Template


Design of the Site





A hopeful reading of history (and we all need causes for hope) is that, over the course of centuries, mankind has been striving to free itself from ancient ignorance and superstition. Success has been incomplete, and — punctuated by many lapses and reversals — it has come slowly. But, gradually, fitfully, progress has been made. And because we have learned that progress is possible, we may hope that progress will continue into the future.

Waldorf Watch attempts to shine the light of reason into one small corner of mental darkness — it deals with Anthroposophy and its chief embodiment, Waldorf education. The site's scope is thus small. Yet Waldorf Watch is a part of the larger, necessary movement promoting reason and sanity. And as such, the site might be seen as offering a sort template that is applicable far beyond the constrictive, delusional vision propounded by Rudolf Steiner.

Here, in broad strokes, is the design of Waldorf Watch. Conceptual elements — outlining the template — are identified, along with examples of these elements as they appear at the site. (There is some overlap between categories, and many pages at the site have been omitted from the list for the sake of brevity.)



1. Definition of Terms

Semi-Steiner Dictionary


2. Exposition of Topics

Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia

Waldorf Watch Index


3. Broad Survey, Overview

Here's the Answer

Spotlight on Anthroposopy

Six Facts About Steiner Education

Square One

Nutshell

Weird Waldorf

Steiner Static

Oh Man

Manifestations

4. Practices, Beliefs (exposition, analysis)

Spiritual Agenda

Serving the Gods

The Waldorf Curriculum

Magical Arts

Mystic Math

Steiner's "Science"

Polytheism

Sneaking It In

Methods

Holistic Education

Teacher Training

World of Waldorf

Humouresque

Incarnation

Matters of Form

Historial Narrative (in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia)

What We're Made Of

Neutered Nature

Is Anthroposophy a Religion?

Schools as Churches

Prayers

Soul School


5. Central Criticisms, Problems (exposition of flaws, errors, dangers)

Clairvoyance

The Waldorf Teacher's Consciousness

Inside Scoop

Occultism

Secrets

Academic Standards at Waldorf

Thinking Cap

Who Gets Hurt

Slaps

Faith

Steiner's Blunders

Steiner's Racism

Steiner's Quackery

Why? Oh Why?


6. Key Texts (exposition, analysis: themes, doctrines, from the central authority)

Everything

Knowing the Worlds

Oh Humanity

Faculty Meetings

6a. Secondary Texts (from the central authority)

Treasury 1-8

Say What?

Wise Words

Double Trouble

Lecture

Forbidden

Also Forbidden

Universal Human

Extensive references throughout the site


6b. Supplementary Texts (by other adherents/proponents)

Who Says?

Clearing House

Others

Oh My Word

Oh My Stars

Waldorf Worship

Prehistory 101 (and the pages that follow it)

References throughout the site


7. Historical Background and Development

Basics

The Ancients

The Gods

Rosy Cross

Steiner and the Warlord

The Good Wars

Sympathizers?

References throughout the site (chiefly supplied by historian Peter Staudenmaier)


7a. Biography*

What a Guy

Guru

Steiner's Specific


8. The Present

Waldorf Now

Today 1-3

Nutshell

Embedded Racism

Cautionary Tales

Non-Waldorf Waldorfs


9. Testimony (insiders' accounts, first-person accounts)*

I Went to Waldorf

He Went to Waldorf

Ex-Teacher 2 (and the accounts that follow it)

Moms

Pops

Our Experience

Coming Undone

My Life Among the Anthroposophists


10. Recommendations, Conclusions

Advice for Parents

Clues

Summing Up

Truth

Conclusion





This design is implicit in the site, it is not a strictly imposed structure — it has not dictated my own editorial choices, nor does it restrict the choices available to readers. As an Internet publication, Waldorf Watch is, in a sense, shapeless: Visitors to the site may navigate through its pages in any order they like. The design suggests just one navigational route. Other routes are suggested by the site's Table of Contents (which includes many more pages than are listed here), and by the the sidebar appearing on all pages at the site.

