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Waldorf Critics - Page 4

post #61 of 109
What we parents who are making education decisions right now are hoping to find here at MDC is an understanding of the overall experience our kids are likely to have if we make a certain choice. It is very difficult to discern what is a specific problem limited to one school or family and what is an inherent problem that we are likely to have to deal with at any Waldorf school.

Public school is fundamentally based on beliefs and systems that I don't agree with. I am not saying they are bad. I know that many are wonderful. But, I know that for our family there will be things we just can't accept.

So, with any school decision, it is a matter of will the problems be ones we can live with and work through? Obviously, cultish, alienating, judgemental and abusive behavior are beyond what I and most people are willing to tolerate. Are we to believe that these are issues we should all expect to deal with? I'm still trying to comprehend how your experiences reflect on the whole of Waldorf education and why I should accept your experiences as a "reality" that I should be basing decisions on.

Again, I am grateful for the honesty of critics. I believe you 100%. That does not mean that I can know that these issues will effect our experience.
post #62 of 109
I don't have a problem with people describing the negative experiences they personally have had with a particular school.

I do think that the explanations for WHY whatever happened happened can be debated and should be debated.

Deborah
post #63 of 109
I completely agree, Deborah.

One area that's challenging regardless of the setting, be it school or family or workplace (or neighbor relations! yie! we have a very challenging neighbor) is the area of conflict resolution. We don't handle conflicts well in this culture, period, or wouldn't need all these thousands and thousands of attorneys taking every little thing to court these days.

In a Waldorf school there are inevitable conflicts, between faculty, between parents, and between children and every possible combination between them. But its primarily only the faculty of the school have any real structure in place to engage in any kind of rigorous self-reflection or peer consciousness about their behavior or role or what have you. But there is a lot of attention given to the subject in the Waldorf movement, and interest in exploring various models of building community concensus, resolving conflicts, etc. I've seen many articles on the subject published by AWSNA, and I've seen a lot of buzz about a book published by Hawthorn Press called "Confronting Conflict". John Cunningham, a former Waldorf teacher, is working to bridge Marshall Rosenberg's methods, "Non-Violent Communication", to Waldorf school communities. I've attended a few workshops on this--it's very impressive.

So I see the movement as brimming with healthy energy toward learning and growing and creating even more harmony in the community life of the schools. This is the reality--not as juicy and salacious as the tabloidy-"Nazi-Cult Lures Children into Satanic Seance" nonsense, maybe. But it's MUCH closer towards resolving the real life problems that really arise.
post #64 of 109
Hi Mijumom,

I agree with you completely. My bottom line has always been that Waldorf has great potential, but it needs to be honest with itself.

I will add, though, that if a group of people repeatedly hurt children, and support others so they thrive, you have a big problem. You are only as strong as your weakest link. Heck, many people in history benefitted some people while hurting others. What are you trying to say, really, that some children thrive? Okay, so what? It's all for naught when you are hurting others.

This is the way og the world, and not okay with me!

Quote:
Originally Posted by mijumom
Beansavi- I'm trying to figure this out. My kids are happy and growing beautifully at a Waldorf school. I still have some qualms with it but in "reality" I have major issues with every school we've been to and the doctrine of the public schools can be really scary. What "reality" should I base our choices on? What I see my kids living and other kids or your accounts? Have you ever seen what happens to kids in public schools that don't fit in? Or, kids that don't read early enough etc.? Where are we better off if we care about what our kids are exposed to and the food they eat and the way in which they are treated?

I appreciate your presence and your sharing of your experiences. As a result of your honesty and others, I am extra vigilent about looking out for signs and evidence of potential issues and we have not yet commited to going throught the grades.

All of that said, the kids that I saw, for whom the school was "right" for were exceptional.

This is very hard for many people who love the idea of Waldorf but are trying to determine if we can reconcile the potential downside. Any info. helps and I was just sharing what I perceived.

