When people want to learn about Waldorf or Steiner education, they often begin by tossing out a question on the Internet. This is not the most reliable approach — the answers may or may not come from people who know the subject well — but in some cases the responses are both interesting and informative.

Here, drawn primarily from the Waldorf Watch "news" page, are synopses of such online discussions. Taken together, they represent an informal survey of people's opinions about Waldorf schooling. I present both favorable and unfavorable views, although I consider the cautionary messages to be more helpful, and I have leaned toward these. 

I have included links so you can connect to the original conversations (if they are still up). Sometimes more comments were eventually posted than I found during my early visits to various sites. In some instances, I have appended comments of my own, also drawn from the "news" page.

"help with DH.. thinks Waldorf school might be boring

Q. “Our oldest just turned 3, so we're only up to preschool.. but one of the options that we're considering is the local Waldorf school. They have a 3/4 preschool and then continue through grade 8. I have been attending Waldorf parent-tot programs for several years, and love many aspects of the approach. DH is concerned, however, that our DD might be bored there (i.e. too much unstructured time).” 

[Re. boredom in Waldorf schools, see, e.g., "Ex-Teacher 5".] 

Q. “I was wondering if anyone here has any experience with Waldorf education/ programs for children. I may have the chance to get my kids into a program that is very Waldorf-oriented...” 

A1. “I like the idea of Waldorf and I have several friends who did the Waldorf preschool before homeschooling. There are lots of cool Waldorf ways of learning I agree with...” 

A2. “It's amazing beyond belief. Some schools will ask parents/families to sign an agreement that their child(ren) will not be exposed to television for the duration of their time at the school though...” 

A3. “I seem to recall that some parents in California are suing their school district for approving a Waldorf-based charter school. I also found this critical site: http://waldorfcritics.org/index.html The argument is that Waldorf is based on Anthroposophy, founded by Rudolf Steiner, and some people think Anthroposophy is a cult...” 

A4. “I've heard a number of strikingly similar complaints about Waldorf schools ... 1. Bullying. My goodness, I've read more complaints about rampant, unchecked bullying in individual Waldorf schools than in any other type of school out there ... 2. The anthrosophy thing, which seems to include a hefty dose of racism ... 3. In the older grades especially, a very teacher-centered, dogmatic approach, with a lot of copying and lecturing ... 4. In the older grades, an emphasis on age-appropriateness leading to children leaving the schools far behind where they would have been in any other school system ... 5. And, of course, some people don't like the emphasis on fantasy. Math is taught using math gnomes, there's a lot of talk about fairies (as though they're real), that sort of thing...” 

A5. “I almost went to a Waldorf school in 5th grade. But I had a major meltdown over not being able to watch tv/movies/listen to pop music at the orientation. And you couldn't wear clothes with logos of any kind because you'd make your classmates feel bad or distract them? The kids I knew from those schools seemed so sheltered. I had a friend who was 7 and couldn't read, nothing was wrong with him, he just hadn't learned they were teaching him how to knit tho...” 

A6. “[S]ome parts of it are just bizarre. Eat a different grain each day because that grain is cosmically related to this planet or that Greek god! Begin every activity throughout the day by chanting a poem! Teach math with stories about gnomes! Gnomes, gnomes, gnomes...” 

A7. “It was big near my small liberal arts college, as the only alternative to the sucky public school. A lot of local students had gone there and I heard a lot of good and awful things — the science curriculum at the one I know about was ATROCIOUS and math was pretty bad as well, with kids scoring waaaay below average on state tests in the 8th and 11th grades...”  [http://freejinger.org/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=6259]

Q. “Any experience with Waldorf Schools? I recently found out that there is a Waldorf school in a neighboring town. I am very intrigued by the concept and am trying to research more about them...” 

A1. “i don't want to burst your bubble and you might come to a different conclusion but the a lot of the core beliefs of Steiner and the philosophy of anthroposophy are rather disturbing to me...” 

A2. “I've researched Waldorf a bit as there is a school not too far from us and liked the nature based aspect. But if you want to read about the negative aspects, just Google 'Waldorf' and 'Cult.'” 

A3. “I have done a fair amount of reading and internet reading on Waldorf. I don't view Waldorf schools as a cult, but I understand where some people disagree with their philosophies...” 

A4. “The first thing that comes to mind is that the last two outbreaks of measles here were connected to Waldorf schools...” 

A5. “I looked into Waldorf for quite awhile when we were researching non-traditional schooling for my ODD. I don't think the cultish feel about them has to do with fairies and candles, although I'm sure fundamental Christians could have problems with those things. The problem is that Steiner's philosophy/religion, anthroposophy, is behind everything the teachers do and their teaching standards and that the parents end up being in group-think mentality. ... The teachers don't really explain or talk about anthroposophy in most schools, so many parents don't even know about it ... Check out  waldorfcritics.org , it will give you a better idea. They have a yahoo group for Waldorf Survivors, too. I read through this stuff and the pro-Waldorf sites, but the negative stuff freaked me out so much that I went a different way with DD's school.” 

A6. “[The previous answer] articulated my issues with Waldorf. I'm sure there are a lot of great schools out there that are just Waldorf inspired, but I couldn't send my children there because of my disagreements with anthroposophy...” 

A7. “I'm sorry Waldorf wasn't what you wanted it to be. I know you know first-hand the problems in the public schools and it stinks that there's not a good alternative...” [12-19-2011http://www.constantchatter.com/forum/showthread.php?50379-Any-experience-with-Waldorf-Schools]

Q. “I am looking at high school for my son and have come across Steiner school. Has anyone been involved in a Steiner school and what is your opinion of it? Just wondering peoples thoughts.” 

A1. “I know someone whose child attends Steiner, and there is no way no how I would let my child, in particular my ASD [autism spectrum disorder] child go to one. Their approach to negative and possibly dangerous behaviours is something I have quite an issue with.” 

A2. “my kiddo will be attending a steiner school for highschool, it ticks all our boxes. There are some steiner schools I wouldn't go near, but others that are brilliant - much like any other kind of school. The ideas behind what they do can and often are odd, but the interesting thing is that (provided you've found one of the good steiner schools) what they actually do has an ever increasingly amount of scientific support for being a quality approach to education.” 

A3. “I am a huge fan of Steiner philosophies. His style of education was actually originally created with special needs children in mind.” [11-20-2011 http://raisingchildren.net.au/forum/Topic52579-156-1.aspx#bm64604

A surprising amount of misinformation about Steiner education is in circulation. When someone speaks of scientific support for Steiner schooling, ask to see it. There is precious little. 

As for special needs children: Steiner schooling was established for ordinary children, and indeed Rudolf Steiner sometimes acknowledged that he could do little or nothing for kids with special needs. On one shocking occasion, for instance, in a meeting with Waldorf faculty, he said this:

“That little girl L.K. in the first grade must have something really very wrong inside. There is not much we can do. Such cases are increasing in which children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings ... I do not like to talk about such things since we have often been attacked even without them. Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings. Nevertheless, these are facts.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 649-650. 

Q. “I'm form [sic: from] Brazil but id [did] my 8th ad [and] 9th grade in the US. I'm finishing my 2 last years of school in Brazil at a Waldorf school. Is it a positive aspect or a negative one to be from this school and go to college in the US? 

