or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Education › Learning at School › Waldorf › Waldorf Criticism
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Waldorf Criticism

post #1 of 54
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone,

 

DD attended a Waldorf preschool and it was a wonderful match for her. So much so that I am seriously considering committing to Waldorf private school. I finally embarked on researching criticisms of Waldorf and wow, what a long list. I would really love to hear from other families who've attended a Waldorf school. Some of the criticisms range from: 1) anthropomorphy is a cult; 2) real science is not taught (the heart doesn't pump blood); 3) religious/ dogmatic (everything from pagan to Christian to sun worshippers); 4) racist (levels of people) and swastika references; etc. 

 

I began reading the criticisms with the intention of having an open mind. After all, not everyone will appreciate Waldorf education. Several of the criticisms are extreme and outlandish so I can dismiss those readily enough, others prompted me to seek the wisdom of the experience of others here on MDC.

 

Many thanks in advance!

post #2 of 54

Hi,

 

We haven't finished the research process yet either but a steiner school is top of our list of potential schools at the moment.

 

I have read many of the same criticisms and have many of the same concerns. What seems to be the case in Australia is that all these issues seem to be almost completely dependant on the staff of the individual schools.

 

Our plan is to take a list of very specific questions with us when we have a meeting with our local school's Head of College. We also plan to talk to some current/past parents.

post #3 of 54

There is a very long thread here:  http://www.mothering.com/community/forum/thread/683104/life-after-waldorf-a-support-group  that details lots of MDC mamas' difficulties and problems with Waldorf education.

 

HTH

post #4 of 54

I think you need to pick out specific issues like one poster said and bring them to the school and talk to parents. The school should be used to some of the questions and can guide you in trying to find the answers you need, I would think. 

post #5 of 54

While Waldorf has many consistencies across Waldorf schools (ie-exact curriculum from 1-12g, same home life expectations-no media/screens) schools vary tremendously, and within schools I think you have to go on a teacher by teacher basis.

 

I've read the mama support thread, and recommend it, there is a lot of wisdom there.  Also cautionary tales.  If something feels wrong to you or if your child is saying something is wrong, don't discount that.

 

That said, I am a Waldorf parent of a 5th grader (and 1st and K).  We were Waldorf/Enki hsers, then had the opportunity to move to a W. school in a part of the country that we wanted to be.  

 

First, the anthrosposphy--it was such a bigger deal to me when we were hsing.  Lessening the influence, or researching my place to it, etc. etc.  Now that we're in the school, it's not a big deal.  Not a cult.  There are anthroposophists at the school (obviously), teachers and parents but in no way are we under any pressure in any way with regard to what we believe.  I appreciate that my dd's class teacher has the spiritual grounding that she has.  I love that my kids are at a school that gives an awareness that there is a spiritual world.  I do not feel like it is dogmatic at our school.  Yes, festival life is important, yes the festivals straddle some "other" ground between Christian and pagan, but for us it's not a big deal.  I give them my Buddhist world view, and there are families of every other religion at the school.  

I do think you do need to go to your school's enrichment offerings so you can understand what is going on, and how they apply Steiner, and anthroposophy.  Waldorf schools are rigid, they do the things that they do, and it's better to invest the time to learn as much as you can about the philosophy and your particular school's Waldorf culture.

 

The racist/nazi stuff I have only come across on the plans site or secondhand from a board.  Again I think this depends on what is going on at your school.  I really don't think contemporary anthroposophists see anything to gain from those Steiner quotes.  I know that none of that is going on at our school, and we don't have any "old guard" that would retain those kinds of views.  Their entire third grade year is an immersion in Old testament and Jewish festival life, and it is such a rich respectful year.

 

I can't really address the "real science isn't taught thing".  I know my dd will start elements of physics next year.  Up until then it has been more Goethean observation of the natural world.  I do know several irl scientists that advocate the Waldorf approach from the perspective of "imagination is more important that knowledge".  This is another piece that you have to look at and define your comfort level --I go to the offerings that our hs has, and it certainly looks like those kids are getting science (the machines they build, their drawings, the content of their main lesson books), they are also taking standardized tests and getting in to colleges.

