Steiner schools "repudiate" their founder's racist beliefs to get state funding -- but will it be enough?

Francis Gilbert's picture
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Steiner schools, covert proponents of the nutty mystical philosophy "Anthroposophy" are pressing hard for state funding. As I've already reported on this site, Steiner schools are private "alternative" schools who were founded by an Austrian mystic, Rudolph Steiner, at the turn of the twentieth century. They present themselves today as trendy, progressive schools who welcome parents with alternative views. However, what they keep well hidden is their loony mystical beliefs. Steiner founded a philosophy called "Anthroposophy", a sort of mystical mish-mash of ideas which includes the concept that the human race are "evolving" through the different races, with black people being "of childhood", Asians "degenerate" and white people, of course, being the apogee of the evolutionary tree. Many Anthroposophists teach at Steiner schools today -- and certainly form the bulk of their teacher trainers -- and greatly admire Steiner.

In its bid to boost the number of "free schools", the government is pretty keen to give state funding to these schools but has clearly indicated to that the Steiner movement must categorically repudiate their founder's racist beliefs. The European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education has now attempted to do this here.

The section of this quotation that I would like to analyse is here: "Even though Steiner's ideas are based on a profound respect for the equality, individuality and shared humanity of all people, regardless of race or ethnic origin, his works do contain a small number of quotations that are discriminatory. The SWSF rejects these statements and all racism. However, it should be noted that other great thinkers of his time including Darwin, Schweitzer, Gandhi and Carl Jung also spoke of race in a way that offends modern sensibilities. This does not render them or their work 'racist'." I'm sorry but in my view this doesn't amount to a proper "repudiation" of his racist beliefs at all. What this mealy-mouthed apologia amounts to is actually a defence of Steiner. Now, technically what they say is true: Steiner did make a small number of "discriminatory" quotations, but more importantly, he based a whole philosophy on a racist idea, i.e. that the human races are "evolving" through the different races, thus founding a whole philosophy on racist beliefs. He believed that humans evolve through "reincarnation", starting at the bottom, (ie being black) and then reincarnating until they are "white". There's strong evidence that Steiner schools promote ideas about reincarnation in their schools.

Will this repudiation be enough to get them free school funding? They're obviously desperate for the cash -- and the kudos of being approved by the British government.

However, I should point out that there are a number of other problems with Steiner schools, not least their belief that children shouldn't be vaccinated, which I highlighted in an article for the Times and Professor David Colquhoun has talked about extensively on his website Improbable Science. The UK Health Agency regards Steiner children as unvaccinated.

The pressure on the government to give these schools state funding is intense. Their chief UK spokesperson for Steiner schools, writer Emma Craigie, author of Chocolate Cake With Hitler, is the sister of Tory MP, Jacob Rees Mogg, and prominent Tory Annunziatta Rees-Mogg. The whole family, headed by their father, William Rees-Mogg, former editor of the Times, are friendly with Michael Gove. Emma Craigie is on the left of the photograph here:
 

Gove with Annunziatta Rees-Mogg (middle) and Emma Craigie (left)


 

To find out the full story, please read UK Anthroposophy where there is an excellent, detailed article on all these issues.
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Comments

Sune Nordwall's picture
Wed, 06/07/2011 - 22:33

Steiner Waldorf critics cultivate a host of different, more or less distorted myths about Steiner Waldorf education.

For an introduction to some of them, see see http://waldorfanswers.org/OnSalonArticle.html http://waldorfanswers.org/ThreeConcepts.htm and http://waldorfanswers.org/Waldorf.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steiner/Waldorf_education gives quite a good introduction to the relation between anthroposophy and Steiner Waldorf education. After an arbitration some years ago, the authors of the articles are only allowed to use reliable published sources. Steiner Waldorf critics don't like that.

Best wishes,

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 07/07/2011 - 08:25

Sune argues that Steiner Waldorf critics don't like the fact that authors of articles re the relationship between anthroposophy and Steiner Waldorf education "are only allowed to use reliable published sources" after "arbitration" (uncited, unlinked). As these sources presumably refer to primary evidence which includes what Steiner said, then it is hardly surprising that supporters of Steiner Waldorf would use the words of Steiner to back up their arguments.

I clicked on one of the repudiations linked above and there were indeed many quotations from Steiner about race being an outdated concept. However, consider this statement offered in defence of Steiner:

"According to Steiner, blond people (implicitly before any artificial measures) tend to be weaker than more dark-haired and dark-eyed people. Considering humanity as a whole to have passed its adult age, and starting to show symptoms of old age, he argues that blonds, as part of this natural aging of humanity tend to die out faster than stronger, more dark-haired people. Thereby, the form of cleverness that is connected with more distribution of blood to the center of the head, which Steiner describes as "instinctual cleverness", also tends to become weaker in humanity as a whole."

