Coffee House

The quiet country lane hosting a schooling revolution

14 September 2012

1:58 PM

14 September 2012

1:58 PM

The location hardly suggests revolution. A few miles down a Somerset country lane, a new school opened this week. It will do so on the site of a tiny old primary school, buttressed by a couple of swiftly-erected buildings, before moving to its permanent site, currently occupied by the NHS, within two years. But the opening of the Steiner Academy Frome could one day be regarded as a seismic moment in British educational history.

Steiner Academy Frome is the first state school for generations that could be said to have brought about the closure of a private school. The Meadow School shut just after the end of the 2011/12 academic year; a number of teachers, as well as over 20 pupils, have since moved to the Steiner Academy Frome. Although it would be simplistic to say that the opening of the Steiner Academy alone caused the Meadow School to close, it was nevertheless a key factor. The promise of Steiner education being available free of charge only a few miles away encouraged parents to move their children away from a school which had long since been struggling.

As Trevor Mepham, principal of the new free school, says of Steiner education, ‘if it wasn’t different, there’d be no point having it’. He contrasts Steiner’s individualistic educational ethos with the ‘Henry Ford’ model of mass-produced schooling. Steiner education is a significantly different approach to that conventionally adopted in comprehensive schools, focusing on children’s spiritual development. Children are not taught to read until the age of seven.

Neither these educational methods, nor the free school itself, are without their controversies. But a lot of parents clearly believe that the new school is worth having. Steiner Academy Frome has justified the central tenet of its application for free school status: that sufficient demand existed. Indeed, the 134 pupils it will begin with are four more than its stated maximum capacity, because of of parents who won appeals against the local authority to be permitted to send their children there. By 2015, Steiner Academy Frome plans to accommodate 624 pupils up to the age of 16.

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It is all far removed from the Meadow School’s final days. While it was not ‘failing’ in an academic sense, it suffered from an innate lack of capacity, with space for fewer than 70 pupils. Linked to this were perennial financial concerns, especially because parental contributions were based upon family income. Moreover, its location in Bruton – a remote town with a population of only 3,000 – made it impractical to convert it into a free school and expand pupil numbers.

Yet, notwithstanding all its struggles, plenty of parents thought the best aspects of the Meadow School were worth saving. Guy Marson had two children there and soon became an enthusiastic supporter of its approach. He says: ‘I hadn’t really experienced Steiner education before but it drew me in and I became an evangelist as a result of just experiencing my children enjoying it and really understanding what the educational philosophy was.’ Awareness of the Meadow School’s deep-seated problems and uncertain future led him to develop plans for a Steiner free school in Frome. The town has a population of 25,000 and is within commutable distance from Bath, making it a much more viable site for a free school than Bruton.

Marson developed a proposal for a Steiner free school in Frome, which was submitted in February 2011. In the following months, he led a vigorous marketing campaign to attract enough parents to show there was sufficient demand for such a school: ‘For about a month we had a stall in the market in Frome on market days, we letter-dropped around all of the Frome residents and basically one of the key fundamentals was to generate enough support among parents’. His cause was helped by the educational context in Frome. A teacher in the area, speaking anonymously, said: ‘Everything’s not rosy with education in Frome… We’re already leaking children out of Frome at the middle and secondary school level.’

Marson’s persistence was rewarded in October 2011, when the application was accepted. Just 11 months later, Steiner Academy Frome is on the verge of opening. As Marson says, ‘the essence of the Meadow School certainly lives on in the Frome school’ – with the crucial difference that the new free school is accessible to all, regardless of financial circumstances.

The free schools experiment could have been designed with Steiner schools in mind. Although they have traditionally been independent in this country – unlike in Europe – they are wholly atypical of most private schools, notably in their contribution-based financial model. Indeed, Mepham believes that the Steiner Academy Hereford, which made the transition from independent to academy school in 2008, ‘was almost a prototype for a free school – it was a completely different kind of academy set up for completely different reasons to the normal, orthodox ones, and so it was quite a strange beast to have in the academy programme.’ Whereas academies were typically huge entities in inner cities, the Steiner Academy Hereford was located in the countryside, and, even after expansion work, can only accommodate 334 students. Michael Gove was reportedly impressed with the Steiner Academy Hereford and with Steiner education more broadly.

But more than just illustrating the benefits of free schools for Steiner education, the Steiner Academy Frome may also have much wider consequences. Over the last 20 years, private school fees have risen at above twice the rate of inflation; independent schools have closed at a rate of one every fortnight since the economic crisis, with many other schools relying on increases in foreign students to survive. There has never been a better time to encourage parents to refrain from sending their children to private schools. Because of the perhaps irreversible damage done to the brand of comprehensive education, free schools, despite the difficulties attached to them, may provide the best way of making this happen.