Mankind faces far larger challenges than those posed by Anthroposophy and Waldorf education. And I do not suppose that anyone working on those larger challenges will turn to Waldorf Watch to find a guide for action. Still, I hope that in its small way, this site may contribute to the ultimate liberation of humanity from ignorance and superstition.


— Roger Rawlings




* Care must be taken to avoid mere anecdote and ad hominem argumentation.




















[R.R., 2017.]














Some Reasons for Reason



The following items are excerpted from

a few email messages

I launched into the blue early in 2017.

(I have edited the excerpts slightly

for use here.)




I.


A friend of mine once chided me, saying that my work at Waldorf Watch mocks the religion embraced by Steiner’s followers. I didn’t argue the point, because there is some truth in it. (Although we should remember that Anthroposophists claim their system is a science, not a religion.) I do laugh at Steiner and his teachings, at least sometimes. Absurdity is absurd, which means it is funny.

But of course there is a lot that is not funny at all about Anthroposophy, especially when it is surreptitiously woven into Waldorf education. Anthroposophy caused me a great deal of confusion and pain, when I was young, largely because it was imposed on me without explanation or permission. (My parents, like so many Waldorf parents, did not know what Waldorf is designed to do — spread Anthroposophy.)

If I were to describe what I try to do at Waldorf Watch, laughter or mockery would not be at the center of the description. I think that, in the largest sense, I try to stand up for rationality, sanity, and clarity. I try to fight for decent treatment of children, particularly in their educations. I oppose a form of education that is mired in mysticism and occultism; I argue for helping children to see reality clearly, and to think about it rationally.

All of this is just a small part of the enormous, pressing need facing humanity today: to finally break free from the superstitions and ignorance of the past. The Earth is in real peril, especially from climate change, and also from related destructive practices (including religious extremism, terrorism, militarism, etc.). These problems, I would argue, arise from our ignorant, self-destructive tendencies, most of them rooted in the past.

If I knew how to end climate change today, I would do it — I would forget Waldorf and focus entirely on environmental issues. But that’s not my area of expertise. So instead I work on one little corner of human foolishness — Waldorf, Anthroposophy — and I try to help cure it. My notion is that if everyone did the same in their own areas of expertise, we could move humanity forward a long distance, and possibly save the planet.

I am horrified by human ignorance — demonstrated, for instance, in [fill in the blank].* How could anyone vote for that man? How can we be so foolish, so self-defeating? So I try to work against human ignorance; and focusing on education seems to me a good way to do this. I know that my efforts are puny, and I know that I may not succeed even in the modest goal of weakening the Waldorf movement. But I do the best I can, and I try to remain hopeful.

And I am extremely grateful for the work done by others, such as Grégoire, and Alicia, and Dan, and Diana, and Margaret, and Andy, and Peter, and Pete…

(One tiny bit of encouragement I offer myself is this. If there are 1000 Waldorf schools in the world, and if each Waldorf school has — let’s say — about 300 students, then there are about 300,000 kids in these schools. Trying to save 300,000 children is obviously worthwhile, I think. Moreover, each of these kids has one or two parents, and perhaps some siblings, and also friends, and cousins, etc. And the schools have faculties, and support staffs, and alumni, and applicants for admission... So the total number of people in and around Waldorf schools may be several times more than 300,000. Two million, maybe? Possibly even more than that? Five million? Ten million?** Even the most extreme estimates of the size of the Waldorf universe represent just a tiny portion of the Earth’s total population. It’s a drop in the bucket. But working on behalf of even this tiny portion is worthwhile, I think. Any one life assisted out of the darkness is worth the effort.)



* I mentioned an event that troubled me, but many other examples would do just as well. Search through the new on any given day; you'll find examples aplenty.

** I intentionally erred on the high side, here — perhaps wildly high — in order to accommodate the claim often made by Waldorf spokesfolks: that the Waldorf movement is large and rapidly growing. In reality, many Waldorf schools are quite small. But we must not underestimate the danger posed by Waldorf. (The Waldorf school I attended was set up for about 25 students at each of 14 grade levels, kindergarten through high school. Full enrollment at our school, then, would have been about 350 students. Some Waldorf schools today are larger than this; in a few cases, much larger.)








