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Is anyone here prepared to say that they believe in anthroposophy?

(144 Posts)
Greensleeves Wed 23-Apr-08 13:12:00

There's been so much conjecture about it/testimony from parents etc who had negative experiences of Waldorf education, or who say that they weren't aware of anthroposophy/the esoteric spiritual side of Steiner.

What I haven't seen (apologies if I missed it!) is someone come on and say "yes, I am an anthroposophist, come and ask me questions and I will clarify how it works"

Anyone? I would be really, really, interested.

Greensleeves Wed 23-Apr-08 13:22:50

.

blueshoes Wed 23-Apr-08 13:30:06

Thebee? But he is not a parent.

I don't believe in it. Bump

Jackstini Wed 23-Apr-08 13:31:51

I don't know what it is! blush

Greensleeves Wed 23-Apr-08 13:36:41

it's the 'philosophy' behind Steiner Waldorf education.

we could have a much more interesting and informative debate about it if someone who subscribes to it could come forward and discuss it!

Fennel Wed 23-Apr-08 13:57:05

You will have to go and ask at a Steiner school open day. Or go to their toddler group. (DBIL goes. They make bread. And follow set routines each week and the leader cries if people don't join in enough).

i would join the discussion but am too busy sourcing school run frocks and menu planning wink

Greensleeves Wed 23-Apr-08 16:57:26

I will go to an open day, if you come with me grin

francagoestohollywood Wed 23-Apr-08 17:08:21

Have you got an open day frock?

pania Wed 23-Apr-08 17:22:39

his is OT but what does the "Waldorf" in Waldorf Steiner refer to? Was Waldorf an actual person?

policywonk Wed 23-Apr-08 17:26:18

I ain't even prepared to spell it.

Beetroot Wed 23-Apr-08 17:30:57

isn't Waldorf the name of his first school in Germany?

Fennel Wed 23-Apr-08 17:31:59

I have BEEN to a Steiner open day. I'd go again, it was interesting. They have them at May day. Festival of spring etc. We went through floral arches.

It would be an Open Day Smock, actually. Or Tunic. grin. Not in black.

francagoestohollywood Wed 23-Apr-08 17:42:59

A smock, of course grin.

marmadukescarlet Wed 23-Apr-08 17:46:48

No logos and no bright colours or synthetic fabric - really SIL is a Steiner nursery teacher (and a bit bonkers alternative, before you ask!) and she is only allowed to wear certain things.

mrz Wed 23-Apr-08 18:09:53

pania The first school was set up in the Waldorf Astoria factory in Stuttgart according to google

pania Wed 23-Apr-08 18:34:38

Thanks mrz smile.

northernrefugee39 Thu 24-Apr-08 13:27:03

No anthroposophists then?
Shame.
But , as some of them believe Ahriman, the devil, communicates through the computer, they could have a legitimate excuse for not fessing up here.
I think thebee may have been banned.
he came back with a slightly different name and has gone again.

Yurtgirl Thu 24-Apr-08 15:17:12

Northern - I have been lurking on these threads because I dont want a fellow mn to figure out my identity - again!! (Oh so cloak and dagger ) I do think you and your anti anthro friends have been marvellous in explaining it all to us "lesser mortals"! I had links with steiner stuff for 3 years and didnt know almost any of the info you have posted.

If the bee really has been banned I am surprised that mn hq havent posted to explain all as it were.

northernrefugee39 Thu 24-Apr-08 16:09:30

Hi Yurt, gosh , that sounds mysteriousgrin almost as mysterious as a.a..a.. I just can't seem to get the word out.

We were spiritually in the dark for ages too. Poor us. There were inklings of beginning to direct us to the path at thebeginning.
the only thing I can say yurt, is that unless "they" deem you ready, you're aren't set on the road to spiritual purity. Shucks.

northernrefugee39 Thu 24-Apr-08 17:48:40

Yes, odd Veeerrryy odd, mmnnn now Yurt I'm ssuspicious, strokes chin,[hmn]
perhaps he's investigating some law suits[hmn] he's terribly important don't you know?
or trying to find out where we're posting now[hmn]
What parenting thread we're on[hmn]
that he doesn't know about[hmn]
spreading our tales of truth
all over the net [hmn]
to unsuspecting *initiates8 who could be SAVED by THEBEE to a life of eternal water colour silk, rounded edges and GNOMES

northernrefugee39 Thu 24-Apr-08 17:49:38

Not one of my hmms came out! SOB

northernrefugee39 Thu 24-Apr-08 18:53:32

Barking, watch that hair near the candle won't you?

Is bf a breast feeding thread? I'm sure thebee would fit in there!grin

barking Thu 24-Apr-08 19:17:24

Hi Northern smile the little dusty gnomes will protect me!
Yes bf is breastfeeding. This guy was being really pedantic and quoted back - it rang a few bells...

northernrefugee39 Thu 24-Apr-08 19:35:49

Yes, silly of me!
Yurt thinks if he's gone mn tower would have said something.
On ANOTHER thread about steiner, trying to make a Steiner section so they can hide it, someone asked to get rid of him for being scary.

barking Thu 24-Apr-08 19:37:54

trying to make a Steiner section so they can hide it
No ho capito?

barking Fri 25-Apr-08 14:19:00

Oh Thanks AMumInScotland smile I get confused - hence my name!
Well, I've officially become my mother and written to the Daily Mail on the back of the smoking story shock I thought they may be interested in investigating further so I've directed them onto mumsnet.

Raconteur Sat 26-Apr-08 14:30:21

It's been a while since I looked at this discussion thread. I'm not an anthroposophist - or an anything-ist - but I've read a lot of Steiner's work and work as a teacher in a Steiner school, and if you folks don't jump down my neck (if your bark is worse than your bite, barking!), I'm happy to answer any questions.

A little background might help you get to know me: I grew up in a conventionally religious family but turned atheist at around age 12. In my early twenties I connected strongly with the Quakers and also became very interested in alternative spiritualities. At a time when my interest in education as a career direction was reviving, a friend invited me to visit a Steiner school where she worked. I was struck by the beauty of the classrooms, the peaceful flow of the day and the joy of the children. I worked there part-time for a year, then full-time the next year. I was convinced enough to do a year of teacher training (at Emerson College in Sussex).