Few anticipated that private schools could suffer from Michael Gove’s education experimentation – but the Steiner Academy Frome could prove to be the first such example of this occurring.

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Show comments
  • Norman Voake

    I was deeply saddened by some of the critical opinions on the nature of Steiner Education expressed in some of the comments. I do not wish to take issue with other people’s views but only to say that I was a pupil at Michael Hall Steiner School in the 1940s and have nothing but gratitude for the wonderful education that I received.
    My English Teacher was one of “The Inklings” and a close friend of C.S.Lewis and It was he who gave me a deep and abiding love of English poetry. I never felt that there was any attempt to mould me into a particular “Steiner” way of thinking but rather the freedom to allow me to develop my own innate faculties.
    The education I received was certainly wide and included mathematics, French & German, History of Art and a study of the development of scientific thinking,. In this context one of my contemporaries was John Davy, later to become Scientific Correspondent for The Observer.
    What the school taught me was not belief in any cult but rather a desire to be of some use to others during my life; this I tried to do by teaching in State Secondary Modern and Comprehensive schools for over thirty years. I never taught belief in a particular cult but rather tried to pass on the care and love for my pupils that I had received from my teachers when I was at school. No system is perfect but I cannot criticise what for me and many others was a wonderful exprience of having been a pupil at a Steiner School 70 years ago.

  • http://briansharland.com/ Brian Sharland

    Unlike other lefties on the board I don’t think it is worthwhile to rush to a default judgement against Steiner education. Yes the guiding religious philosophy may be bonkers but then so are some of the principles behind Catholicism, Anglicanism, islam etc. From a very brief reading about the principles behind Steiner education it seems that although there are issues some of the principles applied seem sound and beneficial to pupils. So long as schools do continue to learn from one another, rather than operating in an educational black hole which is dangerous, there can hopefully be some benefits.

    Having said that though a Steiner ‘Free school’ is another matter. A simple waste of money.

    • http://twitter.com/ThetisMercurio Melanie Byng

      we haven’t rushed to judgement – I can assure you. As you say, your reading about the principles behind Steiner education has been brief.

    • Steve Paris

      I feel Grégoire Perra would disagree with you. He’s a former anthroposophist who lived and breathed Steiner for the last 30 years, from pupil to member of the French anthroposophical society.

      He’s recently blown the whistle on the anthroposophical movement, and he’s now being sued for his troubles.

      His writings are fascinating but regretfully all in French (if you don’t speak this wonderful language :). However, my wife and I have just finished translating a highly important one entitled: “An Almost Imperceptible Manipulation and Indoctrination”.

      I think you should read it as it might change your mind as to whether or not this pedagogy is “beneficial to pupils”.

      http://www.steinermentary.com/SM/France-Indoctrination.html

      • John Stanton

        Haha! From the sublime to the ridiculous! The article invites us to believe that people who’ve been through a steiner education have a tendency to believe that monkeys evolved from humans:)

        • Steve Paris

          From what I understand, it isn’t taught, just subtly implied. It’s not like a textbook saying that gravity is what God created to make sure objects stayed on the ground (that’s from a christian textbook btw).

          However, I’m more worried about the grooming aspects as described in Grégoire’s article. Very troubling.

      • PeteK

        Mr. Perra’s very revealing testimony (over which a lawsuit has been filed) is available here: https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/he-went-to-waldorf and here: http://thewaldorfreview.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-indoctrination-of-students-to.html and also here: http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-anthroposophical-indoctrination-of.html. Readers can link to this important document freely.

        It is important to note how subtle this indoctrination is. Even Waldorf teachers on lower levels are often being indoctrinated without their knowledge. Mr. Perra’s testimony has dealt a huge blow to the dishonest miscreants that are pushing Steiner’s ridiculous philosophies in the name of “educating” other people’s children.

  • John Stumbles

    As a parent who has had children in Steiner early years and lower schools (to age 13) for the last 17 years, but who does not subscribe to “Anthroposophy” and is something of a skeptic, I don’t know whether I’m more irritated by fawning media articles extolling the sublime wonders of Steiner Education or exasperated by detractors’ strident and hyperbolic claims that it’s a racist, brutal, secretive, cult!
    I’ve written a few pieces based on my experiences and thoughts, which I hope may be of interest to the critical but unprejudiced reader, at http://stumbles.org.uk/John/Steiner/

  • Russell Bond

    Why do people get so worried about the fact that a turn-of-the-century philosopher said a few things which by todays standards might be considered objectionable? You just take the good bits and move on, and to my mind Steiner said a great deal of good! If you look at any other developmental thinker within the last century there will be bits you agree with and bits you don’t…so what? There’s absolutely no evidence that anything objectionable has filtered through into the modern day Steiner education.

