Waldorf Education – For Our Times Or Against Them?

Transcript of talk by Eugene Schwartz, Director of Teacher Training, Sunbridge College: November 13, 1999. Edited by Michael Kopp.

I was told by the business office of Sunbridge that if Dan Dugan attracted a sizeably larger audience than I, he would replace me … so, economic animal that I am, I’m grateful that you’re all here. Today it’s low-tech: we only have one video camera, two tape recorders and no overhead projector – we don’t use that, we Waldorf people [reference to Dan Dugan’s talk being highly taped and Dugan using an overhead projector for his talk]. Astral projection – yes.
When I first announced to the Anthroposophical movement, about 14 months ago, that I had invited Dan Dugan to come to the Schools in Transformation Conference this year, there was a slow but steady reaction on the part of–and Dan, I’m using this word in a very loose sense–what one could call the leadership of the Waldorf movement, and to some extent, the Anthroposophical movement. Most of the reactions were negative; and I was warned that he is unpredictable, that you don’t know what he might try to do, that there might be pickets set up around Sunbridge College. He might bring a lawyer with him, and there might be some legal action. [To Dugan, who points at Robert Tolz]: What, you did?! [Laughter] And that [I should] watch out: he knows how to manipulate, he will use an overhead projector–this is not from a little old lady in canvas shoes this morning; this is from a highly respected, dear friend of mine who is a leader world-wide of Waldorf education–warning me [Dugan] will use an overhead projector, flash information before people can digest it, give a distorted view (and the word distortion was used again and again) and sort of brainwash people very rapidly. So these were some of the warnings. And had I not met Dan Dugan myself in California, where he, much to the dismay of the Waldorf teachers in a particular school, sat in on a lecture of mine, and seing him as a human being, I might have imagined a Dan who’s Saddam Hussein on steroids or something. But you have him; you saw him last night–he’s a human being; one with whom I have many, many points of disagreement, and whom I don’t always appreciate, but he’s a human being.

And I must say, as the months have gone on, the climate has changed, I guess it […] all right to say maybe this conference was okay, and maybe it would be good to encounter Dan Dugan. And that it should be part of it. And then I was getting calls from a Texan Anthroposophist: Eugene, we’re all with you–kick his butt! [Laughter] Now I’m not exactly Saddam Hussein on steroids either [something unintelligible about how was he going to kick somebody’s butt as if he …]

I know a lot of Waldorf teachers go to the action movies on Friday night–[more unintelligible about what he was supposed to do to Dugan]. This [Dugan] is a human being. And what concerned me about both of these reactions was how they were […] together with fear. People in our movement are afraid, and if there’s any mark of success in what he’s doing, it is that: we have created his reputation, more than anyone else. As he said, school boards don’t always listen to him [but] we take his words very seriously. How seriously, I’ll show you in a few minutes, which is one of the great ironies of this whole event.

So, we have demonized Dan Dugan to the point where one is not supposed to talk to him, or one is supposed to take out one’s Michaelic sword and cut off his head. And it’s all filled with fear; and as far as I understand, fear only lives in a person when they feel severed from the spiritual world. If you feel connected with the spiritual world, you have no fear. We know we can’t die; we know death is an illusion; so what’s to be afraid of? [something about babies being fearless] until they learn from those around them that there are things to fear … so what I’m being told–and I say it again […] anyone in this room who’s an Anthroposophist knows, leadership is a very vague idea, and any Waldorf parent knows that leadership of a Waldorf school is a rather vague idea–so [when the day is … ] I was astonished that people did not have faith in the spiritual world that we could meet Dan Dugan and not lose all the parents in a given school; that we could have high school kids coming to hear him, and we’ll see next week if they all drop out of Green Meadow. We will really be able to see it–this is a wonderful experiment–how many parents are going to leave Green Meadow because of what they heard last night? How many high school students are going to drop out of school because of what they heard? It’s a question. And I will be as interested as anyone in seeing, does Dan Dugan bring destruction to Waldorf schools, does he bring damage, or does he bring something else?

And let me just give you a bit of a hypothesis in a scientific way, so that we will test it and challenge it and see if it holds true: Dan is a lighting designer–he works in a very Ahrimanic world, a world which is highly technical, in which we might say the force of […] is hardened and brought to a condensation and held prisoner in a way, and then this throws a harsh light on everything. And that’s what he’s doing to us: he’s throwing a harsh unpleasant light–it’s not the candlelight of the Waldorf verse, it’s the light, the bare bulb, of the interrogation room. But it’s light nonetheless.

I would say, and again I’m going to try to present this as well as I can in such a short time, Dan has not created the problem: he is casting a harsh and terrible light on it–but he’s not the cause. The cause is already there in the Waldorf movement. He’s just bringing it, in the worst way possible, to consciousness. Why? Because we haven’t brought it to consciousness ourselves.