This statement is offered as an argument against the criticism that Steiner thought blond-haired whites were superior to other races because Steiner said they were, in fact, weaker, and would die out first as humanity reached its "old-age". However, the statement then linked the demise of blonds with a "weakening" of "instinctual cleverness" linked with (I'm not making this up) "distribution of blood to the center of the head." The implication is, therefore, that blonds, having more blood rushing to the middle of their brains, are more clever than non-blonds, whose blood flow is presumably more sluggish.

The question is, is the statement above in defence of Steiner, a "more or less distorted myth".

Thetis's picture
Thu, 07/07/2011 - 09:13

no Janet, you're not making it up!

The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship - SWSF - appeared in the comments at DC's Improbable Science similarly refuting 'any statement, suggestion, implication or inference that any of its member schools would tolerate racism in any shape or form or that Steiner education is racist' but neglected to discuss Rudolf Steiner's race doctrines. They supported and endorsed the statement by the European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education which Francis links to and quite rightly dismisses as 'mealy-mouthed apologia'.

http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853#comment-8579

This comment on the same thread by Peter Staudenmaier (an American professor of German history) is worth reading:
http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853#comment-8660

Francis Gilbert's picture
Thu, 07/07/2011 - 15:34

Steiner schools need to come with a health warning -- both a medical and psychological one.
1. They discourage vaccinations very strongly. This has led to hundreds of children becoming seriously ill.
2. They have very troubling notions about how children "learn", pathologising things like watching TV or going on the computer. Furthermore, their whole system is underpinned by anthroposophy which has, at its heart, the idea that humans are constantly reincarnating through different races, finally to reach the Godhead in the form of Jesus. This isn't Christianity or Buddhism but a bizarre racial theory which has no validity any more.

Charlie's picture
Fri, 21/09/2012 - 20:20

You are clearly biased against Steiner proabably due to fear.

Joseph Koch's picture
Sun, 16/03/2014 - 09:54

"It has no validity any more". Who says that'? In fact, all we have so far, are tons of theories trying to explain for the human condition. Some based on mere guessing, others on endless scientific research.Rudolf Steiner was not racist in the silly emotional sense. That would be too immature. He was, do you have any doubt(?), a highly intelligent man, with a perception far above the average and was not your usual ''intellectual''. The fact that you have no extra sensory perception, doesn't rule out the possibility of it being real. People who never conducted a serious research on this matter are not entitled to opinion. Their opinion will always be paved by prejudice and second hand info from the biased so called authorities.

alicia h.'s picture
Thu, 07/07/2011 - 15:32

The huge problem is that people in the anthroposophical and in the waldorf/steiner movement find such utterances (as that of Steiner quoted above) either unproblematic or even 'good', i e, they believe that statements of that nature refute accusations of racism (when, in fact, they do the opposite). As long as they believe this, as long as they keep refusing to see what's there, they can't deal with the problematic aspects of anthroposophy. And it's their responsibility to do so (at least if they want to run schools and if they want other people's money).

Jan Luiten's picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 08:07

The are some factors that make a school a good school.
The vision or philosophy of a school, the way the management of a school operates, and last but not least the teachers. Good teachers, with care for the children, with enthousiasm, and skills to educate, you will find them both in Waldorf schools and regular schools. The fact that a teacher uses the anthroposophical methodology doesn't make him or her automatically a good teacher. The question remains: what kind of person is that man or that woman who is working in the classroom with our children? What has he or she made of him/herself? Can that person function as a rolemodel for the children? When this person chooses to go the anthoposophical way, does it improves his or hers qualities as a human being and as a teacher?
Anthroposophy is, in a way, not very special. It is just a part of the general human way.
But is a WAY, not a doctrine. This implies that it is not static. The content of the anthroposophy, although it may be very important, is secondary to the methodology, to the way of the anthroposophy.
Because it is primarily a methodology anthroposophy will develop itself and will grow, also above Steiner. Steiner will remain off course the founder of the anthroposophical methodology.
If Steiner would have lived in our time he would never have used the word "race" for phenomena of our time (I am in discussions about racism and Steiner since 1985, when it all started in Holland, I think I know all discutable passages in the work of Steiner regarding "race").
When modern Waldorf school teachers say they respect the human rights and combat racism, why should you not believe them? The general way of dealing with discrimatory or even racistic behaviour that is applicable to every person is of course also applicable to them.
The pedagogics of a Waldorf school is based on the knowledge that every human being also a spiritual being. This is the main difference with other schools.
A part of the critics and adversaries of the anthroposophy have a sceptic ideology.
They deny dogmatically the existence of a spiritual world. For them the anthroposophy must appear as nonsense. In some cases they practice what they reproach anthroposophists: a kind of fundamentalism. They are not really open for argumentations from anthroposophical side. My experience is that discussions with these fundamentalists are very tough.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 08:42

There is nothing "fundamentalist" about requiring a theory to be backed up by evidence especially if believers in that theory are requesting government money to fund its propogation. Teachers in Steiner schools learn about anthroposophy, but there is no evidence for anthroposophy - it is a theory. Many people may believe it but that doesn't make it valid. Of course, the very act of believing is, to a believer, the only kind of evidence that is needed. But that isn't sufficient to persuade non-believers that the believers' view of the world is accurate.

