Waldorf schools are generally aware of the criticism leveled at them, and they often use clever public relations techniques (PR) to combat this criticism. 

Here are excerpts from a pair of seminars held recently by Waldorf supporters to discuss such issues. To see the entire transcript, go to and scan down to “Steiner racism & state funding – Tories offer SWSF lessons on spin”.

The morning session started with an introduction from Sylvie Sklan [representative for the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship] as to why the Steiner Schools Fellowship is in talks with the Conservative party with regard to state funding. It was explained that because of the “likely” change of government in the next election, it was important for the Fellowship to lobby.... [1] 

[Some Waldorf] schools were wary of state funding because of the concerns of teachers that such funding would allow the government to intervene and interfere with the running of the schools. 

....[Some participants] felt that the schools had to be accountable for ensuring that children were meeting basic standards of reading, writing and numeracy at all levels. This, it was acknowledged, may cause some conflict with the Steiner method of teaching. [2]

....Sam Freedman [education adviser to the Conservative party] was asked by a trustee, at the very end of the morning session, whether or not he could foresee any other particular problems with Steiner schools becoming state funded.

He responded, verbatim, as follows:

“Not in terms of the way we want to legislate, but, I mean I’m sure this is something that you all know about anyway, there’s a big PR issue, and if a lot of Steiner schools open quite quickly in the state sector, I mean I’ve been, erm, I’ve had all sorts of people writing to me just because they found out that I was coming to this meeting. Attacking. Attacking the Steiner Schools… Anonymously. Through social networking. People find out who you are, find out your account number and bombard you with articles, negative articles… This was pointing out all the things they think are wrong with Steiner movement, link after link after link. And that’s just from me coming to this meeting, so you have to be aware, well I know you’ll all be aware anyway, but this will be on a much, much bigger scale.” [3]

The discussion went on to identify two problem PR areas: 1) Accounts from parents who are or have been unhappy with the Steiner schooling system and those that have had negative experiences associated with the schools, and 2) the writings of Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy.

It was identified that the latter issue was going to be a greater problem.

Sam Freedman stated that it was important for the Schools to “explain to people quite strongly that they are not teaching what he [Rudolf Steiner] said”. He likened the situation to the fact that not all Christians believe every word of the Bible. [4]

One of the trustees noted that the very name “Steiner”, is potentially limiting. He noted that in other countries schools have called themselves “Waldorf” schools so as to distance themselves from the Steiner writings. [5]

...The importance of getting a more diverse intake of children was noted, given the likely effects of the negative PR currently circulating on the internet, coupled with images of classes filled with only white, middle-class children. It was acknowledged that such an image would be very damaging to the movement. [6]

An observer asked Sam Freedman whether or not a Conservative government would consider intervening with Steiner teacher training to ensure that the racist aspects of Steiner’s writings would not be included. Sam Freedman replied by stating that if the issue becomes a big PR problem for Steiner schools, and the state is funding those schools, it will become a big PR problem for the state. He went on to say that in light of this, Steiner schools should seek to nip any potential problems with their teacher training in the bud, because if ministers feel under pressure from negative PR, this is likely to be problematic for the schools. Sam Freedman stated that the Schools should ensure that they can explain their position very clearly, so that they can counter the negative criticisms immediately. [7]

...It was acknowledged that the Steiner schools Fellowship would need to initiate and fund a proper campaign to counter the “poison” on the internet. A representative from one Steiner school felt that the politicians were very aware of the problem and that they would “run a mile in the opposite direction if they have a lot of people coming at them saying you’re funding a weird cult that brainwashes children.” [8]

It was suggested that an “antidote” website be set up to explain the criticisms that are leveled against the Steiner schools. It was also suggested the Steiner schools Fellowship take up the offer of free media training offered by the New Schools Network, although it was acknowledged that the Fellowship would require more than this, indeed they would need full-time “professional help”. A PR officer would be required to place positive stories in the media, and also to counter the stream of negative ones. It was considered important to get a PR strategy sorted out soon, especially if a large number of Steiner schools opt-in for state funding at an early stage. It was felt that the Steiner schools Fellowship should start cultivating good media relations as soon as possible. [9]