II.


The following is the beginning of a “Forum” commentary in the latest issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN (Feb., 2017). I have highlighted a few key phrases.

Humanity’s capacity to behave rationally has been called into question by recent political events in the US and elsewhere.* But we must remain committed to at least trying to live sensibly. A pressing case in point: People are going to have to make a lot of rational decisions about environmental issues, and we will need to do this soon.

From the magazine, p. 8:

Of all the potential actions in Donald Trump’s forthcoming presidency, none will have more long-lasting effects than those on climate change. Just four days after the Paris climate agreement went into force — the first comprehensive global deal to reduce heat-trapping pollution — the U.S. elected a president who has called climate change a hoax, and vowed to “cancel” the Paris agreement. Trump has said he would block the Clean Power Plan, which would reduce utilities’ heat-trapping gas emissions and is at the heart of the U.S. commitment to the agreement. And he promises to reinvigorate the fossil fuel sector, just when global energy production is moving rapidly in the opposite direction, toward clean, inexpensive, renewable sources.

Not only would this agenda be disastrous for climate, it would actually undermine Trump’s ability to achieve his own primary goals. First, climate change is not like other issues that can be postponed from one year to the next. The U.S. and world are already behind; speed is of the essence, because climate change and its impacts are coming sooner and with greater ferocity than anticipated. This year, 2016, will be the hottest on record by a large margin, and 2015 and 2014 had set the previous records. Extreme weather events such as heat waves and heavy downpours are becoming more frequent and severe, as are related fires, droughts and floods.

Warming is also causing sea level to rise at increasing rates. At high tide, ocean water stands in the streets of coastal cities such as Miami and it taints groundwater. The coastal threat of increasingly destructive hurricanes is growing, too. The costs of these increasingly common events are reaching into the billions of dollars. Most frightening is that there likely are tipping points in the climate system — thresholds beyond which unstoppable feedbacks kick in. We don’t know exactly where such points-of-no-return are until we’ve passed them. Every year that we delay action we increase the risk of crossing dangerous thresholds and commit our generation and our children’s to more devastating outcomes.

The entire commentary is available at https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/climate-trumps-everything-no-matter-who-is-president/ .

I doubt that we have the ability to destroy all life on Earth. But we appear to be trying. We almost certainly have the power to destroy — or severely damage — ourselves and all the major forms of life that we care about and depend upon. Perhaps we should choose a more rational course of action.

It’s just a thought.



* There is nothing new about this, of course. It has been called into question umpteen quadzillion times before, by quadzillions of irrational, destructive and self-destructive human actions. We are a marvelous species, capable of great and wondrous works. But our record so far — the chronicle of human history — is blotted and smudged by the plenitude of woes we have inflicted on ourselves.






III.


It’s hard to say exactly why we are destroying our home planet. It doesn't seem entirely rational, does it? It doesn't seem like something a sane species would do.

Some environmental destruction can certainly be ascribed to capitalism — although the Soviets, who were anti-capitalist, had a worse record of environmental destruction. We might ascribe the assault on the environment to industrialization, although factories don’t have to be destructive (think of clean energy and eco-friendly manufacturing), and some ecological destruction occurred long before the industrial revolution began (think of the ancient Romans plowing salt into the earth to utterly destroy the living places of their enemies).

A lot can be ascribed to pure greed, I think. We want what we want, and we want it now — and to hell with the consequences. But wanting things is not always wrong, of course. Lots of people live in poverty, so for them almost any action that might alleviate their suffering can seem justified (think of the slaughter of elephants in Africa, and the burning of forests in eastern Kentucky and in Brazil — awful things, in themselves, but understandable if they put food on impoverished families' tables). We must not blame the poor for their desperation, surely. Still, human greed is a real, and often malevolent, force. We want what we want — now. And we can scarcely believe that anything we do, in our own little lives, can have much impact on the enormous, ever-bountiful Earth. (So we dump waste into the oceans until giant islands of plastic debris form in mid-Pacific, and we plow and plow and plow the Great Plains until they become a dust bowl.)