“I have done some volunteering, lived abroad, speak 3 languages and am one of the top of my class: but I didn't focus on the SAT [Scholastic Aptitude Test] so much, so my score is in the 1600's. Do I have a chance of going to a good college???” 

A. “I think it really depends on your school. For example, some Waldorf schools do not offer much in he [the] way of science courses — are you able to take rigorous biology, chemistry, and/or physics courses at your school? You should also study for your SATs and try to improve your scores. 

“And, it depends on what you mean by a ‘good’ college. There are many, many options. The most selective schools will be concerned about the rigor of the courses you took; however there are still "good" schools that are less selective.” [10-9-2011 http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/sat-act-tests-test-preparation/1222361-waldorf-school.html

The adequacy of Waldorf schooling is always an issue. Academic standards in Waldorf schools are often low, in part because the faculties have other priorities. [See, e.g., “Academic Standards at Waldorf ”.] In general, Steiner's followers distrust modern scholarship and scientific knowledge and the institutions where these are taught — “materialistic” colleges and universities. [See “Materialism U.”] Believing that brains and rational thinking are relatively useless [see, e.g., “Steiner’s Specific”], Waldorf faculties often adopt a fundamentally anti-intellectual approach. In this, they follow the lead of their guru, who disparaged “so-called educated people in the universities.” — Rudolf Steiner, SECRET BROTHERHOODS (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004), p. 92. Waldorf schools tend to be especially weak in the sciences. [See “Steiner’s ‘Science’".]

Q. "Any recent experience of Steiner schools?

"We are currently trying to decide where to send our 3 1/2 year old son to school next year. Having been a little scared at the amount of pressure that some schools place on kids these days we thought we would investigate all options. Just wondered if any of you had any experience with the steiner school system? I know that there are a lot of old threads on here but just wondered if anyone had any recent input?"

A1. "Wouldn't it be an idea to say which schools? i think some are worse than others."

A2. "I would also say that most state schools don't place pressure on kids." 

A3. "tbh if you've read the older threads and haven't run for the hills at the way all the steiner loons descend and the links to the 'surviving steiner' sites, you should just go for it. i personally think you're crackers, but that does seem to be the steiner way..." 

A4. "i dunno, at least christianity is a well-known cult... steiner seems to keep its cultishness in the background until you are in its midst. the reason that the threads are old is that people got tired of being shouted down, tbh."

A5. "Why don't you look at Montessori schools? There are a few in London." 

A6. "I have visited the St Michael Steiner school in Wandsworth. All the mums are expected to get involved crafting stuff to sell at their fairs. All the kids look really washed out, and in need of a steak. That is the extent of my knowledge of the place. And I would cut the heads of my dc before sending them there" 

A7. "My son has been at our local Steiner for nearly two years he started at secondary level, he loves it is doing very well and every one [sic] is really friendly...." 

A8. "I would recommend Steiner for ages 3 to 6 then switch to mainstream. that way the childs imagination has developed and they are ready to learn to read and do maths without parental headaches." [10-6-2011 http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/education/a1309892-Any-recent-experience-of-Steiner-schools]

Q. “Waldorf school?

“Does anyone send their child to this type of private school? If so, what do you like about it? Anyone know anything about them even if your child does NOT go?”

A1. “Some are more dogmatic than others, but in general way too 'woo-woo' out there for my tastes, IMO. Some of the schools are downright cult-like. I think that Waldorf seems like a very sweet environment for little ones on the outside, but once you dig a little deeper it's a bit on the looney side. Steiner, the man who developed Waldorf, has some pretty odd ideas about how children shouldn't be introduced to certain concepts such as learning letters/reading until they've lost their baby teeth.

A2. “I do not send my child, but one of my neighbors sends her two girls, 16 and 7 and is a teacher there.  It is a good school for some families, but you have to buy into the no tv, lack of consumerism, wooden toy culture.  Your child will also have the same teacher for several years.  This is good if your child has a good teacher, but bad if not.  You also have to be pretty committed to it for the long haul, since they learn things on a different path, so it is not easy to transition back to a regular school without being ahead or behind in some areas. Ultimately, it is just to out of the main stream for me, but I do like some of their ideas about imagination and story telling as a teaching tool. ” [10-1-2011  http://community.thebump.com/cs/ks/forums/thread/58640798.aspx]

At the moment, these are the only answers posted. More may appear. Anthroposophists often leap into such discussions and try to bend them to their own views.

Q. “I just want to hear what kind of take Dopers have on Waldorf Schools ... My niece is in the 8th grade and has attended a Waldorf school since Kindergarten ... I would really like to hear what others here have to say before I pipe up.”

A1. “...if we're going to discount an educational tradition just because its underlying belief-system is whacky, well, heck...”

A2. “...The schools were started on a philosophy called Anthroposophy. This rejects modern medicine and psychiatry and promotes a belief in things like astrology and spiritual mysticism.

"But how much a school accepts this varies. One of the [Waldorf schools] in my town has all the teachers wear long flowing skirts everyday and talks a lot about reincarnation as plants. The other takes a gentler than average method of education, but doesn't get all into the woo.”

A3. “I have an anecdote about a friend of my mother's. He had his children in a Waldorf school, and worked out a deal where he would teach a semester of physics in exchange for a break on tuition (they had a semester of chemistry followed by a semester of physics). 

"Sometime during his first week, he made a casual reference to the periodic table, and no one knew what he was talking about. He probed a bit, and discovered that they had spent an entire semester of 'chemistry' learning about the healing properties of different kinds of crystals. Even more disturbing, the administration was completely unaware that they were not learning mainstream chemistry (and were horrified when they found out, but still, it seems like the sort of thing that should come to the attention of a principal before the class is over).

"He ended up teaching both chemistry and physics for his semester, then withdrawing his kids from the school.”

A4. “Not teaching your children to read until they're older is a turn-off for me [Waldorf schools usually postpone reading until age 7].”

A5. “Statler schools are slightly better, but neither is especially charming or forgiving.”

A6. “...I went to one of these schools for two years of elementary school (after I'd learned to read). While I can't say for sure that it would have been the optimal place for me long term, it was certainly a delightful portion of my childhood. There was definitely a lot of woo going on (which annoyed me), but I was adequately educated...”

A7. “...My kids go to an ordinary public school and got that [math] starting in first grade. Not in a complex fashion, but the concepts. 

“They started getting the concepts of algebra in 3rd grade.”

A8. “[I]t makes a huge difference if the child has a learning disability or some such issue. A huge difference. I'm afraid too many kids could easily get lost in the woo.”

A9. “...I have little faith in the public schools catching and correcting [learning] problems. 

“Anyone considering one of these [Waldorf] schools can find plenty not to like about them, but the reading thing is seriously minor... “

A10. “...sounds like a better education than you'd get from the Full Gospel Pentecostal Day School...”


A11. "Bananas, celery, walnuts, grapes!"

A12 [the original questioner] “Thanks for the input. I have a niece who attends a Waldorf school and I am shocked at the lack of real core education. They sort of seem to pretend to have math and language, but my niece knows almost nothing for her age, it's tragic as she is a smart kid and my sister and her husband are shelling out all this money for her 'education'.

