PRINCIPLES AT THE CORE


Seven of Them








Here are the seven "core principles" of Waldorf schooling

as formulated by an Anthroposophical organization,

the Pedagogical Section Council of North America.


(I have appended clarifying footnotes. — R.R.)



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1.



"Image of the Human Being: The human being in its essence is a being of Spirit, soul, and body [1]. Childhood and adolescence, from birth to age 21, are the periods during which the Spirit/soul gradually takes hold of the physical instrument that is our body [2]. The Self is the irreducible spiritual individuality [3] within each one of us which continues its human journey through successive incarnations [4]." — "Core Principles of Waldorf Education", Pedagogical Section Council of North America (January 2013), CREATING A CIRCLE OF COLLABORATIVE SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP, edited by Waldorf teacher Roberto Trostli (Waldorf Publications, 2014), p. 156.



[1] The Anthroposophical conception of the human being is convoluted and occult; it is almost entirely unsupported by modern science.

Anthroposophy distinguishes between spirit and soul. Your spirit is your underlying identity carried through all of your incarnations; your soul is your particular surface identity (your temperament, gender, race) during a single incarnation. [See the entries for "spirit" and "soul" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia (BWSE)].

The "body" referred to here is the physical body. However, Anthroposophy also teaches that three additional bodies incarnate during the first 21 years of life: the etheric body, the astral body, and the "I". These nonphysical bodies are invisible, of course. [See "Incarnation".]

[2] I.e., childhood and adolescence (the first 21 years of life) are the period when the combined spirit and soul incarnate in the physical body. This period is, generally, the period overseen by Waldorf teachers; the purpose of Waldorf education may indeed be described as overseeing and assisting in the process of incarnation.

“[F]rom a spiritual-scientific [i.e., Anthroposophical] point of view child education consists mainly in integrating the soul-spiritual members with the corporeal members." — Waldorf teacher Gilbert Childs, STEINER EDUCATION IN THEORY AND PRACTICE (Floris Books, 1998), p. 68.

Anthroposophy rejects most of modern science while describing itself as "spiritual science." In truth, however, Anthroposophy is a religion. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"]

[3] The "Self" as conceived in Anthroposophy is the "I" or the spiritual ego. [See "Ego".] To simplify, we might say that the Waldorf conception of incarnation during childhood is this: The physical body is born at the moment of physical parturition. This body is refined and perfected by the etheric body, which completes its incarnation at around age seven. The astral body, which completes its incarnation at around age 14, consists of forces that constitute and empower the soul. The "I", which completes its incarnation around age 21, consists of forces that constitute and empower the spirit. When the "I" is finally and fully present, childhood ends — the individual becomes an adult.

[4] Anthroposophy affirms the concept of reincarnation [see "Reincarnation"]: A child comes to Earth having had several previous lives, alternating between the spiritual and physical levels of existence. And the child's current life will be followed by many additional lives in the spiritual and physical realms.

These beliefs, like most other Anthroposophical doctrines, are irreducibly religious. They must be accepted on faith; they are unsupported by factual or scientific knowledge. At the core, real Waldorf schools — those that operate on the basis of Rudolf Steiner's teachings — are religious institutions. [See "Faith" and "Schools as Churches".]



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2.




"Phases of Child Development: This process of embodiment has an archetypal sequence of approximately seven-year phases [1], and each child's development is an individual expression of the archetype [2]. Each phase has unique and characteristic physical, emotional, and cognitive dimensions [3]." — CREATING A CIRCLE OF COLLABORATIVE SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP, p. 156.



[1] In Waldorf belief, childhood consists of three seven-year-long phases, each of which culminates in the incarnation (or "embodiment") of an invisible body. Thus, the first phase is approximately ages 0-7, culminating in the incarnation of the etheric body. The second phase is approximately ages 7-14, culminating in the incarnation of the astral body. The third phase is approximately ages 14-21, culminating in the incarnation of the "I". [See "Incarnation".]

The age at which a child moves from one phase to another is approximate because of minor variations — especially variation in temperament — among children. [See "Humouresque" and "Temperaments".] Such variation is important, but — according to Anthroposophical belief — generally it is secondary. Primarily, according to Anthroposophy, children of the same age move more or less in tandem from phase to phase.

Waldorf teachers sometimes state that Steiner's conception of three seven-year-long childhood phases is his most important educational contribution. [See "Most Significant".]

[2] According to Steiner, archetypes are spiritual beings — that is to say, gods — who manifest as thoughts outside the brain or mind. As such, they are perfect spiritual models for incarnated beings. In other words, they are spiritual powers (gods) that are inherent in physical phenomena and toward which physical phenomena should develop.

In Waldorf belief, every child follows the same "archetypal sequence" of development, with small individual variations occurring within the bounds established by the archetypes.

Note that Anthroposophiy is polytheistic, recognizing many gods of many ranks. [See "Polytheism".]

[3] In Waldorf belief, all children undergo significant changes when they reach the age at which one phase of childhood ends and another begins. For this reason, the Waldorf curriculum is structured on the assumption that instruction should change significantly as a group of children moves from one phase to the next. (The third core principle addresses this issue; we will get to it.)

Although Waldorf schools often proclaim their respect for the individuality of their students, in fact these schools generally operate as if all children move along a single line of development, passing through three well-defined phases each of which has "unique and characteristic physical, emotional, and cognitive dimensions." All the children in each phase are assumed to share that phase's dimensions — all the children are assumed to be essentially alike. In this sense, rather than respecting the individuality of students, Waldorf schools tend to stereotype them.



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3.




"Developmental Curriculum: The curriculum is created to meet and support the phase of development of the individual and the class [1]. From birth to age 7, the guiding principle is that of imitation [2]; from 7 to 14 the guiding principle is that of following the teacher's guidance [3]; during the high school years, the guiding principles are idealism and the development of independent judgment [4]." — CREATING A CIRCLE OF COLLABORATIVE SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP, pp. 156-157.



[1] I.e., the Waldorf curriculum is based on the conception of human development expressed in the first two "core principles." So, for instance, the curriculum up to the age of seven or so is based on the belief that, during those years, the child's etheric body is slowing being incarnated.

Note that all the children in the class are assumed to stand at approximately the same level of development (the curriculum supports "the phase of development of the individual and the class"). So we see again that Waldorf schools tend to stereotype children — lumping them together, treating them as essentially the same — rather than respecting their individuality.

[2] During these years (ages 0-7), the Waldorf teacher is meant to present herself/himself as the ideal role model for the children — the students should learn to pattern themselves after their teacher (not their parents, or their clerics, or any other adults).

Steiner told Waldorf teachers that they may have to undo the harm done by students' parents (and, implicitly, by all other adults who are not Anthroposophists):

"You will have to take over children for their education and instruction — children who will have received already (as you must remember) the education, or mis-education given them by their parents." — Rudolf Steiner, THE STUDY OF MAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 16.

When dealing with the youngest students, the Waldorf teacher — presenting herself/himself to the children as exemplary — should exercise unquestioned authority:

"[Young children's] souls are open to consciously receiving what works on them from teachers on the basis of a natural, unquestioned authority." — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 4.

Of course, Waldorf teachers rarely begin guiding a child "from birth." But Steiner indicated that, ideally, they ought to do so:

“Given the difficult, disorderly, and chaotic conditions of our time, it might almost be preferable from a moral viewpoint if children could be taken into one’s care soon after birth.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 69.

[3] During this period (while the children's astral bodies are incarnating), the teacher's authority is somewhat lessened. Instead of imitating the teacher, students should be "guided" by the teacher (instead of obeying without question, they should accept the teacher's directives and advice). Thus, the teacher's hold on the students is loosened slightly, and the students start to attain a bit of autonomy. But, since the "guiding principle" of this period is "following the teacher's guidance," the influence of the teacher should remain great. And note that the extent of the guidance is not limited to classwork. Waldorf schools seek to mold the children's feelings and wills as much as their thoughts — the schools are "holistic," aiming to instruct "heads, hearts and hands." [See "Holistic Education".] The students should thus by guided by their teacher in virtually all areas of life.

