Sunday, February 2, 2014

Waldorf Supporter becomes critical

This is the third post on the page by this poster, who started out as a defender of Waldorf at writing "I am having the rude awakening to Waldorf. I must eat crow because I have posted things in defense of Waldorf."  She learned the hard way that "all that glitters is not gold"... and that "public charter" is the sheep's clothing for private Waldorf schools to get public funding. Here's post 3 of grnthumbmama's story.

I said earlier I wasn't going to take the time to go over the problems. But twice recently I have talked to several friends of mine who either have a grandchild attending or are thinking about putting their grandchild that they are raising in the local Waldorf charter school. I didn't want to talk them out of it, but I told them about our experience, which was not all bad. But now that I have some perspective, I see the whole picture a little better. I feel the overall cultish aspects of anthroposophy are more at work than they should be in a publicly funded school in this particular school. The principal and key staff at the school were very clearly strong believers in the philosophy and imposed their beliefs on the students and staff. Like how they handled children who were injured was not consistent with requirements in public schools and frequently children with broken bones or needing stitches or other medical attention were simply sent back to class. I personally observed this so this is not just rumor. I was stunned. No school should be making the kind of decisions regarding children's health in the manner they did. They did not contact the parents, which was the most concerning part. One child came to school the next day showing me his cast. When I asked him how he broke his hand, he told me it was rolling logs on the playground at school. Log rolling is a common Waldorf playground activity. I had seen him sitting on the playground crying while I was working with another class. I asked the teacher what was wrong and she said "oh he's fine, he just bumped his hand." I was just sick to my stomach when I realized my concern was valid and I should have gone further with it. There were other incidents,but the details will probably reveal too much about the specific school. More than once I reported injuries of students to the office asking them to contact the parents after I realized they didn't inform parents of these things. They were very unpleasant to me about this but I stood in the office and watched them make the phone call. The liability alone dictates they inform the parents. The school district policies as well. Their own personal opinions on medical treatment are not theirs to impose on the children but they did. Various safety concerns that are more common in new charter schools in general were rampant. The Waldorf slant on this just added in a level of inattention and lack of concern. There were a number of local incidents that year affecting school children and the schools response to the safety of the children was less than comforting. I worked the day when the local authorities required them to conduct safety drills and they performed abysmally.

The school was awful to the staff and the staff had no support. Teachers were left on their own to deal with students who were constantly disruptive in class. I learned that the disruptive behavior in classes was epidemic and not limited to just my experience as a substitute nor any grade level. I got to see it in all grade levels. Maybe children learned to behave 100 years ago with this method but it is a poor fit culturally for today's children and behaviors. Most classes are anarchy with some control occasionally.

Academically, I'm very disappointed how weak Waldorf is in academics. There is a big difference between having a holistic education and no education and Waldorf unfortunately leans to far to the no education. The arts part is not arts the way we understand them to be. The science is utterly appalling. Children need to learn science, not just the ancient concept of the four elements. Nor should the ancient concept of the four elements serve as the dominant explanation for all things scientific which is what I'm coping with now when I'm teaching my daughter science. The letter formations they did are not helping her now with handwriting. Their claim to teach advanced math in the earlier grades doesn't seem to be adding up either. I'm having to go back a full year to teach her math concepts she should have learned last year. Reading has taken time to even get her interested in it again. It's still as touch and go issue. She was reading above her grade level before she started there and loved to read. Nobody had to force her. They say the middle school students receive a rigorous education. But I substituted in those classes as well and saw virtually nothing akin to academic rigor. It was more soft academics with pretty pictures being drawn around a concept, singing songs, playing music, acting out plays and hand work. There was not one part of the day they did anything that counted as academic rigor. I don't know where those kids will go to high school but they will not be prepared for high school work. I never taught algebra in that entire middle school and what passed for science was more of an art lesson with some nice ideas. The writing skills of the 8th graders were no better than those of kids I taught in title one schools where the majority of the students were learning English. It concerns me to think about what will happen to those kids later. 

The only levels the Waldorf concepts made academic sense is in preschool and kindergarten. It's perfect for those ages.

The thing that I find most troubling is the philosophy that is so greatly understated when investigating this style of education is the governing philosophy. This particular school claims they are incorporating Waldorf ideals into a regular curriculum. But they aren't. They are putting up a show of applying regular curriculum and trying to run as Waldorf of a school as they can get away with using public funds. The most distressing part is they don't want parents to understand Waldorf unless they are fully committed to it. They wanted us to trust them with our child's education without questioning what they were actually teaching. That is a cult not an educational philosophy. They were being deceptive about what they were actually teaching. If you take the Waldorf ideas that are beneficial to a child's education and leave out the negative and questionable stuff, you are left with an incomplete model for a school. I don't know if other Waldorf schools do this. But the one we attended did. I think the school district should stop funding them because they are in violation of too many basic public education principles.