Don't forget to visit The Waldorf Review for more up-to-date school reviews and news stories.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

AWSNA Comments on Racism

Joan Jaeckel represents AWSNA.  She commented on the blog below:

Here are her comments and my response to them (Below hers):

While the people on this discussion can and will think what they wish, I did want you to know that the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) undertook a study of exactly what Steiner said that either is or could be construed to be racist and declared Steiner as flat-out wrong on those statements. The two documents describing the sequence of events are here in case anyone has interest to read them. My wish, as someone working to move public Waldorf education for people who wish it for their children, is for people who don’t choose it for whatever reason to at least not have a demonic view of it as appears to be the consensus on this page. Also that there is a community of Waldorf educators who are working on factors for accrediting Waldorf schools, updating the science curriculum, blending in a developmental approach to technology, etc. in order address the all-over-the-map experience many of you describe.
(1) “Racism and Waldorf Education”
(2) “Reflections on the Evolution of Consciousness
Inspired by Ray McDermott’s “Racism and Waldorf Education”
Douglas Sloan
Hide the reply to Joan Jaeckel's comment
Leaving a comment on my comment.
I meant to end by saying thank you for reading and for an interesting discussion.
Firstly, Joan,
If these studies were conducted by AWSNA, then why are they still being touted as “independent” studies by Waldorf Educators? Can you please describe the circumstances by which AWSNA “undertook” the study? AWSNA perhaps “accepted” the findings – as they weren’t so bad – considering McDermott and Oberman are both Anthrophists…

Here’s the problem with what you are suggesting here (that racism has been removed from Waldorf)… you still require Waldorf teachers, TODAY, to read Steiner’s racist comments about skin color – AND to APPLY those ideas to children through the concept ALL Waldorf teachers apply to children… the Temperaments! The temperaments were Steiner’s way of dividing children by body type. The temperaments are used TODAY to divide Waldorf children – by BODY TYPE – for the Greek Olympic games (pentathlon) in the 5th grade. Why Joan? If Waldorf has addressed racism, why are children divided by temperaments, why are teachers instructed to read Steiner’s VERY DUMB ideas about body types (even Steiner’s own Anthroposophical doctors couldn’t distinguish “small-headed” children from “large-headed” children). It’s one of many distinctions Waldorf teachers use to separate children from each other.
Secondly, speaking of accreditation… How does that work exactly? I know the AWSNA accreditation committee asked Highland Hall to supply computers and update their science department IN 1998!!! They have “passed” several “inspections” since then… but still no science equipment and no computer equipment. So what EXACTLY does the accreditation committee do when schools simply don’t comply with their recommendations?
Thanks Joan.

Excellent points all around, Pete! Thanks!
Here’s AWSNA’s OFFICIAL statement or “racism” – it’s not about racist ideas being taught or applied to children – it’s really about racial discrimination for admitting students into Waldorf schools.
“Waldorf Schools are independent schools committed to developing the human
potential of each child to its fullest. Admission to the schools is open to everyone, without regard to race, sex, creed, religion, national origin, or ethnicity. In company with many other tuition-based independent schools, Waldorf schools are actively seeking ways to increase the economic and ethnic diversity of their student populations.
It is a fundamental goal of our education to bring students to an
understanding and experience of the common humanity of all the world’s
peoples, transcending the stereotypes, prejudices, and divisive barriers of classification by sex, race, and nationality.
We most emphatically reject racism in all its forms, and embrace the
principles of common humanity expressed by the founder of Waldorf education, Rudolf Steiner:
“(We) must cast aside the division into races. (We) must seek to
unite people of all races and nations, and to bridge the divisions
and differences between various groups of people.”
– The Universal Human, Lecture 1″
I can understand why they would have to publish such disclaimers – the Waldorf school in Harlem, for example, has (had) no black students at all. Kinda makes you wonder… But the statement does NOT address racism in Waldorf.
The quote AWSNA uses from Steiner – above is out of context BTW. The entire lecture can be found here:
Here’s the whole three sentences around AWSNA’s quote:
“Therefore, in its fundamental nature, the anthroposophical movement, which is to prepare the sixth period, must cast aside the division into races. It must seek to unite people of all races and nations, and to bridge the divisions and differences between various groups of people. The old point of view of race has a physical character, but what will prevail in the future will have a more spiritual character.”
Steiner is talking about casting aside the divisions of races and treating humans as individuals IN THE NEXT EPOCH, NOT this one. So, in 1000 years, Waldorf schools will stop teaching children in accordance with their race. But for now, they will continue to deceive us – even using Steiner’s own words out of context – in order to bring children to Anthroposophy.
Here are the next few paragraphs after AWSNA’s quote – from Steiner:
“That is why it is absolutely essential to understand that our anthroposophical movement is a spiritual one. It looks to the spirit and overcomes the effects of physical differences through the force of being a spiritual movement. Of course, any movement has its childhood illnesses, so to speak. Consequently, in the beginning of the theosophical movement the earth was divided into seven periods of time, one for each of the seven root races, and each of these root races was divided into seven sub-races. These seven periods were said to repeat in a cycle so that one could always speak of seven races and seven sub-races. However, we must get beyond the illnesses of childhood and understand clearly that the concept of race has ceased to have any meaning in our time.
Humanity is becoming evermore individual, and this has further implications for human individuality. It is important that this individuality develop in the right way. The anthroposophical movement is to help people become individualities, or personalities, in the right sense. How can it accomplish this? Here we must look to the most striking new quality of the human soul that is being prepared. People often ask why we do not remember our former incarnations. I have often answered this question, which is like saying that because a four-year-old child cannot do arithmetic, human beings cannot do arithmetic. When the child reaches ten, he or she will be able to multiply with ease. It is the same with the soul. If it cannot remember our former incarnations today, the time will come when it will be able to do so. Then it will possess the same capacity initiates have.
This new development is happening today. There are numerous souls nowadays who are so far advanced that they are close to the moment of remembering their former incarnations, or at least the last one. A number of people are at the threshold of comprehensive memory, embracing life between birth and death as well as previous incarnations. Many people will remember their present incarnation when they are reborn in their next life. It is simply a question of how they remember. The anthroposophical movement is to help and guide people to remember in the right way.”