Monday, August 4, 2014

John Stumbles into The Waldorf Review

A recent debate erupted between John Stumbles and myself on the Quackometer Facebook page:
on the article about Sylvie Sklan's rebuttal to the recent Guardian article.  Here's what transpired in the comments... Enjoy!

John Stumbles Speaking from almost 2 decades of involvement of 2 kids in a Steiner school the article seemed generally accurate (modulo some weaselling about vaccinations).
The Quackometer It is only accurate in the sense that it is consistent with how Steiner Schools wish to portray themselves to the outside world.
John Stumbles You imply that the reality is different from this: what is your evidence for that?
The Waldorf Review Hi John... how about the expert testimony of over 600 expert witnesses who experienced Waldorf first-hand and discovered the schools portray themselves as something other than what they are? Is that a good start at least? It's at least 600 times as good as your first-hand knowledge, right?
John Stumbles That site seems to be a collection of anecdotes about bad things alleged to have happened at various Steiner/Waldorf schools around the world. Can you point me to the "expert testimony of over 600 expert witnesses" (presumably teachers and educational academics?) to which you refer?
Pete Karaiskos (The Waldorf Review) Plenty of teacher and student reviews listed there... far more qualified than your opinion. Do you have ANY evidence that Waldorf schools are honest with the public when they describe themselves? Anything? Lots of people say NO. Why do you say yes?
John Stumbles Pete, your question "do [I] have ANY evidence...?" implies that the alleged conspiracy exists unless proven otherwise. This seems to be the accepted position on InfoWars, Natural News and, but as a skeptic I suggest that it is incumbent upon those alleging conspiracies to produce evidence for them.
Which I what I was asking Andy for earlier, and which neither he nor anyone else seems capable of producing.
Pete Karaiskos (The Waldorf Review) Well, John, firstly, you're not a skeptic, you're a Waldorf cheerleader. I think we established that on the DC's Improbable Science blog (do you need me to provide the link?). Secondly, a collection of hundreds of testimonies constitutes evidence (legal, not scientific). We're not going to scientifically prove Waldorf schools are dishonest - all we can do is show evidence of them hiding their underpinnings on their websites and in public statements - of which there is plenty. Oddly, when parent and student testimonies are investigated, as happened recently with the Green Meadow case, they turn out to be true - and the evidence of that investigation points to a systemic problem with Waldorf credibility and a failure to act on complaints or even knowledge of criminal activity. That evidence is there for the reading - if you care to open your eyes... or not.
John Stumbles A "Waldorf cheerleader"? We don't have cheerleaders in this country but from what I understand of US culture that would be a person who rallies unconditional support for a sports team. People can make up their own minds whether my critical appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of Steiner-Waldorf education amounts to unconditional support; however I can understand that with your avowedly black and white view of the subject anything short of rabid anti-Steiner dogmatism must seem like "cheerleading".
As a skeptic (sic) attempting to weigh up issues on the basis of objective scientific evidence I have been accused of being a shill for the nuclear industry, for genetic engineering and Monsanto, and for vaccines and Big Pharma; and these ad hominems have always been in lieu of rational arguments. The title of "Waldorf cheerleader" seems to fit this pattern.
Testimonies, however many hundreds you collect, do not - as you admit - constitute scientific evidence. As lovers of science and evidence like to say "the plural of anecdote is not data". Homeopaths, chiropractors and other quacks can produce enough testimonials to sink a ship but they no more constitute evidence for the efficacy of their practices than a bunch of complaints from disaffected former Waldorf parents, pupils and teachers constitutes a systematic survey of Waldorf education.
I actually think that within Steiner-Waldorf education teachers vary in their abilities from brilliant to incompetent, schools vary (and vary over time) from excellent to dysfunctional, and there are good, bad and indifferent aspects to Waldorf educational practice and theory. But I know your monochromatic world-view will not admit of such subtlety.
