Category: Personal Stories

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.

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.

Selections from The Green Parent Forum

Selections from The Green Parent Forum

Re: steiner advice wanted!!

´ Reply #17 on: March 31, 2008, 08:09:26 PM

The folk I know who have removed their children from the Steiner system seemed to have the most trouble when moving their children from the kindergarten to the main school. Problems they had were then bashed by the teachers, and seen as totally the ‘problem’ of the child (rather than the class teacher, the environment, the methods used or the school it’s self) they viewed their teaching and practices to be totally sound in every way shape and form and were very unwilling to discuss in an open minded way any changes. I lived previously near Botton Camphill community and when visiting once at a festival spoke to one boy just happenstance, in a queue, who went to school there and he was really down, told me about being bullied (I was shocked at his willingness to mention such a thing as I know those being bullied keep it hidden from shame), later I heard another similar story about being bullied and the whole issue being ignored by the school totally (again it was the fault of the individual child) – this girl was 20 and worked in the cafe after having returned from living in London. She said she was bullied her entire life (brought up in the community) at the school and moved away as soon as she could (didn’t ask why she was back). She must have sensed my unease and said oh don’t worry nothing like that happens there now! Yeah. Right.

But it was not just the bullying, the teaching was stagnant. The same things over and over, the same methods from every child, regardless. Sure everything is so pretty and subtle and so much emphasis on handwork and creativity, but I always just had a sense of unease there. Lovely beeswax crayons and nature tables or not. Too rigid? Too focused on the method and theory at the expense of the individual child. I feel it is only ever one gets a true sense of something by looking at how it effects on an individual level. I saw boys being snide and fighting being told off by adults (oh of course, in that saying no but in a nice thoughtful, long drawn out way – yawn) then hiding around the back to play football because they knew they were not ‘allowed’. I have had three friends who were training to be teachers and attended Emerson. One was ended up preaching about Steiner like he was some sort of Jesus figure, and really that was the vibe I had from all of them, constantly harping ‘Steiner said…’ . So what, I once asked!!! He was one guy, this one weirdo who didn’t even have children! No reply Another friend actually studied art and wanted a free and not curriculum led way of teaching, so she thought she’d try the Steiner system. OMG, she was appalled. Then she ended up by saying the whole art curriculum was even more rigid and structured than anything she had ever seen. No self expression, only using yellow for like, a year. Then progressing to blue. Finally a dab of red…. No black pencils, everything smudged. Sure, to us adults it all looks so beautiful – but look closer – look at that wall of drawings! They are all exactly the same! They are all told to draw exactly the same things in exactly the same way – and that basically seems to be the essence of what Steiner education is at from my pov. One American friend who came over here fro the training at Forest Row (but lived in Wales) was so smilely, so happy, so have a nice day. Her dd never ever smiled. I kid you not. Oh, ok she did, this one afternoon I looked after her and took her to the beach with my kids. Her mum started this from home Steiner based morning kindergarten, which sounded oh so sweet – baking bread, preparing the veg for lunch, playing with unformed wood ‘toys’, time in the garden….. but one boy was using the wood circles to roll and measure and she took him aside several times to explain that this was ‘imaginative’ play time, that these could be pretend food or what ever but were not for rolling and measuring distance. She had to take him aside about five times after he continued and in the end made him sit on the stairs (‘time out’) all the while smiling like a crazy person and being like syrup. Now why was what he was doing not imaginative??? Scary this training of hers I tell ya. Certainly not ‘practicing’ on my kids. She is by the way, a proper kindergarten teacher now. The other teacher training ‘friend’ I no longer see. Her son is, well shall we say, boisterous. He likes to be ACTIVE. At all times if possible. He is not interested in looking at Gerda Muller picture books of spring lambs, or playing with his Camphill tractor. He wants to shape his sticks in to rifles and run around screaming at everyone and talk endlessly about jails and prison, or dungeons or fighting. He is a real BOY. And quite endearing. But this mother of his squashes him at every turn. Always in the sugar coated Steiner kindergarten voice, always sweetly, but always making him sit down, be quiet, listen to the birds, eat slowly, lions don’t kill… no no no, they only chase, in a fun way, I heard her say once. He was so pent up constantly, so frustrated, he lashed out at the other kids, always. He bludgeoned them with boulders and smashed them with sticks and poked them in the eye. Just for fun. Just because. Because he had so much of his self, who he was and wanted to be, squished down and away in favour of this smooth, bland, smudged edged world where one must pretend the piece of cloth is a baby doll and play so nice and quietly in the corner with it. He just could not do it, bless him. I saw that a lot with the boys.

Ok, so far too much personal stuff here, but I feel it is needed in order to get the individual view, which collectively makes up the whole.

Re: steiner advice wanted!!

´ Reply #21 on: March 31, 2008, 08:53:12 PM

Yeah, I think the reason why they thought their paths, their teaching methods were so ‘right’ was because they did see themselves as spiritual guides or some such thing. So the behaviours and preferences of the child mean *nothing* in the scheme of their ‘bettering’ or ‘enlightening’ of this child and it’s peers. They *know* what they are doing and would like it to be none of our business – indeed believe it is non of our business. In a way our entrusting of our children in their care reinforces that for them. Like it is their (the child’s) karmic path to be taught by these masters of enlightenment (which they see themselves – I swear they are so far up their own asses there is really no *point* in talking to them, so sure of themselves and teachings). Perhaps even a child *needs* to be bullied in order to learn their life’s lesson this time around. That was the impression they give, when pushed. But who pushes them? Who bothers to delve when it all looks so attractive? When it’s always so easy to give over to the ‘experts’. They do after all have ‘qualifications’ to be doing what they are doing….

I get irritated when reading the entire Hawthorn Press series of the Steiner books since there is no mention of Anthroposophy. None. Ok, little hints that add this cool spiritual element to the child’s education which alternative style parents really go for because what State primary teacher is going to ever mention the spiritual side to their teachings? And now we are all about creating and educating the *whole* child….. it’s kind of perverse that the ‘alternative’ parents wanting a ‘better’ sort of education for their child end up not only getting a (very pretty) but strange and rigid education – but end up being the ones less likely to question, precisely because it’s likely more ‘alternative’ than they are!!!

I don’t personally know anyone here who sends their kids to Steiner schools, there are likely to be some, no offense intended to you for choosing this form of education. I am sure there are lots of nice stories out there too to counter balance. Well, maybe

If my kids ever did want to go to school, I’d feel stuck. Because I view our family as an autonomous collective and therefore I’d need to totally respect their opinions and needs on this and of course – look for a school for them. But what sort of school? I ruled out Steiner pretty much pre-school from my whittling away at visitings and having friends and so on in this area and dabbling in it. State ed. I’d stumble on too….. so much to dissect about that but this is not the thread to do it (different topic) I guess I’d see if the local was ok, let them try it and hope with my fingers crossed that they would come back home and want to be out of the system. I so firmly believe in autonomy and just feel reverent about self directed learning.

