FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, September 29, 1999
FEDERAL COURT SAYS PUBLIC SCHOOLS MUST STAND TRIAL IN SUIT OVER INTRODUCTION OF ALLEGED OCCULT RELIGIOUS CURRICULUM WHICH MAY VIOLATE CONSTITUTION.
CALIFORNIA GROUP SUES PUBLIC SCHOOLS OVER ADOPTION OF "WALDORF" EDUCATION MOVEMENT'S WEIRD SPIRITUALISM AND PSEUDO-SCIENCE.
A California federal judge has refused to dismiss a suit by PLANS (People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools) against two school districts for adopting an allegedly religious curriculum based on an obscure early 20th century occultist and spiritualist's educational ideas.
PLANS, a non-profit group opposed to religion in schools, says the "Waldorf" school movement is spreading anew and being pushed into public schools nationwide.
PLANS sued two California schools for violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, mandating neutrality toward religion, and violation of the California state constitution, which has an even stronger clause prohibiting establishment of religion.
The schools PLANS sued -- Sacramento City Unified School District and Twin Ridges Elementary School District -- had sought dismissal of the suit, saying there are no religious or unconstitutional elements in either the method or the curriculum.
The schools said the Waldorf curriculum they adopted has removed the religious aspects of "Anthroposophy", the world-view PLANS says was adapted by Rudolf Steiner from 19th-Century Theosophy and earlier occult spiritualisms.
But the schools admitted to the court that Anthroposopy is a religion, and PLANS says it is impossible to remove Anthroposophy from the school curriculum.
U.S. District Court judge Frank C. Damrell sided with PLANS, saying that there is no guarantee that public funding of Waldorf education will not have the unintended consequence of advancing its religious underpinnings.
Judge Damrell's order rejecting the schools' dismissal request said PLANS had raised "triable issues of fact", which, if proved, would violate the Constitution and run counter to a landmark 1971 U.S. Supreme Court decision.
Judge Damrell quoted the high court's warning that "we cannot ignore the danger that a teacher under religious control and discipline poses to the separation of the religious from the purely secular aspects of precollege education".
Plans contends, among other things, that:
* public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and inseparably based on a new-age occultic religion called Anthroposophy;
* public Waldorf school curriculum decisions and teacher training are grounded in Anthroposophy's spiritualist child development model, based on reincarnation and other occult ideas;
* publicly-funded use and reliance upon the doctrines of Anthroposophy impermissably endorses that religion in violation of the U.S. and California constitutions.
The loose association of Waldorf schools worldwide now numbers over a thousand. Until recent years, they had been mostly private schools. But Waldorf proponents, mainly in Waldorf teacher training colleges, have been pushing the Waldorf idea into public schools, PLANS says.
PLANS does not object to private Waldorf schools, and supports freedom of religion in private. But PLANS objects vigorously to anything Waldorf in public schools because of its inseparability from the religion of Anthroposophy.
PLANS believes that Waldorf proponents often hide the true nature of Rudolf Steiner's beliefs and the spiritualist occultism of his educational system from parents, particularly in public schools. Parents are also kept from knowing the depth and meaning of Anthroposophy in the curriculum.
Waldorf schools are touted as having pleasant, beautiful classrooms, a quiet air of reverence, an abundance of sophisticated-seeming children's art work and a nurturing environment which respects the innocence of childhood.
Media views of Waldorf schools usually stop after reporting the carefully-cultivated public image of Waldorf: integration of the arts into all subjects; two-hour main-lesson teaching blocks that supposedly build attention span and creative, independent work; storytelling, reading of myths and legends, and learning of handcrafts, cooking, gardening, painting, music, and "movement". It sounds idyllic and progressive.
But PLANS says these are deceptive appearances, and all these activities have a fundamental religious purpose of training children's souls for their next reincarnation in a spiritualist world, and inculcating in children Rudolf Steiner's occult spiritualistic world-view by covert religious training.
PLANS says public Waldorf teachers use Steiner's occult Waldorf curriculum and its underlying principles on public school children without the knowledge, understanding, or consent of unsuspecting parents. PLANS cited internal documents in its suit that back up this contention. Judge Damrell agreed PLANS allegations were worth a court trial to determine the facts.
Public school teachers in the Twin Ridges School District distributed literature to parents conceding "Without Anthroposophy we would not have Waldorf education. Anthroposophy provides one of the guideposts for the inner work of the teacher, which includes meditation and study."