Dan Dugan, as he said last night: is there a way, working with three different forces … (I was so glad, I’ve been ready to say this for years, and Dan really said it) number one, is the disgruntled parent. Is he the first disgruntled parent in the Waldorf movement? The first disgruntled parent, as I understand it, showed up in about the second week of the first Waldorf school in 1919, and began trashing everything. I’ve worked with many parents in my own class in my own school, in schools across the country. A lot of dads [Dans?], a lot of engineers. They often have a very very hard time with Waldorf education; and they often pull their kids out, and then they walk around telling everybody in the parking lot or wherever, how bad it is. So, okay, that’s happened before.

[something about Dugan’s school experience] that’s all it was, his grudge against the San Francisco Waldorf school. And they knew … let’s just try to ignore him–we’ve had lots of people like that, they go away. But as he says, something else happened. As he was working on his book, Waldorf started to go public. Uh-huh. A very new factor. Something that had not occurred before in the United States. Now Dan Dugan had two things to talk about; and then the third factor was the accessibility of the Internet. I could give a whole lecture on Ahriman and the Internet, but I’ll save that for when Dan isn’t here.

So three things came together: … the first, we always ignore disgruntled parents as much as we can [laughter]; the second, that Waldorf went public; (here again there was a kind of dream-like consciousness about that step being taken–I’ll discuss this further); but thirdly the Internet–that really caught us off guard. Very very few people in the Waldorf movement, vitually no one in the Anthroposophical world, had an idea about what the Internet would become.

It used to be the parking lot: Dan Dugan standing there on Washington Street, telling a few other parents he wasn’t happy with the San Francisco Waldorf school. Now that parking lot is world-wide. Now we get the comment from New Zealand, “Oh Dan, it can’t be all that bad, let me explain it”; someone from Germany, “Excuse me Mr. Dugan, I must clarify”; someone from Rio de Janiero, someone from Calgary–all over the world, this big, big parking lot. And Dan caught that, right away. It’s a powerful way to reach people, especially because you can be a PhD from Harvard, or you can be an eight-year-old who knows how to type, and on that screen your words have exactly the same weight. There’s no way of knowing exactly who you are, where you come from; you are disembodied; you are the Wizard of Oz. And in a way, Dan has used this powerfully. And that is why I invited him to come in person, without his “net”, as they say when trapeze artists are willing to perform, and he came.

Now one thing that Rudolf Steiner tells us about evil in our time–especially Ahrimanic evil–it hides, it always hides. So one could say, Dan Dugan is truly evil: he sits there in his little room, he connects himself to this Ahrimanic Web, which is like a caricature of the spiritual world, that’s [not?] for everyone, and he puts out these little messages, and you never see him. For all we know, he’s a machine which has been programmed to attack Waldorf education.

Here he is. [to Dugan] You’re not a hologram, are you? He can’t be all that evil, if he’s willing to come out from hiding. So I say, he’s not Darth Vader. Maybe he’s Doctor Evil–which is not to imply that I’m Austin Powers. [much laughter] Here he is. And I would say, when I’m asked “what are your motives, why are you inviting him, what’s going on, […] in our psychological age, we always want to know people’s motives. Even Dan asked me: “What are your motives?” [Dan], you of all people, are asking me that? My motive is one thing. We’re a college; we’re a place where people come to learn.

So here’s our professor: Dan Dugan. He’s come to teach us something. You like it, you don’t like it–I don’t care. But if you’re sitting in, you’re going to learn something. You might not like what you learn, you might not agree with it, that’s perfectly okay. But I hope that this weekend is on every level truly a learning experience.

[Thanks his colleagues, former colleagues at Green Meadow, for having the conference and inviting Dugan.] Green Meadow even more strongly in favor of Dugan’s coming than Sunbridge; they may not agree with much of what’s going on here; they’re taking a huge risk: it’s their parents, it’s their high schoolers, who have been sitting in, and I admire their courage. And I admire the courage of all of you who are willing to come here to hear things you know are going to be unpleasant. So in a way that fear that I picked up so strongly on in the leadership of our movement is actually not there in the rank and file at all. In the younger generation, something very different is arriving.

Now, Dan accuses us of talking out of two sides of out mouth, and damnit, I’m going to do him one better, I’m going to talk out of three sides of my mouth. I am going to present some thoughts as a Waldorf parent … as a former Waldorf teacher and a teacher of teachers today. Lastly I’m going to speak as an Anthroposophist. So I hope that will cover all bases of what Dan was bringing last night. It’s really amazing for me, because for so many years I was a faculty member and a parent in Green Meadow, and now I’m just a parent. And my God, I can’t believe it’s the same school! It’s really amazing to be here outside of being a parent.

