Behind the Scenes at Waldorf
Afterword by Debra Snell
Every parent who is thinking of sending a child to a Waldorf school should first spend some time with the book FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at the world of Waldorf education. While leafing through it, ask yourself if you really want your child to be “educated” in the sort of school the book reveals.
Published by the Anthroposophic Press, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER is dauntingly long, spanning two volumes that run to more than 800 pages. Few people would care to read the whole thing. But this isn’t necessary. Just cruising around inside, reading and contemplating buts here and there, may tell you all you need to know about Waldorf schools. (It is best to read the whole thing, of course. Do shortchange the book or yourself. But don't be overwhelmed, either.)
As an aid, here are a few of the wonders I have found in FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER.* Unless otherwise identified, all of the following statements were made by Rudolf Steiner, addressing Waldorf school teachers. Some passages far more reveatory than others; some may make your hair stand up, others will leave your tresses undisturbed. I will proceed through the book (both volumes) from start to finish. Some of the most startling statements occur near the end.
Each brief section begins with a quick summary of the main point(s) the section will touch on, followed by a quotation or two from the book. Unless ascribed to someone else, all of the following remarks were made by Rudolf Steiner.
* To hold this page to a reasonable length, I am omitting many other startling passages that I have found and that you can easily find, if you care to do so. I urge you to do so.
[Anthroposophic Press, 1998.]
There has been gossip about who has been slapped at the Waldorf School; Steiner says that teachers must maintain “school confidentiality”; treat parents as outsiders.
“I have been back only a few hours, and I have heard so much gossip about who got a slap and so forth. All of that gossip is going beyond all bounds, and I really found it very disturbing. We do not really need to concern ourselves when things seep out the cracks. We certainly have thick enough skins for that. But on the other hand, we clearly do not need to help it along. We should be quiet about how we handle things in the school, that is, we should maintain a kind of school confidentiality. We should not speak to people outside the school, except for the parents who come to us with questions, and in that case, only about their children, so that gossip has no opportunity to arise.” [p. 10 - also see p. 323 and p. 547, and the section titled "Parents and Teachers", below]
Waldorf teachers must be unbending authority figures, never giving in to the children.
“[I]t will be very good if you can keep the children from losing their feeling for authority. That is what they need most. You can best achieve that by going into things with the children very cautiously, but under no circumstances giving in.” [pp. 14-15 - also see p. 237 and p. 391]
Teachers' authority should be greatest in the early grades. As children grow up, teachers can relax their firm stance to some degree, Steiner indicated.
Start each day with a prayer, but don’t call it a prayer.
“We also need to speak about a prayer. I ask only one thing of you. You see, in such things everything depends upon the external appearances. Never call a verse a prayer, call it an opening verse before school. Avoid allowing anyone to hear you, as a faculty member, using the word ‘prayer.’” [p. 20 - also see pp. 38-40]
Denying the religious nature of Waldorf schooling has long been high on the list of Waldorf priorities — perhaps especially in the USA, and all the more when Waldorf schools attempt to receive taxpayer support.
Teach the kids about Atlantis, which really existed — and, as usual, disavow science.
“[W]e should not be afraid to speak about the Atlantean land with the children. We should not skip that. We can also connect all this to history. The only thing is, you will need to disavow normal geology since the Atlantean catastrophe occurred in the seventh or eighth millennium.” [p. 25 - also see p. 50]
Fire-breathing dragons really existed.
“A teacher: ‘But there are still the fire breathers.’
“Dr. Steiner: 'Yes, those beasts, they did breathe fire, the Archaeopteryx, for example.'
“A teacher: ‘You mean that animals whose bones we see today in museums still breathed fire?’