I see tons of problems and challenges for the schools, including inadequate mentoring for new teachers, inadequate funding, too little awareness of other approaches to education in most training courses and schools (the Plymouth University Steiner training course is an exception here). I also despair over some of Steiner's racial and ethnic comments, but like most people I know don't consider these remotely representative of his thought, even less representative of his work, and least of all representative of how Steiner education has manifested for the last 90 years.

An anecdote: My Steiner school is located in a racially and ethnically diverse region. At one point, we only had one person of African origin in the secondary school (it's a bit better now). This student lived in a district populated nearly exclusively by blacks. When he graduated, he said about his experience as the only black in a class of 26: "I have 25 good white friends here. I also have many black friends from back home. My black friends go to racially far more mixed schools. But there, the blacks sit together as a group, the whites sit separately, other ethnic groups sit off on their own. My friends have had a more isolating experience at a racially diverse school than I have here. And I have never experienced any prejudice from anyone at this school."

We who work in the schools know better than anyone else that there's a lot to do to improve Steiner schools. Anthroposophy generally has also gotten into a bit of a rut some ways, though it may be heaving itself out; there are a lot of new and freer people getting involved in positive ways (check out Triodos Bank, for example).

Well, hope I haven't put your backs up, but I'm happy to answer questions. Please keep it civil.

Janni Sat 26-Apr-08 16:06:44

When you accept a job as a teacher in a Steiner School, are you asked about your views on anthroposophy?

Is there a hierarchy among the teachers with those who believe most strongly in anthroposophy slightly looking down on those who are less convinced by it?

northernrefugee39 Sat 26-Apr-08 18:25:56

Hi raconteur, thanks for coming in on this discussion, it's the first "teacher2 who's been brave enough to show! THANKS[smile}

I come also from a long line of an established Quaker family too as it happens, which made me all the more horrified at the lack of humanity I experienced at Steiner, i.e individual kindness, lack of compassion,cruelty in some cases, lack of humility, the teacher as having a "sacred" task, not allowed to be questioned, the whole movenment is more important etc was my impression.

My feeling about the race thing is that although the final quest of the "Universal Human" is mankind's ultimate spritual goal, the evolutionary process that Steiner lays out , is to jettison the "lesser" races on the ladder upwards; in fact this is the only way in his book.
Spiritual "progress" is only possible if you "progress" into a white skin.

This is seen again and again in his writing, ethnic divergence is marked within a spritual hierarcgy.
A small aryan advanced group rises spiritually through reincarnation, while the mass of the "lower" races decline.

It is possible to incarnate in a different skin colour, and therefore rise higher, the skin being a mantle for the incarnating soul.

Since reincarnation is the central tenet of anthroposophy, the race belief cannot be set aside, and certainly m modern anthroposophists should address it, and denounce these theories, rather than try to argue around them.

Hope this makes sense, i've written a bit fast as kids need feeding!

northernrefugee39 Sat 26-Apr-08 19:06:04

One question which I'd love to ask, (and actually was answered for me on Times thread, but since always denied, is , are teachers advised, encouraged, not to talk to parents about anthroposophy,but to concentrate on the arty creative stuff?
A teacher who trained at Emerson, and another , said this was what happened, but all other steiner people laugh and vehemently deny this.
What happened in your training when it came to "explaining" the reincarnation, soul, spirituality part to parents?

Are you compelled or "invited" to the weekly anthroposphical study groups?

How much is your own path to spiritual developpment emphasised within the training?

PeteK Sat 26-Apr-08 19:34:20

Thank you Raconteur for joining in. I loved your anecdote about the black child in the Waldorf school. I could see that happening among the kids.

My concerns are mostly about disclosure. I have heard many claims from Waldorf teachers that they (going against the stream perhaps) disclose what parents need to know about Waldorf. Further investigation, however, often makes it clear that what Waldorf teachers believe parents "need" to know and what parents believe they need to know are often at odds. Currently, if one looks at Waldorf school websites, Anthroposophy is often either missing or relegated to a link or two (even AWSNA's website is conspicuously quiet about it). My first question to you is - Do you feel prospective parents should do their own research about Waldorf, or do you feel it is the Waldorf school's responsibility to disclose in DETAIL the spiritual underpinnings of Waldorf that might cause parents concern?

On a lighter note - are you familiar with the Waldorf activity called "Greek games" or "Olympics" - typically conducted around the 5th grade?

Thanks again for participating. Pete

Raconteur Sun 27-Apr-08 05:56:23

Well, I'm a little overwhelmed. There certainly are plenty of questions. I suppose I'll just answer them more or less in order. First of all, I'll say that all these questions are very sensible ones, and all are ones that teachers should be ready and able to discuss with parents (and with each other!!)

First of all, Steiner education, like all education, has a creative aspect and an applied aspect. As a teacher, in planning my lesson I can try to find a unique way of bringing a subject for the particular group I'm about to teach. Or I can look up the curriculum plan for the day and use this. If the latter happened regularly it would be a "Steiner method" school; they would use the nice beeswax crayons and teach acoustics in sixth grade, as the method says to do, but there wouldn't be any real creative work going on (in an extreme situation). Most Steiner schools want to have people working from the source, that is, the source of Steiner education. To do that, in my experience, you have to have some deep connection to a spirituality compatible with anthroposophy. So part of the employment process is to check on this; they either ask about the applicant's spiritual path generally or about her/his connection to anthroposophy specifically. I think it's an acceptable question (i.e. sufficiently work related) as long as schools are open to a range of answers. One of our school's best and most long-standing teachers has no connection to anthroposophy, though she respects it; she is simply a very deep human being with a wonderful sense for how to enable children to learn. She is deeply respected at the school by everyone.

Hierarchies...At some schools there might well be a group who thinks they are better because of their anthroposophical background; I have never experienced this personally, however. The practical demands of teaching are pretty clear, and trump anything else - if you are competent and stable you get a lot of respect. A teacher at the Steiner school I worked at before my current school mocked all the Steiner-trained teachers (she had attended a normal teacher training); she thought they had weak practical skills. So there was a potential for a kind of reverse hierarchy there.