    • http://twitter.com/lecanardnoir Andy Lewis

      That is not true. All you need to do is look a the curriculum of Steiner Teacher Training materials.

      One also need only consider that no Steiner School has publicly renounced the large areas of Steiner education that are quite objectionable by ‘today’s standards’ or fly in the face of modern science and morality.

      If Steiner teaching philosophy has moved on, where is this ‘new Steinerism’?

      • Fergus Pickering

        And, aaaargh! they don’t play football.

        • http://twitter.com/ThetisMercurio Melanie Byng

          i don’t think that’s always true, at least informally – although there are some very odd ideas about football inspired by anthroposophy:
          http://www.anthromed.org/Article.aspx?artpk=126

      • Russell Bond

        Exactly what teacher training/ curriculum material are you referring to?! I have a copy of one version of the curriculum (Rawson and Richter) and have found nothing remotely approaching the claims made above.

        • http://twitter.com/lecanardnoir Andy Lewis

          Ahhh. That would be the book that tells teacher to teach homeopathy in chemistry. If they did that, they would be breaking their agreements at Frome.

          • Russell Bond

            What I’m challenging you to do is to identify any area of said curriculum which could be seen as encouraging racist attitudes in children (as implied by the comments above). I strongly suspect you won’t be able to, in which case that whole line of argument is completely irrelevant.

            I think suggesting they ‘teach homeopathy’ is misleading to say the least! Making mention of it is fine, if framed in the right way.

            • http://twitter.com/lecanardnoir Andy Lewis

              Russel – anthroposophy is based on the revelation from Steiner that human spirits reincarnate through a racial hierarchy. Steiner told teachers that it is important to establish a child’s temperament through physical, racial and behavioral characteristics. Children are treated differently according to this temperament.

              Please let me know if any of the above is wrong and where Steiner Schools have now no longer adopted this aspect of Steiner pedagogy.

              • Russell Bond

                I am familiar with the Temperaments, but not with the suggestion that ones race influences a persons temperament and hence how they should be treated in school! What’s your reference source for this (I mean original steiner text/ current teacher training material)?

                My understanding of the education is that it is simply based on a theory of how people are at certain ages (which to steiner is to be understood in terms of spiritual forces), and that developmental progression/ stage characteristics don’t vary depending on the race of the person. Again, do you know of steiner text/ training material suggesting otherwise?

                • http://twitter.com/lecanardnoir Andy Lewis


                  An diesem Punkte wirken gleichsam von der Erde ausstrahlend alle diejenigen Kräfte, welche den Menschen namentlich während seiner ersten Kindheitszeit ergreifen können. Später wird der Einfluß solcher Kräfte auf den Menschen geringer; er ist dann diesen Kräften weniger ausgesetzt, aber sie prägen sich ihm mit dem, was aus ihnen kommt, doch in der stärksten Weise auf. So also wirkt jener Punkt auf der Erde, auf dem der Mensch lebt, am allerstärksten in der ersten Kindheitszeit und bestimmt dadurch diejenigen Menschen, die ganz abhängig sind von diesen Kräften, ihr ganzes Leben hindurch so, daß jener Punkt ihnen die ersten Kindheitsmerkmale bleibend aufprägt. So also wirkt jener Punkt auf der Erde, auf dem der Mensch lebt, am allerstärksten in der ersten Kindheitszeit und bestimmt dadurch diejenigen Menschen, die ganz abhängig sind von diesen Kräften, ihr ganzes Leben hindurch so, daß jener Punkt ihnen die ersten Kindheitsmerkmale bleibend aufprägt. Das, was wir schwarze Rasse nennen, ist im wesentlichen durch diese Eigenschaften bedingt.

                  Here we see Steiner characterising black people as childish. Would you like me to continue?

                • Fergus Pickering

                  Oh, don’t be childish. Translate the bloody thing. It might be a government directive about the production of grommets for all I know..

                • traehnam

                  Steiner did make a few racist statements, like a few needles in the huge haystack of his work. That should be a point of criticism and reflection among his students. But it should be remembered that Steiner also makes a lot of statements AGAINST dividing people by race. He says that Christ unites all humanity, regardless of race, and that it was the goal of demonic forces to make different human races look upon each other as different species. He says that “race” is a concept that no longer has any real content, less and less since the coming of Christ. He says Christ overcomes racial and national divisions. Steiner also says we all incarnate in different races, and that we should not be prejudiced.

                  In a body of work that amounts to 350 volumes, far less than one percent of it says ANYTHING whatever about race. And he makes many more statements against racism than he does racist statements.

