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They’re just bee’s wax crayons, for cripes sake

post #1 of 48
Thread Starter 
As UUMom suggested on another thread, that’s *all* they are: crayons. They are not some frightening implement of Ahriman, one which darkens the child’s soul-life and hinders spiritual development or what have you. Nor can some imaginary parallel be drawn between the classroom’s lack of black, and Steiner-Waldorf’s supposedly racist-like inclinations (as has been suggested by some).

The black-crayon ‘controversy’ comes down to this: They are blocks of colored wax. They are an example of how silly, inappropriate and out-of-touch Steiner pedagogy can sometimes be. And the fact that this particular silly, inappropriate and out-of-touch Waldorf idea is still pushed by teachers as ‘spiritually and pedagogically relevant’, is a perfect example of what it is that often fuels the critical arguments and anti-Waldorf sentiments.

To believe that black crayons somehow hinder or damage the child’s soul development, is little more than a neo-occult and neo-religious form of superstitious behavior. And so it’s no wonder others stand up and challenge these fearful, fundamentalist-like notions. To confront the not-particularly-truthful is human nature, plus it’s perfectly 21st century in its enlightened, conscious intent. No, I personally don’t appreciate that the anti-Waldorf arguments tend to spin 180 degrees in the opposite fanatical direction, but that’s me. I prefer taking a balanced, level-headed approach to all things.

My second point goes further and deeper into the human/psyche aspect, so to speak, of this and other important questions, some of which are being touched upon in this forum. And I‘ll start with this: I guarantee 90% or more of Waldorf teachers have never asked themselves: “What’s right and good and correct about allowing children to use black crayons?”

To do so would be to gravitate towards a state of concerned interest and human understanding that might be called ‘sympathetic communion’ – which is exactly what we’re all hoping for, when all the disagreeing is done with. And just why it is Waldorf teachers appear to be so incapable and/or willing at times to take part in a sympathetic communion relationship with aspects of their work and with others (with non-anthroposophists) is another huge – and entirely separate, though very related – question.

In a bizarre sort of way, this bordering-on-silly crayon question is an incredibly revealing example of the unconscious and terribly mechanical (anti-human) Steiner-Waldorf way of ‘dealing’ with pedagogical questions, including media, plastic toys, clothing, etc. The Waldorf movement says black crayons are bad; and so teachers ‘believe’, and then behave as if crayons are the problem. Yet the problem isn’t and can’t possibly be the ‘material’ crayon itself (unless one finds a number of scribbles and black streaks on the living room wall).

The problem is we’ve dealt with the whole issue in a completely superficial manner, and are happily content with blaming an inanimate object. And we ‘resolve’ the issue by physically removing the crayon from the child’s hand and from the classroom altogether. Now that’s incredibility shallow, if you really think about it. That’s beyond superstition actually. That’s moving into the realm of crayon idolatry. And so, just as I do when I witness inauthentic behavior, those critical of Steiner-Waldorf rightfully cry “Foul!” And anybody and everyone would, or should.