I'm sorry to hear that northernrefugee experienced a lack of compassion and humility, or even cruelty; this is intolerable in any school - in any social setting. Honestly: Steiner schools are not utopias. They have all the problems of any other school. There are insecure and intolerant people everywhere, and having an ideology to fall back on can intensify this. I do think that practicing any spiritual path helps many people overcome such tendencies - but it may intensify them in a few people, too. What can I say? I apologize for my colleagues if they've caused you distress. We've had a lot of intense work on social health at our school these last years, and it has helped our awareness of how to address issues such as bullying. This is another place where Steiner schools need to keep open to learning from what the society around is doing!

Any racial theory - by anyone - that claims that certain races are inferior or superior offends me deeply. Most anthroposophists, though, have only run into Steiner's statements about needing to overcome all prejudice (gender, race, etc.) and the need for all peoples to work together - that all together are important for the whole of humanity, each having special gifts to bring. You have to realize that this is what you find in his most well-known writings; the weird comments (of which there are, alas, plenty) are mostly in works that your average teacher, or even dedicated anthroposophist, either has never read or maybe has read once many years ago. So people are partly just not aware of these, and partly a little in denial; if someone brings this up, the first reaction is going to be - "there's no way Steiner said something like that" - because it seems so opposed to Steiner's thinking, or at least to most people's ideas about this. The second reaction, once the person is convinced that he really did, is that it is irrelevant; "just ignore this, it has nothing to do with anthroposophy". On one level, this is kind of a good answer - it means that anthroposophists believe that racial prejudice really does have nothing to do with anthroposophy, and since the latter is formed by real people in the world today, it is a self-fulfilling expectation. On another level, it totally ignores the fact that Steiner was able to make such comments.

My personal take? For Germany at that era, he exhibited a fairly typical mix of idealism and racial stereotyping. I take the latter as something we all want to put behind us as fast as possible and check out the more worthwhile sides. Remember, though, I get to cherry-pick, as I'm not an anything-ist!

The question of how to address parents about the nature of Steiner education and anthroposophy is really good. We all find parent education a real challenge. It's perfectly possible to bore a group or individual totally, or convince them that you are unhealthily single-minded, by going on and on about anthroposophical ideas when they just want to hear about the education itself. On the other hand, it's perfectly possible for a parent to feel that s/he was not adequately informed. Most people I've talked to about this have had more direct experiences with the former situation; many parents simply have a limited interest in hearing about spirituality, reincarnation, Lucifer and Ahriman (anthropomorphized yin and yang principles, more or less), or whatever.

In our training we were advised to be sensitive to what parents actually want to know. It's my impression that now many or most schools are increasingly careful to ensure that parents understand that there is a spiritual background to the education; our school is extremely public about this. And I agree that this sort of "disclosure" is important; people should understand what they are getting into.

If the question about being compelled or invited to study groups applied to the trainings, I suppose that there's little choice there (study of books by Steiner are frequently part of the course). In schools, however, there are no compulsory anthroposophical study groups, at least that I've ever heard of (and it seems a pretty unlikely idea). But in faculty meetings teachers might well study a book by Steiner on education. Does this count? The intention is to explore pedagogical questions.

Personally, I found that my Steiner teacher training deeply respected my and others' own spiritual paths; teachers and students showed genuine interest in my Quaker experiences, for example.

I'm running out of steam fast, friends. Olympic games? Yes, our school takes part in these; the children of various schools join together in mixed teams to "compete".

Sorry for the length of this missive...you asked so many questions!!!

Best wishes!

northernrefugee39 Sun 27-Apr-08 10:33:35

Raconteur, thankyou so much for answering with honesty and as much clarity as you can.It's really appreciated, and I have to say, a first!smile

And thanks for your sympathy about the times my kids and others had at the Steiner school.

I feel the race issue is more central to Steiner's tenet than probably many "on the path" realise. Studying his work on evolution, the path of human kind, reincarnating through higher and higher planes, the thread running through this theory, is that while anyone can incarnate as any race, the goal of the "Universal Human", where race and ethnicity are obsolete, is to jettison the "backward", "evil" races, and for souls capable of moving higher, spiritual progress is associated with whiteness. As reincarnation is the central belief in anthroposophy, I see no way that the race theoris can be ignored.
But of course, most people involved in steiner aren't "racist", that would be naive. The strand of thought, and subtle ways it is in the curriculum, ( my daughter's books had stuff about skin colour the colour of mud, maths being taught with a story abot a goblin with piles of money he leant called Goldfinger or something, stories of ugly black elves who everyone hated and golden haired princesses, it was all there, a year or two ago)

If the Steiner curriculum wasn't adhered to, I suppose the "Steiner" would be obsolete. If the school belongs to the Steiner School's fellowship, they are more "Steiner" rooted I would imagine, and not autonomous atall.

One phrase absolutely makes me wince, and sums up quite a lot, although I'm sure you didn't mean it in any condescending way:

"We all find parent education a real challenge."

I actually believe I am well educated!(In terms of years spent at educational institutions, as a lecturer myself at various times, more educated than many of those teaching my kids)

I'm sure you meant, telling parents the nuances of anthroposophy, the "difficult" areas.

But the phrase "educating parents" does grate somewhat. We sent our kids to be "educated" not us.
That phrase sums up the feeling that the teacher has the "knowledge", is more important than the parent, the child has ben drawn karmically to the teacher, who has a sacred task etc etc. It really sticks in my gullet, and is the opposite of "humility" in my book.

More to the point, would be "telling" the parents about anthroposophy at the onset. Even mentioning the word would be a start- the school ours were at didn't mention it, in promotional ,aterial or spoken. they didn't mention reincarnation, karma, spirit worlds, clairvoyance, souls, occult science either.
Sorry Raconteur, this isn't aimed personally at you , you understand! It's something the organistation has to deal with, otherwise, they find atheist parents, who were sold a holistic, creative education, very angry at being lied to.
I would question whether schools are now being upfront, as you say. You only have to read experiences here to see that isn't so.

The studying a book by Steiner to "explore pedagogical questions" is interesting, because the only pedagogy explored is one man's. Most people's think of pedagogy as ideas of education and instruction generally, not based on the hudred year old clairvoyant visions of their guru.

Would you say the personal spiritual path of the teacher holds as much importance as the teaching of the children? This was the impresion I got quite often.

