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Saturday, April 30, 2011

HH Board President disguises Racism at Highland Hall

 After a meeting with Hasib Saliefendic and Andrew Sapin, regarding racism at Highland Hall, my friend Emmy Sundeen was asked by Saliefendic and Sapin to do some independent research on Waldorf.  I was careful to allow Emmy to do her own research - not pointing her to any particular website.  She knew nothing about Waldorf education - only that I was critical of it.  Emmy has a lot of experience with independent private schools and her mother and both sisters are educators in Southern California.


Here's my reply to you:

--- On Thu, 9/3/09, Hasib Saliefendic <> wrote:


    I would not bother with this if it came from Pete, but it's you and I think it capsulizes the situation very well, so I'll take the time.

    After briefly reviewing your "research" it is unequivocally clear that the attacks on Waldorf education are ridiculous and self-serving. This is typical of detractors such as Pete, and now you: you don't know what you are talking about, but that doesn't matter because you have your own agenda, and will only use what supports that agenda.

HASIB, do you understand that this is the NORMAL way someone who had discovered a problem in Waldorf would search?  Indeed, when I started having problems with Highland Hall back in 2000, the first thing I did was look for sites that are critical of Waldorf - to see what the other side had to say.  I immediately found PLANS.

    Frankly, I'm surprised at how effectively you have discredited Pete's , and your own, supposed assertions about Waldorf education and Steiner, and I'm also shocked that you really don't appear to have any clue about the actual meaning of the words contained in your example, and you don't seem to think it necessary.

    I'll break it down for you, just using your Wikipedia reference:

    1. Self-Serving - You conveniently omit any reference that might be positive. On the same page are found supporters. Clearly indicated that they are not anthroposophists. They are smart people and obviously many Jews. But nevermind--that would not support your false thinking about anthroposophy so better to leave it out and ignore it.

Look what happens when I start putting "Anthroposophy" after each of their names Hasib.  They're ANTHROPOSOPHISTS.

    Anthroposophy has had many prominent supporters outside of the movement. Among these have been many writers, artists and musicians; these include Pulitzer Prize-winning and Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow,[59] Andrej Belyj,+his+Life+and+Works, [60][61] Josef Beuys,[62] Owen Barfield, Wassily Kandinsky,[63][64] Nobel Laureates Selma Lagerlöf[65] and Albert Schweitzer, Andrei Tarkovsky[66] Bruno Walter,[67] and Alternative Nobel Prize winner Ibrahim Abouleish.[68]

I wonder if Emmy will think to do this... It sure makes your argument look stupid doesn't it?

    Furthermore, included in the Statements on race which you quote, but deliberately ignore is a paragraph from the Anthroposophical Society in America. Better ignore that too.

    To clarify its stance, the Anthroposophical Society in America has stated:

        We explicitly reject any racial theory that may be construed to be part of Rudolf Steiner's writings. The Anthroposophical Society in America is an open, public society and it rejects any purported spiritual or scientific theory on the basis of which the alleged superiority of one race is justified at the expense of another race

HELLO... 1) The Anthroposophical Society doesn't run Waldorf schools.  2) Here's what AWSNA says: “Waldorf schools are non-sectarian [sic] and non-denominational [sic]. They educate all children, regardless of their cultural or religious backgrounds. The pedagogical method is comprehensive, and, as part of its task, seeks to bring about recognition and understanding of all the world cultures and religions. Waldorf schools are not part of any church. They espouse no particular religious doctrine but are based on a belief that there is a spiritual dimension to the human being and to all of life. Waldorf families come from a broad spectrum of religious traditions and interest.”

Not exactly the same thing is it?  Do you know the difference between the Anthroposophical Society and AWSNA, Hasib?

    2. Ridiculous.  This is one of the problems with things being taken out of context, and a pitfall of not doing your own thinking--you think it's not necessary. I'll break down what you quote on race:

    Anthroposophical ideas have been criticized from both sides in the race debate; for their strongly anti-racist stance:

    What this statement is saying is that anthroposophical ideas have been criticized for being anti-racist:  anthroposophical ideas = anti-racist
    Are you saying that being anti-racist is bad?

It's bad if you think you are anti-racists while holding racist ideals... hence the debate.

But beyond this, it's WIKIPEDIA.  I sure hope Emmy has a look at who controls the edits on the Waldorf page... like a policeman - Oh, my goodness, it's Harlan Gilbert, a Waldorf teacher.  Who else... The Bee - Sune Nordwall... Former Waldorf teacher and now Waldorf fanatic.  Who else?  Linda Clemens is assigned to guard the PLANS page as ProffessorMarginala... we also have Deborah Kahn... all Waldorf people I can identify guarding every Steiner/Anthroposophy/Waldorf page there.  Do you really think Wikipedia is unbiased?  I can make a very good case that it isn't. 