[4] Only during this period (ages 14-21) is the child considered able to start formulating her/his own thoughts in a reasonable manner ("independent judgment"). The effect of this Waldorf conception is to infantilize students until the final high school years at the earliest. In reality, most kids much younger than high-school age are quite able to begin formulating their own, sensible opinions, but this possibility is denied in Waldorf theory.

During the high school years, Steiner indicated, the Waldorf teacher should be more nearly a friend than a boss or leader; the teacher should help the student to aspire toward the appreciation and pursuit of an ideal vision ("the guiding principles [include] idealism"). Of course, when Waldorf education works as planned, the child — having imitated Waldorf teachers during the earliest years (ages 0-7), and then following the guidance of these teachers during the next seven years (ages 7-14) — is almost certain to accept and pursue the Anthroposophical vision. The student's "idealism" in the third period will be the vision implanted by Waldorf teachers during this period and, more deeply, during the earlier periods.

The overall effect of Waldorf education, when it works as Steiner laid out, is to set the students on a course that should lead them to embrace Anthroposophy, fully and consciously, in their adult years (following age 21). Such schooling may be characterized as subtle but deep indoctrination. [See "Sneaking It In" and "Indoctrination".]

(Note that a somewhat later formulation of the third core principle changes "the guiding principles are idealism and the development of independent judgment" to "the guiding principle is idealism and the development of independent judgment." The revision underscores the direct link between the Anthroposophical vision and the thoughts students are expected to have. [See https://www.waldorflibrary.org/images/stories/Journal_Articles/rb19_2coreprinciples.pdf.])



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4.




"Freedom in Teaching [1]: Rudolf Steiner gave curriculum indications [2] that 'the teacher must invent the curriculum at every moment [3].' Out of the understanding of child development and Waldorf pedagogy, the Waldorf teacher is expected to meet the needs of the children in the class out of his/her insights and the circumstances of the school. Interferences with the freedom of the teacher by the school, parents, standardized testing regimen, or the government, while they may be necessary in a specific circumstance (for safety or legal reasons, for example), are nonetheless compromises [4]." — CREATING A CIRCLE OF COLLABORATIVE SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP, p. 157.



[1] A somewhat later revision of this core principle uses these words:

"Freedom in Teaching: Rudolf Steiner gave indications for the development of a new pedagogical art, with the expectation that "the teacher must invent this art at every moment." Out of the understanding of child development and Waldorf pedagogy, the Waldorf teacher is expected to meet the needs of the children in the class out of his/her insights and the circumstances of the school. Interferences with the freedom of the teacher by the school, parents, standardized testing regimen, or the government, while they may be necessary in a specific circumstance (for safety or legal reasons, for example), are nonetheless compromises." — https://www.waldorflibrary.org/images/stories/Journal_Articles/rb19_2coreprinciples.pdf.

The main point is that the Waldorf teacher is to have "freedom in teaching" — s/he should not be subject to control by any outside forces. Waldorf schools often claim to promote freedom. The fourth "core principle" clarifies this significantly. The freedom found in Waldorf pedagogy is reserved primarily to the teacher. No one else should have much say or exercise much control. And, as we saw in the third core principle, Waldorf students should imitate, be directed by, and ultimately take their inspiration from their Waldorf teachers. Rather than developing their own individual, possibly unique, identities, Waldorf students are meant to be shaped by the tight molds created for them by their teachers. The scope of the students' freedom, during their school years or even afterwards, is conceptually limited. When Waldorf education works as designed, students will make the "free" decision to traverse the path laid down for them by their teachers — the path leading to Anthroposophy. [To consider the Anthroposophical conception of freedom, see "Freedom".]

[2] I.e., he made statements indicating his intentions and goals for the Waldorf curriculum. (Steiner often rambled, making vague and even contradictory remarks. As a result, his followers tend to comb through his statements searching for "indications" of his intended meanings.)

[3] Waldorf teachers may exercise considerable freedom (that is, they should be largely unsupervised), but the expectations under which they operate are great. Here, we find they are expected to create, from out of themselves, a living, inspiring, spiritual uplifting curriculum or pedagogical art "at every moment." Whew. A heavy load. Steiner realized that the burden he assigned to Waldorf teachers might seem excessive, but he "did not necessarily agree" that the load is too heavy:

"The school inspector said that with normal teaching methods, average people can be teachers, but with our methods, we need geniuses. I do not think that is necessarily true, but there is something to it.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 443-444.

A Waldorf teacher who is not a genius (and, of course, most people are not geniuses) would likely fail. The Waldorf system, in other words, may assure that in most cases the curriculum or pedagogical art produced by the "free" teacher will be a failure, to one degree or another. The education of the students will suffer in direct proportion to this failure.

(The notion that each Waldorf teacher should "invent the curriculum" was surely a misstatement. Hence the revised formulation, changing "invent the curriculum" to "invent [a pedagogical] art." The Waldorf curriculum was actually established by Steiner and remains in force, to one degree or another, in Waldorf schools today. [See "The Waldorf Curriculum".])

[4] In a few cases, the teacher's freedom may be circumscribed — but, for the most part, "interferences" with "the freedom of the teacher" are to be rejected. In this sense, the Waldorf approach would seem to be designed for the teacher's benefit at least as much as for the students' benefit. In any case, Steiner indicated that Waldorf teachers must certainly reject "compromises." They must, he said, uncompromisingly commit themselves to his teachings (the Anthroposophical precepts that he said convey spiritual truth):

“As teachers in the Waldorf School, you will need to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit [i.e., Anthroposophy] and to find a way of putting all compromises aside ... As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118.

We should ask whether students are likely to be well served by teachers who are uncompromising in their commitment to the occult religion — Anthroposophy — promulgated by Steiner. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"] Steiner intended Waldorf education to be essentially religious; teachers would be priests who would lead students toward the Truth: Anthroposophy. [See "Schools as Churches" and "Indoctrination".]

◊ “We [Waldorf teachers] can accomplish our work only if we do not see it as simply a matter of intellect or feeling, but, in the highest sense, as a moral spiritual task. Therefore, you will understand why, as we begin this work today [opening the first Waldorf school], we first reflect on the connection we wish to create from the very beginning between our activity and the spiritual worlds ... Thus, we wish to begin our preparation by first reflecting upon how we connect with the spiritual powers [i.e., gods] in whose service and in whose name each one of us must work.” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 33.

◊ “Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 55.

◊ "The position of teacher becomes a kind of priestly office, a ritual performed at the altar of universal human life." — Rudolf Steiner, THE ESSENTIALS OF EDUCATION (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 23.

◊ "It is possible to introduce a religious element into every subject, even into math lessons. Anyone who has some knowledge of Waldorf teaching will know that this statement is true." — Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD'S CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIS OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 94.



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5.




"Methodology of Teaching: There are a few key methodological guidelines for the grade school and high school teachers [1]. Early Childhood teachers work with these principles appropriate to the way in which the child before the age of 7 learns, out of imitation rather than direct instruction [2].


"• Artistic metamorphosis: The teacher should understand, internalize, and then present the topic in an artistic form [3].


"• From experience to concept: The direction of the learning process should proceed from the students' soul activities of willing, through feeling to thinking [4]. In the high school the context of the experience is provided at the outset [5].


"• Holistic process: proceeding from the whole to the parts and back again, and addressing the whole human being [6].


"• Use of rhythm and repetition [7]." — CREATING A CIRCLE OF COLLABORATIVE SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP, p. 157.



[1] For an overview of Waldorf methodology, see "Methods".

[2] See the discussion of imitation in the presentation of the third core principle, above. Waldorf doctrine holds that students in the first period of childhood (ages 0-7) learn through imitating their teachers.

Waldorf students in the second period (ages 7-14) are thought to learn by following the guidance of their teachers. Waldorf students in the third period (ages 14-21) are thought to learn by pursuing their own insights within the idealism fostered by their teachers. Note the centrality and influence of Waldorf teachers throughout. The students are led toward the path of Anthroposophy, and the more receptive students are led at least a few steps down this path. The entire Waldorf program may be understood as a subtle but extensive indoctrination in the rudiments of the Waldorf religion, Anthroposophy. [See "Schools as Churches" and "Indoctrination".]

