Should the state be funding schools which were founded by a racist mystic?

Francis Gilbert's picture
The news that there are 25 Steiner schools seeking to be funded as “free schools” and that there is already one which has state funds should be deeply troubling for most right-minded people. Steiner schools have the reputation in this country for being rather progressive, liberal schools with some quirky ideas, but basically perfect for children who aren’t happy with more “traditional” schools.

I wonder how many parents would want to send their children to these schools if they knew about their founder’s views on an array of issues. Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925) was a mystic who denied scientific evolution, believed passionately in Jesus Christ, but also believed in “karma” and “re-incarnation”. He attempted to synthesize “spirituality” with “science”. Some of his ideas about children having an artistic, creative education tie in with other thinkers such as Maria Montessori and John Dewey, but, in many ways, his views are very divergent from theirs. For example, he had strange attitudes towards pupils with Special Needs, claiming that their disabilities were due to “bad karma”.

Most worryingly of all, he was deeply racist in his views. In particular for arcane reasons, he believed that Asian people were “decadent” and black people had the characteristics of “childhood”. Moreover, Native Americans were a “degenerated human race” and the Mongols were a “lower class of people”. Surprise, surprise white skinned people were classed by Steiner as being the best, with Jesus Christ at the top of the Steiner evolutionary tree. It’s very disturbing to learn that Steiner and his “true” followers see the purpose of education to enable children to “evolve” from their “bad karma” by carrying out the exercises that Steiner saw as crucial for his form of “evolution” to happen.

The powerful people running Waldorf-Steiner schools today claim that these views do not influence the education that happens there and only Steiner’s more “enlightened” ideas inform the pedagogical approach, but this is, quite frankly, ducking the issue. (BTW: they have been very diligent about monitoring the internet so that Steiner and his schools are presented positively: much information you find by Googling him will not be reliable as a result.) The fact is that these schools have moulded their whole educational philosophy around a very strange man who was a profound racist. It’s a bit like saying it’s fine to have “Adolf Hitler” schools because we’ve ignored his nasty ideas and cherry-picked the “nice” ideas he had! Reading the minutes of a meeting some Steiner followers had with government advisors Sam Freedman and Rachel Wolf, of the New Schools Network, it’s clear that the government has its doubts about Steiner schools. Freedman says at one point during the meeting: “I’ve had all sorts of people writing to me just because they found out that I was coming to this meeting. Attacking. Attacking the Steiner Schools… Anonymously. Through social networking. People find out who you are, find out your account number and bombard you with articles, negative articles… This was pointing out all the things they think are wrong with Steiner movement, link after link after link. And that’s just from me coming to this meeting, so you have to be aware, well I know you’ll all be aware anyway, but this will be on a much, much bigger scale.”

However, it’s clear despite these concerns that the government, desperate to boost the number of free schools, is determined to give these schools state funds. The LSN has seen correspondence between a concerned parent and the Department for Education in which the DfE claims that the schools are not racist in their attitudes. I am sure this is true, but it still doesn’t get away from the fact that many parents of non-white backgrounds might be very uneasy about sending their children to schools if they knew they were founded by a man who viewed non-white races as “lower on the evolutionary scale”. Furthermore, there are obviously some other Steiner beliefs that persist in today’s schools which, while they are not against the law, are very dubious. For example, there is a belief amongst some Steiner followers that Special Needs is caused by bad karma; in other words, Steiner believers could be viewing children with SEN as having “wicked” and “degenerate” past lives.

I have observed a Steiner school in action and was dismayed by what I saw: untrained teachers delivering lectures about the “holism” of knowledge that went far over the children’s heads. Their talk was peppered, as you might expect, with lots of mystical nonsense. Furthermore, I felt the system of having one teacher for many years was counter-productive for many children who could have benefited from a different approach.

While I have no problem with schools learning from successful artistic ideas in Steiner schools, it’s sending all the wrong messages for the taxpayer to fund schools with such a dodgy guru at their heart.

 Steiner schools have been very successful in gaining state funding in the US, Canada, Australia and are clearly seeking to gain a major foothold in this country. The LSN already has evidence that some great local state schools are very worried because Steiner schools are confident of becoming “free schools” in the near future in their vicinity, sucking away vital pupils and resources. These are schools which are just as “artistic” and “enlightened” as Steiner schools, but don’t pay homage to a deeply troubling philosophy.

