Monday, June 18, 2012

Steiner Free Schools in the UK


25 May 2012 9:12PM

I chose a Steiner school for the Kindergarten years, because I considered that a 4 year old didn't need to learn to read / write and research the internet for facts on bees. They could learn about bees by encountering them (experiential learning) and their time was much better spent playing freely in a beautiful environment and cared for by teachers who cared for them as human beings.

The problem I saw was that, once a child hits the 'classes' (age 6 and a half-7) the esoteric aspects of the education become too much and undermine a perfectly lovely way of teaching. i.e. Steiner schools are non-denominational, but really... they are based on Anthroposophy, which is the science of man from an esoteric point of view. The problem is that they wouldn't admit it. As an insider in the school, I once heard a senior teacher admit that 'we can't tell the parents that the education is based on Esoteric Christianity'. So the main issue for me was that they weren't being honest. This deceit was my main reason for taking my children out.


25 May 2012 9:17PM

Response to 0800, 25 May 2012 8:49PM

    Look at how Steiner kids end up as adults. Are they evil, damaged, misinformed, ignorant, unhappy, unemployable, bored, suicidal, miserable, anti-social, zealots etc?

Yep, I know a family of three siblings, now in their thirties, all Steiner educated. One committed suicide a few years back. One is a recovering addict. The other is now a research scientist but talks passionately about her "wasted years", struggling to reach the level of her comprehensively-educated peers so as to get research posts and funding.

The suggestion that no kid who had a Steiner education didn't have a difficult life subsequently is fatuous and ridiculous.

You are quite obviously an idiot.


25 May 2012 9:22PM

I love almost all of the approaches of Steiner education, the gentleness, the softness and the humanity.

But I cannot send my kids to a school that demeans science - not the technology, but the process - as I have discovered in my life that the understanding of the natural world offered by science is one of the most beautiful of human achievements. I include Darwin and Einstein as part of this endless human project.

If you read Steiner's book the Kingdom of Childhood, he dismisses General Relatively with what I took to be a strong done of anti-semitism. Even with that issue aside, I have studied Relatively and its it one of the wonders of the human world - alongside the greatest art and literature.

Perhaps one day the Steiner movement will start to think for itself and modernise, not normalise, but incorporate the best of human values with the best and highest of all human achievement.

The you would have a real human force to reckon with. In hope... Dr Ben Lane (ex plain theoretical physicist now environmental technologist).


25 May 2012 9:58PM

I grew up near a Steiner school (near Gloucester) and had lots of friends who had attended it. Many had real problems adjusting to thr world...getting and holding down work, dealing with the reality of everyday life. They would often struggle emotionally and underachive. However I have brother with developmental disabilities who could not cope with state school and would have benefitted by being at a Steiner school.


25 May 2012 10:11PM

If you actually read Steiner, there's quite a lot of esoteric mumbo jumbo, such as the idea that children should not learn to read before they lose their milk teeth. I completely lost the ability to take anything Steiner related seriously when I read the rules for biodynamic farming (he invented that, too).

I don't think a lot of Steiner advocates have really dealt with the problems inherent in the philosophy. If all we want is more creative education, do we really need Steiner with his associated gumf to tell us so? Never mind that much of what seems creative in a Steiner school is very teacher directed, such as the artwork. They also don't deal with major issues such as Steiner's racism and anti-Semitism, which are visible in some schools (an acquaintance told me that they openly favor white children at her local Waldorf in the USA). There's a real attempt to square the circle. I've met a Steiner trained teacher who had not dealt full on with anthroposophy.

Ultimately, I think Steiner preys on a contemporary fear of technology and romanticization of the natural. Steiner schools are also hotbeds of vaccine rejection.

By the way, anyone looking for a laugh might want to look up Sufjian Stevens' essay on going to a Steiner school.


25 May 2012 10:44PM

I think this article fails to convey the plain weirdness of many of Steiner's beliefs. Until I did some investigation, I thought that Steiner schools were a bit like Montessori schools, or A.S. Neill's Summerhill. That is far from the truth. You can get a much clearer view of the Steiner cult by looking at three guest posts written by Melanie Byng (mentioned in the article), with another ex-Steiner parent.