        * From the mid-1930s on, National Socialist ideologues attacked the anthroposophical world-view as being opposed to Nazi racism and nationalistic principles; anthroposophy considered "Blood, Race and Folk" as primitive instincts which needed to be overcome.[76][77]

    1. National Socialists were the Nazis. You could have clicked on the link and found that out, but why bother.

You could also have also researched that Anthroposophists and Waldorf schools were kept OPEN by the Nazis for the longest period of time of any non-state schools.  Furthermore, that your claim above is mostly a lie.

    2. So, the Nazis attacked anthroposophical world-view for being opposed to the racism and nationalism being pushed by the Nazis. Anthroposophical views opposed the Nazis, which is why the Nazis ultimately shut down the Waldorf schools.
    3."Blood, Race and Folk" was essentially the driving principles of the National Socialism/Nazi movement that killed millions of people. Anthroposophy opposed that and still opposes that type of thinking.

    So, I'm not sure what point you think you are making, but you are certainly making all of my points for me, without even reference to reliable information on anthroposophy, Steiner's views, or Waldorf education.

The point is easy to see.  You, Anthroposophists, have been spinning history.  And to do this, it requires overtaking Wikipedia and continually publishing half-truths even after they have been proven to be false.

    If you are sincerely interested in accurate, credible information, take a look at the information at these websites:

Why, in you wildest dreams, would you believe accurate, credible information could be found on these sites?  If you wanted to find out anything critical about... say... DOW chemical, would you check their website?  Or would you look for independent sites?

Trust me, Hasib - Emmy is NOT stupid.

    Best of luck to you.


Yeah, you too Hasib.  I hope Emmy doesn't find any of this.  You look VERY bad here.


    Simivalleyca Super Suppers wrote:
>     Pete & Hasib,
>     OOOPS, I only sent it to Pete.
>     So here you go Hasib, please see the above email from me
>     Kindest regards,
>     Emmy
>     On Wed, Sep 2, 2009 at 6:13 PM, Pete Karaiskos <> wrote:
>         Hi Emmy,
>         Wow.  He'll never believe I didn't lead you to this stuff.  The only thing I noticed - not changing any content of course, is the site that you "Waldorf Open" is called Open Waldorf.
>         Again... Wow!
>         I'll call you.
>         --- On Wed, 9/2/09, Simivalleyca Super Suppers <> wrote:
>             From: Simivalleyca Super Suppers <>
>             Subject: Re: Today's Meeting
>             To: "Pete Karaiskos" <>
>             Date: Wednesday, September 2, 2009, 5:56 PM
>             Pete & Hasib,
>             I appreciate you both thinking of me as level-headed.  I would like you both to see what I was able to find with 5 mins on the Internet.
>             I goggled Waldorf School Curriculum.  Reviewing the first site I found Waldorf Open which says that the school is founded on the writings and teachings of Steiner. Please review the items in large, bold & underlined print.  Hasib it does state in several articles that the board if mainly made up of parents whom make most of the decisions.  I'm concerned as to why you being on the board are not aware of the school's practices , teaching & curriculum.  After your review I'm sure you will understand my point.
>             Waldorf Open
>             Waldorf Education holds a unique theory of "child development." Waldorf's theory of child development is seen through the lens of anthroposophy, and it forms the educational basis for Waldorf curriculum. You can't begin to understand Waldorf Education until you understand Waldorf's underlying theory of child development.
>             Waldorf's theory of child development is based on Anthroposophy's view of the spiritual development of the whole human being, as it travels through the journey of reincarnation.
>             Steiner Says...
>             Since everything in Waldorf education is based on the Work of Rudolf Steiner , it's very important to know what Steiner says. In fact, you may hear the faculty and parents at your Waldorf school frequently use the phrase "Steiner Says" to illuminate key points about Waldorf education
>             The next site that comes up is Wikipedia, here are a few things that caught my attention;
>             Wikipedia . . .
>             Both historically and philosophically, Waldorf education grows out of anthroposophy's view of child development, which stands as the basis for the educational theory, methodology of teaching and curriculum. This includes the belief that humans possess an innate spirit that, having passed through previous lives, will in this life develop in its karmically appropriate environment, before returning to the spirit world and later reincarnate in another body.[63] Waldorf pedagogics see the teacher as having "a sacred task in helping each child's soul and spirit grow".[64] Steiner's "extra-sensory anthropology" has been the source of criticisms of Waldorf education: Ullrich questions: "Can any solution be found to this fundamental paradox of Steiner’s pedagogics—the creation of a beneficial practice on the foundation of a dubious theory?" His answer is to draw a distinction between Steiner's disputed "living logic of images... an attempt to rehabilitate mythical thinking and ritual life in a civilization ruled by science" and the "versatility of the related educational views, metaphors and maxims" which have a firm basis in "modern common sense educational theory."[24]
>             While anthroposophy is not generally taught as a subject, the degree to which anthroposophy is described by the schools as the philosophical underpinning of Waldorf education typically varies from school to school. At times this has led to parents objecting that the role of anthroposophy in the educational method had not been disclosed to them, prior to enrollment.[21] In addition, the pedagogy's reliance on a single theory of child development has been questioned and some Waldorf teachers' uncritical attitude toward anthroposophy criticized.[13]
>               Statements on race
>             Anthroposophical ideas have been criticized from both sides in the race debate; for their strongly anti-racist stance:
>                 * From the mid-1930s on, National Socialist ideologues attacked the anthroposophical world-view as being opposed to Nazi racism and nationalistic principles; anthroposophy considered "Blood, Race and Folk" as primitive instincts which needed to be overcome.[76][77]
>             as well as for "rankings" of races which occur in Steiner's philosophy:
>                *