I have a 9-year-old daughter; she’s in third grade at Green Meadow Waldorf school. And these are some of my experiences. I know every morning she says a verse, and, as Dan pointed out, it’s a verse that speaks to God. I would call it a prayer: that’s what I used to tell my class. You’re speaking a prayer. I want you to stand still, I don’t want you to move around, I want you to really be respectful because we’re talking to God now. And a child said, “You mean we’re praying?”, and I said yes, we’re praying. And I spoke to the parents about this, and that was […]

When I saw that last night again–I’ve seen it before–the verse said in the Waldorf public school, I was blown away again. How could she do that to children? How could she take God out of that verse? Why bother saying it at all? You mean the white kids who can afford to go to a Waldorf school, they can talk to God, and the African-American kids who can’t afford to go to the Waldorf school, [they can] talk to the Earth? That’s the message I got, anyway.

I’m glad my daughter gets to speak about God every morning: that’s why I send her to a Waldorf school. She’s learning stories from the Old Testament, or the Hebrew Scriptures, as her teacher–it took me a while to figure out–did you used to learn the Old Testament? So she’s learning from the Hebrew Scriptures. She’s learned that God created the world in seven days; she’s learning about Abraham, and the terrible existential struggle he had when he was asked by God to sacrifice his son. She’s going to learn about the king, the battles, the Israelites. Does she learn from her teacher? Well, archaeological evidence has pointed out recently that the size of David’s empire might have been severely exaggerated by the scriptures. Not at all: she’s learning it as truth. She comes home filled with this, bubbling up with it. She speaks about it as she crochets socks for her sister, she talks about it as she gets out her violin and begs to practice. She’s filled with it.

That’s why I send her to a Waldorf school. She can have a religious experience. A religious experience. I’ll say it again: I send my daughter to a Waldorf school so that she can have a religious experience. So that she learns something about reverence. So that she learns something about respecting a higher being. If she didn’t learn that, she’d be out the door in a minute. I don’t want her to go to a school that calls itself Waldorf, and denies her a religious experience.

Somebody’s gotta change their name! And I sure hope it isn’t the Waldorf movement of independent schools. I think we owe it to our parents to let them know that the child is going to go through one religious experience after another. And if any of the teacher trainees in the room feel that I’m not saying that clearly enough to you, well, here it is, guys, if I haven’t said it to you a hundred times already: when we deny that Waldorf schools are giving children religious experiences, we are denying the whole basis of Waldorf education.

Now by religious I don’t mean the Catholic Church, and Dan pointed that out last night. As soon as one attaches a word to it, it’s frozen. Certainly I’ve known many Jewish parents who said to me, “You know, my third-grader just started religous lessons with a rabbi, and you know what? The goyischer (Yiddish for non-Jewish) Waldorf teacher teaches the Old Testament better than the rabbi does. She’s more filled with feeling for the subject than the rabbi is.” Great. Good. That’s the way it should be. That teacher teaches Buddhism in fifth grade, and goes into the origins of the Catholic Church, and talks about the birth of the Muslim religion in sixth grade. I hope that conviction, that enthusiasm is just as strong. I hope that the child has an experience [editor’s emphasis] of every world religion. And indeed, we have to do more — there are more religions than there used to be; I don’t know if we want to take up Scientology until high school, but certainly we can do more here.

To deny the religious basis of Waldorf education–I would say it again–to satisfy public school superintendents, or a talk show host, or a newspaper reporter, is very, very wrong. And the Waldorf leadership, I would say, are waffling on this matter. I would say we are religious schools. Religious schools plus; religious schools with a difference; religious schools light–whatever you want to call it.

But we are, we are schools that inculcate religion in children. But it’s a different kind of religion, because it leaves them free to find their own religious path or not. We have Waldorf graduates who are devoutly orthodox Jews, who are now sending their own children to my own third grade class; we have Waldorf graduates who are Islamic, one of whom in fact took the teacher training with me recently; Waldorf graduates who are atheists. That is fine–we are not trying to create one [kind?] of person; rather we are trying to open up the religious font that is the child’s right as a human being. And I think a big part of the tragedy of the public schools in America came with the absolutism, the rigidity, of the interpretation of the separation of church and state.

The time has come for us to stop pussyfooting around [theories] that will sound too strange if we tell parents what we are really doing. Don’t say I didn’t tell you guys–10 years ago!. Stop pussyfooting around. Tell everybody what we are about. The day they walk into the school, let them know then.

If we are really to be a movement for cultural renewal, it is our responsibility to share with the parents those elements of Anthroposophy which will help them understand their children and fathom the mysterious ways in which we work Yes, we are giving the children a version of Anthroposophy in the classroom; whether we mean to or not, it’s there. So let’s at least do it the right way. [32:50] Let’s be bringing Anthroposophical [light] in …

When Waldorf and public schools first started to come together, one of my concerns was “do you realize what’s going to happen when we go public? Every academic who wants to make his mark is going to start writing articles in academic magazines. The better Waldorf looks, the more it will get attacked. As Gen. Patton said, when he was promoted, “The higher up the tree the monkey climbs, the easier it is to see his bottom”. The more we are there in the public, the more that which we have not ourselves fully understood and grasped, will come to the fore.