The Waldorf Review "Testimonies, however many hundreds you collect, do not - as you admit - constitute scientific evidence. As lovers of science and evidence like to say "the plural of anecdote is not data". "
Yeah, "science" is a word you throw around as if you understand it. After a doctor sees measles a few hundred times, (s)he can learn to identify measles. Sure, it could be something else - something very rare that looks exactly like measles... but having seen plenty of cases of measles, we can assume with confidence the doctor actually knows what (s)he's looking at. It would be different if the doctor had only seen a coulple of cases... but having studied hundreds of cases, there will be little doubt. In science, what is new is tested against what is already known. You can be skeptical about all knowledge, but that leaves you no place to begin inquiry. We really can know some things by observing them.
"Homeopaths, chiropractors and other quacks can produce enough testimonials to sink a ship"... blah blah blah...
What's the incentive on the part of Waldorf teachers, parent and students to speak out against Waldorf. Unlike homeopaths, who stand to gain financially, they have nothing to gain by lying about what happened to them.
"I actually think that within Steiner-Waldorf education teachers vary in their abilities from brilliant to incompetent,"
Cool. Where do the incompetent teachers go? Are they kicked out of the Waldorf system? NO... When they've shown they no longer belong in a classroom, they go on to TRAIN other Waldorf teachers.
"schools vary (and vary over time) from excellent to dysfunctional,"
So, the parents kicking out $30,000/year for their child's education... who happen to be at a school when it's in "dysfunctional" mode? What happens to their child's education when the school kicks families out for asking questions. Varying from excellent to dysfunctional is NOT OK!
"and there are good, bad and indifferent aspects to Waldorf educational practice and theory."
If there were good aspects to Waldorf, they wouldn't have to disguise them. No TV, for example, isn't explained as a battle against Ahriman. Eurythmy isn't explained as the physical embodiment of Anthroposophy. Even the "good" stuff you claim to see is wrapped in dishonesty.
The Waldorf Review Like doctors learn to identify measles, the people at the Te Ra school in NZ learned to identify racism in the lessons and practices of the Waldorf school. Reading what others have been through - and what practices Waldorf is hiding is absolutely essential to understanding Waldorf... cheerleaders' opinions notwithstanding.
John Stumbles Pete you still haven't responded to my request to you (under your "Waldorf Review" alias) to "point me to the "expert testimony of over 600 expert witnesses" (presumably teachers and educational academics?) to which you refer?". I guess that means you haven't got 600 expert witnesses, but you just unquestioningly accept any and all allegations against Steiner-Waldorf schools that suit your Waldorf-hater bias.
I don't object to you being anti-Waldorf, but you could be honest about it: the title "Waldorf Review" suggest an impartial, dispassionate evaluation of Waldorf education rather than an anti-Waldorf agenda. It seems ironic, not so say hypocritical, to then accuse Waldorf schools of having a covert agenda at odds with their public position!
The Waldorf Review "I guess that means you haven't got 600 expert witnesses, but you just unquestioningly accept any and all allegations against Steiner-Waldorf schools that suit your Waldorf-hater bias." I guess that means you don't consider people who have experienced Waldorf as expert witnesses. So other than experiencing Waldorf yourself - how are you qualified to trump the testimonies of all these other people? At least these people put their names to their allegations... unlike the "anonymous" cheerleaders who report glowing reviews of these schools. For all we know, *you* could be providing all the anonymous reviews for these schools. In your second statement, you're not often right, but you're wrong again... The Waldorf Review makes no claim to be unbiased. Here's the first thing you read there: "We're well over half way to our goal of documenting over 1000 critical Waldorf reviews." Try another one John, this accusation doesn't stick. Meanwhile, explain why you think "dysfunctional" schools should exist at taxpayers' expense.
John Stumbles The term "Expert witness" has a specific meaning:
"A person whose level of specialized knowledge or skill in a particular field qualifies them to present their opinion about the facts of a case during legal proceedings."