I hope I haven't come accross as too feisty, as I'm prone to do, it isn't meant!

Thankyou for replyingsmile

Janni Sun 27-Apr-08 12:04:51

Yes, thank you raconteur.

I would like to add that teachers should not shield parents from the underlying philosophy or wait until they're ready to hear it. When you become a Steiner parent you put yourself outside the mainstream, you make a commitment which has a huge impact on your life and it's very unfair of a school to allow parents to do that on the basis of a very limited understanding.

Having said that, sites such as this have opened up the subject in a way which was quite unavailable to me and others when our children started at Steiner. I tried asking other parents at the school, but because they were 'in' they said it was all good.

It can only be in the schools' interest to be very open and upfront with parents because then you will get children from families who actively support your philosophy rather than trying to live a fragmented life and not fitting in anywhere.

DianaW Sun 27-Apr-08 15:27:39

I want to say thanks to Raconteur also for the genuine attempt at openness and dialogue - it definitely is very much appreciated!

I have a couple of questions that I will try to formulate succinctly recognizing that she will clearly be overwhelmed by volleys of questions . . .

First though just wanted to say a couple of things:

1) I never did teacher training, but worked as an aide in three different Waldorf kindergartens. We (I and the other aides) were told very explicitly not to discuss anthroposophy with parents; it "puts people off." If parents had questions about Steiner or anthroposophy we were to refer them to senior faculty (who were, of course, Steiner trained).

2) The whole notion of treading very gently with parents as regards Steiner is deeply, deeply offensive and wrong. Of course some parents don't want to know. Those are the ones who most need to know. It is reprehensible - ethically wrong - for the faculty to say to themselves, "Well, they don't want to know." It is self-serving. The point is to keep the children in the school by keeping the parents uninformed = comfortable with things they don't understand. IT IS WRONG. Those are the parents who, if they heard the details and were unhappy, SHOULD take their children out of the school. The underlying notion is at all costs keep the children in the school. The belief, of course, is noble and well intentioned - that Steiner education adn anthroposophy are so wonderful and ideal for everyone.

The problem is that not everyone who encounters anthroposophy and comes to really understand much about it in depth agrees that it is wonderful. Parents MUST have the details. Those who then withdraw, should withdraw - THAT is the correct outcome, not keeping their children in the system based on the parents' ignorance.

Sorry if this offends some parents as well - the whole vast contingent of "Well it works for my child at the moment so I don't want to hear about Ahriman or reincarnation" etc.

DianaW Sun 27-Apr-08 15:28:03

Well, I was trying not to write too much and didn't succeed I'll pipe down for awhile.

barking Sun 27-Apr-08 15:44:21

Hi Raconteur - you posted the following on the 4 march on the other steiner thread:
I looked to see if there is really any objective information about this stuff...there is actually a whole DFES study of Steiner education, 208 pages of it! http://www.dfes.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/RR645.pdf

It's actually quite positive, and there's a really interesting comparison with state schools (pros and cons).

This BBC news article seems interesting, too: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/4633601.stm

Or, for those of us who prefer the Independent!
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/the-big-question-who-was-rudolf-steiner -and-what-were-his-revolutionary-teaching-ideas-433407.html

It seems like a really good idea to go to news reports, studies and that sort of thing."

I've noticed that TheBee/Eva52 has posted identical links in another thread.

northernrefugee39 Sun 27-Apr-08 16:26:23

Diana, thanks for that post, it echoes precisely how I feel about it.smile

Barking, the Woods report which Raconteur and later thebee refer to, is very biased towards "spirituality" and I would say biased full stop.

The press seem to be as hoodwinked as the parents.
I get the feeling that the Steiner/anthro machine works very carefully to make sure only positive images are portrayed.

Janni Sun 27-Apr-08 16:33:21

very well said, Diana

Raconteur Sun 27-Apr-08 16:39:11

Well, this is a little tragi-comical. Part of the above consists of calls for Steiner teachers to bring more information to parents and another part is criticizing having parent education programs. Maybe its just the wording, but teachers usually consider bringing information to be one aspect of education. So how do we bring them up to date about the education and the spiritual philosophy out of which it arose without educating them?

Of course, teachers should avoid patronizing parents. But one of the most positive aspects of a good Steiner school is that it becomes a learning community where everyone is educating everyone else. Perhaps that's the gold standard; if a teacher thinks s/he can educate parents but they have nothing to teach her/him, it's really unhealthy. To be honest, I'm not sure this aspect of a learning community has permeated Steiner education sufficiently, which might explain feelings that there is a condescending approach sometimes. On the other hand, state education is usually so far from a learning community as possible, though I know some great exceptions to this (hear, hear!).

So, yes, non-patronizing information/education is important. Thanks for the links to the articles, barking. It helps so much (me, too!) to see these kinds of things. Here's another, from an American journalist: http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/99sep/9909waldorf.htm

I might not get to questions quite as quickly the next few days...my son's birthday is coming up!

northernrefugee39 Sun 27-Apr-08 16:50:50

I think one thing which could clear things up considerably Raconteur would be if anthroposophy was mentioned, explained and put in the promotional material.
It could be brought into the initial interview, particularly if asked about,rather than skimmed over, or deflected
When asked, teachers could actually answer quesstions straight, rather than "Steiner is difficult"

I would say that the phrase "educating the parents" holds a very different meaning to "informing", wouldn't you?

barking Sun 27-Apr-08 16:52:23

Thats ok Raconteur smile
I've noticed you've only posted on the two steiner threads.
How did you stumble into mumsnet?

northernrefugee39 Sun 27-Apr-08 16:52:26

" So how do we bring them up to date about the education and the spiritual philosophy out of which it arose without educating them?"

Umm, semantics here. You tell them the truth?

northernrefugee39 Sun 27-Apr-08 16:57:56

Raconteur, the article you posted, that doesn't mention anthroposophy either does it?
Or reincarnation, spirit worlds, temperaments or any of the other stuff?

PeteK Sun 27-Apr-08 16:59:18

"Any racial theory - by anyone - that claims that certain races are inferior or superior offends me deeply. Most anthroposophists, though, have only run into Steiner's statements about needing to overcome all prejudice (gender, race, etc.) and the need for all peoples to work together - that all together are important for the whole of humanity, each having special gifts to bring. You have to realize that this is what you find in his most well-known writings; the weird comments (of which there are, alas, plenty) are mostly in works that your average teacher, or even dedicated anthroposophist, either has never read or maybe has read once many years ago."