“Dr. Steiner: 'Yes, all of the dinosaurs belong to the end of the Tertiary Period. Those found in the Jura [i.e., Jurassic] are actually their descendants. What I am referring to are the dinosaurs from the beginning of the Tertiary Period.'” [p. 26]
Steiner often tossed around scientific language of this sort, and usually he got away with it. In this case, the editor of the German edition spotted several scientific errors — but, presumably because criticizing Steiner would be unthinkable, he attributed them to the stenographer:
“Remarks by the German editor: In the previous paragraphs, there appear to be stenographic errors. The text is in itself contradictory, and it is not consistent with the articles mentioned and the table in Pierer’s Encyclopedia nor with Dr. Steiner’s remarks made in the following faculty meeting (Sept. 26, 1919). The error appears explainable by the fact that Dr. Steiner referred to a table that the stenographer did not have.” [p. 27]
Gravity is only a word — there is no universal force of gravity.
“It would be wonderful if you could stop speaking about gravity. You can certainly achieve speaking of it only as a phenomenon. The best would be if you considered gravity only as a word.” [p. 29]
Steiner taught that gravity is a purely local phenomenon on solid planets; it is absent on liquid and gaseous planets.
The planets do not orbit the Sun.
“[I]t is not that the planets move around the Sun, but that these three, Mercury, Venus, and the Earth, follow the Sun, and these three, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, precede it. Thus, [pointing at a drawing] when the Earth is here and this is the Sun, the Earth follows along. But we look at the Sun from here, and so it appears as though the Earth goes around it, whereas it is actually only following. The Earth follows the Sun.” [pp. 30-32]
I discuss this lunatic idea in “Steiner’s Blunders”. (When speaking in public, Steiner tended to admit that the planets orbit the Sun. But here, speaking to Waldorf teachers (!), he gave what was evidently his real opinion. The crucial point is that the teachers did not rebel, hoot with derision, or resign.)
Einstein’s theory of relativity is bunk.
“Einstein’s principle of relativity arose out of unreal thinking. He asked what would occur if someone began to move away at the speed of light and then returned; this and that would occur. I would ask what would happen to a clock if it were to move away with the speed of light? That is unreal thinking. It has no connection to anything. It considers only spatial relationships, something possible since Galileo. Galileo himself did not distort things so much, but by overemphasizing the theory of relativity, we can now bring up such things.” [p. 33]
Steiner claimed that his teachings were scientific, but actually he denied most real scientific findings. In general, he rejected any "knowledge" except for his own occult pronouncements (many of which were based on superstition and myths, as we will see).
Modern philosophy is “all nonsense.”
“Anthroposophy has the same relationship to philosophy as the crown of a tree to its roots, and the difference between the root and the crown of a tree is obvious. Someone can come along and say he finds it necessary to state that there is a difference between the root and the crown, and I have nothing to say other than that. These people can’t keep any thoughts straight. Modern philosophy is all nonsense.” [p. 36]
Steiner's aversion to modernity extended to almost all disciplines, sciences, arts, movements, fashions, and fads. It was almost completely complete. (He may have had special reason to reject modern philosophy. He had attempted to make a name for himself as a philosopher. His failure stung.)
Here are prayers written by Steiner for use by the students. Note that the second prayer includes the word “prayer.” (Waldorf schools sometimes alter this wording, to conceal their purpose.)
“The Sun with loving light
Makes bright for me each day;
The soul with spirit power
Gives strength unto my limbs;
In sunlight shining clear
I reverence, O God,
The strength of humankind,
That thou so graciously
Hast planted in my soul,
That I with all my might
May love to work and learn.
From Thee come light and strength,
To Thee rise love and thanks.”
Note how this "verse" addresses and praises God. It is a prayer.
“I look into the world;
In which the Sun shines,
In which the stars sparkle,
In which the stones lie,
The living plants are growing,
The animals are feeling,
In which the soul of man
Gives dwelling for the spirit;
I look into the soul
Which lives within myself.
God’s spirit weaves in light
Of Sun and human soul,
In world of space, without,
In depths of soul, within.
