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Seeking Christian advice on Steiner Schools

(42 Posts)
DaddyAbe Sun 09-Feb-14 09:26:36

Hi all,
I'm a Christian father of two, and it's time to start thinking about schools. Mum doesn't consider herself "Christian" as such, although she believes in, loves and prays to Jesus (don't ask! lol)

Obviously I'm keen for the kids to be in an environment which doesn't stifle the Gospel. I don't think that Christian schools necessarily bear fruit, in that they often put kids off the faith more than nurture it. Obviously some are great on the other hand. But for that reason I don't think it has to be a pre-requisite that our choice is a religious school.

However, Mum is v keen on the Steiner Waldorf philosophy on education, and we are considering a Steiner school amongst other options. I have talked to some Steiner teachers a bit about spiritual concerns, and they assure me the institution is not overtly pagan. Although to me, it just feels as if it is a bit, in a sense. I know that Rudolph Steiner himself got "revelation" from spirit beings, and I've never been reassured that those spirits were angels who glorified Christ. So I've always been dubious. But I realize that the modern day Steiner Schools are a long way removed from those days, and don't teach anything of the sort. They just encourage consideration of something "greater than ourselves," and gratitude towards a generic "provider." So it all seems quite open-ended and multi-cultural. (ie there's room for Christian families for sure.) And the system certainly does seem to turn out nice kids.

I believe in disciplining children. But some of the "behaviourist" philosophy on eductation we see in the mainstream education system doesn't seem quite right to me; at least for some children. Kinda like Paul says in Romans 5:20 about the Law increasing sin.

I guess my main concern though, is about putting my kids in a community of people that may have a general tendency to be suspicious of Christianity.

Anyway, I guess I'm just looking for Christian parent advice from people who know a lot about Steiner Schools. I'm sure there'll be a wide variety of opinions on the matter. But I'm not really looking for people's opinions on how it sounds from what I've said about it, if you know what I mean.

Many thanks in advance.

TheGruffalo2 Sun 09-Feb-14 11:39:30

If Steiner was Christian it certainly wasn't mainstream. Some of his views were rather "alternative", so as a Christian I would be very reluctant to send a child of mine to one, as well as the fact I don't agree with the pedagogical approaches.

Queen0fFeckingEverything Sun 09-Feb-14 11:46:52

IME Steiner schools are very Christian. I certainly wouldn't say they are 'suspicious of Christianity' they reserve suspicion for things like televisions and right angles

curlew Sun 09-Feb-14 11:51:14

"I believe in disciplining children."

What do you mean by this?

AntoinetteCosway Sun 09-Feb-14 12:07:35

I think Steiner schools are bizarre and bordering on cultish.

thegreenheartofmanyroundabouts Sun 09-Feb-14 12:23:22

Steiner's philosophical roots are in theosophy which is not Christian and is part of the underpinning of the new age movement. As with all schools it is worth talking to the children themselves to get an impression of how the philosophy works out in practice.

My sense of the children I've met from these schools is that they are very confident and able to learn but struggle with the boring stuff of do this because the rules of the house/school/workplace say that you have to. This may be very unfair to the schools and more of a reflection of the parent's attitude to life so take that impression with some caution.

AMumInScotland Sun 09-Feb-14 12:55:23

My understanding is that they don't actually teach their underlying philosophy within the classroom, but there is an expectation that the teachers do things in certain ways because of it, and it informs what they do and how they do it.

There is also a tendency to be less-than-open about their philosophy with parents. There have been a number of long threads on here in the past, where parents expressed a great deal of anger and unhappiness at the differences between what the school said and what they did. These threads nearly always got stopped and posts deleted because of complaints and legal threats from the Steiner Waldorf organisation. Certain MNers have been banned from joining in with threads on this topic because of this.

Steiner Waldorf are certainly very 'protective' of their online image, but there are websites out there if you go looking which give other viewpoints than their own.