I don't discount the testimonies of people who report bad experiences with Waldorf education: will you extend the same courtesy to those of us who report good experiences?
expert witness: definition of expert witness in Oxford dictionary (British & World English)
Definition of expert witness in British and World English in Oxford dictionary. ... See More
Pete Karaiskos (The Waldorf Review) The definition fits perfectly - I, for example, provided testimony as an expert witness at a Waldorf trial. Other Waldorf critics can and have provided expert witness testimony - with no more qualifications than being parents in the system. "I don't discount the testimonies of people who report bad experiences with Waldorf education:" You certainly do. You call them "allegations". "will you extend the same courtesy to those of us who report good experiences?" NO, and I explained why already. 1) These anonymous testimonies are placed there by Waldorf representatives (my blog includes many parents describing exactly this). 2) Many, MANY of the critical reviews are from people who once praised the school - a HUGE percentage. I, myself, supported Waldorf once. Positive reviews are nothing more than negative reviews that haven't hatched yet.
John Stumbles So basically you don't believe people unless they agree with you?
The Waldorf Review I don't believe people when I know they're lying... big difference.
The Waldorf Review: Waldorf FRAUD in Reviews
John Stumbles And you "know" they're lying because they disagree with your views on Steiner and Waldorf Education ...?
The Waldorf Review No, I know they're lying because they've been caught lying far too many times. They employ people to lie for them. The glowing positive reviews disagree with hundreds of reports I have collected, not just my personal views. That's exactly why I collected these reviews. My blog has many independent witnesses accusing Waldorf representatives (posing as parents) of posting positive reviews, removing negative reviews, even cutting and pasting positive reviews from other school pages. Collectively, Waldorf representatives are dishonest about so many things it's impossible to take the anonymous 5-star reviews seriously. My site hosts many honestly-written 4-star reviews, BTW. You should actually read the reviews sometime... it's very compelling evidence.
John Stumbles I'm not talking about reviews on websites, I'm talking about ordinary parents and pupils and ex-pupils and what they say. My ex-Steiner school son and his friends who then spent several years at state schools and then (in all but one cases) university, speak happily of their time there: are you claiming that they are lying? I'm generally happy with the education my boys have had: are you claiming that I am lying?
Pete Karaiskos (The Waldorf Review) I'm claiming that you, like every glazed-eyed parent in a Waldorf school, are one incident away from being a critic John. I'm sure your kids were happy at Waldorf - but if that was your goal, you could have sent them to Disneyland (for less money). Happiness isn't the goal of education - education is the goal of education. Lots of parents are happy with their choice to harm their children. Look at the anti-vax people. When one talks to happy Waldorf parents, one needs to remember those are the bliss-ninnies who sat quietly while problems arose at their school (and they did). Parents who discovered the problems have left the school and aren't always available to be interviewed. That's why the critical reviews of the parents who took the time to write them are SO important. The parents who wrote these reviews are no longer around to discuss Waldorf problems with prospective parents... they're long gone!
John Stumbles I am a critic, in the sense 1a:
I'm certainly not glazed-eyed: not after almost 20 years, though I know what you mean: I was in the early days and I see others who are. I've seen bad stuff at our school as well as good and I know some parents left disaffected (and with good reason). But there have been good, and some excellent, teachers too, and I think more children have left with good educations and also good social skills: I don't know to what extent it's general of S-W schools but in ours the education is not just about the academic side but about helping the children to develop as social beings with respect for themselves and each other - and happy (cliched as that may sound).
I do think that prospective parents need to be disabused of the hippy-dippy paradise view of SWE that's often peddled by its proponents. I guess your site and others of that ilk do a service by presenting an equally extreme counter-view, but I don't think either of these black-and-white views conveys the more complex reality of actual schools and teachers and their changing strengths and weaknesses.
Critic - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Definition of critic from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary with audio pronunciations, thesaurus, Word of the Day, and word games.
The Waldorf Review So you think children can be helped to "develop as social beings" by being around the most anti-social, dishonest people on the planet... whose teachers are trained to humiliate them into an education steeped in racism? Obviously, you haven't thought this completely through John.
John Stumbles The arrogance with which you assume that you, through your self-confirming prejudices, know my children's teachers - who you have never met - better than I - who have known them collectively for a decade and a half - is breathtaking.
Your attitude is like the fundamentalists who refuse to believe that anyone can simply not believe in god and insist that atheists are simply angry with god.