Why, in a previous message, did I point my finger at “religious extremism, terrorism, [and] militarism”? The connection between these and global warming is not obvious or direct, and other human failings are equally at fault. Still, I think the connection runs deep. The nexus is ignorance and irrationality, I think.* Fortunately, these problems have a solution (unlike, perhaps, our deepest cravings, which may be built permanently into our natures). We don’t innately prefer ignorance, I think; we are born ignorant, but our natures do not compel us to remain ignorant. If we can be given knowledge, and if we can be shown that knowledge is more productive and helpful than ignorance, maybe (just maybe) we will opt for knowledge. And that, clearly, would be a rational choice. Just as we can acquire information, we can learn to be rational; we can learn the process of carefully, systematically thinking things through. Our brains are marvelous; they have the capacity to be logical. We just need to learn how to use our brains.

Considered in this light, religious extremism, terrorism, and militarism can be recognized as being interrelated, and we can see them as products — at least in part — of ignorance. Consider killing in the name of God, for instance. Killing for God should be a complete nonstarter, IMO, yet people have been killing for Him from time immemorial. Agnostics like me should be horrified, since we doubt that God even exists. (How can killing be justified in the name of a being who may be imaginary?) But people of faith should be more horrified, because such slaughter implicates the Deity in the most horrific of crimes. (How can killing be justified in the name of a God who really exists, assuming that He is a loving God?) Yet we have done it, and done it, and done it…

Ignorance and irrationality (and greed, and blood-lust, and, and...) lie at the root of many of our troubles. Yet a cure for at least some of these difficulties is at hand, if we only choose to accept it. Education. Real, rational education. Knowledge. Real, rational knowledge.

(And that, at its deepest level, is what Waldorf Watch is all about.)



* "Ignorance" and "irrationality" are loaded terms. They can certainly seem insulting. But I don't mean them that way; I don't mean to belittle anyone. We all lack information (we are all "ignorant") until we acquire information, a process that in the modern world generally begins in schools. Similarly, we all tend to have untrained minds (our brains are all "irrational") until we learn how to discipline our thinking. This, too, is something that generally begins in schools. Education can be a wonderful thing. Sensible, real education can provide the information and mental training we need if we are to live sensibly.




— Roger Rawlings















To consider the ignorance and superstition

in Anthroposophy, see, e.g.,



"Summing Up",


"Superstition",


and


"Steiner's Blunders".







To delve into matters extending considerably

beyond Anthroposophy and Waldorf,

see, e.g.,



"Why? Oh Why?",


"Fooling (Ourselves)",


and


"E.S.P."










Correspondence



In July, 2020, a former Waldorf student — coming from a family that consists almost entirely of Anthroposophists — left a message on the Waldorf Critics discussion site, seeking advice. She said she had become disillusioned with the Anthroposophical worldview that her family still embraced. This was causing strains within the family, and she wondered if anyone had any helpful advice for her. Among other questions, she asked, "What strategies have you discovered for maintaining a kind and respectful relationship with your family?" [See "Help for a Former Student?", https://groups.io/g/waldorf-critics/message/32050.]

I wrote two replies that, I realized later, more or less summarize my approach to the work I have done here at Waldorf Watch. Possibly these replies may be of use to anyone contemplating the creation of a similar website.

Here are my replies, edited slightly for use here:


I.


June 16, 2020


Hello! And welcome!


This will be a very quick reply — I'm rushing to help some friends with medical problems, etc. But please take this as only a first attempt at an adequate reply to your message.


My story is something like yours. I was educated by Anthroposophists; my mother was virtually an Anthroposophist; one of my sisters became a Waldorf teacher; and so on. Breaking away was a long and very difficult process. I have written about it in, for instance, an essay I call (with tongue in cheek) "My Sad, Sad Story" [https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/my-sad-sad-story].


The main difference between my situation and yours is, I take it, that your family was overtly and fully Anthroposophical, whereas most the the Anthropops I knew hid their faith to a large extent, or were only half-committed to it. Still, I was deeply and detrimentally influenced by the Anthroposophical beliefs and practices that constituted my mental and emotional environment throughout my childhood.