 These are the schools are either seeking “free school” status or maybe in the future:

Beechtree Steiner initiative, Leeds

Brighton Steiner School

Cambridge Steiner School

Elmfield Steiner School

Exeter Steiner School

Frome Steiner School

Full Fledge Ecology Steiner School, Suffolk

Hebden Bridge Steiner School, Yorkshire

Iona Steiner School, Nottingham

Kings Langley Steiner School

Lancaster Steiner School

Leicester Steiner School

Lincoln Steiner Initiative

Meadow Steiner School, Bruton, Somerset

Michael House Steiner School, Derbyshire

Monkton Wyld Steiner School, Dorset

Mulberry Tree Steiner School, Gloucestershire

Norwich Steiner School

Oxfordshire Steiner Waldorf Initiative

South Devon Steiner School

St Michael Steiner School, London

St Pauls Steiner School, Islington

Waldorf School of South West London

York Steiner School

Zelda Steiner School, Gweek, Cornwall
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Gerry Newton's picture
Tue, 25/01/2011 - 12:57

So a man born in the mid 19th century had views that we now find repellent; hardly a shock. If Steiner schools are no good then attack them for that, not because they were founded by a man dead for the last eighthy five years!

becky's picture
Thu, 22/11/2012 - 15:01

It doesn't matter that he's dead. His literature is the foundation of these schools! They don't know how to deal with special needs children at all, especially as the philosophy would be that it's their "karma". It's a lord of the flies mentality at those schools, I presume the scholl bully is just acting out his karmic role too! Why should we fund the work of a racist? A racist obsessed with gnomes. Who tells people they can't learn to read until they cut their adult teeth. That technology is evil. That conventional medicine is ALL bad.

Georgina Bravo Malagón's picture
Thu, 06/03/2014 - 03:05

Steiner gave a whole course in special education, and at Waldorf Schools of course they do know much better than in others schools how to treat such children just because they deeply understand them. Look at the Camphills, and I challenge you in finding a better place for them. Steiner was not a racist, and no one, no one in the antroposophical movement today is one. I am not white, I am mixed, my ancestors were mixed, I don`t belong to a defined race, I am not wealthy either, I am not stereotypicall in any way, my children are the same, most of the children in our school are mixed, and we have never been excluded from anything, or diminished for not beeing fair. I have read Steiner thoroughly, and I am not put off, all the opposite, I get more enthusiastic every time I read a new book or lecture. I am an economist, studied in Britain, my husband is a Phd in economitrics, my children, after spending thier whole education at Waldorf Schools one lives in Paris studying cinema, and the second is doing economics. Both are very good at maths and arts as well. How can I complain about Waldorf education,in our familiy has been a complete success. Forgive any spelling or grammar mistakes since English is not my mother tongue.

Unity's picture
Tue, 25/01/2011 - 13:01

You might want to mull over the kind of nonsense that passes for 'science' in Steiner schools before deciding on what you find most worrying.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Tue, 25/01/2011 - 13:05

In response to Gerry, I would urge him to look again at the whole article. My argument is that the issue of Steiner's racism affects admissions, because surely certain people would be put off sending their child to a school like this if they knew this information. Furthermore, I point out that there are profound problems with the way in which certain aspects of the philosophy affects the teaching in the school. I saw it myself. The Steiner philosophy of "holism" leads to all sorts of contortions about knowledge in the lessons, making links between science. spirituality and art that just are not valid in my view -- and many others.

Anna's picture
Tue, 28/05/2013 - 18:55

I was a student at a Rudolf Steiner school, we learnt about many different religions all with equal respect. We were taught to look after and respect each other and that went for the young and people with special needs!
I also attended a secondary coprehensive. The Steiner was a fair better school in everyway and I take away from it many fond memories and also a good education.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Tue, 25/01/2011 - 13:07

Yes, Unity I think you have a strong point. This quote from that website is relevant:

the noted science education Eugenie C Scott notes in her 1994 article ‘Waldorf Schools Teach Odd Science, Odd Evolution‘ this is certainly true of the account of evolution taught in Steiner schools.