 

Like mentioned above, go on the tour, ask lots of questions, and find current parents at the school and get their take on things.

We love our school, but if our oldest had had a teacher on either side (up or down a grade), I don't think she would have had such a good fit, and I probably would have pulled her and hs'd her again.  That is another thing you might not be aware of---they stay with their class teacher from 1st to 5th (or 8th) Grade.

post #6 of 54
I agree with all the PPs who have said to go to the school itself, see how you feel, and ask questions.

The school ds goes to has some "old guard" anthroposophists and lots of people like DH and me who find a lot of value in the Waldorf approach to education but are hardly steeped in anthroposophy! There is nothing cult-like at all about our school. There is a great deal of diversity but also a nice sense of community. There is absolutely nothing racist going on in our school and, in fact, it is far more diverse ethnically/racially and economically (class) than the traditional school DS used to attend. I think the Steiner quotes (which I've read too) are often used to paint all of Waldorf with a one big bad brush. While I don't doubt that, in the past, some very dogmatic people may have held (and taught!) these views, that is certainly not the case now. (I come from a Jewish family, so I'm particularly sensitive to this)

I can speak to some of the science stuff as DS is in Class 2 (2nd grade) so we're not really there yet. Plus, we're in Europe, so the curriculum a school has to follow, no matter what its religious/philosophical approach, is relatively strictly-mandated, so I would be surprised if the science classes in the upper grades didn't have to teach that the heart pumps blood!

Basically, it all comes down to seeing the school itself and seeing what you think. Good luck!
post #7 of 54

I agree that you have to distinguish Waldorf as an approach and any individual school, with its strengths and weaknesses, and its particular teachers, with their strengths and weaknesses. That said, the schools really do focus on the uniqueness of every individual child, while offering a very rich social experience - an, if not completely unique, pretty hard to find combination. (Montessori does the individual well, less the social; conventional schools focus on socialization, less on the individual.) The approach to science is definitely more historical, biographical, philosophical, observational and open-ended, rather than teaching today's theories as the be all and end all of all knowledge. That can mean that students may have less grounding in formulas and theories when they enter college. But the idea is that they can think for themselves and love to learn. Usually that's true.

 

We have plenty of friends who took their children out (or whose children took themselves out) of Waldorf at one point or another. For most of them it was a money issue. Others had social concerns of one kind or another. Most of the latter brought their children back (or, if the student made the decision her/himself, returned) - we meet ourselves everywhere we go, and Waldorf was actually a better place to work through issues than the other schools they tried.

 

I'm not only a parent - I'm a teacher, too. Both roles have been trying at times, but I've never met a community more willing to work through issues. What more can you want?

post #8 of 54

 

I went to a Steiner school, so I have no notion what it would be like for someone coming to Steiner Education cold. I can really see why people can be strongly drawn to the Early Childhood education, it’s a no brainer I reckon much of the time. But then when you get to Class 1 and beyond, I can see that people might be cautious, especially with all that stuff out there on the internet. Some people really get carried away too! But some people do really have difficult times (as in other schools).

But what I can say is that my education was joyous, fulfilling, inspiring, and I learnt a lot - including science!!! – yes, at some stage I learnt that the heart pumps blood (can’t remember when that was)!!!!! And loads more. In fact Biology was one of my favourite subjects. The important thing is that the Steiner curriculum brings certain studies and experiences to the child when it is understood (through Steiner’s indications) that the child is ready for them. I also learnt to keep an open mind about the current theories, not to just take everything that was claimed to be true by the current scientific thinking. I thought I was desperate to leave at the end of year 10 to experience the “other side”, and nearly did, but am so glad I chose not to in the end. I do regret not having the opportunity to fulfil the full Steiner Curriculum (13 years). Some schools in Australia (admittedly very few) are now in the position to offer the full Steiner curriculum, but my school only got to that point a few years after I left. I would love to have done a major work and had the extra main lessons but the constraints of the State imposted curriculum didn't allow for that.

