Recently in Steiner and Waldorf Education Category

I wrote an article for the Waldorf Critics Observer about PLANS' stinging defeat in US Federal court.
On September 14 th, 2005 PLANS lost its seven-year old lawsuit attempting to have public-methods Waldorf Charter schools in two California school districts declared religious schools and shut down for violating the Constitutional separation of Church and State (known as the Establishment Clause, because it reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".)

The reason for the loss? In seven years, PLANS failed to submit sufficient evidence to substantiate the contention that Anthroposophy is a religion. The trial lasted 31 minutes. The judge, the Honorable Frank C. Damrell, Jr., awarded the case to the school districts under Rule 52(c), meaning that the plaintiff, PLANS, failed to provide enough evidence to prevail. The result is that PLANS lost their lawsuit.

This is the culmination of PLANS' seven year farcical effort to have Anthroposophy declared a religion.
PLANS has blathered a lot of illogical nonsense over the years. The difference here is that in a court case, the rules of evidence are strict and fair. Under these rules, PLANS was completely unable to offer any evidence that Anthroposophy is a religion. Snell and Dugan may one day realize that the US Court system functions differently from the Internet. On the Internet you can make all sorts of wild allegations, and then insist that the people you slander bear the burden of proof in defending themselves. In court, such wild allegations must be substantiated by the person filing the suit, or they lose the case. PLANS lost.
In the final analysis,
Both the court case and the reaction by PLANS are typical. The court case revealed PLANS to be a fanatical, disorganized group with no clear arguments, and the press release following PLANS' stinging defeat showed an organization partially out of touch with reality. In actual fact, Anthroposophy is not a religion, a position that the court agreed with, based on the evidence presented. The individual members of PLANS (all 10 of them) may feel differently, but they had their day in court, and utterly failed to prove otherwise.
The real losers in this case are the children of the State of California. PLANS' baseless seven year crusade has cost taxpayers over $300,000 in legal fees, taking much-needed money away from programs that benefit students.
The question often comes up, do you have to be an anthroposophist to be a Waldorf teacher? The simple answer is, No, as Steiner himself demonstrated. According to Emil Molt:

Dr Steiner was broad-minded in his choice of teachers. As an example, the sister of one of my acquaintances had applied to the Waldorf School. She was a teacher by profession but did not know the first thing about anthroposophy or of the personality of Rudolf Steiner. He spoke with her before the beginning of the course and then invited her to attend. She became a very able Waldorf teacher.

Emil Molt. "Emil Molt and the beginnings of the Waldorf School movement: Sketches from an autobiography." Edinburgh: Floris Books, 1991. Page 143.

I read an interesting book the other day: "Emil Molt and the beginnings of the Waldorf School Movement". It’s an autobiography by Emil Molt, the man responsible for the first Waldorf School. I wrote a review on my site. An interesting portion covered the story of how Waldorf Education came to be called “Waldorf”. According to Molt:
The story of the "Waldorf Astoria" goes back to John Jacob Astor. The Astor family, originally from Savoy, had settled in the south German village of Walldorf in Baden. Johann Jakob Astor was born on July 17, 1763. He emigrated to America as a young man and there, with luck and daring, made a great fortune. In the 1850s, the Astor house was the most elegant private home in New York City. Descendants of Astor later founded the famous "Waldorf-Astoria Hotel" in his memory.
Connected with the hotel was the "Waldorf-Astoria Cigar Store Company." Two of its managers, Mr Kramer and Mr Rothschild, had come to Germany around the turn of the century with the trademark rights. Originally, they produced their own brands; later, they had them made by Manoli in Berlin. They were unsuccessful, however, and eventually put their business up for sale. Müller and Marx heard of this, and, in 1905, bought the rights to the trademark.
Müller and Marx were Molt’s partners at the Waldorf Astoria Cigarette Company. It was after the war the Molt got the idea of a school for the worker’s children, and in its first year, the Waldorf School was a company school, with the teachers on the payroll of the Waldorf Astoria Cigarette Company. (A year later the school became independent). So that is how Waldorf Education got its name.