The [Steiner] Waldorf version of evolution is especially concerned with the relationship of humans to animals, but this relationship is quite different from that of mainline evolutionists. “It becomes apparent that man is a compendium of the animal kingdom; alternatively expressed, that the animal kingdom is the human being spread out.” The human “essence” passed through a number of “spiritual states” on the way to becoming human, which was a relatively recent event. “Dr. Steiner considers animals to be the by-products of human development. Man has been involved from the beginning but not in a physical form. Man existed spiritually and the animal forms represent physically incarnated soul forces which the human being had to dispense with in order to mature sufficiently to receive the ego. … As in life … we are trying to overcome the lower passions to evolve to something higher, so throughout evolution, the passions were separated out from man and these were incorporated as animals.”

Thetis's picture
Tue, 25/01/2011 - 13:33

Gerry - the point is that followers of Steiner hold him in special regard - so the argument that he was 'just a man of his time' carries little weight. Any suggestion that some Steiner schools are 'less anthroposophical' than others should be taken with a pinch of salt. The key is in the teacher training and the recommended texts for teachers:
Free Schools won't have to employ qualified teachers, Steiner teachers will be trained 'in house'. Who is going to regulate how anthroposophical they are? Which of Steiner's ideas they reject? The whole thing is crazy.
It's also worth noting that parents involved in new Steiner Free Schools initiatives may have little idea what they're asking for. The Steiner Waldorf movement must be honest with parents at the beginning - and that means explaining the role of karma and reincarnation and the fact that Steiner gained his special 'knowledge' through 'clairvoyance'.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 25/01/2011 - 16:57

I read the following in the Minutes of the meeting with the New Schools Network cited in the article:

"An observer asked Sam Freedman whether or not a Conservative government would consider intervening with Steiner teacher training to ensure that the racist aspects of Steiner’s writings would not be included. Sam Freedman replied by stating that if the issue becomes a big PR problem for Steiner schools, and the state is funding those schools, it will become a big PR problem for the state. He went on to say that in light of this, Steiner schools should seek to nip any potential problems with their teacher training in the bud, because if ministers feel under pressure from negative PR, this is likely to be problematic for the schools. Sam Freedman stated that the Schools should ensure that they can explain their position very clearly, so that they can counter the negative criticisms immediately.

At the close of the morning session, Rachel Wolf stated that she would be happy to offer the Steiner schools Fellowship free media training to prepare them for tackling the PR problems".

It appears, then, that it isn't the racism that's seen as a problem by the government advisor, but the negative PR that might result from accusations of racism. It also seems that this negative PR could be averted by lesson in PR from the NSN. The NSN was awarded a grant of £500K by Mr Gove. It's bad enough that the NSN received this money - it is unacceptable that it should be used for propaganda purposes.

Valerie Walsh's picture
Tue, 25/01/2011 - 17:25

I think it's an excellent question Francis and the answer, I think, depends on how compatible the values of the state are with the values of the educational system in question.

Georgina Bravo Malagón's picture
Thu, 06/03/2014 - 03:32

Real Steiner Schools can`t be state funded, that is against the very core of the Free School. What you are getting is inspired Steiner Schools, that of course will not be free ideologically since they will have to comply with state ideology and standards, there is no doubt about that. But these inspired Steiner Schools are better for any child and even for their parents, that any other type of school, that I am also sure of. They should not use the name Steiner or Waldorf, they should look for another denomination.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Tue, 25/01/2011 - 21:18

Thank you Janet for looking at the minutes as well. It is so troubling that government advisors are not worried about whether the system is racist, but how they can package it for parents. Thetis has a very strong point that Steiner is still regarded as a guru by many in his schools: a man of profound wisdom. They see his knowledge as timeless, but the crucial question is what knowledge do they view highly? The philosophical principles these schools are based upon are rotten and that's why my initial question is very important for the British taxpayer to consider.

Valerie Walsh's picture
Tue, 25/01/2011 - 22:45

I don't consider the idea of Jesus Christ at the top of the evolutionary tree with everyone else constituting lower classes beneath him rotten but others might so I have to again agree with you that this is an important question.