"When I was there for a visit earlier this year her teacher assigned my niece a biography of Turkey. A BIOGRAPHY. Of a COUNTRY. I was flabbergasted. I was sure my niece misspoke, but I looked at her papers and sure enough, he refers to what is a standard research paper on a country/culture as a biography. The teacher doesn't seem to know the definition of 'biography'. WTF? It still completely baffles me as I sit here and write it.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg. I'm pretty good at math, and tutoring her drove me nuts as her assignments just didn't make any sense. Often vital data were left out, making the problem unworkable, unless one assumed things which weren't given. Each and every time, it turned out that the teacher expected it to be assumed, because it was 'obvious'. It was maddening. Again, TIP OF THE ICEBERG.” [9-21-2011 http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?p=14281140]

Q. "Our 3-year-old daughter goes to an excellent [non-Waldorf] day care/preschool three days a week and her teacher tells us that she seems very happy at school and gets along quite well with her classmates ... At home, however, she complains bitterly about the girls in her class, and about the teacher, too. She says they pick on her, exclude her and bully her, and that the teacher doesn’t intervene when she tells her about it....

A. "... [Y]ou may find out that the school is as good as the Web site says it is, but that the teacher is a mess and either she or your child has to go. Or you’ll realize that your daughter isn’t as mature as her classmates and that she’s not ready for pre-K. Or that your daughter is a sensitive child who might do better in a calm Waldorf school pre-K....”  [9-19-2011 http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/advice/when-a-girl-doesnt-want-to-play-with-her-friends/2011/08/31/gIQAfs3FfK_story.html]

There is a widespread impression, promoted by the schools themselves, that Waldorf schools are safe havens. Sometimes they are so. But turmoil, strife, and even violence are far from unknown in Waldorf schools. Here’s a report by a former Waldorf student: 

“My Waldorf school, and the kindergarten, too, was very violent; violence was around all the time. There was lots of bullying, and I've read others state that the school was well-known for its problems with bullying. Nothing was ever done to stop the bullying.” [See “Slaps”.] 

This is from a former Waldorf teacher: 

“Conflict is a particular type of ecstatic union: the spiritual feast. I witnessed many [Waldorf] teachers who literally went out of their way to create issues if it happened to be too slow a month, problem-wise.” [See “Ex-Teacher 7”.] 

And this is from a former Waldorf parent who served on her Waldorf school’s board: 

“The teachers would stand on the stage with their arms around each other, singing songs in rounds, while parents beamed ... Personally I was amazed ... [B]ehind closed doors, [these teachers] were all back stabbers ... There was a lot of acting out, both blatant and passive (aggressive).” [See “Coming Undone”.]

You may find a Waldorf school that provides just what you seek. But be sure to study the school carefully before entrusting it with your child. [See, e.g., "Advice for Parents" and "Clues".]

Q. "Any thought on Waldorf education." 

A1. "Very pretty. Not known for being good for boys."

A2. "Are you kidding? It can be great for boys. Lots of time outside, lots of learning by doing. I don't think it's flawless (it's a nightmare if your kid is learning disabled) but it's equally good for both genders." 

A3. "My impression is that the individual tactics are often great, overall strategy is limited. Philosophy behind it is creepy. At best I'd say most people doing it mean well but it's not for every kid. You may be able to learn something from them, but the really hardcore waldorf people are batsh!t. Joyful toddlers is a blog that gives waldorf based ideas."

A4. "It means that the parents have to reduce/hide their TV watching." 

A5. "my dc's both did Waldorf for preschool/K. It depends a lot on which Waldorf, the ones in NYC are very good, bc there is a lot of competition. It's fantastic for a lot of kids, not every kid though. It's a very sweet environment, and I like their educational philosophy a lot, of not pushing early academics, focus on play and interaction and arts in the early grades, in a non competitive way. The drawback is that they do not want any parent presence in the classroom, you feel kind of shut out." 

A6. "and yes, they request that parents limit media. But honestly the parents atracted [sic] to Waldorf already do that anyway, its a crunchy crowd. Great for us, but not everyone." 

A7. "Waldorf is dreadful for children that are of color. The originator of the Waldorf philosophy was racist. His racist ideologies are integral parts of the philosophy and come out in the things that children are told where outside imagination is concerned. http://www.waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/Racism_McDermott.html Aside from this site, there's numerous info both online and in education journals attesting to the racist belief system of Steiner (waldorf originator)." 

A8. "really? I'd never heard that before. Very disturbing." 

A9. "The roots of it are indeed very weird German stuff, but that has been very thoroughly purged from the curriculum at any Waldorf school I've ever seen. It's not a cult, at least not any more..." 

A10. "np: Even so, the impression of the school, at least to those outside of it, remains. Should you care." 

A11. "We toured Steiner, and were so turned off that we didn't do the application. On the other hand, many people are happy with it: definitely take the tour so that you have all the facts." [9-13-2011 http://www.urbanbaby.com/talk/posts/53389033

Discussions like this are always interesting, but they are not the most reliable source of information. What you get from such discussions depends on chance — who happens to drop by and post a comment on that site on that day. (For instance, have Waldorf schools really purged the "very weird German stuff" — Anthroposophy — from their curriculums, or have they only learned to hide it well from outsiders?) For more authoritative information, you should check sites such as PLANS. Here at Waldorf Watch, there is a fairly extensive array of links to sites dealing with Waldorf education, both pro and con. [See "Links".]

Q. "So, at the ripe old age of 22 I sometimes contemplate what kind of schooling I would want for my hypothetical children. The method that has appealed to me the most intellectually would have to be Waldorf, but I'll be honest, in some ways it seems kind of woo woo (the whole anthroposophy thing for one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthroposophy). Another thing that scares a lot of parents is the fact that they don't really start pushing reading until seven, sometimes eight or nine even. The idea is to foster oral and listening skills first, which are the precursors to literacy. 

“So! How do you all feel about Waldorf in general?"

A1. "I checked out the local Waldorf school, but the people there were so pretentious and annoying that I couldn't pay attention to anything they were saying about the school.”

A2. "Yeah, that's the thing I'd be scared of sending my (hypothetical) children to one of these schools. I'm terrified that the price of what might be an excellent education would be having to deal with holier than thou kids/parents."

A3. "I think the reading thing is the least scary part of Waldorf ... The rest of waldorf is weird and some of it is creepy."

A4. "The singing alone is creepy. It has to be in a high pitch and is just gross. They don't let kids have paper with corners and restrict the colors they are allowed to draw with. They make kids paint on wet paper with the express purpose of making it harder for them to make realistic art. They teach kids that gnomes and fairies are real. They make kids eat specific grains by the days of the week, and wear specific colors. There is some racism combined with a belief that kids who are bullied deserve it because they were bad in a past life. The worst part to me is that they infantilize children and prioritize keeping them that way. Creeeepy."

A5. "I think Waldorf schools in the US try to give the impression that they are less woo woo, but scratch the surface and you'll find an anthroposophy book club/discussion group among the parents at all or nearly all of them. The preschools aren't so terrible but the people who stay past kindergarten are, for the most part, true believers."

A6. "I love Waldorf. It would have been perfect for my daughter in so many ways.”  [7-22-2011  http://booju-newju.livejournal.com/2420066.html]  

Q. "Choosing Waldorf Steiner Education - I need the truth!!"   [7-16-2011  http://www.mothering.com/community/forum/thread/1320337/choosing-waldorf-steiner-education-i-need-the-truth/20]

A1. “My son is in a Waldorf school and my understanding is that Anthroposophy is never taught in the classes.  The teachers have an understanding of it, study it, and like zoebird said, they have different levels of commitment to it, but it is not *taught* to the children.  Stories from different religions are brought to the class via the curriculum, but nothing is taught dogmatically.”*

A2. “Anthro itself may not be taught, but I think it usually influences what is taught, when it is taught and how it is taught.”

