Author: Waldorf Critics

“Partial Vision” in Alternative Education

“Partial Vision” in Alternative Education

Author’s Note

The following article was published in Renewal: A Journal for Waldorf Education, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Fall, 1998). It originally appeared in SKOLE: The Journal of Alternative Education, Vol XIV, No. 3, Summer, 1997. The author would like to make it clear that by permitting it to be included on the PLANS website, he is seeking to support a better (if still critical) understanding of Waldorf education and does not share the view that the Waldorf method is a religious cult which should be barred from public schools. He writes that “We should be much more concerned about the dehumanization that is taking place in public schools across the country as a result of the corporate agenda of rigid standards, relentless testing, and tight control than about some unconventional practices that are at least attempting to educate whole human beings.” He also points out that the Waldorf journal’s willingness to print this article is evidence against simply labeling the movement a “cult.”

“Partial Vision” in Alternative Education
by Ron Miller,

Our oldest son, Justin, just started Waldorf school this fall. It is a lively school, with a wonderful sense of community among the families, and when Justin first visited the class he’ll be joining he quickly felt welcomed by the warm, gentle teacher and friendly, supportive children. He seems to really like it and will probably thrive there. However, I happen to be unusually fussy when it comes to education, and I have some philosophical reservations about several aspects of Waldorf education. How do I reconcile these with my own son’s positive experiences?

For the past fifteen years, I have been involved in alternative education as a Montessori teacher, as a doctoral student in the history and philosophy of education, as the founding editor of the journal Holistic Education Review and the book review publication Great Ideas in Education, and as author or editor of four books. Throughout this time I’ve maintained contacts with alternative educators of every stripe–Montessori and Waldorf educators, freeschoolers, homeschoolers, progressives, anarchists, ecologists, constructivists, reconstructionists, deconstructionists, and many others. From this uncommonly broad exposure I have concluded that there is no one best model or method of education. No single approach is ideal for all young people, all families, all communities, all social and historical conditions. In my view, good education–what I have been calling “holistic” education–is not a single definable technique or method but an attitude of openness, responsiveness, and caring that adapts to the complex needs of a given time and place.

I do not believe that any one perspective can encompass all possibilities of human growth or cultural renewal, because human existence is an unfolding adventure involving many layers of reality and meaning (biological, ecological, psychological, social, historical, mythological, spiritual…). Any educational vision that claims to be a complete, perfected, or final answer to the mysteries of human existence is neglecting, if not actively repressing, legitimate avenues of development. Australian education theorist Bernie Neville expressed this point poetically through the metaphors of Greek mythology, describing the various archetypal energies (such as the authoritarian Senex, the orderly Apollo, the freedom-loving Eros) that make up the psyche. He warned that honoring any one of these forces to the exclusion of others results in a “partial vision” that is blind “to much that is significant in human living” and that conceives education “in a way that impoverishes children rather than enriches them” (1989, p. 132).

In my view, the Waldorf approach is such a “partial vision” because it is based religiously on the teachings of one man–Rudolf Steiner–who, despite being a gifted mystic and a brilliant thinker, was clearly influenced and limited by his cultural and historical context–as he himself seemed to recognize at times. In its pervasive emphasis on Spirit and Beauty and Form and similar archetypes, Waldorf education faithfully expresses the worldview of nineteenth century German idealism and neglects other energies of the psyche that find more room for expression in other worldviews. Surely Waldorf does not “impoverish” children, because its spirituality is deeply nourishing in many ways. But its idealism does close off other avenues of human development. As the Unitarian leader William Ellery Channing, a deeply spiritual man himself, told the Transcendentalist educator Bronson Alcott, “the strong passion of the young for the outward is an indication of Nature to be respected. Spirituality may be too exclusive for its own good” (quoted in Tyler, 1944, p. 248). My primary complaint about the Waldorf movement is that it offers itself as the universal ideal of education and lacks the self-criticism and openness to other perspectives that would permit flexibility and responsiveness to diverse human situations.

Before I go further with this critique, I want to make it clear that I have been drawn to Rudolf Steiner’s thinking ever since I first encountered it. His spiritual idealism is such a vital and powerful antidote to the life-denying materialism of modern western culture that in my historical study of alternative education (Miller, 1990), I proposed that Waldorf education “is probably the most radically holistic approach ever attempted.” If I am now, on further reflection, calling it a “partial vision,” I still acknowledge that it supplies a tremendously important part that is missing, not only from mainstream public schooling, but from many alternative approaches as well. Holistic education is not whole without a spiritual foundation.

In addition, Steiner’s notion of the “threefold” society, in which the cultural sphere (including education) is protected from the demands of economic and political forces, is a brilliant analysis of modern society and particularly public schooling. There could be no alternatives without educational freedom, and Waldorf educators have stated this case more coherently than anyone. I agree with educational researcher Mary E. Henry, who also appreciates Steiner’s work from a critical scholarly perspective, that Waldorf education represents a concrete effort to build an entirely new culture rooted in a deeply spiritual, ecological, and organic understanding of life (Henry, 1993). We desperately need this perspective, which is often absent–or at least obscurely implicit–in alternative school movements that speak only of democracy or children’s freedom (see Miller, 1995). Libertarian ideology is a partial vision, too.

As parents, this is what attracts us most to the Waldorf school; even though the public school in our small Vermont town is extremely good by conventional standards and seems highly responsive to parents and students, we know that in most ways public education represents and reinforces the culture of consumerism, competition, and materialism. At a Waldorf school, our children will not be treated as future job seekers or savvy consumers or high tech warriors in the battle against foreign competition, but as evolving spiritual beings who seek lives of meaning and beauty and inspiration. The activities that fill children’s days at a Waldorf school–storytelling, art, music, creative movement, and much stimulation of the imagination–are rich and nourishing.

Still, my background in other alternative education movements informs me that the Waldorf methodology is not the only or necessarily the best expression of educational and social renewal. Alternative educational visions all reject the dominant modern conception of schooling which seeks to harness human energies to the mechanical requirements of the economic system and the state. All alternative visions are grounded in a genuine desire to support children’s natural ways of learning and growth; the differences between these visions reflect their different perspectives on the complex mystery of human development. For example, Maria Montessori was, like Steiner, sensitively attuned to the different cognitive and emotional stages of children’s growth, and like Steiner, she perceived that spiritual forces, not to be tampered with by modern ideologies, were at work in the unfolding of these stages. Yet her educational system reflected her cultural milieu and the circumstances of the children she worked with, and a Montessori classroom is consequently a very different environment.

Dee Joy Coulter, an educational psychologist who has worked closely with both Montessori and Waldorf educators in Boulder, Colorado, once wrote a brief but important essay comparing the two approaches (1991). Emphasizing that Montessori and Steiner had indeed developed their methods in response to specific cultural needs, she asserted that their pedagogies are not so much in opposition but complementary, expressing symmetrical dimensions of human life. Coulter suggested that educators today should attend to the “seed qualities” within these visions rather than simply mimic the historically and culturally conditioned forms they took. In other words, we can appreciate an educational method as an insightful response to a particular facet of human experience, without venerating it as complete, perfect, universal or final.

Probably the most obvious and irreconcilable difference between alternative education visions is in their conflicting attitudes toward freedom and structure. Educators such as Francisco Ferrer, Caroline Pratt, John Holt, A. S. Neill, and George Dennison, and psychologists such as Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow have argued that if we truly trust human nature, we will allow it to find expression in a free and supportive atmosphere. Whatever the source of human dreams, desires, and impulses (these theorists have tended not to invoke transcendent, spiritual sources), children can demonstrate genuine responsibility, initiative, compassion, and even wisdom when their personal selfhood is allowed to emerge and proclaim itself; according to this point of view, educational techniques are artificial, and are usually barriers to meaningful growth. Thousands of homeschoolers and the “democratic” schools such as Sudbury Valley in Massachusetts have proven that there is value in this libertarian vision.

Waldorf educators, however, insist that this sort of freedom is premature and actually hinders the development of genuine personal autonomy. In a Waldorf classroom, the teacher is solidly in command of students’ attention moment after moment after moment; children have little opportunity to engage in independent activities or conversations; younger children, in particular, are not encouraged to question the teacher but to imitate what he or she models. Steiner insisted that he did not advocate such discipline for the sheer sake of adult authority but because he truly believed, on the basis of his intuitive perception, that the natural development of the child’s spiritual being requires strong adult guidance. As John F. Gardner has explained this perspective (1995), the “organism” (the material, animal aspect of human life) needs to be “cancelled” through the strengthening of “universal reason”; the spiritual realm of Mind transcends the individual ego and the task of education is to cultivate the infusion of true spiritual knowledge into the child’s receptive soul.

Obviously, this is the voice of German idealism. I do not say that it is incorrect: Steiner certainly was tapping into some profound layer of reality, and the fact is that most graduates of Waldorf schools do appear to be highly creative, self-confident, autonomous and happy people. Something in their souls has most definitely been nurtured. However, given my experience with other forms of alternative education and my understanding of the social and political challenges of our culture at this time, the lockstep classroom is the aspect of Waldorf education that I find most difficult to accept. If Steiner’s intuition were universally valid, then all graduates of free schools, progressive schools, and even Montessori schools would end up as rather dysfunctional individuals, and yet this is most certainly not the case (Gardner claims that it is, but he provides no evidence). These children’s souls have also been nurtured, although in less explicit and perhaps less deeply “spiritual” ways. As I said above, Steiner’s insights into the inherent spirituality of the unfolding human being are as rare as they are valuable, but I still cannot believe that the Waldorf pedagogy so uniquely transcends all cultural/historical influence that it is the only possible way of nourishing genuinely spiritual experience.

Holistic educators such as Rachael Kessler, John P. Miller and Parker Palmer have written about the central importance of the relationship between teachers and students; it is not the method, not the degree of freedom or structure provided, but the qualities of openness, respect, integrity and caring that make education real and meaningful. A former Waldorf educator, Diana Cohn, expressed this view precisely in a conversation with Montessorians that I facilitated several years ago. She observed that students in alternative schools “have very loving adults working with them. The methods are very different, but the bottom line is that you have these very interested adults working with the children, and they feel that. They feel enlivened by the fact that there are these caring adults in their lives” (Cohn, et. al. 1990).

So I don’t think it is a mistake to send my son to a Waldorf school, where he will be taught by caring adults who are fully dedicated to nourishing his unfolding personality. But I wonder whether they could nourish him even more fully by not choreographing his every move and expecting quite so much imitation and recitation; I think they would nourish even more facets of his archetypal energies by allowing some initiative, some freedom of expression, some exploration of his own peculiar ideas and interests. If a Waldorf approach could incorporate these “seed qualities” from other alternatives without sacrificing its own, it would be even more radically holistic than I already find it to be. Most Waldorf educators, I am sure, would view the result as merely a watered-down and greatly diminished version of their pedagogy–just as libertarian educators would scoff at the idea of introducing guided activities for cultivating imagination. It is just this conflict of partial visions that holistic education seeks to reconcile.


Cohn, Diana, Ruth Gans, Bob Miller, Ruth Selman, and Ron Miller (1990). “Parallel Paths: A Conversation Among Montessori and Waldorf Educators” Holistic Education Review Vol. 3 no. 4 (Winter, 1990), pp. 40-50.

Coulter, Dee Joy (1991). “Montessori and Steiner: A Pattern of Reverse Symmetries” Holistic Education Review Vol. 4 No. 2 (Summer, 1991), pp. 30-32.

Gardner, John Fentress (1995). Education in Search of the Spirit: Essays on American Education. Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press. (Originally published in 1975 as The Experience of Knowledge)

Henry, Mary E. (1993). School Cultures: Universes of Meaning in Private Schools. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Miller, Ron (1990). What Are Schools For? Holistic Education in American Culture. Brandon, VT: Holistic Education Press.

Miller, Ron (1995). “A Holistic Philosophy of Educational Freedom” in Educational Freedom for a Democratic Society, pp. 258-276. Brandon, VT: Resource Center for Redesigning Education.

Neville, Bernie (1989). Educating Psyche: Emotion, Imagination, and the Unconscious in Learning. Blackburn (Australia): Collins Dove.