Do you know what it’s like when an academic decides to attack? Those guys are real bastards. So you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. […] It’s gonna come harder and faster until we ourselves know what we are about.

Even if [all the things Dan Dugan] has attacked (science and history teaching) are wrong, still, that’s only 10 percent of what goes on in a Waldorf school; 90 percent of it would still be good. It’s really really super hard for anyone to super hate Waldorf education. There’s always some redeeming quality in it.

[The Waldorf authorities don’t always appreciate it] but since I have taken on slowly the directorship of the teacher training programme at Sunbridge, I am working to change things. So, for example, to get into the second year, one does not have to fill out that very invasive application and get recommendations from local Anthroposophists. We felt that was too easy: rather, a person has to be interviewed by me. This has seemed to eliminate a tremendous number of people.

Secondly, we really do give students experiences of other people who wrote about education than Rudolf Steiner. They read Piaget, Thorndike, so they can speak in a way that places Steiner in context. So they are leaving Sunbridge far more knowledgeable about mainstream education than a mainstream educator is about Waldorf education.

We should be doing more to mainstream Steiner. He didn’t want Waldorf to be alternative; Waldorf education made it alternative. We’re so scared to let people know what we’re doing that we hide our light. […] We’ve painted ourselves into a weird corner. And in a certain way, the searchlight, the spotlight of Dan Dugan, is going to help us get out of it.

Sunbridge College is different. We are examining and challenging all the presuppositions about what Waldorf teacher training is. […] Out of our struggles, something new is being born here. Sunbridge is on the way to becoming the best Waldorf teacher training college in the world because it’s going to be the most open.

I’m often asked, “Does one have to be an Anthroposophist to be a Waldorf teacher?”–one of Dan Dugan’s important points. No. Absolutely, 100 percent no. “Do you have to be an Anthroposophist to be a GOOD Waldorf teacher?” No. Absolutely not. “Do you have to be an Anthroposophist to be a really, really, really good Waldorf teacher?” Here I have to think a little more. How many reallys were there? No I can think of two people, one of them in Green Meadow, who were really, really really good Waldorf teachers and weren’t Anthroposophists. It an exception, an it’s rare, but it can be done.

At a minimum, I feel 20 percent of the faculty [of a Waldorf school] should be Anthroposophists. That leaves every individual free. The important thing is that 20 percent have chosen in freedom to be Anthroposophists, not because in teacher training I presented it so that they would feel compelled, or worse yet manipulated … to join the [Anthroposophical] Society, to join the First Class. Never, never. I do not regard teacher training as an extension of the Anthroposophical Society. When I’m working with trainees, I don’t see green cards, I see children.

[Talks about 80 percent being ideal, but 90 or 100 percent being too boring and incestuous.] And there again Dan pointed out this cult-like quality in the movement, on which we have to be on guard all of the time. Not because Steiner was a guru, but because we, as 20th Century people, are so desperately looking for gurus. We’re waiting for Michael to descend to us but instead we have to ascend to him.

[Talks about charter schools being more successful with higher Anthroposophist numbers …] But I’m not here to defend charter schools–I think it was a mistake for Waldorf education to get involved in the public domain. But it’s a mistake that’s been made. I lecture to charter schools and public school people. [Talks about helping drowing people in the ocean … and not wanting to be a lifeguard … ] So one works with public schools because they are a fait accompli, but I would be the last one in the world to encourage more of that.

So, again, if a public school doesn’t have this [Anthroposophical membership? College of Teachers?] it is not a Waldorf school, it is not a Waldorf-inspired school, nor is it a Waldorf anything. If Anthroposophy cannot be freely discussed among the faculty, then you don’t have a Waldorf school. And why pretend? Why this sham that these are Waldorf schools?

Six, seven or eight years ago there was this appeal [from some troubled public school systems desperate for help] […] and a blue-ribbon committee of finest teachers in the country, the gray hairs of wisdom and experience, to help the Milwaukee school form. And I said, this is great, there’s a little Waldorf school in New Paltz, New York, that’s struggling, could you go and help them the way you’re helping the public school? There’s a little school in the Sierra Nevada mountains that’s really struggling … no, they didn’t want to do that, they wanted to be at this public school, that was where the help was needed. And when I criticized this, they said, “You know, Eugene, when the [Pedagogical Section of the Goetheanum?] come here, they ask, ‘How are the public schools doing?'”. And I said, well, that’s very nice, but who is their base of support. Why was public education so appealing? […]

There was a wish to help. No matter what Dan says about nefarious plots, it was a desire to help. That’s the highest motive one can have to help. Whether one has the means, strength, know-how to help, that’s a question that wasn’t asked enough. There was a dull state of consciousness, a kind of heroic feeling and state of grandiosity, that “We are going to serve Michael now, we are going to be the Christian warriors, we are going to be like missionaries, going to save the souls of African American children. The second motive, a big one not always perhaps executed in the wisest way, is white liberal guilt. [… talks about his background and most Waldorf teachers being upper middle class … having romantic notions he never had, coming from a lower class, harder, urban background …] One of the first things I tell my teacher trainees is to try to help them get rid of their romantic notions as well. [… talks about himself being driven out of public schools by the unionized bureacratic teachers because of the things he said there … presumably as a guest lecturer not a teacher, and being proud of that … ] Third motive is small, but there: a Waldorf school of 200 kids is lucky if it can raise $15-20,000 for teachers’ salaries; we know the poverty of our movement, we are like, as Dan said, like monasteries, seminaries, in many ways. And our vow of poverty is perhaps the hardest one to drop.