A3. “In a way, you can say that both forms of education (christian, waldorf) are the 'philosophy in practice' rather than the study of the philosophy itself.”

A4. “Do a little searching around the keywords anthroposophy and bullying.   The stuff I heard coming out of programs that friends were originally enthusiastic about was enough to deter me.”

A5. “Kim John Payne is the author/speaker who commonly addresses bullying and social inclusion in waldorf schools.  You can Google for info.  Bullying is a known topic in waldorf schools, and addressing it is very different than in a regular school setting because of the view of karma, as well as supervision issues.”

A6. “I am a certified Waldorf teacher, and not (gasp - sacrilege!) an anthroposophist.  I am well aware of many of the issues with Waldorf schools, and just as aware of many of the issues with public schools.  For what it's worth, I got into Waldorf teaching because I am a scientist who studies brain development in children, and when I left Waldorf teaching I completed further studies in education and brain development at Harvard.  My research showed that the Waldorf educational system is so far (and I hope this changes) the best system for fostering healthy brain development in children.”**

A7. “To imply that those of us who had bad experiences in Waldorf were somehow wanting to find them is deeply insulting.   Most of us were initially attracted to Waldorf for the same reasons you were. We saw the beauty and believed we were doing the best possible thing for our children. To say we somehow attracted what happened to us there is just plain offensive.”

* Anthroposophy is indeed taught in typical Steiner schools, although usually indirectly. [See "Here's the Answer" and "Spiritual Agenda". In the latter, see the section titled "We Don't Teach It".]

** This is an interesting claim, particularly when considered in the context of Rudolf Steiner's teachings about the brain. Steiner taught that the brain is not involved in real cognition, and he arranged Waldorf schooling to focus on other matters, predominantly the incarnation of the etheric body, astral body, and "I". [See "Steiner's Specific", "Thinking", and "Incarnation".] Although the writer denies being an Anthroposophist, she presumably is comfortable with Anthroposophical doctrines, since these constitute such a large part of Waldorf teacher training as well as Waldorf faculty discourse. [See "Teacher Training".] It is difficult to assess the writer's claim to being a scientist since she does not give her name, instead using the handle "Izzybelly". (It may or may not be relevant to note that Steiner's followers and admirers often call themselves scientists — as Steiner called himself — when what they mean is that they use "clairvoyance" to study the spirit worlds. This is not science, it is delusion. [See, e.g., "Is Anthroposophy Science?"] Of course, some Waldorf beliefs and practices may be beneficial. But this would be a coincidence. The ideology underlying Waldorf schooling, hinging upon the nonexistent faculty of clairvoyance, cannot lead to — or produce — truth.)

Q. “What do you know about Steiner schools?  ... My son has low confidence and concentration and I feel this school would build his confidence to allow him to learn more ... All info on this or any steiner school positive and negative are most welcome. What should I be looking for in the school. “  [7-13-2011  http://www.elevenplusexams.co.uk/forum/11plus/viewtopic.php?f=31&t=21216]

A1. “[S]ome claim its a cult. Don't jump into it, there is loads of info on the net on Steiner schools from those who support it and those who had bad experiences. I have a son in Montessori School and sort of looked at Steiner thinking there were similar but they are miles different.”

A2. “My misgivings are that the Steiner Movement is not primarily about education but based on one man's homespun life philosophy with all the whacko flourishes that such organisations indulge in. (E.g. racial hierarchies, communion with angels.) ... A friend of mine spent far too much time in his 20s at their place in Switzerland and has hilarious stories about the mad rules they had ... I've heard anecdotal stories about children leaving Steiner schools unable to read or write in their early teens, but to be fair to the system, those children quickly learned and caught up with, if not overtook their peers. Still, why put a child through that?”

A3. “I understand there are rules that you as a parent are expected to abide by but I'm no expert. If I were you I would get hold of a book on Rudolf Steiners philosophy and make sure you agree with his principles.

“My biggest concern would be that a child educated in this environment may have trouble adjusting to the real world.”

A4. “It is quite difficult to have an objective discussion re this topic on an open forum. Many threads on other forums are generally removed quite quickly, as there are many staunch advocates of these schools who track such threads down and threaten litigation if any one posts things that they perceive as negative or damaging about the philosophy of the schools.

“Just google and you will find loads of info to digest about the concept as a whole,as well as experiences of children and their parents. The 'child as a whole' thing sounds lovely in theory, but I believe there is more to it than meets the eye.”

A5. “Steiner movement certainly has a core of staunch supporters so you never know, the anthroposophic machine may descent on this thread soon and offer their views.”

A6. “I think that people's experiences of an education like this can be very wildly differing. My experience is that a society like this is often dominated by strong individuals with a very pronounced philosophy who demand very strict adherence - even on issues down to what colours you are allowed to use in your finger paintings. That might be ok - until you disagree over candy pink. But I have a friend who loved her Steiner education, and fits into society just fine, albeit in a slightly dreamy but delightful sort of way. So I think it's a bit of a punt and you may not be able to predict whether it will work for you in advance. It depends rather on the luck of the draw of the teachers and particularly the head - can they be trusted to allow the level of 'personal expression' the philosophy purportedly advocates? Grill them!”

Q. “I am planning on homeschooling, but recently heard about waldorf schooling and am very interested in it. Can someone tell me WHAT waldorf schooling is....?”

A. “I've had many different experiences with Waldorf education. I student taught, taught, and lived with a Waldorf teacher and her daughter in a house that was often used as a training center. (Three different schools)....

“Waldorf education is based on the ‘clairvoyant seeings’ of a man named Rudolf Steiner. Steiner believed that the purpose of education was to help the soul fully incarnate into the human body....

“When you go to a Waldorf school, you will be given a lot of information on art, movement and music being integrated into the core curriculum. It will sound wonderful. Here is how and why they do such things:

“Color- Only certain colors are allowed to be used at certain grade levels ... [Steiner] believed that the colors possess powers that will help the child's developing soul in its journey into the new body.

“Music- like with color, there are Steiner deemed songs and notes that are to be used at certain ages to help the child's soul in its reincarnation journey.

“Dance- A certain kind of dance called Eurythmy is taught to children. The movements are believed to be a sign language to communicate with the spirit world.

“Art - wet on wet paintings and block crayon drawings are taught to young children because the work they produce is very much like the spirit world that Steiner believed the children just came from....

“Additionally, here are some other important beliefs of Waldorf education that they don't tell you about:

“Bullying- Waldorf educators believe that when children are bullied, or are bullying someone, it is because they are working through issues from previous lives [i.e., karma]....

“Four Temperaments- Children are broken into 4 temperaments choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic and sanguine. The temperament a child is decided when they first enter the school and dictates how the teacher interacts with them...