Peace.
post #65 of 109
I don't disagree with you. Still, your expression of what happened to you does not necessarily reflect on what is happening at my kids' school. I, as a parent, am trying to figure out if the broader issues are going to present in any Waldorf School or if the incidents are isolated. I am very aware of the propensity for certain attitudes to flourish in a "community" like Waldorf. I think it is a tough line to walk, keeping a cohesive and supportive community while addressing and acknowledging issues in an open straightforward fashion. I agree that as a society, people are way too complacent in the name of "unity" etc. Still, I want our kids to be part of a functioning community where there are differences and there is compassion. I want them to fit in where they are but not conform, challenge authority without isolating themselves and living in a constant state of rebellion and to feel safe and secure while still dealing with reality. What institution accomplishes this?

One thing I have noticed at our school is that there is an awareness of the criticsm and we have all been encouraged to ask questions and address grievances in a straightforward manner.

Given the experiences I had at various schools, I can attest that yes, in this cruel world, people do get hurt. What some perceive as serving their community well, ends up hurting and alienating someone else.

I don't have the answer but, do you just think that Waldorf should cease to exist? Or, is it possible that the issues you and others bring up are actually being examined and slowly addressed? I'm putting my money (heart, time etc.) on the latter at least for now.
post #66 of 109
One of the problems, as I see it reported most of the time, is that there's a lot of misunderstanding about what anyone in the broader "movement" can be expected to do to resolve some particular problem with a teacher or school.

Healthy schools can't know what's going on in other schools. They have no power to investigate claims, issue judgements or make changes. I'm not sure why the Waldorf movement is perceived as this powerful administrative overseer capable of operating like law enforcement or something. It's a little like blaming really good public schools for the abuses perpetrated in the bad ones.

And the closest there comes to any broader Waldorf "agency" of any kind is AWSNA. AWSNA is an extraordinarily tiny organization that has no resources to investigating complaints against a teacher or school, nor is it in the least degree realistic in the case of serious allegations like abuse. That's a job for law enforcement, not curriculum experts. About all AWSNA can really do in the case of complaints is to help parties identify who they might go to in disputes like this.

Waldorf schools are independent schools that are faculty run institutions that operate in a peer-to-peer mentoring model, not a top-down administrative model from any formally structured movement.

To reform the unhealthy schools, people that witness the unacceptable goings-on have to take on the schools and teachers directly. No one else *can* do it. There has to be evidence, there has to be names, dates, specifics. There has to be direct accountability, and those that DO know can't pass on the responsibility to act to those that don't, and couldn't know, what's gone on.
post #67 of 109
Mijumom,

For answers to all you have said here, I suggest you read through the "Safe, Healthy Haven" thread. It truly addresses very clearly your questions and many of your points made here, and gives you clear responses.

I am directing the rest of this post to all readers, not singling you out or anything.

I am a 38 year old woman, who has three kids (one I just home-birthed nine weeks ago), who lives in a southern town where my family has remained since the Revolutionary War, got my undergrad degree in French, taught myself Spanish and taught both in public school, went to graduate school for Elementary Ed. until I bailed out during my second year and did my Waldorf teacher-training instead, and helped found a Waldorf school here. I simultaneously attended an Anthroposophical study group with some original Anthropops that used to be in Spring Valley, NY, the first Anthropop incarnation in the USA, a country most Anthropops worldwide consider to be the destiny and future of Anthroposophy. I served on the personnel committee and board of trustees at the school I helped to found while I also taught French, was a Kindergarten assistant, and later a second grade teacher and a third grade teacher in the Waldorf School. I was also a Waldorf parent and PA member. (All this I did while breastfeeding three times a night!--ha ha!)

Why so much info on myself?

Because I have seen a lot of Waldorf, inside and out. I have spoken to many people associated with Waldorf and Anthroposophy on many different levels.

I have to say with all honesty, the amount of smugness and energy put in denial that Waldorf has any problems here on MDC literally makes me get sick to my stomach.

I have so many things that bring me joy in my life. I will not enter into verbal matches with anyone here to see who can hold out the longest and who can be the most clever. It is all so childish, and I am too grown up for all that. I don't have to have the last word, I don't have to have anything. I am not that needy. I know who I am.

I know what happens to literally hundreds of children in Waldorf schools in this country and I know that Waldorf could really become a healthy, happy movement if they would grow up and come to grips with the weak links in their chain. I know Waldorf could do a heck of a lot better job teaching our children conflict resolution skills by how their grownups deal with each other.