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Animal Hall

If you've read Animal Farm, you will appreciate this letter from  Oct. 11, 2001

Hello Friends,

As plans for our inter-school communications network are apparently moving slowly, I would like to invite everyone who isn't already on this email list to join.  If you know of anyone who might be interested in discussing political or other important issues of Highland Hall, please have them email me so that I can add them to this list. I especially invite Board members, College members, administrators, staff members and faculty members to join the many parents and friends of Highland Hall who are, through their courage and by their participation, becoming involved in the often difficult work of ensuring the best possible education for their children and the children who will follow them.  If you would like to address the people on this mailing as a group, use the "Reply All" button on your email software or just reply to my emails and indicate that your response should be made public - so that I can forward it to the others who have expressed an interest in this subject matter.  If you would like to be removed from this list, please contact me and I will remove your email address.

I've just received the new "Community Directory".  Naturally, since I recently had  discussions with Hasib about the school organizations, and was advised that the wording would be "updated", I immediately looked up the new wording that describes the College of Teachers (page 24 in the directory).  Today, I would like to address this issue and the impact that the new wording has.  Fortunately, I have preserved the old wording so that we might make a comparison and discuss the implications of this apparently "minor" wording change.



The College of Teachers is the main pedagogical and administrative body of the school.  Members are teachers of long standing who intend to carry the present and future well-being of the school as a primary responsibility.  Meetings are every Thursday and decisions are made on the basis of consensus.  The group makes decisions on hiring, staff development, the curriculum, student affairs, and overall school policy.  Day to day operations are delegated to specific committees composed of faculty, staff, Board, and/or parent volunteers."


"THE COLLEGE (Note - the words "of Teachers" has been omitted in the heading)

The College of Teachers is the main pedagogical and administrative body of the school.  Members are colleagues of long standing who intend to carry the present and future well-being of the school as a primary responsibility.  Meetings are every Thursday and decisions are made on the basis of consensus.  The group makes decisions on hiring, staff development, the curriculum, student affairs, and overall school policy.  Day to day operations are delegated to specific committees composed of faculty, staff, Board, and/or parent volunteers."

Amazingly, the wording is almost the same the only differences being that THE COLLEGE OF TEACHERS is now referred to as THE COLLEGE, and the word "teacher" has been replaced with "colleague".  While the Animal Farm analogy instantly comes to my mind, let's all take a moment to consider if these changes are really significant and important to us and to our children.  After all, what are the responsibilities of the "College" and how do they affect us and our children?  We need look no further than the above statement: " The group makes decisions on hiring, staff development, the curriculum, student affairs, and overall school policy." 

So, let's take these one at a time.  Why is it important, after all, that only teachers be involved in hiring decisions?  If we trust and support the premise that the teachers know what is best for our children, then they MUST have ultimate control over hiring decisions, whether it be teachers, staff or administrative personnel.  I fully believe they should be ADVISED by others regarding the filling of non-teaching positions but that the voting privilege on the hiring decisions, especially the hiring of teachers, must ultimately be based on what the College of Teachers (not the Colleagues of Teachers) deems is best for our children. 

I'm not sure what making decisions on "staff development" entails.  If this refers to the development and training of teaching staff, then do we want non-teacher involvement here?  How about other staff - after school care staff, for example.  The people involved in this are with some of our children many hours a day.  Do we want them to deal with our children in accordance with a method that has been discussed with them by our teachers?  Of course.  Should it be the burden of the College of Teachers to monitor this activity?  Of course not - that's why we have the "day to day operations delegated to specific committees".

