. To work with the Therapy Coordinator and therapy team to ensure that the Therapies are effectively integrated into the curriculum and communication between therapists, medical, and Education Learning Coordinators is timely and effective.

The way the “therapies” are given such importance with a capital “T”makes me shudder; these are mainly anthroposophical therapies.

Here are the therapies on offer at Ruskin Mill

  • Speech and language therapy including a ‘Social Use of Language Programme’
  • Psychological and medical services
  • Anthroposophic and complementary medicine
  • Counselling
  • Massage (Hauschka)
  • Movement therapy (Eurythmy)
  • Art therapy (Hauschka)


For anyone not sure of what “Hauschka” means, I found some explanations of Hauschka massage and Hauschka art therapy; They are both pure Steiner.

Eurythmy is variously described as dance, movement, and visible speech. It is also pure Steiner. You need to watch a video to see how they do it. Deeply spiritual to those who teach it, but deeply tedious to the participants, who often seem to have little choice in the matter, once they are enrolled at Steiner college, school, or at a Camphill Community.

A commenter here, a student at Ruskin Mill, said that appointments were routinely made for him with an anthroposophical doctor.

All these therapies will be provided by Steiner people who would struggle to find positions in non-Steiner settings where they can do their Steiner stuff. They need to make a living somehow.

So there we have it; the new Assistant principal will have to be a Steiner person who understands anthroposophy and thinks it is okay to use it on vulnerable young people. I wonder how many applicants there will be.

The ofsted inspection for Ruskin Mill last year resulted in an “inadequate” rating; there were concerns about safeguarding and bullying.

There could certainly be some good to come out of colleges where practical skills are taught, but what a shame that in these colleges there has to be anthroposophy. The young people have to do biodynamics. The therapies have to be Steiner therapies. The “paradigm” has to be one based on spiritual science.

Why not ditch the anthroposophy and stop wasting time with potentially harmful Steiner nonsense? AND be honest with people when they sign up, and with the authorities, that anthroposophy is the raison d’etre for all these organisations.







  1. Annunziata

    Yes – I’m glad you spotted these ads. For the assistant principal position at Ruskin, one had to be familiar with the works not only of Steiner but also John Ruskin and William Morris. Ruskin’s well-documented misogyny is particularly difficult to stomach and I’m not sure Morris was particularly moral; many of his employees were affected by the arsenic used in the dyeing process for his textiles I believe. Imagine working in an environment that follows their philosophy. Does anyone else have views on the expectations Steiner women are supposed to live by? Is it more or less still Kinder, Kirche und Kuche? (children, church and kitchen). Not that there is anything wrong with any of these, but I’m just wondering whether there is a prescriptive element pushing towards these ‘aspirations’. It will be interesting to see who will be appointed. I think they might find the pension arrangements rather flimsy if ancient friends who’ve dedicated their lives to Steiner-teaching and are now made redundant are anything to go by.

    • Helen

      I’ve always felt that the references to Morris and Ruskin are a useful tool for the Trust to divert attention away from the fact that this is a Steiner business first and foremost. Maybe that’s just me being cynical.
      I think ideally Steiner people would like to be living back in that era, where to them everything would appear much simpler.
      Of course your point about “Kinder Kirche and Kuche” is relevant to that. Steiner seems to have been part of a general enthusiasm among intellectuals at the time for back to the land, anti-science and anti technology ideas, where modern life was seen as degenerate. Trying to escape from the physical hardships of life spent on the land was seen as a deviation from what was “natural” and therefore correct.
      Even now Steiner people are anti technology and very much focused on practical skills of gardening and baking, this is evident in the schools and at camphill. These skills will always have an attraction for many of us, but when intellectual skills are relegated to the bottom of the priority list, it is ultimately a rejection of modern life, and a step backwards in education.
      I feel that this longed – for lifestyle of localism and self sufficiency, as illustrated perfectly in the Transition movement, is undemocratic; it is kind of primitive in a way, and a throwback to feudal times, where things were run by an educated elite, who conveniently did not need to get their hands dirty working on the land, and of course the result for women, should this all come to pass again, would be a return to the days when they are the ones in the home with the children.
      No doubt they would also be encouraged to go to church.
      It perhaps seems a leap from local food production to feudalism, but that has been my feeling on the matter, it’s an interesting subject.

    • Jim

      I think you should beware of damning Ruskin and Morris because of their later appropriation by the Steiner’s followers. Both were reacting against the excesses of early industrialisation which followed on from the enclosures of the countryside and the forcing of people off the land. Of course they tended to romanticise the lost rural life but the industrial conditions they opposed were appalling.