The money can really turn your head. If, like Sunbridge, you’re a struggling teacher training institution, having to go out with the begging bowl every few weeks to ask donors for a little more because we didn’t quite make it … one can say everyone has his price, even the Waldorf movement. Think of what we could do with a hundred thousand dollars. Think of how we could serve the world–we’re doing a good thing, we’re helping children, so let’s …. oh, it comes with strings? Oh, well, we have a lawyer. It’s a very subtle sort of thing. When these public school superintendents show up in their beautiful tailored suits and high-heeled shoes, and they’re not wearing Birkenstocks or sandals, it can turn your head. And I’m sorry to say, in a very small number of cases … When I came to Sunbridge we had a small public school [initiative] with a very generous grant, and I resolved to make that disappear, and it has. We have no program for public school teachers. So we’re losing a lot of money by that.

What I tell people in the public school world is that I have my price too, and you guys haven’t mentioned that yet. This is very important, I think. So money has played a very important role. Because we are so poor, and pretend not to think about money–Lucifer!–money comes in the back door and becomes the most powerful force of all–Ahriman. So we must find balance–(I won’t name Him.)

By giving Waldorf out to the public school teachers in the way that we have in the courses we have been giving–and I’ve been at Rudolf Steiner College, I’ve participated in some of those courses, I’ve lectured there, and been told, “The district superintendent is coming, so please, no astral body tonight!” Okay, I promise, I swear: and [when I get up to speak I always say] Good evening ladies and gentlemen, it’s so nice to see all these astral bodies!” I’ve done it every time.

What we are doing is often giving the public school teachers the results without the work, and one might say if we believe Waldorf education to be a modern mystery, and the schools to be mystery centers, are you allowed to be initiated in a mystery center without going through the ordeals, the trials, the struggles? You know, you just kind of give it out? You know, we have two tiers here, those who can afford to pay $15,000 for a two year training, to be told off every day, bawled out constantly, made to feel that they’re nothing, and go out the other door praying that they can make it through the first day of first grade; or, for $1,000 you can just go to the back door, and we’ll give you the certificate that way.

Let’s put it another way. I’m paraphrasing Betty Staley here, but I’ve heard it before in about the same way: ‘We created a wall between what we teach the Waldorf teachers who are going into independent schools, and what we teach the public school teachers. This wall was not there initially, but was set up later when the fires started to come.’ I’ve found firewalls work best if they’re erected before the fire; because what we have now it that the firewall is there, but the fire is on both sides of it, and the fire is really, really raging.

So [we say to the real Waldorf teachers from an independent school] “The child is a being of soul and spirit, we must never forget this if we are going to teach the children proper (sic)”; [and we say to the public school teachers] “The child is a being … um, a, … form drawings, let me show you some really great form drawings”. We honor the First Amendment: we’re not allowed to tell those [public] teachers that children have souls and spirits. What does it boil down to? White children, whose parents have incomes of $75,000 a year and more, and who can afford to go to Waldorf schools, are beings of soul and spirit. African-American children, whose parents can only afford to send them to public schools, are not beings of soul and spirit.

The First Amendment is respected, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. This is what we’re doing. Public [Waldorf ?] education arose as a reaction … that the work of Waldorf in public schools arose to help African-American children in particular, knowing how deeply ensoled they are, how much spirit they have, how much America needs that soul and spirit. And what have we done of this? What has come of this because we did it so unconsciously? Now we have an elitism greater than before. Because the parents of these children think they are going to a Waldorf school, and they don’t realize that they’re NOT learning about God; that they’re not being looked at as beings of soul and spirit, or, if they are, it’s being sneaked in, it’s […] even worse.

I would like to say if a public school superintendent came up to me and said [he would] like to start a Waldorf program, can you help me? … I would say “Yes, let me give you these ten books by Rudolf Steiner, starting with Theosophy, Occult Science, The Philosophy of Freedom. Read them and let’s talk.” And if he came back and talked I’d go further: “Do you realize how much Christianity there is in our school? Do you realize that we are thinking about these children in the light of reincarnation and karma? That’s how a teacher’s working with them. Do you want me to say this to your parents? Do you know, Mr. Public School Superintendent, the degree of courage that it’s going to take to have a Waldorf program in your district?” If he hasn’t jumped out of the window by then, maybe we can work with something. But how many public school superintendents have courage? Do we really think they are the people who are going to move Waldorf education forward into the future? I doubt it.