One thing about the reincarnation stuff – I think most gurus on this think that the child chooses the parent. Which means that the parent his/her self is the karmic guide this child needs through life, since they themselves picked them. It is very arrogant to decide to become a teacher in order to take this job over – dontcha think :lol

Testimonial of a Former Waldorf Parent

Testimonial of a Former Waldorf Parent

Anonymous #4

June 7, 2007

[Posting from the waldorf-critics list]

I received an off-list e-mail from an ex-waldorf parent whom I have not met but who knows me from a different list from this one. She asked me if I would post the following on her behalf as her e-mail account would reveal her identity. She still has Waldorf connections and wants to stay anonymous for the sake of her children. – Margaret

“Oh I just have to answer this one! After pulling my kids out of a ridiculous waldorf situation years ago, I went online and found this e-mail group. It was a relief to finally get to “connect the dots” – this group, “you folks”, isn’t a club of five concerned ex-parents living in one small town. “us folks” are people from all over the world – exwaldorf parents who have experiences with waldorf schools from ALL OVER the world. we are people who fx were told, in a singsong voice by some smiling Miss, that the children don’t have to be watched too carefully on their playground because they are working out their karma. or that they have guardian angels that will take care of them. (far from addressing the fact that just the year before a girl had cracked her scull while falling on the rocks around the sandbox – and no one had seen it happen, they had just found her unconscious in the sandbox after a while…) – and we went from thinking that the Miss must be crazy to thinking that maybe we were crazy to finally, on this list, find out that that is part of the dogma those poor souls of waldorf teachers are being fed and are regurgitating that is the cause of our strange experiences – we are not making this stuff up. there is something very cultlike in the way the Wschools want more converts but simultaneously foster an attitude of “better than thou” amongst it’s followers, eh i mean community, that pushes people away… there’s a lot of deception going on… both of newly seduced teachers and parents. … so it’s a relief and pretty funny to discover that there are other people out there who made the decision not to kid themselves anymore. i have very dear friends still in our local waldorf school – they are LOVELY people, i like them a lot. but they refuse to question or do any research online. these are intelligent people! one woman, who is married to a famous scientist , actually told me not to believe what i find “on the web”! another woman told me of how she visited the winter light ritual (when the children walk around in a spiral with a candle – i forgot what they call that one ) and she definitely got the feeling that it was a cult. she sat there all day, weighing for and against. they had just relocated from the city, the kids had been to public school and they were flourishing, they loved the community, and ultimately, she figured that if Kate and Bob and Joe and me had our kids in the school, it just COULDN’T be a cult, since we all are such reasonable and nice people… and we’ve all been there – now, after a couple of years of being at the public school i have to say that yes – a lot of things are easier to accept at a waldorf school. aesthetically it is much more pleasing, they don’t send home loads and loads of meaningless worksheets, the kids are outdoors – well, you know the pros.(and i hate to admit this prejudice; the parents are a heck of a lot more interesting than the parents at the public school!)

BUT the secrecy, the “us and them” mentality of the faculty and the “born again anthro parents” – it’s lunacy!! someone here once said that the waldorfgang was the most unintellectual group of people she ever met and I completely agree. i’ve been in studygroups where some old anthro is reinterpreting what steiner said and basically spewing racist ideas and these (mostly) moms just sit there, absorbing it all! when i asked several of the parents that had been to that particular group, if they didn’t feel that the old anthro had said ridiculous and racist things, they agreed but said you just have to take what she says with a grain of salt. how can a school, in todays world, let an old racist hold court in a “studygroup” and when called on it just excuse themselves with that she has to be taken with a grain of salt? when she says that northern europeans are more advanced? that “culture” and most inventions in the world comes from northern europe!?!? and that asian people are wispy and not as grounded as us northern europeans! it’s just so shocking that it’s almost unbelievable! and that is also the problemwith exposing the cult of waldorf – because sincerely, it IS a cult. and it would be completely fine, if they just were open about it. instead there is so much deception and secrecy going on that once you start exposing it, people just don’t want to believe that they had been so gullible. the issue about prayers is a perfect example – are they just verses or are they prayers. you go sit in a classroom where a bunch of four year olds are thanking god for the trees and the blossoms and some of them even saying amen at the end of it and then try to pretend it’s just a verse. and what’s with the completely selfish and immoral practices of these teachers!?!? You couldn’t make this stuff up! would you believe a scenario like this: it’s rumoured that a family has left because the father has or has not had a relationship with his daughters pregnant teacher. Coincidentally, the man’s wife is 9 months pregnant. The parents in the community gossip about it but try to pretend they don’t. Later, a bigger bomb hits – it turns out that another one of the female teachers was having an affair with an employee at the school. with her husbands best friend. the husband is also a teacher at the school. he in turn, ends up having a relationship with the pregnant teacher and he leaves his wife and their brood of kids for the other teacher. you might think this is either unbelievable or immoral or both. but it get’s better – and this is what just cracks me up: a LETTER goes out to the parents in the community stating that some unfortunate events have taken place and the parents are asked not to gossip about it and the school wants everybody to sign the letter, promising that they won’t gossip about it!!!! now try to get your heads around THAT scenario!”


Growing Up Being Made Sick by Anthroposophy

Growing Up Being Made Sick by Anthroposophy

By Robert Smith-Hald, a survivor

January 30, 2007

I grew up in two Camphill communities in North America, Beaver Run (PA) and Copake Village (NY).  I spent half of my childhood sick in bed, and the other half working my ass off at whatever I could do to preoccupy myself and keep out of the home.  Anthroposophy is a religion, and Camphill is a sect, a cult of fanatics pursuing spiritual development and ultimately perfection.   They believe that sickness is the soul incarnating, and also that it has to do with karma.  They don’t believe in inoculations, so I had all the child diseases going around, some twice.  My being sick all the time was obviously not just the mumps and the measles and whooping cough, so they had the anthroposophical doctors in all the time, in between punishing me for being sick.(that’s why I stayed out of the house as much as I could)  There were three doctors, one in Beaver Run, one in The Village, and one that practiced both places.  One of them has long since passed away, and another is still alive and kicking, and I hear (and see by his own internet site) that he is doing quite well. The third was youngest of the three, so I imagine he too is up to his old stuff. I won’t mention names, but they are all the same.  This brand of medicine is based on a world view that is twisted, and their medicine is not scientifically based.  Its root is the religion as laid out by Rudolf Steiner, a theosophical megalomaniac. There is a lot of info on this on this PLANS web site, so I won’t go into this more. Instead I will write about my own first hand experience.

As it turned out I suffer from wheat intolerance.  But I never found that out until I was around 36.  My health had deteriorated gradually over the course of my adult life, and I ended up bedridden, hardly being able to breathe and all kinds of other wonderful stuff I don’t even want to write about.

Growing up on whole wheat bread made on double buffed and bleached flour from Government Surplus[1] with wheat germ sprinkled on top to make it look organic was the last thing I needed.  I knew the food was making me sick, I felt it.  But the feeling my parents had was that I should eat more of it, as I obviously needed to incarnate through the food. So I grew up being force fed food that was making me sick.  The threat was that if I didn’t eat absolutely everything on the plate, I would get more.  And believe me, I did.  I reacted especially to bulgur, so my mother made that as often as she could.  Bulgur is whole wheat, cooked like rice.  That stuff made my legs weak and my stomach wrench. The doctors supported this treatment, wholeheartedly. This was a good, healthy, anthroposophical approach.

As a result, I had “weak lungs” throughout my childhood, constant tonsillitis, and an irritable stomach.  As I got older, I learned to ignore the symptoms and get on, and I learned to eat everything on my plate.  The doctors who “treated me” gave me little white sugar pills called infludo, and prescribed buckets and buckets of horsetail teat, and also chamomile tea.  These two teas seem to be the anthroposophical answer to antibiotics, and they are upheld as miracle medicine.  Also, guess what I got for the stomach?  Yoghurt topped with wheat germ.  Yummy!  Just what the doctor ordered!

Another kid who had diabetes was treated with honey bee stings on his temples once a week. This makes sense because honeybees love the sugar, so of course it’s completely anthroposophically logical to sting kids with diabetes with honeybees!  Another favourite of theirs was to treat any kind of arthritis the same way; treat inflammation with inflammation!  Does your hand hurt?  Come here, I’ll get a bee to sting it-now that’ll hurt!

I think the way this medicine works, is to scare the living daylights out of people. That combined with the placebo effect, faith, and cultivating the extreme.  They actively discuss the foolhardiness and downright dangers of modern medicine contra their own brand, and propagate fear of modern medicine. I was effectively brainwashed to never question food, and shun traditional medicine.  I was forced to eat the very food that was making me sick, under threat of being fed even more, even though I expressed that that very food was making me ill. The doctors, together with my parents, decided I needed to eat more of it to get better.

Anthroposophists also believe that eating potatoes makes you materialistic (which means unspiritual and worldly) and my plea to replace bulgur with potatoes was not only ignored, but also openly ridiculed.  Robert is a little materialist!