There are some aspects of Steiner education which are appealing: not starting formal education until year 7, for example. But this isn't exclusive to Steiner schools - in many countries formal education doesn't begin until age 7. However, it is unclear what such things as "relational consciousness" are:

http://www.nationalcollege.org.uk/index/leadershiplibrary/leadingschools...

Thetis's picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 12:08

Jan Luiten - could you clarify what you mean exactly by 'a spiritual world'? It has a precise definition in anthroposophy of course, and that must be understood by anyone approaching a Steiner Waldorf school. No one would deny teachers of whatever kind the right to a 'spiritual' life - it is very much their own concern. But we are talking here not about personal, religious beliefs, nor about recognised faith schools - anthroposophy is not a sort of vaguely wooly Christianity with which Christians OR humanists might feel comfortable. This is about Steiner's spiritual science, which DIRECTLY informs the pedagogy of Steiner Waldorf schools. Put up the evidence, or admit it is occult (mystical, magical, supernatural) And if you are not prepared as a movement to admit that many of Steiner's race doctrines are in fact racist, it is no wonder that people do not believe that Steiner teachers are 'combatting racism'. It is all an elaborate and rather distasteful fantasy.

Janet - in Steiner schools the children frequently don't learn to read until later than 6 or 7, it can be a disaster. The reason for introducing formal learning later is based on occult 'knowledge' gained through 'clairvoyance', and there is no evidence to support the 'change of teeth'. Having experienced how serious the consequences of this can be, first hand, I can only recommend primary schools and properly trained teachers!

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 16:07

Thetis - I agree with you that children are best off in primary schools with properly-trained teachers. The point I was making was that formal education does not begin until 7 in many countries and this may seem an appealing factor. However, many of these countries place the children in kindergarten where they are exposed to structured play and reading etc.

alicia h.'s picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 16:20

Janet -- I live in such a country (Sweden) where formal reading/writing instruction begins later than in the UK. But here the waldorf schools strive to postpone reading and writing even longer. They don't want to take part in national tests in 3d grade, when children are 9. They know their students don't read and write properly then. So, depending on circumstances, the goal-posts are moving. In the UK, where formal training starts earlier, they want to postpone it until the kids are 7... they can't reasonably ask to stray further from the norm than that. So -- in countries where formal education begins later, waldorf students are nonetheless years behind their peers in mainstream education!

Sune's picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 13:31

Francis:

"anthroposophy (...) has, at its heart, the idea that humans are constantly reincarnating through different races, finally to reach the Godhead in the form of Jesus."

That's a new interesting one. Where did you get if from?

Just in parenthetis, as far as I remember: the temporal context for the statement implicating that we as humans reincarnate through the races indicates that it refers not to what Blumenbach referred to as five main races of humankind, but to the stages in the development of our solar system, referred to in theosophy but not in anthroposophy, as "root races" and the "sub races of Atlantis" of theosophy, that constituted the ever more human forms that developed during Tertiary and Quaternary.

http://waldorfanswers.org/ThreeConcepts.htm

Thinking that one basically easily can read Steiner and immediately understand what he says or writes often turns out to be wrong, when you penetrate it closer.

For some comments on Staudenmaier as Thetis' main source on anthroposophy, see http://thebee.se/comments/PS/Staudenmaier.html and http://thebee.se/comments/PS/OnPS2004Paper.html

alicia h.'s picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 15:54

Sune: 'Francis:

“anthroposophy (…) has, at its heart, the idea that humans are constantly reincarnating through different races, finally to reach the Godhead in the form of Jesus.”

That’s a new interesting one. Where did you get if from?'

Bees aspire to the BeeHead (not to be confused with a beheading, obviously; that would be kamikaze spirituality) -- ever heard of that one?

In general, though, Jesus isn't so much the point in anthroposophy as is the Christ, and various anthroposophical concepts connected to Christ. So 'reaching the Godhead in the form of Jesus' sounds a bit odd, for that reason if not for many other reasons...

What matters, however, is whether waldorf proponents are open about their spiritual aspirations -- as (and when) these aspirations affect the education in waldorf/steiner schools. And they really aren't open or honest.