I think we made a very big mistake in going out as far as we did into public education. I believe in a hundred years it will be a very different matter. I think we jumped the gun. We thought we were working with Michael, and it turned out to be, when the mask was removed, the spirit of acceleration, the one who always wants to speed everything up, and make us think we can already reach out and touch somebody on the telephone, when that’s a degree of clairvoyance we need in the future. I’m talking about Ahriman. I think Ahriman in a way wove a mask of deception and Waldorf schools got tricked up. I think it would be good to help those schools that are still out there, for AWSNA not to keep pulling back and going forward, and pulling back and saying they’re two different worlds … how can they be different worlds when the same people are on the public school committees and the independent Waldorf school committees?

Let’s face it: we’re deceiving–and worst of all, we’re deceiving ourselves, if we really believe that. There is no door. It’s very fluid, it goes back and forth. Let’s be open and honest about that. Let’s cut our losses. And here I use the example of Rudolf Steiner, who realized, in the 1920s, when a whole bunch of businesses and social institutions arose under the rubric of “the coming day”, a threefolding organization, he realized these people were totally incompetent. ‘They don’t know how to run a business, they don’t know how to work politically; they’re good at one thing: they can teach in a school. Let’s cut our losses, support the Waldorf school, and yes, we’ll leave Weleda, we’ll let the rest of it go. The hour is not here yet, the time is not right.’

And I would say the same is true about Waldorf education.

[In my book The Millennial Child] I talk about the fact that a curriculum has a biography. It has a time of birth, a time of ascendency, and it dies. That’s about 500 years. We are experiencing the death of the Renaissance curriculum, which people like […] helped to bring into existence at the time of the Renaissance. It’s in a state of rigor mortis. There’s nothing that can be done to revive it. All the galvanizing electrical shocks in the world are not going to do it. It’s falling to pieces. And if we were just calm enough to sit there and wait, the public school system would collapse from within, and then we could go and do our thing. But no, we have to get involved in trying to resuscitate a corpse. And I don’t even think an Anthroposophist can do that.

So there’s a dying curriculum, and Rudolf Steiner saw this, and proactively set up the emergency room: and that’s Waldorf education. Waldorf education has come into the world a bit too soon. That’s why nobody’s ever heard of it. […] [1:08:30] Nobody knows we exist! That’s our protection! That way we can make all our mistakes, do everything wrong, and we’re protected from anybody learning about it. At least it used to be that way.

But Waldorf is ahead of its time. The year 2020 is when Waldorf education will really gather steam, really begin. Then, about the year 2150 or so, it will be world-wide, and then it will start to decline, and certainly by the year 2500, halfway through the millennium, it will need to be replaced. And I sincerely believe that another [initiate] will appear–it always seems to appear–to help education and develop a new curriculum. Good for all of you! All of you are there at the ground floor, when it’s most exciting, when it’s growing like a newborn baby, and destroying things all over the place (I have a two-year-old at home so I know whereof I speak). This is where Waldorf is now–exploring, experimenting, making mistakes, screwing up, and in a way (even Dan had to say this, I’m quoting him a little out of context, but so what, he does that to me all the time) “I loved it, and I looked away from the problems because I loved it so much”. And I tell you guys, in Green Meadow, say to your high school students and your parents, short of saying Hitler runs Green Meadow, it would be very hard for you to drive parents away from this school They love you! They don’t know any better, they love you. It’s like a 2-year-old, a 5-year-old, but then it will mature. And Dan, your grandchildren will be in schools that are like Waldorf schools, and your great-great- grandchildren will be Waldorf scholars through-and-through.

Only they won’t know they’re in a Waldorf school. Who founded the three-R’s? Charlemagne. All schools agree on this. Who would dream that it would be the Holy Roman Emperor who would found that. We always lose connection with the sources of educational curriculum; Rudolf Steiner’s name will be forgotten in 200 years in Waldorf schools around the world. However, in my view, there are two streams … [1:12:00] … One will get wider and wider, the public or mainstream; but a little bit of it will go forward into the future, like a monastic impulse, or the oasis of humanity, as Steiner or Albert [Steffan?] describes it, places off to the side, where people who still remember Rudolf Steiner will work. These will be incredible schools, probably really mystery centers for children and adults, few and far between, but they will be the heart out of which the new schools will form for the end of the third millennium. All of us are at the beginning: and which way is the right way (which stream)? Why does a stream of water divide? Because of rocks! We need obstacles! [Talks about the public school bureaucracy] Is that where you want to be, if you’re superhuman, great! What a satisfaction to sneak God in the back door!

Or this way: the road less traveled, the harder stream. Where [you] say, ‘I’m an Anthroposophist, I’m trying to develop a school that’s religious in nature, I look at your child as a reincarnating being, I think I have karma with you and your child, I look at your child as a being of physical, etheric, astral and ego–how else can I understand anyone as complicated as your child?’