This has been a long post and so I’m going to end with this observation: writing all this has placed me in a state of sympathetic communion. And now I can’t tell the difference between my (what I believe are) supportive observations and, say, someone else’s (what I tend to frown upon and view as) critical comments. Interesting, the real and authentic revelations a dialogue on crayons can actually lead to.
post #2 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by alanoe
As UUMom suggested on another thread, that’s *all* they are: crayons. They are not some frightening implement of Ahriman, one which darkens the child’s soul-life and hinders spiritual development or what have you. Nor can some imaginary parallel be drawn between the classroom’s lack of black, and Steiner-Waldorf’s supposedly racist-like inclinations (as has been suggested by some).
Of course, if it were nothing more than that, it wouldn't be much of a controversy, would it? There is no way to express or comprehend how an oriental or African American child must feel being unable to draw their own hair or the hair of their family members. And while there may seem like a stretch to make a racial connection with this, we hear time and time again of children who have tried to draw angels with dark skin or hair and are corrected by the teacher and told angels must have light skin and golden hair. There is so much more to it than Waldorf teachers being silly about silly things (as you suggest below). Teachers think of this as very spiritual work and to call them silly just insults them and obfuscates what they are trying to do (and doing).
Quote:
The black-crayon ‘controversy’ comes down to this: They are blocks of colored wax. They are an example of how silly, inappropriate and out-of-touch Steiner pedagogy can sometimes be. And the fact that this particular silly, inappropriate and out-of-touch Waldorf idea is still pushed by teachers as ‘spiritually and pedagogically relevant’, is a perfect example of what it is that often fuels the critical arguments and anti-Waldorf sentiments.
This isn't grandpa refusing to put in his teeth for Thanksgiving dinner - this is serious enough and important enough to people that parents have many, many times lodged complaints with their school. And, why shouldn't they - especially when there is NO reason for it other than Steiner's ideas?
Quote:
To believe that black crayons somehow hinder or damage the child’s soul development, is little more than a neo-occult and neo-religious form of superstitious behavior. And so it’s no wonder others stand up and challenge these fearful, fundamentalist-like notions. To confront the not-particularly-truthful is human nature, plus it’s perfectly 21st century in its enlightened, conscious intent.
I can't quite figure out if you support challenging this behavior or if you are suggesting it is just silly and let's not make a big deal about it. Yes, Waldorf teachers may be supporting silly superstitions, but their influence on the child is, many times, as significant as the child's mother and often more significant than the child's father. We can sit in judgment of the poor grandparent who makes the terrible mistake of giving a firetruck as a gift, so likewise, why shouldn't we judge, why should anyone accept a Waldorf teacher who insists angels must have blonde hair.
Quote:
No, I personally don’t appreciate that the anti-Waldorf arguments tend to spin 180 degrees in the opposite fanatical direction, but that’s me. I prefer taking a balanced, level-headed approach to all things.
Thanks - Me too!
Quote:
My second point goes further and deeper into the human/psyche aspect, so to speak, of this and other important questions, some of which are being touched upon in this forum. And I‘ll start with this: I guarantee 90% or more of Waldorf teachers have never asked themselves: “What’s right and good and correct about allowing children to use black crayons?”
And you can make this guarantee based on what? I can make a similar guarantee that probably 90% of Waldorf kindergarten teachers (I assume you mean kindergarten teachers and not high-school teachers) have probably heard from at least one parent about this black crayon controversy and have had to ask themselves exactly the question you claim they have never asked themselves.
Quote:
To do so would be to gravitate towards a state of concerned interest and human understanding that might be called ‘sympathetic communion’ – which is exactly what we’re all hoping for, when all the disagreeing is done with. And just why it is Waldorf teachers appear to be so incapable and/or willing at times to take part in a sympathetic communion relationship with aspects of their work and with others (with non-anthroposophists) is another huge – and entirely separate, though very related – question.
I agree with you here. The "sympathetic communion" (and I like this term) is not something Waldorf teachers strive for - and I believe this inability to approach sympathetic communion comes from an Anthroposophical background that says that through Anthroposophy they are more enlightened than non-Anthroposophist parents.
Quote:
In a bizarre sort of way, this bordering-on-silly crayon question is an incredibly revealing example of the unconscious and terribly mechanical (anti-human) Steiner-Waldorf way of ‘dealing’ with pedagogical questions, including media, plastic toys, clothing, etc. The Waldorf movement says black crayons are bad; and so teachers ‘believe’, and then behave as if crayons are the problem. Yet the problem isn’t and can’t possibly be the ‘material’ crayon itself (unless one finds a number of scribbles and black streaks on the living room wall).
You're right - it's not the crayon's fault - it's the Waldorf movement's fault for saying it is the crayon's fault.
Quote:
The problem is we’ve dealt with the whole issue in a completely superficial manner, and are happily content with blaming an inanimate object. And we ‘resolve’ the issue by physically removing the crayon from the child’s hand and from the classroom altogether. Now that’s incredibility shallow, if you really think about it. That’s beyond superstition actually. That’s moving into the realm of crayon idolatry. And so, just as I do when I witness inauthentic behavior, those critical of Steiner-Waldorf rightfully cry “Foul!” And anybody and everyone would, or should.
But if we really want to get beyond the superficial, we have to be willing to accept that deeper meanings exist for Waldorf teachers and that those meanings might have significant impact on the child - even though superficially they are expressed through the choice of crayons. Children don't get the benefit of sorting these things out - they believe what their teacher tells them. Maybe angels don't look like me. I don't know but my teacher must! The question is, is this "silly" behavior good for the child or isn't it? I say it isn't - and requires a challenge.
Quote:
This has been a long post and so I’m going to end with this observation: writing all this has placed me in a state of sympathetic communion. And now I can’t tell the difference between my (what I believe are) supportive observations and, say, someone else’s (what I tend to frown upon and view as) critical comments. Interesting, the real and authentic revelations a dialogue on crayons can actually lead to.
Moving toward agreement is always nice.