Sune's picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 13:45

As for the possible suspicion that Steiner Waldorf education would influence the pupils to become racist, for some "strange" reason independent research indicates that pupils at Steiner Waldorf schools, as exemplified in Germany, turn out less racist than pupils at probably all other schools - http://excalibor.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/waldorf-pupils-least-right-win... (http://bit.ly/b1vmln)

Francis Gilbert's picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 15:02

Sune, you have issued a classic "non-denial" denial. You have said nothing about Steiner attitudes towards vaccinations, which endanger the health of small children, or even denied that Steiner had a "racial" theory of evolution, ie we evolve through reincarnation through the different races to the Godhead, which is Jesus. I can't pretend to understand it fully, but this is certainly the drift of what he is saying. I have no doubt that anthroposophists believe they are not racist, merely analysing the different races according to their principles and I'm sure many pupils and teachers at the schools are not racist either. But that doesn't stop me being troubled by the fact that there is a "racial" theory of spiritual evolution underpinning the fundamental philosophy behind Steiner schools.

Thetis's picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 15:03

Sune - you ARE Thebee. You're referring to yourself!

Dull as it is to have to repeat this yet again, in response to your perennial 'waldorf pupils least right wing extremist in Germany' :

Your claim that German Waldorf schools have a low incidence of xenophobic attitudes ignores a reality I’ve noticed in Steiner Waldorf schools in Britain too: there are few non white children in these schools. The German study you mention examined a variety of settings, including non-Waldorf schools, and showed that schools with “the highest proportion of non-German students” had the highest rates of xenophobic attitudes – this finding held across all settings. Thus it’s the fact that there is an extraordinarily small percentage of ‘foreign’ students at German Waldorf schools, which are overwhelmingly white – in sharp contrast to public schools in Germany, that leads to the report’s statistic re Waldorf schools.

The German report therefore produces no evidence, when controlling for other confounding factors, that Steiner Waldorf schools “are least hostile to foreigners and express least extremist right wing attitudes of all pupils in Germany.

Thetis's picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 15:21

Re Francis' point about attitudes to vaccination in Steiner Waldorf (anthroposophic) communities - Alicia Hamberg blogged about a newly released report by BMC Public Health:
http://zooey.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/measles-transmission-from-an-anthr...

Extraordinarily, the first comment in response to her post is from Felix Brunner, a teacher at Alderbridge Steiner School in Berkshire. He writes:

"In my town in switzerland, if a family had measels they would find lots of young visitors!
Why??? so that their children would catch it and be imune to it for the rest of their lifes!
get real!!! and don’t forget the lessons learnt in the past to inform you for future action."

Jan Luiten's picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 16:04

Janet, I think it is important in life to be open to new developments and phenomena.
When people state: “there is no spiritual world” they are closing themselves of for new developments. When they are rigid in this conviction they are fundamentalists. I would say this is not a scientific position either.
Anthroposophy is not a theory. The content of anthroposophy is based upon observations, made possible by the anthroposophical methodology. This methodology is not magic, but is clearly described by Steiner. Can it be proven? Of course, but not in the same way as in the natural sciences. The observations made by Steiner and other people using the anthroposophical methodology will be confirmed by a growing amount of people who can also make these observations. This also includes the possibility that observations of Steiner or other anthroposophists have to be corrected. The evidence is an intersubjective evidence.

alicia h.'s picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 16:14

Damn, I've tried to reply several times now. And got 'database error' and the message disappeared. So I will be unnecessarily brief now.

Jan, good stuff. But what's it doing in the educational system?

Schools for children are not appropriate venues for the spiritual 'journeys' of grown-ups. Or people who are supposed to have grown up.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 16:29

Sorry, Jan, but a sentence like "the evidence is an intersubjective evidence" does not convince. It is not "rigid" to say that theories should be supported by rigorous evidence which has been checked. You say that anthroposophy can't be proved in the same way as other sciences but is confirmed by "anthroposophical methodology". That doesn't convince either.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 16:32

So it seems to be, then, that Steiner schools postpone formal school by at least two years more than the norm in the country in which the schools operate. Is that a correct interpretation?

alicia h.'s picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 16:44

I'm not sure if you could make it into a general rule or anything, but in this case, it seems to be like this. Of course, Steiner students are many years ahead of their peers in eurythmy... ;-)

Francis Gilbert's picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 17:56

Thanks Alicia for correcting me on my terminology. I'm not sure I understand the difference between "the Christ" and "Jesus" but I am sure anthroposophists know :). Perhaps the point is that the philosophy -- if it can be called that -- just doesn't make sense to a lot of people, is certainly "unscientific" and has a heavy "racial" component underpinning it, the connotations of which are very troubling.
I've been this link about vaccinations and Steiner schools. More deeply troubling stuff: http://lizditz.typepad.com/i_speak_of_dreams/2011/07/waldorfsteiner-scho...