Valerie Walsh's picture
Tue, 25/01/2011 - 22:55

Okay, I take that back-lacking the capitalization of the personal pronoun it actually could be pretty bad.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Wed, 26/01/2011 - 08:52

More troubling stuff is emerging now. Apparently the Nazis were very keen on Steiner schools, read this, written by a Nazi bureaucrat:

"The educational approach of the Waldorf schools grows out of the German essence and is systematically directed against materialist thinking and mere intellectualism. A way must be found to make this educational approach useful to the reshaping of the educational system in order to secure the spiritual and soul content of National Socialism. This should not be difficult, since the basic principles of Waldorf schooling are much closer to the ideas of National Socialism than may appear at first glance; the words of the Führer quoted earlier prove this." (Schulte-Strathaus, “Bericht an den Stellvertreter des Führers über die Waldorf-Schulen” May 14, 1934)

Susannah Osmond's picture
Wed, 26/01/2011 - 11:16

I don't disagree with any of this, but a couple of points to add.
One is that, having had experience of a Steiner school on that list, the problem with saying 'he was a man of his time' is that schools tend to follow his teachings absolutely - it's more like a cult than a theory. I could give plenty examples, but for one just look at the fact that almost all Steiner schools use the same (ugly) typeface for their logo. It's the one Steiner decreed and so it may never be changed.

But there's a bigger question here. Many parents are dissatisfied with the ideology and focus of current state education. But if you want to opt out of that, where do you go? For most people, Steiner is pretty much the only option. That's why the schools get support. Until this is tackled one way or another, their schools will always thrive.

fiona's picture
Sat, 08/10/2011 - 14:31

You are so right, we don't want to send our little ones to a huge school aged 11 where the teachers feel bullied and pressured by crazy league tables and a government led doctrine.But what is our choice.We recently visited a steiner school with a wider ethnic mix than most schools in Cornwall.We in Britain have a pretty poor record on racism over the past 100years.
What is the other option, a new independent school possibly run by a parent with a messiah complex..........

Francis Gilbert's picture
Wed, 26/01/2011 - 11:24

Thanks for your comments Susannah. I suppose I would urge you to look at the state schools on offer and be aware, contrary to the myths perpetuated by some sections of the media, that you do have the power to inform/shape the curriculum offer there. My son's primary school in Tower Hamlets is extremely artistic and creative, no uniform, teachers called by first names, and very good too, despite taking children from very poor backgrounds. The governance of LA schools does allow for parents to be involved in shaping the school they want for their children. It's always worth trying to "fix" the current system before going down the private route.

Sune Nordwall's picture
Wed, 26/01/2011 - 22:17

Just as a short coment: for an introduction to Peter Staudenmaier a source on anything related to anthroposophy and Steiner Waldorf education, see and

And on his stories on anthroposophy and Steiner Waldorf schools in Nazi Germany -

Valerie Walsh's picture
Thu, 27/01/2011 - 01:43

From the 2008 Article Francis cites:

"The goals of the Waldorf schools coincide in their fundamental principles with what the Führer has called for in education: “above all the development of character, especially fostering willpower and determination, as well as educating toward a joyful embrace of responsibility, and only last scientific instruction” (Mein Kampf 452).

Back to my original comment-whether or not a school should be funded by the state or not is a matter of the compatibility of underlying values of both the state and the educational system in question.

Susannah Osmond's picture
Thu, 27/01/2011 - 12:06

We are going for state schooling for my daughter when she starts next year and I'm happy with that. Despite the fact that nothing remotely like your description exists round here in the shires, where my choice is between church schools or ones emerging from special measures.

So if you're not prepared to go for either of these options (as atheists, we have had to swallow a church school, which I could well do without thankyou), what do you do?

My point is really that many parents are driven into the Steiner schools because there is no other 'alternative' available.

I am in no way a defender of them (and can tell you comic and terrifying stories of my brief investigative time in a Steiner mother and toddler group until the cows come home). But I can see why 250 people attended the Steiner school's meeting in our town last week - because if you don't want the rather narrow state education on offer here (hippytown south-west), there is nowhere else for you to go.

David Dodds's picture
Thu, 27/01/2011 - 15:48

Sune, Don't you think it might be more open of you to also say that you are in thr pay of the Swedish Waldorf bunch, and that all the sites you - yet again- link to are, in fact your own?

Sune Nordwall's picture
Thu, 27/01/2011 - 22:22

I do what I do - the same thing, and have done it for ten years - independently of if someone pays me or not.