Part 1. The true nature of Steiner (Waldorf) education. Mystical barmpottery at taxpayers' expense.
Part 2. The Steiner Waldorf cult uses bait and switch to get state funding.
Part 3. Steiner Waldorf Schools. The problem of racism.

I find it hard to believe that anyone who has read these would wish to send their child to such schools, or that anyone would wish taxpayers' money to be spent supporting them.

It is worth mentioning, that the University of Aberdeen recently decided to turn down large donations that had been offered to establish a chair of anthroposophical medicine. That was a very sensible decision since anhroposophical medicine is a danger to public health.


25 May 2012 10:47PM

I have met people in the past who went to the local Steiner school-all of them were very naive and consequently having a very difficult time in adapting to the real adult world-maybe coincidence-but I am inclined to think not.


25 May 2012 11:48PM

I worry a bit on Steiner schools as the perfect breeding ground for almost disappeared contagious diseases: measles, rubella, mumps, whooping cough, they could even bring tetanus back, with their love of gardening and walks in the forest. This because the view of steinerians, and of most of the parents that choose this schools, regarding vaccination is that is something dangerous, to be avoided in favour of a more "olistic" approach.

A sentence like this:"A reductionist biology which states or implies that the human body is a machine … is not one which nourishes the adolescent's deepest concerns. The current theories are just that – theories. They have not been in existence long and though presented as 'truth' they will inevitably change" should be enough to exclude the Steiner schools from every form of state help, I don't want my tax money to pay this. Thanks.

PS: Actually the bit I about changing theories is very interesting, it shows clearly how they just don't get the essence of the scientific method. Of course theories will change in time: In science a theory is valid untill somebody "falsifies" it with a repeatable experiment, and proposes a new one, that will then stay valid until somebody else will falsify it. Mind you, some theories are pretty hard to falsify...

There is no absolute truth, it is not religion.


26 May 2012 12:31AM


    And yet people who have actually been to these schools seem to be dong a pretty good job of defending them on this very forum. How can that be? Maybe they've not read the articles?

Oh I think that it's more than likely that they haven't read the articles to which I provided links. Nobody likes cognitive dissonance, and the Steiner mindset is not very interested in evidence. Nevertheless, they are essential reading for anyone who wants to know the facts of the matter.

I can't agree that the defence of Steiner schools mounted here is very convincing, though it is often a bit hysterical. I wonder how many of the defenders are in jobs that need an understanding of science or critical thinking? No doubt there are a few, but I suspect not many.

All you have to do is read what their own textbooks say.

    Darwinism, the book notes, is "rooted in reductionist thinking and Victorian ethics", while homeopathy is given as an example of "an effect that cannot be explained".

This betrays a total misunderstanding of both Darwin and of ethics. It is about as anti-science as you can get. Well apart from the bit about homeopathy. In Australia, homeopaths have been jailed for the manslaughter of their own daughter, because they insisted on treating her with their magic water.

As it happens, I live quite near a Steiner school, and that, no doubt, is responsible for the low vaccination rates in the area. It is one thing for Steiner parents to endanger the lives of their own children by failing to get them vaccinated. But in so doing they are endangering the lives of everyone in the area, including my own child.

    gardenangel 26 May 2012 1:23AM

    As Germit said earlier:

    "Now, as I've noted, there are serious issues with Steiner education but none of the things you mentioned were part of that. The more I read of your report, the more you reveal your ignorance."

    According to Steiner 'critic' Pete Karaiskos, who has been collecting testimonials: "it seems the MOST problematic issue in Waldorf is unchecked bullying".

    And although the vast majority of testimonials to this fact online are anonymous, that in itself is testimony to the intense mobbing behaviour these communities can dish out to people who question the perplexing lack of attention to bullying in these schools.