Thetis's picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 16:56

Janet - in my experience the way Steiner schools teach basic skills like reading, when they do start teaching them, is not very good! That's why children are particularly behind - they're supposed to catch up and some do, but when the miracle doesn't happen you're left explaining to some perplexed non-Steiner teacher why you put your child in such an appalling situation. Alicia is also correct in suggesting that there is a tendency to welcome delayed learning. A Steiner kindergarten is not the same as a regular kindergarten in, say Finland, as you rightly indicate.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 17:59

Apologies about the site. I'm not sure what it is but I would advise typing elsewhere and pasting stuff into the comment pages because there's something weird, which I'll try and get checked out.

alicia h.'s picture
Fri, 08/07/2011 - 19:01

Francis -- to make matters worse, historically (according to Steiner) there were two Jesus children. As an atheist, the number of Jesus children doesn't bother me much, but Christians usually find this teaching particularly suspect ;-) Christ is a spiritual 'force', sort of, a cosmic force -- a terribly important one. Christ is supposed to balance the ahrimanic forces and the luciferic forces. That's an important thing to reckon with in all anthroposophical enterprises, including education.

Jan Luiten's picture
Sat, 09/07/2011 - 06:18

Janet, I said "natural sciences" not "other sciences", please be fair,

Jan Luiten's picture
Sat, 09/07/2011 - 06:37

The posting of Francis Gilbert is very prejudiced. When you want to discredit a person or a movement you accuse them of racism, and no matter if it is true, it will be very difficult to get rid of a racistic image.
Yes, Steiner spoke of races (he was a child of his time) but he wasn’t a racist. When are you a racist?
When you think that there is a superior group that has the right to damage or to injure an other supposed inferior group (cf. the definition of racism expert Alber Memmi). You will not find that in Steiners work.
Francis Gilbert does not give a definition of racism he leaves it unclear. This makes it easy to manipulate with this concept.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 09/07/2011 - 06:46

Jan: definition of natural sciences: ." the sciences collectively that are involved in the study of the physical world and its phenomena, including biology, physics, chemistry, and geology, but excluding social sciences, abstract or theoretical sciences, such as mathematics, and applied sciences"

So you are saying that anthroposophy can't be supported from evidence from biology, physics, chemistry or geology, which is what I meant by the term "other sciences". Instead the "evidence" discovered by "anthroposophical methodology" is, in your opinion is as valid evidence supported by data discovered using the scientific method. I'm still not convinced. It's like saying that I believe my theory is valid because I use the "divining method" to support my theory.

Jan Luiten's picture
Sat, 09/07/2011 - 07:31

The methodology of the natural sciences is right for physical phenomena. Anthroposophy is in accordance with that. But for non-physical phenomena other methods are necessary.
The methodology of the anthroposophy can be followed by all, it is a general methodology not meant for an exclusive club. It lays in the line of human development, otherwise it would be sectaric.

Jan Luiten's picture
Sat, 09/07/2011 - 06:45

Te definition of racism by racism expert Albert Memmi is: Racism is “Generalized and final assigning of values to real and imaginary differences, to the accusers benefit and at his victim’s expense, in order to justify the former’s own privilege or aggression” According to Memmi all elements of this definition should be there to speak of racism. We do not find this in Steiners work. The definition of Memmi is a leading definition registered in the Encyclopedia Universalis.
Developing his concept of “threefold social order” Steiner s was very progressive demanding equal rights for everybody no matter skincolour, gender, religion, background etc.

Thetis's picture
Sat, 09/07/2011 - 09:23

There's a useful reply to your (Jan Luiten's) use of Albert Memmi's definition of racism in a reply made by historian Peter Staudenmaier to comments (by Jan) after his article 'Anthroposophy and Ecofacism', especially in the latter half of his analysis:
http://www.social-ecology.org/2009/01/anthroposophy-and-ecofascism-2/com...

Cathy's picture
Sat, 09/07/2011 - 09:48

Jan Luiten: a few of Steiner's belief's about race and skin colour in his own words:

http://yhoo.it/q0hUEH
http://yhoo.it/oezw3t
http://bit.ly/oFM3gi
http://yhoo.it/pQAPx0

Jan Luiten you say

" But for non-physical phenomena other methods are necessary."

What are these 'methods"?

This article on David Colquohoun's blog in particular is relevant, paricularly the quotes by Olav Hammer about Steiner's "knowledge'
“Steiner frees himself from the need for empirical investigation by claiming the ability to clairvoyantly access the Akashic record. In the Akashic record, Steiner found innumerable specific details on the workings of the cosmos and the human being, all presented as empirical facts.”

