The Child vs. the Cause
Anthroposophical Waldorf often fails to address the needs of the individual child and family. Diana's comments regarding childhood, joy and magic touch upon a major problem that's at the heart of Anthroposophical Waldorf in general.
The reason many Anthroposophical schools exist is because of the Anthroposophy, period. It's not because of the children. It's because a group of Anthroposophists have it in their minds to promote Anthroposophy in the world. That's the Michaelic spiritual task [i.e., the spiritual task directed by the archangel Michael]. Educating children is secondary in these schools; or, it's the means by which these many Anthroposophical and cosmic Christian impulses are incarnated.
In Anthroposophical Waldorf schools, ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING centers around the task of implementing Steiner's spiritual scientific theories. Educating children is looked upon in much the same way Anthroposophical spiritual concepts are embraced: children are "temperaments" or "stages of human development"; they're vessels for [the] purpose of receiving cosmic wisdom in the form of an Anthroposophical curriculum. One could go even further and say children in an Anthroposophical Waldorf school are looked upon as "the future initiators of the Christ Impulse" [i.e., the new evolutionary force introduced by the Sun God]. Again, EACH INDIVIDUAL CHILD'S EDUCATION takes a back seat to the spiritual scientific and cosmic Christian tasks and ideals of the Anthroposophical initiative.
The idea of "magical childhood" is more than just a banal generalization; it's simply more spiritual theory and word play along the lines of all those many other typical Anthroposophical spiritual sayings: We must "strengthen our will" or we must "overcome our fear of the future." But what does any of it really mean, other than something having to do with the way Anthroposophists conceptualize? Does any of this spiritual conceptualizing and generalizing actually have anything to do with the individual child, and with educating the individual child? Maybe "the individual child in relation to Anthroposophical theory and pedagogy", or in relation to "the cosmos" or "the Christ". But that's the issue here — that all of these grand "magical" sayings and words are first and foremost about instilling and reinforcing Anthroposophical spiritual theory, and nothing more. It is not about educating the "individual child".
Anyone trapped in any dogmatic system of spiritual or religious belief will exhibit the same anti-social and alienating behavior anthroposophists often display. And I think most people would agree with that.
On the other hand, Nicole Foss [has] pointed toward something that's of real significance when it comes to understanding the spiritual psychology particular to Anthroposophy, to some other esoteric Christian groups I've come across, and to a degree the New Age movement in general. Nicole quoting Catherine MacCoun:
"Tibetan Buddhists have an expression to describe life in a spiritual community. They call it 'the Feast of Dharma'. In this Feast, what gets eaten is you. One's whole being in all its redeemed and unredeemed aspects is offered up to the sangha to be torn to shreds and devoured. This is my body: take and eat of it. This is my blood: drink of it. Each member of the community is chewed up, swallowed and processed in the digestion of the others. It is a Eucharist both savage and ecstatic."
Anthroposophy is an apocalyptic philosophy, and anthroposophists are quite consciously preparing the groundwork for the incarnation of Ahriman, for the development of Sorat and accompanying demonic entities, for the far-future war of All Against All, etc. And Steiner's New Jerusalem can't come about without spiritual conflict (think [of the] Warrior Michael); without those who of their own accord, or by virtue of someone else's (often unwanted) spiritually-directed input, sacrifice and suffer in the name of this cosmic vision — the evolution of the 10th hierarchy (the collective spiritual us) as infinitely more important than the well-being of the transient human ego-individual.
And this is why that typical, never-ending community conflict dynamic in a Waldorf school is accepted and intellectualized away as necessarily preferable to happy, healthy and balanced (normal) human interaction. Conflict is a particular type of ecstatic union: the spiritual feast. I witnessed many teachers who literally went out of their way to create issues if it happened to be too slow a month, problem-wise.
And so anthroposophists welcome and allow themselves and others to be chewed up, swallowed and processed via conflict, which is why for instance a teacher who is approaching emotional and psychic breakdown status is still supported by his/her colleagues and allowed to teach. It's all seen and understood as part of the great spiritual sacrifice — and you can't fault or fire someone so deeply spiritual and ultra-committed, can you?
And it's why parents who remove their children and leave are hardly if ever given the time of day afterwards. Those families are looked upon as uncommitted to the great spiritual task at hand, or as karmically incompatible and so forth.
Parents were often sad to see me go. Teachers, not as much usually. I had problems with both groups over the years at times, but my biggest struggles always had to do with fanatical teachers rather than crazy parents.
My final class teaching experience sums it up I think. It was at the end of the school year in the final year I taught. My Grade 8 families held an end-of-the-year pool party. Unexpectedly, I was made the center of attention at one point, Everyone gathered round and presented me with gifts and speeches and thank yous. And to top it off, one of my students performed a song to taped music she'd written for me. That was love. I felt that love from my students daily really, and from the parents often, I suppose that's why I was able to stand all the unloving nonsense for so many years.
"Between them the school's managers and their protégés had turned the Rudolf Steiner School into a place where I didn't want to be ... I got myself a job at the [non-Steiner] Lenox School ... My work at Lenox was rather trying, since the students were much nastier than the ones at the Rudolf Steiner School and this was only partly compensated for by the fact that the teachers were considerably easier to get on with."— Keith Francis, THE EDUCATION OF A WALDORF TEACHER (iUniverse, 2004, p. 115.
Not a lot of hope in that snippet, Roger! I worked at one rich Waldorf school where the students were extremely nasty, and the teachers were cutthroat, two-faced and -- and I honestly don't think I'm overstating things — downright sinister. Sounds like Keith Francis had it pretty easy.
"You posit that Waldorf goes wrong when it departs from Steiner's true directions; the shortcomings and abuses stem from misunderstandings of Anthroposophy. But in my experience the better Waldorf schools are those that depart from Steiner; the more Anthroposophical they are, the less competent they are."
"That's been my general experience as well. Anthroposophical schools are much more closed. And because they strive to remain that way, teachers in those schools tend to react badly to perceived threats to their autonomy. I'd say teachers in Anthroposophical schools are less proficient when it comes to their openness and people skills. Which to someone on the outside can look like a odd and muddled form of incompetency. But there are incompetent people in any and every work environment. I've met a good handful of ultra-committed Anthroposophical teachers whose work I deeply admired. I try to judge people by their integrity and honesty, not their philosophical beliefs."
— Compilation by Roger Rawlings