It was felt that a central plank of the PR strategy should be to bring media into the schools to show exactly what goes on there, and that another thing to consider would be a re-branding exercise. It is the association with Steiner’s writings that is perceived to be the main problem. [10]

...Re-branding was considered in more detail. This would be a way of isolating the educational philosophy of Steiner without being associated with the controversial aspects of Anthroposophy. In any event, the importance of making it clear that the schools did not teach the racist aspects of Anthroposophy was stressed. [11]

...It was felt that there may be some difficulty in making a blanket rebuttal of all Anthroposophy because many people throughout the Steiner schools system, especially teachers, strongly support many aspects of that belief system. If teachers were asked to make a blanket rebuttal of Anthroposophy, many of them may not do this. [12]There was some concern that the PR campaign attempting to rebut the racial aspects of anthroposophy could back fire because it would bring the subject to the attention of people who were not aware of the problem. [13] Any PR campaign of this nature may necessarily have to be a reaction to, but not a preemption of, negative press arising from Anthroposophy.


A Guide for Waldorf Schools and Other Organizations

(Sunbridge College Press, 1984).

Note the lemniscate — a figure eight — on the cover.

Anthroposophists use lemniscates 

to represent the interchange of forces 

between polar pairs: 

positive and negative, high and low, 

the spiritual and the secular, 

the celestial and the terrestrial, 

the school and the community...

Historically, Waldorf faculties have hesitated to engage in public relations, seeing PR as a descent into the corruption that infests the world beyond Waldorf's walls. A book issued by a Waldorf teacher-training institution helped change this, slightly. HANDLING PUBLIC RELATIONS - A Guide for Waldorf Schools and Other Organizations argues reassuringly that PR efforts do not necessarily damage the soul. And besides, the book says, we need money, and PR will help us get it.

"[T]he process of relating to the public has a spiritual side to it ... While many [Waldorf] schools are experiencing unparalleled growth, others suffer increasing overhead costs with the same number of students or even a decrease in enrollment. Tuition income is never sufficient to cover full operating and scholarship expenses  ... Fundraising activity has become a strenuous way of life for many Waldorf schools ... [I]t may happen that a school slowly begins to isolate itself from the local community. It may see itself, and rightly so, as a cultural haven in a disturbingly hostile world ... [S]ome institutions may not be able to maintain this posture for long unless there is a well-established, built-in community support system ... The connections between the 'inner' and 'outer' work [of a school] are like the ever-changing surfaces of a lemniscate: a mutually supportive modulation between inner and outer with each surface complementing the other." — Werner Glas and Cornelius Pietzner, HANDLING PUBLIC RELATIONS - A Guide for Waldorf Schools and Other Organizations (Sunbridge College Press, 1984), pp. 3-6.

Today the Waldorf movement is served by aggressive PR and money-raising efforts involving print, audio, video, and live presentations that are often quite alluring, especially to audiences unacquainted with the real agenda of the schools.

I post the following with thanks to Alicia Hamberg. (I originally posted it on the Waldorf Watch "news" page.)

From the Steiner Waldorf School Fellowship’s financial report:

"We had a donation of £88,000 from the closure of Drayton Manor Trust. This money is with Hermes Trust and is out on loan to schools. Our trustees have agreed to leave it with Hermes Trust for the time and review annually. There is a year’s notice to withdraw this and the money can then be drawn down over five years. We also had donations from ASGB [i.e., the Anthroposophical Society of Great Britain] – £2,937.50 towards our PR work and a further £5,000 to help with Free School applications. Sturdy Edwards Insurance Company gave a donation of £400 and we had £416.46 from the closure of Johnshaven Kindergarten. We also received £15,861 from various Camphill Communities. We are grateful for those individuals who make regular donations to SWSF." [Emphasis added. /a]

The sum received from the Anthroposophical Society is not huge — £3000 for PR and the £5000 for free school applications. But one might still ask: why does the Anthroposophical Society pay for waldorf school PR and the free school applications (to obtain state-funding for the schools)? Why do anthroposophists have any interest in helping schools and organizations which [claim they] want to distance themselves from Steiner and anthroposophy (there are many more examples of such behaviour)…were it not for the fact that the distancing itself is a PR move?