http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853

Olav Hammer: Claiming Knowledge
http://bit.ly/o1eduD

Jan Luiten's picture
Sat, 09/07/2011 - 10:59

Thetis
I do know Peter Staudenmaiers reaction on my comment. But he has not invalidated
Memmis theory or definition, or the way I use it. Staudenmaier thought I would only speak of racism (interpreting Memmi in a special way) when in practice aggression took place. But that is not the case, I am strictly following Memmis definition. This means that you can speak of racism when a theory only legitimizes aggression (without that aggression really taking place), and when it meets the other characteristics mentioned in Memmis definition.
The facts Staudenmaier mentioned in his reaction about an anthroposophist with Nazi-ideas were familiar to me. My great teacher, Dieter Brüll, always said that the names of these people should be made public.
Several things are important here:
1. There is no consensus about what racism is. Albert Memmi however is regarded as an authority in this area, and his theory and definition are widely accepted.
2. In the discussion about modern Waldorf schools the importance of the racism discussion should be relativized. Why? Do we bother schools that teach biology with the fact that Darwin has made racist statements? Apart from the fact that Steiner wasn’t a racist and apart from the fact that anthroposophy is not to be taught in the school , the relation anthroposophists-Steiner should be comparable to the relation Darwin-biologists. Since Darwins time modern biology has been developed further, so is anthroposophy may it be less spectacularly.
When modern Waldorf teachers say they are against racism and discrimination you simply have to believe them, like you do with every other person, until they give evidence of the opposite.

Jan Luiten's picture
Sat, 09/07/2011 - 11:21

Cathy,
I really do know all these passages. They are the same in all the discussions about Steiner and racism. They do not make Steiner a racist however, see the above definition. This does not mean I agree with all what Steiner said. Be aware of the fact that when you don’t define racism, it is easy to manipulate with that concept. It is the most workable concept to discredit a person or a movement.
I also know David Colquhouns blog (I never saw a more paternalistic blog) I have also commented on his blog. The thing is that when you deny the (possible) existence of a spiritual world, anthroposophy must appear as a building of nonsense. This is the way DC indeed describes it. I am not impressed by that. His blog is a sceptic blog. Sceptics dogmatically deny the existence of a spiritual world, in fact not very scientific.

alicia h.'s picture
Sat, 09/07/2011 - 14:40

Jan -- why does it matter to you that a skeptic denies the existence of a spiritual world? No skeptics tells you you cannot hold a belief in (or conviction, or knowledge of, or walking a path to, or whatever else) the existence of a spiritual world. It is perfectly alright. You have a right to believe in the spiritual world.

But I, as a child, had a right to be spared the spiritual beliefs of anthroposophists -- a right anthroposophists were not willing to grant me. So -- if you have a right to your beliefs, don't you think other people have the right to their beliefs and the right to reject your beliefs and not to have to be subjected to them?

Also -- and it seems to me we have discussed these issues before -- there is a problem when you ask other people to help finance your spiritual beliefs, and you ask that they do this involuntarily through the tax system. I know that I have called your attention to tax funded scientology primary schools. We have them in Sweden, thanks to the free school system -- which, by the way, I support. But I don't think tax payers should be forced to finance extreme cults. You have to draw the line somewhere. But where is that, exactly? Whose spiritual convictions are worthy of public support? Scientologists? Islamists? (Anthroposophy is, like, nice in comparison. But, as said, where to you draw the line?)

And what about those children who get their education and their lives fucked up in these insitutions?

I see you constantly obsess about your spirituality and how skeptics don't respect it. But you very rarely seem to realize that education is there for the students and not to bolster your spiritual self-confidence. You very rarely want to reply to what I say, because you know I was a student in one of these schools -- and I guess you somehow realize that, just like you have a right to your spirituality, I had a right not to be subjected to it. Isn't that correct? And perhaps you understand that children's rights aren't always respected.

The reason seems quite apparent to me: parents and teachers who want to pursue their spiritual 'journeys' are all too eager to sell out the rights of children.

'Since Darwins time modern biology has been developed further, so is anthroposophy may it be less spectacularly.'

So what stops anthroposophists and waldorf proponents from saying, ooops, Steiner made some bad errors, and explain what these errors are and why they are now to be rejected? That would help prove that anthroposophy has developed.

(Knowledge of biology has, of course, developed and continues to develop because biology is a science. Nobody needs to feel attached to hypotheses that have been disproven...)

Jan Luiten's picture
Sat, 09/07/2011 - 16:59

Alicia,
The issue here is not of a personal level although it may seem to be so to you.
For me it is about the possibilities of development for our societies (political, social, cultural, economical) and yes, for human kind in general.
Enlightenment, materialism both had their function in the evolution of human thinking and living together. But now we have to make a new move forward. Thus: not back to the beliefs of the middle ages, but forward towards a spiritual science. It can offer humanity a chance to comprehend better the things they meet during their lives on this planet (and afterwards), including their own life.
I say it c a n , that means you have to do it yourself, but the anthroposophical methodology can be a great help on this road. More and more people (will) have experiences they don’t understand.
With anthroposophy there is more chance they can.
Anthroposophy as a cultural factor will make our societies more human. With the threefold social order more widely spread in Europe, the Greek drama would have never happened (now they have signed their own death-sentence and are a prey of IMF and hedge-funds). With more threefolding the school systems in Europe would develop more in the direction of the Finnish school system, with little influence of the state on education. See, my concerns are on that level. Finally it all comes down to a right understanding of what anthroposophy really is.
About sceptics: I am not obsessed by them, but I simply see that many critics and adversaries of anthroposophy are sceptics.

