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Friday, November 25, 2011

Control.Halt.Delete Article Comments

I tend to respond to articles praising Waldorf... This article the Colorado Springs Times is one of several praising non-computer use in Waldorf and ignoring the underlying philosophy.  My comment produced an interesting response from the author and a deceitful post from Waldorf teacher and Wikipedia editor Harlan Gilbert.

My initial post:

"But the end results are striking. According to its site, 94 percent of Waldorf graduates attend colleges or universities."

Why is it OK to misrepresent this sort of thing in a "news" article. Getting statistics off their website? Did the reporter look at how many kids actually attend college after Waldorf? Most Waldorf schools stop at the 8th grade. Are they taking credit for their grads going to college?

At Highland Hall Waldorf school, it was reported that 25% of students are withdrawn from the school EACH YEAR. 25% of the parents are dissatisfied enough - EVERY YEAR to abandon their child's education, not to mentions thousands of dollars invested, and simply walk away. Last year they lost closer to 50%. Somebody isn't telling parents everything before they enroll their kids in these schools.

It has been my experience with Waldorf that they are dishonest in representing their schools, their movement and what they actually teach children. There is a reason for this... Waldorf is the missionary arm of Anthroposophy - Rudolf Steiner's quasi-religious philosophy that teaches, among other things, that "the white race is the race of the future". They teach this sort of nonsense in Waldorf as science. People signing up for Waldorf may be getting a whole lot more than they bargained for. Many, many parents find out too late that Waldorf is NOT for them.

Parents, PLEASE research Waldorf more thoroughly than the author of this article before considering this nightmare for your children. Waldorf is not what it appears to be.

Submitted by Pete Karaiskos / former Waldorf parent, Waldorf critic and parent advocate.
Posted by Pete K on November 23, 2011 at 7:05 AM

We've been very, very happy with the education our children (now 6th and 8th grades) are receiving at the Waldorf school near us. We did get much, much more than we bargained for -- in the best sense possible! This is, at least, the school of the future.
Posted by Harlan Gilbert on November 23, 2011 at 10:28 AM
Pete K,
I am aware, of course, of the backlash against Waldorf from yourself and others.
In fact, I was careful to note some of the criticisms against Waldorf in my story, despite the fact that it had little to do with my central theme on technology.
It's true that Waldorf has few high schools, and that I relied on their study to determine how many of their graduates go to college. Since these are private schools, there is no other source for this information. The 94 percent figure has also been used in national publications.
You may have noticed a high attrition rate at a high school near you — I assume you do not live in Colorado, since there are no Colorado Waldorf High Schools — however, we are not basing our information on a single school. Also, no other school that I've heard of, whether public or private, would include attrition in its graduation rate, or college acceptance rate. I see no reason to hold Waldorf to a higher standard.
What's more, while a high attrition rate may look bad, it's not necessarily that telling. We have schools here that serve children of soldiers. The attrition rates are high, but I wouldn't say that's a judgement on their performance. Similarly, I'd note that Waldorf schools are private, and generally quite expensive, so it would seem that there would be many reasons other than the ones you provided for a school to have a high attrition rate.
Your other complaints are more of what I saw on the Web.
It's true that Waldorf uses some of Steiner's philosophy and his focus on a child's spirit in the classroom. To some, who may be rooted in a different religion, or strictly atheist, that could be viewed as offensive.
You also note the race issue, which seems to crop up a lot. Best I could tell, Steiner was a product of his time, and he did hold beliefs that favored whites. However, he was also noted for loudly opposing racism and anti-Semitism, which was rather progressive for the late 1800s and early 1900s. In fact, Waldorf Schools across Europe were shut down by the Germans during World War II.
In short, I found no evidence that the schools taught any racism in the classroom, and it actually appeared that the schools strove to be open to all colors and religions, both in staff and students. It seemed as though the arguments that the school system is racist were based on some of the antiquated beliefs personally held by Steiner a century ago.
By that logic, our Founding Fathers' beliefs shouldn't be shared with school kids, because many of them were slave holders. I think we assume that teachers can show the wisdom of the Constitution while still condemning slavery. Similarly, it would seem that Waldorf teachers can apply Steiner's educational principles without showing any favoritism for whites.
I certainly would not have written anything vaguely positive about a school system that was considered racist. However, I recognize that individual experiences vary. Teaching involves a human element, and teachers and principals can be bad eggs just like anyone else. If you had a bad experience, that's upsetting and I hope you took whatever actions were appropriate.
For our readers, here's what Wikipedia says about Steiner and race (…
"Race and ethnicity
Steiner's work includes both universalist, humanist elements and historically influenced racial assumptions.[80] Due to the contrast and even contradictions between these elements, "whether a given reader interprets Anthroposophy as racist or not depends upon that reader's concerns."[81] Steiner considered that every people, by dint of a shared language and culture, has a unique essence, which he called its soul or spirit,[76] saw race as a physical manifestation of humanity's spiritual evolution and at times seemed to place races into a complex hierarchy largely derived from contemporary theosophical views, yet he consistently and explicitly subordinated the role of hereditary factors, including race and ethnicity, to individual factors in development.[81] The human individuality, for Steiner, is centered in a person's unique spiritual biography (i.e., the vast sum of an individuality's experiences and development not bound by waking hours or a single lifetime), not the body's accidental qualities.[22] More specifically:
Steiner characterized specific races, nations, and ethnicities in ways that have been termed racist by critics[82] including characterizations of various races and ethnic groups as flowering, others as backward or destined to disappear;[81] and hierarchical views of the spiritual evolution of different races,[83] including—at times, and inconsistently—portraying the white race, European culture, or the Germanic culture as representing the high point of human evolution as of the early 20th century, though describing these as destined to be superseded by future cultures.[81] Nevertheless, his views about German culture were not ethnically based; he saw this culture, in particular Goethe and the German transcendentalists, as the source of spiritual ideals that were of central importance both for the immediate region and for the world.[84]
Throughout his life, Steiner consistently emphasized the core spiritual unity of all the world's peoples and sharply criticized racial prejudice. He articulated beliefs that the individual nature of any person stands higher than any racial, ethnic, national or religious affiliation;[7][47] that race and ethnicity are transient and superficial, not essential aspects of the individual;[81] that each individual incarnates among / as part of many different peoples and races over successive lives, thus bearing within him- or herself a range of races and peoples;[81][85] and that race is rapidly losing any remaining significance for humanity.[81]
Above all, Steiner considered "race, folk, ethnicity and gender" to be general, describable categories into which individuals may choose to fit, but from which free human beings can and will liberate themselves.[22]"