Like those religious bigots I think you believe that those you hate are worse people than you.
I think the reverse is true.
The Waldorf Review Since you haven't bothered to read or understand Anthroposophy, I dare say I DO know more about your children's teachers than you do - I know the criteria by which they have assessed and evaluated your children all these years... and the ridiculous beliefs that guide them in those assessments. I know those beliefs are grounded in spiritual racism that extends to physical racism. I know those teachers who looked at your child's head size, hand dominance and physical characteristics (for assigning a temperament) didn't ignore the race of your child - or you and your child's mother. These are FACTS John - it's what they are taught to do in their training TODAY. This isn't me making this stuff up... I married into an Anthro family full of Waldorf teachers. I studied Steiner for 18 years. To suggest this is my "attitude" about Anthroposophy is silly. This stuff is written in stone - and taught to Waldorf teachers. It isn't arrogant to point that out. It seems arrogant to you because I have to point it out to you continually - on multiple blogs - over many years. I'm waiting patiently for the day you understand what Waldorf is about - and stop promoting something that is genuinely harmful to children. With so many educational models available today - why would parents even consider one based on racist ideas that find their way into teacher training, one run by liars at the highest level, one that finds karmic excuses for bullying and even molesting children and (according to recent news stories) even hides those molesters within their ranks for decades, and one that even you acknowledge has a tendency to drift into dysfunctional (as if all of the above wasn't dysfunctional enough)? Why would anyone support Waldorf when so much evidence shows how horrible these schools are?
John Stumbles I understand what you're saying Pete and I'm not contradicting your experience of the Waldorf school and people you've been involved in. But what you're describing is not one iota akin to what I've experienced of the school and teachers I've been involved with for almost 2 decades, closely enough that I know many of them socially: seeing them at the same gigs, our kids hanging out together. I talk to them and I talk to my kids and their friends and I actively look for the racist and bullying attitudes which you and your fellow Waldorf-haters warn of, and I find not a whiff of them. On the other hand I find more egalitarian and accepting attitudes to gender, sexuality and differing abilities - and less tendency to bully based on such criteria - than kids in mainstream schools seem to display.
Fact is Pete, you don't know what all Steiner/Waldorf schools and teachers everywhere in the world are like. But you're so convinced by your own motivated reasoning and the reinforcement of your small circle of fellow Waldorf haters in the echo chambers you seem to spend most of your life in that you have a huge disincentive to opening your mind to ideas other than those approved by those you move amongst.
Which is sad.
The Waldorf Review Right, John. I'm the one with the blinkers on. Meanwhile, you're at the ONE school that's the exception. I've heard about this legendary school from lots of bliss-ninny parents. NOT MY school... all the others maybe, but not MINE. My answer is always the same... If your school is so great... NAME the school... let's make it the teacher training center for ALL of Waldorf - that is, if this particular school is so great at delivering the Waldorf promise. Name your school John... if your experience was so great. Let's see if it's on my list, and if other parents share your opinion about YOUR SCHOOL or if the far more likely scenario has transpired... that you're being dishonest or are oblivious about the problems at your school and here promoting it as if it has no problems (despite that you acknowledged above that it does). That YOU don't see racism and bullying (just like Waldorf teachers don't) isn't as big a shocker to readers here as you might imagine.
The Waldorf Review Here's you, John, acknowledging there are serious problems at your school: "I've seen bad stuff at our school as well as good and I know some parents left disaffected (and with good reason)." And then you say "But what you're describing is not one iota akin to what I've experienced of the school and teachers I've been involved with for almost 2 decades" - YOU YOURSELF describe parents leaving for "good reason". How many iotas is that worth?
John Stumbles Pete,
There's a joke about a shopkeeper complaining about the number of customers who ask him for an item he's discontinued: "How many times do I have to tell these people: there's no demand for it?!"
You acknowledge that lots of parents have told you that their schools are not as you claim they must be. A rational person would question their own belief that led them to make such a generalisation. But not you: you dismiss the parents' reports by attacking them ad hominem; always a red flag for a dearth of rational evidence and argument.