[3] Waldorf schools are full of art and the artistic impulse. This is one of their great allures. But Waldorf art has an esoteric purpose. It is meant to make the spirit realm manifest — it is fundamentally religious, and the religion is Anthroposophy. All Waldorf classes are meant to be "artistic" in this sense: They present Anthroposophy is a subtle, metaphoric form. [See "Sneaking It In".] While Waldorf proponents almost always deny that students in Waldorf schools are taught Anthroposophy, in fact the basic attitudes and conceptions of Anthroposophy infuse almost all Waldorf activities and events, including classwork.

When speaking to Waldorf teachers, Rudolf Steiner affirmed that Anthroposophy is present in Waldorf schools.

“You need to make the children aware that they are receiving the objective truth, and if this occasionally appears anthroposophical, it is not anthroposophy that is at fault. Things are that way [in a Waldorf school] because anthroposophy has something to say about objective truth. It is the material that causes what is said to be anthroposophical. We certainly may not go to the other extreme, where people say that anthroposophy may not be brought into the school. Anthroposophy will be in the school when it is objectively justified, that is, when it is called for by the material itself.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 495.

Since Anthroposophists believe that their doctrines are the great, universal Truth underlying all other knowledge, they think that the presence of Anthroposophy in Waldorf classes is “justified” at virtually every point in every subject studied. Devout Anthroposophical teachers may be circumspect about it, bringing their beliefs into Waldorf classrooms subtly, covertly — but they bring them.

On another occasion, Steiner chastised a Waldorf teacher who, he said, had failed to present Anthroposophy in a form students could grasp:

“The problem you have is that you have not always followed the directive to bring what you know anthroposophically into a form you can present to little children. You have lectured the children about anthroposophy when you told them about your subject. You did not transform anthroposophy into a child’s level.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, pp. 402-403.

Finding a way to present Anthroposophy at a child's level is, of course, entirely different from keeping mum about Anthroposophy. The "directive" to "transform anthroposophy into a child’s level" amounts to an order to indoctrinate students in Anthroposophy.

[4] According to Anthroposophical precepts, willing, feeling, and thinking are fundamental activities of the human soul. [See the entries for "will, will power", "feeling", and "thinking" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia (BWSE)]

The Waldorf curriculum is designed so that the first stage of childhood development centers on the students' will, the second stage centers on the students' feelings, and the third stage centers on the students' thinking. This sequence implants the Anthroposophical vision early and deep (far below the level of conscious thought), gradually raises it into the students' emotions, and ultimately embeds it in the students' thoughts. Of course, not all Waldorf schools follow this program fervently, and not all Waldorf students are deeply affected — but true Waldorf schools (those that are most committed to Steiner's vision) do follow the program, and many Waldorf students are won over to the Waldorf worldview to at least some degree. [To consider variation among Waldorf schools, see "Non-Waldorf Waldorfs". To consider which students are most likely to be won over, see "Who Gets Hurt".]

[5] In the lower grades at Waldorf schools, students are assumed to be incapable of much thought — hence, they are given little context or explanation for the subjects presented to them. This assumption may make sense during the first years of schooling (up to age 7), but it is dubious in the second period (ages 7-14). Yet Waldorf schools cling to it. Indeed, the Waldorf approach consciously endeavors to retard the development of students, seeking to keep them young. Steiner taught that children are born with memories, and connections to, the spirit realm where they lived before earthly incarnation. Waldorf teachers want to preserve these memories and connections in the students as long as possible.

“Childhood is commonly regarded as a time of steadily expanding consciousness ... Yet in Steiner’s view, the very opposite is the case: childhood is a time of contracting consciousness ... In mastering the world of physical perception the child encounters difficulties in that he first has to overcome a dream-like yet intensely real [innate] awareness of spiritual worlds. This awareness fades quickly in early childhood, but fragments of it live on in the child for a much longer time than most people imagine ... [I]n a Waldorf school, therefore, one of the tasks of the teachers is to keep the children young." — Waldorf teacher A. C. Harwood, PORTRAIT OF A WALDORF SCHOOL (The Myrin Institute Inc., 1956), pp. 15-16.

Only in Waldorf high school classes (for students above age 14) are context, explanation, and thinking given emphasis. Critics would say that the Waldorf approach stultifies the mental capabilities of younger students, and thus it prevents true flowering of intellect when the students reach the higher grades. [For the Anthroposophical/Waldorf view of rational thinking, see "Thinking" and "Steiner's Specific". For the sort of thinking affirmed in Waldorf education, see "Thinking Cap". Steiner taught that true cognition is clairvoyance. See "Clairvoyance".]

[6] Waldorf education is meant to be holistic. But the concept of the "whole child" in Anthroposophy and in Waldorf education is irreducibly mystical and unrealistic. [See "Holistic Education".]

The whole child, in Anthroposophy, is a reincarnated being who has (or develops) three invisible bodies, twelve senses, both a soul and a spirit, an aura, a "temperament," a karma, an astrological sign, a spiritually significant racial identity, etc. The goals of Waldorf education entail assisting children to incarnate and develop their various spiritual/physical members and capacities, many of which are not recognized by modern science or medicine. [See the entries for "Waldorf education: goals" and "whole child" in the BWSE.]

[7] Anthroposophy lays great stress on rhythm. According to Anthroposophical teachings, all of the cosmos is characterized by rhythmical recurrences, ranging from the very large (such as the slow rotation of the zodiac) to the smallest (such as a child's breathing). Waldorf teachers generally accept the proposition that rhythms in the lives of students must be recognized and encouraged, and indeed classwork and class scheduling should be rhythmical. Subjects arise, are studied briefly, then dropped — only to be taken up again later for another, slightly more advanced but, again, brief encounter. [See "The Waldorf Curriculum".] One drawback is that Waldorf schooling may often be repetitive and, for at least some students, dull or intellectually barren.

Central to the Anthroposophical conception of rhythm is the concept of recapitulation. Steiner taught that the purpose of life is to evolve toward higher and higher levels of spiritual consciousness. Mankind as a whole has evolved from the dimmest consciousness "on" Saturn [see "Old Saturn"] to the ordinary waking consciousness people experience today on Earth [see "Present Earth"]. Individual humans recapitulate this evolution in their individual lives — the forward movement of the individual, like the forward movement of humanity as a whole, entails cycling back through previous levels of development. Evolution is not a straight line pointing upward — it is a corkscrew trajectory taking millennia to complete. [See "recapitulation", "evolution", and "evolution of consciousness" in the BWSE.] It is rhythmical in the largest sense.



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6.





"Relationships [1]: The task of the teacher is to work with the developing individuality of each student [2] and with the class as a whole. Truly pedagogical human relationships cannot be replaced by instructions utilizing computers or other electronic means [3]. Healthy working relationships with parents and colleagues are also essential to the wellbeing of the class community and the school [4]." — CREATING A CIRCLE OF COLLABORATIVE SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP, p. 158.





[1] A somewhat later revision of this core principle uses these words:

"Relationships: Enduring human relationships between students and their teachers are essential and irreplaceable. The task of all teachers is to work with the developing individuality of each student and with each class as a whole. Truly human pedagogical relationships gain in depth and stability when they are cultivated over many years. They cannot be replaced by instructions utilizing computers or other electronic means. Healthy working relationships with parents and colleagues are also essential to the wellbeing of the class community and the school." — https://www.waldorflibrary.org/images/stories/Journal_Articles/rb19_2coreprinciples.pdf.

The effect of these modifications is to emphasize human or personal relationships which are meant to be essentially permanent ("Enduring human relationships between students and their teachers...are cultivated over many years"). Waldorf teachers aim to have a lifelong effect on their students and the students' families, directing them toward the Waldorf worldview and Waldorf values.