In the end, after years of deprogramming myself in a process I dubbed “growing up twice”, I met a traditional doctor who had wheat intolerance in his family and therefore some good tips on an elimination diet to see what foods I was reacting to. After that I went to Norway’s top specialist on food allergy and intolerance and underwent a double blind testing on wheat, as blood tests were not conclusive.  The result was 100 percent conclusive.  I was wheat intolerant.  The cure is to avoid wheat.  Avoid what’s making your sick.   They don’t know the mechanism behind it yet, but there is a direct correlation between ingesting wheat, and getting sick.  The anthroposophists take the opposite approach, and say fight fire with fire, eat more, it will strengthen you.  It’s kind of strange that they are so dead set against inoculations, which basically work that way, although the virus is modified and rendered essentially harmless.

We moved to Norway when we were teens, and since we hadn’t been inoculated, we all got the German measles, and after that meningitis.  One sister was hospitalised, comatose, and in intensive care for months.  We all missed out on months of school and I was honestly afraid for my life that winter.  What saved us was that we lived in a duplex, and the neighbour was a doctor.  He diagnosed my sister, and practically broke the door down with his antibiotics.  I can still remember my parents’ hushed voices in the kitchen that night as they discussed whether the pills would damage our health.  The good thing about Norway is that there are laws that protect the child against bad parents like these, and they would have been in trouble had they denied treatment.  So for all you freedom lovers out there that put your kids through hell under the guise of doing them a favour; stop and think a bit about what you are doing.  Think about the bigger picture. Think about the pain you are inflicting your helpless child, under the guise of caring, under the guise of wanting to do the best for them.  Making children strong through pain and disease?  Its killing them slowly but surely, that’s what I call it. These doctors are quacks, and their snake oil is killing your children. They make their living peddling sugar pills, bee stings and their particular brands of snake oil.  They live off your fear and ignorance, and your yearnings to believe in a miracle medicine that will somehow turn your child’s world into Hobbitville, some la la land where the sun always shines, and where tea and honey and a kiss, and maybe a good spanking will get rid of the boo boo.  Well, wake up and smell the horsetail tea–they are charlatans and witch doctors and should not be allowed to practice medicine.

I went back to work as a volunteer for one year in Copake when I was 18, and my health started to spiral quickly downwards.  In Norway potatoes are a staple of the diet, and my parents adapted to this quickly, as food is also very expensive here, and potatoes are cheap. (Not such a problem with eating food that makes you materialistic when they had to pay for it from their own pocket!) But back in Camphill they were still making fake organic bread with (triple buffed now) government surplus flour in their own bakery, and washing it down with well water (against state regulations), and soup of the day.  I didn’t know the cause of it, and was now so brainwashed into never questioning food, that I plodded on, and even started to search for a spiritual cause for my illness!  In the end I went to the anthroposophical doctor.  He had tended to me before, and knew my history well.  I was sitting in his Camphill office, trembling, and I could hardly breathe, wracked in an agony that is indescribable. His prescription?  Infludo, chamomile and especially, you guessed it, horsetail tea.  And to sleep sitting up. That was the extent of it.  He thought it was caused by my incarnating into the village, and it should work itself through as I participated more and more in village life.  Translation?  Get to work; get on with it, enough complaining already.  Drink your tea; take your sugar pill and stop being in the way.  I even started to believe it myself. It was either all in my head, or I had some serious spiritual issues to work through.

I got through that year somehow. In the beginning I had worked in the bakery, but managed to get transferred to a workshop. That’s probably what saved me, knowing what I know now.  All those fresh cookies and rolls were not doing me any good.

Also, my housemother (each house was run by a couple, usually married) had a particular complication with sickness.  She loathed it, saw it as a weakness, and didn’t want to even look at me, let alone offer me her thoughts and time or energy when I was sick.  She held a hysterical speech the first time I was bedridden, how she felt this was something I had to go through and work through as my karma, and she didn’t think I should eat when I was sick, so she didn’t want to make me any food.  Not even tea in fact.  She was a very loud person, with an entirely unmusical, ear-piercing and high pitched warbly, yet grating voice that could cut your ear like a water saw.  I was just happy to get her out of my immediate vicinity and agreed wholeheartedly with her in order to get some peace.  And that was good for me, as it meant a temporary reprieve from the wheat. It’s interesting though that she was so complicated about disease, I mean they all were/are, but her father had been a medical doctor, even private physician to the king of Saudi Arabia.  Which one I don’t remember, but she was very proud of this fact.  And to top it all off, she has since gone on to become a doctor of sorts.  So she’s out there treating people now! I wonder what her particular brand of alternative treatment is?  . Starvation diet and isolation? I can only guess. Another interesting point to make here is that when she got sick with the flu herself,  the whole house had to wait on her hand and foot.  It was horsetail tea me here, chamomile tea me there.  And the usual hodge-podge of vegetables and Government Surplus cheese baked in a pie dish wasn’t good enough for her, no sirree, she ordered steak.  Extra rare thank you.  Not quite so hysterical about the importance of not eating and being left alone when it came to her own self.

After that year I was in a Camphill place in Scotland for 3 months, and fared no better.  I went to an anthroposophical doctor there, and he prescribed… you guessed it; horsetail tea, and thought that I should maybe break up with my Scottish girlfriend and go back to Copake, that I wasn’t incarnating very well and this relationship was bad for me.  I must also add that she was not well liked by this time in Copake.  They felt she wasn’t right for them, too Ahrimanic, too materialistic, and stealing me away from under their very noses. It was an awful mess.

By this time I had had enough of Camphill altogether, and we went back to Norway.  I found work in a home for mentally handicapped adults that had been started by disgruntled ex-Camphillers. That suited me just fine.  The health issues continued, and their anthroposophical doctor prescribed the same thing, and I pretty much gave up after that.  I learned to live with it, and the symptoms came and went. I was sick a lot, catching anything and everything that was going around, and staying sick twice as long as everybody else.  That’s a long time wasted. Years went by, and finally my body gave up.  I became seriously ill, and the dance around the doctors’ offices started once again, only this time I was so marred by my experience with anthroposophical doctors that I only went to regular doctors, shunning anything and everything alternative.  The road to recovery was long and winding, and it was chance, and in the end desperation that led me to the doctor who finally was able to help me.  It has taken some years to recover the effects of ingesting what is essentially poison for my body, and I am not out of the woods yet.  Maybe I never will be, maybe it took too long to find the culprit.  Who knows, but I am alive and kicking, and each day is better than the rest.

In light of this, I do fully understand people who turn to these quacks through desperation, but I urge people to think and be critical.  Its not just alternative medicine, it’s a religion based form of treatment under the guise of medicine. It is not based on science.  It is based wholly on the religious beliefs of a crazed madman who believed himself a clairvoyant and called himself a spiritual scientist. It is my experience that his followers want to be just like him, and that is a dangerous thing.  Can you imagine your doctor telling you that you are sick because he can see it in the Chakra records? Horsetail and chamomile tea do work when you have the flu or a common cold. Many people know this; it is common knowledge, folk medicine so to speak.  But they’re not a miracle cure, far from it.  I still use them.  They taste terrible, but my own experience is that they help. Anthroposophical medicine has picked up some things from folk medicine, but I assure you, if the good Dr. Steiner had somehow come up with the idea that arsenic in large quantities was good for the gout, then anthroposophical doctors would still be prescribing it, albeit in secret. And there would surely be plenty of testimonies from people claiming that it cured them, and maybe other reports of people almost dying.  And you can be sure that the anthroposophical society would focus all their efforts at discrediting these people as liars and lunatics, and carry on with their business in secret.  For that is what they do best.

A post note: Intolerance to wheat and other foods is on the rise.  Some doctors explain it as psychological in origin and cause; others accept it as purely physical but haven’t been able to determine the cause mechanism.  It is a new area of medicine, and it should be said that this is also true for the anthroposophical doctors.  My concern is that these doctors were so caught up in their secret theories that they didn’t listen to the patient.  The ideology came before the fact.  The same can be said of modern medicine, that the prevailing science does not support this group of patients’ problems.  But the difference is that normal doctors will most often tell you to avoid a food that you feel is making you ill, and will encourage you to listen to the signals your body is telling you, even if they can’t take a blood test to show allergy or intolerance.

