Wednesday, July 30, 2014

NZ Waldorf School Racism Feedback

Thank you for having the courage to run the article on Te Ra School and the belief system on which it is founded. As a former Te Ra parent and staff member, I came to see first-hand how anthroposophy affects and warps what is taught at the school.
It is unquestionably a religious philosophy, and many of the staff members are indoctrinated true believers, quoting Rudolf Steiner like revered scripture, their personal and professional lives disturbingly dominated by his teachings. There are many dedicated Steiner teachers with good intentions, but what good they accomplish is in spite of anthroposophy, not because of it.
Racism has no place in modern New Zealand society and certainly not in a publicly funded institution. If people want to attend such a school, that is their choice – as long as they are properly informed of the true nature of the school’s omnipresent philosophy – but my tax dollars should not pay them to do it.
Rachel Tandy (Paraparaumu)
Sounds reasonable.  Below is the full letter from the "Executive spokesperson, Federation of Rudolf Steiner Waldorf Schools in NZ."  I'm going to jump in with a few facts where they apply.  
There is much to debunk in the article “Fairy-tale fallout” (August 2), the most serious being accusations of racism and cultish behaviour in Steiner schools. These are ridiculous and inaccurate notions. The Steiner School movement in New Zealand is no more an elitist cult of racists than any other well-regarded special character school in New Zealand.
Although the article highlights a small number of writings by Rudolf Steiner from a century ago, it does not in any way inform what Steiner education is essentially about. Why has it survived the passage of time – in fact flourished? I would assert that this is because the philosophy that inspires it is the opposite of racist in that it upholds the universality of the human being and the integrity of the individual human spirit.
Hold on... lots of racist philosophies have survived - even flourished over the past 100 years.  Survival of the passage of time is not an indicator of a non-racist philosophy.  The philosophy is there for everyone to read.  It does, indeed, uphold the "integrity of the individual human spirit" - but through a series of incarnations into various human racial forms which are in varying degrees of decline - until that spirit finds its purest human form in the white race. 
There are over 1000 Steiner/Waldorf Schools and over 2000 early childhood initiatives in 60 countries around the world. The greatest growth of schools is in Asia, particularly in China. How would this be possible if this were a fundamentally racist doctrine?
Dishonesty?  Do you explain to people in non-white countries that their goal (according to Anthroposophy) is to become white in future incarnations?  Of course not.  How would it be possible for you to establish initiatives in these countries if you told them that?  It is the same way Waldorf schools were able to establish themselves in non-white areas of New Zealand - they simply lie to parents (for the good of the children whose souls really want to become white someday).  
The indications of Steiner inspire our education but do not prescribe it. Although some of his writings discuss “race” and skin colour in a way that has no place in modern times, let alone modern schools, the essence is enduring.
Sounds basically OK... Let's see if we're going to see this viewpoint supported or weakened in the rest of the paragraph... 
Steiner is not the first thinker of his age to have ideas that today we shake our heads at.
OK... that didn't take long...
There would be a collective cringe if we held up some of our New Zealand school textbooks from the first half of last century and proclaimed them to represent the current state of our education system – they are loaded with imperial, colonial, sexist and, yes, racist thought that reflected the thinking of the time.
Yes, perhaps... (I wouldn't know) but those have been abandoned in New Zealand schools today.  The issue here is that Steiner's racist ideas are present in the Te Ra Waldorf school TODAY! 
Educational practice and theory evolves. We are not afraid of critical self-examination. There is much positive work going on in our schools to review our beliefs and practices and to weed out any inherited dogma that has no currency.
This comes as a shock to the people who have been demanding that Waldorf self-examine their racist practices.  Waldorf schools don't self-examine... but even if they did, they are starting from the viewpoint that Steiner's racist ideas (despite being taught to Waldorf teachers as part of their training) cannot possibly enter Waldorf schools.  
Thankfully the Ministry of Education has been rigorous in its oversight; we are grateful for its scrutiny, affirmation and support. Each year we celebrate thousands of happy Kiwi students who are kind, curious and confident achievers, who know who they are and where they come from.Rosie SimpsonExecutive spokesperson, Federation of Rudolf Steiner Waldorf Schools in NZ


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.