Tyler, Alice Felt (1944/1962). Freedom’s Ferment: Phases of American Social History from the Colonial Period to the Outbreak of the Civil War. New York: Harper & Row.

Ron Miller is President of the Foundation for Educational Renewal, which publishes the magazine Paths of Learning: Options for Families and Communities (P.O. Box 328, Brandon, VT 05733-0328; ph. (800) 639-4122; Previously he was founding editor of the journal Holistic Education Review. He is writing a book on the free school movement of the 1960s and teaches part time at Goddard College.

Warm and Woolly? An anthroposophical experiment

Warm and Woolly? An anthroposophical experiment

This article is copied, with permission, from the Nowegian Waldorf critics page Steinerkritikk.
By Kristin A. Sandberg and Trond K.O. Kristoffersen
Is Jrna the society of the future? asks A-magasinet (24.nov. 2006) presenting children joyfully playing outdoors, eating organic food. Wool for the children and apples for all. How romantic! It’s almost enough to make us wish we were there by the cosy fire in a community lost in the mists of time.

The Steiner movement appears ever so charming: Postman Pat’s Greendale meets the musical Hair. With its funny architecture, natural materials, soft colours and organic food they appear to be an important, valuable alternative for people who hold a child centred view of development and want only the best for their children. Green values and art! If only that were true!

However, all that glistens is not gold and it is not the case that Rudolf Steiner invented green values, antimaterialism, baking bread and joyful outdoor play. Hats off to all schools and nurseries offering children play based learning, indoors and out. The Steiner movement, in common with the Scientologists, offers a so-called scientific approach to the religious. Like the Adventists they care for healthy food, and have pictures of the Virgin Mary in the classroom as the Catholics do. For the anti-consumerist among us, the Steiner-movement is one of several religious communities with a focus on environmental issues. It is, however, most disturbing when A-Magasinet stands on the soapbox for a religious sect without revealing their spiritual worldview.

It is a human right to believe in angels, demons and the divine visions of one single person, but the way this was presented by A-magasinet could clearly leave one with the impression that J�rna is a political alternative for environmentally aware people. The Steiner-movement bases its experiment on Rudolf Steiner’s occult visions found in the passing phase from sleep to awakening. They choose to hold obscure their religious foundation and secure 85% state funding for an alternative science of education, even though their pedagogical methods and their whole worldview is faith-based.

The Steiner-school presents its pedagogy as independent of their religious views. This is, in fact, contrary to the actual praxis and the teachings of Rudolf Steiner himself:

It is obvious that knowledge of the human being must be the basis for a teacher’s work; that being so, he must acquire this knowledge for himself, and the natural thing will be that he acquires it through Anthroposophy. 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 at the back of it. [1] 

A-magasinet’s article chose to present the facade of anthroposophical effects without questioning, not even explaining, concepts like reincarnation, archangels, anthroposophical medicine, eurhythmy, biodynamics and cosmic forces. Why on earth not?

R. Steiner made the soul a subject of research. His research, however, was by no means scientific, in the sense we know it. Steiner had, as far as we know, no children. He never undertook any educational scientific research and he never actually taught children. Steiner teachers call this Spiritual Science. R. Steiner maintained that there were people living at the same time as the dinosaurs, and that these people were incorporeal. These revelations underpin the teaching of Steiner teachers, implying that they have a conviction that the development of the child is a microcosm of the historical development of humankind. They believe the pupils have been reincarnated from previous lives. This entails the need for children to learn about historical events at the right time so that their subconscious recognizes them from their previous lives.

The Steiner Schools claim they bring up children to be free. According to R. Steiner, and Steiner teachers themselves, anthroposophy is the only way to obtain true freedom. The so-called “experiment” of the Steiner movement exists in a very hierarchical world of ideas. The true freedom will enable you to free yourself from the vices preventing your advancement in your earthly lives. Steiner’s thoughts about reincarnation imply also the rather interesting observation that European culture, funnily enough, is seen as more advanced than other cultures. African and Asian cultures have not, as yet, reached the higher evolvement of enlightenment. But beware! This is nobody’s fault; we’ve all been there. It’s just one of those things.

We shall not dwell upon what Steiner claims about the Indians and the Jews here and now. But according to Steiner’s spiritual science some races are more developed than others due to their geographical placement on earth.

The Steiner School’s idea of differentiated teaching rests upon the teacher’s analysis of the child’s process of incarnation. This can lead to most interesting experiences for the child and the parents. If, for instance, the child does not place their foot down firmly, it means the child probably was superficial in his/ her previous life. [2]

Steiner teachers refer to children with ADHD or Aspergers syndrome as children with difficulties incarnating. That is, somehow a beautiful image, but oh so open to analysis… The child with ADHD is a part of the millennium mythology and struggles with forces of death (Luciferic forces). Not so beautiful, perhaps? It is ever so possible Ritalin is not the ultimate answer for all these children, but as a parent you should know that eurythmy (magical movements stimulating body and soul) seek to help your child to incarnate, and that learning difficulties or Special Educational Needs are seen as difficulties inherited from a previous life. Why does the journalist not ask about these things?

The worldview of the Steiner movement is truly experimental! Orchards and organic food are far more mainstream. Anthroposophical medicine too bases itself on an epistemy that is an alternative to a Western biological outlook; holistically alluring. Therefore head lice, measles and whooping cough flower epidemically in these communities. All is part of the development of the soul. Freedom? Experiment? They speak of children as souls with different, but mapped personalities, as if the soul itself is in fact a scientific matter only the anthroposophists can truly understand.

The man guiding the journalist in J�rna states that the Steiner movement has more to offer curious people than simply psalms. Funny, isn’t it, that these Steiner Schools, unlike any other Norwegian or Swedish school, start each day with a religious prayer!

But is it always this religious? Always. Not outspoken, not declared, but always implied. In all the rituals, the celebrations, the decorations and in the teachers views on child development.

At the moment we are all looking forward to Christmas. In the Steiner nurseries and pre-schools the children bring their candle into the advent spiral, marking the end of the Atlantic and the beginning of the Aryan era. Easily confused with the lighting of advent candles in Nordic winter darkness. The anthroposophical kindergartens and schools are an offer to people wanting an anthroposophical upbringing of their child. In addition they offer their own church, food production and grocers, bank, doctors-even a whole little village in Sweden which the journalist from A-magasinet covered with seven pages of dreams of apples, star signs, breast-feeding and wool. Seduced by the appearance of spiritual pilgrims who already know where they’re headed.

[1] Steiner, Rudolf. The Kingdom of Childhood: Seven
lectures and answers to questions given in
Torquay, 12th-20th August, 1924. (GA 311) Trans.
Helen Fox. Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press,
1982-1988, pp. 19-20

[2] Steiner, Rudolf. The Kingdom of Childhood: Seven
lectures and answers to questions given in
Torquay, 12th-20th August, 1924

A Pedagogy for Aryans

A Pedagogy for Aryans

Small classes, no mad scramble for high marks, and a motivated teaching-staff—Waldorf schools have earned a good reputation for their feigned ability to benefit students on an individual level. Still, to this day, these disguised religious schools pursue the idea of the anti-modern.

By Peter Bierl[2]


The German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs[3] has asked the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons[4] to include two books by Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy and Waldorf schools, on a list of texts deemed to endanger the young on account of racist content of the books in question. The Federal Department will decide the matter in September. Scholar Helmut Zander, of Berlin’s Humboldt University, has published a two-volume work, wherein he dissects Steiner’s »spiritual vision« down to every detail, and demonstrates how the guru plagiarized other thinkers. On three occasions now, a Waldorf teacher has been sentenced by the district court of Kempten, in the province of Allgäu, to pay fines of 8000 Euro due to manhandling children when he was on duty as a teacher. Although that particular Waldorf school does not belong to the Association of Waldorf Schools,[5] it nevertheless operates according to the foundational tenets of anthroposophy. At the town of Rauen in Brandenburg, Andreas Molau, a leading official of the Nazi party NPD[6], is planning the establishment of a Waldorf school. The project already faces opposition from the Association of Waldorf Schools, invoking proprietary rights to the name. For years, Molau was a teacher at a Waldorf school in Braunschweig, until he gave his notice in the autumn of 2004, allegedly due to his desire to work for the new NPD faction in the state parliament of Saxony as well as with the NPD periodical »German Voice«.[7] On that account, the Waldorf school, in turn, discharged and banned him.

At the time, as a result of the above mentioned incidents, Waldorf schools made negative headlines,  but in general the press reports are positive and uncritical. In this context, the high esteem this type of schools recieves, and the authorities’ indifferent attitude towards them, are in fact curious. That being so, anyone who concerns himself with Waldorf pedagogy cannot overlook its obscure foundation—the occult worldview of anthroposophy, concocted by the clairvoyant Steiner out of fragments of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and contemporary European evolutionary and racial teachings. For this picture to emerge, a few lectures from Steiner’s works and some copies of the Waldorf School Association’s publication, »Art of Education«,[8] are enough.

Cartoons and Lego, soccer, sex education and lefthandedness are treated with disdain, and the children have to recite rhymes and verses with odd accentuations that make the recitations resemble mantra practices. There are no actual text books, and the children must copy the subject matter from the teacher’s blackboard writing. In 1998, the pedagogical research branch of the Waldorf Association published a brochure entitled »Literature assignments for the teachers’ work at free Waldorf schools«. The booklet contains an outline of literature that »can be turned to when preparing for the teaching of the first to the eighth grades of main lesson blocks«. There is not one single recommendation of a reliable non-fictional work on the Nazi period for history education; instead, the list includes predominantly anthroposophical works from the first half of the past century, some of which are filled with dubious stories of »root races« and the migrations of the »Aryans«. In the recommended books we read that Italians are merry and impulsive and lie out of courtesy; the Brit, on the other hand, is unaffected and materialistic. The Arab is depicted as hardy, passionate, callous and scheming. The Asian is considered to be decadent; he is either a choleric Mongol or a phlegmatic Malay. The Japanese lives in a light wooden house with straw roof, he always smiles enigmatically, and conceals a merciless rigour beneath the surface. Africans are childish, naïve and devout, and their origins and their instincts exert strong influences upon them. And because they are like children, they must be governed by white people. The Russian is described as quick-tempered, brutal, ruthless, violent, dominant, impatient, capricious, resigned to his fate, resistant to adversity, undependable and unpunctual.

Such nonsense rests upon the notion of »root races«, inherited by Steiner from the theosophists. According to the theosophists, all of the »root races« and all of the »sub races« have their own tasks during particular epochs. The members and descendants of those »races« and peoples whose missions already belong to the past are regarded as decadent and unfit for spiritual progress. Steiner passed this verdict upon the Jews, the French, the Italians, the Chinese and the Japanese, as well as upon the Australian Aborigines and American Indians. Concepts such as »root races« or »races« are avoided, these days, by Steiner’s adherents; they prefer to speak of »cultural epochs«. In anthroposophical circles, it has not yet been acknowledged that humanity cannot be divided into »races« and that human »races« exist only as figments in the minds of racists.

Hence, in the reading list of 1998, Waldorf teachers were recommended approximately 30 works by Steiner, in which the master not only presents himself as a clairvoyant and depicts anthroposophy as an occult spiritual science, but also fantasizes about »folk spirits«, divides humanity into races, and claims that the »Aryans« are predestined to develop spirituality. The lectures alone, given by Steiner between the years 1919 and 1924 for the benefit of the teachers at the first Waldorf school, fill up three volumes, and those are utilized by Waldorf teachers during their training. Therein, he characterizes French as a decadent, mendacious »corpse of a language«, spoken by a nation in decline.

Waldorf schools present themselves as aimed at a »holistic«, child-centred and age-appropriate education towards freedom. This depiction is misleading, since for anthroposophists, these words have very specific meanings that cannot be easily inferred by an outsider if he has not been initiated into Steiner’s occult teachings. Freedom means freedom for anthroposophy. Child-centred and age-appropriate refer to anthroposophical dogmas on childhood development, depending on mumbo-jumbo conceptions surrounding the number 7.