I think these donations prove — unsurprisingly — that anthroposophy and the Anthroposophical Society have an interest in Steiner education and its success (or the appearance of success) and also in obtaining state-funding for these schools.  [The Ethereal Kiosk, 2-10-2012]

[For more on Waldorf PR efforts, see "PR". For background on the effort to have Steiner schools accepted as "free schools" in the UK, see "Coming Undone". Also see previous coverage at the News Archive.]

Columbia College Features Waldorf Education as part of its Fall Faculty Development Workshops

Friday, January 2013

This past Fall, Chicago Waldorf School was invited to speak at a faculty education workshop sponsored by the Department of Arts, Entertainment, and Media Management at Columbia College.

...Carol Triggiano, current CWS eighth grade teacher and former Chair of the College of Teachers, led a workshop that described the Waldorf approach. Discussions included models of imaginative storytelling and the group examined the value of students illustrating and authoring their own workbooks as pedagogical tools that effectively aid creative and active learning.

...The educational value of these Waldorf principles are gaining more adherents and widespread acceptance as we see increased exposure in mass media and the ongoing publication of supportive studies in academic and professional journals of psychology and child development.

Waldorf Watch Response:

This is quite impressive. Waldorf at Columbia!

But a few clarifications may be in order. Columbia College is not Columbia University, the world-renowned Ivy League institution in New York City. Columbia College in Chicago [] is an arts and “media” institution founded in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory.

Nonetheless, Waldorf education is indeed receiving increased “exposure in mass media” nowadays. This is largely the result of concerted PR efforts made by the Waldorf movement. Unfortunately, hurried reporters often do not have the time or initiative to look below the surface of Waldorf PR. They may not know, for instance, that “imagination” is emphasized in Waldorf schools because, in Waldorf belief, imagination is considered a stage of clairvoyance. Likewise, reporters may not know that Waldorf students usually create their workbooks by obediently copying what their teachers have written and drawn on the chalkboard.* Textbooks are largely absent from Waldorf schools because they contain real information about the real world, information that runs counter to Waldorf beliefs. Instead of studying textbooks, Waldorf students piece together workbooks that often contain unreal-world pronouncements made by their teachers, who generally relay the unreal-world teachings of the mystic, Rudolf Steiner. [See, e.g., “Lesson Books”.] As for "supportive studies in academic and professional journals," there is actually very little except in self-serving Anthroposophical publications, and the quality of such "research" is often extremely low. [For an inside view, see "He Went to Waldorf". For a peek at pro-Waldorf "research," see "Steiner's Specific".]

“Copying is the curse of the Waldorf Schools. There is altogether too much of it ... The way in which many [Waldorf] teachers organize their work implies that they consider that the whole object of the course is the creation of a gorgeous notebook. And the way in which some teachers judge the work of other teachers implies the same thing.” — Waldorf teacher Keith Francis, THE EDUCATION OF A WALDORF TEACHER  (iUniverse, 2004), p. 132. [See "His Education".]

It is hard to grasp just how mystical and absurd the thinking behind Waldorf schools really is. Imagination is stressed in Waldorf schools because Rudolf Steiner taught that it is the first of three stages of "higher knowledge" or clairvoyance. The other stages are inspiration and intuition. Steiner taught that we will perfect our powers of imagination when the solar system reincarnates as "Future Jupiter," we will perfect our powers of inspiration when we arrive at "Future Venus," and we will perfect our powers of intuition during "Future Vulcan." (Yes, Vulcan).

[SteinerBooks, 2009.]

To dig into these matters, you may want to consult The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia

and such expositions as "Future Stages".

To sample the thinking that underlies Waldorf education, see "Say What?" and "Who Says?"

From The Quackometer:

Tory Free Schools Plot to Spin Away the Racism of Steiner Schools.

January 7, 2013

By Andy Lewis

Government denials of problems look misleading.