PLANS says the Sacramento City Unified School District identified "The Waldorf Teacher's Survival Guide" as one of its resource materials for "training or instruction in Waldorf teaching methods or Waldorf curriculum."
This book, published by Rudolf Steiner College Press -- the same Anthroposophical institution that trained Sacramento's public Waldorf teachers -- describes the agenda and methods of Waldorf education. The Anthroposophical author, in a candid moment, describes the relationship between Waldorf education and Lucifer (who holds an important position in the pantheon of Anthroposphical spirits):
"Most of that which contributes to our work as teachers, preparation work, artistic work, even meditative work, is under the guardianship of Lucifer. We can become great teachers under his supervision, for he is responsible for much that has blossomed in the unfolding of civilization and culture in the past."
PLANS learned that at the Rudolf Steiner College, public school teachers were indoctrinated in Anthroposophy as a mandatory part of their training for the adoption of the Waldorf method in their public schools. Teachers who voiced objections to occult spiritualism and pseudo-science instruction were ostracized, PLANS says.
Public school teachers were taught at the Rudolf Steiner College to categorize school children and make decisions about them according to the Anthroposophical belief in the medieval doctrine of "The Four Temperaments." They were taught to associate the child's temperament with signs of the Zodiac.
PLANS says Waldorf education and Anthroposophy are shot through with spiritualism and pseudo-science, from a rigid view of child development in seven-year periods to the teaching of occult principles such as that everything is made of four elements, earth, air, fire and water. Waldorf people deny this, saying it's only a childish metaphor, but PLANS notes that it holds sway until children reach puberty, as Anthroposophy holds that children should be protected from abstract, intellectual concepts until then. Another occult belief taught as science, according to PLANS, is that the heart does not pump blood.
PLANS says that if such ideas are not accepted by science or secular educators, and are believed only by members of Anthroposophy, a religious group, they are religious doctrines and unconstitutional in public schools.
In the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, PLANS identified the continuing presence and role of Anthroposophy's spiritualistic view that children's souls incarnate in seven-year stages in the district's current formal curriculum document. For example, the sixth grade science curriculum states:
"The child now stands at the threshold of puberty and begins to grow into and connect more deeply with the bony system; all that depends on mechanical laws can be now given without fear of harm." Children are not taught the principles of machines, laws of nature, forces or such things as levers and tools before this time.
PLANS says the meaning of this unusual statement is found in the Waldorf Parenting Handbook (by Lois Cusick), which was distributed to parents of public the Waldorf school by Twin Ridges:
"At puberty, the light forces of consciousness fall into the bony depths of the skeleton. The individual comes to conscious terms with his skeleton: it becomes the direct instrument of the individual "I." Its movements are directed consciously from within."
In denying the school districts' motions for summary judgment, Judge Damrell found that
"PLANS presents evidence that may establish that Waldorf education methods are more than "consistent with" the principles of Anthroposophy. PLANS presents evidence that the methodology itself is directed by, and grounded in, assumptions about learning and child development that can only be understood with reference to Anthroposophy. PLANS also presents evidence that SCUSD teachers received training in Anthroposophy, and that Twin Ridges sought and employed teachers with Anthroposophical training..."
"In sum, PLANS has raised a disputed issue of material fact concerning the religious underpinnings of Waldorf education and whether public funding of Waldorf education has the unintended consequence of advancing Anthroposophy."
PLANS was formed in late 1995 by former Waldorf parents and teachers concerned about both private and public Waldorf schools. PLANS unites a wide range of people in opposition to Waldorf in public education, from non-religious skeptics to evangelical Christians. People who often disagree strongly on other topics are in agreement about the Constitutional threat.
PLANS became a California non-profit corporation in July 1997. PLANS' volunteer board includes two public school teachers, one of whom has received Waldorf teacher training, the president of a skeptical society, a Baptist pastor, the associate director of a Christian counter-cult ministry, and two former Waldorf parents. PLANS' President, Debra Snell, was a board member of a private Waldorf school and helped found a Waldorf charter school. For more information, please see the PLANS web site, http://www.dandugan.com/waldorf.
Scott M. Kendall, PLANS' attorney, maintains a private practice in the Sacramento area of California. He focuses a substantial part of his practice on issues involving religious liberty. This litigation is financially supported by the volunteer directors of PLANS, underwriting from the Pacific Justice Institute of Sacramento, CA, and donations from the members of PLANS. Mr. Kendall may be contacted for further information regarding this litigation.