Problems may arise when relationships become too warm and personal. Lines between teachers and students may become blurred, and emotional entanglements — and their intimate physical expression — may result. [See "Mistreating Kids Lovingly" and "Extremity".] A former Waldorf student who went on to become a Waldorf teacher has written the following:

"There reigns a sort of permanent 'incestuous' atmosphere [in Waldorf schools] that can go haywire very quickly for everyone. A mantra recited by the teaching community at some faculty meetings reflects this total confusion of identities: Me in the community, and the community in me. Far from being a saying designed to encourage healthy collegial solidarity, these words rather reflect the total confusion of identities prevailing in the Waldorf school system. Nobody there knows who he is or what exactly his role is. This confusion between an educational institution and a family structure is reflected in the language used in schools ... [In addition,] hierarchy officially is absent from the schools (since the teaching community is supposed to be self-organizing), but this produces power games and other profoundly unhealthy influences. Also, it is not surprising that this nebulous dissolution of personalities and responsibilities gives rise to accounts of illicit relations between teachers and students. It is what often happens." — Grégoire Perra, "He Went to Waldorf".

[2] Critics would allege that Waldorf schools rarely if ever actually respect the individuality of their students. See our discussion of this matter in the presentation of the second core principle, above. Waldorf students of the same age are often treated as if they are essentially all alike, standing at the same developmental level.

Differences between students are largely ascribed, in Waldorf schools, to differences in "temperament": Some kids are deemed choleric, others sanguine, still others melancholic, and the remainder phlegmatic. This is an ancient model of human personality types, rejected long ago by most psychologists and other experts, but retained today in Waldorf schools. This model is, itself, a form of stereotyping: It divides children into arbitrary, nonexistent groupings rather that actually seeing each child as a unique individual. [See "Humouresque" and "Temperaments".]

Other factors that may, from the Waldorf perspective, differentiate students include karma, astrological sign, and race. But these are deeply false considerations, and — again — they are forms of stereotyping. [See "Karma", "Astrology", and "Races".]

[3] Waldorf schools have a deep aversion to computers and modern technology generally. Steiner taught that modern technology promotes the incarnation of demons. [See "technology" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia (BWSE).]

The antipathy of Steiner's followers toward modern technology, and especially their worries about the incarnation of demons, can be found in various Anthroposophical publications such as THE COMPUTER AND THE INCARNATION OF AHRIMAN (Rudolf Steiner College Press, 1986) and THE ELECTRONIC DOPPELGÄNGER (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2016). [See "Spiders, Dragons and Foxes" and "Ahriman".]

In accordance with these concerns, Waldorf schools typically ban electronic devices from the classroom, and many implement "media policies" under which parents agree to sharply limit students' use of electronic devices outside of school. [See "media policies" in the BWSE.]

[4] Becoming involved in a Waldorf school may mean entering a tight-knit, exclusionary mini-society that makes great demands on one's time, resources, and emotional well-being. [See some of the personal testimonials in "Our Experience" and "Coming Undone".]

The relationship between Waldorf teachers and students' parents can be complex. Waldorf teachers often treat parents as outsiders from whom much must be concealed. [See, e.g., "Secrets" and "Faculty Meetings".] On the other hand, parents are often recruited to assist Waldorf teachers in many ways, in and out of the classroom. The primary role for students' parents, however, is to provide financial support so that the teachers may pursue their work uninterrupted. Remember: The fourth core Waldorf principle states that interference with "the freedom of the teacher by...[students'] parents" is an unacceptable "compromise." [See "Waldorf parents" in the BWSE.]

According to Steiner's plan for the proper organization of society — a plan he termed "threefolding" — a society's three spheres of action (economics, culture, and politics) should be kept distinct from one another. Thus, in the life of a school, the economic sphere should be separated from the cultural sphere, which includes education. [See "Threefolding".] Students' parents belong predominantly in one of the spheres (economic), while teachers function primarily in another (cultural/educational). To put this in overly simplified terms, parents provide the cash that enables a school to exist, and teachers then educate the students within the school, free of all outside interference (including interference by parents).

Schematically, that's how things perhaps should be. Viewed as a living organism, the school consists of different organs having different functions. But, in practice at Waldorf schools, lines blur and areas of interest and influence overlap. (Some of the teachers at the school may also be parents of students enrolled at the school, for example.) So, as the school strives to live and prosper, complexities develop. A former Waldorf teacher has written the following:

"The relationship between parents and the school is a recurring cause of friction ... [P]arents...often wish to follow [i.e., know about or involve themselves in] the way teachers deal with their children. They may be quickly perceived [by the teachers] as uncomfortable nuisances and treated accordingly. On the other side of the coin, teachers often display demands (urgent requests) toward the home [i.e., requests for how parents should deal with their children at home], which potentially infuriate parents ... It can hardly be avoided that there are teachers who find that their educational work is being spoiled [by conditions] at home, and parents who feel that their child is either wrongly treated or misunderstood at school ... The parents are on a collision course with [the] autonomy of the Waldorf teacher ... If one enrolls one's child in [a Waldorf] school, a...contract is [agreed to]. This contract covers more than the amount of tuition! ... The parents promise to engage themselves to facilitate the task of the school ... Neither party is allowed to change [the contract] unilaterally, although the schools often depart from this ... [I]n a threefold school...an associative life should develop ... The center of this life is found in the economic organ ... In such an economic organ, the parents belong together, and they form a group that is not welcome in the other two organs...." — Dieter Brüll, THE WALDORF SCHOOL AND THE THREEFOLD STRUCTURE (Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, 1997), pp. 63-74.



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7.




"Spiritual Orientation [1]: In order to cultivate the imaginations, inspirations, and intuitions [2] needed for their work, Rudolf Steiner gave the teachers an abundance of guidance for developing an inner, meditative life [3]. This guidance includes individual professional meditations and an imagination of the circle of teachers forming an organ of spiritual perception [4]. Faculty and individual study, artistic activity, and research form additional facets of ongoing professional development [5]." — CREATING A CIRCLE OF COLLABORATIVE SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP, p. 158.





[1] Despite claims to the contrary, Waldorf schools are essentially religious institutions. [See "Schools as Churches".] The religion at the base of the Waldorf movement is Anthroposophy. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"]

The seventh core principle affirms that Waldorf teachers should have a spiritual orientation. In essence, this orientation amounts to a heartfelt alignment with Anthroposophy — Waldorf teachers should commit themselves to Anthroposophy and act as proponents or ministers of that faith. Steiner laid out such matters in numerous statements, including the following (some of which we have seen previously in this review of the core principles):

“As teachers in the Waldorf School, you will need to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit [i.e., Anthroposophy] and to find a way of putting all compromises aside ... As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118.

"[T]he gods allow their grace to flow down ... We see in every child the revelation of divine spiritual, cosmic laws ... It is not a question of how to educate children to approach some ideal that has been dreamed up; it is a question of how to nurture what the gods have sent to us in the earthly world. We come to see ourselves as helpers of the divine spiritual world, and above all we learn to ask what will happen if we approach education with this attitude of mind. True education proceeds from exactly this attitude. The important thing is to develop our teaching on the basis of this kind of thinking ... [I]f this happens, then a teacher’s calling becomes a priestly calling, since an educator becomes a steward who accomplishes the will of the gods in a human being." — Rudolf Steiner, HUMAN VALUES IN EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XX (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), pp. 8-9.

“Among the faculty, we must certainly carry within us the knowledge that we are not here for our own sakes, but to carry out the divine cosmic plan. We should always remember that when we do something, we are actually carrying out the intentions of the gods, that we are, in a certain sense, the means by which that streaming down from above will go out into the world.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 55.

"[T]eachers must reach a point where all their work becomes moral activity, and they regard the lessons themselves as a kind of divine office." — Rudolf Steiner, A MODERN ART OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XVII (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 169.

[2] According to Waldorf belief, these are three levels of clairvoyance. [See the entries for these terms in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia (BWSE).] Here, we learn that in order to do their work, Waldorf teachers are expected to cultivate clairvoyance within themselves (they should "cultivate the imaginations, inspirations, and intuitions needed for their work"), and they are expected to do this by following Rudolf Steiner's directives ("Rudolf Steiner gave the teachers an abundance of guidance for developing an inner, meditative life").