Last year, I wrote to my local MP, Lib Dem Tessa Munt, to raise concerns that the nearby opening of a state funded Steiner School raised a number of issues. Most importantly, that Steiner Schools are not open about the religious and occult nature of their philosophy and that this philosophy is based on an abhorrent racist view of human spirituality. Furthermore, children are likely to be exposed to pseudoscience, hidden spiritual agendas and nonsensical teaching philosophies.

Tessa Munt consulted with Education Minister, Lord Hill of Oareford, who today was promoted to Leader of the House of Lords, and wrote to me to say that “he would not have approved any school that raised concerns of the nature” I raised.  In short, what I was saying was untrue.

It has now come to my attention that Tory party strategists close to the Department of Education were well aware of the problematic nature of Steiner philosophies and discussed with the Steiner Waldorf Schools Federation ways of using PR to head off anticipated criticisms of new publicly funded Steiner Schools. It would appear that either Lord Hill, a former employee of Bell Pontinger, had been kept in the dark about these concerns and PR tactics or had misled my MP.

...I find it astonishing that the response to a problem with the racist aspects of Steiner philosophy was to set up better PR rather than look at ways Steiner’s insidious racism could be better understood and how it should be eliminated from schools.



Waldorf education has been around for almost a century. The first Waldorf school was opened, in Germany, in 1919. As the years have passed, the promoters of Waldorf schooling have had a lot of time to sharpen their PR. They have learned to describe Waldorf education in terms that seem admirable, effective, and lovely. 

Don’t be taken in. The reality is quite different.

Here is a ingenuous description of Waldorf education offered today by Romper, “a parenting site by millennial women for millennial women.” Waldorf PR is being passed along — from AWSNA (the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America), to Romper, to us:

The Waldorf approach to education has a few key elements that differentiate it from other schools, and this makes it attractive to many families. Founded by Rudolf Steiner and Emil Molt in 1919, the Waldorf education emphasizes imaginative learning that helps children realize their potential, as explained by the AWSNA. For instance, students design their own textbooks for the curriculum….


◊ • ◊

Waldorf Watch Response:

Let’s analyze this description point by point.

◊ Who, for starters, was Rudolf Steiner? Proponents of Waldorf education usually call him a scientist, or a philosopher, or an educational reformer. These labels are all misleading. In fact, Steiner was a self-described clairvoyant, a self-professed occultist. [See “Clairvoyance” and “Occultism”.] If you believe in clairvoyance and occultism,* then you may find Steiner’s teachings to be profound. But if you don’t believe in clairvoyance and occultism, then you will almost certainly find Steiner's teachings to be nutty. [See, e.g., “Steiner’s Blunders”.] In either case, you should realize that Steiner’s clairvoyant, occult pronouncements form the basis of Waldorf education. [See “Indoctrination”, “Spiritual Agenda”, and “Sneaking It In”.]

◊ Who was Emil Molt? This is a minor point; Molt was a minor figure. He owned the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Factory in Stuttgart, Germany, and he recruited Steiner to set up a school for the children of his factory workers. This became the first Waldorf School.

◊ What is “imaginative learning”? Imagination is a very good thing, of course, and it plays a role in all forms of learning. To study history, or physics, or almost anything, you need to picture in your mind — you need to imagine — the things you are leaning about. Great thinkers such as Einstein have stressed the importance of imagination. But the sort of imagination advocated by Steiner and his followers is different from the ordinary power to picture things in your mind. By “imagination,” Steiner and his followers essentially mean clairvoyance. So, for instance, when Steiner discussed the sort of natural clairvoyance that he said ancient peoples possessed, he said this:

“Essentially, people today have no inkling of how people looked out into the universe in ancient times when human beings still possessed an instinctive clairvoyance.... If we want to be fully human, however, we must struggle to regain a view of the cosmos that moves toward Imagination again.” — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 256.

Notice that "clairvoyance" and "imagination" are essentially synonymous in this statement. Waldorf schools do not try to make kids clairvoyant, immediately. But they work to set kids on a path that, Steiner indicated, should lead to clairvoyance eventually. [See, e.g., “Soul School”.]