The guru asserted that the human being consists of a physical body, an »etheric body« and an »astral body« and a divine ego, which will not appear until after the 21st year of life. The childhood aura remains in contact with a higher spiritual world. Because of this, parents and educators may not harbour any »impure or unchaste or immoral thoughts«. Round shapes, rythmical movements and soft colours, in particular pink lazured walls, contribute to the development of a moral disposition of the brain and in the circulatory system. Steiner described the small child as a »clumsy sack« or a »bag of flour«, a child who shows no curiosity—an idea contradicted by modern day understanding of pedagogy and developmental psychology. It is rubbish to think that children only desire imitation until their seventh year of life. Early childhood obstinacy and the desire for »self-assertion« are explained by Steiner as the activities of demonic forces that cause premature development of the ego-consciousness.

In the second 7-year period, ranging from the seventh to the 14th year of life, the »etheric body« liberates itself from its sheath. The imitative instinct of the small child is superseded by »deliberate acceptance«. From the teacher, a student assimilates that which, »on a foundation of self-evident authority, makes an impression on the child«. Hence, the children in a Waldorf class must manage, from the first until the eighth grade, with one and the same teacher, who is seen as a »master of fate«[9], as a »pedagogical artist«, who teaches all the basic subjects.

Critical thinking poisons children and the young, according to Steiner. No sooner than puberty, when the »astral body« is being liberated, is the teacher allowed to develop the young students’ capacity of discernment; they may then »sharpen their critical faculties«. In any event, »head knowledge« and »intellectuality« are to be avoided. Repetition was Steiner’s didactic method of preference. He perceived intellectuality with suspicion: »Everything intellectual is old-fashioned volition, and the type of will manifested by old people.« Discussions on sexuality and eroticism are resented in Waldorf schools. Steiner recommended that the aestethic sense for the sublime and beautiful in nature is to be encouraged instead. Since 2002, Waldorf circles have witnessed an uptight debate on the issue of sex education.

Steiner’s conception of reincarnation and karma is considered the »foundation of all genuine education«. For this reason, »Waldorf pedagogy, in its entirety and all the way to its core, is built upon a perception of the human being that holds reincarnation and karma as central facts«, wrote Valentin Wember, a Waldorf pedagogue, in the journal »Art of Education« in 2004. Speculating on previous earth lives of other people is certainly viewed as a tactless intrusion into the private sphere; for Waldorf teachers, however, there is an exception—for them, »cautious speculation« is allowed. Anthroposophists believe that the child’s body is moulded by forces which derive from previous earth lives. He who has lied during an earlier life, his physical being will be affected by this in his subsequent incarnation, and he will be reborn with mental impairments. »These days, the human being is unable to really fathom the truth, and he becomes feeble-minded«, writes Weber. This connection is »a spiritual law, discovered by spiritual scientist Rudolf Steiner«. The educator should imagine himself as the person who had been lied to in the previous life. He must forgive the disabled child and into the child’s mind instil the truths of spiritual life. The educator is to work off the »karmic debt« of the children, too.

When Waldorf teachers force left-handed children to write with their right hands, their reasoning is based on the notion of bad karma. The predominant attitude of tolerance that reigns in modern public schools is not recognized in Waldorf schools. Michaela Glöckler, medical practitioner, bestselling anthroposophical author and director of the medical branch at the Goetheneaum, the international  headquarters of the anthroposophists, situated in Dornach, Switzerland, believes that writing with the right hand is »an exercise of will for any child«, and for the left-handed child this is ever so poignant. The child will learn »to pull himself together through continous mastering of the light sensation of discomfort«. According to Steiner, the left-handed have squandered their resources in their prior lives. Thus, in this life, they have to cultivate their »spiritual intensity«, for which the left half of the body is responsible.

A further element of Waldorf pedagogy is the ancient doctrine of human temperaments. Anthroposophists believe that every individual is characterized by one of the four temperaments, which is assumed to govern him: the choleric person is impassioned and strong-willed; the sanguine is lively, confident and fidgety. The melancholic is timid and gloomy, and an egoist and a recluse; the phlegmatic is indolent, he dreams with his mouth open, and pulls out his snack from the school bag at the first opportunity.

The class teacher determines the child’s temperament, and subsequently organizes the seating arrangements: to the left in front of him, he places the phlegmatics, then the melancholics and the sanguines, and to the right he seats the cholerics. Children of the same temperament are seated together, so that they will »mirror« each other. For every temperament, there are specific methods of narration and presentation, particular exercises, and even the four rules of arithmetic are learnt in temperamentally adapted ways. Waldorf pioneer Caroline von Heydebrand advises that the melancholic child ought not to be rinsed in cold water, but should be fed lettuce and light vegetables; the choleric should be made to cut wood, drive in nails and carry rocks, and the phlegmatic must not be allowed to »linger—out of pure delight—drowsily and half-asleep in the warmth of the feather bed« in the mornings. The sanguine requires variation.

The decisive factor, when it comes to the temperament of an individual, is karma. Although most Waldorf teachers are not thought to be among the great initiates and cannot use clairvoyance, they still resort to phrenology and physiognomy. These disciplines arose in the late 18th century, with the objective of dividing humanity into »races«. Anthroposophists believe that cholerics are short-necked and  short-legged, sanguines are slender and well-proportioned, melancholics are tall, thin, skinny and carry their bodies with a forward bent, phlegmatics are rounded and well-nourished. Musicians, painters and priests have large noses, according to the insights of anthroposophist Norbert Glas; ears placed high expose an eccentric intellectual, and pointed ears betray the kleptomaniac.

Karma and reincarnation, temperaments, phrenology, numerological magic and belief in the spiritual world complete the anthroposophical conception of human nature. This is an anthropology based on insight and on »moral conviction«—and for the teachers a »means to an education of the self«—to which every Waldorf school owes a debt of gratitude. The »loyalty to the truth, as it is perceived, binds together the conference of teachers in a community of fate and symbiosis«, proclaims Heinz Zimmermann, the leader of the pedagogical section at the Goetheanum. The assurance that Waldorf schools are not faith schools is nothing but a purely self-protective assertion.

Every Waldorf school is seen as a designated »karmic community«, because every teacher or student has been impelled in a specific direction by his or her karma. In German public schools, a very humble co-management of teachers, parents and pupils has been commonplace for decades; in the so called free Waldorf schools, this kind of democratic governance has not yet been implemented. Waldorf schools claim to be parts of a purpose-driven movement, similar to a religious community, whose undertakings are exempted from the usual requirements regarding co-management of regular employees through provisions made by German law. In practical terms, Waldorf pedagogy requires payments of school fees amounting to some hundred Euros a month, as well as conformity to the informal demands of the social élite which forms the school body. An investigation by the Criminological Institute of Lower Saxony[10] in the year 2006 indicates that, of the surveyed students in 9th grade, only 1,1 per cent of the parents had attended Hauptschule.[11] Only 0,3 per cent of the students are from immigrant families, in comparison to a 18,3 per cent of the students at Hauptschulen and the 2,9 per cent of the students at Gymnasien.

Waldorf schools are foreigner-free enclaves, as it were, and élitist institutions where the offspring of the upper class and the academic bourgeoisie stay at a safe distance from the children of the proleteriat. Waldorf pedagogy may comprise some positive aspects; no grades and no being held back, its orientation towards music and handicraft, or the block teaching. These ideas Steiner ripped off from other reform pedagogues, then infused in occult prattle. Children should be spared from such a covert religious education.


Author’s postscript, May 30, 2008:

This article was first published in »Jungle World«, a German weekly magazine, based in Berlin, in September 2007. A few weeks later the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons declared that the two books by Steiner contain passages »which are nowadays to be rated as racist«, but abstained from banning them because the administration of Rudolf Steiner’s estate, which is headquartered in Switzerland, promised to print annotated new editions.

In November 2007 the Hamburg-based magazine »Stern« reported that Andreas Molau, then front runner of NPD for the state elections in Lower Saxony, was writing a book together with Lorenzo Ravagli, former Waldorf teacher and instructor of Waldorf teachers, staff of the monthly Waldorf magazine »Art of Education« and anthroposophy’s main defender against criticism of antisemitism and racism within anthroposophy and Waldorf education. According to the article in »Stern«, Ravagli refused to authorize this book, which was to deal with nationalism, until a few weeks before the international book fair in Frankfurt. Ravagli published several pamphlets, denying the obvious fact that Steiner was a German nationalist, antisemite and racist. The collaboration between the anthroposophist Ravagli and Molau, one of Germany’s leading Nazi activists, is a scandal, but has obviously had no consequences. Ravagli’s works are still advertised on the homepage of the German Waldorf Federation (, May 26th 2008).

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[1]    A previous version of this article was published in the German magazine Jungle World No. 36, 6 October 2007. It can be accessed at (June 5th 2008).

[2]    Peter Bierl is an author and journalist, living with his family near Munich in Bavaria, Germany. His work deals with topics like anthroposophy, antisemitism, ecology, environmentalism, esotericism, fascism and racism. In 2005, a revised edition of his book »Wurzelrassen, Erzengel und Volksgeister. Die Anthroposophie Rudolf Steiners und die Waldorfpädagogik« [»Root races, Archangels and Folk Spirits. The Anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner and the Waldorf Pedagogy«] was published. Konkret Literatur Verlag, Hamburg, 17 Euro, ISBN 3-89458-242-1.

[3]    Bundesfamilienministerium.

[4]    Bundesprüfstelle (Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien).

[5]    Bund der freien Waldorfschulen.

[6]    Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands; National Democratic Party of Germany.

[7]    »Deutsche Stimme.«

[8]    »Erziehungskunst.«

[9]    »Schicksals- und Daseinsmacht« in German.

[10]  Kriminologisches Institut für Niedersachsen (KfN).

[11]  Transl. note: The German Hauptschule is the alternative to the Gymnasium. Upon completing 4th grade, students go either to the Hauptschule—for a practically oriented, basic education—or to the Gymnasium, which is theoretically oriented and a preparation for higher education. Attendance at a Gymnasium and a successful final examination (the Abitur) are requirements for further studies at university level.

Sex Abuse Cases: Waldorf School Suspends Teacher! Translated by Tom Mellett

Sex Abuse Cases: Waldorf School Suspends Teacher! Translated by Tom Mellett

Colleagues and parents are shocked by the allegations against the teacher. The investigation of other perpetrators continues. A former student of the accused speaks out.

The reaction of school administrators, pupils and teachers at the [Berlin] Waldorf School in the “Märkisch” [Brandenburg] district on Saturday was disbelief at the news that one of the three men arrested on suspicion of human sex trafficking and systematic sexual child abuse is one of their teachers. “The school community is deeply shocked about the suspected involvement of a teacher in these terrible crimes,” read a statement by the school board. “So far we have no information that students at the school have been affected. As a precaution, the school has sent out a contact number for any concerned person to call.” As we have elsewhere reported, the 67-year-old teacher [Johan Elwing] was arrested on Wednesday for alleged sexual abuse of several boys at an orphanage in Haiti and also in Berlin. The home was allegedly operated by the Berlin Project: “Promote Africa” with this teacher as chairman. Also charged are the business manager of the Project and a third man. The Project sees itself as an initiative for integration and development of young people from Africa with immigrant backgrounds. The focus of the project is the “prevention of violence affecting adolescent males.” There are also similar projects supported, among others, by artists and the Brazilian soccer player, Francesco Lima, has underwritten a workshop on “Street Soccer for Tolerance.” On top of that, the project has been closely connected with the organizers of Farafina, the Africa House in Berlin, since 2005. But neither Farafina nor the Project had issued a statement by yesterday. One partner in the Project, a German artist, was shocked Saturday by the allegations. He said that cooperating with the Project a few years ago struck him as “dubious” and that the organization of a joint event was “not transparent.” Therefore, he had rejected a renewed offer of cooperation. Another artist who had worked with “Promote Africa” said the chairman would “always make a good impression” and he seemed to have “a good rapport with children.”

