to "Isis," about my view of Waldorf"Isis," (I wonder why it is that I feel comfortable using my whole, real name, and yet you hide behind a pseudonym ....)
My impression from reading your "Come on, Lisa ..." post is that it is *you* who seem "venomous" and "angry." Contrary to what you believe and purport, I am NOT out to "discredit" Waldorf; rather I am "out to" get Waldorf schools to be honest about what and who they are.
May I suggest that your visiting several Waldorf schools is not quite the same as spending six years as a parent at one? I don't think that any sentient individual would believe that a "visit," even one that lasts a few hours or even a few days, would enable someone to understand a place in depth. I respectfully submit that six years as a very involved parent, on the other hand, *does* make me qualified to make a more accurate judgment. And my judgment (one shared by many ex-Waldorf parents and by several leaders in the Waldorf "movement," by the way) is that Waldorf schools do a terrible job of informing parents about their religious nature, and what that religious nature means.
Just for the record, "Isis," I *did* do my "homework" before enrolling my child. I am a newspaper reporter, and came across Waldorf when I was doing a story on my local Waldorf school. I spent about five or six hours interviewing the admissions director, a group of three nursery and kindergarten teachers, and an elementary school teacher handpicked for that purpose. I asked dozens and dozens of questions, including whether anthroposophy is "in the classroom" (I was told "no" each time I asked) and what happened to the Waldorf schools when Hitler came to power in Germany. (FYI, I was told that "Hitler closed the schools immediately." Turns out that is not true, however. Because one of Hitler's top advisors sympathized with anthroposophists and believed the schools had possibilities for indoctrinating children to be "model" German citizens, some schools stayed open until the early 1940s. Weleda, an anthro cosmetic company, apparently also used forced labor from concentration camps to staff their biodynamic farms -- another Steiner invention.) I also spent several hours observing in several elementary and middle school classrooms.
As a parent, however, it later became (gradually) clear that what I had seen was not representative of the school as a whole. (I am not suggesting that the observations were rigged or anything: I am not paranoid! <g> I am saying, however, that it is impossible to get an in-depth understanding of the far reaching effects of anthroposophy on the whole of Waldorf without direct experience and research.) As to my not knowing that Waldorf "discourages" reading before age 7, well, that's true. I had understood that Waldorf DOES NOT PRESSURE OR TRY TO FORCE children under the age of 7 to read .... No one ever, ever mentioned that children who do read, on their own, at a younger age are often made to feel ashamed of doing so, and that their parents are told that they will have "hardening" of their "forces" so that they will develop "sclerosis" later in their lives! I know of one little boy, who, like so many children who do not do well at Waldorf is gifted, who developed the habit of striking himself in the head and saying "Don't think! Don't ask questions! Thoughts are bad!" The teachers at his new, non-Waldorf school asked his parents what the heck happened to him to make him think that thinking was off limits and bad. His parents explained the way he was treated at his Waldorf school -- like something was majorly wrong with him because he had lots of questions and an active interest in something other than fairies!
Isis, you and others here can, of course, choose to believe whatever you want about Waldorf. I chose to believe that Waldorf schools were what they said they were: non-sectarian, progressive, arts based schools that would take into account the (I hate this term, but here goes) the "whole child." (As an aside, what schools would NOT take into account the whole child? The "whole child" has become an obsequious buzz word, imnsho.) Unfortunately, no one in Waldorf saw fit to inform my husband and I that my children's BRAINS and their CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS -- one part of that "whole child," were not allowed into the equation until grade four, at least. (Steiner said that if he had his way, children would not read or write until the age of 14! One Waldorf teacher told me that she would prefer this, too, because such an approach has "spiritual" benefits. But she sadly commented that parents in this "day and age" would never go for that, so teachers just do "what they can" to keep children "pre-literate" for as long as they can.)