Steiner knew that at least some Waldorf teachers would be unable to develop clairvoyant abilities, but he expected them all to try, and he asserted that those who fail to develop clairvoyance should follow the guidance provided by their clairvoyant colleagues.

"Not every Waldorf teacher has the gift of clairvoyance, but every one of them has accepted wholeheartedly and with full understanding the results of spiritual-scientific investigation [i.e., insight obtained by colleagues who are clairvoyant] concerning the human being. And each Waldorf teacher applies this knowledge with heart and soul...."— Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 224.

The great problem with all this is that clairvoyance does not exist. It is a delusion. [See "Clairvoyance".] Teachers who think they are clairvoyant are fooling themselves, and they risk harming children by basing their decisions on the imaginary promptings of clairvoyance. Not all children who attend Waldorf schools are scarred by the experience, but many may be. [See "Who Gets Hurt".]

Why people allow themselves to fall for fallacies such as clairvoyance is a deep question, one that has no simple answer. [See, e.g., "Why? Oh Why?" and "Fooling (Ourselves)".] But surely mankind needs to finally climb out of the errors and falsehoods that have bedeviled it throughout its history. Sadly, despite good intentions and high ideals, the Anthroposophical movement would keep mankind mired in ancient falsehoods. [See, e.g., "The Ancients" and "Summing Up".]

[3] True-believing Waldorf teachers are expected to lead an almost sacerdotal life centered on the practice of Anthroposophy. [For Anthroposophical prayers, meditations, etc., see "Prayers", "Power Words", "Breathing Spirit", and "Teacher Training".]

Rudolf Steiner prescribed a special prayer to be used by Waldorf teachers [see, e.g., Rudolf Steiner, THE CHILD'S CHANGING CONSCIOUSNESS (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 142]. Various versions are used. Here is one:

"Dear God, may it be, as far as my own personal ambition is concerned, that I completely forget myself, and may Christ make true in me the Pauline word, 'Not I, but Christ in me.' So that the Holy Spirit may hold sway in the teacher. This is the true trinity." [See http://www.michaelhouseschool.co.uk/content/uploads/2012/09/Newsletter-23rd-May-2013-checked.pdf]

Many of the terms found in such Anthroposophical texts seem Christian, and they may indeed derive, in part, from The Bible. But the Anthroposophical understanding of these terms is quite different from anything found in mainstream Christianity. Thus, for instance, Anthroposophy teaches that Christ is the Sun God and the Holy Spirit is the god of the Old Moon. The God addressed by Anthroposophists is a nebulous being, the Godhead. [See entries for these and related terms in the BWSE; also see "God". Anthroposophy is polytheistic and, arguably, pagan. See, e.g., "Polytheism".]

Here is a meditation sometimes used by Waldorf teachers:

"I carry my sufferings into the setting Sun; I lay down all my worries in its light-radiating lap. Purified through love, transformed through light, they return as helpful thoughts, as strength for deeds of sacrifice done in full joy." [See https://www.waldorflibrary.org/journals/15-gateways/137-springsummer-2007-issue-52-the-inner-life-and-work-of-the-teacher.]

The Sun, remember, is the home of the Sun God (the "Christ" worshipped in Anthroposophy). This meditation personifies the Sun, as if it has a "lap." Actually, the meditation concerns the Sun God who performed the model "sacrifice done in full joy" when, according to Anthroposophical belief, he incarnated on Earth as an avatar and allowed himself to be crucified. [See "Avatars", "Was He Christian?", and "Christ Events".]

The purpose of all the prayers and meditations used by Waldorf teachers is to develop what Steiner called "the Waldorf teacher's consciousness" (which essentially means a clairvoyant awareness):

“[W]e must work to develop this consciousness, the Waldorf teacher’s consciousness, if I may so express it. This is only possible, however, when in the field of education we come to an actual experience of the spiritual. Such an experience of the spiritual is difficult to attain for modern humanity. We must realize that we really need something quite specific, something that is hardly present anywhere else in the world, if we are to be capable of mastering the task of the Waldorf school ... [We need] what humanity has lost in this respect, has lost just in the last three or four centuries. It is this that we must find again.” — Rudolf Steiner, DEEPER INSIGHTS INTO EDUCATION (Anthroposophical Press, 1983), p. 21.

What have we lost during the last three or four centuries? Steiner taught that modern people no longer possess the natural clairvoyance possessed by the ancients, and thus we no longer have easy, direct experience of the spirit realm. But he claimed that by following his directions we can attain a new, higher form of clairvoyance — and here he explicitly tells Waldorf teachers that they should do so.

[4] An "imagination," in the sense used here, is a true mental image produced through clairvoyance. An "organ of spiritual perception" is an incorporeal bodily part or structure that enables the development and use of clairvoyance. Steiner sometimes called such structures "organs of clairvoyance." [See "organs of clairvoyance" in the BWSE.] The seventh core principle contemplates the teachers at a Waldorf school (or the inner group of such teachers, the "circle of teachers") forming a joint, shared organ of clairvoyance.

Concerning such organs, Steiner says the following in one of his most important books, a text in which he purports to explain the techniques one can use to develop clairvoyant knowledge of the spirit realm (the "higher worlds"):

"The first step is taken by observing different natural objects in a particular way; for instance, a transparent and beautifully formed stone (a crystal), a plant, and an animal. The student [i.e., spiritual spirant] should endeavor, at first, to direct his whole attention to a comparison of the stone with the animal in the following manner. The thoughts here mentioned should pass through his soul accompanied by vivid feelings, and no other thought, no other feeling, must mingle with them and disturb what should be an intensely attentive observation. The student says to himself: 'The stone has a form; the animal also has a form. The stone remains motionless in its place. The animal changes its place. It is instinct (desire) which causes the animal to change its place. Instincts, too, are served by the form of the animal. Its organs and limbs are fashioned in accordance with these instincts. The form of the stone is not fashioned in accordance with desires, but in accordance with desireless force.' ... By sinking deeply into such thoughts, and while doing so, observing the stone and the animal with rapt attention, there arise in the soul two quite separate kinds of feelings. From the stone there flows into the soul the one kind of feeling, and from the animal the other kind ... Out of these feelings and the thoughts that are bound up with them, the organs of clairvoyance are formed ... The organs thus formed are spiritual eyes. The students gradually learns, by their means, to see something like soul and spirit colors. The spiritual world with its lines and figures remains dark as long as he has only attained what has been described as preparation; through enlightenment this world becomes light ... Every stone, every plant, every animal has its own particular shade of color [i.e., an aura]. In addition to these there are also the beings of the higher worlds who never incarnate physically, but who have their colors, often wonderful, often horrible [i.e., the emanation of gods and demons]. Indeed, the wealth of color in these higher worlds is immeasurably greater than in the physical world." — Rudolf Steiner, KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS AND ITS ATTAINMENT (Anthroposophic Press, 1947), pp. 50-53.

This is the sort of exercise Steiner prescribed, and it holds out the sort of reward Steiner promised: the development of invisible "organs of clairvoyance." Let this sink in. This is the sort of thing taught by Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education. This is the sort of thing Rudolf Steiner's followers believe. And Rudolf Steiner's followers run Waldorf schools. If you cannot accept these beliefs, you should look for a different kind of school for your child.

[5] Training to become a Waldorf teacher is, in many ways, virtually indistinguishable from training to become an Anthroposophist. Here are the titles of some courses offered during recent years in Waldorf teacher-training programs and related plans of study.

Anthroposophical View of the Human Being

Cosmic and Human Evolution

Karma and Reincarnation and Biography

Seven Planetary Soul Types

Astronomy, Astrology, Astrosophy

Spiritual Streams and Sun Initiates

Knowledge of Higher Worlds

Esoteric Science

Cancer: Living Forces and the Soul – Experiences Near the Threshold

The Meditative Path of the Teacher

Meditative Study of Rudolf Steiner's THE CALENDAR OF THE SOUL

The Six Basic Exercises - Meditation, Self Development and Inner Practice

The Practical Application of Spiritual Science

And so on. [For an overview of "professional development" for Waldorf teachers, see "Teacher Training".]