[1] Government surplus is just that, surplus agricultural products the government buys up to keep prices up and farmers in business. Non-profit organisations like Camphill can qualify to receive this food free of charge. They sent it in in 18 wheeler trucks.  We got everything from raisins, chocolate chips, peanut oil, roasted peanuts, peanut butter, and  every kind of cheese imaginable in great big industrial size blocks.  During the butter shortage in the 70’s we had so much butter we used to make campfires with it.  We also got cooking oil (mazola, corn and peanut), liverwurst, frozen orange juice and other juice concentrate, and most important, tons and tons of double, and later  triple buffed bleached whole wheat flour.  They never put that on the wrappers when they sold their wholesome village baked bread.

Poor Academic Standards

Poor Academic Standards


Posted to the waldorf-critics list, April 19, 2005

Although I’m not Waldorf trained, I’ve been working as a subject teacher at a W school for more than five years, and still am – thus the pseudonym. Please bear with the awkward generalizations about my subject area. Naming the subject would probably make it possible to identify me, because (and this next part comes from a Waldorf-supporting source) teachers in my subject area rarely stay in a W school for as long as I have.

I am very interested in seeing an answer to Pete’s question.

Assuming it’s true that a W charter school is not working from Anthroposophy, then what *does* influence the school’s methods? What is the source inspiration for the design and content of the W charter curriculum? If not Anthroposophy, then what? If there are Waldorf-accepted curriculum influences *other* than Anthroposophy/Steiner, I would love to know about them. (I am aware of making a sloppy assumption that if Steiner wrote something, then by default it has to do with Anthroposophy – but that is the gist of my understanding at this point.)

Speaking as someone with teaching experience (both Waldorf and non-Waldorf), with a degree and teaching license in my field, and with a substantial amount of (non-Waldorf) specialized pedagogical training in my subject area, it burns my grits that my school expects me to follow those of Steiner’s suggestions that are in direct conflict with commonly-accepted best teaching practices for my subject. When I ask why I should do this or that, or why the school does not allow this or that, I’m told that it “prematurely hardens” the child, or “sets a bad precedent, as we do not do such things here”.

I and my colleagues in my area of specialty (outside my school) recognize certain methods as effective because we’ve seen the results. I recognize certain people as experts in my field — but Steiner is not one of them. I’ve tried to remain optimistic about the possibility of introducing change at my school, but now I realize that the way my school has structured their program for my subject is actually a direct reflection of Steiner’s profoundly limited understanding and vision in this specific area.


P.S. It’s an interesting concept, the premature “hardening” of a child. It didn’t come up in any of my college human-development or child-psychology classes. (Actually, Steiner himself didn’t come up either.) Can someone here point me toward a non-Steiner, non-Anthroposophical source that explains what it means for a child to be “prematurely hardened”?

Disillusioned ex-Waldorf parent

Disillusioned ex-Waldorf parent

By Margaret Sachs

July 15, 2004

Our son attended a Waldorf school from kindergarten through 8th grade and our daughter from kindergarten through 3rd grade. The transition to non-Waldorf schools was particularly hard for our daughter because she found herself far behind her 4th grade classmates academically. She could neither read nor write. I was shocked to discover she did not know about the concept of letters representing sounds. Once I had explained it to her, she got busy using the concept to read the books I had read to her at bedtime over the years, starting with the easiest books and working her way up through more difficult books. She was highly motivated to learn. She insisted on staying up late every night and putting in hours on weekends to struggle through her school homework. She was glad that—unlike the Waldorf school—her new school graded her work because it helped her know how she was progressing. Thanks to her determination, it took her almost a full school year, but she finally achieved her goal of catching up with her classmates.

Because we were concerned about threats of violence by an expelled student at the high school she attended in 9th grade and the school’s failure to carry out promised safety precautions, we enrolled her again at the Waldorf school for 10th grade. Although it was our opinion the academic education was not what we would wish for, we thought the school would at least provide a safe environment for her.

Each high school class at the Waldorf school had one or two sponsors—faculty members supposedly responsible for the social well-being of the students during the entire four years of high school. There were two female sponsors for our daughter’s class.

Tenth Grade started the school year with a Native American block taught by two teachers, one of whom—a man at least in his fifties—had a full-time job outside the school and came to the school to co-teach the block in September of each year. Toward the end of September, the 10th grade went to Colorado for a week on the school’s traditional 10th grade Native American camping trip. The students were accompanied by the two class sponsors and the part-time teacher.

A few days after the trip, I learned from another mother that the part-time male teacher had grabbed one girl’s bottom, had run his fingers up and down the bare skin of a second girl’s thigh, and during a train ride had rested his legs on the thighs of a third girl while she was sleeping and had refused her repeated requests—when she woke up—to remove his legs from her lap. My daughter confirmed to me that she was one of the girls and explained that, prior to the trip, older students had warned her and some of the other 10th grade girls to stay away from the man, telling them he was weird, said inappropriate things to girls, and touched them inappropriately.

The mother who had alerted me to the situation told me she had spoken with one of the class sponsors about it and the sponsor was coming up with inappropriate ideas about how to handle the situation, such as asking the girls what they wanted to do about it and suggesting a meeting between the girls and the male teacher to discuss it. The sponsors were required by law to report such complaints to law enforcement authorities instantly upon learning about them. I cannot think what legitimate excuse there could be for their not knowing the laws, especially since the school had only a few months before been through an upheaval over a bad situation involving a teacher’s pedophile family member, something my husband and I did not learn about until a few years later.

A few more days had passed by the time I had spoken to the girls involved, as well as their parents, and had confirmed to my satisfaction that the stories were true. Since Waldorf schools do not have principals, none of us knew who we should report the matter to.

I called a good friend, who was an anthroposophist with years of experience at the school on many fronts. Her reaction was: “Well, this is no surprise. There’s history.” She told me there had been a ruckus at the school many years previously because, when the part-time teacher had been a full-time teacher there, he started up a sexual relationship with a high school student. He and the student claimed to have waited until she turned 18, so the parents were not able to do much about it. According to my anthroposophist friend, he resigned after another teacher (the same one with whom he was co-teaching our daughter’s class) advised him to do so.

My friend recommended I set up a meeting with the College Chair. Since the other parents in the group were angry about the part-time teacher’s actions and other bizarre things that had happened on the trip, she asked me not to tell the other parents about his history as she did not want me to inflame the situation and damage the school’s reputation. I agreed, trusting that everything would be worked out in a professional and appropriate manner.

Since I wanted to raise the issue of the teacher’s history with the College Chair, I went to the meeting alone, without the other parents. The College Chair seemed outraged that the sponsors (mandated reporters) had not only failed to notify the authorities as they are required to by law but had also failed to inform the College of Teachers. She told me we would be receiving an apology and made the notification to law enforcement herself.

The following day, I learned that just hours before I attended the meeting with the College Chair, the sponsors had brought the 10th and 11th grade girls together in a meeting during which the victims were humiliated and bullied into backing down and conceding there was nothing to it—the male teacher didn’t intend anything sexual, he was a very spiritual person, etc.

I called the College Chair to let her know about it. She told me the school was doing their own internal investigation and would be interviewing the sponsors at length

The local police department interviewed the girls individually. We were not given notice when the interviews were to take place and were not given the opportunity to be present. Instead, a Waldorf teacher sat in on them. My daughter later told me she felt intimidated by the teacher.

Since the events occurred in another state on Native American land, the police merely forwarded their report to the Native American police in Colorado and no further action was taken. Detectives told us it would be difficult to prove intent in court and that our best bet was to get a group of parents to band together to make sure the teacher was dismissed.

According to a law enforcement detective specializing in child abuse, in addition to the male teacher’s inappropriate behavior, the 10th and 11th grade sponsors had committed at least three misdemeanors: failure as mandated reporters to report a complaint of child abuse immediately to law enforcement, breach by mandated reporters of the involved parties’ legal right to confidentiality (talking about it with multiple students and convening a student meeting to discuss the incidents), and interference by mandated reporters with a legal investigation (instead of fulfilling their legal obligation to report it, attempting to bully the students into renouncing their allegations).