Pete
post #3 of 48
I didn'y say that, however. lol

I said I have black and brown bee's wax crayons.


[[[Quote I think we should try Lauren's suggestion. When we want a debate or help deciding on why we might choose a school, we can let that be known. If we just want to talk bee's wax crayons (and my set does have black and brown crayons for cripes sake) we can just do that.]]]
post #4 of 48
Can I come over and color? I had a long wretched day!
post #5 of 48
Sure... and I'll feed you cookies with red frosting, if you like.

But you have to promise not to whine.

:LOL
post #6 of 48
I promise!!!
post #7 of 48
Coloring sounds pretty good right about now.
post #8 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by UUMom
I didn'y say that, however. lol

I said I have black and brown bee's wax crayons.


[[[Quote I think we should try Lauren's suggestion. When we want a debate or help deciding on why we might choose a school, we can let that be known. If we just want to talk bee's wax crayons (and my set does have black and brown crayons for cripes sake) we can just do that.]]]
Yes, I knew that.

Pete
post #9 of 48

They’re just bee’s wax crayons, for cripes sake

My child attended Waldorf Schools from kindergarten to the 9th grade and now her children (my grandchildren who are now teens) have been in Waldorf Schools since pre-school. I've been working out of anthroposophy for about 30 years now.

I don't claim to have all the answers, but maybe different perspectives can be helpful when questions around the use of brown and black crayons come up.

I'd like to offer another perspective on the use of black or brown crayons. The idea that brown or black are "Ahrimanic" never occurred to me nor do I remember a teacher conveying this idea to any parent group of which I was a member.

The idea of educating "the whole child" means that educational approaches
are chosen that work from the idea of "wholeness". In drawing, (at least in my experience as a parent) I noticed that my daughter's pictures filled the whole page with color, figures were not made by outlining and then filling in the outlines (like coloring books). Instead, she used those block crayons to make vivid figures and forms that were created "from the inside out" instead of "the outside in". The block crayons were ideal for filling in the background of the picture (using the very broad side) and for coloring the forms and figures (the points or the medium broad sides).

Black and brown crayons lend themselves to making outlines that get filled
in. I don't have the right language to describe this, but the young child's
perception of things can be very different if one encourages the seeing or
perceiving of the world in whole colors/figures -- or as outlines that are
colored in like coloring books. So in the early classes, brown and black
are used sparingly if at all.

If you try it yourself, you might get an idea of how different it is for a young
child to work from outlines or from the saturated-with-color whole figure.
In the higher grades,outlines and sketching with black and white are part
of the course work.

So from my experience, it's mostly a matter of development and timing --
not total exclusion -- as far as the use of black and brown are concerned.

I don't know how drawing is approached these days but this is what I re-
member from about 30 years ago. And of course, at home, she used
any color she wanted when she drew.

Greetings to all,

Serena Blaue
post #10 of 48
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Serena Blaue
Black and brown crayons lend themselves to making outlines that get filled in. I don't have the right language to describe this, but the young child's perception of things can be very different if one encourages the seeing or perceiving of the world in whole colors/figures -- or as outlines that are colored in like coloring books. So in the early classes, brown and black are used sparingly if at all.
Hi. That’s a very good point and in some ways a much better explanation than my own.

I will say though that I have heard the anthroposophical view of the color brown is that it reflects a ‘dirty or muddy soul’. Steiner’s lead character in his Mystery Dramas (Johannes, I believe the name is) wears brown clothing for this very reason. And I do recall something having to do with black and its deficiency of light.