Sune Nordwall's picture
Thu, 27/01/2011 - 22:29

For a comparison of Steiner to Hitler, that anti-Steiner crusaders for some reason seem to like to connect him with, see

Frank Smith's picture
Thu, 27/01/2011 - 23:43

In the words of a 1939 SD report: [SD = Sicherheitsdienst : Security Service, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany.] “The Christian Community has become the recipient of a large part of the previous members of the Anthroposophical Society [already banned]. The Christian Community is today the general carrier and representative of anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner's spiritual science, which at present is disseminated much more among the German people than is generally realized. Therefore through the Christian Community an outlook is propagated which is in every way opposed to German comprehensive and racist thinking.”

Pete Karaiskos's picture
Thu, 27/01/2011 - 23:53

Highland Hall Waldorf School in Northridge CA taught my child in physiology class that the blood of the white race is more evolved than the blood of other races. When I questioned this, they replied that this was "out of Africa" theory. Several meetings and discussions ensued after which it became clear they weren't about to back off their lesson... claiming "none of the children took anything racist away from the lesson". Obviously, my own child was troubled enough to question his lesson. Waldorf does not believe it is a racist concept that a spirit-individual "advances" through the races until incarnation in the ultimate, white race. Most people, when confronted with that type of thinking would, indeed, recognize it as blatant racism. Anthroposophists believe they are above racism. They are NOT!

fiona's picture
Sat, 08/10/2011 - 14:38

I find that truely shocking.
Is it legal to teach incorrect science to our kids ?

David Dodds's picture
Fri, 28/01/2011 - 08:08

I don't often comment on the racism in Steiner since my own experience is that it goes beyond 'simple' racism.
An earlier post of Val's referred to Jesus Christ, unusual in Anthroposophy. More common is 'The Christ Being', this being indicative of the spiritual state of the man. It was the 'Christ Event' that arrested humanity's downward spiral in evolutionary terms, and set us back on an upward return toward a existence that is purely spiritual- no body, no nothing, just spirit.
Of course, according to Steiner, blonde hair and blue eyes of themselves bestow 'intelligence', but one must wonder what 'intelligence means in Anthrospeak terms.
Very broadly, it means being in tune with Anthroposophy.
And the apotheosis of this 'intelligence'?
Here's a hint:according to Steiner, in using the first person singular in German: "Ich" one is actually using the name Christ.
Now figure out for yourselves what I mean by Anthroposophy going beyond simple racism.
Try to find a school where German is elective, or better still, not taught at all. Oh yes other laguages are taught too: maybe French, maybe Spanish,maybe Russian, but try to find a school where German is simply an option.

David Dodds's picture
Fri, 28/01/2011 - 08:13

Sune, you"do what you do". Doesn't say much. Would you care to enlarge on what you do?
BTW, it's now over two years since I asked you what it was that the parents of the twenty four pupils withdrrawn simultaneously from the Edinburgh Steiner School "didn't understand"
Would you care to elucidate now?

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 28/01/2011 - 08:52

I can see how the Steiner emphasis on the whole child can appeal when most UK schools are shackled to a regime of tests and exams. However, the charge of racism levelled against Steiner/Waldorf schools is serious enough to cause the New Schools Network to offer lessons in PR to counter the claims. It is also of concern that Steiner student teachers are immersed in anthroposophy.

David Dodds's picture
Fri, 28/01/2011 - 09:23

Hi Sussanah,
I'm sure that your thoughts on indie schooling are correct. Perhaps though it might be worthwhile pressing Govt to introduce 'alternative' schemes. From where we are at the mo, it seems to be a case of "mind what you wish for: it might come true"

Graham Mellor's picture
Fri, 28/01/2011 - 10:10

Did Toby Young go to a Steiner school? Their take on evolution and science may explain why he claimed on national radio earlier this week that "it goes against nature" for him to care for his own young children. Is this the same science that prevents me from doing the washing-up?

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 28/01/2011 - 10:16

We should also be concerned about the Steiner philosophy and the teaching of reading., under the heading “Fad, fraud and folly in ‘dyslexia’” quotes Steiner’s ‘The Kingdom of Childhood’:

‘'People will object that the children then learn to read and write too late. That is said only because it is not known today how harmful it is when the children learn to read and write too soon. It is a very bad thing to be able to write early.”

The article criticises Steiner educationalists for believing that early stimulation of the intellect is a ‘negative development …a tragedy”, and “that, as a consequence, one triggers cristalization processes, leading to eventual precocious sclerosis processes later on in life'’.

