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Re: [wc] New York Times front page, October 23, 2011

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  • Roger Rawlings
    Waldorf schools are currently reveling in the favorable (and largely uninformed) press coverage they ve gotten recently, mainly in THE NEW YORK TIMES and on
    Message 1 of 41 , Dec 2, 2011
      Waldorf schools are currently reveling in the favorable (and largely uninformed) press coverage they've gotten recently, mainly in THE NEW YORK TIMES and on NBC NIGHTLY NEWS. In both cases, the schools were held up as lovely outposts of good, old-fashioned, face-to-face learning as opposed to soulless, pressured, rat-race reliance on techno gadgetry.

      Reporters have a hard time covering Waldorf schools, especially when the reporters are working on deadline and have little or no prior knowledge of the subject. Waldorf schools can dazzle, at least initially. They are usually quite attractive, full of lovely art, and staffed by obviously sincere teachers. The students are often relaxed and generally happy (in part because academic pressures are so minimal). There are gardens and crafts rooms and arts studios... The schools appear quite lovely.

      Crucially, reporters rarely come to grips with the doctrines behind the schools. Partially this is because the doctrines are so strange, and partially it is because Waldorf faculties are usually quite good at concealing their beliefs and objectives. Rudolf Steiner coaxed Waldorf teachers to keep mum, and they have usually complied. Thus, for instance, Steiner told teachers at the first Waldorf school, "[D]o not attempt to bring out into the public things that really concern only our school. I have been back only a few hours, and I have heard so much gossip about who got a slap and so forth ... We should be quiet about how we handle things in the school, we should maintain a kind of school confidentiality. We should not speak to people outside the school, except for the parents who come to us with questions, and in that case, only about their children, so that gossip has no opportunity to arise." [1]

      Steiner said that Waldorf teachers should conceal the religious nature of Waldorf schooling, for instance by calling morning prayers "verses." (At most Waldorf schools, teachers and students start each day by reciting prayers, usually prayers written by Steiner himself.) "We also need to speak about a prayer. I ask only one thing of you. You see, in such things everything depends upon the external appearances. Never call a verse a prayer, call it an opening verse before school. Avoid allowing anyone to hear you, as a faculty member, using the word `prayer.'" [2]

      Sometimes Steiner told the teachers to conceal their beliefs even from their students — such as the belief that there is no universal force of gravity. Teach the kids about gravity, he said, but only because we would look bad otherwise. "Over there is a bench and on it is, let us say, a ball ... [T]he ball falls to the ground ... Saying that the ball is subject to the force of gravity is really meaningless ... But we cannot avoid speaking of gravity ... Just imagine if a fifteen-year-old boy knew nothing of gravity; there would be a terrible fuss." [3]

      In other cases, Steiner's guidance to Waldorf teachers was somewhat confusing. For instance, he said that islands and continents float in the sea. He instructed Waldorf teachers not to tell the kids about this, but he also said that the teachers should somehow "achieve" this belief in class. "[I]slands do not sit directly upon a foundation; they swim and are held fast from outside ... Such things are the result of the cosmos, of the stars ... However, we need to avoid such things. We cannot tell them to the students ... we would acquire a terrible name. Nevertheless, that is actually what we should achieve in geography." [4]

      The deepest secrets Steiner told Waldorf teachers to guard are those that involve basic but highly controversial Anthroposophical doctrines, such as the belief that some people are less highly evolved than others. Indeed, Steiner taught, some people are not really human at all but are subhuman. But for heaven's sake, he said, don't let this secret out. "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 ... [W]e do not want to shout that to the world." [5]

      All of this is bizarre, most of it is kept well-hidden, and some of it is hateful. Reporters who write about Waldorf schools really should do enough digging to uncover such secrets. Grasping at least some of the bizarre doctrines of Anthroposophy is essential to a proper evaluation of Waldorf schooling. These doctrines and secrets show how far removed Waldorf thinking is from reality and how secretive Waldorf faculties can be. Failing to uncover such things is a fundamental failure in the practice of good journalism, and it is a grave disservice to parents who may be badly misled by happy-talk superficial press reports. Parents may wind up sending their children to schools that are, in reality, outposts of a weird, occult belief system — a belief system that might horrify the parents if it became known. [6]