The promised apology never came. No one from the school ever contacted us again about the matter. Every time we tried to bring it up in person or by phone, we were either ignored or rebuffed. At a class meeting for parents, we heard the sponsors lie about what happened. When those of us who knew the truth tried to speak out, the sponsors spoke over us and refused to let us talk. The arrogance and hostility exhibited by one of the sponsors seemed particularly extreme and reinforced my understanding of how traumatizing it could be for any child to be at the receiving end of her disapproval.

I composed a letter to the board that a group of parents were going to sign. I mentioned the letter to a former school parent who warned me our daughter would “not be invited to return to the school” if we sent any kind of letter. Her family had gone through a similar situation years before when she and her husband were part of a group of parents who had tried to get the school to fire a different teacher—a grandfather whose wife was also a teacher at the school—for having sexual relations with a student. Apparently, after a dispute between school personnel who had forgiven the class teacher and parents who had wanted him fired, there was apparently some sort of compromise and the man left the school, subsequently taking a position as a class teacher at a Waldorf school in a nearby town.

One by one, other parents in our group chose not to proceed with the matter. Some told us that, after meetings with the sponsors about their children’s grades and/or behavior, they feared their children were at risk of being kicked out of the school. Only one parent told me she felt the matter had been adequately dealt with and that there was nothing to be gained from proceeding. On the other hand, another 10th grade class parent told me we were dealing with a cult, and if her child had been involved, she would have hired a lawyer immediately. I asked her why she kept her child at the school if she thought it was a cult school. Her answer was that her child was artistically inclined and the emphasis on art suited her.

Our problem was this: Our daughter had not wanted to leave her previous school. Conceding that she would get used to being back at the Waldorf school, she had made us promise we would not make her change schools again unless she chose to do so.

After numerous futile efforts to talk to a member of the board with whom my kind and concerned anthroposophist friend had recommended I try to work things out, there were only three families left who were ready to sign the group letter to the board. At that point, my husband and I were the ones who dropped the matter because of our daughter’s request that we do nothing to rock the boat.

Some students told us the sponsors systematically and unfairly picked on our daughter, giving the impression they were trying to drive her out of the school. A parent also told me her child had observed this bad treatment and had told her about it.

When my husband asked a parent who worked at the school if she had heard what the part-time male teacher had done on the camping trip, she replied that she had heard some girls who were getting into trouble for bad behavior and getting bad grades had made up stories about him to cause trouble for the teachers. On top of being subjected to unwanted touching by an adult man and the breaking of laws designed to protect children, these girls were now being slandered.

Three weeks before the end of the school year, the sponsors sent us a letter telling us our daughter was not invited to return the following year (although by the time we received the letter she had already decided to leave because she could not endure their bullying any longer and had become severely depressed).

The primary reason given for “not inviting her to return” was that “the faculty is gravely concerned that [our daughter’s name] does not meet the requirements for the rigorous curriculum and work required for success in the eleventh and twelfth grade years.” She was not failing any classes at the time the letter was written. Her end-of-year report, however, showed some failing grades because, after we received that letter, she became too depressed to go back to the school for the last three weeks and, as a result, some teachers gave her F grades for all the assignments she missed.

The secondary reason given in the letter was “There’s also concern that [our daughter’s name] does not understand the appropriate boundaries for behavior at school.” A teacher had seen her kissing her boyfriend (a classmate) on the campus where younger children might have seen it had they been present, and on another occasion she and another girl had sung a racy song about a boy who was tape recording it; no one else would have heard it, I believe, but the sponsors confiscated the tape recorder and heard the song when they played it back. Tape recorders are not allowed in Waldorf schools because of the supposed connection of technology to a demon named Ahriman.

I am not denying these activities were inappropriate on a school campus, but neither were they criminal or unusual behavior for teenagers. There were students who had done far worse things than our daughter’s petty indiscretions but who were not expelled. In breaking laws designed to protect children, it was the male teacher and the mandated reporters who did not “understand the appropriate boundaries for behavior at school.” Parents and students had told me about several other things these sponsors had done (nothing to do with our daughter) that shocked me. Based on our accumulated knowledge about the sponsors, their hypocrisy was mind-boggling to us.

I don’t know how many other children in that class were either “not invited to return” or voluntarily taken out of the school by their parents in the aftermath of the camping trip, but I know of one who left after being falsely accused of disposing of feminine hygiene products in the woods, which was considered desecration of sacred Native American land.

Our daughter is still working to heal the emotional scars from her experience at the Waldorf school. Nonetheless, after leaving the school, with the help of a good teacher, she went on to become an A student and even scored in the 98th percentile on her English college placement test.

We heard that the part-time teacher was insulted at being “accused” of touching girls inappropriately and that the school had found no wrongdoing on his part. Shortly after that, we learned he would not be teaching at the school anymore. The official reason given was that he resigned because he wanted to spend more time with his family.

It’s my opinion that the lesson likely to have been learned by the girls at our child’s Waldorf school was that if you are the victim of unwanted touching by a man, don’t tell anyone, because if you do you will be doubly victimized.

Margaret Sachs

Testimonial By Suzanna Slack

Testimonial By Suzanna Slack

By Suzanna Slack

March 4, 2004

I would so much like to offer a testimonial to your site.

I was involved in a Steiner school for quite a few years, as we started to attend a mother and toddler group which was very healing for myself and a wonderful environment for my daughter who was just 18 months at the time. She still didn’t walk, then, but she spoke a lot and was very advanced in terms of words and language and ideas and interacting with people, especially adults. She liked other children but mostly liked to talk with adults, and it was made clear to me that the mother and toddler group would be a kind of ‘reprieve’ for both of us – which it was. Lots of singing, and not so much going on with the head for a couple of hours a week, and she met some little children who became her friends.

It worked so well for us we sometimes went three times a week, I became dependent on the place and its ideas and found that it represented something I had been missing in my own life, which of course had nothing to do with my daughter but I told myself it was all about her. Women with young children andtiny babies formed a community sharing their troubles and there was nothing else like that around.

My daughter’s name went down for a kindergarten place and her toys were very Steiner-friendly, the books she’d had an uncontrollable lust for I was able to replace some of the time with Steiner-type play, and the tv went out of the window. I even painted a room peach. Just before she started kindergarten she developed an interest in hydraulics – kept noticing hydraulic systems at work, say in the doors of the bus for example – and it was then I had my first pangs of doubt. It felt really weird not to give her the information she wanted, but I knew it was too material, too sciency, way too old for her. I remember sitting on the bus and answering her questions but feeling that I was already ‘going against’ something. And she was only three!

The kindergarten was a disaster, so I wasn’t that torn. But I was torn enough to let them persuade me try her again the following year, when she was four and a half. What went on in that kindergarten is still coming out now, and she is seven, and I do believe she may be affected by her experiences for life.

The bullying was awful. The teacher ignored it, capitulated in it, or simply showed all these little kids how to do it best. One time my daughter told her kindergarten teacher a little boy had kicked her, hard, right then as they were sitting there, and the kindergarten teacher had said in her sing-song voice “Oh, I don’t think he did, did he?”

The other little girls in the kindergarten would systematically group around her and criticise her drawings at the beginning of each session. She is still very nervous and eager to please around any girls of the same age as her. This was supposedly a place where no figurative drawing or age-specific tasks took place, just a few rounded-edge crayons and some sheets of paper. But no, every morning she was drilled “that doesn’t look like a heart!” and mocked, until she could do the perfect Princess-heart up to the standard of every other smaller girl. The bigger girls were off doing their own age-specific put-downs.

Still at the age of three. Before then she’d never given a monkey’s what she drew looked like to anyone. At the time I presume the teacher was lighting her candles, putting on her apron, and making sure the apple and cinnamon cooking to eat with rice pudding would reach the noses of the parents when they arrived later. Or arranging some gnomes.