God’s spirit, ‘tis to Thee
I turn myself in prayer [sic!],
That strength and blessing grow
In me, to learn and work.”
[pp. 38-40 - also see p. 20]
Anthroposophical religious instruction:
“[I]n anthroposophical religious instruction we can certainly not use the kind of teaching that asks questions such as, Why do we find cork on a tree? with the resulting reply, So that we can make champagne corks. God created cork in order to cork bottles. This sort of idea, that something exists in nature simply because human intent exists, is poison. That is certainly something we may not develop. Therefore, don’t bring any of these silly causal ideas into nature.” [p. 42 - also see p. 45, p. 55, pp. 75-76, pp. 84-86., pp. 303-304, p. 465, and p. 697ff]
Use pictures to teach students about the spiritual beings that lurk behind nature.
“[I]t is important that we develop imaginative pictures through which we can show the supersensible through nature. For example, I have often mentioned that we should speak to the children about the butterfly’s cocoon and how the butterfly comes out of the cocoon. I have said that we can explain the concept of the immortal soul to the children by saying that, although human beings die, their souls go from them like an invisible butterfly emerging from the cocoon.” [p. 43]
Comments reflecting how students are to be taught portions of Anthroposophical theology are scattered throughout the book.
Teach the kids about fate and destiny: what Steiner usually called karma.
“In the second stage, that is, the four upper grades, we need to discuss the concepts of fate and human destiny with the children. Thus, we need to give the children a picture of destiny so that they truly feel that human beings have a destiny. It is important to teach the child the difference between a simple chance occurrence and destiny. Thus, you will need to go through the concept of destiny with the children ... If something happens to you because of some other person, that is usually a case of fulfilled karma. Even such things as the fact that we find ourselves together in this faculty at the Waldorf School are fulfilled karma.” [pp. 44-45]
Karma is one of the many concepts that Anthroposophy borrows from other faiths. Although Anthroposophists often claim that Steiner's teachings are Christian, in fact those teachings contain many elements that contradict Christianity.
Any religion connected with a church (or temple, or...) is not actually religious; only Anthroposophy conveys spiritual truths.
“I also want you to understand what is really religious in an anthroposophical sense. In the sense of anthroposophy, what is religious is connected with feeling, with those feelings for the world, for the spirit, and for life that our perspective of the world can give us. The worldview itself is something for the head, but religion always arises out of the entire human being. For that reason, religion connected with a specific church is not actually religious.” [p. 45 - re. religion, - also see p. 42, p. 55, pp. 75-76, pp. 84-86., pp. 303-304, p. 465, 615-616, and p. 697ff]
All religious persons should reject Anthroposophy unless they agree that their priests, pastors, ministers, imams, rabbis, etc., have not been telling them the truth.
Teach kids how human beings raise themselves to the divine.
“You should also certainly include the fact that human beings raise themselves to the divine in three stages. Thus, after you have given the children an idea of destiny, you then slowly teach them about heredity and repeated earthly lives through stories. You can then proceed to the three stages of the divine.” [p. 46 - also see pp. 480-481]
Closely related to karma, reincarnation is another of the concepts Anthroposophy borrows from other faiths.
More about Atlantis; also a previous lost world, Lemuria.
“Then you have the Mesozoic, which generally corresponds to Lemuria. And then the first and second levels of mammals, or the Cenozoic, that is, the Atlantean age. The Atlantean period was no more than about nine thousand years ago.” [p. 50 - also see p. 25]
Human beings were once made of ether.
“In very primitive times, human beings consisted almost entirely of etheric substance. They lived among other things but had as yet no density.” [p. 50]
That is, humans and other life forms were once gossamer, ethereal, vaporous. We became densely physical beings only through a process of gradual, divinely directed evolution. (In the future, Steiner said, we will evolve back toward ethereal or spiritual life.)
Human beings were once like centaurs. (Our evolution was complex.)