“On good terms with children,” also acknowledged a former student of the now suspended Waldorf teacher. “He was very involved — I have only fond memories of him,” says the Berliner, who in the late 1980’s was an exchange student at the Stockholm Waldorf school, where this same teacher had taught a class before later being re-assigned to Berlin. The teacher “had a good rapport with students,” but according to the recollection of this former student at that time, he had never violated any boundaries. The teacher and Project chairman now accused of sexual abuse has been relieved of his teaching duties, and an injunction barring his return to the school also taken against him. His name and photo were removed from the school’s website. “The Waldorf School Board takes these allegations very seriously and the suspension will be maintained until the legal issues are definitively settled,” said the school board. The parents at the Waldorf school — where the 67-year-old had worked as an English teacher at different grade levels since 2000 until his arrest — were deeply concerned. “Since his arrest, there is nothing else to talk about,” says one father as he stood amid the construction debris and insulation material that the parents — on their own initiative and despite the holidays — needed for the renovation of the orange-colored main building. They had collected more than 400,000 Euros [$580,000 US] in donations for the remodeling and new construction of a kitchen and a multi-purpose room. Everyone here is mum about the teacher. The parents just refer to the statement of the school administration. Among his colleagues on Saturday, the news was getting around slowly at first. “I just can’t imagine it!” said a female teacher who only found out by querying the Tagesspiegel [Daily Mirror] about the case. “It’s such a mystery to me!” The school has around 430 students and 35 teachers. In light of the existing case, doubts have been raised about the requirements for associations where adults work with young people — better to check in advance as already required by sports clubs. “Wherever there is a lot of working with children, then police certifications must be required,” said CDU-politician Peter Trapp to the Tagesspiegel.

The phlegmatic sits by the window…

The phlegmatic sits by the window…

Experiences with actual Waldorf teaching
Miss Claudia Pangh, original in German published by Reinhard Karst,Translated by EC
I was very glad to have finally found a forum that offers a critical discussion of Anthroposophy and Waldorf pedagogy. We often see parents and outside observers expressing discomfort with some aspect or other of Waldorf, but we rarely see any examination of the pedagogical method or the actual instructional practices. This is because the Waldorf teachers are usually devout Anthroposophists, who show little willingness to question their methods. Concerned parents, on the other hand, usually have too little knowledge in the subject matter to be able to critically judge and compare what they perceive.

For this reason, I would like to contribute my own experiences with Waldorf pedagogy, to which I was introduced from a teacher’s perspective. Like many young prospective teachers, I searched for alternative, progressively-oriented concepts when I started my studies to become a public school teacher. Like many of them, I soon came across the Waldorf schools. After my third semester I had decided that I wanted to get to know one such alternative school in an additional, non-mandatory internship. It was hard, however, to find a school that would offer such an internship. Finally, after multiple attempts, and only with great trepidation, the Independent Waldorf school near my parent’s hometown agreed to a 6-week internship. Aside from their overall teaching method, I was particularly interested in their early foreign language instruction since I myself had studied French, which I also taught later in elementary school.

I have to admit that I did not know anything about Anthroposophy. I was amazed at first, and later increasingly appalled, by how much this ideology dominates the day-to-day dealings in Waldorf schools. Aside from its content, about which people may agree or disagree depending on their personal beliefs, I already perceived that the general setup for teaching was far from being progressive, which, in my opinion, has everything to do with opening up the learning situation and with self-determination of the students.

I had been assigned to the “main lesson” teacher of a 2nd grade class, but I also had the opportunity to obtain some inside views into the lessons given in other grades. In this class, forty-two (!) children sat in pairs at double desks, all facing the teacher. The organic form of the room and the pastel-colored walls didn’t compensate for such an arrangement. I quickly learned that large classes were the rule at this school, and not the exception. In this light, a cap of thirty-three students in public school classes seems like paradise–even though we rightly complain that one cannot properly work with the individual student in groups that large.

The seating arrangement was face-to-face, and face-to-face lecturing was all, in terms of methodical variation, that I saw during my 6 weeks. In my opinion, for the most part you couldn’t even call it teaching–it was more akin to organized chanting. Every school day was so ritualized that a large part of the morning was taken up by the recitation of verses, either individually or as a group. I don’t know how many parents are aware of the nature of these verses to which their children are exposed on a daily basis, and which the students have to learn by heart. From my point of view, they carried a distinctly Christian-Anthroposophical world view, which, in my opinion, should only have a place in religious instruction. I would even doubt that the seven and eight year old kids had any understanding of the meaning of the words they parroted every day. Fortunately, conflicts with children from different religions or cultures did not arise; I found my Waldorf school to be a zone completely void of foreigners.

A rigid and very strict regime guided the recitation of verses as well as the complete morning schedule. Nothing of what I had learned about a second-grader’s urge to playful movement was taken into account. On the contrary, a great emphasis was put on discipline. I think there’s hardly any other way to handle a class of forty-two kids.

The actual instruction in class was executed as rigidly as the recitation. No matter whether students wrote, drew, or calculated, everything was done in rigid monotony. There were only a few moments in which the children could contribute their own ideas. Usually, people stuck to the prescribed schedule. Each of my shy questions about the reasons for the various measures and schedules was answered with a reference to Rudolf Steiner’s works. For my host, the maxims Steiner had developed in the twenties contained clear and unconditional truth, and they were never questioned.

I particularly recall my experiences in the German lessons. According to Steiner’s seven year cycles, our 2nd graders were in the developmental stage of myths, legends and fables. Even if we ignore that there are models of child development that would disagree with that assumption, this meant the girls and boys did not see any other type of text for the entire school year. During my internship, fables were on the schedule. This meant that every day, I had to recite a text by La Fontaine (or a similar author) by heart. The teachers at my school rejected reading from books, because Steiner had spoken out against it in some of his writings.

My recitation happened in a fixed ritual every day. Despite the story’s language, which I found inappropriate for their age, the kids were eager to learn more about the raven, the fox and about what happened with the cheese, and followed the story with interest. Every normal elementary school teacher would have immediately picked up on this and would have motivated the students to creatively apply the story to the students’ own lives, as the guidelines of student-centered and task-based learning suggest [1]. Not so the Waldorf teachers! Steiner apparently found in one of his wise indications that for seven year olds, purely receptive listening is the only appropriate way to process literature. Having to regularly kill the creative urge of forty-two more or less highly motivated children hurt my soul! Even the discussion of the fables had to happen on the following day–apparently, Steiner declared at some point that in children of this age, such matters had to settle first.

I could tell you more, for instance about Konrad, who came to school one Monday with big eyes and enthusiastically showed the book his aunt had given him over the weekend. It was “Satyrs come on Saturday” [Am Samstag kommt das Sams] by Paul Maar. Any reasonable elementary school teacher would have kissed Konrad for bringing this great book and would have scheduled an impromptu reading session. Not so my Waldorf colleague, who suggested the child leave such material at home in the future since it depicts adults in ways that are clearly inappropriate.

I could also talk about the pedagogical criteria to judge students according to their temperaments, which were completely new to me, and the strange seating arrangement resulting from them. The sanguines sit by the wall, because they’re already so wound up, but the phlegmatics sit by the window, cause they need the energy of the light! Or I could talk about the often praised foreign language instruction, which I found to be a stupid memorization of poems and verses, among others, the poem “La fourmi et la grenouille” by La Fontaine from the 18th century–a text on which even students of romance languages sometimes break their teeth.

There was not a trace of communication competency. I was convinced the children didn’t even understand what they chanted on a regular basis, and I don’t even want to mention the complete lack of meaningful application of the language to actual situations, which current foreign language theory suggests. I won’t even talk about eurythmy; I knew before my internship that it is a part of Waldorf and that different people have different views on it.

I could name many more examples and each would support my findings. Since this internship, if someone mentions Waldorf pedagogy as an alternative or progressive school idea, I contradict them strongly. I have found the entire school to be a very inflexible and regimented system, whose theories and methods were stuck in the twenties, exactly as Steiner had left them. In my view, this preservation can be explained by the partially blind obedience with which the master’s writings were interpreted and put to work. Only what Steiner had written or lectured at some point had validity at the school, and those instructions were interpreted literally. Every single one of my doubts or questions was hammered off the table with this argument. Sixty years of pedagogical development were completely ignored! But what may have been revolutionary then is simply inadequate for today’s children. This school completely tunes out the reality of today’s society. I doubt that this is a meaningful way to prepare children for their future life. I also did not see the students in a free atmosphere, on the contrary, they were in a totalistic regime. It remains a mystery to me how this is supposed to further the much-touted free development of creativity. I also don’t see the purported advantage over public schools. In my opinion, in many cases the potential that Waldorf students frequently show at performances comes from their home life, rather than the school. After all, they very often come from active and conscientious middle class families who already promote their children’s abilities in multiple ways.

Based on my experiences, I think that many parents don’t realize what immense importance the Anthroposophical ideology has in Waldorf schools. Families will probably get into conflicts right away if the parents aren’t convinced and practicing Anthroposophists themselves; the impression of a certain amount of indoctrination appeared at least partly justified. As I said, Anthroposophically oriented families probably won’t have a problem with that, but others should think twice about what they are getting into.

In discussions with people convinced of Waldorf I often hear that I must have encountered a particularly gross example with 150% Anthros. That may be true, but the simple fact that such an extreme and insane example is possible in this much-praised school system is enough for me to be fundamentally skeptical towards this pedagogical method. Of course, these people mention in their reply such advantages as the creative elements of Waldorf pedagogy and the absence of grades. But if one knows only a little about progressive education, one will quickly notice that similar elements can be found in other approaches as well. Learning without grades is also being practiced in pilot projects in public schools, it’s nothing Waldorf-specific. If you add in the success factor (the 2nd grade still had a long way to go before they’d be able to write), certain doubts become hard to suppress.

What bugs me most is that the Waldorf schools are still presented as THE ultimate progressive schools, and many parents who only want the best for their child blindly trust their concept. Of course, it is possible to find plenty of negative experiences with teaching and teachers in public schools, but this makes it even worse if Waldorf pedagogy is presented as THE shining counter-ideal. The expectations of many critical parents will remain unfulfilled, for example when it comes to self-determined and individualized learning. A pedagogical concept becomes questionable in my eyes if it tunes out the reality of society to the extent Waldorf pedagogy does. Some may view this as shelter for their children, but I would call it otherworldliness. If school is to prepare for an emancipated life in society, it has to confront the difficulties and problems of the children, no matter whether it is the media, violence, racism or other issues.

Finally, one should realize in this public discussion that in the mean time the ideas and goals of progressive education have made their way into public schools. The picture that is painted in public about the teaching reality in public schools these days is often wrong. As a student of social pedagogy, herself a Waldorf graduate, said when she watched independent work in a classroom run by myself and a colleague: “Oh, how wonderful, I didn’t know teaching like this can be so much fun!”


Translator’s note


[1] she said “handlungs- und produktionsorientierten Literaturunterrichts”. This pedagogical term is used in some German didactics textbooks. The adjectives are actually “handlungsorientiert” and “produktorientiert”. According to Reinhard Donath (, who consulted Prof. Bach from Bremen, “handlungsorientiert” can be translated as “student centered learning” or “task-based learning”. “Produktorientiert” means to be oriented towards the “objective of the learning process”. Bach has authored books on the subject in the context of foreign language instruction.

Waldorf: A Very Alternative Education

Waldorf: A Very Alternative Education

By Northernrefugee

It must have been May, because I remember the sheets of bluebells and the children whooping as they tore through them, the heady sweet smell rising. I felt strongly this was how childhood should be, prolonged and carefree, and one reason we’d moved from London to the rural North was to give our children more freedom. The local primary school turned out to be run by a cabal of born again Christians, and was rife with bullying, testing and coloured in photocopies. We wanted more for our children.

Around that time, a woman in the local organic shop befriended me, going out her way to help with friendly advice and errands. It emerged her children went to a Steiner school at a camphill community 17 miles away. Her descriptions were radiant, and she invited me to come up with her one day to visit it. My vague recollections about Steiner schools were that they concentrated on creativity, music and the child as a whole. I talked to my husband about what seemed to be an interesting alternative to the rut we felt our children were in.

At a promotional morning in a local market town, we talked to parents from the school and community; I still have the flyer given out that day to attract people, which lists the small classes, the lack of tests, the art, music and craft and whole child education they offered; it doesn’t mention the spiritual once. We rang the school to make an appointment.