You comment that our family's Waldorf experience must not have been so "awful" if it took us six years to twig to the whole system. And as I commented before, my older daughter did have a nice nursery and kindergarten experience. (I still love and admire her teacher, who, perhaps not incidentally, came to Waldorf from a conventional nursery school. This woman was constantly getting into hot water with the more anthro teachers for having books and puzzles in the classroom, and for wearing pants herself to teach in. Women teachers were required to wear dresses or flowing skirts. ) The main reason that it took so long for us to see the whole Waldorf picture is because we *had* been told that it would take until third grade for Waldorf children to reach parity with non-Waldorf children. In other words, we knew and accepted that in first and second grade, things would go more slowly at the Waldorf school. But we were continually assured that by third grade, the Waldorf children would be on par -- and indeed, exceed -- the achievements of the non-Waldorf children. (The term Waldorfians use is "soar ahead." We were told that Waldorf children "reach parity with their non-Waldorf classmates and, indeed, soar ahead at third grade.") Unfortunately, this turned out to be nothing but one of those myths that Waldorf teachers so love. In third -- indeed, also in fourth -- my daughter and her classmates continued to copy all their drawings, all their writings, etc. off the board.
As to my claim that various aspects of anthroposophy promote racism, well, how else should I feel when Waldorf schools in this, the 21st century, sell Steiner books that contain gems such as "blonde hair and blue eyes actually bestow intelligence" on their shelves? Or when my Asian child, noting the teacher's refusal to let her have a black crayon, says "Maybe Miss X doesn't like my hair color? Or when I learn that a Waldorf third grader, studying the story of creation from Genesis, is told that she *must* change Eve's hair from the brown she smudged from various primary colored crayons to yellow, like the teacher's drawing? Or when a parent of my acquaintance is told by Waldorf teachers that she (the mom) should tell her raven-haired daughter a particular fairy tale in which the evil girl has hair "dark as a crow's wing" and the princess, the good one, has golden tresses? An accumulation of such experiences sent me to books by Steiner, where I read even more (to me) disgusting racist drivel, such as Steiner's view that the "black race" is in the "infantile" stage of spiritual development and that the "yellow" race is in the adolescent stage. When I asked Waldorf teachers about this, I was greeted with an uncomfortable silence and a "Well, some of Steiner is difficult." Pushing further, I was told that because I was not an anthroposopher, I "couldn't understand." One young man taking Waldorf training reported that he was told that the anthro view was that the Holocaust "had to happen" because of a certain race's destiny. Even if such nauseating nonsense is not taught in the classroom (and I am not sure it is not!), I certainly do not feel comfortable placing my child in the care of individuals with those belief systems, especially when those same individuals had no problems conveying other of their beliefs (that gnomes and fairies exist, and "good children" can see them, for instance) without my express consent.
One last thing, and I will close. (I am sure most people have not got this far!) Isis, you claim that I have a viewpoint, an "agenda" about Waldorf. Yes, I do. One part of my agenda is to insist that Waldorf schools tell the whole truth to parents looking into the schools (that Waldorf schools are the parochial schools of anthroposophy) and the other part is to urge parents considering Waldorf to read Steiner, to investigate the PLANS web site and to look beneath the surface. Despite your implication, I have nothing against anthroposophy, though I certainly do not believe as anthro. do. I *am* however, against any religion or belief path forcing its ways and tenets upon parents and children without consent, which is what is happening daily at Waldorf schools. (Look at the science taught at Waldorf schools, and this becomes obvious.Waldorf school science is NOT the science agreed upon by the rest of the world, and parents should be told that going in. Each year my daughter was at the school, I asked for a syllabus, a course of study. Because W. students don't study any science until third grade, and because the syllabus said "zoology" and "botany," etc. and did not explain that Waldorf "zoology" and "botany' were very different from that taught in non-Waldorf schools, it took awhile to twig onto this.)
If, after investigating Waldorf thoroughly (and that includes looking at unpleasant critical information such as I and others present on the PLANS Web site) you decide that Waldorf is for your family, that is a success, as far as I am concerned. Waldorf schools have much to offer the children of people who share anthrop's belief systems. But it is a jarring, upsetting and traumatic experience, indeed, to enroll your child in one kind of school (the kind you were told you were enrolling in) and learn, over time, that you are in a completely different place. Everyone ends up hurt -- the child, the family, the school, the whole Waldorf movement.
That does not have to happen. Like Catholic schools (which advertise that they are religious with large crucifixes, talk about values, etc.), Waldorf schools should advertise they are anthroposophical. That way, the "right" parents will enroll and everyone can live happily ever after.