I would definitely back up those saying Anthroposophy is NOT a cult. It really isn’t. No fears on that front. Also not racist. And also not religious, but do take care of a little dogmatism splashed here and there (my experience). From my understanding, dogmatism is actually contrary to Anthroposophy, but people have a habit of getting stuck, don’t they? Or is it that they have a deep understanding of something which they feel passionate about? A bit murky isn’t it?

So yes, I again say go and talk to people with specific questions in mind and seriously consider what this style of education, and the school in particular, has to offer your family, but look at all levels, not just academic, and remember a lot of those things you see written by the critics just aren’t likely to feature in your journey, and keep an open mind. 

post #9 of 54

I too read all of the criticism stuff on-line before my kids started in a Waldorf school.  Maybe it depends on the school, but I have NEVER had any of these bizarre experiences people discuss on-line.  Our school is welcoming, diverse, open-minded and offers a wonderful environment for my kids' social, emotional and intellectual development.

 

My advice is to spend as much time as possible in the school you are considering - parent-tot classes, public programs, classroom observation -- your "gut" should tell you if it's the right fit for your child and family.

post #10 of 54

Aside from # 4, I did find all those warnings to be true about the waldorf school our kids attended. We have pulled out 3 of our 4 kids and the last child there will be switching at the end of this year. I don't have anything new to add. 


Edited by Kindermama - 3/6/11 at 3:33pm
post #11 of 54

I have heard "hidden agenda" brought up before, but no one ever says what it is.  What is the Waldorf hidden agenda?

 

I, personally, am not comfortable w/ Steiner's beliefs that all children should be doing the same things at the same time.  That development should be guided w/ a heavy hand by the adults & that certain accomplishments, if done at the "incorrect time", are detrimental.  DH and I want much more freedom than that for our children which is part of why neither of us is completely comfortable w/ Waldorf education for the grades.  Early childhood, oh my I LOVE IT!  Otherwise, we will stay mainly inspired as the children age.

post #12 of 54

I'm not even quite sure how to explain the hidden agenda, hence the "hidden" part. It's even hidden from those who seek it unless you are somehow initiated with the proper knowledge. Steiner's esoteric stuff goes really deep. I have a general idea. That's what I didn't like. I only have a general idea of what they are trying to impart on my children and it's just as hidden from the children. 


Edited by Kindermama - 3/6/11 at 3:33pm
post #13 of 54

The "hidden agenda" is not hidden at all - it's stated clearly in every book ever written about Waldorf education, and there are quite a few out there. There is a deep conviction that each child has a unique, spiritual core; that the world is full of meaning; and that each of us is here, living on Earth, to accomplish significant tasks. It's a lot easier to be a Waldorf parent if you are comfortable with these ideas. We have families who are Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, and secular.

 

Child development is basic to education, and every school chooses when to introduce topics (that's the curriculum). The Waldorf curriculum is surely not perfect - I'm working on changing some aspects of it at my school - but its curriculum does largely follow modern theories of child development; I'm thinking of Piaget, especially. Again, if you want a school that ignores developmental psychology, there are plenty of opportunities out there.

post #14 of 54

A huge plus of Steiner Education for me is the education towards freedom - perhaps this is part of the so-called hidden agenda, but the idea that each individual finds their own path, but they're not just given carte blanche to get there - there is freedom within the structure provided by the curriculum. The value of the child's Imagination and self expression, as nurtured and developed within the Steiner curriculum, cannot be underestimated. 

 

Schools are like living organisms and especially when they have the structure of many Steiner schools there is the possibility for them to become weak and diseased - so sometimes people don't work together very well, others they do. Parents and teachers have a chance to develop positively and work together. I have seen many examples where this works incredibly well, though there are always ups and downs. Each school should have policies on things like bullying, etc. - If you are concerned, ask to see the school's policies and then ask how each of these policies are followed through. If there is one in particular you are concerned about I would really check this out for peace of mind. 

post #15 of 54
Thread Starter 

WOW! What incredibly thoughtful and meaningful replies.