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These are the "core principle"s of Waldorf schooling.

You should send your child to a Waldorf school only if you can embrace these principles.







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Waldorfish art by a Waldorf graduate.




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From the Waldorf Watch News:


Here are items that shine additional light on the nature of Waldorf education.





AT WALDORF SCHOOLS:

"A LOT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY"


Grégoire Perra was educated in Waldorf schools, and later he became a Waldorf teacher. Later yet, he renounced the Waldorf movement and its foundational worldview, Anthroposophy. [See "He Went to Waldorf" and "My Life Among the Anthroposophists".]

Recently, at his website La Vérité sur les écoles Steiner-Waldorf {The Truth About Waldorf Schools}, Perra has been quoting from a book written by one of Rudolf Steiner's closest colleagues, E. A. Karl Stockmeyer. [See "Le Stockmeyer".] Stockmeyer was the administrator of the first Waldorf school, the school that was founded and personally overseen by Steiner.

The book Perra has been examining contains detailed, confidential instructions Steiner gave for the guidance of Waldorf teachers. Waldorf authorities usually attempt to keep this book hidden from outsiders. The title, in German, is ANGABEN RUDOLF STEINER FÜR DEN WALDORFSCHULUNTERRICHT {RUDOLF STEINER'S INFORMATION FOR WALDORF EDUCATION}. Perra has been working from a French translation titled ÉLÉMENTS FONDAMENTAUX DE LA PÉAGOGIE STEINER. The German and French editions are difficult to find, but copies occasionally show up in used-book stores. As far as I can determine, no English-language edition is in circulation.

Throughout the text, there are passages indicating that Steiner fully expected Anthroposophy to be present in Waldorf education at all levels. Steiner generally indicated that Waldorf teachers should not spell out Anthroposophical tenets for their students (although he made some exceptions) — but Steiner also indicated that Anthroposophical beliefs and attitudes should be woven into virtually all Waldorf classes and activities. The result, Perra argues, is that Waldorf education subtly but extensively subjects students to an Anthroposophical indoctrination. Indeed, this indoctrination may be all the more effective because it occurs primarily at the emotional and psychological levels, rather than at the intellectual level.

Here is one of Perra's latest postings about Stockmeyer's hard-to-find book (which Perra refers to by the nickname Waldorf insiders often use for it: "The Stockmeyer"):


Let us continue our reading of The Stockmeyer, the highly secret basic book of Steiner-Waldorf pedagogy. On page 374, as part of the general guidelines for "handwork" courses in Steiner-Waldorf schools, Rudolf Steiner explains to his fellow teachers that Anthroposophy should be introduced without teaching Anthroposophy:

"In a retrospective of the school's first year of work, Steiner said this: 'Efforts must be made, avoiding as much as possible the theoretical teaching of Anthroposophy, to introduce it so that it becomes an integral part of the whole. Yes, it seems to me that there will be a lot of Anthroposophy if you try (it is an ideal) to introduce into the work what is called rhythm, if you try to connect singing, music and eurythmy with manual work. This has an extraordinary effect on children. I recommend Karl Bücher's WORK AND RHYTHM on this subject. This book should be here. All work [in the past] was done accompanied by music, during harvesting, forging, tiling. Today, we hardly hear such music anymore. If you used to go into the countryside, you could hear work being done rhythmically. I think we could get that again. That is what I mean when I say that we must introduce the spirit again. You will find the principle in this book, even if it is presented in a scholarly and pretentious way.' 23 June 1920" pp. 374-375

Here we find statements by Steiner that, in their structure, reveal all the confusion, contradiction, and duplicity that inhabited this man's mind: "Efforts must be made, avoiding as much as possible the theoretical teaching of Anthroposophy, to introduce it so that it becomes an integral part of the whole. Yes, it seems to me that there will be a lot of Anthroposophy...."

Introduce Anthroposophy in class without teaching it as theory? How could this be possible, when Anthroposophy is a worldview and a creed?

This is how Steiner-Waldorf teachers still think today, led by Steiner: They know that they introduce Anthroposophy into their classes, but they do not admit that they indoctrinate students with Anthroposophy because they do not teach it theoretically, that is, they do not openly explain Rudolf Steiner's doctrines to the children.

It would be difficult to create more confusion in the minds of Steiner's followers. Unless this precaution "by avoiding as much as possible the theoretical teaching of Anthroposophy" was only a dishonest formula intended to pass muster with the public, for Steiner was perfectly aware that Waldorf schools would be used to teach Anthroposophy to children. In any case, the term "as much as possible" should be noted, which shows that Rudolf Steiner was well aware that his pedagogy could not completely avoid transmitting Anthroposophical beliefs to the students.

[9/3/19 https://veritesteiner.wordpress.com/2019/09/02/le-stockmeyer-introduire-lanthroposophie-dans-les-cours-sans-enseigner-lanthroposophie/ Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator]

Waldorf Watch Commentary:

Here are the crucial first sentences of Steiner's statement in his native tongue — I have transcribed them from a German edition of The Stockmeyer:

"Man muss sich bemühen, möglichst ohne dass man theoretich Anthroposophie lehrt, si so hineinzubringen, dass sie darinnen steckt. Ja, ich denke mir: viel Anythroposophie is darinnen, wenn Sie versuchen — das is ein ideal — dasjenige, was man Rhytmus nennt, in die Arbeit hineinzubringen, wenn Sie versuchen, den musikalisch-gesanglich-eurythmischen Unterricht mit dem Handertigkeitsunterricht in Zusammennhang zu bringen." — ANGABEN RUDOLF STEINER FÜR DEN WALDORFSCHULUNTERRICHT (Der Pädagogischen Foreschungsstelle beim Bund der Freien Waldorfschulen, 1988), p. 335.

Here is an English translation, which I have produced relying heavily on DeepL Translator:

"One must endeavor, if possible without teaching theoretical Anthroposophy, to bring this [the essence of Anthroposophy] into the work in such a way that it is inherent. Yes, I think to myself: There is a lot of Anthroposophy in it when you try — this is an ideal thing — to bring into the work what is called rhythm, when you try to bring musical-choral-eurythmic teaching in connection with the handicraft lessons." — RUDOLF STEINER'S INSTRUCTIONS FOR WALDORF SCHOOL TEACHING (The Pedagogical Research Center of the Association of Independent Waldorf Schools, 1988), p. 335.

Proponents of Waldorf education almost always deny that Waldorf students are taught Anthroposophy. But, in truth, Steiner indicated from the very beginning that Anthroposophy would be present in Waldorf schools. Thus, for instance, he once said this during a Waldorf faculty meeting:

“You need to make the children aware that they are receiving the objective truth, and if this occasionally appears anthroposophical, it is not anthroposophy that is at fault. Things are that way because anthroposophy has something to say about objective truth ... Anthroposophy will be in the school when it is objectively justified, that is, when it is called for by the material itself.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 495.

In a similar vein, Steiner once chastised a Waldorf teacher for failing to present Anthroposophy in a form students could grasp:

“The problem you have is that you have not always followed the directive to bring what you know anthroposophically into a form you can present to little children. You have lectured the children about anthroposophy when you told them about your subject. You did not transform anthroposophy into a child’s level.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, pp. 403-404.

And, in like manner, Steiner indicated that "actual spiritual life" (i.e., Anthroposophical spiritual life) would pervade Waldorf education because the teachers are Anthroposophists:

“As far as our school is concerned, the actual spiritual life can be present only because its staff consists of anthroposophists.” — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 60.

Waldorf teachers must be uncompromising Anthroposophists, Steiner said:

“As teachers in the Waldorf School, you will need to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit and to find a way of putting all compromises aside ... As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 118.

In practice, not all Waldorf teachers are full-fledged, deep-dyed Anthroposophists. But Steiner said they all should be.

