Steiner schools and anthroposophy

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Steiner schools and anthroposophy

Postby candide » Tue Jun 28, 2011 7:03 pm

As a newcomer to this forum, I was surprised when a search returned no results for Steiner, Waldorf, or anthroposophy.

Steiner schools have a sales pitch to parents which is very appealing to the middle-class, leftish liberal (among whom I number myself), with its emphasis on "educating the whole child", through art, play, dance, etcetera. Reading is not taught until the children's karma is thought sufficiently developed, at age eight or nine. This approach may work well, for all I know, (though I haven't been able to find any statistics supporting it), even if the theories on which it is built are barking mad, which they appear to be. The schools admit in their prospectuses that they are run on the Anthroposophical principles set out by the occultist Rudolf Steiner; the originator of Anthroposophy. His ideas about science were, to say the least, eccentric. He was an adherent of "Goethean Science", advocating reliance on clairvoyance and revelation rather than experiment, and his version of history of the earth involved Atlantis and Goblins. (Yes, really!)

The reason for this post is that around 25 Steiner schools in the UK are keen to get public money through free school status. We worry a good deal about schools run by Evangelical Christian YECs, but Steiner science teaching may well be more pernicious still. I don't know, and I can't find out what they actually teach. If PLANS (website below) is to be believed, they are deliberately coy about it.

I think it would be a good idea for enquiry to be made of them, on BCSE notepaper, asking them directly if Steiner's ideas are applied to the science curriculum. IF they are, we should protest to Gove, and if they say not, we should have the statement on record in case of future backsliding.

For a quick tutorial on Steiner education ("Waldorf education" in the States) see http://www.waldorfcritics.org/, particularly http://www.waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/Hansson.html , and http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/01/should-the-state-be-funding-schools-which-were-founded-by-a-racist-mystic/.

What do people think?
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Re: Steiner schools and anthroposophy

Postby cathy » Tue Jun 28, 2011 7:12 pm

I think my next door neighbours grandson may be at a Steiner school. I know his dad pays a hell of a lot for it. He's still primary age so I don't think he'll have touched science yet. His dad said, when I asked, its brilliant on some things-like art and making his son very considerate of others, but he worries about the fact he doesn't seem to have touched on things like time tables yet and his maths and reading are quite ropey for his age (11).

If I get a chance I'll ask.
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Re: Steiner schools and anthroposophy

Postby Brian Jordan » Tue Jun 28, 2011 7:52 pm

I only know of one, Botton Village School in North Yorkshire. AFAIK it has an excellent reputation for working with children with a variety of learning problems. http://www.bottonvillageschool.co.uk/ If the neighbour's grandson has such a problem, it may not be due to the school that his maths and reading are ropey.
OTOH, if they are doing bad work in mainstream schooling, as well as good work in special schooling, it's something to be looked into.
Never heard of the Waldorf bit before but the Steiner site says it's because it started as a school for the Waldorf-Astoria fag factory - you learn something every day (I thought it was a posh cafe). It also implies that my picture of the Botton school is way out, so I'll be interested to see any further comments.
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Re: Steiner schools and anthroposophy

Postby a_haworthroberts » Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:03 pm

I agree that this sounds well dodgy.
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Re: Steiner schools and anthroposophy

Postby jon_12091 » Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:23 pm

There's a big chunk on wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthroposophy
And if you drill down there is a description of a Waldorf curriculum - bland and non-specific - and as always the devil will be in the detail
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curriculum ... rf_schools
Eugenie Scott appears to have written an article back in '94 on Waldorf - quite frankly Waldorf'ian science comes across as weird mash-up of science, philosophy and early 19th century esoteric-ism.
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Re: Steiner schools and anthroposophy

Postby Mule » Wed Jun 29, 2011 8:54 pm

Hello, I"m new to the forum. I found this discussion via a search on google this morning and wanted to answer Candide's following point:

'I think it would be a good idea for enquiry to be made of them, on BCSE notepaper, asking them directly if Steiner's ideas are applied to the science curriculum. IF they are, we should protest to Gove, and if they say not, we should have the statement on record in case of future backsliding'.


As a former Steiner Waldorf parent I have many concerns about Anthroposophy - the religion that secretly underpins and permeates every aspect of the curriculum and school community.

If there is only one article you read on the subject, I recommend the work of Dr Peter Staudenmaier:
http://www.social-ecology.org/2009/01/anthroposophy-and-ecofascism-2/

If you want to read further, there are a series of guest posts on Professor David Colquhoun's site 'Improbable Science' explaining why Steiner Waldorf schools should not receive Free School funding:
http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3528

I have written to Gove a number of times detailing my concerns and enclosed the above articles. I have had it confirmed in writing that he has read them.

Guess what Gove's response was to the above articles?

'Parent choice'.