J. Adrian Stanley
Posted by J. Adrian Stanley on November 23, 2011 at 12:01 PM

Hi J. Adrian Stanley,

Thanks for your comments. Yes, Waldorf teacher Harlan Gilbert (who posted above my previous post pretending to be a parent - any wonder his kids are doing great?) wrote a wonderful piece in Wikipedia about Steiner (check the edit pages to find him controlling the article). If you like that one, read his article about Waldorf Education. Unfortunately, all the articles Mr. Gilbert has participated in on Wikipedia are, as one would expect, very biased... and that bias rubs off, again as one would expect, on readers. You say, for example, Waldorf schools were shut down by the Nazis. Do you know they were favored schools by many Nazis and were the very last non-state schools to be shut down? In fact, many Waldorf parents petitioned the Nazis claiming their ideas were in alignment. Peter Staudenmaier PhD is an historian who specializes in this particular area. Here's a link to what *really* happened with regard to the closing of Waldorf schools during the Nazi era... in case you're interested.…

Now, getting back to Harlan Gilbert's Wikipedia piece on Steiner, here's what it boils down to... Steiner believed the "individual" was represented in spiritual form, and that each individual incarnates in multiple lifetimes ever-progressing from the lower races upward until achieving the perfect (for now) form of the white race (although some people or peoples could regress). So, the "individual" is only visiting this incarnation... for karmic reasons. This is what Waldorf teachers are taught - whether they are Anthroposophists or not. Waldorf teacher training reading lists reveal what's on the menu for new Waldorf teachers.

Now, how does this affect what Waldorf teachers do in the classroom? Well, for one thing, they are guidelines set forth by Steiner about what to expect from children of the various races, how to deal with children with disabilities and why those disabilities are basically karma from a previous lifetime, how to deal with demonic (non-human) children, how to deal with large-headed children differently than small-headed children, when children should be broken of lefthandedness, and so forth. This ridiculous stuff is REQUIRED reading for all Waldorf teacher trainees (it's contained in every published Waldorf teacher training reading list I've seen at least and I've seen many). That, to me, means somebody thinks this stuff is still important - even if you don't.

Steiner advised Waldorf teachers that they have a deeper karmic connection with the children than their own parents. Waldorf teachers I've experienced have tended to take liberties with other people's children. Their karma with the child is stronger after all. And, the child may have SOME karma to experience in this lifetime. No matter what harm comes to the child... it's their karma... This plays well with Waldorf teachers who can shake off the harm they've done to children. One who did immeasurable harm to my daughter went into Waldorf teacher TRAINING. There is something seriously wrong with a system that doesn't admonish but rather promotes the worst teachers.

Attrition is something Waldorf doesn't like to talk about. And I'm sorry, I don't agree their attrition rates are normal. There are many good reasons parents leave any school... but Waldorf has the particular distinction of hiding the underlying philosophy behind it. When parents find out what's really driving Waldorf education (Steiner's Anthroposophy), many pull their kids. Others have kids who don't fit. They may spend a couple years (or many more) bored out of their minds. Parents believe they're doing the best for their kids... and believe me... You won't find many Waldorf schools willing to give up tuition by admitting a child doesn't fit... especially if there are siblings that fit better. Then, it's the child's "karma". Kids that don't fit? Smart kids! Steiner had no use for anything "intellectual". If you have a smart kid, it's Waldorf's job to dumb them down. It really isn't about education, it's about indoctrination. Oh, and they don't care if they get kids or their parents... the more people they can draw in, the better.

Speaking of attrition... lest anyone believes all this problematic stuff is isolated to my local Waldorf school... there is lots of attrition of teachers too! Problematic teachers are passed around from one school to the next. Highland Hall recently lost 22% of teachers and staff to attrition. I won't name the names of the schools Highland Hall's teachers migrated to, but they are all across the country. Were these the good teachers who left a problematic school, or the bad teachers who were forced out? Let's face it... they're the NEW teachers at some other Waldorf schools... maybe in Colorado?

Pete Karaiskos - Former Waldorf parent / Waldorf critic / Activist
Posted by Pete K on November 23, 2011 at 6:22 PM