If we spoke to parents that way, we would have so many parents coming our way we wouldn’t know what to do with them. Parents feel it, they know it, ‘I’m not being told everything, there’s something that these teachers do with each other, that gives them this vitality, this joy in life, and they’re not sharing it with me. They’re doing something to my child that brings her home filled with manners, a love of the world, and we say we’re just teaching them reading a little slowly … are we asleep? are we that condescending? that patronizing towards parents?

Some of the leaders of the Waldorf movement said to me, “In inviting Dan Dugan, your young teachers and students from a lot of schools won’t be able to process what he says, or deal with it; they’ll go back to their schools, and parents will be upset if they’re not able to answer their questions. Don’t do it”. Then it was, “You’re letting Dugan have a workshop on his own? Privately? He might hypnotize people, he’s very persuasive. Couldn’t you put some scientists in the room with him, other Anthroposophists for another point of view?” I’m sorry, I don’t condescend to you guys.

I feel a very critical mentality coming [in his Waldorf student teachers]; I think we’re in the age of the consciouness soul. I think the age of paternalism, and benevolent despotism, is over. And if the Waldorf schools haven’t caught up with that idea, it’s high time they do. We’re supposed to be at the forefront of culture, not the back end.

As public schools became more like Waldorf schools through the mid-1990s, Waldorf schools became more like public schools. I’m sure it’s a coincidence, nothing to do with the fact that the same people [are on both school boards]. Dan Dugan says we have secrets, like we’re occultists, parochial, trying to get kids into Anthroposophy–he’s right, we do have some secrets, but they’re not the ones he thinks they are. I’m going to show you one of our dirty little secrets. Dan, you’re worried Waldorf schools don’t teach kids in a mainstream way? They ARE, they really really are: we’re using textbooks! This is a sixth-grade textbook. Have there been major discussions at AWSNA about textbooks, more homework, tests? No. Has this been taken up in Europe? No, it’s just there. [Joke about using the Saxon Math series, this lies behind the criticism of Waldorf schools as Anglo-Saxon]

So it’s not just Rudolf Steiner who is our patron, our guardian; I wish it were, I wish Waldorf were more Waldorf. I wish we were doing the things Dan Dugan says we are. The reality is that from fifth–even now fourth or third–grade up, we’re starting to look more and more like public schools, even as they try to look more and more like Waldorf schools. And if [it’s not known that we use textbooks] I call that deception, a real problem.

This is a big problem … if there can’t be Waldorf schools somewhere that remain true to our principles, that don’t load young children up with homework, that don’t give them spelling quizzes when they’re young, that don’t give them tests after block studies, because the teacher can’t tell whether the children know anything or not, schools where older faculty members don’t pressure younger faculty members saying we all use this book, it’s the only way to get our students ready for the demanding curriculum of our high school … then we’re in big trouble, and we might as well erase [the small stream of pure Waldorf] and just do what everybody else is doing.

So I would say [not that Dan Dugan has been barking up the wrong tree but] that there is another tree where [Dan’s criticism] has made them feel more and more nervous [implying Dugan is forcing them into more mainstream education practices] … [and where the Waldorf schools are using textbooks, etc.] it’s either a senior faculty member who says so, or who says it’s the parents who want me to do it.

Waldorf schools don’t have much capacity for change from within. It’s a fact, whether it’s good or bad I don’t know. Waldorf schools need need pressure from outside to make big changes; that’s where the [public education methods that Waldorf usually eschews] come from: pressure from outside. [But it works the other way too] pressure from outside, often parents, [against the standard methods, like textbooks] who say, I thought you could see in my child’s face what he does and doesn’t know. That [pressure against standard methods] will change things in the opposite direction. And that’s more important for the future of Waldorf education than [whether Dan Dugan’s criticisms are true–and, frankly, they are true].

So this is very important: Dan Dugan represents an obstacle, a stone, a crossing point, dare I say it a threshhold, that we have to traverse ourselves.

We know there are three stages of learning in the Waldorf movement: imitation (birth to seven); authority (seven to 14); and independent thinking (14-21) that Dugan says is too late. This is true of every aspect of life: just like a skiing instructor talking about body moving in three different ways. We all learn independently.

[New ideas on the inner life of the teacher he’s been developing that do not come from Rudolf Steiner–joke about how some people would rather hear more Steiner than him, and they could go to Rudolf Steiner College — ]

This [independent learning?] is true in Anthroposophy as well, and when we go on a spiritual path. Now many people are introduced to Anthroposophy through the orientation year here or the foundation year at RSC. Within a few days, we’re sitting around the dining room [talking about what our dislike of spinach says about our temperament or bad karma with spinach, like little children singing snippets of … ; that they’re just imitating]. This is a necessary stage: you can’t learn anything without being imitative.

[…] Americans go through this [imitative] stage much quicker because we’re more individualistic, much less heirarchical as a society. The second stage, authority.