I know that Waldorf makes people cry. Cry. Like, Boo hoo, laying on your bed sobbing, or crying on your friend's shoulder, or crying to the parent association, bla bla bla, yet never receiving an inkling someone was sorry or thought they could have done better.

No clever words are going to take that away. Only honesty will. It is not an isolated problem. It is a common problem, that keeps popping up all over the world and all over the US. People can stereotype people with Waldorf concerns. People can say "that's not true" all they want. The problems in Waldorf will still be true. Period.

If anyone has questions or needs my support, they can always chime in on the "Safe Haven" thread. I have given my life over to helping others in many forms.

I am trying not to project my other experiences onto this forum's contributors. I guess I get a little sensitive because I have never seen anyone pro-Waldorf openly discuss Waldorf's problems yet on MDC. Why not? Why choose to feel threatened? I think it would do a world of good for both "sides".

Sincerely in Peace,
Beth/Beansavi

Quote:
Originally Posted by mijumom
I don't disagree with you. Still, your expression of what happened to you does not necessarily reflect on what is happening at my kids' school. I, as a parent, am trying to figure out if the broader issues are going to present in any Waldorf School or if the incidents are isolated. I am very aware of the propensity for certain attitudes to flourish in a "community" like Waldorf. I think it is a tough line to walk, keeping a cohesive and supportive community while addressing and acknowledging issues in an open straightforward fashion. I agree that as a society, people are way too complacent in the name of "unity" etc. Still, I want our kids to be part of a functioning community where there are differences and there is compassion. I want them to fit in where they are but not conform, challenge authority without isolating themselves and living in a constant state of rebellion and to feel safe and secure while still dealing with reality. What institution accomplishes this?

One thing I have noticed at our school is that there is an awareness of the criticsm and we have all been encouraged to ask questions and address grievances in a straightforward manner.

Given the experiences I had at various schools, I can attest that yes, in this cruel world, people do get hurt. What some perceive as serving their community well, ends up hurting and alienating someone else.

I don't have the answer but, do you just think that Waldorf should cease to exist? Or, is it possible that the issues you and others bring up are actually being examined and slowly addressed? I'm putting my money (heart, time etc.) on the latter at least for now.
post #68 of 109
PS Mijumom,

My second to last post was typed while a thunder storm was rolling in and I was worried about losing my computer AND my baby was screaming his head off like he usually does at that hour. I hope I didn;t sound too harsh...

Fondly,
post #69 of 109
post #70 of 109
Beansavi- I want to make it clear that I am NOT a Waldorf advocate. I am a parent who is on the fence. I love most of what we have experienced thus far but am unnerved by what I read and hear soemtimes. So, I come here to try to gain more insight. It is always futile because ultimately it becomes about Waldorf being the best thing in the world or the worst.

I think it would be disingenuous for people to say that Waldorf is not more prone to herd mentality and I can see that it would be very difficult to go against the grain. No point in denying it. What I wonder as I mentioned before, how do we do this? How do we balance reverence for harmony and community with honesty even in the most difficult of circumstances. It is a struggle in any closeknit community or family.

I am so sorry for your struggles. i wonder why, in your exploration of Waldorf and anthroposophy you weren't turned off before even sending your kids by some of the doctrine you say is plainly taught to teachers.

Is that part of the problem? That we have instincts and feelings about it but don't act upon it because it looks so inviting?

I AM trying to have an honest discussion about this. And, I do value your input and I don't think it behooves you to avoid offending anyone, that's not your responsibility. I want to learn something here that will really help me (and others) figure this out and make decisions.

Thanks.
post #71 of 109
At the risk of being flamed, can I ask if there are any other bad experiences with waldorf school that could be explained other than beansavi's? I just skimmed as best I could through this and the other waldorf concerns thread and the only problem experience I found was beansavi's. Granted, I did skim about 15 pages and likely missed something, but the two threads are getting rather long. It would be nice if other problems were outlined in brief for us to consider. I would be particularly interested in problems that have nothing to do with plans arguments:
# 1. Waldorf Schools are Religious Schools
# 2. Waldorf Is Based on Occult Theory
# 3. Publicly Funded Waldorf Programs Violate the First Amendment in the United States