The staggering position of the village hits you as the road drops steeply into the valley from the high moors. Although strange, the figures that stoop in the fields, or move awkwardly through the lush lanes, add to the utopian image of these isolated communities. Strangers are stared at unremittingly; gazes linger and can be quite unnerving. This is their land; we are interlopers and not their people. To outsiders, it seems here that all are equal and working wholesomely and lovingly in a natural, meaningful and embracing society. Adults with learning difficulties live in family groups usually headed by a married couple, their children, and young co-workers from around the world who stay for varying periods. The villagers work on the biodynamic land, the bakery, creamery and craft workshops in this almost self-sufficient community.


We arranged an interview, having taken in the school’s attractive buildings wedged into the hillside, the well tended garden, free form waterfalls and trees to climb seducing us at each turn. Children singing drifted from the peach blossom classrooms into the early summer air. We were enchanted and captivated.


The administrator, a gentle handsome man with clear blue eyes answered our questions about the curriculum; the art, music, drama, craft, gardening; a whole morning to concentrate on myths, legends and history, in contrast to the photocopied snatches at primary school; the whole class participating in orchestra; integrating subjects like maths and stories to capture the child’s imagination; not reading until they’re ready, learning in much the same way they learn to speak or walk, without force.

I remember asking about the many reproductions of the Madonna, and being told emphatically that the school wasn’t religious, although religion was a lesson and taught through bible stories. The story element was crucial for us, and we were assured this was how it was presented.

We had two more meetings/interviews with class teachers, two with kindergarten teachers. Everyone was kind, gentle and welcoming. Although it was apparently inappropriate to view a class in session, at break we tried to engage with some of the children; they stared fixedly, suspiciously, no rapport, no smiles. We put this reticence down to a charming and old-fashioned shyness.

I asked for recommended books to read about Steiner education, and for the schools’ prospectus, which mentions “hidden gifts that given the chance to flourish can help transform the world”. How we wish that we had know then the duplicitous meaning of this phrase, the “hidden gifts” could mean clairvoyant ability in the anthroposophical view, and some believe the schools are in place to help children reincarnate, awaken their spirituality and enable them to communicate with the spirit world.

During our meetings with the school, and in the school’s and village’s promotional material, the word “anthroposophy” wasn’t mentioned once. Neither was reincarnation, soul, spirit world, clairvoyance, root race, occult science, temperaments, astral, etheric or cosmic forces. An arts based liberal education was peddled to us. We were sold an education based on a lie, and we fell for it.


Nervous, excited and relieved to be starting a school we thought we believed in, our children’s September skin glowing mahogany smooth and dark, we were welcomed at the beginning of term festival with stirring harmony singing. We were asked back to people’s houses, the warmth and welcome heartening.

It was only a week or two before we began to hear about the bullying; some lead by a merciless leader, who had a hold on adults and children alike, some a lord of the flies mob rule, the cruelty was shocking, and seemingly unmonitored by adults.

I kept correspondence from those early days, not wanting to sound pushy or interfering, my mild enquiries were dismissed or unchecked. We had ineffectual meetings, where talk about temperaments and star signs baffled us; a constant chant that our daughter was winding us up, not telling us as it was, that the children being bullied were attracting it. Finally, when faced with facts from other parents, the teacher seemed to get a grip on the situation, things briefly settled, and like pack animals, the children changed allegiance.

Not for long; our middle daughter was among a group of children who were subjected to remorseless constant bullying; their teacher was still in training, and it emerged had no other qualifications; she was obviously way out of her depth; the school left her to sink, with our children as her ballast.

While our children were there, they and others had bruises from stones thrown, were kicked while being held down, had clumps of hair pulled out, scarred hands from scratching and clawing, older, larger children against smaller, fights were common occurrences; they were taunted, had notes passed around class about them, votes in class about who should be allowed to go to parties, constant sneers, put downs and name calling. These weren’t one off events. This was how it was at the school. There were ringleaders and bystanders but no protectors. The adults didn’t “see”. Some children just gave up; you could see it in their eyes, in their expression of broken hopelessness. Some parents were overwhelmed by the way the teachers deflected and twisted the situations. Anthroposophical parents often had a sort of karmic acceptance of these horrors, or occasionally used archaic punishments. My children came home with tales of their friends being shut in the larder on bread and water, being hit, locked in rooms; these parents swung wildly between cruelty, neglect and idolisation.


The behaviour in the classroom and village was out of control; children were apparently manhandled out of classrooms by two male teachers, or dragged across the room by their neck. They were made to stand uncomfortably outside for what seemed like hours day after day; I often saw miserable children outside classrooms. Unsupervised at lunchtime, children climbed on roofs and jumped from bridges; on one occasion, some children climbed on a digger, released the brake, and let it roll down a hill as they jumped from it.

The teachers responded by shouting more and louder. Parent’s evenings were awkward occasions where teachers implied all was well, and parents rarely spoke up. I walked out in despair as I was shouted down, for being outraged by a parent washing their child’s mouth out with soap, for attempting to discuss bullying. The calm contained expressions of the most anthroposophical staff became twisted with incandescent rage. The general unspoken consensus seemed to be to feign the state of affairs, and karma would prevail.

Our many meetings with teachers were ineffectual; their self-delusion and deception extraordinary. We were stonewalled or given flustered garbled answers; it was like trying to catch snowflakes in a blizzard, any substantial question asked melted to nothing in their answers; a feeling that something was always just out of reach. Often I was reduced to tears of anger and frustration; rather than any sort of empathy, I always felt observed as they held fixed glassy gazes as they watched me weep. Risibly, I once received a letter reprimanding me for crying.


The pivotal moment in this chaos, when we were perceived as iconoclasts to their system, as we were in the process of removing our eldest daughter, was when the rehearsals began for the Norse Myth Saga.

During our time at the school we’d been on the receiving end of some oblique comments (my husband is Jewish /Asian; our children have dark eyes and olive skin). A camphill mother welcomed us on the first day by saying how glad her daughter was to have children darker than her in the school; another German camphill mother launched into a desultory story about her children asking if they were in the African jungle on a rare trip to London as they rarely saw dark skinned people. The same woman, a propos a class discussion, said my children were at the bottom of the pecking order, as an assumed fait accompli. The art teacher described her paintings as “Of course primitive, but quite good”. While they stung and surprised me, I never related these remarks to our non-Anglo Saxon / Aryan roots. Ironically, the international element had initially been one of the attractions of the school for us.

Looking back, thinking of the children talked about as bright, special, good, invariably the blond, blue eyed or German children fitted the description, (although there was a predominance of these children in the school.) The youngest boy in H’s class was badly bullied, struggled with his work, and spent a lot of the time crying; this was accepted and left, this was how he was. He was Jewish. Surely labelling, in this instance, and in the use of the temperaments, which uses body shape and disposition to classify children into one of the four temperaments and treat them according to Steiner’s interpretation of their personality types, must filter down and become a self-fulfilling prophesy? These clumsy tools of categorising children are used for many choices in Steiner schools.


The Norse play had been written by the teacher; my daughter was to be a dwarf or elf, apparently quite a big part; I hadn’t fully caught the gathering tensions, since this was fused with our eldest daughter settling into a new school where she was way behind academically.

Our middle daughter came home after the dress rehearsal so distraught, so desperate I knew something had deeply upset her. She sobbed uncontrollably as it emerged that during the dress rehearsal the other girls had been given swirling, colourful silky dresses to wear, they were queens, princesses, attendants. My daughter was to wear rough britches and a waistcoat, as the wicked dwarf. I rang the teacher to put this dilemma to her, and was met with a tirade of intense rage; I quietly put the phone down, saying I couldn’t continue. She rang five or more times, on one occasion a diatribe so fierce, she hadn’t realised my daughter had answered the phone.

My daughter was allowed to be a female dwarf and wear a dress. I found one in our dressing up cupboard that had been my mothers, shiny deep satin with appliquéd rich velvet. It swirled and rustled as she spun round and round and her sisters pinned and held together gathers of material. Her eyes shone. She looked beautiful.

During the performance I felt excruciatingly ill at ease and uncomfortable. My dark elf was taunted and mocked at one point with an insect on a stick; the princess, queen and attendants stood high above her laughing. Much of the dialogue was about golden hair and beauty, dark mines and shape shifters. I fought an instinct to whisk her away from that place.

One phrase in my daughter’s practise writing book haunts and stays with me. I asked her teacher and older mentor, why they thought this was the only thing she had managed to write on that page. They squirmed and shifted in their chairs. Neither of them looked me in the eye. She had written, “Elves are dark and ugly. They live underground and everybody hates them”

When we left the school soon after this, I asked several times in writing for all her books. That one never emerged.

Naturally, it hadn’t occurred to us that this had anything to do with race; it was the human element of this and so many incidents, which was unsettling. The thought that it could be related to Steiner’s hierarchical beliefs about race was repellent, but at the same time made sense. I’ve since heard about teachers writing stories for children who leave which involve dark princes not ready to play in the garden with fair children.


In our early days at the school I had come across the word anthroposophical. It was mentioned in magazines in the village coffee shop, there were shelves of books by Steiner in the camphill bookshop and library, whose ideas I gradually tried to grasp. The school newsletter mentioned anthroposophical meetings sometimes, the children visited the anthroposophical doctor for developmental reasons, and I was given the idea it was some form of homeopathy, of holistic alternative medicine. I had limited access to the internet then, but the books I was reading were beginning to ring alarm bells.


My questions were always evaded, because of either confusion or deception; many parents, even those immersed in anthroposophy within camphill communities, appear not to have much understanding of this spiritual occult science, and prefer not to. They bury themselves in toil and ritual, hoping somehow to climb their personal spiritual ladder. A prerequisite for Steiner teachers is to walk their own spiritual path; perhaps many are so far at the bottom, that they felt unable answer us. The grasp of anthroposophy by some teachers is clearly so tenuous it can only arouse pity, as they balance a precarious equilibrium between certainties of esoteric spiritual truth and not really knowing.


In telling our story, two strands are apparent; the deception and secrecy in recruiting parents to the Steiner movement, and the hierarchical racial belief system upon which the whole of anthroposophy is hinged.

Anthroposophy informed every decision in the classroom, from the ignoring of bullying, which is seen as a past life issue, and to interfere would disrupt the karmic path, to forcing our left handed seven-year-old to knit right handed, because left handedness is seen as a karmic weakness. Children’s safety is treated with an insouciance that would frighten the most carefree, because there is a belief that guardian angels watch over the children. Our questions were met with silence, obfuscation and distortion, even lies. There is a prejudicial conviction among anthroposophists, an irritating conceit, which can stun some people to silence, or attract others searching for spiritual certainty.

These communities pander to separation, with talk of outsiders, and by generating a fear of the world beyond theirs. This propagates a sense of cult, as does the fanatical fundraising and working towards a common goal for the community.


As far as I understand, anthroposophists believe that all humans can be directed towards clairvoyant vision, and can be taught to communicate with the spirit world, which they believe is scientifically real. The teacher’s “sacred” task is to help children incarnate into this world from the spirit world they have recently emerged, and to guide the children’s souls towards their next incarnation. Teachers direct children’s attention away from the apparent world to many concealed levels of truth in order to empower the human soul. The curriculum is specifically designed to set these tasks in motion–wet on wet painting for instance, is to remind children of the spirit world, where there are no lines and only certain colours. The myths taught at specific times are to echo the journey of the soul through various incarnations and epochs, perhaps reminding the child of previous lives. Academic work, intellectualism is seen as ahrimanic, a kind of devils work, not spiritual enough, too much in the head. The children are meant to absorb spirituality, not question the teacher’s word.

Man incarnates in successive lives, and a spiritually and racially advanced group progresses into the next era, while the majority of materialistic and evil races decline. There is a distinction between soul and race development, the body is a mantle, and anyone can reincarnate as any race. Individual souls are responsible for their own journey up or down the spiritual ladder, by immersing themselves in “occult science” or anthroposophy, and climbing the path to spiritual enlightenment.

The advanced group are those who have occult spiritual knowledge, and they will recognise themselves in future spiritual eras.