Your ‘outline’ observation is valid, but one has to wonder: Why not just black then (as in ink outlines)? And if brown as well, why not all dark shades of color? And most important: Is the tradeoff worth it? Isn’t having all the colors available to all children, more important than withholding for philosophical reasons?

And besides, the teacher is there to help and guide the children’s drawing activity. If they happen to use the crayon for outlining purposes, it’s the role of the teacher to direct them otherwise.

Also and with regards to teachers giving direction as to the color of angels and so forth: this something I’ve never heard of or come across. And it’s something that’s definitely not taught to teachers in training. Sounds again like an isolated incident involving one ignorant individual in one school. No question though, the Movement in general would benefit from a bit of PC education: bringing some aspects of the pedagogy and curriculum up to 21st century standards and expectations.
post #11 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Serena Blaue
My child attended Waldorf Schools from kindergarten to the 9th grade and now her children (my grandchildren who are now teens) have been in Waldorf Schools since pre-school. I've been working out of anthroposophy for about 30 years now.

I don't claim to have all the answers, but maybe different perspectives can be helpful when questions around the use of brown and black crayons come up.

I'd like to offer another perspective on the use of black or brown crayons. The idea that brown or black are "Ahrimanic" never occurred to me nor do I remember a teacher conveying this idea to any parent group of which I was a member.

The idea of educating "the whole child" means that educational approaches
are chosen that work from the idea of "wholeness". In drawing, (at least in my experience as a parent) I noticed that my daughter's pictures filled the whole page with color, figures were not made by outlining and then filling in the outlines (like coloring books). Instead, she used those block crayons to make vivid figures and forms that were created "from the inside out" instead of "the outside in". The block crayons were ideal for filling in the background of the picture (using the very broad side) and for coloring the forms and figures (the points or the medium broad sides).

Black and brown crayons lend themselves to making outlines that get filled
in. I don't have the right language to describe this, but the young child's
perception of things can be very different if one encourages the seeing or
perceiving of the world in whole colors/figures -- or as outlines that are
colored in like coloring books. So in the early classes, brown and black
are used sparingly if at all.

If you try it yourself, you might get an idea of how different it is for a young
child to work from outlines or from the saturated-with-color whole figure.
In the higher grades,outlines and sketching with black and white are part
of the course work.

So from my experience, it's mostly a matter of development and timing --
not total exclusion -- as far as the use of black and brown are concerned.

I don't know how drawing is approached these days but this is what I re-
member from about 30 years ago. And of course, at home, she used
any color she wanted when she drew.

Greetings to all,

Serena Blaue
Hi Serena, Glad you made it here!

What you are describing above has to do with drawing technique - not the colors themselves. Most kids who grow up in Waldorf families have never seen a coloring book and are unfamiliar with the technique of outlining and coloring in. The exclusion of black crayons and the insistence of some teachers that certain things require certain colors (angels blonde, etc.) is deeper than this. I agree with your "inside-out" observation, BTW - and outlining with black or any color would not be appropriate in a Waldorf school. But the exclusion of some colors that some children NEED is not healthy and really makes no sense. The earlier the child realizes they can't create their own hair, the deeper the impression will be - so timing doesn't really work as an argument either.

I'm looking forward to your participation!

Pete
post #12 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by alanoe
Isn’t having all the colors available to all children, more important than withholding for philosophical reasons?
Absolutey!!!
Quote:
And besides, the teacher is there to help and guide the children’s drawing activity. If they happen to use the crayon for outlining purposes, it’s the role of the teacher to direct them otherwise.
Again!!!
Quote:
Also and with regards to teachers giving direction as to the color of angels and so forth: this something I’ve never heard of or come across. And it’s something that’s definitely not taught to teachers in training. Sounds again like an isolated incident involving one ignorant individual in one school.
I've heard of it more than once. If you purchase a wooden angel from one of the Anthroposophical products stores, you are most likely to get blonde hair. Has anyone every seen one in a catalogue that isn't blonde? And, of course, it will be in that one arm up - one arm down stance.
Quote:
No question though, the Movement in general would benefit from a bit of PC education: bringing some aspects of the pedagogy and curriculum up to 21st century standards and expectations.
BRAVO!!!