“The human being was similar to a centaur, an extremely animal-like lower body and a humanized head.” [p. 51]
Waldorf teachers serve the gods; they have a messianic mission to help fulfill the “divine cosmic plan.”
“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. We dare not for one moment lose the feeling of the seriousness and dignity of our work.” [p. 55 - re. religion, - also see p. 42, p. 45, pp. 75-76, pp. 84-86., pp. 303-304, p. 465, and p 697ff]
Note that Steiner speaks of “gods.” Anthroposophy is polytheistic.
Concerning discipline, respect, and the value of class discussions (and the value of students' opinions):
"[T]each the children respect. The children should not raise their hands so much." [p. 65 - also see p. 118 and p. 494]
How to punish children who steal:
“With children who steal, it is good to have them remember scenes they experienced earlier. You should have them imagine things they experienced years before, for instance, with seven-year-olds, experiences they had when they were five, or with ten-year-olds, experiences they had when they were seven. You should also have them recall experiences from two weeks before.
“Things will then become better quickly. If you do nothing, these problems will become larger and develop into kleptomania.” [pp. 68-69 - also see pp. 109-110]
According to Steiner, Islam is devilish, and Allah is a pale imitation of Elohim.
“A teacher asks about Allah.
“Dr. Steiner: ‘It is difficult to describe that supersensible being. Mohammedism is the first manifestation of Ahriman, the first Ahrimanic revelation following the Mystery of Golgotha. Mohammed’s god, Allah, Eloha, is an Ahrimanic imitation or pale reflection of the Elohim, but comprehended monotheistically. Mohammed always refers to them as a unity. The Mohammedan culture is Ahrimanic, but the Islamic attitude is Lucifer.'” [pp. 75-76 - re. religion, - also see p. 42, p. 45, p. 55, pp. 75-76, pp. 84-86., pp. 303-304, p. 465, and p 697ff]
“Elohim” is an alternate name for Jehovah or Jahve. However, Steiner uses the word as a plural noun, referring to Jahve and “his six colleagues [other gods, other Elohim]....” [Rudolf Steiner, THE MISSION OF THE FOLK SOULS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2005), p. 99.]
Steiner taught that there are predominantly just four types of children, embodying the four “temperaments” (sanguine, melancholic, phlegmatic, and choleric).
“A teacher explains how she conveyed the consonants in eurythmy by working with the growth of plants.
“Dr. Steiner: ‘That is very nice. The children do not differ much. You do not have many who are untalented nor many who are gifted. They are average children. Also, you have few choleric or strongly melancholic temperaments. Those children are mostly phlegmatic or sanguine. All that plays a role since you do not have all four temperaments.'" [p. 80 - also see pp. 90-91 and p. 687]
See “Humouresque” and "Temperaments". Basically, the theory of the four temperaments is an ancient misconception, rejected by science long ago. But Steiner affirmed it, and it is used in Waldorf schools today. Steiner advocated segregating children according to temperament, so that the children in each group are treated differently from the children in the other groups.
“A question is asked about who may attend the Sunday services.
“Dr. Steiner: ‘That is certainly a problem. We had never thought that anyone other than the parents would attend. Of course, having begun in one way, it is difficult to set a limit. How should we do that? Why did you admit people who are not parents at the school? If we allow K. in, there is no reason we should send other members away. Where does that begin and where does it end? ....’” [p. 84ff - also see pp. 303-304 and p. 465]
Few if any Waldorf schools hold Sunday services nowadays. But various events held during regular schooldays and on some weekends have distinct religious significance.
Comments about a complaining father:
“It would be a good idea if we could compare what is happening with the boy to what the father is complaining about. The father appears to be a rather useless complainer, always blaming things. I will talk with the boy. It seems to me that the father always complains and picks up small things that bother the boy. Then he expands them into fantasies so that the boy does things the father suggests.” [p. 87]
Other comments about specific parents (often dismissive comments) are scattered throughout the book.