                  Steiner commented at one point on the Ku Klux Klan in the U.S., saying the KKK were barbarians destructive to civilization. I also note that the Nazis shut down the Waldorf schools, because, according to a Nazi report, Steiner schools supported the development of the pupil’s individuality, and did not subordinate the individual to the State.. I have a copy of a NYT article that reports how Nazis rushed a stage where Steiner was speaking to attack him. I also note that Waldorf Ed doesn’t seem to have hurt Ken Chenault, CEO of American Express who is a person of color. I also have a very positive NYT review of Steiner’s main book on sociology. The review came out a few years after Steiner published the book. The book (Toward Social Renewal) says not a single word about race. It promotes democracy and says that every adult should have equal rights under the law.

                  None of this is to deny that in the vast corpus of Steiner’s work, he makes a few racist statements like a few needles in a huge haystack. But one should keep a little perspective and not give the impression Steiner was some kind of a racial ideologue who paid much attention to race at all. And one must not skew the overall picture by leaving out all he said AGAINST racism, and how he was constantly teaching that physical characteristics are not the most important thing — that the individual can transcend his nation, his race, and other collective characteristics and that Christ overcomes such divisions. One should also compare Steiner to his time, which on average was much worse than he was on the question of race.

                • http://twitter.com/lecanardnoir Andy Lewis

                  Or for example,
                  “One can only understand history and all of social life, including today’s social life, if one pays attention to people’s racial characteristics. And one can only understand all that is spiritual in the correct sense if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin.” — Rudolf Steiner, VOM LEBEN DES MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE

                • PeteK

                  russell bond “I am
                  familiar with the Temperaments, but not with the suggestion that ones
                  race influences a persons temperament and hence how they should be
                  treated in school!”

                  http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/FourTemps/ForTem_index.html

                  “Between individual characteristics and those of the human race in general
                  lie the four main groups of human temperaments: phlegmatic, sanguine,
                  melancholic, and choleric. Steiner describes here how each person’s
                  combination of temperaments is shaped out of a particular kind of union
                  between hereditary factors and the inner spiritual nature.”

                  What part of the word “heredity” don’t you understand?

                  “Spiritual science tells us first of all that the human being is part
                  of a line of heredity. He displays the characteristics he has
                  inherited from father, mother, grandparents, and so on. These
                  characteristics he then passes on to his progeny. The human being thus
                  possesses certain traits by virtue of being part of a succession of
                  generations.

                  However, this inheritance gives us only one side of his nature. Joined
                  to that is the individuality he brings with him out of the spiritual
                  world. This he adds to what his father and mother, his ancestors, are
                  able to give him. Something that proceeds from life to life, from
                  existence to existence, connects itself with the generational stream.
                  Certain characteristics we can attribute to heredity; on the other
                  hand, as a person develops from childhood on, we can see unfolding out
                  of the center of his being something that must be the fruit of
                  preceding lives, something he could never have inherited from his
                  ancestors. We come to know the law of reincarnation, of the succession
                  of earthly lives and this is but a special case of an all-encompassing
                  cosmic law.”

                  Remember, the individual child’s temperament is ASSIGNED to the child by their Waldorf teacher… So, if a child is black, and their teacher believes black people are lazy, then the child will, in all likelihood, be a assigned a phlegmatic label. It’s not that difficult to figure out… really!

                • Russell Bond

                  My reading of the text extract you given is simply that personality, or character of the person, is to some extent inherited. This is completely uncontraversial in itself and is consistent with modern thinking on the matter (notwithstanding the ‘nature nurture debate).

                  Furthermore saying that ‘culture’ influences development (if steiner did claim this) is also entirely consistent with modern thinking/ research.

            • http://twitter.com/lecanardnoir Andy Lewis

              Oh, and by the way, mentioning homeopathy in school is indeed ‘fine, if framed in the right way’. However, Rawson and Richter frame it as an example of how atomic theory is undermined by the claims of homeopaths.

              This is of course, utter nonsense.

              The only way to frame homeopathy in a classroom is as a good example of pseudoscience. Unfortunately, Steiner schools do not just use it to mislead kids about the fundamental facts of science, they also use it as a primary form of medication and immunisation.

              • Russell Bond

                ‘Would you like me to continue’
                Yes, because you haven’t answered the question! No one denies the existence of tracts like the ones you mention. But the key question is whether any of the objectionable material has filtered through into the modern day education. I’d be interested in any evidence that it has, but i strongly suspect you won’t find any. Steiner said a lot of, what is to my mind, pretty far out stuff (about many things, not just education). But, that’s pretty irrelevant to an ‘education system user’ if this kind of material isn’t manifested in the education children receive today.

                So we’ve simply returned to the points I made in my original post.

                • PeteK

                  @russellbond:disqus
                  “But the key question is whether any of the objectionable material has
                  filtered through into the modern day education. I’d be interested in any
                  evidence that it has, but i strongly suspect you won’t find any.”