      They were also human and so not without their faults and blind spots. I’m not sure Ruskin’s misogyny is as well documented as you suggest – he certainly had a problem with women but maybe fear rather than hatred. In other respects his attitude to women was conventionally Victorian, though he also believed strongly that they had a right to a good education.

      Morris always struggled with the contradiction that by giving his workers the skills and responsibility to produce high quality products he also ensured that they could not afford to buy them. But the alternative was shoddy mass produced goods made by poorly paid workers with no security. MzDonalds anyone?

      Morris seems to have had a bit of a blind spot where arsenic was concerned. He didn’t believe it was as dangerous as supposed, and it does seem the dangers ( in wallpaper particularly ) have been grossly exaggerated. He was certainly prepared to work with the same materials himself.

      So, look at them in terms of their whole life’s work. I would back Morris against Steiner any day.

  2. humanisthousewife

    At the Steiner place I worked at Ruskin’s work was often used in our training sessions. I remember one session where they spoke about people with learning disabilities not being really human, and cited Ruskin as evidence of this, reading out a long passage from one of his works. They also used his work to justify their belief that atheists are bad people with no morals at all, and are part of why society is in decline (according to them at least!). I wish I could remember the titles of the work they used but unfortunately I can’t, and anyway we were not allowed to look at the books ourselves, only to listen to our boss reading them out. Of course Ruskin lived in a very different time to us, so I don’t blame him for his ridiculous views, but what is sad is that people nowadays are using it to inform choices and opinions about vulnerable people, and that makes me angry.

    • Helen

      Thanks for that comment, very interesting. I didn’t know Ruskin had written anything like that, and how strange to listen to the boss reading it out.
      What I have trouble communicating to people sometimes is that there really are Steiner professionals who believe this stuff and think in this way, and are using it in their work.
      Yes it is sad, and it makes me angry too.

    • Jim

      It sounds as though your Steiner teachers were very selective in their use of Ruskin. For most of his life he rejected religion and the idea that morality depended on it. Towards the end of his life the mental health problems he had always suffered from became much worse and he did begin to show some renewed interest in religion. But I’m fairly sure he never returned to Christianity – maybe a vague theism.

      I can’t recall the passage you describe but that’s hardly surprising since he wrote a lot ranging from the lucid and interesting to the dull and rambling ( particularly towards the end ). He could have been referring to how he felt during his periods of illness but it could equally be a reflection of the paternalism that went along with his more progressive social concerns.

      But as you say, the real concern is that anyone should use his writing ( whether accurately or not ) to promote such views today.

    • Nick Nakorn

      The Arts and Crafts movement was admirable in it’s general intention, to improve the lot of workers and keep craft skills alive, but appalling in almost every other respect in my view; not least the idea that sexual ‘freedom’ for men included the rape of children. But lofty anti-science and anti-rational modes of thought often lead to that type of behavior simply because the protagonists really do think their own opinions, if dressed up in pseudo-philosophy, are better than social rules built upon evidence and trust.

      Yet, there’s no doubt that their aesthetic skills have had a massive influence. Many of Gill’s students went on to teach others and many hugely influential designers have come through that process, mostly to influence product design for mass production – the delicious irony of it all would not have impressed Morris, Ruskin, Gill or Steiner.

      • Jim

        Be fair Nick, I think Gill was a pretty extreme example and not representative of the Arts and crafts movement as a whole. The behaviour you describe seems to emerge too easily in any exclusive group that comes to regard itself as exceptional. Or perhaps more accurately, comes to be regarded by others as exceptional. Artists, poets, sportsmen – even disc jockeys.

        The only reason actuaries seem free from the taint is that they are the only ones who regard actuaries as exceptional. ( If any actuaries are reading feel free to substitute “accountant” ).

        Do you really think they were anti science and rationality? True, Ruskin had a thing about “Darwinism” and what he feared might be its bad effect on morality but more often it was the impact of technology and capitalism on workers conditions that bothered them.

        But my point would still be that for all their faults they did great things. Except Steiner.

        BTW – was there ever a worse figure painter than Morris? But his backgrounds make fabulous wallpaper designs.