Anthroposophy is brought into Waldorf classes in subtle ways — but it is brought in. This occurs in virtually all Waldorf classes, certainly not just in handwork classes. Indeed, if at any given Waldorf school Anthroposophy is present in handwork classes (knitting, woodworking, and so on), it will almost certainly be present more pointedly in other classes, classes where the meanings of things are discussed (brainwork rather than handwork). [See "Sneaking It In".] An Anthroposophical mood or tone would pervade handwork classes, bringing Anthroposophy into the room at an emotional or spiritual level; in more academic classes, Anthroposophy would infect the very subject matter beings studied. It would be present "when it is objectively justified, that is, when it is called for by the material itself.” When would this be "justified"? Just about always, given that Steiner and his followers consider Anthroposophy to be the great body of truth that underlies all other knowledge. [See "Everything".] Of course, Anthroposophy will be brought in most completely when the teachers meet Steiner's standard: when they are "true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word."

When things go as Steiner intended, the result can be — as Perra argues — a muted but deep form of indoctrination. [See "Indoctrination".] Some students are more susceptible to this indoctrination than others are [see "Who Gets Hurt"], just as some Waldorf teachers are more committed to Anthroposophy than others are. Still, as a general rule, if you are considering sending your children to a Waldorf school, you should know that they may well encounter teachers who want to lead them toward, or into, Anthroposophy.

"There will be a lot of Anthroposophy."

"Anthroposophy will be in the school."

— R.R.






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DIGGING TO LEARN

WHAT WALDORFS ARE




In recognition of the centenary of Waldorf education, we have examined articles about Waldorf published in the German news media. While much press coverage acknowledging the anniversary was uncritical — even, we might say, credulous — some articles dug below the shining Waldorf surface. Here is an example.

From Süddeutsche Zeitung:


100 years of Waldorf


"The Waldorf School is

strongly ideologically determined."


The educationalist Heiner Ullrich explains why there is more esotericism in Waldorf education than many parents suspect.


Interview by Bernd Kramer


On 7 September 1919, a Sunday, Rudolf Steiner spoke to parents and their children [at the opening of the first Waldorf school]. Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy, a bourgeois alternative religion mixing Christian ideas with Far Eastern teachings, quickly made it clear that he had only limited faith in modern science. [He said] Waldorf teachers must become spiritual prophets [1] ... There are now more than a thousand Waldorf Schools around the world — many of which still strictly follow Steiner's strange worldview, as educationalist Heiner Ullrich says.


[Statements by Heiner Ullrich:]


[I]n the case of Waldorf education, it is critical to clearly distinguish between proven practice and dubious theory...


Steiner did not take the initiative [in creating the first Waldorf school]. He had hardly dealt with pedagogical issues previously. The tobacco entrepreneur Emil Molt had the idea for the school. He wanted to create a school for the children of the workers at his cigarette factory in Stuttgart. Molt was a supporter of Anthroposophy, so he asked Steiner [to create the school]. And suddenly, in addition to his many other roles...[Steiner] became a school reformer ... Within a few weeks he conceived his own pedagogy....


Steiner put together a faculty that consisted mainly of tranferees who were almost exclusively followers of his Anthroposophy [2]. They accepted guidance from Steiner because he was their ideological leader ... Steiner hardly referred to the reform pedagogical movement of his time. And when he did, he mostly rejected it. This is remarkable because Waldorf school are still misunderstood by many parents to be reformist progressive schools [3]...


The Waldorf School is strongly ideologically determined. Reform pedagogues like Maria Montessori [4] have focused on the active child and experimented a lot with forms such as free work. But Waldorf education is still predominantly top-down ... The class teacher leads in an autocratic way...


Anthroposophists like to think in terms of symbolic and holy numbers [5]. For them, human development takes place in seven-year-long stages [6], a concept that can no longer be justified at all scientifically or empirically today. In the first seven years, according to the Anthroposophical view, children develop by imitating their teachers. In the second seven years, accepting the authority of the class teacher is paramount. Only in the third seven years is allowance made for the children's autonomy.


[For instance] some Waldorf schools interpret their pedagogy to bar use of electronic media independently until the third seven-year period [7] ... [But today] radical media abstinence at school cannot be an appropriate pedagogical answer ... Along the way, Steiner had the idea that the class teacher should have priestly qualities [8]. The teacher should even recognize the child as a reincarnated spirit being that has already lived through several lives on earth [9]...


[M]ore than 90 percent of Waldorf teachers, according to their own statements, are still intensively occupied with Steiner's directives. Waldorf literature [10] contains quite esoteric ideas. There is even talk of a karmic connection between the class teacher and his class [11]. To this day, Anthroposophists represent the antique medieval teaching of the four human temperaments [12], which modern personality psychology has discarded...


[A]n approach [like Waldorf's] simply cannot be justified in light of today's expert knowledge, although Waldorf education claims quasi-scientific validity. But the authoritarian Waldorf culture shuts off reasonable discussion. A discussion about the right school methods becomes moot if Rudolf Steiner and his revelations are always held up as the final word [13]. We, the uninitiated [14], cannot question Waldorf practices, because we did not follow the meditative path to the knowledge of the higher worlds [15] that Rudolf Steiner prescribed to his spiritual disciples [16].


We should not generalize too much, however — there are differences among Waldorf schools [17]. Sometimes progressive new concepts are implemented, directed explicitly against conservative Steiner practices. That is the paradox of Waldorf education: On the one hand it is determined by an authoritarian discussion culture. The lasting truths of the founder Rudolf Steiner cannot be questioned. On the other hand, there are some liberal Waldorf educators who create quite remarkable innovations [18]...


Waldorf education stands for a deceleration of learning [19] and nevertheless it promises educational success [20] ... Today, this type of education concept appeals above all to middle-class parents, even those who otherwise have no contact at all with Anthroposophy ... Surprisingly, a prominent group among Waldorf parents are teachers at state schools [21]. In this respect Waldorf schooling has changed a lot over the past 100 years: It was founded in 1919 for the children of the socially disadvantaged; today it is highly selective. The Waldorf School is no longer attended by the children of factory workers, but by now the offspring of the privileged, educated middle classes can be found there.


[9/14/19 https://www.sueddeutsche.de/bildung/100-jahre-waldorfschule-heiner-ullrich-1.4587198 This interview originally appeared on September 6. Translation by Roger Rawlings, leaning heavily on DeepL Translator.]



Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] "[I]s it not ultimately a very holy and religious obligation to cultivate and educate the divine spiritual element that manifests anew in every human being who is born? Is this educational service not a religious service in the highest sense of the word? ... [I]t is not possible...to take a scientific viewpoint...to inspire us to become artistic educators of growing human beings. It is impossible to develop the living art of education out of what makes our times so great in mastering dead technology ... [I]t must be said that in a certain respect teachers must be prophets. After all, they are dealing with what is meant to live in the generation to come, not in the present ... What must live in us is a prophetic merging with the future evolution of humanity. The educational and artistic feeling, thinking and willing of a faculty stands and falls with this merging." — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL — Foundations of Waldorf Education VI, September 7, 1919 (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 16-22.

[2] As Steiner said to the Waldorf faculty, “As teachers in the Waldorf School, you will need to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit and to find a way of putting all compromises aside ... As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118.

[3] See the section "Are Waldorf Schools Progressive?" on the page "Waldorf Now".

[4] Waldorf schools are sometimes described as being similar to Montessori schools, but in truth the differences are deep and wide. [See, e.g., "Ex-Teacher 5".]

[5] See, e.g., "Magic Numbers".

[6] “Perhaps the most original and significant component in Steiner’s educational philosophy is its conception of child development in seven-year stages.” — Robert McDermott, THE ESSENTIAL STEINER (Lindisfarne Press, 2007 ), p. 396. [See "Most Significant".]

[7] See "media policies" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia (BWSE).