                  “The blood of people from Europe is more evolved than the blood of people from Africa and Asia”. This is what Steiner believed and this is what was taught to my child only a few years ago at a 50 year old (established) Waldorf school which happens to be the teacher TRAINING center for Southern California. When I questioned the lesson, the school DEFENDED IT! So, put your suspicions to rest Russell… they teach objectionable material… it just isn’t objectionable to THEM!

                • PeteK

                  Sorry, I forgot to link to the racist bits regarding Steiner: http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/search?q=racism

                • Russell Bond

                  This i find very remarkable, particularly as there is a very high chance that people of those racial origins would be pupils in the class (or indeed teachers).

                • PeteK

                  Yes, that’s why Waldorf schools don’t discriminate by race. They are open to people in all stages of spiritual development… not just the highly developed white race. That doesn’t make them any less racist.

                • Russell Bond

                  This i find very remarkable, particularly as there is a very high chance that people of those racial origins would be pupils in the class (or indeed teachers).

    • http://twitter.com/lecanardnoir Andy Lewis

      That is not true. All you need to do is look a the curriculum of Steiner Teacher Training materials.

      One also need only consider that no Steiner School has publicly renounced the large areas of Steiner education that are quite objectionable by ‘today’s standards’ or fly in the face of modern science and morality.

      If Steiner teaching philosophy has moved on, where is this ‘new Steinerism’?

    • Steve Paris

      If you’re looking for evidence, here’s a short film we made about our experience at Steiner: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMIJzpiTuak

      And here’s what others have been saying about it on Twitter and the blogosphere:

      “extremely clear, lucid and the points seemed very well backed up”

      “Really interesting and worrying”

      “Great video – interesting thoughts presented very well”

      “excellent”

      “Very interesting – lots of valid points”

      “succinct and clear and, above all, measured and rational”

      “well researched and clearly presented”

      Strangely, most people supposedly critical of Steiner, including some in these very comments, don’t want you to know about it.

      • Russell Bond

        Interesting film, and sorry to hear of people’s bad experiences. But can we conclude from these instances that it’s the system itself/ underlying philosophy which is at fault, as opposed to individual instances of bad management etc? Presumably steiner schools are no different to any other in that they will be a mixed bag. If one were to compile an equivalent dosier for standard state schools you’d end up with with quite a bit of material!

        • Steve Paris

          It’s highlighted in the video that man who expelled the targets of bullying rather than deal with the bullying itself, is very high up in that country’s federation, and has the full support of all the Steiner schools he represents on behalf of the federation.

          That’s a concern. If it was just a rogue Steiner school (as we originally thought it was), then the other schools shouldn’t be supporting him or such actions against children.

          Also, our case is very similar to Jo Sawfoot’s (also mentioned in the video): in both instances, the school had no problem lying to a government agency to cover its tracks.

          And let’s not forget that all these schools have signed an agreement with Dornach concerning “pedagogical methods” of dealing with discipline. Yet nobody seems to be able to tell us what they are.

          In fact it’s very difficult getting anyone from the Steiner movement to address these worrying elements at all. Only recently has one Steiner school come back to us with this statement: “bullying should never be tolerated, nor is it ever justified. Punishing a victim of bullying is unfathomable. I can’t speak for that school, but I can say that any school that allows bullying to go unchecked shouldn’t be in business.”

          Sadly, considering how many reports we’ve received about unchecked bullying in Steiner schools the world over, I wonder if the noble words quoted above are more the exception than the rule in Waldorf education.

          • Russell Bond

            Do you mean that his actions were supported on the basis that are supposedly consistent with a steiner approach? The implication in what you are saying is that somewhere in steiner doctrine/ theory there is a recommendation that for instances of bullying best practice is to get rid of the victim and not the bully! To be honest I would need to see such doctrine in print to believe it.

            I’m guessing that unchecked bullying is an issue in many contexts, on what basis do you think it’s more prevalent in steiner schools than any other?

            • PeteK

              The following is REQUIRED READING for Waldorf teachers. It describes Steiner’s idea that children in Waldorf schools may not even really be children. Waldorf teachers have NO problem bullying or allowing the bullying of “demons”. If it is established that your child is a demon (as mine apparently was) you may get a LOT of bullying directed at the child – even from teachers.

              Dr. Steiner: “That little girl L.. in the first grade must have
              something very wrong inside. There is not much we can do. Such cases are
              increasing in which children are born with a human form, but are not
              really human beings in relation to their highest I [the highest element
              of one’s spiritual being]; instead, they are filled with beings that do
              not belong to the human class. Quite a number of people have been born
              since the [1890s] without an I, that is, they are not reincarnated, but
              are human forms filled with a sort of natural demon. There are quite a
              large number of older people going around who are actually not human
              beings, but only natural; they are human beings only in regard to their
              form. We cannot, however, create a school for demons.”

              A teacher: “How is that possible?”