The article ends with “This is simply mumbo- jumbo and should be treated with the contempt it deserves”.

Dany Darling's picture
Fri, 28/01/2011 - 12:26

I hope many Steiner schools get funded by the government! They encourage freedom of expression and individuality, which is great for children.
I went to a Steiner school in the 80's and it was such a relief from the authoritarian and religious state schools. There was no mention of Steiner, religion or spirituality when I was there so I happily remained an atheist throughout my time there.

There are many systems which were originally se-up by someone with dodgy/racist/sexist beliefs (the British Government for example), but unless those beliefs are currently held, you're wasting your time trying to stir up offences that don't exist.
Every child who struggles to conform to state schools should try a Steiner school.

Sam's picture
Fri, 28/01/2011 - 14:12

Dany, you said: "unless those beliefs are currently held, you’re wasting your time trying to stir up offences that don’t exist".

If these 'offences' don't exist, then how do you explain nearly 5000 enquiries made to the Waldorf-Anthroposophy-Steiner Survivors group set up to support parents, ex-pupils and teachers from all over the world?

How many education systems do you know that have a survivors group?

alicia h's picture
Fri, 28/01/2011 - 15:19

Sune Nordwall (The Bee, et c) is an employee of the Swedish Waldorf School Federation, the equivalent of the British organization SWSF. His main task is, according to a document I found, to monitor the debate. In reality, what Nordwall is doing is keeping busy trying to shut discussion down and have critical viewpoints erased from the internet. It's true though that he's been doing the same thing for years, long before they started to pay him for it. To hound critics -- former parents and students, not to speak about certain academics -- has been his life's purpose, it seems, for years, even decades. I urge everybody to take his websites with a large grain of salt.

Dany Darling wrote: 'They encourage freedom of expression and individuality'

-- no they don't. Not if your child doesn't fit the waldorf template. If your child wants to paint water colour blobs, play silly tunes on flutes and do eurythmy -- endlessly, repetitively -- well, then, it's ok to consider waldorf/steiner school an option. Otherwise, no. For children with more intellectual interests, the waldorf school is stifling.

Valerie Walsh's picture
Fri, 28/01/2011 - 15:25

"Moreover, Native Americans were a “degenerated human race” and the Mongols were a “lower class of people”. Surprise, surprise white skinned people were classed by Steiner as being the best, with Jesus Christ at the top of the Steiner evolutionary tree."

I offer that this formulation could be problematic in my comments. David brings the distinction that, "More common is ‘The Christ Being’, this being indicative of the spiritual state of the man."

That is correct, for all people, and for all time.

Pete Karaiskos's picture
Fri, 28/01/2011 - 16:46

Dany Darling wrote: "There are many systems which were originally se-up by someone with dodgy/racist/sexist beliefs (the British Government for example), but unless those beliefs are currently held, you’re wasting your time trying to stir up offences that don’t exist."

Please read my comment above - where racism was taught to my child. These offensive racist ideas DO exist and are right in the Waldorf curriculum... they were taught DIRECTLY to my child. This isn't imaginary - it happened, the lesson was documented when it happened, and there are witnesses to and records of the subsequent meetings surrounding this "lesson". Highland Hall taught RACISM AS SCIENTIFIC FACT. Not 100 years ago... NOW.

Yes, racist beliefs are CURRENTLY HELD by Waldorf - and they are taught to prospective Waldorf teachers - right in teacher training. In fact, you CAN'T be a Waldorf teacher if you don't treat children with different physical characteristics - IN ACCORDANCE WITH THEIR PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS. It's what Waldorf teachers are TRAINED to do - TODAY! Please read up on Waldorf before assuming there is nothing to what people here are complaining about.

David Dodds's picture
Fri, 28/01/2011 - 19:56

"That is correct, for all people, and for all time."
Appreciate it if you said a bit more Val

A sound education's picture
Sat, 29/01/2011 - 15:01

We have our children in a Steiner School and are very, very happy with the experience. Two families we know withdrew their children last year to send them to a school that is ten times as famous (and charges twice as much); both are bringing their children back after half a year away, because the education was simply better at the Steiner school.