The importance of race in Steiner’s belief system is repeated time and time again…


“A race or nation stands so much the higher, the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal human type.” [Rudolf Steiner, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment (Anthroposophic Press, 1944), p. 149.]


“If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense…Blond hair actually bestows intelligence. In the case of fair people, less nourishment is driven into the eyes and hair; it remains instead in the brain and endows it with intelligence. Brown- and dark-haired people drive the substances into their eyes and hair that the fair people retain in their brains.” [Rudolf Steiner, HEALTH AND ILLNESS, Vol. 1, (Anthroposophic Press, 1981), pp. 85-86.]



“Upon the forehead and in the whole physiognomy it will be written whether the person is good or evil. He will show in his face what is contained in his inmost soul. What a man has developed within himself,
whether he has exercised good or evil impulses, will be written on his forehead. After the great War of All against All there will be two kinds of human beings. Those who had previously tried to follow the call to the spiritual life, who cultivated the spiritualizing and ennobling of their inner spiritual life, will show this inward life on their faces and express it in their gestures and the movements of their hands. And those who have turned away from the spiritual life, represented by the community of Laodicea, who were lukewarm, neither warm nor cold, will pass into the following epoch as those who retard human evolution, who preserve the
backward forces of evolution which have been left behind. They will show the evil passions, impulses and instincts hostile to the spiritual in an ugly, unintelligent, evil-looking countenance. In their gestures and hand-movements, in everything they do, they will present an outer image of
the ugliness in their soul. Just as humanity has separated into races and communities, in the future it will divide into two great streams, the good and the evil. And what is in their souls will be outwardly manifest, they will no longer be able to hide it.”
Steiner, The Apocalypse of St. John p. 82)


”each person has the opportunity to become caught up in the essence of one incarnation, to push away the leader of humankind, or instead to undergo the transformation into higher races, toward ever higher perfection. Races would never become decadent, never decline, if there weren’t souls that are unable to move up and unwilling to move up to a higher racial form. Look at the races that have survived from earlier eras: they only exist because some souls could not climb higher.’ (Rudolf Steiner, Das
Hereinwirken geistiger Wesenheiten in den Menschen, 174)



“One can only understand history and all of social life, including today’s social life, if one pays attention to people’s racial characteristics. And one can only understand all that is spiritual in the correct sense if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin.” “(“Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde (GA 349), Dornach 1980, p. 52. 1923)


“The black or Negro race is substantially determined by these childhood characteristics.” [The Mission of the Folk Souls, p. 75.]


“the subsequent Negro population of Africa … they deposited too many carbonic constituents in their skin and became black. This is why the Negroes are black. Thus both east of Atlantis in the black population and west of Atlantis in the red population we find survivors of the kind of people who had not developed their ego-feeling in a normal way. The human beings who had developed normally lent themselves best to progress.” [Rudolf Steiner, The Being of Man and his Future Evolution (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), pp. 118-119.]


“..a black in Africa is a human who absorbs and assimilates as
much light and heat from the cosmos as possible. As he does this, the
forces of the cosmos work throughout that human. Everywhere, he
absorbs light and heat, really everywhere. He assimilates them within
himself. There really must be something which helps him in this
assimilation. That something is mainly the cerebellum. This is why a
Negro has an especially well developed cerebellum. This is linked to
the spinal marrow; and they can assimilate all light and heat which a
human contains. As a consequence, especially the aspects which
pertain to the body and to metabolism are strongly developed in a
Negro. He has a strong sexual urge as people call it, strong
instincts. And as, with him, all which comes from the sun light and
heat really is at the skin?s surface, all of his metabolism works as
if the sun itself is boiling in his inside. This causes his passions.
Within a Negro, cooking is going on all the time; and the cerebellum
kindles the fire. …”

Steiner, R. (1974). Die geistigen Hintergr?nde des Ersten
Weltkrieges. (Original work published 1915) Dornach: Rudolf Steiner
Verlag (GA 174b).


Steiner’s ideas, from evolution, reincarnation and the paranormal defy reasoned argument; the tenets of anthroposophy cling to an entrenched position, at whose core lies an abhorernt construction of belief, which forms the basis of the curriculum, and which teachers use to make decisions in the classroom. The anthroposophical apologists have a wilful insistence to be blind to Steiner’s racist beliefs, many discussions on the internet substantiate this.


It is disquieting that the schools manage to deceive so many with their specious propaganda. Ask any one who has questioned Steiner’s ideas to a teacher, and has received the answer ”Steiner is difficult”. I have read pieces written by disillusioned Steiner teachers, who say that during their training they are taught to divert parents attention away from the spiritual towards the creative and visceral aspects, and not to talk about anthroposophy. It is common to talk of the difficulty of “educating” parents about anthroposophy. This confirms the idea that the schools are promoted on a disengenious and false basis. Steiner made it clear that part of the task and goal of anthroposophists was to spread occult knowledge,


“There is no other means of bringing about a universal human brotherhood than the spreading of occult knowledge through the world.”

“ The aim of the sixth epoch of humanity will be to popularise occult truth in the widest circles; that is the mission of that epoch…..

…..the society which is united in spirit has the task of carrying this occult truth everywhere — right into life — and applying it practically.

….So you see, the Spiritual Movement has a quite definite goal, namely, to mould future humanity in advance. And the goal can be reached in no other way than through the acceptance of spiritual wisdom…….so have we now the task of working towards the great moment in the Sixth Age, when humanity will undertake a great spiritual ascent……..

….So a certain group of people must join together in order to prepare the future.”

Theosophy of the Rosocrucian XIII The Future of Man June 1907


Anthroposophists must see it as a task beyond all other, to fulfill the goal set by their guru. These people are not bad, they see what they are doing as giving the children a step onto an elite spiritual path, and by setting this in motion, they deceive, mislead and indoctrinate. Some go to great lengths to propogate their ossified ideas, or to muddy the waters by creating websites which purport to answer questions about Steiner and anthroposophy but in fact deflect from the core doctrines. They even spend inordinate energy trying to discredit eminent historians who study their beliefs. Personally, I have been stalked on the internet by anthroposophists so keen to gag free speech that they threaten discussion boards with law suits and try to have all critical discussion deleted.

Here in England, the first state funded Steiner school has been granted millions of government money. Certainly, there are good elements within Steiner schools which attract many people; if they weren’t led by anthroposophy, these schools could offer a wonderful alternative to a more conventional education. Unless they jettison their retrogressive belief system, and open up, it is only a matter of time before their cult-like pseudo religion is exposed. For us, that time cannot come too quickly.


July 2008





Debra Snell, President
12562 Rough and Ready Highway
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 273-1005

Dan Dugan, Secretary
290 Napoleon St. Studio E
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 821-9776




February 11, 1998, People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS) filed suit in federal court (the Eastern District of California, in Sacramento) against two California school districts, alleging that their publicly-funded Waldorf schools were religious programs in disguise. The defendants were the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, sponsoring a Waldorf charter school, and the Sacramento Unified School District, which created a Waldorf magnet school.

Judge Frank C. Damrell proposed, and PLANS agreed, that the trial would be divided into two parts. The first part would determine whether Anthroposophy, the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf education, was a religion for Establishment Clause purposes. If and only if that was shown, the second part would determine whether Anthroposophy was impermissibly present in publicly-funded schools.

In a pre-emptive move, Judge Damrell allowed the school districts to appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on whether PLANS had standing to bring the lawsuit. In April of 2000 the court refused to take the appeal, affirming PLANS’ standing.

In May, 2001, in reaction to the case Altman v. Bedford Central School District, Judge Damrell dismissed the PLANS lawsuit against the two school districts, based on lack of standing. PLANS appealed the decision, and in February, 2003, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals again confirmed PLANS’ right to sue the school districts as taxpayers and reinstated the case.

At the September, 2005 trial, PLANS refused to present its case without key witnesses and evidence that Judge Frank C. Damrell had excluded based on his interpretation of federal court rules. That gave the judge no option but to dismiss the case for the second time.

PLANS contended that Damrell’s rulings were incorrect, and appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. After a two-year wait, the appeal was heard November 9, 2007. The court reversed the decision of the district court and remanded the case back to that court. The appeals court also released one of the defendants from the case, the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, because that district no longer had a Waldorf charter school. That left only Sacramento as a defendant.

A second trial, on the issue of whether Anthroposophy was a religion, was held August 30, 2010. PLANS was represented by D. Michael Bush, of Irvine, CA. Judge Damrell again refused to allow almost all of the evidence that PLANS offered, rejecting it as hearsay and irrelevant. The judge refused to allow the books and lectures of Rudolf Steiner, which form the foundation of Waldorf, into evidence. PLANS called one witness, Betty Staley, an initiator of Waldorf education in public schools. Staley was evasive, claiming that Anthroposophists did not celebrate well-known Anthroposophical festivals, and that the newsletter of the Anthroposophical Society, which prints the minutes of its board meetings, did not represent the Society. Judge Damrell dismissed the case a third time, for lack of evidence.

PLANS appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for a fourth time.


The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard PLANS’ appeal May 17, 2012. Judges Richard R. Clifton, Stephen Reinhardt, and N. Randy Smith formed the panel. Kevin T. Snider, Chief Counsel of Pacific Justice Institute, represented PLANS. An audio recording of the hearing is available at

Snider posited that the district court erred in three matters. First, that the exclusion of evidence was based on an erroneous interpretation of federal court rules, for example requiring either the original document or the testimony of an expert for admission of publications more than twenty years old and found in a place and condition supporting authenticity. Second, that the district court used four indicia for defining religion, and the Alvarado case used only three. Judge Smith asked whether the Supreme Court had ever said a group that denied it was religious was religious. Snider said no, the closest thing was the Malnak case, where Transcendental Meditation claimed that Hindu rituals as part of a school program were not religious. Third, Judge Damrell had implied that the “establishment” and “free exercise” clauses of the First Amendment had different scopes, and that position disagreed with rulings of the 9th Circuit Court.

“On two occasions Anthroposophists have convinced courts that Anthroposophy is a religion,” said Kevin Snider, chief counsel with the Pacific Justice Institute. In 1987 and later in 2004 two Anthroposophical entities sought special immigrant religious worker visas for foreign nationals serving in two of their institutions. Those cases are Soltane v. INS and Lindenberg v. INS. “Anthroposophists have wanted the advantages of the Free Exercise Clause when applying for immigration visas, but not the restrictions in the Establishment Clause when seeking tax dollars to fund their religious activities at public schools,” Snider continued.

Judge Smith thought that the bifurcation of the trial was an error. It didn’t matter whether Anthroposophy was a religion or not, what mattered was whether there was religious activity in the classroom. As PLANS was not allowed to go to the second phase of the trial, that issue was never addressed.

Michele Cannon represented the Sacramento school district. Cannon pointed out that PLANS had interweaved some documents into their brief that were not in evidence. She said that PLANS had never presented evidence of any illegal activity in the schools, ignoring the fact that that was because the second part of the trial had not taken place.

At the end, Judge Reinhardt said “Maybe we ought to just decide that you all screwed this thing up, and throw out the whole case.”

Debra Snell, President of PLANS, noted “It’s bizarre. By getting involved with Waldorf, a public school district was put into the position of having to defend the claims of a religious cult.”

The 9th Circuit rendered a non-published decision just three weeks later. They upheld Judge Damrell’s decision and his rulings on evidence. They said that a more full record might well show that Anthroposophy was a religion, but that sufficient evidence had not been presented. The court opined that the requirement to prove that Anthroposophy was a religion might have been an error, but that PLANS had waived its right to make that argument by accepting the deal.

Dan Dugan, Secretary of PLANS, said “Over thirteen years our case was whittled down to nothing by technical maneuvers. The real issue of whether public funding of Waldorf education violates the Establishment Clause because of impermissible entanglement with a religious cult, the presence of religious rituals, and the leakage of religious doctrines into the classrooms of public schools was never aired in court. We will start all over again.”

The most significant aspect of the 9th circuit ruling is that it did not sustain the lower Court’s conclusion that Anthroposophy is not a religion. Rather the Court simply held that the record lacked sufficient evidence for it to rule on the issue. As a consequence, the 9th circuit ruling leaves open the opportunity to show the true religious nature of that belief system.