The teacher often gripped my daughter hard on the arm when she was displeased with her. My daughter peed her pants almost every time she was there. The toilet was through a cold stone passageway (lovely old church though, very pretty) and in another kindergarten. She had to go alone when she needed to – through these big heavy arched church doors and into another noisy kindergarten full of more scary kids and another weird kindergarten teacher busy making dough or arranging gnomes. So she didn’t bother, and she peed her pants and sometimes poohed them every day. The other little princesses laughed at her about this. Did I say she was just three and a half? And four and a half the following year. Still tiny. During breaktime, when she was getting teased for peeing herself sometimes (often, those kids had no idea how often it was really happening – neither did the teacher, she’d be handed back to me in a change of different clothes but those would be soaking too) – well I suppose that same teacher was just making sure the kids didn’t write their names in chalk, as I saw some do illegally once. Making sure they did less harmful things, like fight and beat the crap out of each other.

The kids at that school were and are so angry because the parents were so busy arguing and getting exhausted and keeping up appearances and trying to hold down jobs as well so they could afford a certain kind of right-on organic wholefoods yoga-mum lifestyle in North London AND the Steiner school fees as well AND the time they were supposed to put in…it made them all totally wired-up, short-circuiting really, quite crazy and paranoid and twitchy to be around, all of them, but slightly more comfortable around others exactly like them. Around anyone who vaguely didn’t belong – like myself who was challenging the place and questioning it, and for which I was criticised for ‘not letting my daughter go’ and for ‘making it worse for her by not letting it get sorted out in the kindergarten by the teacher and the other children, like a family’…..I finally realised my daughter had a family which had given her so much confidence already, and to expect her to have any faith in this furious, dog-eat-dog, peach-painted Lord of the Flies daily hell and to see it as a ‘new family’ was the most twisted way to confuse a child.

And the behaviour of the jumpy, over-earnest, bitching parents made their children unsurprisingly snappy, nervous, embarrassed, self-conscious, status-seeking, aspirational, depressed, agressive and violent. Across the board. I’ve seen countless angelic toddlers go into that kindergarten and emerge only a few months later furious confused little monsters. My daughter has certainly never recovered, and she did six weeks one year and six weeks the following year when I hadn’t learned my lesson and thought it might work out a second time!

After the second six-week disaster I really realised nothing about that school in particular could ever do my daughter any good, despite our heavenly first encounter when she was a baby. I’d even selectively forgotten aspects of that mother and toddler group that hadn’t been so good, because of my own self-esteem problems. Hardcore Steiner followers who didn’t acknowledge me, or others I knew, time and time again, who would look straight through us, and only talk to each other. People who ran the school who mocked me when I offered to run a mother and toddler group, and said I’d need to do teacher training, and then asked others to stand in and run it if they had done a bit of it here and there. I understood what was going on, finally – the whole soul incarnation thing had to be understood and read about, and I hadn’t done that. You had to go through a trial by fire, you had to let your child be taken hold of by the kindergarten teachers, and the doctors if there was a problem ( I know one child who wouldn’t accept the injustice of it all and was ‘seen’ by a Steiner doctor and ‘a way was found’)….you had to put in some hours, some serious hours (we did that: my partner put classroom floors down, I made gnomes)….you had to give whatever money you could and if you were a ‘concession’ (as we were) you had to listen to suggestions that you should perhaps put more time in in exchange for your reduced fee! You had to listen to class reps say that “This is the way we do things in a Steiner school and there is no other way, everybody takes their turn”. Even if they don’t want to? Even if they think there might be another way? Even if they have new, exciting ideas to offer? I disagreed. I said I didn’t belong, then. That was it. If you don’t belong, I was told, your daughter will never feel that she does either. You are making the problem for her, I was reminded. I was grateful for this explicit advice, because however ugly it might be it is certainly the truth.

Don’t send your children to Steiner school unless you are happy about conforming entirely to the beliefs of the majority, placing your trust in a sea of sometimes disturbing and odd beliefs, and ‘letting go’ of your children and your own intuition into that sea. If you don’t belong, neither will your children. And if this is OK with you, then your children probably didn’t have much chance of being themselves anyway, so you haven’t got much to lose, and you may as well participate in the cult and have many happy days weaving and singing those lovely songs! Just keep concentrating on those happy things, and try not to pay too much attention to the darker, more sinister aspects of Steiner, because then you might not belong to a wholesome community no more, and that would never do, would it? After all, we’re a world without communities anymore, and you’ve got to grab one where you can get one, and pay no mind to the creepy stuff that might go on within one – just so long as there’s songs, weaving and festivals!

Parent Testimonial in waldorf-critics Post

Parent Testimonial in waldorf-critics Post


By Kathy H


on 12/19/01 4:48 PM, Kathy H at wrote:

— snip —

What a parent could get from a brochure is a very detailed and genuine presentation of a school’s ideology and foundation. In the case of waldorf schools this would be a clear presentation of what anthroposophy is and who Rudolph Steiner was. The waldorf school we attended did not provide this. Not in written form, not in the form of a recommended reading list and not in the form of any verbal presentations.

In our specific case, we would not have enrolled our child at all. The teacher would have been irrelevant. We pulled our child out not because of some incident that happened but because we read Steiner. We didn’t like what we read and felt very violated that the school had been operating on a level that excluded us from the pedagogy. I say this because in addition to not being provided the information up front, many questions that I asked of different teachers were not answered in a straightforward manner.

In the case of the kindergarten teacher I know for a fact that her vague and deflective manner was not due to her limited knowledge of RS and anthroposophy. In discussions I’ve had with another parent in that class there was a wide range of knowledge about anthroposophy and Rudolph Steiner that this teacher shared with that parent. I found out at a meeting I attended after leaving the school that the teacher’s husband (also a board member) stated that he had been studying Steiner for 2 decades.

To be more specific about what I mean when I say ‘vague’. Here is one example. There were so many on every topic from why is losing teeth important to why should my daughter wear shorts under her dresses.

Teacher: “I think your child should see Dr. Anthro when he visits in the fall.”

Me: “She’s very healthy and we’re happy with the doctor we have now.”

Teacher: “Yes, but this doctor is really good. I think he might be able to help with the transition issues your child is experiencing.”

Me: “Well, exactly what is an anthroposophical doctor?”

Teacher: “Pretty much just like a homeopath.”

Now, this exchange certainly doesn’t contain anything I would call lying. Maybe misleading? Certainly not clear. The teacher is giving me a response that in no way delves into anthroposophical medicine and the spiritual nature of it. Fortunately we never quite made it to see this doctor.


Our Brush With Rudolf Steiner

Our Brush With Rudolf Steiner

by Sharon Lombard

Copyright 2000 Freethought Today

Reproduced by permission: Vol. 17 No. 4, May 2000, Page 8

Copyright 2000 Freethought Today Reproduced by permission: Vol. 17 No. 4, May 2000, Page 8 Sharon Lombard and her husband Amos Miller It was time to start looking for a school for our daughter. Our priority was an education emphasizing artistic creativity and stressing tolerance for others. Consequently, when we read the Waldorf School prospectus, it seemed as if this curriculum integrating art and stressing nonsectarianism was just what we wanted. I traveled from Ohio to investigate one of these schools in Wisconsin. At first glance I liked what I saw: the non-institutional ambiance of the classroom was appealing, the interview charming, and the pupils' illustrated workbooks caught my eye. The experience promised a nurturing and creative environment for our child. Deciding this was the right choice, we moved to Wisconsin specifically to give our daughter a Waldorf education. Soon doubts about our decision arose but they seemed superficial. I ignored the ever mounting references to cosmological forces, the zodiac, and other peculiarities, indulging myself that certain individuals were overtly

Sharon Lombard and her husband Amos Miller

It was time to start looking for a school for our daughter. Our priority was an education emphasizing artistic creativity and stressing tolerance for others. Consequently, when we read the Waldorf School prospectus, it seemed as if this curriculum integrating art and stressing nonsectarianism was just what we wanted.

I traveled from Ohio to investigate one of these schools in Wisconsin. At first glance I liked what I saw: the non-institutional ambiance of the classroom was appealing, the interview charming, and the pupils’ illustrated workbooks caught my eye. The experience promised a nurturing and creative environment for our child. Deciding this was the right choice, we moved to Wisconsin specifically to give our daughter a Waldorf education. Soon doubts about our decision arose but they seemed superficial. I ignored the ever mounting references to cosmological forces, the zodiac, and other peculiarities, indulging myself that certain individuals were overtly “New Age.”