“Technology and academics- Waldorf educators believe that a materialistic spirit named Ahriman, who alienates the human being from his spiritual roots, inhabits technological things like TVs, and computers.”  [7-8-2011  http://malaysia.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110706235905AAJcthq]

Q. “My son currently attends a home based Waldorf inspired kindergarten program and we are really happy. We are beginning to investigate schools and have been considering a Waldorf school. Have recently been reading literature on www.waldorfcritics.org  and feel uncertain now as it talks about anthrosophy as a cult, beliefs in the occult and reincarnation etc. It mentions how none of this is expressed in school information packs but that this is what is underlying the teaching methodology ... We are so attracted to the community, gardening and arts focused learning but really need the TRUTH !!

A1.* “Really, you'll only know ‘the truth’ by getting involved in the community and seeing what is. Each community is different, based on it's members. There's no express standard, beyond the general relationship to steiner's philosophy of education. 


"...The underlying [Waldorf] philosophy of anthroposophy is that it wants to use the spiritual practices and spiritual observational tools of intuition, inspiration, and perceptive imagination as sensory tools — like our physical senses — to explore the divine reality....”

A2.* "When you join a waldorf school, it becomes a way of life — much like, in many ways, Mothering does. I mean, you might be very normal, mainstream, and only start here for the breastfeeding info, and many people discover that while they might not go in for the No Vax or Unschooling, they are more open to a midwife or cosleeping or whatever. What I mean is, that your community starts to influence and impact you in positive ways, and, perhaps, in negative ways too.


"With a waldorf school, there is a  lot of involvement. Most people find this to be 'cult like.' parents are called on to participate a lot — just as they would be in any school, particularly private, but in a waldorf school, it's different. If your child is going to the catholic school, you might be asked to make something for the pot luck, or if they go to a private school, something for the athletic team's booster club. But, at a waldorf school, you might be called on to craft until your fingers bleed for the annual festival, or cook 90,000 biodynamic rutabegas until your kitchen is on fire...." 


A3. “One of the things, though, about Waldorf, is that such is teaching so out of step with every other style of education in America, is that if school isn't a good fit for your child,  they end up very behind when you leave the school.”

A4. “I would encourage you to listen to some of Eugene Schwartz's material,** if it's available. He was a waldorf teacher, and I believe he ran into trouble because of his candid discussions. You most likely won't find a waldorf school or teacher to really explain the role of anthroposophy in the school, and with regard to the teaching of the children because it's generally not advertised or explained to novice parents.” [7-6-2011  http://www.mothering.com/community/forum/thread/1320337/choosing-waldorf-steiner-education-i-need-the-truth]


* These answers are by the same individual. (Her complete answers are very long.)

** See, e.g., “Waldorf Education — For Our Times Or Against Them?”  [http://waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/schwartz.html].

Q. "What first attracted you to the [Waldorf] school? [A] The innovative educational philosophy was probably one of the biggest factors. The pedagogy integrates the intellectual as well as the artistic to create a well rounded independent thinker. Two intense hours of 'main lesson' in the morning are followed by complimentary fine and applied arts classes that are designed to interweave and overlap the 'main lesson' block. The net result is the children are immersed physically as well as mentally in the topic at hand.

A. "My daughter has blossomed in every possible way through this approach, even to the point of getting 99 out 100 on her recent Iowa Test."  [7-5-2011  http://phillyschoolsearch.com/2011/07/05/why-i-chose-waldorf-school-of-philadelphia-2011-06-14-school-selection-report/]

Families are often enthusiastic about Waldorf schools, at least at the beginning. Some remain enthusiastic; others become deeply disillusioned. Waldorf education is not innovative — it is a regimented system based on occult doctrines. [See "Here's the Answer" and "Spiritual Agenda".] Art is emphasized, and this often results in an attractive school environment. The purpose of the art is, however, esoteric — it is meant to create access to spirit worlds. [See "Magical Arts".] Intellect is not nurtured — it is opposed. In Waldorf doctrine, intellect has some utility in the Ahrimanic world we find around us, but by no means is it the correct form of cognition. The correct form is clairvoyance. [See "Ahriman", "Steiner's Specific - Thinking Without Our Brains", "Thinking Cap", and "Clairvoyance".]

Be enthusiastic about Waldorf education if you truly understand what it is and if it really works well for your child. In some cases, it may. (Or at least some children, perhaps having excellent resources outside the school, may do well enough in Waldorf.) But recognize that many Waldorf parents and students end up hurt, angry, and damaged. [See, e.g., "Our Experience", "I Went to Waldorf", and "Coming Undone".]

If you are unsure what to make of Waldorf, you might benefit from "Advice for Parents" and "Clues". 

Q. “Can anyone summarize what's good/bad about a Waldorf education? Why is there so much controversy around it? Also, I heard there was a group proposing a [Washington] DC charter with a Waldorf philosophy, but my searching shows it was denied by the DC charter board this April. Does anyone know why?”

A1. “The main controversy stems from a cult-like approach to knowledge, poor coverage of academic materials in exchange for religious-like studies, and not teaching actual scientific concepts but actively teaching things that have no basis in reality or are completely unproven ...  The other controversy is that supposedly not all Waldorf schools are honest and upfront with parents about their religious angle, hide things from parents, and misrepresent to parents what they do in school. If you are into gnomes and follow the Waldorf religion, then it is up to you whether you want to send your child there.”

A2. “I've met kids who started school at Waldorf schools. They had terrible reading skills at a fairly advanced age (we're talking 5-6th grades). If it had been one kid, I wouldn't have thought there was a connection to the school...but having met many, many children in the situation, I am very wary of Waldorf. Of the kids I have met, once they left Waldorf, they needed a lot of tutoring just to catch up with on-grade materials in fairly middle-of-the road west coast public schools.”

A3. “On this forum you will mostly get negative feedback about Waldorf schools. Personally, I am a fan of Waldorf education for parents who understand and like the system and children without reading learning disabilities ... BTW I would agree that ‘anthroposophy’ and Rudolph Steiner in general is not my cup of tea. That is the sticking point for most people. I still think well of the schools even though I am not into anthroposophy.” [6-29-2011  http://www.dcurbanmom.com/jforum/posts/list/173765.page]

Q. "Rudolph Steiner School? Thoughts?"

A1. "touchy feely"

A2. "I went to the one on Long Island for high school. Although I enjoyed the experience, the education was lacking."

A3."The kids cut vegetables with sharp knives at like age 5. It's a core part of their philosophy."

A4. "... i'd be out of place with that freaky parent body!"

A5. "It's a cult."  [6-8-2011  http://www.urbanbaby.com/talk/posts/53050161]

Q. "I went to a toddler group at our local steiner school today and it was just lovely. There was such a calm atmosphere and my daughter adored it. We've been thinking about schools for a while now and I wondered if anyone had any good (or bad) experiences of a steiner education, in preschool, primary and secondary levels. Many thanks in advance."

A1. "well there are those who live and breathe steiner, and there are those who have been 'damaged' by steiner."

A2. "...I get the impression that it's a lifestyle. I went to an open day/fair at our local Waldorf School, had a chat with some parents and teachers, looked at the Ofsted reports. It sounds like a lot more of a commitment from a parents' point of view than a more conventional style school."

A3. "It's really not a lifestyle, more of a religion."

A4. "brace yourself.

"i rather like the whole ethos and i'm not adverse to a bit of gnome and alien theory but i'm too sane to join up wholeheartedly."

A5. "A friend has a children in Steiner and really likes it. 

"I think you have to be quite committed to the lifestyle/philosophy of it though. Some of it is a bit wacky-spiritual."