So, yes, Pete, you are the one with the blinkers on.
The Waldorf Review "You acknowledge that lots of parents have told you that their schools are not as you claim they must be." Yet, they refuse to name this magical school... as you yourself appear to be doing. That you completely missed the point is, again, not a shocker. What do you think I'm going to do... stand outside waving a sign? Tell me about this school that has no problems... that ranges at times from excellent to dysfunctional... but has no problems. People should rush to that school John. Why keep the name a secret?
John Stumbles The point, Pete, is that according to the testimony of the "lots of" parents who have told you that their schools are not as you claim, it would seem that there are many good Steiner-Waldorf schools, not just one "magical" one. But since your mind is closed to the very concept of good S-W schools there's no point in discussing them.
The Waldorf Review As usual, when you say "the point" you're mistaken. Here's what the point is... Lots of parents, like you have shown us here, are willing to make fantastic claims about schools that, in reality, aren't very fantastic... and in fact, they are schools that do exactly what I describe. These parents can't back their fantastic claims up by naming the school, just like you can't, because the claims simply aren't true. Your own propensity to claim your school is fantastic after already having said parents left for good reasons makes me wonder about your own threshold for honesty. I'm glad you have decided there is no point in discussing good Steiner Waldorf schools because there really aren't any. You can certainly discuss the merits of Steiner schools... but not separate from their inherent problems.
John Stumbles I didn't claim our school was "fantastic", and I daresay the other parents who contradicted your assertions about their schools didn't claim that theirs were "fantastic" either. The only thing that's fantastic is your fantasies about schools you know sweet f.a. about.
The Waldorf Review No, what you said was: "I actually think that within Steiner-Waldorf education teachers vary in their abilities from brilliant to incompetent" - but you don't acknowledge how this plays out for students who have had the incompetent end of the spectrum. You went on to say: "schools vary (and vary over time) from excellent to dysfunctional" but again, don't acknowledge how this plays out for students who are trapped in the dysfunctional schools or during dysfunctional periods (I assume this would mean decades for some schools). You further stated: "and there are good, bad and indifferent aspects to Waldorf educational practice and theory" - as if such a spectrum of educational practices is OK in some way. We've seen how "bad" teachers can be - and how "indifferent" schools can be when children are bullied, abused, raped and so forth... What's the "good" that makes up for this? Stone soup? Gardening? Eurythmy? I don't have any fantasies about Waldorf John... YOU do.
John Stumbles Children have been bullied, abused and even raped at all sorts of schools. Nothing like that at ours, fortunately: the dysfunctional end of the spectrum was some incompetent teachers and personal antagonism between teachers which the school didn't deal with effectively. That was about 10 years ago.
I don't think bad teachers or dysfunctional schools are OK, in any sector. But it happens, in all sectors.
The Waldorf Review "I don't think bad teachers or dysfunctional schools are OK, in any sector. But it happens, in all sectors." And is excusable in Waldorf... why exactly? You may find bullying in lots of places, but not with a school-wide REASON for allowing it. You don't find all sorts of schools hiding known rapists within their communities for decades. These cases may not be 100% unique to Waldorf, but they happen with a LOT more frequency in Waldorf environments because Waldorf is built on a philosophy that allows their representatives to find excuses for this. How do I know? I've gone to the trouble of collecting the reviews of parents. That data set is what allows me to make these statements with confidence. All you have is your opinion that this happens everywhere with the same frequency - you parrot the official Waldorf line. You are far too blinded by waving your own pom-poms to see this or the reasons behind it. I couldn't care less. Certainly others reading this will see past your cheer-leading.
John Stumbles "they happen with a LOT more frequency in Waldorf environments"
Evidence (figures of relative frequencies from reputable sources) or STFU.