More on the so-called temperaments:
“A teacher: ‘How can we have such differing opinions about the temperament of a child?’
“Dr. Steiner: ‘We cannot solve that question mathematically. We can certainly not speak in that way. In judging cases that lie near a boundary, it is possible that one person has one view and another view. We do not need to mathematically resolve them. The situation is such that when we see and understand a child in one way or another, we already intend to treat it in a particular way. In the end, the manner of treating something arises from an interaction. Don’t think you should discuss it.’
“There is a further question about temperaments.
“Dr. Steiner: ‘The choleric temperament becomes immediately annoyed by and angry about anything that interrupts its activity. When it is in a rhythmic experience, it becomes vexed and angry, but it will also become angry if it is involved in another experience and is disturbed. That is because rhythm inwardly connects with all of human nature. It is certainly the case that rhythm is more connected with human nature than anything else and that a strong rhythm lies at the base of cholerics, a rhythm that is usually somewhat defective. We can see that Napoleon was a choleric. In his case, the inner rhythm was compressed. With Napoleon you will find, on the one side, something that tended to grow larger than he grew. He remained a half-pint. His etheric body was larger than his physical body, and thus his organs were so compressed that all rhythmical things were shoved together and continuously disturbed one another. Since such a choleric temperament is based upon a continuous shortening of the rhythm, it lives within itself.’” [pp. 90-91 - also see pp. 801-81 and p. 687]
More on punishing students; causing physical pain for rule-breakers.
“We must avoid under all circumstances giving them a punishment we cannot carry out. We may never place ourselves in a situation where we may have to relent in a disciplinary decision. If we say that a child must come earlier, then we must enforce that. We must order the child to come earlier. The girls today were in the seventh or eighth grade. We lose all control the minute we look away. We will find ourselves on a downward path and will continue to slide. With punishment, we cannot relent. It is better to let it go. Under certain circumstances, it can lead to the opposite of what we want, with the children forming a group among themselves and saying, 'Today I come late, tomorrow, you.' I don’t think that would work, because it would make us somewhat laughable. Of course, it’s just laziness. Having the children come earlier is not so good; it would be better if they stayed a quarter of an hour longer. That is something the children do not like.
“Have you tried that to see if it works? If a child comes ten minutes late, having him or her stand for a half hour. If they have to stand three times as long, they will certainly think about every minute. Let them stand there uncomfortably. Your boy rubs the back of his head on the wall and amuses himself with all kinds of things. I think that in such cases, when there is some punishment connected with the misbehavior, you can be particularly effective if you allow them to stand in some uncomfortable place. The older children will then be careful that they do not come too late. We could also buy a number of little sheds*, and then they will not come too late as a group. They may even get some cramps in their legs. We could have the sheds built in the shop class.” [pp. 109-110 - also see pp. 68-69]
* An earlier translation is more brutal: Steiner refers not to sheds but to stocks.
"You could buy a number of small stocks ... The stocks could also be made in Woodwork lessons." [Rudolf Steiner, CONFERENCES WITH THE TEACHERS OF THE WALDORF SCHOOL IN STUTTGART 1919 to 1920, Vol. 1 (Steiner Schools Fellowship Publications, 1986), p. 91.]
Knitting develops good teeth.
“The following was also noted.
“Bad teeth, the cause lies in the soul/spirit.
“Connection between eurythmy and the formation of teeth.
“Handwork. Knitting develops good teeth.” [p. 112 - cf. p. 262]
This is one of the weirdest ideas to be found in FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, which is full of weird ideas. But there it is. 
Only materialists think with the brain [re. brains, also see p. 249 and pp. 667-668]; the spiritual goals of Anthroposophy are outlined.