A6. "I visited one once. With a view to sending my DD. It was quite a distance from our home but we were really keen on finding a stress free and creative environment for DD.

"It was one of the oddest experiences I've ever had...from the fact that the school looked like Old Mother Hubbards cottage (all peach and with no sharp corners) and was nestled deep in a forest...with weird atmosphere....to the fact that all the art looked like the same person had drawn it....coupled with a wooden dish of gnomes with no faces and feral kids who almost bashed newborn DD2s head in with a big stick...while the "teacher" looked on smiling...it was not the school for us."

A7. "My sister (10 years younger than me) went to one from the ages of 12 - 16 because she hated her school and just couldn't get on in a results driven environment, she is not academically challenged by any means but she is not the best at tests or working fast.

"She really loved the Steiner school and got on much better there, she is an amazing musician and they really harnessed that kind of talent. However, IMHO they do not necessarily prepare you very well for life in that the child is the focus and you are taught to learn things at your pace and it seemed that you weren't really punished for things like you would be in a state school (lateness etc) which are life lessons I think are important - especially if you then step into a more driven college / university / work environment."

A8. "Cruel and inconsistent, inappropriate punishments for normal behaviour (summarily being sent out of the classroom from the age of seven and made to stay there, or being sent to the office to sit for a good hour.

"Older, teenage children being brought in to drag a seven yo out from under the desk he is hiding beneath - abuse of each child concerned, as well as the rest of the class exposed to it.

"Wild, inappropriate behaviour tolerated because it's perpetrated by children of good Steiner families. Toeing the Waldorf line considered more important than basic, decent human behaviour."  [6-8-2011  http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/parenting/1232574-Any-steiner-school-experiences]

Q. “I have been quite active in our local Waldorf school, volunteering in the classroom, etc., and many of the teachers and parents I have worked with are encouraging me to pursue teacher training ... I started looking into training/foundation study programs, but kept getting confused by this ‘anthroposophy’ thing ... Can I make it through teacher training not agreeing with anthroposophy?”

A1. “You will have a tough time. They will be welcoming of you, but anthroposophy will probably drive you more nuts the further you study it. I suggest you find out if you can enroll in the first couple months on a trial basis and then be really honest with yourself about whether it is a healthy environment for you. In the end you can become a handwork teacher and work with awesome kids, but in the end Waldorf teachers teach out of Anthroposophy and Waldorf teacher training is initiation into Anthroposophy. It would be very hard for a rationalist to be happy in that collegial environment.”

A2. “I think lots of anthroposophical approach and philosophy is interesting. And I do have some vague spiritual beliefs that jive with it. But I don't think I would ever believe it as solidly true ... Though the first year of teacher training is a lot of studying steiner's works, I would be quite surprised if there were some kind of test you take where they make sure you believe it all....”

A1 (cont.). “It's more than annoying for a rationalist. A rationalist looks to the sensory world, evidence, the knowable for answers. Without that we can't be grounded. Steiner taught that one can experience the spirit world directly. All his teachings stem from this first principal. If you don't believe this first principal, the rest is impossible to embrace ... Anthroposophy will never go away as the core of a Waldorf teacher's work and the core of how a faculty works together. It is fundamental to all stages of W teacher training. This surprises many people who expect it to be much more practical than it is.”  [5-25-2011ff  http://www.mothering.com/community/forum/thread/1314788/agnostic-waldorf-teachers]

Rudolf Steiner said that Waldorf teachers must be true Anthroposophists. This goal is not always attained, but it is the goal. The purpose of Waldorf teacher training is, in large part, to immerse future Waldorf teachers in Anthroposophy. [See “Teacher Training”.]

Q. "Is Waldorf Education a cult?  I was wondering if the Waldorf Education Movement is a cult? I am interested in taking their teacher training because it seems to make sense in regards to how it educates children. Thanks.

A. "Waldorf education is based on the ideas of a single man — Rudolf Steiner. His collected ideas are called Anthroposophy (like L. Ron Hubbards are called Scientology) — and like Scientology, Steiner's ideas extend way beyond educating children. Everything that happens in Waldorf happens to advance Steiner's Anthroposophy and to produce more Anthroposophists — (whether it's the children or their parents). If you take Waldorf teacher training, you will be learning a new life philosophy (some call it a religion). Many find some of Steiner's ideas offensive and racist. 

“Waldorf is the missionary arm of Anthroposophy. You will be expected to filter everything you encounter with children and their parents through Steiner's philosophy. Your life will change — how much depends on where you are starting from. Waldorf will expect you to dress a certain way, address parents and children in a dishonest way and participate in rituals and festivals related to the occult. They will isolate you from your non-Waldorf family and friends. Like any good cult, this will happen without you realizing it's happening... but you will eventually give up everything important in your life for Rudolf Steiner. If that isn't a cult — nothing is.”  [5-16-2011  http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110513172830AAWqq6Z]

Q. "I'm looking into schools at the moment and was recently talking to someone whose kids go to a Steiner school in Kent. It sounded great (no formal learning until the age of 6 or 7 and lots of creative activities, etc) but DH says he's not keen as he's heard lots of bad things about Steiner schools... I was hoping someone with experience could tell me about the good and bad things. I live in London. Thank you."  

A1. "I know adults who went there and found it a bit of a bear pit. But then again a lot of people do seem to like it. Not sure myself why you'd want to pay money in order for your children not to be taught much."

A2. "I have no personal experience, but looked into Steiner for DS at one point and found some of what is available on the internet very concerning. The fact that Steiner supporters attempt to stifle the debate is also of concern." 

A3. "I went to a steiner primary school and my parents panicked and had me crammed for common entrance at 11. Despite living in London, I met my first black person at secondary school. Everyone at my primary school was white (occasional Asian). I am still hazy on what a noun or a verb is - really basic stuff (I went on to get a first in English lit at uni).  

A4. "What useful role would you say gnomes could play in the teaching of maths? How do you feel about reincarnation? Are you members of an organised religion already or do you have a belief system that you subscribe to? How do you feel about joining one or participating in one without being told it is a religion? Do you think children can get art 'wrong'?"  

A5. "My ds is at this moment watching Dr Who on tv whilst using the laptop and spent part of the morning on the xbox. We are not strict vegans nor do we hug trees or talk to gnomes,but he is very happy at out local Steiner where he is doing very well academically,is learning three languages and two instruments,he has become a confident and popular child with a wide general knowledge as well as developing a love of gardening,cooking woodwork and pottery. There are children at his school from across the globe and of many ethnic origins. You will hear good and bad reports of every type of school but I think it is important that you visit the school and make up your own mind.I don't think it is the place for every child but I am happy it's the right place for my child (he's 13 now) I have three other ds who all went/go to different schools as what is right for one is not always right for another.”  [4-27-2011  http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/primary/1201719-Please-can-someone-tell-me-about-Steiner-schools]

The writer of answer #5 is surely correct. Visit the school, make up your own mind. But the writer of answer #5 may also be overlooking some things. 

◊ "[W]hat is right for one is not always right for another" — or, in other words, not every school is right for every child. This is true, as far as it goes. But is a school based on absurd occultism right for any child? 

◊ "Doing well academically" at a Steiner school may not mean much. The child may be getting nice grades and happy reports from the teachers — but how much is s/he actually learning? At a Steiner school, there may be a great difference between reported progress and real progress. 