alicia h's picture
Sat, 09/07/2011 - 19:30

Nothing wrong with that either, Jan. But you would have to make a good argument in favour of anthroposophy and its merits in these areas. Like everybody else who has political ideas. Anthroposophy isn't convincing -- or, let me rephrase that, anthroposophists don't do a great job. It seems to me they sit in an ivory tower, feel superior, expect to be exempted from criticism, and (they have the nerve!) ask everybody to pay for their stuff without knowing what it entails.

It doesn't work! But you are, like everybody else, free to promote it as a political philosophy, as a spiritual philosophy, or in any which way you like. But you can't demand automatic respect for your beliefs or that they be adopted by others without evidence or argument. And as far as funding goes... you have to prove that what you offer is worth paying for. And that it isn't just some crazy spiritual junk. You are competing with scientologists for the money...

alicia h.'s picture
Sat, 09/07/2011 - 20:31

Clarification -- I meant that the convincing doesn't work. Anthroposophy might not 'work' either, but that wasn't what I was thinking of, actually ;-)

Alan's picture
Sat, 09/07/2011 - 22:20

Jan - “Enlightenment, materialism both had their function in the evolution of human thinking and living together.”

An evolution in human thinking, perhaps, but not necessarily for the common good. The Enlightenment has propagated elitist assumptions on the mind that academic ability is most desirable, ad infinitum to current debate on education. Let’s face it, any change to education would have been contested and arguments would have consisted of the same components, Steiner or no Steiner.

More importantly, standardised education will not find solutions for humanity or indeed the planet – the “evidence” is provided by our current environmental meltdown. Regurgitated education has not provided the answers because it has placed limits on childhood imagination and has engendered segregation.

As far as discrimination is concerned, it is less apparent but it has become more sophisticated due to the need to circumvent legislation. The English educational system for at least four decades has played, and continues to play a significant role in wasting the talents of thousands of children year-on-year through standardised testing in a vainglorious attempt to weed out the vocational from the academic. Testing, as we know, has eugenic roots that are not too dissimilar to that of theosophy or anthroposophy.

To postulate that Steiner schools are repudiating racist beliefs detracts from the aforesaid, from a desire to change. To be truly inclusive – and that is what society is aiming for, isn’t it? – education should include a range of abilities in every school, lessons should be learnt from past atrocities and there should be no paper entitled ‘The Irresistible Rise of the SEN Industry’ implying that inclusion has reduced opportunities for the brightest children.

There should be less emphasis on past mistakes and more focus on potential for EVERY child.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 10/07/2011 - 07:06

Jan - could you please define sectaric? The word doesn't seem to be in any on-line dictionary.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 10/07/2011 - 07:36

I tried to find an objective critique of anthroposophy methodology by googling. I was presented with page after page of pro-anthroposophy information. This raises the question of why supporters of anthroposopy need to swamp the internet with their views. However, I did eventually find this long (very long) critique about the "Janus Face of Anthroposophy" with references.

http://www.social-ecology.org/2009/01/the-janus-face-of-anthroposophy-2/

However, I won't quote from this work, which could be dismissed by proponents of anthroposophy as being prejudiced. Instead, I'll refer to the quote I gave above from a supporter of anthroposophy. This quote was supposed to show that Steiner wasn't racist. In fact, it did the opposite. The supporter wrote that Steiner consider blonds to be weaker than other people therefore Steiner couldn't be racist because he had assigned to blonds the negative quality of being weak. However, the supporter went on to say that as humanity had now reached its "old age" the weak blonds would die out first thereby weakening human intelligence. What this supporter is actually saying is: blonds may be weaker, but they are brainier. This, apparently, is because blonds have more blood rushing to the centre of the head.

Pete K's picture
Mon, 11/07/2011 - 14:37

If I could jump in here with an ACTUAL FACT:

Highland Hall Waldorf School in Northridge, CA. explicitly TAUGHT my child that "The European race is more evolved than the African and Asian races". http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/2011/02/racism-conference-emails.html They don't deny teaching this lesson to my son's class... they stand behind the lesson. After self-investigating, they claimed the lesson WAS NOT RACIST! http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/2011/04/hasib-disguises-racism-at-high...

The fact that Anthroposophists/Waldorf teachers don't believe it's racist to promote that the white race is "more evolved" than other races does not alter or excuse the FACT that they TEACH RACISM TO CHILDREN AT WALDORF SCHOOLS. http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2009-01-01T00%3A00%...