Anthroposophy is the spiritual movement behind the world-wide network of Waldorf schools. PLANS alleges that Anthroposophy is a cult-like religious sect. Common references classify Anthroposophy as religious; for example, Encarta: “a religious philosophy developed by Rudolf Steiner from theosophy, holding that spiritual development should be humankind’s foremost concern.”

PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and inseparably based on Anthroposophy. Curriculum decisions and teacher training are based on Anthroposophy’s child development theory, which defines stages of reincarnation, a religious doctrine. Science teaching in Waldorf schools includes crackpot Anthroposophical doctrines like the belief that the heart doesn’t pump blood. The teaching of world history in Waldorf schools is based on a theory of evolution through successively higher races that both Steiner and the Nazis adopted from Theosophy. Irrespective of its wacky content, publicly funded use and reliance on the doctrines of Anthroposophy endorses that religion in violation of the United States and California constitutions.


PLANS was organized in late 1995 by former Waldorf parents and teachers concerned about both private and public Waldorf schools. It became a California non-profit corporation in 1997. PLANS’ mission is to provide parents, teachers, and school boards with views of Waldorf education from outside the cult of Rudolf Steiner, to expose the illegality of public funding for Waldorf school programs in the US, and to litigate against schools violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

For more information, please see the PLANS web site,

-Dan Dugan, Secretary, PLANS, Inc.


Letter to Adolph Hitler from the Anthroposophical Society

Letter to Adolph Hitler from the Anthroposophical Society

Translated by Tom Mellett, posted by him to the Waldorf Critics list 3/14/11
Original German text follows the translation


Dornach, November 17, 1935

To the Führer and Chancellor of the Reich

Mr. Adolf Hitler

Your Excellency!

We, the undersigned members of the Executive Committee [Vorstand] of the General Anthroposophical Society with its seat in Dornach near Basel [Switzerland] consider ourselves obligated, Your Excellency, to trouble you with this urgent appeal for your benevolent assistance in the following matter.

As we have been informed, the Anthroposophical Society has currently been terminated within the territory of the German Reich by an order of the Prussian Secret State Police [Gestapo]. The reasons specified by the official authorities for this action are set forth in the enclosed document. We must lodge a protest against this act of termination and in particular against the reasons given, since these reasons do not correspond to the facts in any way whatsoever.

The General Anthroposophical Society, which was constituted and founded by Dr. Rudolf Steiner in the year 1923, has assuredly had no dealings of any kind with Freemasonic, Jewish, or pacifist groups, nor even any casual contact with them in any way. Moreover, the Aryan line of descent of Rudolf Steiner was explicitly confirmed by the [Reich’s] “Office of Racial Politics” in Berlin. Also, the designation of the Society as “international in orientation” — in the sense that is used here as the grounds for termination — is entirely applicable because the relationships among the members of the individual countries are carefully restricted to the exchange of academic ideas and artistic issues only, just as every first-rate academic and artistic organization fosters such exchange both within Germany and abroad.

Numerous individuals from all civilized nations will gladly confirm that the lecturers and artists of the Anthroposophical Society who move in wide-ranging circles abroad are keenly interested in the German spiritual life, to the point that even many, e.g. English speaking individuals have actually learned the German language in order to study the original source material.

Furthermore, the pedagogy, as it is cultivated in Waldorf and other schools in Germany according to the guidelines of Rudolf Steiner, has in many countries outside Germany met with the highest approval and even acts as a model. For example, according to the latest report from a symposium in New York, many prominent American teacher associations are following the development of these [German] schools with particular interest.

But now, as a result of the above-characterized measures taken against the Anthroposophical Society, the following absurd state of affairs has been created in many of these groups in foreign countries which are friendly and well disposed toward Germany — that a Society regarded as a valuable and active representative of the German spiritual life is suddenly terminated in Germany for reasons which do not correspond with reality.

We must also strongly protest the single most damning charge that in the documentation of the Prussian Gestapo — out of misguided motivations — the allegation is also made that the Anthroposophical Society in Germany is “subversive.” As can readily be seen from the above and from further investigation, such a designation represents a wholly unjustifiable discrimination against a Society that advocates German nationalism with utmost loyalty.

The General Anthroposophical Society, which is represented by groups of members in all the civilized nations of the world (with the exception of Soviet Russia), feels especially obligated to nurture the German spiritual life and look after the destiny of its German friends with great concern. Therefore, we graciously beseech Your Excellency to deign most kindly to arrange with the appropriate legal authorities, the abolition of this discriminating designation of “subversive” and the rescinding of the termination order.

We have the honor, Your Excellency, to express to you the assurance of our most excellent high regard.

The Executive Committee (Vorstand)

Of the General Anthroposophical Society

/Albert Steffen/

/Marie Steiner von Sivers/

/Dr. Guenther Wachsmuth/



Dornach, den 17. November 1935

An den Führer und Reichskanzler

Herrn Adolf Hitler

Ew. Excellenz!

Die unterzeichneten Mitglieder des Vorstandes der Allgemeinen Anthroposophen Gesellschaft mit Sitz in Dornach bei Basel (Schweiz) sehen sich gezwungen, Ew.Excellenz mit der dringenden Bitte gütige Hilfe in folgender Angelegenheit zu bemühen.

Wie wir erfahren, ist in diesen Tagen durch eine Verfügung der Geheimen Preussischen Staatspolizei die Anthroposophische Gesellschaft im Gebiete des Deutschen Reiches aufgelöst worden. Die hierfür seitens der betreffenden Instanz angegebenen Gründe gehen aus beiliegender Abschrift hervor. Wir müssen gegen diesen Auflösungsakt und besonders die dafür gegebenen Begründungen Protest einlegen, da diese den Tatsachen in keiner Weise entsprechen.

Die Allgemeine Anthroposophische Gesellschaft, die im Jahre 1923 von Dr.Rudolf Steiner konstituiert und begründet wurde, hat zu irgend welchen freimaurerischen, jüdischen, pazifistischen Kreisen irgend welche Beziehungen oder auch nur Berührungspunkte nicht gehabt. Die arische Abstammung Rudolf Steiners ist überdies vom Rassepolitischen Amt in Berlin ausdrücklich bestätigt worden. Auch die Bezeichnung der Gesellschaft als „international eingestellt” ist in dem in der Auflösungsbegründung gebrauchten Sinne durchaus inzutreffend, da die Beziehungen unter den Mitgliedern der einzelnen Länder sich lediglich auf den Gedankenaustausch in wissenschaftlichen und künstlerischen Fragen beschränken, wie ihn jede gute wissenschaftliche und künstlerische Vereinigung in Deutschland und im Ausland pflegt.

Zahlreiche Persönlichkeiten aller Kulturländer werden gern bestätigen, das gerade die Vortragenden und Künstler der Anthroposophischen Gesellschaft weite Kreise des Auslandes für das deutsche Geistesleben interessiert haben, ja dass sogar viele, z.B.. Englisch sprechende Persönlichkeliten, um die Quellen im Orginal kennen zu lernen, die deutsche Sprache erlernt haben.

Ausserdem hat die Pädagogik, wie sie an der Waldorfschule und anderen Schulen in Deutschland nach den Richtlinien Rudolf Steiners gepflegt wird, in vielen ausserdeutschen Ländern grösste Anerkennung gefunden und vorbildlich gewirkt. Mit besonderem Interesse verfolgen z.B. wie sich erst kürzlich wiederum auf dem New-Yorker Kongress gezeigt hat, grosse amerikanische Lehrer-Verbände gerade die Entwicklung dieser Schulen.

Durch die oben charakterisierten Massnahmen gegen die Anthroposophische Gesellschaft entsteht nun bei weiten, Deutschland freundlich gesinnten Kreisen des Auslandes die folgende völlig unverständliche Situation: dass eine Gesellschaft, die als wertvolle und aktive Vertreterin deutschen Geisteslebens angesehen ist, plötzlich in Deutschland selbst aufgelöst wird und zwar mit einer Begründung, die den Tatsachen nicht entspricht.

Auf das allerentschiedenste muss aber Verwahrung dagegen eingelegt werden, dass in dem Schreiben der Geheimen Preussischen Staatspolizei aus diesen nicht zutreffenden Motivierungen auch noch die Behauptung abgeleitet wird, dass die Anthroposophische Gesellschaft in Deutschland “staatsfeindlich” sei. Wie aus dem Obigen und aus näheren Nachprüfungen ohne weiteres hervorgehen wird, stellt eine solche Bezeichnung eine völlig ungerechtfertigte Diskriminierung einer in wertvollster Weise für das Deutschtum eintretenden Gesellschaft dar.

Die Allgemeine Anthroposophische Gesellschaft, die in allen Kulturstaaten der Erde (mit Ausnahme von Sowiet Russland) durch Mitgliedergruppen vertreten ist, fühlt sich dem deutschen Geistesleben besonders verpflichtet und schaut deshalb in grosser Besorgnis auf das Schicksal ihrer deutschen Freunde. Wir bitten daher Ew. Exzcellenz, bei dem zuständigen Instanzen die Aufhebung der diskriminierenden Bezeichnung als „staatsfeindlich” und die Rückgängigmachung der Auflösung gütigst veranlassen zu wollen.

Wir haben die Ehre, Ew. Excellenz die Versicherung unserer ausgezeichnetesten Hochachtung auszusprechen.

Der Vorstand

der Allgemeinen Anthroposophischen Gesellechaft

/Albert Steffen/

/Marie Steiner von Sivers/

/Dr. Günther Wachsmuth/






Debra Snell, President
12562 Rough and Ready Highway
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 273-1005

Dan Dugan, Secretary
290 Napoleon St. Studio E
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 821-9776




February 11, 1998, People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS) filed suit in federal court (the Eastern District of California, in Sacramento) against two California school districts, alleging that their publicly-funded Waldorf schools were religious programs in disguise.

In May, 2001, Judge Damrell dismissed the PLANS lawsuit against the two school districts, based on lack of standing. PLANS appealed the decision, and in February, 2003, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed PLANS’ right to sue the school districts as taxpayers and reinstated the case.

At the September, 2005 trial, PLANS refused to present its case without key witnesses and evidence that Judge Frank C. Damrell had excluded based on his interpretation of federal court rules. This gave the judge no option but to dismiss the case.

PLANS contended that Damrell’s rulings were incorrect, and appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. After a two-year wait, the appeal was heard November 9, 2007. The court reversed the decision of the district court (Case No. CV-98-0266 FCD PAN) and remanded the case back to that court.


A second trial began on August 30, 2010, again before Judge Damrell. PLANS was represented by D. Michael Bush, of Irvine, CA. Judge Damrell again refused to allow almost all of the evidence that PLANS offered, rejecting it as “hearsay” and “irrelevant.” Dan Dugan, Secretary of PLANS, Inc. said “It was outrageous that the judge refused to admit any books by Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy, as evidence of the religious nature of Anthroposophy.”

PLANS called Betty Staley, a well-known Anthroposophical author and a founder of Rudolf Steiner College, as a witness. Staley was evasive and, for example, said that Anthroposophists did not celebrate festivals. When asked if she had read Steiner’s “The Festivals and Their Meaning,” she was forced to admit that at least some Anthroposophists do celebrate four annual festivals. Staley testified that “Anthroposophy Worldwide,” a newsletter from Anthroposophy’s headquarters in Switzerland that prints the minutes of Anthroposophy’s board meetings, did not represent Anthroposophy.

Judge Damrell invited the school district to make a motion for dismissal because PLANS had failed to make its case, and subsequently the case was dismissed. PLANS stated their intention to appeal. Debra Snell, President of PLANS, Inc., said “Our evidence shows conclusively that Anthroposophy is a religious activity, and that despite all promises it leaks into the public Waldorf school classrooms. We will not give up until this violation of the separation of church and state is stopped.”


Anthroposophy is the spiritual movement behind the world-wide network of Waldorf schools. PLANS alleges that for Establishment Clause purposes, Anthroposophy is a religious sect. The defendants claim that it is a philosophy. This is a crucial issue in the case. If Anthroposophy isn’t a religious activity, then PLANS can’t allege that taxpayer-funded Waldorf schools violate the Constitution by being entangled with religion. Common references classify Anthroposophy as religious; for example, Encarta: “a religious philosophy developed by Rudolf Steiner from theosophy, holding that spiritual development should be humankind’s foremost concern.”

PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and inseparably based on Anthroposophy. Curriculum decisions and teacher training are based on Anthroposophy’s child development theory, which defines stages of reincarnation, a religious doctrine. Science teaching in Waldorf schools includes crackpot Anthroposophical doctrines like “the heart is not a pump.” The framework for history in Waldorf schools is based on Anthroposophy’s proto-Nazi racial theory. Publicly funded use and reliance on the doctrines of Anthroposophy endorses that religion in violation of the United States and California constitutions.


PLANS was organized in late 1995 by former Waldorf parents and teachers concerned about both private and public Waldorf schools. It became a California non-profit corporation in 1997. PLANS’ mission is to provide parents, teachers, and school boards with views of Waldorf education from outside the cult of Rudolf Steiner, to expose the illegality of public funding for Waldorf school programs in the US, and to litigate against schools violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

For more information, please see the PLANS web site,


-Dan Dugan, Secretary

A victim of teacher bullying at Waldorf

A victim of teacher bullying at Waldorf

My name is Sarah. I’m a college student in Minnesota. I’m in my sophomore year. I’m majoring in legal studies and political science with a minor in women’s studies. I’m a political activist, an A student, I’m on the honor society in college. My career goal is to be a lawyer. I’m also a Waldorf survivor. My academic success is in spite of Waldorf, not because of Waldorf.

I attended a Waldorf school from first grade to the beginning of sixth grade between the years of 1988-1993. I have ADD. I’ve had it since I was born, but I wasn’t diagnosed until I was twelve. I also had otitis media when I was four and had to have tubes in my ears.

Regardless, I’ve always had a very good intellectual capacity, and I’m smart even then. I attended and graduated from a catholic high school and I was on the honor roll in high school and when I graduated from high school I was the sole winner in my senior class to win the senior social studies award. Also I’m eligible for a scholarship at another university that I want to transfer to.

Even with being smart at a young age, focusing was difficult until I was diagnosed after I left Waldorf and was put on medicine. The fact that I had ADD should have been picked up by my teacher but girls with ADD don’t get diagnosed until late or not at all. I don’t buy that it’s hard to diagnose straight ADD in girls, because girls aren’t as hyper and disruptive as boys. I think it’s just another way for society to oppress the female gender. Not to mention Waldorf is totally in the dark about ADD related disorders and other types disabilities related to that.

My teacher was a man who I will refer to here as Mr. M, who was and is an asshole and a teacher bully. (I recently read an article about teacher bullying and it clear a lot of things up that happened to me with him.) He was not a good teacher either. My mom even said to me later on that, Mr. M was known to be so abstract that even adults had trouble learning from him. Mr. M demanded perfection. If you made even a little mistake he would give you the riot act. He had no patience what so ever.

Mr. M went out of his way to give me a hard time and bully me because of my difficulty paying attention, or if I made a mistake no matter how small. I didn’t act out in any way, I liked school and I tried hard. Even with my learning difference I did fairly well overall, but he just acted like I was stupid and lazy.

I remember him in first grade screaming at me in front of the whole class, because I was having trouble understanding a math problem. I also remember in first grade, we were doing our first painting and I forgot to wet my brush after dunking it with another color and I accidentally mixed that blue and the yellow making what was supposed to be a yellow, green. However, instead of giving me a chance to correct my mistake he just told me that I couldn’t paint that day. I laid my head down on the desk feeling devastated. As I look back as an adult, I look at him and I think to myself, ‘how dare he treat that little girl (me) that way.’ I was only seven years old. He could have given me a chance to fix the mistake. I remember in third grade, I misunderstood a homework assignment and he literally shamed me for the whole afternoon. It was a lot of things like that during the time he was my teacher.

Even with the problems with paying attention, Mr. M could have found some way of trying to try to help me rather than bully me. I don’t care if he didn’t know that I had ADD or if I wasn’t properly diagnosed back then. You don’t treat children that way. I mean section 504 of the rehabilitation act of 1973 was around in 1988 and ADD a known disorder back then. Mr. M should have realized that I had ADD and so did everyone else.

Mr. M was also a sexist. Mr. M would let the boys get away with anything and if the girls did something they would catch hell from him. He would pick out different girls besides me, who were vulnerable in some way and they would become his bully targets. When he would bully those other girls, he would lay off me a bit.

When I was in second grade Mr. M hung me by the legs, over a hockey rink wall. Mr. M was helping kids over the wall and when he lifted me over to the other side; he grabbed me by the legs and hung me over the wall upside down with my hands on the ground, and I did not know he was going to do this. I was freaked. I told my mom about it and she gave Mr. M a good piece of her mind. She told me he felt bad and realized he was wrong. However, when Mr. M saw me at school, he told me that he didn’t do anything wrong and that I was being too sensitive. I know realize that’s a sign of teacher bullying.

Mr. M also would inappropriately tease me in second grade in ways were not appropriate to tease small children. Basically, he teased me in ways that are okay to tease adults, but not children. My parents of course told him to stop it.

Whenever dealing with my parents Mr. M would pretend to act all sweet and nice, but when he was with me, he became a bully. My mom knows now that she should have taken me out of that school a lot sooner, but now I know about teacher bullying and Waldorf ways of seducing people into the school, I can cut her some slack.

Mr. M even sexually harassed me in fourth grade. One day he was out of the room and we were all running around, and there was this boy who was hitting girls on the butts, including me. I told the boy to stop it but he wouldn’t. When Mr. M came back into the room, I told him that this boy was hitting girls on the butts. However, instead of taking the boy aside and explaining to him that that kind of behavior was not okay, in front of the whole class, he lambasted me for being a tattletale, saying that it was just a game. He told me not to be so fragile or sensitive otherwise no one would want to be my friend. Eventually, I told my mother and she yelled in his face and told a friend of hers on the school board. Why this man hasn’t been fired I’ll never know.

Now I am not upset anymore with the ten year old boy, who was hitting girls on the butts. He being an immature ten year old boy who needed an adult to sit him down and explain why that kind of behavior is not okay. I am livid and furious and outraged about how a grown man could sink so low as to sexually harass a ten year old girl and allow and condone that kind of behavior. I know that when teachers go to school to become teachers they are taught about education law and when congress passes a new law or the Supreme Court rules on a law regarding education teachers are made aware of it. Title IX was passed in 1972, nine years before I was born and twenty years before the incident. The Minnesota state statute says all schools even private much have a sexual harassment policy, and this statute was passed in 1989. I know that Mr. M knew what sexual harassment was and that it was against the law in the 1991-1992 school years. However, after I was sexually harassed he turned around and violated my civil rights and sexually harassed me and taught every single student in that classroom that sexual harassment was okay. As a woman, a feminist, and a future lawyer it disgusts me and boggles my mind. I’ve heard that a lot of times Waldorf schools ignore civil rights laws and it’s wrong.

Throughout the time Mr. M was my teacher, like I said I did fairly well considering the fact that I had ADD and had a terrible teacher, but my focus and concentration was difficult for me. My mom said the child expert that I saw, thought it was because I had Otis media (tubes in my ears) as a child, but still Mr. M would bully me and harass me about my difficulty paying attention; even though I worked hard, and had a good intellectual capacity (which he knew). I remember one time he pounded his fist on the desk trying to get me to pay attention and would snap his fingers in front of my face. He would single me out and humiliate me in front of the class for my struggles with focusing more than once threw out the years. One time he told me that sometimes he thought I just couldn’t get it, other times he thought I just didn’t care. My mom yelled in his face for that. When I asked him for help, he was lecture me saying that I wasn’t trying and when I didn’t ask for help he would lecture me saying that I should ask him for help.

In first grade, I felt my self-esteem being affected and I felt very small as result of his behavior towards me and it made learning harder for me. I can see now that his bullying of me only made it harder for me to learn. Eventually in sixth grade, my parents finally saw Mr. M for who he was and took me out of that school. However, now I clearly see that what Mr. M did to me was to psychologically abusive, and disability harass me and sexually harass me.

After Waldorf, I went to a Catholic school just for the education. I had to get caught up and I did. Actually I was able to make up six years of school in one. It was there that I was diagnosed with ADD and put on Dexedrine.

For years I suffered from low self-esteem and in junior high and high school, I became so obsessed over perfection as a result of Mr. M and other types of discrimination I faced at the catholic school that I attended. (I’m part Jewish on my father’s side and my mom is congregational, and I was never brought up one way or the other, and one of the schools discriminated against me and my parents for that.) I developed panic attacks and sheer anxiety thinking that I had to try harder than I needed to. I did well in high school. However, I believe I could have done even better if I hadn’t been scarred from Mr. M. I was on the B honor roll and when I graduated I won the senior social studies award for academic excellence in social studies and outside political involvement. I was the only person who won that award in my entire class. However, the week I graduated high school, I realized that Mr. M was the one who was wrong and that I was not fairly assessed by them. I was only 7 years old when Mr. M treated me the way he did, and I knew what he was doing was wrong and but I thought I deserved it. Now I know differently. I’m dealing with the effects now, and I’m planning on writing a letter to Mr. M and sending it to him.

My mom runs a Waldorf inspired preschool in her home. She works for herself, and told me her preschool was “Waldorf inspired” because she doesn’t approve of everything the school does. She’s a wonderful teacher, and she follows all civil rights law regardless of Waldorf’s blessing and she’s very diverse in her preschool and she doesn’t abuse or harass her student and employees in anyways. She doesn’t believe in the alternative medicine approach and she takes ideas from all different areas and does not run her school like a cult, like other schools do. Even she is concerned about some of the stuff that goes on in Waldorf schools and warns her parents about that Waldorf is not for everyone. One of the reasons why here school is a success, is because she obeys the laws of the United States and doesn’t allow abuse or harassment of any kind in her school.

Still I recently learned that a lot of Waldorf students have stories like mine. Since I found out about Waldorf Critics, I am deeply concerned about a lot of the things that go on there. My mom even said the way they run their schools without a principal and they don’t screen out teachers very well is really bad. That is something she does not practice in her school.

As far as Mr. M, is concerned he still teaches at this school and has done this kind of thing to other students and the administration has done nothing about it. My mom would never allow that kind of thing to happen in her school and if one of her teacher assistants did anything like that she would fire them.

Also I was disturbed to hear that a lot of children to attend Waldorf become delayed academically, among a lot of other things. Waldorf schools (expect for my moms) are not flexible. They are rigid and only care about their ways. They operate by their own set of rules. They don’t live in the real world and they are very cult-like.

Also the way the treat people with disabilities is disgraceful. Instead of treating children with ADD and other learning problems they use the extra lesson, which is a fake treatment and does not help children with ADD and other types of disabilities and learning problems. When children are denied an education and treatment for medical treatment, for medical conditions that is child abuse, and that is what Waldorf is doing.

In the letter I’m writing to my teacher, one of the things I’m saying in these exact words.

“The U.S. law doesn’t care about what Mr. M thinks, about women and people with learning differences and psychiatric disabilities. The federal and state government doesn’t care. Congress doesn’t care. The Executive Branch doesn’t care. The Supreme Court doesn’t care. The women’s movement doesn’t care. The children’s rights movement doesn’t care. The civil rights movement doesn’t care. The disability movement doesn’t care. And I don’t care. The U.S. law, the federal and state government, Congress, The Executive Branch, The Supreme Court, and these movement, don’t give a damn about Rudolph Steiner and Anthroposophy either. All they care about is Thomas Jefferson’s words in the declaration of independence and Elizabeth Cady Stanton words in the Declaration of Sentiments. That people are created equal (yes women too) and that they are given certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Anything that violates that is wrong, and I feel the same way.”

Every penny that my parents paid for that school was a waste. I got nothing out of it. I’m a success because of normal education, not Waldorf. I’m all for the arts and whatever works for a child to learn, but Waldorf schools only care about their way, and they reject all other ways. There methods are not even scientifically proven. It’s time for things to change.