              Dr. Steiner: “Cosmic error is certainly not impossible. The
              relationships of individuals coming into earthly existence have long
              been determined. There are also generations in which individuals have no
              desire to come into earthly existence and be connected with
              physicality, or immediately leave at the very beginning. In such cases,
              other beings that are not quite suited step in…. They are also quite
              different from human beings in regard to everything spiritual. They can,
              for example, never remember such things as sentences; they have a
              memory only for words, not for sentences….

              “I do not like to talk about such things since we have often been
              attacked even without them. Imagine what people would say if they heard
              that we say there are people who are not human beings. Nevertheless,
              these are facts. Our culture would not be in such a decline if people
              felt more strongly that a number of people are going around who, because
              they are completely ruthless, have become something that is not human,
              but instead are demons in human form.

              “Nevertheless, we do not want to shout that to the world. Our opposition
              is already large enough. Such things are really shocking to people. I
              caused enough shock when I needed to say that a very famous university
              professor, after a very short time between death and rebirth, was
              reincarnated as a black scientist. We do not want to shout such things
              out into the world.” (Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF
              STEINER, Anthroposophical Press, 1998, pp. 649-650.)

              It’s should be an embarrassment to a system that ADULTS within that system still believe such things AND put them into practice on other people’s children. AGAIN, THE ABOVE IS REQUIRED READING FOR WALDORF TEACHERS.

              • Russell Bond

                Interesting comments thanks! I’ve never seen the text above before, though I’m sure you’d agree that the meaning and ‘implications for practice’ (if indeed they have filtered through to todays education) could be interpreted in a number of ways.

                I’m going to over-and-out now, but thanks for this debate; it’s been very thought provoking! R

                • PeteK

                  You’re welcome Russell. I love opening people’s eyes about Waldorf. A “master” Waldorf teacher proclaimed my daughter was a “demon”… so this is indeed still in practice today.

        • PeteK

          @Russell Bond “But can we conclude from these instances that it’s the system itself/
          underlying philosophy which is at fault, as opposed to individual
          instances of bad management etc? Presumably steiner schools are no
          different to any other in that they will be a mixed bag.”

          How could Steiner schools be a “mixed bag” – ALL Waldorf teachers are required to accept Steiner’s philosophy (including his dumb ideas). This doesn’t happen in public schools. In Waldorf, everything in “the bag” is intended to be identical. Waldorf teacher training ensures this.

          We see more cases of bullying in Steiner schools than other schools because (as Steiner himself explained) Waldorf teachers have a “karmic” connection to their students – who are all drawn to the school by karma. If one kid is a “bully” in this lifetime, he may have been the “victim” in a previous lifetime. That’s why Waldorf teachers don’t interfere – they would be interfering with karma working itself out. Public school teachers don’t think like this – nor should they.

          When it comes to racism, we see lots and lots of racism in Waldorf schools. They don’t discriminate about who they might allow in the classroom – children of all races require a Waldorf education after all – but they DEFINITELY treat each child in accordance with its race. This is what Steiner taught them to do and this is true today. Occasionally, as in my case, Waldorf teachers will actually TEACH Steiner’s racist doctrine as scientific fact. Waldorf schools simply move teachers who have been discovered teaching racism from one school to another.

          Please search my blogs for “bullying” and “racism” to find many, many examples of these things in Waldorf/Steiner schools.
          http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/
          http://thewaldorfreview.blogspot.com/

          • Russell Bond

            I’m not convinced that the fact that they’ve all done the same training ensures that differences in performance etc are ruled out. We could say the same with respect to conventional teacher training after all.

            • PeteK

              @ Russell Bond
              It’s in the training BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT TO WALDORF. Why else do you suppose Steiner’s racial theories are required reading? So they can be omitted from the teachers’ consciousness? That would be silly wouldn’t it? They teach Steiner’s racist ideas because they believe children incarnate through different races and that their level of spiritual development is indicated by the race they have incarnated into. Notice Steiner talking about what a scandal it must be that a scientist was reincarnated in a negro body.

              You may not be convinced, but many many parents find an examination of teacher training materials VERY convincing.