Pete
post #13 of 48
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete
But the exclusion of some colors that some children NEED is not healthy and really makes no sense. The earlier the child realizes they can't create their own hair, the deeper the impression will be - so timing doesn't really work as an argument either.
These are two very astute observations. They’re similar in example to the point I was making regarding 95% of teachers never stopping to consider what it is that could be correct and good about black crayons. Most teachers simply aren’t challenged to ever have to examine many of the pre-conceived and abstract notions that Waldorf pedagogy contains.

And yes: some children will actually need black and brown crayons. And how does one determine who those children might be? Certainly not by intellectualizing about it or, as some teachers do, ‘envisioning what’s karmically correct’ for the child. One determines which children might need black and brown crayons, by providing all the children with the opportunity to freely use them. The children who need them, will use them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete
If you purchase a wooden angel from one of the Anthroposophical products stores, you are most likely to get blonde hair. Has anyone every seen one in a catalogue that isn't blonde?
I don’t know anything about catalogues. But without question there’s a very active and growing movement – often parent-inspired and organized, but not necessarily – that’s touching the hearts and sensibilities of people in Waldorf communities everywhere. And that movement has to do with ensuring that human beings of all racial and ethnic backgrounds are represented in the life of the school and community: dolls in the kindergarten with a variety of ‘skin’ colors; schools celebrating Hanukah and Kwanzaa; etc.
post #14 of 48
OK, simple question:

How do kids in Waldorf schools (without black and brown crayons) draw things that are black and brown (their black hair, their dog, their brown house...)? :
post #15 of 48
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by gottaknit
OK, simple question:

How do kids in Waldorf schools (without black and brown crayons) draw things that are black and brown (their black hair, their dog, their brown house...)? :
They don’t. And one would think that after decades of observing children’s drawings with blue hair and red chimney smoke that someone in the movement would have caught on by now.

But the real truth of course is that teachers are fully aware, and are completely comfortable with all that. And they’re comfortable because they’ve been taught to believe that all of it’s pedagogically correct – that the pedagogical correctness overrules all else, including common sense, and anything the children might need and parents would prefer.
post #16 of 48
This question always weirds me out because it has never been an issue at our school. My kids had access to black and brown crayons in Kindergarten. As their Kindie teacher said to me when I asked about the controversy: 'How is an African American or Asian American child supposed to draw themselves witout access to black and brown crayons?' Maybe I am fortunate but I have asked other parents from other Waldorf schools in WA and it has never been an issue at their schools either. Perhaps WA state is more progressive in these matters?
post #17 of 48
This has been my exp as well. Even the children's art in the entrance hallway (where we did parent child group) has branches and such made with brown crayons. I've never exp the racist crayon thing.
post #18 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by UUMom
This has been my exp as well. Even the children's art in the entrance hallway (where we did parent child group) has branches and such made with brown crayons. I've never exp the racist crayon thing.
I've never heard of the brown crayon thing until coming here. My kids were allowed to use brown, as far back as I can recall.

Pete
post #19 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete
I've never heard of the brown crayon thing until coming here. My kids were allowed to use brown, as far back as I can recall.

Pete
I never heard about it, either. Not in any Waldorf playgroup I was in. (My oldest is 16 and we did W playgroup in RI when he was 3, so for years and years saw all color crayons). I read it on WC list about 2 yrs ago. It was also brought up by a WC person on another board i was on not long ago.
post #20 of 48

They’re just bee’s wax crayons, for cripes sake

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhonwyn
This question always weirds me out because it has never been an issue at our school. My kids had access to black and brown crayons in Kindergarten. As their Kindie teacher said to me when I asked about the controversy: 'How is an African American or Asian American child supposed to draw themselves witout access to black and brown crayons?' Maybe I am fortunate but I have asked other parents from other Waldorf schools in WA and it has never been an issue at their schools either. Perhaps WA state is more progressive in these matters?

And in the 5 different schools that I've come to know in the last 30 years or so, I can't remember any that completely forbade black or brown crayons.

Serena
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