[8] "We come to see ourselves as helpers of the divine spiritual world, and above all we learn to ask what will happen if we approach education with this attitude of mind. True education proceeds from exactly this attitude. The important thing is to develop our teaching on the basis of this kind of thinking ... [I]f this happens, then a teacher’s calling becomes a priestly calling, since an educator becomes a steward who accomplishes the will of the gods in a human being." — Rudolf Steiner, HUMAN VALUES IN EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XX (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), pp. 8-9. [See "Schools as Churches".]

[9] See "Reincarnation".

[10] I.e., publications about Waldorf education by Waldorf teachers and, more generally, by Anthroposophists.

[11] See "Karma".

[12] See "Temperaments".

[13] Indeed, Anthroposophists often operate as if quoting a relevant statement by Steiner should settle any dispute: Steiner's word on any subject is essentially the final word on that subject. [See, e.g., "Guru".]

[14] Anthroposophists — including many Waldorf teachers — typically consider themselves to be spiritual initiates: They think they possess spiritual knowledge that is hidden from the uninitiated. [See, e.g., "Inside Scoop".]

[15] See "Higher Worlds".

[16] See "Knowing the Worlds".

[17] See, e.g., "Non-Waldorf Waldorfs".

[18] Trying to determine where a particular Waldorf school stands on the Waldorf spectrum can be tricky. [For a primer, see "Clues".]

[19] See "Thinking Cap" and "Play - Isn't Slow Learning Best?" at Waldorf Straight Talk.

[20] The success of Waldorf education, judged by ordinary standards, is doubtful at best. Waldorf schools have often been academically weak. [See "Academic Standards at Waldorf Schools".] This is one reason for the current crisis among Waldorf or Steiner schools in the United Kingdom. [See "The Steiner School Crisis".]

[21] Some teachers at state schools send their children to Waldorf schools, but of course most do not. All forms of education have faults, and individuals who possess close knowledge of the problems in one sort of education may look for alternatives. The danger is that people may choose Waldorf for their children primarily because of what it is not (e.g., it is not a public school overly focused on standardized tests) while neglecting to investigate what it actually is (i.e., it is a disguised Anthroposophical religious institution). [See, e.g., "Here's the Answer".]

— R.R.






o00o







WALDORF FOR THE

YOUNGEST OF ALL



An article lauding the Waldorf approach — written by a Waldorf teacher — appears in Nursery World, a British magazine focusing on early childhood education and child care. Here are excerpts:


Childminders:

Waldorf Education - Day to Day

[By] Sam Greshoff

Childminding the Steiner Waldorf way includes a focus on rhythm,

routine and experiential learning, writes Sam Greshoff

Choosing to become a childminder or nanny [1] was once rare among Steiner Waldorf practitioners. Now it has become an increasingly popular choice...

Many aspects of the Steiner Waldorf approach are easily incorporated into home-based childcare...

The ‘living arts’ [2], incorporating domestic activity, creative discovery, nurturing care and social ability, are central to the Steiner approach [3] ... Baking bread, for example, promotes many elements of learning, from maths and science to motor skills and creativity [4]...

Rhythm and relationships

A rhythm [5] to the child’s day provides consistency of care, gives relationships time to grow, enables children to feel secure and eliminates some of the potentially stressful elements from the carer’s day, allowing them to work efficiently. Routine and repetition also support early brain development [6]...

Imitation

Teaching through example rather than direct instruction is a cornerstone of the Steiner Waldorf approach [7]...

Outdoor work and play

Outdoor play is a key feature of Steiner Waldorf practice, as are natural and open-ended toys and equipment [8]...

Awe and wonder

In Steiner Waldorf practice, curiosity, gratitude, awe and wonder are nurtured [9]...

[11/25/2019 https://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/features/article/childminders-waldorf-education-day-to-day]

Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] A "childminder" is a child-care worker, a professional caregiver for children. A nanny, traditionally, is a childminder working in a family's home, attending to the children of that family.

Childminders may begin their work, supplementing or supplanting the care given by parents, quite early in children's lives. Thus, childminders may give children much of their earliest education. Rudolf Steiner encouraged his followers to assume control of children as early as possible.

"Given the difficult, disorderly, and chaotic conditions of our time, it might almost be preferable from a moral viewpoint if children could be taken into one’s care soon after birth.” — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2, Foundations of Waldorf Education (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 69.

[2] "Living arts," in the sense used here, are practical arts traditionally practiced in the home: cooking, sewing, and so on.

[3] Children enrolled in Waldorf schools are often taught some of these arts in class: knitting, crocheting, baking, etc. As is true for most things in Waldorf schools, the reason for this instruction is basically occult (i.e., based on hidden or esoteric doctrines). Thus, for instance, Waldorf founder Rudolf Steiner taught that knitting promotes the development of good teeth.

“Go into our needlework classes and handicraft classes at the Waldorf School, and you will find the boys knit and crochet as well as the girls ... This is not the result of any fad or whim ... [T]o drive the soul into the fingers means to promote all the forces that go to build up sound teeth.” — Rudolf Steiner, SPIRITUAL SCIENCE AND MEDICINE (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1948), lecture 17, GA 312.

[For the presence of occultism is Waldorf thinking, see "Occultism".]

Note that rudimentary academic education (basic reading, writing, arithmetic) is generally postponed in Waldorf education until children reach the age of seven. [See "The Waldorf Curriculum".] Ordinary preschool education, such as that provided in Head Start programs, is generally absent from the Waldorf approach.

[4] Waldorf proponents often exaggerate or misstate the advantages of their methds. The amount of "science and maths" learned from baking bread, for instance, is actually quite small. The main thing one learns from baking bread is how to bake bread.

[5] The reason for the use of "rhythm" in the Waldorf approach is another example of occultism. Steiner taught that various rhythms are deeply woven into cosmic and human existence, including rhythmic reincarnations.

"Just as there are world rhythms so are there rhythms in the life or lives of the human being. One of these rhythms is the frequency of incarnation." — Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2005), p. 50.

Assisting children with their incarnation is a central Waldorf purpose. Steiner taught that children, having come from the timeless spirit realm, need to be introduced to life-within-time through the use of rhythm. [See "Incarnation" and "Reincarnation".]

[6] Waldorf proponents often claim that their approach is good for the brain. They generally do not reveal, however, that their approach actually downplays the importance of the brain and brainwork. Steiner taught that the brain does not produce thoughts. Instead, the brain merely receives thoughts sent down to Earth by gods dwelling in the realms above. Steiner's followers today still embrace these beliefs.

"[The brain] mediates between the spiritual and the physical world just as a radio mediates between the broadcaster and the listener ... The brain does not produce thoughts." — Waldorf teacher Henk van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), p. 16.

[7] Steiner told Waldorf teachers to conduct themselves as models for children to imitate. The youngest children learn primarily through imitation, he said. [See "Principles at the Core".]

Waldorf education tries to mold children so that they begin down the path to feeling, acting, and thinking as Steiner's followers do: the path toward Anthroposophy. They learn this be imitating teachers who are devoted to Anthroposophy. [See "Anthroposophy" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.] Steiner said that Waldorf teachers must be true Anthroposophists:

“As teachers in the Waldorf School, you will need to find your way more deeply into the insight of the spirit and to find a way of putting all compromises aside ... As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118.

[8] The Waldorf approach emphasizes nature and natural objects (wooden toys instead of plastic toys, for instance). According to Waldorf belief, nature is the abode of "nature spirits" such as gnomes, who dwell within the earth.

"A gnome is only visible to someone who can see on the astral plane [i.e., someone who is clairvoyant], but miners frequently possess such an astral vision; they know that gnomes are realities.” — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1982), lecture 27, GA 93a.

Other nature spirits, Steiner taught, include sylphs (who dwell in air), undines (who dwell in water), and "fire spirits" or "salamanders" (who dwell in fire). [See "Neutered Nature".]

[9] Waldorf education is fundamentally religious — the religion being Anthroposophy. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"] The "gratitude, awe and wonder" stressed in Waldorf practice are meant to foster religious devotion. Waldorf days usually begin with the recitation of Anthroposophical prayers written by Rudolf Steiner. [See "Prayers".]

— R.R.