Personally, as a Christian, I would not be happy with a school which was underpinned with such an incompatible belief system from my own. To my mind, a secular school (so far as one can find such a thing in the UK...) is a better prospect, and any teaching about living within a particular faith is something that you do by example at home.

JodieGarberJacob Sun 09-Feb-14 13:05:45

Agree with that last paragraph. Religion is best left to parents. All state schools will deliver an RE curriculum about different faiths but the worshipping aspect is down to the HT. Not something you can ever be sure of. Don't know enough about Steiner and their teachings about world religions or practising their own, but like any type of school, it will vary according to the people running it.

tiredlady Sun 09-Feb-14 13:09:27

Another one here wondering what your "I believe in discipling children" comment is about.
Do you feel that state schools don't discipline children, or that discipling children is the preserve of christians. Not sure what this has to do with steiner schools

curlew Sun 09-Feb-14 14:24:54

In my experience, a person who declares th selves to be a bible believing Christian and then goes on to talk about discipline tends to be talking about physical chastisement,

Hitch would not fit into the Steiner philosophy at all.

Armadale Sun 09-Feb-14 14:29:33

As a Christian I have been really surprised at some previous threads on MNet about Steiner Schools and the underlying philosophy. I hadn't even heard of them before joining here.

Some of the books/ leaflets linked to in the threads were really interesting to read and made it very clear that the philosophical underpinning is absolutely contrary to the gospel.

I'd have a search for earlier threads about these schools and read some of the links there.

Queen0fFeckingEverything Sun 09-Feb-14 15:56:55

I went to a Steiner school. There was a lot of God, and Christian stuff, as well as the more wacky airy fairy bits. Christian festivals were all celebrated - Christmas, Lent, Easter, lots of saints days.

It definitely felt Christian though I appreciate that actual Christians (which I am not) might disagree.

cory Sun 09-Feb-14 16:01:41

As a Christian I very much liked the guidance given to dc by their mainstream state school, in that it was made very clear to them what constituted acceptable behaviour, that they were not allowed to do anything that was likely to hurt or upset their fellow creatures and that they had the responsibility to get help if anybody else was being hurt or frightened. You can call it behaviourist if you like, but the upshot has been that dc (with the combined guidance from school and home) have both grown up very aware of the importance of considering their impact on other people.

One of the frequent complaints against Steiner schools on MN is that they do not do enough to curb bullying. This must be very upsetting for the child that gets bullied. But it is also very bad for the child who is allowed to get away with bullying without any guidance from the adults around him. I would be very upset if that was my child; I'd feel the school was undermining everything we tried to teach at home.

OTheHugeManatee Sun 09-Feb-14 16:04:59

Ex Steiner kid here. Steiner schools are broadly Christian but by mainstream (ec Catholic or Protestant) standards it's a pretty heretical variation. They celebrate the Christian theological calendar and they have the usual Biblical angels and same basic Biblical narrative but there's also reincarnation, elemental beings, an etheric and astral body as well as the physical and spiritual ones, two Christs who became one at the baptism (IIRC), and two devils - Lucifer and Ahriman - instead of just the one. Off the top of my head.

If your main worry is your DC experiencing hostility because of their faith I would relax. If you're concerned about them absorbing only one doctrinally correct version of that faith you might want to consider a more mainstream faith school.

Queen0fFeckingEverything Sun 09-Feb-14 16:08:21

Steiner schools do fuck all to curb bullying IME. Knowing how Steiner threads go on here and how posters have been harassed in the past, I won't go into details though...

Agree with what OTheHugeManatee said about the religious aspect. Very good explanation though as a child almost all that went over my head, its only as an adult that I have found most of the detail out.

curlew Sun 09-Feb-14 18:02:35

There are Steiner adherents (not all, I hasten to add) who believe that anything bad that happens to you- including bullying- is you paying for bad deeds in past lives...........