◊ For example, "learning three languages" at a Steiner school may merely mean attending classes in three languages, not learning those three languages. I know. I attended a Steiner school. From second grade through 8th grade, I "learned" French — i.e., I attended French lessons. I passed every such class. And how much French did I learn? Not a jot. I took German lessons even longer than I did French lessons — from second grade well into my high school years. I passed every German class I took, and I learned next to nothing. (Today I know a bit of German — but only because I have worked at it as an adult.) 

◊ It is easy to be happy at a Steiner school, playing musical instruments, creating paintings and drawings, doing gardening and cooking and pottery... This may not, however, be quite the same thing as receiving a good education. 

◊ There may be reasons to send a child to a Steiner school, but the reasons may not be compelling unless you are an occultist or, at a minimum, a very relaxed parent who doesn't mind letting occultists teach innocent children. (You may not believe in gnomes, but your child's teachers almost certainly do.) 

[See, e.g., "Academic Standards at Waldorf", "Occultism", "Beings", and "The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness".]

Q. "Has anyone ever heard of a Waldorf school? They follow a certain type of curriculum I believe. They encourage children to be individuals.  

A. "yes i know about waldorf schools. they teach you more about nature and elements and its all a bunch of hippy BS.”  [4-25-2011  http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110425120755AA1GN1c]

Q. “We are thinking of moving to Sweden from the UK and was wondering if anyone has had any experience (positive and negative) of the Waldorf Schools in Sweden? Thanks “

A1. “There are lots of Waldorf free schools in Sweden — but unlike the UK they are required to follow the Swedish National Curriculum if they take kommun funding and therefore must offer schooling free of charge”

A2. “I went for a job interview once at one and it was so bad. They only employ teachers who think it's fair to be paid 14 000 kr a month the headmaster explained. As a result, most of the teachers are not qualified and the language lesson I witnessed was a joke.”  [2-4-2011  http://www.thelocal.se/discuss/index.php?showtopic=38654]

Q. “Waldorf school — opinions? DH works in Film, I think that could be a big problem because of the media rules? Looking for super creative education for DH. Also at what age do I start dealing with this stuff for real.”

A1. “I'd recommend visiting and if you are thinking of the elementary school, talk to parents of older kids as well. We decided that early ed was a perfect fit for our DS but don't think grades program would have worked for him.”

A2 “I love waldorf the most for the early years — birth through age 6 or 7 — so you can start dealing with this stuff for real right now — read Simplicity Parenting for an idea on how to do this. Waldorf has really nurturing rhythms and rituals that are wonderful for small children. My big issue with Waldorf is the way they 'teach' reading. I've written about it in previous posts and if you search around the internet you'll find tons of stories of parents whose learning disabled children never got any intervention and didn't learn to read AT ALL in Waldorf schools.”

A3. “My son is currently attending a Waldorf school (for nursery school) and he has really benefited from it ... I think that very often parents have problems in the older grades because of the fact that the [sic: they?] teach reading later ... I do know kids who have attended through 8th grade and then went on to a traditional prep school and not only did they feel prepared, but they were incredibly grounded, self aware, and had healthy self-esteem."

A4. “If you want the Manhattan's Waldorf school, I would say go public and save the money”    [2-4-2011  http://www.urbanbaby.com/talk/posts/52627680]

This is a discussion at UrbanBaby. The “media rules” referred to reflect the Waldorf aversion to modern technology — TV, computers, and so on. [See “Ahriman”.]

Discussions of this sort may become overloaded with comments posted by Anthroposophists who roam the Web, searching for opportunities to offset criticisms of Waldorf schools. Nonetheless, reading and even participating in such the discussions can be useful. 

Bear in mind, individual experiences vary, sometimes vastly. Some students and parents love Waldorf schools, some feel precisely the opposite. You should be clear about what you want from a school and compare Waldorf values and beliefs to your own.

Q: “What's that whole Waldorf school system about? ... [S]urely there's some good things, since Waldorf schools are popping up everywhere..."

A1: “...I would say that the people I know who were educated in Waldorf schools are insanely creative, loving, smart, and curious but are also completely feral, have problems fitting into structured environments, have problems keeping jobs, and get bored easily....”

A2: “[I]t is a very structured system, and they demand that families comply with things like absolutely no tv or computers or even recorded music for young children. There are also things that are weirder, like the belief that reading and writing should be delayed until age 7 ... [And] the "no black crayons" thing ... [A] teacher told me that children prefer to play with natural materials because they could sense the ‘life energy’ or some such nonsense ... It isn't an educational community that I choose to participate in any more.” [1-1-2011  http://questionland.com/questions/17677-whats-that-whole-waldorf-school-system-about]

Anyone who wonders what Waldorf schools are all about may want to read the aptly titled report "Here's the Answer". (I can vouch for it. I know the author pretty well.)

◊ "Waldorf is B.S. If you don't want your child to learn to read, send them to a Waldorf school! ..."

◊ "I totally understand. There was not much I could do for the Waldorf School, and I think the only reason it was even on the contract was because it brought in federal money for our school district. I don't think anyone had a clue about what was going on up there in the sticks. Sometimes I wonder whatever happened to those kids ..."

◊ "I teach third grade at a (somewhat normal) private school, and one of my students came to me from a Waldorf school. She couldn't read. Most of the kids in my class are reading at a 4th grade level or above; she's just catching up to third grade level right now on account of her total badassitude. She was hurting back at her old school, since she wanted to learn stuff and her teachers were grading on her eurythmy skills ..."

◊ "I have a friend who is a Waldorf kid and her kids are Waldorf kids and I have to say that they are the most artistic, creative intellectual thinkers I have ever known ..."

◊ "I used to be a reading remediation instructor and was assigned to the private schools that contracted with my district. One of my assignments was a Waldorf School in a rural area of southern Oregon. OMG, Hippie Central: yurts for classrooms, kids running around waving silk scarves and dancing, organic vegetarian lunch with homemade bread and cheese and sprouts. It was completely unlike all my other assignments which were traditional classrooms. There was really no way I could evaluate these kids the way everyone else in the school district was evaluated because the teaching methods (and results) were so opposite ..."

◊ "Smartest, kindest, most creative children I know are Waldorf students.”  [12-20-2010 http://www.datalounge.com/cgi-bin/iowa/ajax.html?t=9953223#page:showThread,9953223]

◊ "...Highland Hall is one of the oldest Waldorf schools in the country, and the only one in the LA area with a high school. Based on the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf education strives to educate the whole...." 

◊ "...over 12 years and despite the beauty of the campus - the school has no transparent system for problem solving serious issues. Teachers seem defensive and intolerant of parents asking questions. The teachers police each other and there ... Tucker H." 