We have a reasonably diverse school population - but less diverse by far than schools that need charge no tuition because they are funded by the state. Nevertheless, when I asked one of our high school students at the Steiner school, who is black, about the situation, he said that his friends, who go to a very diverse state school, all sit together. They have no white friends whatsoever. He has many, many white friends through being at a school that respects each individual for who she or he is. That's the attitude that shines through everything the school does.

I sincerely hope each of you can say that about the school your children attend, and the school you attended.

Rowena's picture
Sat, 29/01/2011 - 16:08

There are so many Religious Schools in Britain which are based on various teachings and philosophies, and crazy ideas about miricles and Spirituality. These are funded by the state. Why is it such an issue that Steiner Schools also have certain ideas about things that not everyone agrees with. Surely it's up to individuals to choose how they want to educate their children? Societal beliefs and direction changes so frequently it would be impossible and short sighted to educate our children for the world we have now. Tomorrow will be a whole new place.
I am not for or against but I agree with David Dodds that it's not simple. Is is possible for people to intelligent conversations whilst realising that non of us can know everything. This is a huge topic, no wonder people spend their lives studying Steiners work.

David Dodds's picture
Sat, 29/01/2011 - 16:53

Yep, I can. Same with Scouts and everythig else.

Pete Karaiskos's picture
Sat, 29/01/2011 - 17:58

A sound education said:

About a black child:

"He has many, many white friends through being at a school that respects each individual for who she or he is."

Um... ya think being in a predominately white school might have had something to do with it?

"Two families we know withdrew their children last year to send them to a school that is ten times as famous (and charges twice as much); both are bringing their children back after half a year away, because the education was simply better at the Steiner school."

If the education was so good, why did they withdraw their children in the first place?

What typically happens is, parents realize how much they are caught up in the school. Their kid's Waldorf friends abandon them in a short time, and so do their own Waldorf friends. Their social circle suddenly collapses.

And, unfortunately, their children cannot adapt to anything else... they are completely LOST in any other type of educational system.

In Steiner schools the younger children, especially, are NOT treated as individuals at all. Younger children have difficulties transferring to other schools. Besides being behind in academics (they ALWAYS are), those with learning disabilities are often discovering them for the first time. And, let's face it... they tend to appear "odd" in non-Waldorf environments - often having had no exposure to media for example. Is it any wonder Waldorf kids don't "fit" in other schools?

Cathy's picture
Sun, 30/01/2011 - 14:47

Steiner's racist ideas are indeed worrying when Steiner schools often follow his pedagogy so closely; anthroposophy being such a clandestine practice it's impossible to know what the teachers are putting into action. In one of the set texts by Steiner, used today for training teachers, he tells them that they are to "plant images" in the children. There is talk of the childrens' "pre earthly life" and "higher powers". I see this as a sort of indoctrination. The information certainly isn't forthcoming in the schools for all to know. No one looks at their child's education and says "What's missing here is some karmic forces and a few gnomes".

What causes me most unease though, is the use of things like "temperaments" which classify children by head size and body shape, or the weekly "child studies" conducted by the staff, where apparently they use a sort of "clairvoyant meditation with angels" to arrive at decisions about children. It is absolutely essential that people are aware of what these schools are about and how much anthroposophy shapes what goes on in them.

As parents we felt shock mingled with disbelief when the truth dawned on us, and we saw how damaging and anti therapeutic anthroposophical pedagogy could be. My first instinct was the need to share what had happened with other parents who may have had similar experiences. (Admittedly, I wrote on quite a few forums).

As others have said, Sune Nordwall is paid to monitor discussion. To date, he has used about ten or more pseudonyms, often women's. He also goes after mothers. He is, at the moment, circulating pieces on the internet with inaccurate and denigrating statements about people who dare to write what is inadmissible material about Steiner (he has previously published address). He apparently thinks several people are one....He rarely engages in discussion, and hasn't gone after male blog owners. He's not the only anthroposophist to use this intimidating tactic (I and others have had some scary emails from other people). One mother who had spoken publicly about their experiences told me someone had made death threats and she had received hate mail.
Our kids are fine now- thriving in fact, and it's behind us.
What is extremely troubling is the fact that the schools are trying to bag state funding but have apparently misplaced their teacher training courses. Nothing holds more compelling evidence for further investigation that how they train their teachers.