I have no issues with any of the above. If anyone has any negative experiences that do not relate to the plans arguments and are problems not isolated to an individual school, I would like to hear them.
Thanks
post #72 of 109
boongirl- My kids are in a Waldorf school and we love it. That said, if you search some of the other threads, there are a multitude of claims ranging from abuse and neglect of the children to alienation of those who speak up. I believe the accusations but am trying to determine how much has to do with individual experiences and how much is inherent to Waldorf.
post #73 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by mijumom
I believe the accusations but am trying to determine how much has to do with individual experiences and how much is inherent to Waldorf.
I have read some of this as well and am also seeking the questions you are. THis is why I asked the question the way I did. I would like to know if there are arguments against waldorf that have nothing to do with philosophical or religious objections to anthroposophy and also are problems with more than just an individual school. I am not arguing or debating, but I have only seen problems that are either completely unique to one school and/or have to do with objections to anthroposophy.
post #74 of 109
Like I said, if you look at some of the other threads, you can find some pretty detailed accounts. The implication, as I interpret it, is that things happen and there is little accountability and that the person speaking up suffers the most. I think that it is perceived to be a universal problem within Waldorf because of the way the schools are structured and from my own pov, I think, as I said before, it's tightknit and if you have a grievance or something serious goes down, there is so much at stake socially and emotionally. This is just what I have gleaned but again, I'm not swayed because I really love what we've experienced so far. I keep my eyes and ears open and try to remember that the school is for my kids and that it should not be my life and my social scene so that should something come up, I can put my kids best interest first and not have my ego, reputation and community destroyed. I want to find the right balance between being active and not being too emotionally invested in fulfilling my own needs. I hope that makes sense.

So far absolutely wonderful experience for my kids.
post #75 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by mijumom
I think, as I said before, it's tightknit and if you have a grievance or something serious goes down, there is so much at stake socially and emotionally. This is just what I have gleaned but again, I'm not swayed because I really love what we've experienced so far. I keep my eyes and ears open and try to remember that the school is for my kids and that it should not be my life and my social scene so that should something come up, I can put my kids best interest first and not have my ego, reputation and community destroyed. I want to find the right balance between being active and not being too emotionally invested in fulfilling my own needs. I hope that makes sense.

So far absolutely wonderful experience for my kids.
I think you have hit the nail on the head here. Many, many people get caught up in the community aspect of the schools. If Waldorf or their school isn't working for their child, it becomes very hard to leave because they feel like they are losing their community too. I have had friends leave our school for various reasons. The ones who left when they realized it wasn't working for their child, have the best relationship with the school and community and still participate. Those that hung on past when everyone else said to them, your child needs something that the school can't provide, they are the ones who end up in a bitter separation. Their child inevitably is happier somewhere else but the parent ends up bitter and disillusioned about the whole experience.

I do think Waldorf schools need to be more realistic about who they can serve and who they can't. There just aren't the resources to help children with severe behavioral issues or serious learning disabilities. I can think of one child who was admitted to 1st grade who should never have been accepted because the school was not equipped to deal with his behavior. It took until the end of 2nd grade to convince the family that the school could not give this child what he needed and the child was causing intense turmoil in the class. Meanwhile, the class lost other children because of this child and this child's behavior got worse and worse. It didn't help that the parents were in total denial about their child's behavior and how it was affecting everyone else in the class. The child is now in a public school getting the help he needs, the parents are bitter and the class is still reeling from the aftereffects. It is interesting to note, that there have been recent articles in the Waldorf magazine Relections about enrollment and how that given a school's resources they may not be able to educate all children that come to them. Some older schools might have those resources available but many younger schools do not.
post #76 of 109
I think that other's complaints have been that when problems arise or accusations are made that the people speaking out become alienated and mistreated for the benefit of keeping the cohesion of the community. It just seems like a predictable problem in such closeknit communities.
post #77 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by mijumom
I think that other's complaints have been that when problems arise or accusations are made that the people speaking out become alienated and mistreated for the benefit of keeping the cohesion of the community. It just seems like a predictable problem in such closeknit communities.
One of the issues I've considered is that, since ours is only one of maybe 6 Waldorf schools within driving distance, that many of the conflicts that come up are treated more like personal issues than "Waldorf" issues. For example, if a parent and teacher clash over something or other, parents sometimes withdraw to a different Waldorf school. I've heard that we're one of the more desired schools for prospective teachers, so perhaps that makes it easier for a faculty to decide not to renew a particular teacher, confident other good candidates will appear. The school is pretty healthy financially, which helps minimize the school-wide impact of removing a teacher or student.