◊ What, from a Waldorf perspective, is a child’s potential? According to Waldorf belief, a human being is quite extraordinary. Each person is a reincarnating spirit possessing a karma. Each of us has both a spirit and a soul. Each of us gradually accumulates four bodies, three of which are invisible. Each of us arrives on Earth bearing memories of the spirit realm, and each of us rises into the spirit realm each night (or, to be accurate, two of our four bodies make this ascent). Each of us has an astrological identity. Each of us stands at a particular spiritual-evolutionary level. And so forth. Steiner laid out this conception of human nature for the teachers at the first Waldorf school, and devout Waldorf teachers today study his words on these matters. [See “Oh Humanity”.] Children fulfill their potential by incarnating properly during this life, and discharging karma as well as they can, and moving toward clairvoyance, and striving upward on the spiritual-evolutionary trail, and communing with the multiple gods who oversee our evolution, and so on. [See, e.g.,“Holistic Education”.] To fulfill their potential, Waldorf students should internalize the Waldorf attitude toward life so that, when they grow up, they may elect to become full-fledged followers of Rudolf Steiner.

◊ Why and how do Waldorf students create their own textbooks? Is this even possible? Aren't textbooks meant to teach kids things they don’t know? How can children create their own textbooks when they are not yet experts in the subjects their "textbooks" cover? These are all good questions. To understand, you need to know that Waldorf schools tend to ban real textbooks because such volumes contain real knowledge about the real world — that is, they do not agree with the occult, clairvoyant, mystical Waldorf worldview. Instead, Waldorf students receive virtually all of their “knowledge” from Waldorf teachers, which means the kids hear and see little except the fruits of the occult, clairvoyant, mystical Waldorf worldview. To create “their own textbooks,” Waldorf students largely reproduce what Waldorf teachers have told them and shown them. [See “Lesson Books” and “Mystic Lesson Books”.] Usually, Waldorf teachers do not lay out Steiner's doctrines as such; they do not expect their students to learn these doctrines as such. (Although sometimes they do. [See "Out in the Open".]) But Steiner's doctrines are implicit in almost everything said and done in Waldorf schools. [See "Here's the Answer".] Students are likely to at least pick up a feel for Steiner's doctrines — what I have called, above, the Waldorf worldview, the Waldorf attitude. The goal, to repeat, is to prime students so that, as adults, they may choose to become full-fledged Steiner followers.

These are a few of the truths about Waldorf education that are usually missed in paeans such as we find today at Romper.

— R.R.

* "Occultism" is sometimes taken to mean devil worship. This isn't what Steiner meant. He meant possession of secret or hidden (occult) spiritual knowledge — the kind of knowledge he claimed to get through clairvoyance. "Clairvoyance is the necessary pre-requisite for the discovery of a spiritual truth...." — Rudolf Steiner, THEOSOPHY OF THE ROSICRUCIAN (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981), p. 11.


[1] Whether governments should provide funding for Waldorf Schools is an issue in many countries. The danger is that education authorities can be hoodwinked by lobbying efforts on behalf of Waldorf schools, so that the authorities are unaware of the occultism in Waldorf education.

The Conservatives did win the election, although not by as great a majority as they had hoped.

[2] Waldorf schools generally delay the start of such academic studies as reading, writing, and arithmetic until considerably later than ordinary schools begin such studies. The reason is occult: Waldorf teachers believe that young children commune with the spirit realm, and earthly studies would break this connection. [See "Thinking Cap".] 

Waldorf proponents claim that Waldorf students eventually catch up with students in ordinary schools, which may or may not be true. [To look into the issue of academic standards at Waldorf schools, see “Academic Standards”.]

[3] The idea that Waldorf schools face a public relations (PR) issue misses the real problem with the schools. Waldorf schools are not merely believed to be occultist, they are occultist, and no amount of PR manipulation can change this. A clever PR campaign could, however, disguise the true nature of Waldorf education even more than is now the case.

[4] Freedman seems to think that all would be well if Waldorf schools simply explained themselves more clearly to the public. But Waldorf schools cannot do this — initiated Waldorf teachers believe they possess occult secrets that cannot be divulged to the uninitiated. Lying to the public is thus basic to the Waldorf mission. [See “Secrets”.]