Our new Waldorf school required participation from parents, and I threw myself into service with much enthusiasm working for what I believed to be a good cause. I volunteered to be on the school store committee to help raise funds. As an artist appreciating aesthetics and color, my first attempt at improvement was to transform the existing store into something with more pizzazz. I had hoped to use children’s illustrations as part of the new decor, but I found it not to be acceptable. Not understanding what was wrong with my lovely collection of drawings, I put them away assuming that people just could not imagine the final effect.

So, instead, using my assortment cans of paint, I went to work transforming the blank walls with color. Soon, I received notes, phone calls, and a visit from one of the faculty who asked if I had permission to paint the walls as I had done. I answered that the store committee had given me the go ahead. Despite the disapproval, I thought the store looked much better than it had and was happy that sales increased.

During this time, I came up with a fundraising idea. To help the store reach its financial goal, I designed a T-shirt to be printed with a small self-portrait drawn by each student in the school. I couldn’t imagine a parent being able to resist buying one! Bundles of small squares of paper and black markers were distributed to teachers with instructions that each child should quickly draw a picture of themselves. These would be collected for me to have silk-screened. My idea met with great opposition! I found out that markers were not permitted in Waldorf schools, no exceptions. I passed this off thinking that crayons and pencils were probably more environmentally sound, and I suggested that dark pencils could be used instead. The teachers were aghast; pencils were not allowed in the kindergarten. After negotiation and hours at the copy machine reducing the large block crayon self-portraits and redefining the lines lost in the process, the T-shirts were eventually printed. They raised a nice sum for the school, but what was wrong with pencil line drawings? Along with these indiscretions, I had apparently inadvertently broken other rules and an inquisition took place before the faculty, accusing me of being “irreverent” and “nonsupportive”.

It was not long before I realized that our child was not drawing at school. I thought this odd because, from my reading and observation of my mother’s studio art classes for children, I knew that they should be free to make their first mark in line. I became frustrated that this universal instinct of childhood was being thwarted by my daughter’s kindergarten teacher who claimed, when asked, that linear work must not be encouraged until pupils are older. I was baffled by the steps taken to make this virtually impossible. Pupils have to use large block crayons and, they may not outline images but instead color from the center outwards.

Brown and black crayons were prohibited in the lower grades. What did this distaste for darkness mean? Perplexed, I asked how African-American pupils could depict themselves. The teacher’s answer was that she would show them how to “smudge” the color from several different crayons. Beginning painting was limited to orchestrated exercises using large brushes to produce color on wet paper. I noticed that the work of higher grades displayed in the hallways was also exclusively executed in this wet-on-wet technique–the repetitive compositions indicated their being copied from a single source.

My daughter cried at bedtime and in the mornings as she vehemently resisted going to school. However, thinking we should work through her intensifying revolt, because it was in her best interest, we ignorantly kept sending her off as we were dubious about our other options for schooling. When her accumulated wet-on-wet “artwork” came home, I was aware that, unlike her prolific creative drawing done at home, at school the self expression we had anticipated was actually being frustratingly suppressed.

Mounting idiosyncrasies, prayers, and religiosities (including my daughter’s announcement that she had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other) suggested an undercurrent that emanated from the faculty. These were not just isolated beliefs of the mystical seekers in the parent body. Legends of holy people, old testament stories, and much ado about demons, devils, angels, fairies, gnomes, and Saint Michael (all taught as fact) added to the fear that we had allowed a tiny head to be opened and filled with a syncretic, superstitious miasma of ages past. Contrary to the claims of nonsectarianism, it was becoming very apparent that everything revolved around Rudolf Steiner; the founder of Anthroposophy and Waldorf education.

As a member of a committee, I had been pressured to study the work of Rudolf Steiner but had rejected the imposition, intuitively equating Anthroposophy study with bible study. Apart from a photograph of Steiner that hung on the faculty lounge wall and the constant references to him, I hadn’t a clue about the man. I assumed that he was indeed the scientist, educator and philosopher that the school purported him to be.

How I wish I had studied Anthroposophy–the word not defined in my dictionary! Had I read just one of Steiner’s books, I would have understood that he was an occult scientist, religious educator, and esoteric Anthroposophist.

Both my daughter and I deteriorated in health, and I could not bear going near the school. The final straw came at the height of my daughter’s illness when the school recommended that a visiting Anthroposophical doctor see her.

In our opinion, we experienced the ultimate folly concerning superstition of color. She was to draw with healing warm colored crayons and, I was to make the sign of a flame on her heart with aurum cream at bedtime! We removed her from the school shortly there after. Our requested exit interview was presented in letter form. In it we stated that a clearer distinction should be made to prospective parents concerning the sectarian nature of Waldorf schools. We stressed that had we known, that it’s curriculum and operations were based exclusively on Rudolf Steiner’s clairvoyance, aesthetics, eurocentricity, and religious beliefs, the school would not have been the choice for our daughter. I still had not read Steiner.

In May 1999, I discovered that my concerns were being expressed by others on the internet and that an organization called PLANS (People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools) was suing the Sacramento Unified School District and the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, alleging that violations of the establishment clause of the First Amendment had occurred by the operation of publicly funded Waldorf Schools. I also learned that the president of PLANS had actually helped found one of the schools. Another member of PLANS had discovered that the Waldorf teacher training program was in reality a seminary, requiring teachers to read Steiner’s books including Outline of Occult Science and others that set forth the angelic revelations of his channeled Akashic Record. It was an incredible feeling to have my opinions validated by people outside of the cult of Rudolf Steiner. I realized that I had been misled, because the Waldorf school was a spiritual science school and Anthroposophy was Steiner’s version of Theosophy.

I felt compelled to send a letter to the superintendent of the public school urging that the proposal to make the local private Waldorf school a publicly funded charter be rejected. I included some of the articles found on the internet to help illustrate my concerns. According to the superintendent the proposal is no longer being considered.

I began ordering books by Steiner through inter-library loans as I wanted to corroborate some of the appalling quotes attributed to him on the net. Well needless to say, they were indeed his words. Lately, I’ve become quite a serious student of Steiner! With each book I read I piece together more and more of what had gone on in my daughter’s classroom and school, finding answers to my many questions which had been brushed aside by teachers or by myself.

Earlier, a prospectus had stated that the first Waldorf school, founded in 1919, was to be the seed for the future, serving the reawakening spiritual life of mankind. The concept suddenly became more ominous as I read The Universal Human (four lectures given between 1909 and 1916) in which Steiner stated that the mission of the Anthroposophical movement was to enable a number of human beings to enter their next incarnation to become core groups for the 6th epoch of civilization. He elucidates how this will come about in The Study of Man (a 1919 lecture): “You will have to take over the children for their education and instruction… children who will have received already…the education, or miseducation, given them by their parents.”(p. 16) I was beginning to detect a more disconcerting reason for the ideal of having the same teacher advance through all of the grades. My daughter’s teacher was to be her spiritual parent and guide.

Every aspect of the curriculum is centered on what Steiner defines as spiritual advancement of karma and reincarnation supplemented by indoctrination in esoteric mysteries. No wonder the self-expression inherent in the usual definition of art is missing: what passes for art, to the uninitiated, is no more than occult “moral exercise”! Nonsectarianism (valid only if this refers to the syncretic hotchpotch of myths and religions absorbed into Steiner’s pantheon) is instead the intolerant, apocalyptic, totalitarian sect of Anthroposophy!