Here's AWSNA's statement on racism and my comments regarding their misquoting of Steiner to make it appear he's saying something he isn't: http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/2011/05/awsna-comments-on-racism.html

Waldorf representatives should make some effort to determine EXACTLY what constitutes racism, then accept the FACT that they are racists if they follow the tenets of Anthroposophy. It's that easy!

Pete K's picture
Mon, 11/07/2011 - 15:48

Sune wrote: "Just in parenthetis, as far as I remember: the temporal context for the statement implicating that we as humans reincarnate through the races indicates that it refers not to what Blumenbach referred to as five main races of humankind, but to the stages in the development of our solar system, referred to in theosophy but not in anthroposophy, as “root races” and the “sub races of Atlantis” of theosophy, that constituted the ever more human forms that developed during Tertiary and Quaternary."

That's an interesting one Sune. Where did you get it from? Oh that's right, you INVENTED it. YOU have tried to disconnect Steiner from the "root races" of Theosophy a term Steiner used in the same way in Anthroposophy. Steiner made NO mention of Tertiary and Quaternary periods of time (despite they were defined during his time) - YOU made this "connection". Just like AWSNA, you fiddle with Steiner to put words in his mouth that HE DIDN"T SAY! That's just plain dishonest!

Pete K's picture
Mon, 11/07/2011 - 17:10

Sune theBee wrote: "After an arbitration some years ago, the authors of the articles are only allowed to use reliable published sources."

I was part of that arbitration process - so I can report that what you are saying is, AGAIN, untrue. NO ANTHROPOSOPHICAL SOURCES was the ruling... not "reliable published sources". The whole point was to include ONLY reliable sources - and that excluded Anthroposophical sources (obviously). Unfortunately, nobody is left on Wikipedia who is willing to point out that MANY of the sources for the article you site ARE INDEED Anthroposophical sources (McDermott for example) pretending to be mainstream.

My question to you, Sune, is... are you going to post ANYTHING truthful here? If not, rest assured I'll be back to point out the deceitfulness in what you are posting. ;)

Jan Luiten's picture
Wed, 13/07/2011 - 11:37

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/racism-still-issue-english-schools-023148892.html

http://operationblackvote.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/independent-report-sc...

http://www.publicservice.co.uk/news_story.asp?id=6984

Do you think it only concerns Waldorf Schools here?

Pete Karaistos, I am not a representative of the Waldorf movement, but you know my suggestion for a sound definition of racism: the definition of Albert Memmi.

Pete K's picture
Wed, 13/07/2011 - 14:47

Hi Jan,
I'm not sure I understand your point. Because you find racism in English schools, you feel it's OK to promote to schools that teach racism as science? Based on the racist ideas of their founder? Why?

Rather than champion against racism, you choose to take the "everybody's doing it" approach. Why?

As justification, you produce a definition that "defines" racism in a way you think doesn't apply to Steiner. I've read Memmi's definition of racism... It sounds to me like he was defining "racial discrimination" - not "racism". You don't have to be an "accuser" to be a racist, nor does there have to be a "victim". Many of Steiner's views are still racist by Memmi's definition BTW. What a Waldorf teacher taught to my child is racist by ANY definition - especially when put into the context of promoting Anthroposophy, which is indeed the intention of Waldorf.

Jan Luiten's picture
Sat, 16/07/2011 - 12:38

The quotation of the SWSF Francis Gilbert presents above, is in accordance with the conclusions of a very extensive (720 pages) report of a Dutch anthroposophical commission published in 2000. Titel: antroposofie en het vraagstuk van de rassen.
Although I was critical about the report myself, I do think it is a very interesting report.
It confronts anthroposophical content with contemporary scientific and scholarly thinking (biological, historical, cultural, social). It gives clarification about certain concepts e.g. race, discrimination and racism. It is regrettable that not many critics have read the full version of this report. I even think that the main critics of the anthroposophy of the moment : Peter Staudenmaier and Helmut Zander have not read this full version, but instead read the summary in German. This is understandable because the report is not translated neither in English nor in German. I would say that the fact it hasn’t been translated is an omission. I think it is worth the investment.

I have a question for Francis Gilbert. After I send my latest comment on this blog I received the message “your comment is awaiting moderation”, this was not the case with my first comments. Is this normal?

Jan Luiten's picture
Sat, 16/07/2011 - 13:07

Pete Karaistos, what they said to your child is, of course, not very wise. To me there is not such a thing as an European race, neither African race, nor Asian race etc. I myself avoid the as much as possible the use of the word “race”, because I think there is no ground in reality for it. Although we may say there is ONE human race with many differencies within. These differencies are not so big that we can speak of distinct races. But in the daily way of speaking the use of this concept is very unclear, like the use of the concept racism. People easily use this concept (race) when they want to name large groups. I think this not correct and confusing

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