Faculty Conferences

The contents of the volumes “Faculty Meetings With Rudolf Steiner” (also known as Faculty Conferences or Conferences with Teachers) belong to the least reliable portion of Rudolf Steiner's works. What you are reading is a translation of a summary by an editor of the notes of some of people who were sitting in the faculty meetings. These are not word for word stenographic recordings, and certainly not anything Rudolf Steiner ever reviewed himself. Editors Erich Gabert and Hans Rudolf Niederhäuser, working at the Steiner Archive, constructed these volumes using primarily the notes of Dr. Karl Schubert, one of the founding teachers at the first Waldorf School, and complemented by the notes of other participants. As Gabert and Niederhäuser note in their preface, "...the notes all have a very fragmented quality. The editors’ task was to position the fragments so that they support one another, thus giving the most complete picture possible." Heavy editing went into the reconstruction of Steiner’s statements, and these are not at all his actual words. There was considerable debate whether to even publish them, but since even less complete versions were circulating, the Archives decided to proceed. Bear this in mind when reading them.

Waldorf Materialism


I came across an interesting concept recently: Waldorf Materialism. It sounds like an oxymoron - after all Waldorf is supposed to be born of Anthroposophy with a spiritual background. It is not at all uncommon to hear materialism denounced in Waldorf circles. So what is Waldorf Materialism? Well, one thing that attracts people to Waldorf is the style of interior decoration in the Kindergarten: Natural fibers, wooden toys, faceless dolls and knitted gnomes. These come with precise explanations: nurturing the senses, inspiring the child's power of imagination, etc. So what does the newly enthusiastic parent do? Go to the store and spend 3 grand on a whole new set of toys, and all the old ones go in the dumpster (or perhaps to the school's rummage sale)! The child's room at home then looks exactly like the Waldorf kindergarten (minus all the other children). That is Waldorf Materialism - spending a lot of money to replicate the material aspects of the Waldorf environment.

When thinking is too difficult


I found this Steiner quote to be interesting in light of advances in technology in education. First radio, then television, and now computers promise to revolutionize education and make the incomprehensible comprehensible in an ever easier manner. Neither radio nor television fulfilled this promise, but somehow computers will succeed where film failed?

"Recently we were forced to experience an article in an important weekly paper. It said, more or less, that many of our contemporaries find that when they read Spinoza and Kant, the concepts get so confused that they cannot cope with them. But then the author of the article suggests applying a new technical accomplishment to this problem, too. Let's make a film! Imagine a film in which Spinoza first explains how he grinds lenses and then goes on to explain the development of his thoughts and philosophy, and so forth. All you need to do is sit passively, and your thoughts on the subject will no longer be confused. This is totally in line with current preferences. Slide presentations would show us how Spinoza's Ethics and Kant's Critique Of Pure Reason came about. People would go to lectures like that."

Rudolf Steiner. "First Steps in Inner Development". Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1999. Page 88.
The Lecture is titled: How does the soul discover its true being? and was given in Kassel on May 8th, 1914. Translated by Catherine Creeger.

Steiner on Education


"Vague and the general phrases - 'the harmonious development of all the powers and talents in the child,' and so forth - cannot provide a basis for a genuine art of education. Such an art of education can only be built on a real knowledge of the human being. Not that these phrases are incorrect, but that at the bottom they are useless as it would be to say of a machine that all its parts must be brought harmoniously into action. To work a machine you must approach it, not with phrases and truisms, but with real and detailed knowledge. So for the art of education it is the knowledge of the members of man's being and of their several development which is important."
"There is of course no doubt that they truly realistic art of education, such as is here indicated, will only slowly make its way. This lies, indeed, in the whole mentality of our age, which will long continue to regard the facts of the spiritual world as the vapourings of an imagination run wild, while it takes vague and altogether unreal phrases for the result of a realistic way of thinking."
Rudolf Steiner
The Education of the Child in light of Anthroposophy
London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1965. Paages 22-23.
Translated by George and Mary Adams

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