[Break in tape–transcript provided by Sunbridge College]

…So this is a stage where in a way one tries to look, act and speak like the person who introduced you to anthroposophy or if it’s the book, if you learned it from a book, then you start to speak like Rudolf Steiner. And you know it used to be something like “Hey, do you want to hear a really funny joke?” and now it’s “May I initiate you into the sphere of humor for a moment?”

So, you know, and people start to use Germanic constructions in their grammar and so on. And then the go through. And I would say that this is a stage, by and large, Americans go through this faster because there is, there’s a striving for the individual here. We’re much less heirarchical as a society and so on. So this is not such a big problem. The second stage, authority. This is where one starts to read the books on one’s own. And there are a lot of books to reaad. And read, and read, and read. And then you go to a study group.

“And you know, it’s really clear here that when Steiner said that a stone, an earthly stone brought to the moon will turn silver, that it’s very clear what he meant here, was etherically it will turn silver.”

“Uh, excuse me, wait, on April 2, 1915, Steiner mentioned that stones do not have etheric bodies.”

“Yeah, but then on March 18, 1921, he mentioned that the stone’s etheric body is outside.”

“Yeah, but wait a second, in 1924, he was speaking in a conversation to Walter Johannes Stein and um, he said to him, were you drinking a lot last night? You look stoned!”

And um, so, one’s head begins to spin at all the knowledge that’s out there. At all of [the] people who can quote authoritatively from Rudolf Steiner. I’ve gone to lots of anthroposophical lectures. Here, in Europe and so on. I must say, most of them are a collection of Rudolf Steiner quotes and in fact, if you don’t have enough of those quotes then it’s questions…

“Are you doing your research?”

“Are you speaking out of yourself?”

“Are you on a path of independent thinking in relation to Rudolf Steiner?”

“Is that allowed?” “Is that forgivble?”

“Will I get in trouble somewhere if I do that?”

I’m sorry to say this, but this is a very big problem wie have. Most of the Waldorf Movement, most of the anthroposophical movement in the United States is very firmly based on authority. People who’ve read a lot, who know a lot. I could say they’ve made it their own for sure, but it still is Rudolf Steiner’s words living in them.

[The speaker pointed to the words “INDEPENDENT THINKING” on the blackboard.]

And we tend not [to] treat those who embark on this path all that kindly. There are any number of them over the years who’ve left the anthroposophical society or even in a way left the movement. Not to say they were right. Maybe they were complete jerks. I’m not in a position to judge. But they did say I’m doing this on my own, out of myself, and for that alone, they often receive a rather rough treatment. I would have to say, Dan Dugan is telling us anthroposophists, if you live by the word, you’re going to die by the word. If you find quotes of Steiner, I’ll find other ones.

[Video transcript continues]

If all we want to do is say our every step, our every movement, is something that Rudolf Steiner said we could or might do, and here’s where he said it, we’re going to be tied up in knots. And damned Dan Dugan can shine that bright light in our eyes and [demand] ‘Where and when and how did he say it?’ We’re really tying ourselves up and delivering ourselves to Dan and his other […], and you know, [hanging ourselves with our own noose]. We have to allow people to move on this path, we have to encourage this, sometimes for good or ill, or we won’t be able to move forward as a Waldorf movement, we’ll be treading water like we were five years ago.

Let me give you an example–the WCBM radio interview. PLANS sent out a press release about its lawsuit and made some very strong statements about Waldorf. As I understand, the Baltimore Waldorf school declined to send its own representative, but chose Betty Staley and Dave Alsop of AWSNA [audience member from school corrects — ]

[Talks about Alsop taking Schwartz to task over his Lucifer quote on WCBM but admitting later to Schwartz that he hadn’t read Schwartz’s book.]

If you’re going to work out of authority, you should read the book before speaking. Dan, I want to thank you, you read the book, [confused … ] [Radio or telephone interviews are Ahrimanic, as in the book 1984, hard on the subjects, who say crazy things, like Alsop did.]

But Alsop is paid to do that sort of thing, and I think if we’re going to send people out in public, if we’re going to be affiliated with the public, its’ time to toughen up. It’s time to stop talking about fighting the dragon with our sword, it’s time to put on our suit of armor, and going out and doing it, or at least inviting the dragon into our midst. You really have to take this difficult path. I would say this is the path of Michael. I don’t have to say it a hundred times in a book to let people know this is the path I’m on; and I challenge us as a movement to start to move from here to here [closed to open] that will raise the battle to higher ground. Then we’ll ask Dan Dugan and our other opponents, critics, even our enemies, they now have to move to higher ground if they’re going to attack us. Let’s leave the quoting and back-quoting and citation and finding new obscure manuscripts …

It’s not worth the fighting. What’s worth the fighting is independence. Independence–of schools, children, to give children those forces of religion and reverence that they need to live in the next century, to fight those battles themselves.

I’m sorry to say this, but I think Waldorf schools, of all schools, are best equipped to help children walk into the future. I’ll fight for that to the death. So thank you Dan for helping us learn something.