Friday, September 12, 2014

Anthropoppers, Critics and Waldorf Schools, Oh my!

http://anthropopper.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/the-internet-the-critics-and-steiner-waldorf-schools/

Jeremy Smith writes: 


I used to work for a Steiner school and my younger self tended to get quite upset by the sheer malice and ill will that the online critics manifested towards the education. I would dearly love to offer these critics and their readers a more balanced view, one which is based on my own, mainly positive, experience of Steiner schools. However, despite my wish for interaction and dialogue, I’ve reluctantly concluded that there is little to be gained by joining discussion with the critics. After several bruising online encounters, it became clear that many of them are really not interested in reasoned discussion. No, what they want is to destroy Steiner Waldorf education. I wish I had read the following advice from Steiner before getting involved:
“Observe the opponents, indeed in our anthroposophical circles it would be most advisable to study our opponents carefully. They renounce attacking the truths, and lay chief stress on personal attacks, personal insinuations, personal insults, personal calumnies. They think that truth cannot be touched, yet it is to be driven out of the world, and they believe that this can be done by personal defamation. The nature of such an opposition shows how well the leading opponents know how to proceed in order to gain the victory, at least for the time being.
But this is something which anthroposophists above all should know; for there are still many anthroposophists who think that something may be reached by direct discussion with the opponent…people do not hate us because we say something that is not true, but because we say the truth. And the more we succeed in proving that we say the truth, the more they will hate us.
Of course this cannot prevent us from stating the truth. But it can prevent us from being so naïve as to think that it is possible to progress by discussion.” 
Smith continues:
Steiner here was clearly referring to opponents who went about their business by way of ad hominem attacks, distortions and lies – the kind of behaviour, in fact, which the internet with its anonymity and distancing effect seems to encourage. Taking his advice, I won’t be getting into any more online exchanges with critics who behave in the ways he described. I might, however, respond to what seem to be genuine questions or genuine concerns, because I am interested in real discussion and dialogue – and also because I think that in the long run the critics are doing Steiner schools a favour by shining their critical spotlight on the education.

The problem that I see with all this is that Mr. Smith has it exactly backwards.  It is Anthroposophists who have sought to personalize critical discussions about Waldorf - not the other way around.  Critics don't want to make it about individuals - they have no incentive to suggest an individual is responsible for the failures of Waldorf.  Critics have gone out of their way to insist this ISN'T about individuals, but rather a systemic problem.  Occasionally, individuals are identified, of course, when they are pedophiles or otherwise harmful to children.  But even when critics identify an individual pedophile, or racist, they are far more concerned about the Waldorf system that permits these individuals to roam and lecture freely.

Indeed, it has been the Anthroposophists who "lay chief stress on personal attacks, personal insinuations, personal insults, personal calumnies" upon critics.  I've been called a "psychopath" among other things.  Other critics have been compared to Nazis, called mentally unstable, accused of forgery and on and on.  NONE of the criticisms of Steiner are ever addressed adequately for the public, let alone the critics.


Smith claims Waldorf should embrace the critical spotlight.  If so, Waldorf critics could easily embrace Steiner's words for themselves.

  
“Observe the opponents, indeed in our critical circles it would be most advisable to study our opponents carefully. They renounce attacking the truths, and lay chief stress on personal attacks, personal insinuations, personal insults, personal calumnies. They think that truth cannot be touched, yet it is to be driven out of the world, and they believe that this can be done by personal defamation. The nature of such an opposition shows how well the leading opponents know how to proceed in order to gain the victory, at least for the time being.
Anthroposophists do not hate us because we say something that is not true, but because we say the truth. And the more we succeed in proving that we say the truth, the more they will hate us.
Of course this cannot prevent us from stating the truth. But it can prevent us from being so naïve as to think that it is possible to progress by discussion.” 
What could be more true for critics? 

Smith concludes: 

I will simply observe that, to the extent we are able to rise successfully to this challenge, the critics will have helped Steiner schools into becoming an accepted and valued part of the educational culture of this country – and this might even come to be reflected in what is said about us on the internet.
Yeah, how's that working out for you so far?

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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.