The Waldorf Review But John, Waldorf doesn't report these things - how is anyone supposed to compile evidence? Sure, we have incidents of kids catching on fire, and being spit on by teachers, but we both know Waldorf schools hide the worst incidents - and overlook things like bullying... so how can we know the full extent of the problems? We have a good indicator at The Waldorf Review - with how frequently parents complain about these things - and I'm told there are people at work going through the reviews and compiling the data - so we will have an answer to your question (as far as known reviews are concerned). But Waldorf chooses its victims carefully. Sadly, children don't speak up often enough. When a Waldorf school was forced to open their doors to investigators, after a student became an adult and spoke up, they found rapists, pedophiles, gropers, and child pornographers among their top teachers - and other teachers who knew about them and kept silent while these monsters lived among the community - the worst next to a day care center. Teachers hide this stuff. This isn't a one-off school... it's a top old, established Waldorf school in the USA. They train teachers who end up in the UK... to cover this stuff up too. Dishonesty is what Waldorf is famous for.
John Stumbles So you don't have figures for the incidence of sexual abuse in Waldorf schools. Do you have figures for prevalence in state-funded schools? Or other independent schools (because I'm sure those are really quick to publicise any bad stuff going on)?
No, I thought not. So your claim about "a LOT more frequency in Waldorf environments" is simply another lie you made up to support your bigoted anti-Waldorf agenda.
A lie Peter: you claim that Waldorf schools tell lies, and get very indignant about it, but you tell lies yourself. It's hard to believe a word you say.
The Waldorf Review LMAO! Right... it sounds like somebody's projecting - and hoping readers won't notice. I never lie John. Here's the part you ignored "Waldorf is built on a philosophy that allows their representatives to find excuses for this." I hate to draw examples from the Catholic church hiding pedophiles within their ranks, but this is exactly what Waldorf is doing. A business model would get rid of bad teachers (they're bad for business) - a religious model hides them - even promotes them. That's not a lie John, that's a fact. There is the very truthful reason why there is a lot more frequency of abuse in Waldorf environments... It is ALLOWED TO HAPPEN. That Waldorf representatives lie is a fact too - they have done this countless times and been caught at it. Their guru, Steiner, TOLD THEM TO LIE TO PARENTS. It's documented many times. But no worries... You obviously don't know Steiner's material, and so you don't understand what you think you do. When documents say racist things, you insist they are saying the exact opposite. When teachers do bad things, you say it's part of a wider spectrum of acceptable (to you) teaching techniques. You don't even know what you yourself have written from one post to the next. You are simply here to tell any lie about Waldorf schools you think might stick - hoping you may get one or two parents who are skimming this material and not following the links. Again, I don't lie John. I don't need to.

Update:  After I posted this, John posted back on Facebook, challenging me to put up his post.  I love challenges:
John Stumbles Pete you're weaselling: you make, and then repeat, a statement based not on any factual evidence but solely on your bigoted beliefs, and you present it as fact. That is craven dishonesty.
Care to include that statement on your website too?
And on the subject of your despicable website the publishing of material presuming the guilt of someone who has been accused but not convicted of any offence might in some jurisdictions be considered prejudicial to a fair trial and contempt of court. And publishing the accused's home address and a photograph of their house might be considered incitement to vigilante action.
I think that speaks to your respect for the law.
It's hard to credit accusations against Waldorf people when they come from someone ethically bankrupt.

The Waldorf Review Sure, I'll tack on your comment. No worries. I'll reply to it too. Guilt doesn't require waiting for a conviction. When somebody admits he has done something, but the law hasn't convicted him, it doesn't undo what happened. But hey, good job of standing by and supporting the plight of the pedophiles and child pornographers. As you have admitted, you have no problem turning the other cheek for problematic teachers - even when other parents don't.

I love how John is using the "innocent until proven guilty" defense against pedophiles who have themselves admitted their guilt - and yet suggests I'm the one who is "ethically bankrupt".    

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You may ask, "where are all the 5=Star reviews?" Well, the problem with those reviews is that many tend not to be too honest. I have included 4-star reviews that appear honest. Often, gushing reviews are placed by teachers and administrators - as some comments here indicate. "This school educates the whole child!!!" - 5 stars - by Anonymous... I say baloney! Notice, many of the reviewers have been misled by Waldorf and are still buying the PR, even after having been disappointed. Feel free to comment but understand the intent of this blog. Comments are no longer moderated.