      (Anyone interested can find more on these matters at, for instance, http://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/secrets https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/heres-the-answer https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/spiritual-agenda and
      https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/is-it-a-religion? )

      - Roger

      [1] Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 10. It is worth noting that Steiner classed parents as outsiders. He said teachers can tell you about your own child but not much else.
      [2] Ibid., p. 20.
      [3] Rudolf Steiner, PRACTICAL ADVICE TO TEACHERS (Anthroposophical Press, 2000), pp. 116-117.
      [4] FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 607-608.
      [5] Ibid., pp. 649-650.
      [6] As Steiner said, "Anthroposophy will be in the school." [Ibid., p. 495.] The bizarre beliefs of Anthroposophy actually inform and guide everything that happens in Waldorf schools. Here are some descriptions of Waldorf education by Steiner's followers and by Steiner himself. Although the statements vary, they all come down to the same idea: The purpose of Waldorf education is to help students bring to Earth their supernal capacities and bodies, so that they may further their destinies in cooperation with the gods. In other words, the purpose of Waldorf education is to enact Anthroposophical doctrines.

      - "We [Waldorf teachers] want to be aware that physical existence is a continuation of the spiritual, and that what we have to do in education is a continuation of what higher beings [the gods] have done without our assistance. Our form of educating can have the correct attitude only when we are aware that our work with young people is a continuation of what higher beings have done before birth." — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 37.

      - "[Waldorf] education is essentially grounded on the recognition of the child as a spiritual being, with a varying number of incarnations behind him, who is returning at birth into the physical world ... Teachers too will know that it is their task to help the child to make use of his body, to help his soul-spiritual forces to find expression through it, rather than regarding it as their duty to cram him with information...." — Anthroposophist Stewart C. Easton, MAN AND WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989), pp. 388-389.

      - "Waldorf education strives to create a place in which the highest beings [i.e., gods], including the Christ, can find their home...." — Anthroposophist Joan Almon, WHAT IS A WALDORF KINDERGARTEN? (SteinerBooks, 2007), p. 53.

      - "Waldorf education is based upon the recognition that the four bodies of the human being [the physical, etheric, astral, and ego bodies] develop and mature at different times." — Waldorf teacher Roberto Trostli, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING: What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents & Teachers (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 4-5.

      - "[T]he purpose of [Waldorf] education is to help the individual fulfill his karma." — Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 52.

      - "If, therefore, we are asked what the basis of a new method of education should be, our answer is: Anthroposophy must be that basis. But how many people there are, even in our own circles, who try to disclaim Anthroposophy as much as possible, and to propagate an education without letting it be known that Anthroposophy is behind it." — Rudolf Steiner, THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD (SteinerBooks, 1995), p. 4.

      - "This is precisely the task of school. If it is a true school, it should bring to unfoldment in the human being what he has brought with him from spiritual worlds into this physical life on earth." — Rudolf Steiner, KARMIC RELATIONSHIPS , Vol. 1 (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1972), lecture 5, GA 235.
    • alicia h.
      ... I guess AWSNA, other waldorf organizations and schools won’t be spreading this news on facebook and similar places, as they did with the NYT piece (and
      Message 41 of 41 , Feb 4, 2012
        On 23 October 2011 15:14, winters_diana <winters_diana@...> wrote:
        > http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silicon-valley-technology-can-wait.html?hp
        > Let's post comments!!

        I guess AWSNA, other waldorf organizations and schools won’t be
        spreading this news on facebook and similar places, as they did with
        the NYT piece (and many others that followed it)…:

        ‘Technology has grown by leaps and bounds, yet are computers helping
        students progress in their learning? Absolutely, says a 40-year
        retrospective on the impact of technology in classrooms.
        Published in the journal Review of Educational Research, the findings
        gathered by Concordia University researchers suggest that technology
        delivers content and supports student achievement.’

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