Any Here?

Confirming the identity of every individual who appears on the pages of Waldorf Watch is virtually impossible. I quote, paraphrase, and allude to hundreds of people at this site. Checking the bona fides of all these people would be a superhuman task. So, we face a dilemma. How many of these people tell the truth? Whom can you believe? Whom can you trust?

Short of setting up a gargantuan detective agency with an enormous scholarly wing (literary sleuths, as it were), I must rely, in a general way, on the honor of the people who appear here. This means, of course, that I may sometimes be hoodwinked.

People sometimes wear masks. Sometimes they use pseudonyms. Sometimes they lie, fabricate, and angle to deceive. Such is the human condition.

If anything, the Internet has made the problem worse. Trolls and nameless pontificators roam its precincts, sowing confusion and rancor.

My policy has been to act as honorably as I can. Whenever possible, I extend to nearly everyone the courtesy of accepting that they possibly are (at least to some degree) who they say they are, and that they possibly have had (to one degree or another) the experiences they say they have had.

I have generally taken the proponents of Anthroposophy and Waldorf education at their word, more or less, provisionally accepting their self-descriptions, and conceding that they really believe the amazing things that they say they believe. Likewise, I have generally accepted — at least on a trial basis — the testimony of people who criticize Waldorf schools, or who claim to have undergone awful experiences in Waldorf schools. I have generally taken the critics of Waldorf schools, like their opposite numbers, at their word, more or less.

This doesn't mean that I have failed to exercise care or critical judgment. I have checked up on people and their statements as well as I can. I have weighed evidence for plausibility. I have compared one person's testimony with the statements made by others who express similar views. Does a consensus become evident? Do various statements support one another or contradict one another? Do various statements have the ring of truth, or not? Do individuals support their statements with evidence, logic, and documentation, or not? Does sweet reason seem to prevail, or are unbridled emotions apparently carrying some folks away?

My judgments cannot be perfect, of course. To some degree, I have relied on my own long history in and around Waldorf schools, which means that to some degree I have been subjective. [See "I Went to Waldorf" and "My Sad, Sad Story".] During my lifetime, I have spent years listening to Anthroposophical discourse. I have seen and heard and experienced many of the things that are apparently typical in Waldorf education. And, in recent years, I have read an enormous number of Anthroposophical texts, including many books, booklets, and lectures penned by Waldorf teachers, including many in which Waldorf teachers describe the nature and purpose of Waldorf schooling. So, I have felt equipped to make at least some assessment of the statements people make about Waldorf, pro and con.

But my judgments cannot be perfect. Don't place excessive trust in me. [See "So - Can You Trust Me?" and "On the Facinating Subject of Myself", which is a section in "I Went to Waldorf".]

For that matter, don't put excessive trust in anyone. Use your own sense of the plausible, the probable, the real. Apply the same sorts of tests I mentioned, above. Look for evidence. Look for logic. Look for documentation. Search for the ring of truth.

(Your own judgments will not be perfect. But this, too, is the human condition. We are all on the same journey, or we all should be: We should all be seeking the truth. Each small step we take toward the light and out of the darkness is a valuable accomplishment, potentially a triumph.)

There's also this consideration: People's real identities are not the central issue. An Internet troll, a liar, a fraud — even these folks may sometimes tell the truth, if only by accident. The real question about any statement is not who made the statement, but is the statement true? (Knowing who first said that the Earth is round is not so very urgent. The key question is, is the statement true?) Focus on the substance of the statements you find at Waldorf Watch. Weigh these statements, assess them, check them as well as you can — and then, if only provisionally, draw your own conclusions.

Have any trolls, liars, or frauds slipped through my net and found their way onto this website? I have tried to keep such folks off the site, but i'm sure I haven't completely succeeded. (After all, Steiner himself was a fraud. He claimed to be clairvoyant, and of course he wasn't. [See "Clairvoyance".]) So I'll have to rely on you to form the second line of defense. Keep you b.s. detector running at all times. Don't take anything on faith. Check up on everyone you can — including, of course, me.

And here's something that may seem a little startling. I don't much care, in the end, whether someone is a troll or not. I tell trolls the same truths I tell everyone else.

By the same token, I am grateful when a troll tells me a truth. The truth is what I seek; the identity of the speaker doesn't matter so much.

I encourage you to take the same approach. Focus on the truth of statements, ideas, lines of reasoning; don't tie yourself in knots over the identity of the people who offer the statements, ideas, or lines of reasoning.

In a way, this all boils down to the question of ad hominem argumentation. We need to care, very much, about the truth of propositions; we don't need to worry too much about the identities of the people who set forth the propositions. As the ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA puts it,

"[I]rrelevant conclusions are presented by the so-called fallacies of relevance [including] the argument ad hominem (speaking 'against the man' rather than to the issue), in which the premises may only make a personal attack on a person who holds some thesis, instead of offering grounds showing why what he says is false."

As I said earlier, a liar may sometimes tell the truth. Convicting someone as a liar doesn't prove that each specific statement made by the liar is a lie. The only way to show that a specific statement is false is to concentrate on that statement, not concentrate on the person. (If I get an email from "Abraham Lincoln" telling me that X is true, I can be pretty sure that the writer is not really the sixteenth President of the United States. But the real issue is whether or not X is true. Maybe it is, even if "Abraham Lincoln" isn't.)

So keep you b.s. detector running. I have done my level best to present the truth at Waldorf Watch. Do your level best to discern the truth, wherever you find it.

[R. R., 2017.]