    Meanwhile, we continue with our Human Rights mediation with an Auckland Steiner School over their expulsion of our child who was being bullied, and her sisters, because we asked them to stick to the printed behaviour policy, which said they took it 'very seriously' (incidentally, this is the same thing Alan Swindell of the UK's Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship said "all" Steiner schools do in an article last week in "This is Cornwall" - will you be answering the questions we asked you there, Mr Swindell?). Instead the school followed another, strangely hidden, policy that did nothing to protect or separate the bullyers and the bullied, leading to daily assault:

    Here are two short examples of the kinds of emails we receive about the Waldorf school our kids went to:

    "my son went to the Rudolf Steiner kindy for a while in the late 80s and endured months of physical and 'mental' bullying."

    And another from a pupil at the same school in the 90s: "The teachers did nothing, to help they even said things like "this your fault" "stop crying" "your only making it worse"."

    In fact, we have such testimonials about unchecked bullying at the same school spanning four decades.

    Given the imminence of UK public funding it's especially disappointing (if predictable) to see this subject looked at through the myopic lens of "Britain" with a cursory nod to the States, when there are so many countries who have state-funded Steiner schools.

    New Zealand, having had them for so long, and co-incidentally being full of Brits, might have been one such to have included - not pretty, but is it really fair to the general public to present what looks like a balanced article, and leave out so much known information?

    Have a look at this video to see the questions we think Mr Gove should be asking before giving austerity funding to this movement: Whistleblowing in Education - Mr Gove's State-Funded Anthroposophy


26 May 2012 2:24AM

Response to alipan, 25 May 2012 11:52PM

I object absolutely and entirely to any school or pedagogical system that's based on the unbelievable religious claptrap of anthroposophy. I read a couple of Steiner's books and some training materials for teachers, and the ideas would be laughable if they weren't intended to be applied to kids.


26 May 2012 2:48AM

Response to JonathanKent, 25 May 2012 9:11PM

I went to a Steiner school and a girl in my class was left-handed but forced to write with her right. She was taken to the doctor to prove that she could use her right but was just choosing to use her 'wrong' hand. However this was twenty years ago so I would hope things have changed


26 May 2012 6:15AM

I'm not surprised that the students didn't consider that they were receiving a religious education, because the antroposophy is not made visible. However, the educational philosophy is governed by Steiner's quasi-religious beliefs, not by any pedagogical research. And antroposophy is a highly racialised version of theosophy. Some non-white parents have withdrawn their parents from Steiner schools after realising that the happy little songs about the sun and the moon don't sound so cute when you put them in the context of anthoposophy's belief in sun people (Aryans) and moom people ("backward" races).


26 May 2012 8:47PM

Our children went to a Steiner school until the penny dropped about the reasons why certain things were taught and done in a particular way; we whipped them out sharpish.....(and yes, attempts were made to change left handedness of one of our children, and as far as I know at this particular school I know two other left handed children who they have tried with recently too, so this is apparently still going on)

If anyone has any doubts about anthroposphy in the classroom, read the teacher training reading list and course content...... Jeevan Vasagar certainly should have:

School isn't a place where karma, past lives and consulting with angels should play any part in making judgements or decision about children, let alone their education. If Steiner's work  wasn't referred to so comprehensively in all areas of these schools, from the shape of the typeface to the colours on the walls, not to mention the content of the curriculum, it would be less alarming.

I understand that immersion into Steiner's beliefs is a staged process, and teachers are exposed to his more new age beliefs before gradually invited to study his more unusual creeds. It's more like a path of initiation than an education system. "Some are caught so it's worth the feeders who slip by" was how someone put it.

Within school communities,  angels, astral bodies and karma are "normalised". While I don't  think for a moment that the schools are full of racist bigots, to normalise connections between skin colour, eye colour and spiritual  advancement can never be far away, however gentle and spiritual the  sentiment. The schools are quite open about classifying the children  by medieval temperament,  which includes their body shape, pallor  and  physiognomy, and use these as tools  to help in their "child study"  sessions. In my view this is dangerous, anti-theraputic, anti  scientific, anti-intellectual and luminously wrong.

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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.