This is an interesting point that, I suppose, could be made if the internet didn't exist. Certainly, ANY Steiner discussion list will have some discussion on the topic of Steiner's views on racism. But, I'd like to give you the benefit of the doubt here. Just as an exercise, would you mind posting a list of the materials you were required to read during teacher training? I'm sure it would be helpful to us here to see exactly WHAT teachers are required to read during teacher training.

"Olympic games? Yes, our school takes part in these; the children of various schools join together in mixed teams to "compete". "

Thank you Raconteur. We just had the Olympic games (Pentathlon) here and I want to discuss these games in some detail on the Steiner thread as I believe they set the stage for acceptance of Steiner's racist thinking in Waldorf students. I hope you will find time to monitor that discussion as well.

"The press seem to be as hoodwinked as the parents.
I get the feeling that the Steiner/anthro machine works very carefully to make sure only positive images are portrayed."

Yes, even as a parent, I was hoodwinked for years (as were many of us). Putting on a dog-and-pony show for an article would be no problem for Waldorf... it's part of their PR routine. They would show reporters exactly what they show parents. That's why when we get the occasional gushing report about Waldorf, those of us who have experienced the facade know exactly where that is coming from.

DianaW Sun 27-Apr-08 17:00:14

I believe Northern is reacting to exactly what you put your finger on, Raconteur - parents DO want and need information, but it must not be offered patronizingly - THAT is perhaps the real source of the impression that "some parents don't want to know." There is a huge difference between giving parents the facts and perspective on teh overall picture that they need, which is really quite cut and dried - anthroposophy is the driving force at the school - that's practically all that need be said! - versus paternalistically "educating" parents, which takes the form of such things as I'm sure you're familiar with - teachers scolding parents about "warmth" and crap like that, giving stupid useless advice like "light candles at bedtime" for serious problems - this is why parents turn away and act like they "dont want to know."

The other big issue is the timing. Facts about anthroposophy need to be offered before the family enrolls. This is a huge difference from having little seminars on watercolor painting on Tuesday nights through the school year or something, which is often what passes for "parent education."

northernrefugee39 Sun 27-Apr-08 17:01:56

Pete, The Olympics.. I want to hear more, how is it the foundation stone of his racist beliefs?

PeteK Sun 27-Apr-08 17:03:39

"Well, this is a little tragi-comical. Part of the above consists of calls for Steiner teachers to bring more information to parents and another part is criticizing having parent education programs. Maybe its just the wording, but teachers usually consider bringing information to be one aspect of education. So how do we bring them up to date about the education and the spiritual philosophy out of which it arose without educating them?"

Ranconteur, I tried to bold the word prospective in my post but I see you may have missed it. Prospective parents need to be informed. After parents have shelled our their tuition is not the time to let them in on the secret. How are prospective parents going to get the "education" about Waldorf schools if the schools aren't up-front INITIALLY.

Janni Sun 27-Apr-08 17:05:49

Yes, before the family enrols. Removing a child from any school is A BIG DEAL and it would save a lot of heartache if parents knew what they were getting into BEFORE they signed on the dotted line.

northernrefugee39 Sun 27-Apr-08 17:11:45

When the family asks pertinant qestions for instance....
And they are given a litle secret,we know best, don't worry litle smile...
When they are told "Oh, well.. we only take what we want from Steiner!" Silly parent!

northernrefugee39 Sun 27-Apr-08 17:12:21

Sorry about my typing....blush

DianaW Sun 27-Apr-08 17:12:22

Northern -

"I would say that the phrase "educating the parents" holds a very different meaning to "informing", wouldn't you? "

That is the heart of it. "Educating" actually implies the parents are ignorant, need to be taken in hand, given spiritual truths, turn to wise teachers for guidance in how to live their family life. This is offensive. Most incoming families have their own spiritual beliefs and are understandably put off if they perceive some teacher at the school wants to "educate" them about anthroposophy. To put it bluntly, F* off educating me about anthroposophy, I am here to get an education for my son, not for myself, I am a grown-up and am already educated thanks anyway.

"Informing" means treating adults as adults, offering information and facts that a responsible parent needs before making a school decision. This means explaining the philosophy and orientation of the school. It is a religious school, the curriculum and teacher training are based on anthroposophy, the culture of the school is anthroposophical. Anthroposophy is an occultist sect that was originally an offshoot of theosophy, founded by Rudolf Steiner in the early part of the 20th century and with similarities to Blavatsky and other turn-of-century spiritualists. Its central teachings include karma and reincarnation and a detailed and specific cosmology (see XXX for more details - list a couple of key titles such as "How to Know Higher Worlds" or refer to the online Steiner archive).

That's what we mean by informing the parents Raconteur. Frankly it ain't rocket science.

northernrefugee39 Sun 27-Apr-08 17:14:07

Diana smile precisely.
I was...trying to be .... polite... and well do steiner teachers hear mere mortals not on the path?

DianaW Sun 27-Apr-08 17:14:10

"the need for all peoples to work together - that all together are important for the whole of humanity, each having special gifts to bring."

Sorry Raconteur that is racist. Different races don't have "special gifts." People are just people.

northernrefugee39 Sun 27-Apr-08 17:34:30

OOOhhh Diana, I don't think Raconteur meant it.

But... you are right.

Soft racism.
Paternalistic racism.

DianaW Sun 27-Apr-08 17:36:22

Here's a few specific questions Raconteur which I hope you will find time to answer. I very much appreciate your participation here.

"First of all, Steiner education, like all education, has a creative aspect and an applied aspect. As a teacher, in planning my lesson I can try to find a unique way of bringing a subject for the particular group I'm about to teach. Or I can look up the curriculum plan for the day and use this. If the latter happened regularly it would be a "Steiner method" school; they would use the nice beeswax crayons and teach acoustics in sixth grade, as the method says to do, but there wouldn't be any real creative work going on (in an extreme situation). Most Steiner schools want to have people working from the source, that is, the source of Steiner education."