“When people are as blinded by materialistic thoughts as they became during the nineteenth century and right into the present, the physical body becomes a copy of the spirit and soul living in materialistic impulses. In that case, it is not incorrect to say that the brain thinks. It is then, in fact, correct. By being firmly enmeshed in materialism, we have people who not only think poorly about the body, soul, and spirit, but people who think materially and feel materially. What that means is that materialism causes the human being to become a thinking automaton, that the human being then becomes something that thinks, feels, and wills physically. The task of Anthroposophy is not simply to replace a false view of the world with a correct one. That is a purely theoretical requirement. The nature of Anthroposophy is to strive not only toward another idea, but toward other deeds, namely, to tear the spirit and soul from the physical body. The task is to raise the spirit-soul into the realm of the spiritual, so that the human being is no longer a thinking and feeling automaton.” The passage continues; it’s worth studying. “Such things as the pedagogy of the Waldorf School can arise from a recognition that humanity must turn toward spiritual activity, and not simply from a change in theory. We should work out of that spirit.” [p. 115 - also see p. 697ff] 
a) Waldorf teachers must be uncompromising Anthroposophists. b) Waldorf teachers know they are wrong if anyone outside Anthroposophy approves of what they are doing.
“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. It will be impossible for us to avoid all kinds of people from outside the school who want to have a voice in school matters. As long as we do not give up any of the necessary perspective we must have in our feelings, then any concurrence from other pedagogical streams concerning what happens in the Waldorf School will cause us to be sad rather than happy. When those people working in modern pedagogy praise us, we must think there is something wrong with what we are doing. We do not need to immediately throw out anyone who praises us, but we do need to be clear that we should carefully consider that we may not be doing something properly if those working in today’s educational system praise us. That must be our basic conviction.” [p. 118 - also see pp. 494-495]
a) Reincarnation is for real; people had lives before this one. b) Most other religions foolishly deny what Anthroposophy teaches.
“A living comprehension will lead you to see the pre-existence of the soul, to see what the human being experienced before birth, to see that human life in the physical world is a continuation of previous experiences. Traditional religions strongly oppose preexistence, which can make a human being selfless. They strongly oppose those things that do not strive toward a murky and numbing uncomprehending belief, but toward knowledge and the clear light of comprehension. [p. 119 - also see p. 184]
Note that Steiner here essentially concedes that Anthroposophy is a religion: He contrasts it to "traditional religions." (Usually, Steiner remembered to deny that Anthroposophy is a religion. But sometimes he slipped.)
The Waldorf School Association was created, in part, in hopes of getting money from a cigarette company.
“We formed the Waldorf School Association as a local group, to an extent under the assumption that the stockholders of the Waldorf-Astoria Company would be impressed and would provide some money.” [p. 137]
Steiner addresses the head of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette company about his trust in Anthroposophy.
“What we have here as a question of confidence is your trust in Anthroposophy, and what we have now arose from that.” [p. 167]
Waldorf schools take their name from the cigarette factory.
Teaching older students about reincarnation.
“For the seventh, eighth, and ninth grade independent religious instruction we could move into a freer form and give a theoretical explanation about such things as life before birth and after death, and all the consequences of a life before birth. We could give them examples. We could show them how to look at the major cultural connections and about the mission of the human being on Earth. You need only to look at Goethe or Jean Paul to see it. You can show everywhere that their capacities come from a life before birth.” [p. 184 - also see p. 119]
a) The “world of colors”; and b) fairy tales.
“The main thing now is that we awaken an inner feeling for color in the children, an experience of the world of colors, so that the children receive a feeling for the life in the world of colors through experiencing fairy tales.” [p. 200]
Steiner taught that spiritual beings enter the physical realm through colors. He also taught that all fairy tales are fundamentally true. He singled out Puss in Boots as an example. [Rudolf Steiner, ON THE MYSTERY DRAMAS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), p. 93.]
a) Another complaining parent. b) Use irony to interest a child in eurythmy:
“A teacher: ‘The mother complains that I am stressing the child.’
“Dr. Steiner: ‘I don’t think that it would be so easy to work with the mother. She is a kind of society woman....’