Best

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Re: Steiner schools and anthroposophy

Postby Brian Jordan » Wed Jun 29, 2011 9:34 pm

Welcome aboard, Mule. I see from one of your links that the Steiner approach to science has been criticised, but there are no details. Can you point us to anything which shows where they're getting it wrong? Does their embracing of pseudoscience extend to denying evolution for instance?
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Re: Steiner schools and anthroposophy

Postby jon_12091 » Thu Jun 30, 2011 6:33 am

Having read over some of the material on Steiner the problem potentially seems to more one of when does an institutions educational philosophy critically undermine its ability to objectively teach science. Assuming that they aren't, for example, directly teaching that clairvoyancy is an appropriate scientific technique (I would be surprised - there can't be that many hard core anthroposophists around compared to say creationists), but I would need hard corroborated evidence before I personally put pen to paper. Steiner appears to be creationist though with a very small 'c', but biodynamics and anthroposophical medicine both contain significant streaks of pure unadulterated woo, which IF they were being taught as science in the lab, using public money, I would have a severe problem with. Anthroposophy was born out of Theosophy, which carries with the idea of Root Races and Rounds, but I'm at the moment uncertain if these ideas bleed into Steiner education if at all. Currently there seems to only one publicly funded Steiner school in the UK teaching secondary -
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steiner_Academy_Hereford

The discussion over the point at which an institutions educational philosophy affects its ability to objectively teach science is probably worth having especially as with this example we're less likely to bog down in the faith schools issue. It would be useful I think for the BCSE to have some idea in it own mind as to where the line is drawn.

I'm note sure to what extent Steiner education is involved in special needs education, the Camphill Movement is related, but that is a potential source of very vocal and highly motivated parents, which I would not wish to antagonise.

Gove's response is unsurprising, and it could be inferred as saying that 'challenging parental choice is wrong', and I think illustrates the problem - he just sees an educational philosophy and parental choice at work.
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Re: Steiner schools and anthroposophy

Postby Mule » Thu Jun 30, 2011 11:49 am

Regarding Steiner and science, former Steiner Waldorf pupil Roger Rawlings details many of Steiner's beliefs at his site 'Waldorf Watch' including:

The heart doesn’t pump blood

The Earth doesn’t orbit the Sun

Islands — and, indeed, continents — float

Atlantis existed

The Aryan race arose from people who had lived on Atlantis

Cancer can be treated with mistletoe

Humans have three nonphysical bodies

People have twelve senses

People exhibit four “temperaments” (and, therefore, students of differing temperaments should be segregated and taught differently — they can be in the same room, but in separate parts of that room)

Astrology works

Plants are the Earth's hair

Plants grow due to cosmic forces conveyed through a universal ether

The Earth is a tetrahedron

Modern physics is generally wrong

Atomic theory is wrong

Gravity is only a word

Goblins exist

Animals evolved from humans

http://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/blunders

Steiner teachers in the UK are notoriously coy about Anthroposophy and how it manifests in the classroom, however there have been a number of articles investigating science teaching in Norwegian Steiner schools detailed below:

Gravity not proven:

http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?hl=en&sl=no&u=http://fritanke.no/NYHETER/2010/_Blir_som_a_si_at_tyngdekraften_ikke_er_bevist/&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dhttp://www.steinerkritikk.no/%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Doff%26client%3Dsafari%26rls%3Den%26prmd%3Div&rurl=translate.google.co.uk&twu=1&usg=ALkJrhhBJZcgvuJuGpUW1w2A11H82cE8qg

No evidence for atomic theory:

http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?hl=en&sl=no&u=http://www.forskning.no/blog/b.h.samset%40fys.uio.no/252887&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dhttp://www.steinerkritikk.no/%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Doff%26client%3Dsafari%26rls%3Den%26prmd%3Div&rurl=translate.google.co.uk&twu=1&usg=ALkJrhgUKXFtDorOItuyfgNZC9EYZJMQAw

http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?hl=en&sl=no&u=http://fritanke.no/NYHETER/2010/Lareplanforfatter_forsvarer_skepsis_til_atomlaren/&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dhttp://www.steinerkritikk.no/%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Doff%26client%3Dsafari%26rls%3Den%26prmd%3Div&rurl=translate.google.co.uk&twu=1&usg=ALkJrhg7G15eNw2W1ysvDNh63ngYpe_-ug

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Re: Steiner schools and anthroposophy

Postby Mule » Thu Jun 30, 2011 12:09 pm

I recall only last year finding on the Brighton Steiner school site the following:

'From Class 6 to Class 8 the science curriculum broadens to encompass astrology'


http://www.brightonsteinerschool.org.uk ... ubject.pdf

When this was discussed on twitter, Brighton was alerted and the document was quickly amended changing the word astrology to astronomy (I have the original screenshot if anyone is interested).