  • Steve Paris

    “The free schools experiment could have been designed with Steiner schools in mind.” Absolutely, the model is tailor made to augment the middle-class sense of disgruntlement with the educational conveyor belt, by hand-knitting everything, and to appeal to the sense of ‘specialness’ and entitlement the middle-classes already feel.
    And once convinced that an alternative is needed, they’re probably not going to notice the dynastic ‘structure’, deliberately organised to obfuscate power and, crucially, accountability; dangerous gaps which may only be realised when something goes wrong – when it will be too late. A lack of functional democracy is exactly the kind of environment in which sociopathic types thrive. People who would normally be weeded out by quality control, can easily rise to positions of authority.
    Ironically, the financial ‘contributions’ system, touted in this article, can exacerbate this – at the school our children attended the Manager was the only person who knew what arrangements had been made with individuals – and was so easily able to use that information to control people.
    “Michael Gove was reportedly impressed with the Steiner Academy Hereford and with Steiner education more broadly”. No mention of the personal relationships at play between Gove and some of those behind the Frome Steiner School – that dynastic approach again.
    “it was quite a strange beast to have in the academy programme.’” Of course -necessitating signing off on anthroposophy itself, the underlying philosophy, which informs every detail about the running of the schools, and about which, Gove appears to have done no research.
    In his arrogant rush for a place in the history books, Mr Gove seems to have forgotten that as Education Secretary, he has a duty to make sure that he does not sign the British populace up to tax-fund a cult.
    What does Mr Gove actually know about anthroposophy? For example the way it claims to deal with discipline by ‘pedagogical’ means, including apparently, a belief that bullied children are working out their karma – hence the lack of ‘interference’ by staff? The answer is, nothing. He’s ignored the case of Jo Sawfoot and the Norwich Steiner Initiative, in which a judge last year referred to Ms Sawfoot as being a “whistle-blower” and having been ‘targeted’ by the school, who had made “misrepresentations to social services” about Ms Sawfoot’s child.
    Mind you, that’s not surprising, as the Steiner ‘critics’ prefer to ignore due process as well. In doing so and trying to frame it as a problem merely of ‘pseudo’ this and that, they have sadly failed the British public, and now can do no better than squawk in the sidelines every time a new school is opened. Lack of vaccination, homeopathy, these are the things that will draw ‘alternative’ people towards the schools, not repel them. Racism in anthroposophy may be a concern, and there’s no doubt that the theory is racist, but where’s the evidence that Steiner graduates are more racially intolerant? I’ve never seen any.
    Bullying is another matter, who would knowingly send their child to a school where they stood a heightened chance of being bullied, and where nobody would do anything about it as per the many testimonials worldwide. Most of these are anonymous and that’s understandable when you look at the many many reports of parents who ask the wrong questions being mobbed out of the place because it’s a dynasty? This mobbing tendency, always a feature of cults, can explain why it’s so easy to paint families who ask awkward questions as being trouble-makers within the ‘community’ and make them ‘disappear’. Yet the critics have forsaken this provable harm for esotericism – just like the schools themselves.
    ‘if it wasn’t different, there’d be no point having it’ Isn’t this exactly the point? Criticism of Steiner schools will make no headway while it’s white people banging on about racism. Ms Byng should look to her own back yard and perhaps explain why, as the wife of a senior mental health lecturer, she is happy to publicly smear the mental health of parents who are prepared to follow due process even having initiated the first ever human rights mediation with Steiner – still ongoing. Only such public demand for actionable accountability for specific abuses can be an antidote to cultish tendencies, and eventually encourage others to expose them, as in the email we recently received from a former kindy teacher at the same school who told us that “My daughter was bullied by her class teacher and we had similar experiences with the school pretending that we were the ones with the problem”. We have similar, unrelated accounts spanning four decades, just from the one school.
    It is good that there do now appear to be some people ‘coming out’ with evidential and actionable accounts of some of these problems, recently, for example, a top anthropolgist in France has attracted a law-suit by recanting the cult.
    It’s sad for UK children, however, to note that perhaps if Ms Byng, who set up a Steiner School, and Mr Lewis, who’s never been anywhere near one, and their band of merry skeptics, had not taken such provable actions to hide facts concerning due process from their ‘audience’, over the last year, people might now be more aware of injustices already perpetrated by existing state-funded Steiner schools in the UK. (yes I know that only leaves one). Because who will come forward to expose the dynastic abuses of any school, or system, when the ‘critics’ are so obviously waiting to put the boot in, presumably so that they can continue in their own cosy ‘club’, to persue a ‘skeptical’ agenda, which includes welcoming damaged families by saying, ‘oh you couldn’t possibly have known’?

  • Daniel Maris

    Steiner was a bit of a nutjob who believed in retarding children. He had cultish leanings and initially backed the Nazis.

    • Alison

      I wasn’t aware of Steiner schools until now. Previous comments have been very informative. Your simplistic effort contributes nothing whatsoever.

      • Daniel Maris

        Alison –

        Well if you have a point of accuracy to raise with me, feel free. Or if you’d like to say which of Steiner’s theories you support, that would be helpful.

        But I guess it’s easier to come out with prissy stuff like “You simplistic effort contributes nothing whatsoever”. Have you ever read anything by Steiner? I have.