DaddyAbe Sun 09-Feb-14 18:58:53

Ok thanks to everyone who commented so far. The more the merrier though! :-)

@Curlew and tiredlady... By "I believe in disciplining children" I didn't mean corporal punishment. I don't believe in hitting children. I just mean I think kids sometimes they need a good old-fashioned telling off, and perhaps punishments. I think most schools do this (maybe too much sometimes?) but Steiner schools don't much, (as Cory and QueenofFeckingEverything implied.) If my kids were bullying, I would want them to feel the full force of the school discipline system.

My understanding is that mainstream uses "behaviourist" philosophy and Steiner, Montysauri etc use "humanist." Not to be confused with "humanism." Humanist as opposed to behaviourist just in the sense that they appeal to the inherent good nature of the human child, rather than get results by telling them how to behave as such. The humanist approach would be compatible with Trinitarian Theology, and/or for children who are already born again. But I struggle with it because of the Pauline doctrine that everyone is born into sin. So until a child is born again, I guess you have to train them how to be Godly as best you can. And that requires some degree of discipline. I guess!?!!

@OTheHugeManatee thanks for that; that's very specific. And pretty crazy! No I don't expect a school to cater for my precise interpretation of Biblical theology. (There's too much room for translation variants, and thousands of denominations trying their best to decypher it faithfully!) I think everyone has to let the Holy Spirit unlock the scriptures to them personally. But completely changing what the scriptures say like that just seems to show deliberate disregard for the Word of God. Quite concerning. Thanks for the words of wisdom.

DaddyAbe Sun 09-Feb-14 19:17:48

The Steiner website says this about the Class Two curriculum:
"Stories from legends and fables are the primary literary base for writing, speaking and reading."

Can anyone fill me in on these legends? Is it all pagan stuff?

curlew Sun 09-Feb-14 19:20:32

"The humanist approach would be compatible with Trinitarian Theology, and/or for children who are already born again. But I struggle with it because of the Pauline doctrine that everyone is born into sin. So until a child is born again, I guess you have to train them how to be Godly as best you can. And that requires some degree of discipline. I guess!?!! "

I would suggest home education.

curlew Sun 09-Feb-14 19:21:29

Depends what you mean by pagan. Lots of Norse myths as I recall.

BertieBottsJustGotMarried Sun 09-Feb-14 19:31:15

Most state schools are pretty behaviourist in that they reward good behaviour and punish bad behaviour, and yes some feel that this kind of thing is relied on too much - but from what you've posted, I think it would fit fairly well with your general philosophy.

Also all state schools in England are required to provide an act of collective worship, which is usually Christian in nature. But they are also required to include all faiths so for example festivals such as Diwali may be celebrated alongside Christian festivals. Teachings such as the story of creation will be taught as "Some people believe" alongside Big Bang Theory which is also taught as "Some people believe" or sometimes "Science believes" or "The scientific evidence we have currently tells us that..." - IME it is not taught that one way or the other is absolute truth but that, actually, we don't really know.

Why don't you visit some schools and ask, both about their discipline policies and also about the role of religion within the school?

DaddyAbe Sun 09-Feb-14 19:40:33

Haha! I wouldn't inflict that on my kids lol. It's bad enough that Steiner only give them one teacher in eight years, let alone that teacher being me! Lol

DaddyAbe Sun 09-Feb-14 19:41:30

@Bertie yes you're right - that would suit me fine.

pyrrah Sun 09-Feb-14 19:49:16

That is very concerning if a state school is presenting creationist ideas anywhere other than in an RE lesson. They are not allowed in science classes and while evolution may be described as a 'theory' it is and should be taught as the accepted answer to the origins of life.

Intelligent design, creationism etc are also strictly banned from being taught in Free Schools in any science lesson or from being presented as an alternative to accepted scientific thinking?

As a former SACRE member I would be very interested to know which school is teaching one 'alongside' the other?

DaddyAbe Sun 09-Feb-14 20:05:57

@pyrrah There is plenty of scientific evidence that challenges (and some say disproves) both evolution and Big Bang. Both are very much theories and not proven, however "accepted" they may be. The former is as varied a theory as Creation - no two evolutionists can agree!

Not that I'm taking a stance on this one way or the other. I just think it's good for people to keep these things in perspective :-)

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