“A eurythmy teacher: ’ I cannot awaken R.F.’s interest in eurythmy.’
“Dr. Steiner: ‘Be ironic with him. He was in a parochial school.’ [p. 211]
A special class for “weak-minded children”:
“She is intellectually weak. We need a class for weak-minded children so that we can take care of them systematically. These children would gain a great deal if we did not have them learn to read and write, but instead learn things that require a certain kind of thinking. They need basic tasks like putting a number of marbles in a series of nine containers so that every third container has one white and two red marbles.” [p. 227]
a) Strictness. b) Preparing the school to be evaluated:
“Dr. Steiner: ‘This is something peculiar. Miss Lang could always keep them quiet, so there is something hidden here.’
“A teacher: ‘She was very strict.’
“Dr. Steiner: ‘I would like to call your attention to the fact that there is something important for us in this situation. Miss Lang was a credentialed teacher in Württemberg. When we are evaluated, they will tend to [approve of] the strict discipline taught in Württemberg.’” [p. 237 - also see pp. 14-15, p. 279, and p. 391.]
An abnormal boy whose brain is too small.
“B.R. is not quite normal. He should receive particular help in the afternoon. That is difficult with some of your children. His brain is too small. You need only look at him. He is smaller than he should be. We should try to counteract that characteristic. It is not possible for him to completely pay attention. You should call upon him more often and discuss things with him in the corridor or on the street so that he has to think while he listens. His mother is just like him.” [p. 249]
Other comments about specific children are scattered throughout the book.
A medical inspector says Waldorf students have bad teeth:
“Dr. Steiner reads a letter from the medical inspector who, among other things, mentions that the children at the Waldorf School have bad teeth.
“Dr. Steiner: ‘That is just a bluff. That is something that could be determined only by investigating the situation. That is simply stupid.’” [p. 262 - cf. p. 112]
(Apparently the knitting hasn't helped. But Waldorf students usually do a lot of knitting anyway.)
Preparing students so the school can pass a school inspection:
“Be careful when a school inspector comes that he does not leave with his questions unanswered. He may ask questions in such a way that the children cannot answer them. We should work so that the children can handle even the most surprising questions.” [p. 279 - also see p. 237]
Is coaching students in this way acceptable? Is this real education, or a form of manipulation — manipulating the kids in order to manipulate the inspectors?
Whether there should be a special Sunday service for teachers only:
“A teacher: ‘The faculty would like a special Sunday Service for teachers only.’
“Dr. Steiner: ‘We already discussed something like that. I would have to know if there is an extensive need for it ... A service is either simply a question of form, in which case you could do it together, or it is a ritual act, and you have to look more seriously at it. In that case, you can have no secret enemies ... A sacrament is esoteric. It is one of the most esoteric things you can imagine. What you said is connected with the fact that you cannot decide upon a ritual democratically.’” [pp. 303-304 - also see pp. 84-86 and p. 465]
Esoteric studies; it is wrong to reveal too much to the public; and cliques may form:
“A question is asked about esoteric studies.
“Dr. Steiner: ‘That is very difficult to do. Until now, I have always had to avoid them. As you know, I gave a number of such studies years ago [Steiner is referring to books he published early in his occult career], but I had to stop because people misused them. Esotericism was simply taken out into the world and distorted. In that regard, nothing in our esoteric movement has ever been as damaging as that. All other esoteric study, even in less than honorable situations, was held intimately. That was the practice over a long period of time. Cliques have become part of the Anthroposophical Society and they have set themselves above everything else, unfortunately, also above what is esoteric.’” [p. 305]
A mother who is the personification of a lie:
“Now he is growing up with a mother who is the personification of a lie. She is one of those people who falls down with a heart attack, but on the soft carpet, not next to it. She is completely untrue. She is a woman who always wanted to bring Anthroposophy to her husband, a very superficial and trivial person.” [p. 321]
How to slap children:
“The language teacher says something about boxing children’s ears.