◊ "... enriching, this school sees each child and their gifts and knows how to meet them. The children learn two languages as well as stringed and woodwind instruments, and through the curriculum gain an impressive knowledge of other cultures ... Chris G" 

◊ "... serious problems ranging from dogmatic teachers and administrators entrenched in and teaching Anthroposophy to serious issues dealing with parents and preventing them from communicating with each other (see the parent handbook). Crises ... Pete v "... for me to sum up in a few sentences the incredible education children receive at this school; I cannot do justice in describing the depth of the curriculum the level of commitment by the teachers, the nurturing environment where children ... Highland Hall Mom" [12-10-2010  http://attractions.uptake.com/parks/california/northridge/highland_hall_waldorf_school_9437424.html and http://www.uptake.com/reviews/9437424.html]

Waldorf schools often engender wildly varying responses. Some families love the schools, some despise them. All such opinions need to be evaluated cautiously. We should expect most schools of any type to earn the affection and support of their communities — the survival of the schools depends on this. But we also should hope that no schools will produce horrific instances of abuse, deceit, bullying, or other forms of systematic mistreatment of students and families. Highland Hall has drawn some withering criticism. [See Waldorf Awareness.] The unfortunate experiences of a single family may not tell us much. But if that family's experiences are part of a discernible pattern involving other families at that school and at similar schools, serious institutional problems may be exposed. [See, e.g., "Slaps" and "Our Experience".]

Q: “What is a Steiner school? I am off to google...”

A: “I've heard nothing but bad experiences about Steiner schools.

"The first was a friend I went to school with. His parents had sent him to Steiner until he was in P4 but removed him at this stage when they realised that he still couldn't read or write because that wasn't something the school thought of as important. He luckily was a very intelligent person so managed to catch up without too much difficulty but his younger brother wasn't so lucky and struggled for quite a while to bring himself up to the level of others in his year group.

“The second is a colleague of my DH's who sent both her girls to Steiner. Both left school with no qualifications to their name and both are now in Tech trying to get their GCSEs now. So what on earth was all that money in private school fees spent on?! 

“Maybe I'm missing the point, and will be interested to read any replies from parents whose children are doing well in a Steiner school but suffice it to say, my children will be attending a mainstream school!”  [12-5-2010  http://community.babycentre.co.uk/post/a10992345/wyoo_steiner_schools]

Q. "Is waldorf Education a Cult? I would like to become a Waldorf Teacher, but haven't started my training. Is Waldorf Education culty?

A. "I would say that it was. I student taught and taught in one. I also lived in a house that was used as a Waldorf training site, so I have a very good understanding of the philosophy and techniques. Here is a link to a web page I wrote on my experiences. http://www.montessorianswers.com/my-experiences-with-waldorf.html

"What sort of things make it 'culty'? Well, to begin with, everything is based on the 'visions' that a man named Rudolf Steiner had at the turn of the last century. Everything he 'saw', no matter how scientifically or historically inaccurate, is taught at fact. His beliefs on 'how to help the soul "incarnate"' are used to determine curriculum, activities, knowledge imparted, and the place students sit in the classroom. Even the color crayon children use at each age is directed by Steiner's visions and belief that the purpose of school is not to educate children, but to help their soul fully incarnate into their earthly body." [http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100906234750AAXYla9]

◊ “Starting school later is a big help, when the children are ready, have had lots of pre reading skills. Britain forces reading already in pre school, despite having the earliest school starting age. The latest-start countries are top academically, although they're behind for the first few years. I also like the Waldorf curriculum, so do many experts- I notice many University staff, teacher-trainers etc. send their children to Waldorf schools here (middle Europe). They, and Montessori etc. need to be state funded in UK are they mostly are elsewhere.“

◊ “As for not teaching children to read until 7, this is ridiculous and inhumane - why would you deprive a child of the joys of the written word prior to this age? Some of my earliest memories are of having my head in a book (reading it, and admittedly before that wearing it as a hat :P) and I would be a completely different person if you had had your way -spiritually poorer, if an atheist can use that phrase. Further to this, I have noticed a number of anthroposophists plugging their particularly unsavoury brand of educational snake oil. I would advice readers not to be misled by this; Waldorf schools and anthroposophy generally make good use of marketing (as seen in their wikipedia pages), but they are basically a cult formed around the scientifically ludicrous writings of a self-styled 'clairvoyant' in the 1920s named Rudolf Steiner.”

◊ “[T]he categories you mention are hippocrates' temperaments, quite useful, in knowing how to deal with children and not at all the exclusive to Steiner. I know they're not creationists. PISA, the international testing, especially recommended their science curriculum. I'm not trying to push Waldorf, only the people I know /know of who recommend it are often very well researched and knowledgeable, (I'm not implying you aren't, that wouldn't be nice) and have no axe to grind. As are Waldorf teachers I know. It's funny you say they take advantage of publicity, I felt they were hopeless there, eg. several anti-Waldorf sites, mostly nonsense, up for years before they set up any replies- I'd say they hide their light under a bushel, obviously you'd disagree.” [http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/haveyoursay/2010/11/what_is_the_best_way_to_teach.html?page=6]

PISA is the Program for International Student Assessment. A search of the PISA site turned up one reference to Steiner [http://www.pisa.oecd.org/dataoecd/53/20/33688267.doc] and one to Waldorf [http://www.pisa.oecd.org/dataoecd/5/45/35920726.pdf]. At first glance, neither seems informative, either pro- or anti-. It would indeed be interesting if any knowledgeable authority anywhere praised the Waldorf science curriculum. The thinking behind Waldorf schools is deeply opposed to real science. [See, e.g., "Weird Science at Steiner School", "Waldorf Schools Teach Weird Science, Weird Evolution", and "Is Anthroposophy Science?"]

Q. "Just curious if any of you have attended, taught in or had your children in a Steiner/Waldorf program. And if so, what do you think of it now."

A1. "I was looking on wikipedia and it certainly seems like Waldorf/Steiner schools make some extreme deviations from the typical school systems. In my opinion, we need some similar deviations in the states..." 

A2. "They are a load of guff. I'd stay well clear if you can at all help it. Here is an article that I remember from a year or so ago. There are plenty of others sticking the boot in: http://www.ministryoftruth.me.uk/2009/07/22/pseudoscience-not-a-valid-educational-choice/"

A3. "I asked the retired teacher wife. She said that as a pure teaching method is isn't good and neither is that one out of Italy [Montessori] but bits and pieces are already used in classrooms and always have been."

A4. "I played basketball against a steiner team once. I have also heard that they aren't so good"  [10-18-2010 http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=384177&forum=32&9]

◊ "They [i.e., Steiner or Waldorf schools] actively discourage formal learning below 7yo [i.e., age seven] — and yet we all know some kids are ready for it and most are capable before then. They seem overly obsessed (imvho) with the evils of things like TV, pop culture and non-organic food. 

"They have some weird religious beliefs — arguably racist or elitist; they seem to have produced some high profile educational failures. David Gilmour's Telegraph article was quite compelling for me." 

◊ "The controversy comes from the fact that many of the teachers believe in something called anthroposophy, which is very very hard to pin down but there is a belief in reincarnation, past lives, that sort of thing. 

"So while the children may be being dealt with in a particular way that sounds 'nice', the teachers might be coming at it from an anthroposophical view. Where there is a problem like bullying, this can lead to massive problems. Parents are not kept in the loop, they can be almost completely ignorant of the religious aspects." 

◊ "The underlying philosophy which the schools are based on is not an educational philosophy as such, more of a religion, with a belief in reincarnation, gnomes, demons, etc. The schools and teachers vary in how much of this they teach, but it does underlie choices that are made in the schools."  [9-27-2010  http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/education/1049924-Steiner-school-controversy]

[R. R., 2011]

— Compilation and commentary by 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...

PR : efforts to "re-brand" Waldorf schools

pseudoscience : at Waldorf schools


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