Tackling Steiner’s Art in the Light of Mystery Wisdom, I waded through his endless injunctions to try and fathom the “wet-on-wet” technique and found many clues:

“In painting, the line is a lie; the line is always part of the memory of life before birth. If we are to paint with a consciousness that extends across into the world of spirit, we must paint what comes out of the colour.” (p. 68)

The wet paper, liquid paint, and large brushes are used to frustrate the possibility of line. Along with logical thinking at a young age, line is believed to affect the health in later life. But what of the paper with its cut, rounded corners and the “blobs” of color? According to Steiner, the astral body is a perfect circle. Perhaps that is the connection! He instructed that only liquid paint in pots could be used – in order to make the color shine inwardly. He explains his reasons in Colour:

“You will see that a yellow surface with definite boundaries is a repulsive thing; it is quite unbearable to artistic feeling. The soul cannot bear a yellow surface which is limited. We must make yellow paler at the edges, then paler still : in short the yellow must be full in the center, shining out into a still paler yellow. If we are to experience its inner nature we cannot imagine yellow in any other way.” (p. 33)

As perplexing, is the added mystical significance of liquid paint:

“The `I’ itself is within the colour. The human `I’ and astral body are not to be separated at all from the colour; they live in colour and inasmuch as they are united with the colour they have an existence outside the physical body. It is the `I’ and the astral body which reproduce colour in the physical and etheric bodies. That is the point.” (p. 54)

It is impossible to go into detail concerning Steiner’s heirarchies and decrees on color due to their sheer complexity and quantity, but it is important to note that contemporary Anthroposophists like McAllen endorse his views: “The colour sequence works as a cleansing-reorientation of the soul, helping the individuality to accept the present incarnation in a physical body.” (p. 40) So, these wet-on-wet pictures are actual moral exercises exposing pupils to the healing influence of color. For instance, the use of yellow and blue in the kindergarten is a mystic weaving of the soul with the hereditary body, until the growth of secondary teeth, when the etheric body enters. On and on it goes. A rather bizarre benefit concerning the years spent experiencing these color exercises was more recently expressed in Drawing: From First Grade to High School: “It should help protect them from being sucked out altogether into the physical world.” (p. 165)

Another idiosyncrasy I found in Steiner’s book Colour is that “The soul lives in the actual colour of the skin …Of all the varied colours in the world around us peach-blossom is the colour we would select as being the nearest to that of the human skin…”(p. 24) From reading Art Inspired by Rudolph Steiner, I discovered that the classroom walls must be painted with a transparent wash so that pupils can see through them into the spirit world. ( Now I understand why my paint job was such a shock!)

Just as the liquid paint had a mystic mission in preparing the well-reincarnated for the new world order, so too do all the myths, legends, and fairy tales Steiner adopted in his Anthroposophical pantheon and Waldorf curriculum. This was born out in Colour where he expresses his doctrine:

“Until we have thoroughly overcome the habit of inquiring in terms of symbols and allegories and of interpreting myths and legends allegorically and symbolically, and start sensing the breath of the spirit that weaves throughout the cosmos and feel its life in the figures of myths and fairy tales – until we do this we shall not have attained real spiritual knowledge.” (p. 68)

Like his hierarchies of color, Steiner also devised a system of stratification of humans evolving through “seven root races.” In third grade, during a block on The Old Testament (which came as a surprise) my daughter studied the creation story of Genesis. She related the fact that she had been forced to redraw her picture, replacing Eve’s black hair with blond. At the time I was puzzled by this increasing stress on light and darkness. Did it hint at racism? Consequently, I took a gulp when I read Steiner’s thoughts on the subject in Health and Illness Vol. 1:

“You see, when we really study science and history, we must conclude that if people become increasingly strong, they will also become increasingly stupid. If the blonds and blue-eyed people die out, the human race will become increasingly dense if men do not arrive at a form of intelligence that is independent of blondness. Blond hair actually bestows intelligence …It is indeed true that the more the fair individuals die out the more will the instinctive wisdom of humans vanish.” (p. 86)

The illustrated lesson books that had initially misled me into thinking they expressed appreciation of other cultures were a disappointment. I now realize each work block specifically reinforces tenets of Anthroposophy. My daughter’s coercion concerning Eve’s blondness is an example of the Aryan sympathies unbelievably expressed by Wilkinson in 1993:

“Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham and Japhet… Ham means “the dark one”..Japhet means “the beautiful.” The Greek and Nordic peoples are the Japhetites, bearing new spiritual impulses.” (p. 23)

No wonder Greek and Norse myths are so important. Was not Odin an Aryan god?

However, apart from revealing who will be top in the new world order, the Nordic myths also benefit pupils esoterically. Evidently, the hexameter meter present in these myths is believed to balance breath with the heart rhythm, balancing pupils between the forces of gravity and levity.

The duality of dark and light is emphasized over and over in the curriculum due to Steiner’s adoption of the ancient Persian Zoroastrian religious concept of two gods, dark and light, whose conflict creates the world. Steiner identified Lucifer as the god of light who inspires art, reviving the Gnostic belief of Jehovah as villain and Lucifer as hero and revealer of sacred mysteries. In the form of a serpent, Lucifer had brought enlightenment when God denied the first couple the fruit of the tree of knowledge to keep them ignorant. On the dark side, Ahriman is Steiner’s devil. I have uncovered the interesting fact that a group of Gnostic’s called Luciferans first appeared in the 14th century in Steiner’s homeland, Austria. I have a hunch that they are still present today in Anthroposophy and the Waldorf curriculum. (Steiner was also heavily influenced by Rosicrucianism, a secret society of the 17th and 18th century whose members claimed various occult lore and power.)

We are not alone in our move to Wisconsin in search of a progressive education. While some are absorbed into the Waldorf community, others like ourselves sense a strange undercurrent and remove themselves from the school. I cannot put into words my sense of loss, regret, and humiliation, for subjecting my daughter to such arrant nonsense. I had not only placed her in the exact opposite of what I had intended, but unknowingly, had helped fund and propagate a religious, secret society. Ironically, reading Steiner has empowered me. I am very confident that I do not want to be associated with Anthroposophy. Society should not endure the public funding of Anthroposophy. Waldorf schools must be honest to prospective parents, acknowledging that they are institutions of spiritual science. And my daughter? She is happy, thriving socially and academically, at the local public school.


Fletcher, John. Art Inspired by Rudolph Steiner. Mercury Arts Publications, 1987.

Froebe, Carl. “Drawing: From First Grade To High School.” Pusch Vol. 2. Waldorf Schools: Upper Grades and High School: Thirty-four articles from “Education as Art”, Bulletin of the Waldorf Schools of North America 1940-1978, pg. 156. Ed. Ruth Pusch. Trans. Rudolf Copple, 1959. Spring Valley, NY: Mercury Press, 1993.

McAllen, Audrey E. Sleep: An Unobserved Element in Education. Stroud, U.K.: Hawthorn Press, 1995.

Russel, J.B. Witchcraft in the Middle Ages. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1972.

Steiner, Rudolf. Art in the Light of Mystery Wisdom: Eight Lectures 1914-1923 (1935) New Translation 1970 Johanna Collis. Rudolf Steiner Press, London. 1970.

Steiner, Rudolf. Colour. (Twelve Lectures 1921-1924) Trans. John Salter and Pauline Wehrle. Rudolf Steiner Press, Sussex, 1992.

Steiner, Rudolf. Health and Illness: Vol. l (1922) Trans. Maria St. Goar. Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1988.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Karma of Untruthfulness: Vol. 1 (1916) Trans. Johanna Collis. New York: Anthroposophic Press, 1988.

Steiner, Rudolf. Outline of Occult Science. Hudson NY: Anthroposophic press, 1972.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Roots of Education. Hudson NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1997.

Steiner, Rudolph. Study of Man: General Education Course: Fourteen Lectures given by Rudolf

Steiner in Stuttgart 21 st August – 5th September 1919. (1919) Trans. Daphne Harwood and Helen Fox. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1960.

Steiner, Rudolf. The Universal Human: Four Lectures Given Between 1909 and 1916 in Munich and Bern. (1909-1916) Trans. edited by Christopher Bamford and Sabine H. Seiler. Anthroposophic Press, 1990.

Walker, Barbara G. The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Edison, New Jersey: Castle Books, 1996.

Wedeck, Harry EA. Treasury of Witchcraft. Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1975.

Wilkinson, Roy. Commentary on the Old Testament Stories. Fair Oaks, CA: Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1993.