Finding a way to continue on good terms with your family, after you have set aside their beliefs, can certainly be difficult. Yet all of us need to do something of the sort, whether trying to get along with our families or with our neighbors. This is not, by any means, confined to situations like yours and mine. Billions of people on Earth hold wacky beliefs. Billions embrace world views that have little if any support in objective, rational knowledge. And often these world views clash — they are irreconcilable with one another. Yet we all need to learn to live together. My own approach (and I am certainly far from perfect at it) is to love or at least like people for themselves, regardless of what views they may espouse. And I generally avoid debating views. I try to speak the truth when someone wants to know what I think, but I try to hold my tongue otherwise. The result is that I have friends with whom I completely disagree on any number of subjects. Yet we are friends because we treat each other well.


Forgive me. I sound pompous and self-approving, which is not my intention. I'm just try to speak directly to the questions you asked.


I hope you will post more messages here. I think they will be enlightening, and I suspect the process of writing them may be salutary for you. I found this in my own case. (I did most of my writing about my personal experiences years ago. It helped me then, and I have not felt any need to return to that subject since then. When I write about Waldorf and Anthroposophy now, I deal with the phenomena as they seem to exist now, not as I remember them in my own small personal experience.)


I must run. But I hope to hear from you again — and if you have any interest in hearing from me again, I'll be at your service.


- Roger Rawlings

[https://groups.io/g/waldorf-critics/message/32051]








II.


June 18, 2020


Hello again.


Having dashed off a quick reply the other day, maybe I should add a few clarifications.


Situations in families can be more fraught than almost any other. We can't choose our relatives — we are part of them, and they are part of us. But this probably means we need to be especially concerned about getting along with them. It would be nice if everyone in a family agreed about everything, or if we could easily convince and reform one another. But the reality is that differences may arise within almost any family, differences that may run deep and that may grow over time. The best we can hope for, often, is a sort of peaceful coexistence.


It would seem that your situation is more difficult than mine was, if virtually everyone in your family is united in opposing the views that you now hold. I was educated by a group of people (Anthroposophists and their allies) who were virtually unanimous in their opinions, but the members of my family were not similarly unanimous. My mother was an enthusiast for Waldorf precepts and practices, but my father was a skeptic. (After my parents attended one Anthroposophical lecture, my father said the lecturer was either a genius or a lunatic.) Still, I felt great pressure to affirm Anthroposophy and Waldorf education — pressure from my teachers, from the Waldorf community, and especially from my mother. My mother made great sacrifices to send me and my sisters to a Waldorf school (she took a job at the school, serving as confidential secretary to the headmaster, a committed Anthroposophist). My eventual alienation from Waldorf was painful to my mother. I wish I had found a way to comfort her more fully even as I turned away from the path she wanted me to travel.


I probably should also say that I certainly think differences of opinion are important. I don't think we should pretend to agree with views that we in fact consider wrong. We should try to learn the truth and, when the occasion permits, we should speak the truth. (Anyone who has visited my websites knows that I do not hesitate to speak the truth as I understand it.) But the key consideration here, I think, is finding the right occasion. Having ideological arguments around the dinner table may not ever be a great idea, IMO. That occasion would often be too personal, too potentially hurtful. And the likelihood of reaching a happy consensus would often be far too low. But making statements in public forums, publishing essays, writing scholarly articles — these can be valuable contributions, advancing human knowledge. I certainly think we should find the right occasions to stand up for the truth, firmly and forthrightly. (In my own work — which I did not begin publishing until my mother had passed away — I do not attempt to convince Anthroposophists of their errors, and I rarely if ever aim to pick a fight with anyone. But I try to inform the general public about Anthroposophy and Waldorf. I try to tell the truth about Anthroposophy and Waldorf so that, for instance, anyone thinking of sending a child to a Waldorf school may understand what such schools actually are.)


Well, that's probably enough — or more than enough — from me. I was moved by your message, Selina, and I wanted to respond as helpfully as I could.


I hope you will post more messages at this forum, if and when you feel motivated to do so.


Be well.


- Roger

[https://groups.io/g/waldorf-critics/message/32055]