 

With deep gratitude to you all for taking such time and care.

post #16 of 54

I also read the horror stories on the Waldorf thread on MDC many years ago. Whew, they scared the crap out of me! :)

 

Of course, I have not encountered ANY of it at our school. I also know a few adult Waldorf alumni as well. They are happy, well-adjusted people (college grads to boot!).

 

Ditto the advice to visit a school, talk to parents, go to festivals and see for yourself - of course, all schools are different, but you may be pleasantly surprised...

post #17 of 54

One way to assess a Waldorf education is to look at the graduates-

http://www.whywaldorfworks.org/02_W_Education/documents/Standing_Out-WGRII.pdf

 

I'm very grateful for the early years of Waldorf education that my dd received. We loved our school and participated in the fairs and festivals long after she was not enrolled any longer. I never understood the accusations of cult, but I did see many of the other Waldorf families in the waiting room of our osteopath, so maybe what is normal and true for us is cultish to others? The one thing I truly admire in the Waldorf graduates I have known is their ability to resist peer pressure and think for themselves.

post #18 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by E.V. Lowi View Post

One way to assess a Waldorf education is to look at the graduates-

http://www.whywaldorfworks.org/02_W_Education/documents/Standing_Out-WGRII.pdf

 

I'm very grateful for the early years of Waldorf education that my dd received. We loved our school and participated in the fairs and festivals long after she was not enrolled any longer. I never understood the accusations of cult, but I did see many of the other Waldorf families in the waiting room of our osteopath, so maybe what is normal and true for us is cultish to others? The one thing I truly admire in the Waldorf graduates I have known is their ability to resist peer pressure and think for themselves.


I just want to say I LOVE your dolls!  Once my dd gets a little older and more "into" dolls I'll be getting her one!  :)

post #19 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheSlingMama View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by E.V. Lowi View Post

One way to assess a Waldorf education is to look at the graduates-

http://www.whywaldorfworks.org/02_W_Education/documents/Standing_Out-WGRII.pdf

 

I'm very grateful for the early years of Waldorf education that my dd received. We loved our school and participated in the fairs and festivals long after she was not enrolled any longer. I never understood the accusations of cult, but I did see many of the other Waldorf families in the waiting room of our osteopath, so maybe what is normal and true for us is cultish to others? The one thing I truly admire in the Waldorf graduates I have known is their ability to resist peer pressure and think for themselves.


I just want to say I LOVE your dolls!  Once my dd gets a little older and more "into" dolls I'll be getting her one!  :)



blowkiss.gif What a sweet comment! Thank you!

post #20 of 54

I have a couple of thoughts. First, the 'cult,' comments. I've thought of this quite a lot over the years, because I believe I can understand one place, at least, where it comes from.  We joined a Waldorf school fairly early-on, but we did already have friends with children - both met after having kids and before.  Now we go to a Waldorf school. We do not want our children saturated with media. Many people work hard at this, or hard to get to this place. Now you get together and the kids are toting their PDAs, mini game-consoles, or at youngest - media-controlled play.  I'm not looking to try to convince anyone of our way of doing things, but it doesn't mean I want my children to be consumed by it either.  My little girl spends one afternoon with a cartoon/princess-obsessed group and guess what happens?  So, we get together less. Perhaps we treasure our friendships with the adult, and even the children...but it's less. There is less time available without the children around, etc. etc.  It is my opinion this is one way the 'cult' references get thrown around - those who are maybe left behind, confused and hurt by the loss of friends.  And frankly, I hesitate just to take my children to events or classes with kids outside of our community for just that reason.  We are just...wierd, in this society. I don't expect the society to bend to us, but I can choose the exposures my children get.

 

And the negativity and 'survivor' threads, etc. etc. I don't doubt that much of that is true...but poor schooling experiences happen everywhere. Shall we start a thread on our 'life after public school' experiences? I know I have a long list of doozies that affected me well beyond my youth. 

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Waldorf
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Education › Learning at School › Waldorf › Waldorf Criticism