Let's move on to the bigger responsibility of the "College" - curriculum.  Do we want non-teachers involved in decisions regarding curriculum?  I have to be quite bold here and say that I DO NOT WANT, NOR WILL I ACCEPT ANY non-Waldorf-trained "colleague" making even the slightest decision or having the slightest influence over curriculum.  The thought that this could happen (or may be happening right now) leaves a horrible taste in my mouth - and I am absolutely against the politically corrected or modernized revisions of traditional Waldorf curriculum that I suspect non-teachers might want to inject into the curriculum.  Frankly, I don't trust non-teachers to make these decisions.  Waldorf teachers undergo intensive training that is very specific and there is no way to overemphasize the importance of the curriculum in a Waldorf school.  If decisions on curriculum need to be made - Waldorf Teachers of LONG STANDING should make them.  Colleagues of Teachers don't have this training and should never be placed in a position where they could vote against the better understanding of the trained Waldorf teachers.

Decisions about student affairs should, once again, be made by a College of TEACHERS not COLLEAGUES of Teachers.  Teachers are most vested in and are specifically trained to have the best understanding of student affairs.  Again, no "colleague" needs to or should have a voting influence in making these decisions.

"Overall school policy" - What a tremendous responsibility - making decisions about the overall school policy.  There is, and always will be, a conflict here.  The battle lines are clearly drawn.  There are the teachers - whose primary interest is the well-being and education of the students.  Then, there are the non-teachers (OK, we could call them "colleagues") whose primary interest is the well-being of the school.  These can be very different points of view.  Is one more noble than the other?  No.  They are both very valid political views - and both necessary - so that the school may run properly and the students may get the environment and education they deserve.  The old community directory had the balance between these two political views correct.  The College of Teachers, of course, represents the interests of the individual students.  Others, perhaps the Board of Directors, have the well being of the school and the overall student population as their primary focus.  This is exactly how it should be.  And yet, setting the overall school policy was clearly granted to the College of Teachers.  Unfortunately, when we allow the infiltration of the College of Teachers by "Colleagues", we upset that balance.  When the balance is upset, the individual students tend to suffer. 

Here's an example of how this works:  In the past, it has been at the discretion of the teacher to decide how many students the teacher feels comfortable having in their class.  Teachers support this understanding in that a teacher who is taking more children than they feel comfortable with is likely to be ineffective and the individual child's education is bound to suffer, or worse yet, the teacher may be overwhelmed, able to handle the pressure and either do an inadequate job or even leave the school.  However, people who put the interest of the school first tend not to support this view and have been known to try to convince teachers to take more students than they feel comfortable taking.  Their reasoning is that the classroom costs the same to operate whether full or half full and therefore needs to be full.  From an economic viewpoint, they are absolutely correct.  After all, higher enrollment means more funds for more activities and a stronger school which, overall, benefits all students.

Both are valid viewpoints - one benefits the individual student, one benefits the school.  Weakening either viewpoint disturbs the balance.  We must be clear here, that by simply changing a couple of words, we have weakened the College of Teachers and have disturbed this balance (which, by the way, began several years ago).  The past few years of problems attest to the validity of my assessment of this issue.

It is clear to me that the wording has changed to accommodate the current makeup of the College of Teachers.  This is a fresh black eye for Highland Hall.  I implore everyone to please consider this issue carefully and to insist that the make-up of the College of Teachers be restored to "teachers of long standing who intend to carry the present and future well-being of the school as a primary responsibility."  These are the only persons who should have voting privileges on the College of Teachers.  They are the ones we have placed our trust in and have trusted with the well being of our children.  There are places for people who haven't attained the level of teacher of long standing but they clearly don't belong in the College of Teachers regardless of what the new Community Directory has been revised to declare.  They may and should do the valuable work of "Day to day operations are delegated to specific committees composed of faculty, staff, Board, and/or parent volunteers."   

As a final note, I'd like to point out that I, too, could be considered a "colleague of long standing" at Highland Hall.  Under the current qualifications, even I would qualify to become a member of the Colleagues of Teachers - especially as (unlike teacher) there are no qualifications to be a colleague.  If the thought of this makes you uncomfortable (as I would hope it might), consider that perhaps the qualifications have become too relaxed and that the once high standards for this, the most important governing body of the school, must be restored.  Additionally, there is no mention of what percentage of "colleagues" can be represented in "the College".  Could there be a College of Teachers with more "colleagues" than teachers?  Perhapse without ANY teachers?  According to the above definition, there could.  I find this particularly disturbing.  Could we see next year's wording change make it the College of Colleagues?  Please, don't take my word for any of this.  Talk with teachers around the school and get their viewpoint - especially the teachers that are on the College of Teachers.  Don't let the changing of a word turn into the changing of the guard.  Let's all support the highest ideals of Waldorf education by speaking openly and freely whenever we feel they are being tarnished.

Blessings and peace,

Pete Karaiskos