You seem to be saying it would be more creative if the teacher is working directly from Steiner. My experience is just the opposite - those teachers who take lessons practically verbatim from Steiner were acting like robots.

I'm just curious if I misunderstood your meaning.

"One of our school's best and most long-standing teachers has no connection to anthroposophy, though she respects it; she is simply a very deep human being with a wonderful sense for how to enable children to learn. She is deeply respected at the school by everyone."

Is this teacher on the College of Teachers?

That reads a bit like even though she is not an anthroposophist, she is a "very deep human being." I find that a little icky. Perhaps that is not what you meant.

"Hierarchies...At some schools there might well be a group who thinks they are better because of their anthroposophical background; I have never experienced this personally, however."

Is there a College of Teachers at your school? Who is on it? How many anthroposophists and how many non-anthroposophists? To get at the heart of this, we might have to define "anthroposophist," so perhaps this is not as simple as it first appeared. So we could just start, if you are willing, with the simple question of is there a College of Teachers? Are there written criteria anywhere in the school's policies, and/or in the parent handbook, if there is one, that explain how a teacher becomes eligible for the College of Teachers? Who decides? For instance, is a certain number of years teaching a criterion?

"The practical demands of teaching are pretty clear, and trump anything else - if you are competent and stable you get a lot of respect. A teacher at the Steiner school I worked at before my current school mocked all the Steiner-trained teachers (she had attended a normal teacher training); she thought they had weak practical skills. So there was a potential for a kind of reverse hierarchy there."

Was there a College of Teachers at that school? (Same questions as above.)

"There are insecure and intolerant people everywhere, and having an ideology to fall back on can intensify this. I do think that practicing any spiritual path helps many people overcome such tendencies -"

Why do you think this? My experience would suggest the opposite.

"My personal take? For Germany at that era, he exhibited a fairly typical mix of idealism and racial stereotyping."

Maybe so. But wasn't he supposed to be a great spiritual leader? A "source" in a grand sense for daily inspiration, and teachers should be working from this "source"? How is that reconciled with "typical for his time"? You've told us you think it's appropriate that when this school hires teachers, they check to be sure they are either adherents to Steiner or to some similar, compatible philosophy. You've suggested these people are the better teachers. I'm trying to reconcile that lofty notion of Steiner with the rationalizations of his racism, "just an ordinary guy" kind of stuff.

"The question of how to address parents about the nature of Steiner education and anthroposophy is really good. We all find parent education a real challenge."

Parent education isn't a real challenge. You give people the facts. Some people won't like the facts.

"It's perfectly possible to bore a group or individual totally, or convince them that you are unhealthily single-minded, by going on and on about anthroposophical ideas when they just want to hear about the education itself. On the other hand, it's perfectly possible for a parent to feel that s/he was not adequately informed. Most people I've talked to about this have had more direct experiences with the former situation; many parents simply have a limited interest in hearing about spirituality, reincarnation, Lucifer and Ahriman (anthropomorphized yin and yang principles, more or less), or whatever."

That's right, 'cus it's such ridiculous twaddle for the most part. What parents need to know is that you spent 2 years studying this material in teacher training. THAT'S the facts we are referring to here, we aren't most of us hoping our child's school will offer seminars on reincarnation, no.

"If the question about being compelled or invited to study groups applied to the trainings, I suppose that there's little choice there (study of books by Steiner are frequently part of the course)."

I agree with Pete who wrote that most helpful here would be an actual list of the titles you studied. That is the sort of information parents need and can decide for themselves what is relevant without your having to be "sensitive."

"In schools, however, there are no compulsory anthroposophical study groups, at least that I've ever heard of (and it seems a pretty unlikely idea). But in faculty meetings teachers might well study a book by Steiner on education."

Could you please tell us, not whether teachers "might well" study a Steiner book on education but whether in fact at your school you DO study Steiner books?

Is Steiner study a regular feature at faculty meetings and/or do the teachers meet separately on a certain schedule, or even informally on occasion, to study these books?

Thanks very much, Raconteur.

DianaW Sun 27-Apr-08 17:37:58

"When the family asks pertinant qestions for instance....
And they are given a litle secret,we know best, don't worry litle smile..."

Yes, that is often what passes for "parent education." Say a little blessing dear. Dress the child in wool, all will be well. These parents, it is such a challenge "educating" them! hmm

DianaW Sun 27-Apr-08 17:40:34

Yes, sorry, Raconteur, I didn't think you meant it that way either. I think you were citing the usual "party line" on Steiner's racism - Steiner didn't mean to disparage anyone, or any particular race. He had a theory that each race had "special gifts." The theory itself is racist. I realize that you have not said whether you subscribe to it, Raconteur, and it sounds as if you don't.

PeteK Sun 27-Apr-08 18:21:39

"Pete, The Olympics.. I want to hear more, how is it the foundation stone of his racist beliefs?"

I have posted this here:
www.mumsnet.com/Talk/43/508456?ts=1209316200065&msgid=10584444

ShirleyGhostman Sun 27-Apr-08 21:46:12

OK - Looking at the UK school curricum -studying English Literature -

My question to all of you would be:

Would you allow your children to read or act in William Shakespeares "The Merchant of Venice"? And if you are happy with this why?

ShirleyGhostman Sun 27-Apr-08 21:47:19

sorry missplet Curriculum

ShirleyGhostman Sun 27-Apr-08 21:49:57

Gosh the beer is strong tonight!

Misspelt

harpsichordcarrier Sun 27-Apr-08 21:51:48

hmm
yes, and I am happy to teach it because it is taught in historical context
i.e. the inherent anti-semitism is explained.
is that the answer you are looking for?

Quattrocento Sun 27-Apr-08 21:55:49

"Would you allow your children to read or act in William Shakespeares "The Merchant of Venice"? And if you are happy with this why?"

FFS - it's shakespeare innit - good grief whatever next

DianaW Sun 27-Apr-08 22:02:19

What?
Could you put this question in context maybe? I don't know what you're talking about.
Was it a question about the antisemitism as harpsichord took it?

ShirleyGhostman Sun 27-Apr-08 22:09:40

Simple question - Are you happy to allow your children to read or act in Shakespeares "The Merchant of Venice" - and if so Why? Just interested to know thats all!