“Dr. Steiner: ‘If you give them a slap, you should do it the way Dr. Schubert does.’
“Dr. Schubert: 'Did somebody complain?"
“Dr. Steiner: ‘No, you are always slapping them.’
“Dr. Schubert: ‘When did I do that?’
“Dr. Steiner: ‘Well, I mean astral slapping. There are physical slaps and astral slaps. It doesn’t matter which one you give, but you cannot slap a child sentimentally.’” [p. 323 - also see p. 10 and p. 547]
An “astral” slap would consist of psychological and/or spiritual punishment. It would not hurt the physical body, but it could do serious damage nonetheless. Consider what it would be like to have a teacher who “always” slaps the students, astrally or otherwise. (You might consider, too, why Steiner didn't simply say: "You must not slap children. Not in any way. Never.")
Teachers and students worry about the quality of Waldorf education.
“A teacher: ‘The question has arisen as to whether the Waldorf School provides enough factual material. The students in the ninth grade made a comparison and saw that they do not know enough.'' [p. 332]
“A teacher: ‘In many of the subjects, the children do not learn enough to enter the eleventh grade. Many ninth graders are still at the very beginning in English.'" [p. 333 - also see pp. 408-409, p. 688, p. 712, and p. 725]
Shakespeare’s characters are alive in the spirit realm.
“When you make Shakespearean characters living in that sense, you can raise them into the supersensible world where they remain living. Of course, they do not do in the higher worlds what they do on the physical plane, but they remain alive, nevertheless, and they act there.“ [p. 336]
Don’t justify or explain yourself to the students:
“Surely you did not justify yourselves to the students? ... The children will be caught in delusions of grandeur ... You cannot justify your views of the students to the students. That is absolutely out of the question.” [p. 391 - also see pp. 14-15 and p. 237]
Teach little children Anthroposophy by putting it in a form they can 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.” [pp. 402-403]
Despite often denying it publicly, Steiner wanted Waldorf schools to promote Anthroposophy among the students — including the youngest.
Creating progress reports, as requested by a mother, is “just nonsense”:
“Progress reports? Giving in to someone like Mrs. X. (a mother who had written a letter to the faculty) is just nonsense ... As far as I am concerned, the reports could be phrased so that what the children are like is apparent only from the comments about their deportment, but that would only make things worse.” [p. 408; for other comments concerning students' parents, see, e.g., p. 87, p. 211, p. 249, p. 321, p. 408, p. 535, p. 625, p. 667, p. 668, and p. 712]
Reports would sidestep the question of academic learning, which Waldorf downplays.
How to combat reports that Waldorf provides a poor education:
“Concerning the parent meeting, you could do that [i.e., have one], but without me. They might say things I could not counter, if I hear something I cannot defend. The things I say here, I could not say to the parents. We need to clear the air, and the teachers must take control of the school again. You do not need to talk about the things not going well ... The two places that could be dangerous for us lie in the following. The one is that people could claim he [a student] could do less than is possible with a calculator. To that, we can say that our goal is to develop the concept of numbers differently. We do not think that is possible with such young children. We will have to go into this business with calculators. The other thing that is dangerous for us is his poor dictation. There, we can simply say that dictation is not really a part of the second grade in our school. The situation is quite tempting for someone with a modern pedagogical understanding. That is how we can most easily be attacked.” [pp. 408-409 - also see pp. 332-333, p. 688, p. 712, and p. 725]
The nationality or race of a student determines his/her abilities:
“A teacher: 'B.B. is in my seventh grade class. Could you give me some advice?'
“Dr. Steiner: ’He is in a class too high for what he knows. He is lazy? I think it is just his nature, that he is Swedish, and you will have to accept that he cannot quickly comprehend things. They [i.e., Swedes] grasp things slowly, but if you return to such things often, it will be all right. They love to have things repeated.’” [p. 412]
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