        • Nick Nakorn

          I know Gill was extreme; other’s were ‘merely’ misogynists but such extremes did not prevent Gill’s status from rising in spite of the controversy; in other words the arts establishment backed Gill regardless. But one of the abiding themes was also around the ‘degenerate’ nature of the working class under the yoke of the machine age – Morris and his followers were worried that white workers might become like the ‘lower races’. The emphasis that the Arts and Crafts movement had on the inheritance of acquired characteristics (for which there was no evidence at the time, let alone now, apart from some ‘switchable’ gene traits) is also very similar to some of Steiner’s beliefs – I suppose that Galton’s link to Darwin gave the idea some legitimacy among those interested in science but unversed in scientific discipline. There was too the romanticism of the crusades, king Arthur and all that nonsense that links in to the current love of the New Age as a vision of Albion. It’s no wonder Anthros are so convinced – it’s the romance that built an empire.

          • Jim

            My, but you’re harsh – and who should ‘scape whipping?

            Obviously the question arising is whether the art stands apart from the artist. Fortunately Hitler was a lousy painter so in his case there is no issue. But suppose the artist whose work you loved most was discovered to have been guilty of the faults you despise most – would you value the art less? It’s not a question of “does the art justify the life”; of course it doesn’t. The world could happily live without one more book or painting if that was the price of stopping someone like Gill in his tracks. But was that an option in Gill’s case – before McCarthy’s biography how widely known was his behaviour?

            Today we might find some of Morris’s language hard to take, let’s face it what’s acceptable today will become loaded and unacceptable in the near future. But when he talks about the degeneracy of the working class he is not referring to something innate but to something imposed as a result of poor education, poverty and unrewarding labour. His answer is not to shun the “degenerates” but to work to improve their conditions. And to improve them in this life, not some imagined future incarnation.

            Of course you are right about Morris and Steiner sharing a romanticised rather backward looking outlook but from there they went in very different directions. And Morris loved the old sagas for there literary quality and the values he saw in them, not because he imagined they were true.

            ( Sorry Helen – only slight relevance to the topic )

            • Nick Nakorn

              A very good point. No, I don’t value the art less if the artist is a bastard but I do take issue with the values represented by the art and professed by the artist/s and movement followers. It’s the age-old Wagner question. I was one of the lucky few to have been taught by a pupil of Gill’s; the astonishing Donald Potter. I still to this day feel the aesthetic influence but I separate those skills and attributions from my views concerning the Arts and Crafts movement as a social force. As a left-winger I also see how concern for working conditions is a different kettle of fish from the fear that ‘we’ might become ‘pygmies’ via the same bogus inheritable characteristics that Steiner Anthroposophists advocate via karmic progression. As ever, the nonsensical nature of a belief doesn’t mean danger is not far behind.

              As far as I can remember (I studied this area for a few years up until 1990) Morris was explicit about his fear of a literal degeneration into a ‘lower’ species just as Lamarck and Galton so enthusiastically asserted. I admit that if I had been born in that era from their social class and position, I might too have believed the very same. But my point is that it is appaling that modern educationalist will see the links between the Arts and Crafts movement and Steiner and use those similarities to justify the worst of human sentiments.

  3. humanisthousewife

    I agree they were probably being very selective with his writing, but that’s how they were with everything. They didn’t like atheists so they found passages that worked to “prove” they were right.

    • Jim

      Selective quoting works because we mostly don’t check the source. Sometimes it goes beyond mere selection and becomes outright contradiction. A recent example in our local paper was from an anthro claiming there were 25000 studies proving that wifi was dangerous. The source was a WHO report referring to 25000 “articles” ( not studies ) which overwhelmingly showed no evidence of harm!

      Nick – I can’t recall Morris making such a claim though that’s not to say he didn’t. I always found his writing too turgid to persevere with for long.

      I dont have a particularly strong appreciation of visual art – too static, I prefer music and writing. But Gill’s work struck me as creepy even before I knew anything about him. Those monolithic figures are too reminiscent of Italian fascist sculpture.

  4. Jim

    Nick – I’ve just skimmed through my old copy of News from Nowhere, one of Morris’s more readable efforts. It seems undeniable that there are hints of eugenics underpinning his utopia but it appears to be the more libertarian form unlike Galton’s authoritarian version. That is, the improvement in the human “stock” derives mainly from improvements in health, education and environment together with the reluctance of those with serious hereditary illness to procreate.

    Obviously to us, post the Nazi doctrine and the even more recent US compulsory sterilisations, any hint of eugenics sounds distasteful but it would not always have been so. Yes, it smacks of “controlling the underclasses and the racially impure” but it could also be seen that as a rational consequence of sexual freedom and control of your own fertility one might choose not to pass on hereditary illness.

    The issue is still with us, as a friend who chose sterilisation in her 20s rather than risk passing on Huntingdons knows too well.

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