Quattrocento Sun 27-Apr-08 22:11:30

It's not a simple question - the mere fact of asking it is very loaded - are you suggesting sanitising Shakespeare? It's been done before of course, but only the rude bits were taken out then ...

barking Sun 27-Apr-08 22:13:38

DianaW - they are taking the mick.
Everyone wants to get on the steiner threads, apparently they are causing a bit of a buzz in mn circles. Have a look in the 'search for messages' over the last couple of months, keep it to all topics and you will see the interest these threads have generated wink
Barking x

PeteK Sun 27-Apr-08 23:33:31

"Are you happy to allow your children to read or act in Shakespeares "The Merchant of Venice" - and if so Why? Just interested to know thats all!"

Do you think The Merchant of Venice is appropriate for children? hmm Other better choices of Shakespeare's plays have content that's appropriate for children. Why would one want to use this particularly problematic play for children? Just curious... are you a Waldorf teacher?

PeteK Sun 27-Apr-08 23:36:50

"Just curious... are you a Waldorf teacher?"

I asked this because I have direct experience with one particular Waldorf teacher who had no problem with reading stories of rape, incest and mutilation of male genitals to 10-year-olds... even after parents complained.

DianaW Sun 27-Apr-08 23:48:34

It's not a simple question at all. It sounds like the debates in the US about Huckleberry Finn. An answer to "Would you want your child to read it?" is not simple by itself. Or, let's say, I could say of course yes, but that wouldn't be all the relevant information you'd need. Whether I was happy with HOW it was taught would depend on a lot of things, namely what sorts of discussions about what issues the teacher encouraged (or discouraged as the case might be).

My answer to most such questions is that I am almost always happy to let my child read whatever he wants. I seriously doubt that is what you're trying to get at, however.

ShirleyGhostman Mon 28-Apr-08 00:23:32

^Do you think The Merchant of Venice is appropriate for children? Other better choices of Shakespeare's plays have content that's appropriate for children. Why would one want to use this particularly problematic play for children? Just curious... are you a Waldorf teacher?^

Heres a link for you;

www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/jewish-pupils-boycott-exam-in-shylock-protest-79 0021.html

How does one explain your above answer to children who are Jewish and 'have' to study Shakespheare in a state, public or even a Steiner school.

And to answer your question, no I am not a Steiner teacher.

ShirleyGhostman Mon 28-Apr-08 00:25:36

Please note in the link that I have provided:

*Shakespeare is the only writer to be a compulsory part of the English secondary school curriculum.*

PeteK Mon 28-Apr-08 01:21:24

"How does one explain your above answer to children who are Jewish and 'have' to study Shakespheare in a state, public or even a Steiner school."

Are you suggesting Shakespeare was anti-Semitic? Are all his plays anti-Semitic? If Shakespeare was anti-Semitic then I would take offense to the play. Shakespeare (whoever that is) was exploiting a popular stereotype at the time. Steiner had a well-established 20-year history of anti-Semitism. I don't see the comparison.

And I hate to tell you this - but Rosencrantz and Guildenstern may have been gay... hmm

PeteK Mon 28-Apr-08 02:22:51

Raconteur,

The development of racist thinking in Waldorf through the Olympic games is explored here. I would love to read your comments on this. Thanks!

PeteK Mon 28-Apr-08 02:25:23

Um... it's on page 29.

AMumInScotland Mon 28-Apr-08 08:57:10

I think there is an important difference between children being required to read Shakespeare (some of whose plays contained views we now consider racist) as one part of the curriculum, and an entire education system based on the beliefs of a person who had views we now consider racist.

If the whole of the state school curriculum was based on the views expressed by Shakespeare then I would have a problem with it. Depending on how the issues raised by "The Merchant of Venice" were handled in the school, I might well have a problem about that too.

However, in answer to your question, no I would not have a problem with my son reading or acting in "The Merchant of Venice", as I believe I have brought him up to recognise that such views exist in the world, and that he is mature enough not to simply "absorb" such views without thought. There is also an issue of age here - at 14 he is able to separate his own views from those he is exposed to, whereas a 5 year old being shown those views in a context which normalises them does not have the maturity to make this distinction.

(It's actually irrelevant - he's doing Hamlet.)

Quattrocento Mon 28-Apr-08 09:59:41

This is complete piffle. To compare "enforced" teaching of Shakespeare to Steiner? What utter nonsense.

Janni Mon 28-Apr-08 10:04:13

Pete - a male teacher at my children's school (who thankfully did not last long there), was interviewing a 10 year old and asked him to read a story containing an account of a snake entering a woman's vagina. The other teachers confronted him about it after the family complained, but it does make you wonder hmm

northernrefugee39 Mon 28-Apr-08 11:42:42

ShirelyGhostman
There are so many Shakespeare plays to choose from, I would be happier if they didn't actually do the Merchant of Venice. I remember feeling uncomfortable as a child years ago, (in a quite Jewish school) when Shylock's speech was disected.
But I see what you're getting at.
And of course, there is much literature, not just Shakespeare, which is dodgy.

The thing about Steiner schools and race is
1) They hide and deceive parents about their entire belief system( anthroposophy)
2) Anthroposophy's central tenet is reincarnation, and man's spiritual journey to higher incarnated planes
3)The spiritual journey involves the jettisoning of "lower" races, in order for the "higher" races to progress spiritually
4)The fact that there are "primitive" races still around at the same time as "perfect" races, is a mistake, brought about by interference from Lucifer and Ahriman. The "primitive" races should have died out.

These are the central beliefs of anthroposophy, which is the root of steiner education.

northernrefugee39 Mon 28-Apr-08 11:44:51

Janni- That's incredible!shock Which main lesson was that?grin

northernrefugee39 Mon 28-Apr-08 11:48:06

AMum, good post.
And Shakespeare isa small part of the curriculum, and at 14( or 12 my daughter first did Shakespeare) the points can be discussed appropriately.
At steiner school it's BASED on these theories, taken as a given.
Big difference.

Janni Mon 28-Apr-08 12:46:44

It was an experimental introduction to early sex education, Northern hmm

northernrefugee39 Mon 28-Apr-08 13:04:13

OMG Janni!
I remember the parent's evenings surrounding sex educationgrin tense
There were the parents who believed in "no boundaries", ( whose kids were at it at 10) and the Christian community ones(anthroposophical church) who couldn't bear to think that their kids weren't still believing the gnomes and fairies, who wouldn't let them go to the cinema even, in case it corrupted them.