Michael Keenan's picture
Sun, 30/01/2011 - 16:35

From what I can see, most of the emerging Free School education system is a massive experiment. If parents are willing to send their children to schools with unqualified teachers, made up curricula, nonsensical racist mantra and studying subjects that will not prepare them for the future as part of this education experiment, they really will have nobody to blame when it all goes wrong.

Pete Karaiskos's picture
Sun, 30/01/2011 - 17:44

The bottom line is - and I find it repugnant that people can make these choices for their unsuspecting children... but... If you want a quasi-religious, or pseudo-scientific, or spiritually racist education for your child... Please don't try to justify state funding for such nonsense... PAY FOR IT YOURSELF!

Sune Nordwall's picture
Sun, 30/01/2011 - 19:07

What Cathy refers to is that describes parts of her anti-Steiner crusade on the net the last years.

"One mother who had spoken publicly about their experiences told me someone had made death threats and she had received hate mail." sounds like it refers to debra Snell, chairperson of this group: that aroused some people's feelings.

For some comments on transferral from Waldorf schools to public schools, see

Sam's picture
Sun, 30/01/2011 - 20:04

Sune, you and your movements behaviour is absolutely appalling.

Why do you and your movement write files on parents who have spoken out about the schools? Don't you think they have gone through enough distress already.

Cathy's picture
Sun, 30/01/2011 - 20:18

@Sune Nordwall

No, it wasn't Deborah Snell I was talking about who had death threats, it was someone around this time last year who you haven't been able to get at. A friend told me she had contact with someone else who had had death threats too.
The Waldorf Survivors group has had nearly 5000 enquiries, people who may want support after having disturbing experiences at Steiner waldorf institutions. People too afraid to go public many of them. Luckily you can't get to all of them.

You have been stalking me around the net for a long time. That is the only way you could possibly have found and published what you thought was my address. You have written things about me which are supposition, mixed me up with different people, made taunting remarks, published where I live when I have begged you to stop. I find your behavior is obsessive and intimidating.
I have children who have a life, as I do. Leave it alone and address the very real problems your precious movement is facing. What you have written about Dr Peter Staudenmaier is a scandalous disgrace, I can't see how you dare.
Stop the personal attacks and answer the questions parents are asking. If anthroposophy isn't taught to the children- what is it's point? Why is the teacher training centered around it?

It is in the public interest that people, parents of children, are aware about what happens in Steiner schools and why. Personally, I believe a criteria used to judge children based on appearance is discriminatory, and using angels and what may have happened in a past life as a guide in the staff room dangerous, and if this is truly what goes on, it should be investigated.

The reason comments were deleted were most likely because you threatened them with action as you apparently did at mumsnet, where Justine wrote this
" We still find our inbox filled with reported posts and have received a fair few threats of legal action too. Here's the sort of mail we are getting:

"If I see her posting promotion of libel at Mumsnet once more, I won't tell you about it, but ask Percy Bratt of Bratt and Feinsilber in Sweden to contact you in cooperation with the legal representatives of The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship in the UK and Ireland
(, about your negligent way of allowing libel to be published at Mumsnet and the one who is the
most fervent publisher of it to continue to publish at Mumsnet."

Here there is a comment where you admit to spending a year babysitting wikipedia

David Dodds's picture
Sun, 30/01/2011 - 21:18

Yep, I go along with Cathy. In especial the personal attacks on various individuals and stalking of female critics rather that addressing what they say. Again I'd ask what was it the parents of the 24 pupils of the EdinburghSS didn't understand. What? You'd rather not say?
Wonder why?
Could it be that around the time you made this declaration on Mumsnet you had already stuffed yourself with your comment that half an hour browsing the internet tells anyone all they need to know about anthroposophy, and then a couple of days later, on the same board but in a different connotation you revealed that it took you about ten years to come to understand Anthroposophy.
Might I suggest that a more appropriate stance would be to say something like "half an hour's internet browsing is sufficient to allow parents to get sucked on to the outside, we'll set about really sucking them in once the initial commitment is given.
Easy to get into, a right bugger to get out of again.
Make a deal wiv ya: if you STOP these interminable posting of links to your own sites (Sune it must be true), then I won't START posting to mine. Deal?
Oh, you only agree to the second part? Wonder why that might be.
ps, Have you started sending those so-avuncular offlist messages to people yet? The ones who appear to be swithering I mean.


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