        • Fergus Pickering

          Surely what Steiner said THEN is less relevant than what the schools teach NOW. Do you know some of the things that Thomas Arnold said? Do you know some of the things that A.S. Neill said?Do you know some of the things that Plato said about education? Do you know some of the things Thomas Jefferson said? I spy prejudice and ranting. Nobody has to send their children to a Steiner School. But they deserve better than simple abuse rather than relevant information. The Steiner children I have met are not racist bigots. In fact the ignorant racist bigots are almost entirely at the State schools, as you well know.

    • traehnam

      Daniel, I say you are lying in your claim that Steiner initially backed the Nazis. I can document for you that the Nazis shut down the Waldorf schools. I can show you a New York Times article in which the reporter describes how Nazis rushed a stage where Steiner was speaking in order to attack him. I can also show you a very positive NYT review of Steiner’s main book on sociology, which, of course, you’ve never read. Steiner’s views have nothing in common with Nazism, fascism or any kind of dictatorship.

  • http://twitter.com/Dru_Marland Dru Marland

    …as opposed to the esoteric religion of state schools that worship GCSE league tables, Melanie? The people I know who’ve been through Steiner schools seem very bright and well-adjusted. And I’m fairly sure they don’t do any human sacrifice either. Well, hardly ever.

    • http://twitter.com/ThetisMercurio Melanie Byng

      what a silly comment.

      • Fergus Pickering

        Not at all silly. You speak from blinkered ignorance and she from knowledge.

        • http://twitter.com/ThetisMercurio Melanie Byng

          Fergus – Dru and I have had a friendly discussion about Steiner ed, it’s of course the comment (not Dru herself) which is silly. I speak from personal experience which I’d much rather not have had, but also knowledge about anthroposophy, gained later. There’s no reason why Dru should know about something that’s frankly well hidden by these schools. So no, neither of us are ignorant.

  • http://twitter.com/lecanardnoir Andy Lewis

    This article needs to be put in the context of an explanation of what a Steiner School is. It teaches children according to the crypto-religious beliefs of Anthroposophy, the movement founded by Austrian Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th Century.
    Steiner had clairvoyant visions that told him human spirits were re-incarnated through a hierarchy that, inevitably, put Germans and Nordics on the highest spiritual level. Black people, Jews and other races were imperfect incarnations of these spirits. Naturally, these ideas resonated well in Europe in the 1920’s. The purpose of Steiner education is not to educate, but to incarnate children’s souls through this racist hierarchy. Delayed reading is not done for some educational reason but because of the Steinerist belief that literacy interferes with the process of incarnation.
    Of course, Steiner Schools will not tell you this, or any other detail of their barmpottery. Steiner himself told teachers to be coy about the aims of the school for fear that “people would break the Waldorf [Steiner] School’s neck.”
    It is shame that somehow middle class parents can only be drawn into the state system by providing occult schools with dark and masked belief systems.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Dear me, what a load of cock! A girl I know couldn’t read and write at her primary school. Her (not rich) parents switched her to the Rudolf Steiner school and she could. Some of the beliefs are barmy, but I have been told that some educationalists think that mixed ability classes are the way to go. There’s a barmy, occult belief, if you like.

      • http://twitter.com/lecanardnoir Andy Lewis

        Your anecdote obviously trumps my facts.

  • Guest

    This article needs to be put in the context of an explanation of what a Steiner School is. It teaches children according to the crypto-religious beliefs of Anthroposophy, the movement founded by Austrian Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th Century.

    Steiner had clairvoyant visions that told him human spirits were re-incarnated through a hierarchy that, inevitably, put Germans and Nordics on the highest spiritual level. Black people, Jews and other racists were imperfect incarnations of these spirits. Naturally, these ideas resonated well in Europe in the 1920’s/ The purpose of Steiner education is not to educate, but to incarnate children’s souls through this racist heirarchy.

    Of course, Steiner Schools will not tell you this, or any other detail of their barmpottery. Steiner himself told teachers to be coy about the aims of the school for fear that “people would break the Waldorf [Steiner] School’s neck.”

    It is shame that somehow middle class parents can only be drawn into the state system by providing occult schools with dark and masked belief systems.

  • http://twitter.com/ThetisMercurio Melanie Byng

    No mention of anthroposophy? Why?

    A new article in the TES… ‘Homeopathy? Sorry, we’re just not swallowing it’ – news – TES http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6290223 and the BHA comments further: http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/1115
    There’s no excuse for funding this nonsense, and for failing to be honest with parents at the very beginning about the esoteric religion underpinning every aspect of the Steiner pedagogy.

  • http://twitter.com/ThetisMercurio Melanie Byng

    No mention of anthroposophy? Why?

    A new article in the TES… ‘Homeopathy? Sorry, we’re just not swallowing it’ – news – TES http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6290223 and the BHA comments further: http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/1115
    There’s no excuse for funding this nonsense, and for failing to be honest with parents at the very beginning about the esoteric religion underpinning every aspect of the Steiner pedagogy.

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