Of course, not all Waldorf teachers fully understand the occult purposes of Waldorf pedagogy, and not all Waldorf schools are thoroughly immersed in occultism. [See “Non-Waldorf Waldorfs”.] But senior teachers at Waldorf schools are usually deeply committed to Anthroposophy, and newly trained Waldorf teachers are often similarly devout. Waldorf teacher-training programs are strongly geared toward the occult. [See “Teacher Training”.]

[5] This is an interesting suggestion. Remember that the seminars were held at least in part under the auspices of the The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship. For Steiner schools to disavow Steiner would be rather difficult.

[6] Waldorf schools do tend to appeal primarily to well-off whites. Steiner’s teachings contain a clear racist component, honoring whites above all other human races. [See, e.g., “Steiner’s Racism”.]

[7] As noted above, openness is almost impossible for Waldorf schools. Disavowing Steiner’s racism is also very difficult for the schools. Anthroposophists look on Steiner as a nearly infallible spiritual guide. [See "Guru".] Steiner claimed to use “exact clairvoyance,” so that all of his doctrines are presumably unquestionable. If Anthroposophists disavow any part of Steiner’s teachings, they open the door to the possibility that Steiner was wrong about many things, not just one — and this is almost unthinkable for them.

[8] You are currently reading material on a “poisonous” website: Waldorf Watch. I can’t speak for all sites that contain criticisms of Waldorf education, but here at Waldorf Watch the “poison” referred to is nothing but the truth. Waldorf schools actually are part of “a weird cult that brainwashes children.” (The only exception would be Waldorf schools that are not really Waldorf schools: that is, schools that use the Waldorf name but do not abide by Steiner’s directives. Such schools are rare. [See “Non-Waldorf Waldorfs”.])

[9] Some “antidote” websites exist already. [See, e.g., Why Waldorf Works.] But, again, painting the problem with Waldorf schools as merely a PR issue misrepresents the schools and their occultism.

[10] The association of the schools with Steiner’s writings is fundamental to the schools. Eliminating it would be impossible without changing the schools utterly. No amount of “re-branding” can alter this.

[11] Separating Steiner’s educational approach from his occult doctrines is almost impossible. The underlying purpose of Waldorf schooling is to spread Anthroposophy. 

“One of the most important facts about the background of the Waldorf school is that we were in a position to make the anthroposophical movement a relatively large one. The anthroposophical movement has become a large one.” — Rudolf Steiner, RUDOLF STEINER IN THE WALDORF SCHOOL (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 156.

As to whether Waldorf schools endorse Steiner’s racism: At least some have done so, and at least some still seem to do so.

[12] Of course. And this is the point people like Freedman seem to miss. Here’s what Steiner said about this matter: 

“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. 

Many if not all Waldorf teachers today still accept this concept. They work in Waldorf schools precisely because they embrace Steiner’s occultism.

[13] This reflects a fundamental attitude of many if not all Waldorf teachers: Hide information. Do not raise uncomfortable topics. Keep the schools’ secrets. This is consistent with Steiner’s directives: 

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.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, p. 10.

[Hodder & Stoughton, 2001.]

Anthroposophical publications intended for general audiences can be extremely circumspect: They may seek to couch all their arguments in reasonable-seeming language. But the belief system embraced by the authors is often easily discerned if readers have done some preliminary research. Consider, for example, the chapter in this book titled "The Twelve Senses". Contrary to scientific findings, Steiner taught that we have a dozen senses, and this book parrots that idea. All parents probably want to "free their child's potential," so large numbers might be tempted to buy a book such as this. But let the buyer beware.

— Roger Rawlings

To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, 
use the underlined links, below.


Christmas : Waldorf-style

extremity : love, out of bounds

fairy tales : their use in Waldorf schools

gender : boys and girls

holistic education : the "whole child"

if only : wishing, hoping...

more on education : quotations about education, religion, health...


pseudoscience : at Waldorf schools

Q&A : informed opinions, and others

spiritual syllabus : in the open

star power : astrology Waldorf-style

this very day : Waldorf and Steiner schools pledging allegiance

visits : welcome?

Waldorf priests : doing their duty

BBC & SWSF : on the air