We were given an article from a Steiner education Magazine, which brought karmic destiny into the story of birth, creation and how a child finds its parents....hmm

Janni Mon 28-Apr-08 13:06:19

Oh yes, I know ones whose kids didn't go to the cinema until well past 10 years and whose marriage nearly broke up because DH wanted to watch TV.

northernrefugee39 Mon 28-Apr-08 13:23:03

Yepgrin

The first film some of the 10 yr olds( ten must be a steiner viewing watershed!) went to see was Lassie. And it was a really big deal.
The kids from camphill, some of whom barely left the village, used to be almost overstimulate when they came to our house, by the pictures on the walls and the books etc. Their eyes would dart about, trying to take everything in, Poor poor kids, I really feel for them. And kind of draw some tenuous parallells with that mormon evangelical place in the news at the moment, the closed community, well, camphill isn't closed, but cut off, separate from the main goings on in the world.

PeteK Mon 28-Apr-08 13:28:03

"Pete - a male teacher at my children's school (who thankfully did not last long there), was interviewing a 10 year old and asked him to read a story containing an account of a snake entering a woman's vagina. The other teachers confronted him about it after the family complained, but it does make you wonder"

Sadly, I don't wonder about these people any more... I'm positive they are nuts.

PeteK Mon 28-Apr-08 13:34:07

"Pete - a male teacher at my children's school (who thankfully did not last long there)"

Forgot to notice this part - so WHERE did the teacher go from there? I've got ten dollars (apologies to our UK friends, I don't know the current rate of exchange) that says he quietly went to another WALDORF school. There is NEVER an infraction serious enough for a teacher to be removed from teaching at Waldorf - they just get shuffled between schools. angry As I said earlier, the monster that read inappropriate materials to my own child is now TRAINING OTHER TEACHERS in the "Waldorf" way.

Janni Mon 28-Apr-08 17:22:42

PeteK - someone saw him helping another school at the Olympic Games, the same year he left our school. There was another
class V teacher who finally left after years of problems. She went straight to another Steiner School. You're absolutely right.

northernrefugee39 Mon 28-Apr-08 18:03:19

Pete and Janni,
Two teachers from the school our children were who have been "difficult", (one resigned, but after tremendous pressure) are moving on to another prestigious Steiner school!
The letter to parents apparently said "A happy outcome.and time to put the past aside"{hmm]shock

DianaW Mon 28-Apr-08 18:12:16

Happened twice in 3 years at our school - once we shipped off a problem teacher (hitting children) to another Steiner school, and once we inherited a problem teacher from another school. They keep 'em in the system.

PeteK Mon 28-Apr-08 18:39:31

We inherited one teacher who had been fired from a nearby school because her teenage son was a pedophile and she had been arranging sleepovers with other children for him. Since it was an ongoing case - the school felt they shouldn't mention any of this to the parents... UNTIL... guess what happened? Yep... in our school too. angry. And now she has quietly moved on... perhaps to YOUR SCHOOL. hmm

northernrefugee39 Mon 28-Apr-08 20:00:16

So- no one prepared to say they're an anthroposophist?
I've just asked some one here if they are
mothering USA grin

and here is an interesting one
linda on my quote about hair and eyes shock

Neither have answered the questions yet.... surprise surprise

PeteK Tue 29-Apr-08 04:20:15

Don't forget Anthroposophical librarian...

northernrefugee39 Tue 29-Apr-08 08:23:44

I started a thread called "Would anyone here call themselves an anthroposophist?" at mothering. grin
Someone called Pixiewytch was furious!
Asked the moderator to remove it, said it was inflammatory, going too far!hmm
Good grief!
Why are they so sensitive about it? It really is amazing.
it's like saying would anyone admit to being a nazi isn't it?
I won't last there much longer.
Can't BEAR the pussy footing around. But I enjoy being "nice" to Linda and Deborah with facts they can't wriggle out of....

Oh Diana and Pete, thank goodness for Americans who speak straight and upfront! I thought all of you were like that, (my USA friends are very outspoken)

Mad as a box of frogs is good isn't it?

northernrefugee39 Tue 29-Apr-08 10:14:31

Someone has posted a link to this coversation on mothering!
Maybe they'll take notes.

PeteK Tue 29-Apr-08 16:05:41

It would be great if they would link to the other Steiner threads here as well.

This one filled up
This one is currently in progress...

I'm sure there are others here.

DianaW Tue 29-Apr-08 16:20:02

I think it's interesting that on Mothering.com, the thread with the analogous title to this one, asking for anthroposophists who might be reading to identify themselves, has been removed. It is a tribute to mumsnet that they allow this sort of discussion. On Mothering, a sanctimonious little notice has been posted reminding posters that it's against the user agreement to defame anyone blah blah. So calling someone an anthroposophist is defaming them? Even asking if there are anthroposophists reading the thread who would care to self-identify as such is defaming someone?

Linda also wrote one of her ridiculous implied Mcarthy-esque posts - like if you ask someone if they're an anthroposophist, next the House of Parliament will be marching them to the guillotine or something. Um - what is wrong with asking someone if they are an anthroposophist and would be willing to speak about anthroposphists' views in the forum? No one has to answer if they don't want to. (Which was sort of the point. It was going to be hard to "defame" anyone even if we wanted to since anthroposophists generally will NOT self-identify unless they think only other anthroposophists are listening. They simply don't want to take questions - their faith doesn't work that way.)

northernrefugee39 Tue 29-Apr-08 17:03:02

Diana, I missed that, they'd removed it before I saw linda's post. What did she put?
I usually copy these discussions, but I can't be bothered any more, the posters there are so boring.

PeteK Tue 29-Apr-08 18:02:19

"Even asking if there are anthroposophists reading the thread who would care to self-identify as such is defaming someone?"

You are not suppose to ask, Diana, you're just supposed to label.

Pete (Secular-humanist, secret member of a small but vocal extremist "hate group" based in S.F. - PLANS, still bitter about a 10-year-old divorce, span of Ahriman and the Anti-Christ)

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