I recommend looking at the teacher training material. Until recently the University of Plymouth ran a BA Steiner Waldorf teacher training program, repeated requests for the reading list were refused through a FOI was successful:
http://ukanthroposophy.wordpress.com/plymreadinglists/

Worth mentioning is that Stockholm University closed their Steiner teacher training course in 2008. Stefan Nordland, dean of Stockholm University's faculty of natural sciences stated:

'The syllabus contains literature which conveys scientific inaccuracies that are worse than woolly; they are downright dangerous'.


http://www.thelocal.se/13944/20080826

Roger Rawlings has detailed many of his Steiner school experiences here:

http://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/i-went-to-waldorf
http://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/teacher-training
http://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/steiners-science


Unity from the Ministry of Truth wrote about Steiner's pseudoscience a couple of years ago:
http://www.ministryoftruth.me.uk/2009/07/22/pseudoscience-not-a-valid-educational-choice/

Yes, Hereford Steiner Academy is the only state funded Steiner school which happened under Labour, apparently Cherie Blair's mother went to a Steiner school... A number of FOI's have been successful including Hereford's policy on homeopathy.

The problems encountered with Steiner schools worldwide are disturbingly similar, I recommend another blog written by former Steiner pupil Zooey:

http://zooey.wordpress.com/links/

There are less than 200 Scientology schools worldwide compared to over 1000 Steiner Waldorf.

There is also a Steiner Waldorf survivors group.

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Re: Steiner schools and anthroposophy

Postby Brian Jordan » Thu Jun 30, 2011 2:10 pm

My goodness, there's some bunkum in there! I take it that it's not going to be easy to find out how much of it appears in science lessons? The Hereford academy's web site is pretty vague - they say they offer accredited units in science through the Open College Network and a BTEC in Countryside and Environment. How much scope there is for incorporating Steiner's nutty ideas, who knows? http://www.steineracademyhereford.eu/index.php/academy/exams
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Re: Steiner schools and anthroposophy

Postby jon_12091 » Fri Jul 01, 2011 6:16 am

Brian Jordan wrote:I take it that it's not going to be easy to find out how much of it appears in science lessons?

I think that is the nub of the problem, the parents appear motivated and partial - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8387928.stm - so I can't see that much chance of them dobbing the school in IF they are actually teaching that stuff as science.

I had a look at the UK master list Hereford seems to the only state maintained school, otherwise they're independents, though others seem to be flirting with the free school concept.

DoE research study from 2005, had a quick scan - page 149 has some meat - it seems to clearly suggest that some Steiner educators will bin Steiner scientific ideas, but others won't...
https://www.education.gov.uk/publicatio ... /RR645.pdf
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Re: Steiner schools and anthroposophy

Postby Mule » Fri Jul 01, 2011 8:35 am

The DoE study, known as The Woods Report needs urgent review - at least 2 out of the 3 authors have connections to the movement.

http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3595

https://ukanthroposophy.wordpress.com/2009/03/13/steiner-education-anthroposophical-education-official/
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Re: Steiner schools and anthroposophy

Postby David_Colquhoun » Fri Jul 01, 2011 9:44 am

If anyone wants to know more about Steiner schools, I can recommend three guest posts that I hosted in my blog

The true nature of Steiner (Waldorf) education. Mystical barmpottery at taxpayers’ expense. Part 1 http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3528

The Steiner Waldorf cult uses bait and switch to get state funding. Part 2 http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3595

and

Steiner Waldorf Schools Part 3. The problem of racism http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3853

These posts give a detailed and scholarly picture of what’s going on. Although teachers are mostly deeply involved in the “mystical barmpottery”, it is often not possible to tell what children actually get taught in classes, because that seems to be a closely-guarded secret. One can’t help wondering why.
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Re: Steiner schools and anthroposophy

Postby jon_12091 » Fri Jul 01, 2011 11:47 am

David_Colquhoun wrote:These posts give a detailed and scholarly picture of what’s going on. Although teachers are mostly deeply involved in the “mystical barmpottery”, it is often not possible to tell what children actually get taught in classes, because that seems to be a closely-guarded secret. One can’t help wondering why.

It also makes the situation very difficult to judge - creationists can act covertly, but we can usually rely on them to run their mouths off at some point, so we always find out when they been up to something. They also post reams of their material all over the internet, annoying, but it makes refutating it so much easier because the crap is in plain site. I've tried running down stuff by Kolisko who appears to have written on Anthroposophic geology, but all I've found so far is lists of textbooks. Perhaps Anthroposphy has learnt the best way to preserve its philosopies that run counter to scientific evidence is to minimise their exposure to those who might refute them!

Anthroposophy does seem to be fascinating case study of what happens when science gets harnessed to philosophic and esoteric-ends. It bascially stops at the time of key exponent(s) main writings - so Anthroposphic science is basically stalled in the late 19th and early 20th century. Pre-continental drift lost continents and land bridges were considered a perfectly acceptable explantion for observed species distribution and the mapped geological similarities between continents. However, various ocean drilling projects, seismic and plate tectonics have put paid to dreams of Atlantis, Lemuria and Mu. Quuite frankly all I can think of at the moment are the writings of Clark Ashton Smith, Lovecraft, etc.

And can someone explain to what the heck is with the 'Gnomes'?
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