I'd characterize the community as a strong and healthy one, but there certainly isn't this "don't rock the boat" energy evident from my perspective. It seems like the faculty are a strongly opinionated bunch that are sometimes highly contentious with one another, more like a college or university faculty than a typical public school faculty which often deals more as a worker's group facing up against management/administration powers. There are strong disagreements sometimes, but enormous collegiality too. The peer support is tremendous. But they're just like people you find working together in other spheres, in that some are stubborn and forceful, some are the peacemakers, some are go-with-the-flow, others are "my way or the highway".

I'm a parent who tries not to be a "micro-manager" and don't expect the teachers to defend to me much why they do this or that in the classroom. If the teacher puts my child out of the class for talking or whatever, I'm not one to march to the school to inquire about who did what or that kind of thing. I remember an occasion where middle school students (including mine ) were ordered to detention for showing up a few minutes late for a very tightly scheduled rehearsal, and after the third or fourth parent of a straggler had interrupted the rehearsal to questioned the teacher's strictness or offer excuses, the teacher grew very crabby and short tempered with them. Well, this later blew up into a Very Big Deal. I was inclined to side with the teacher for the simple reason that she had established the rule and the consequence, this was detention, not a firing squad, that the students aren't going to break into pieces, and 7th and 8th graders don't benefit in issues like this to have mommy or daddy step in to fix it. They're capable of being their own advocates in issues of this magnitude. Maybe not all issues with a teacher, but certainly this one.

But my view didn't win the day. The teacher was forced to withdraw the detention as a result of the parents speaking out.

There was a large problem that came up not long ago with some classmates in the high school. I don't want to go into specifics, but they were high school students who were completely in the wrong and committed a serious school offense. Many of us, faculty and parents, have real deep concerns, though, that the problem was very clumsily handled in many ways, and are working towards opening a dialogue and finding cutting-edge solutions for what's in reality a very complicated dilemma in adolescence. It is an issue that arouses strong emotions in people, (in some cases, strong differences of opinion which mirrors the divided opinions in the larger society). That just makes it that much more difficult to deal with the complexities involved.

So we're deep in the middle of working on a serious concern we have right now. It's a serious issue, but it's not an "us against them" issue. There is no "bad guy" vs "good guy". Nobody in the school did anything "wrong", per se. We have met with a bit of defensiveness from some, but enormous openness from others. It's just a process to work through to build trust that this isn't an "attack" against anyone. I'm going to have to use that word "complexities" again, but the situation is chock-full of them. There are issues of confidentiality, of privacy, of administrative procedure, of peer-social dynamics, and of potential vulnerabilities which a school may open itself to if anyone says something wrong or fails to act in a specific way. That's just the tip of it.

But even in the midst of a difficult problem in the HS community, I am *not* feeling any vibes to hush or back-off. I'm completely optimistic that real constructive new insights will come from this process, because everyone involved wants to find the best possible path laid out for handling an extremely difficult, and not uncommon, problem teens can easily get involved in today.
post #78 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by boongirl
At the risk of being flamed, can I ask if there are any other bad experiences with waldorf school that could be explained other than beansavi's? I just skimmed as best I could through this and the other waldorf concerns thread and the only problem experience I found was beansavi's. Granted, I did skim about 15 pages and likely missed something, but the two threads are getting rather long. It would be nice if other problems were outlined in brief for us to consider. I would be particularly interested in problems that have nothing to do with plans arguments:
# 1. Waldorf Schools are Religious Schools
# 2. Waldorf Is Based on Occult Theory
# 3. Publicly Funded Waldorf Programs Violate the First Amendment in the United States

I have no issues with any of the above. If anyone has any negative experiences that do not relate to the plans arguments and are problems not isolated to an individual school, I would like to hear them.
Thanks
I think the only other issue with Waldorf, apart from what you mention above, is the slow/different academic pace. I think there were one or two posts in the other thread about this (I think 'jalilah' was one of the posters?). For example, Waldorf schools don't teach reading until age 7. They argue that most public schools in the industrial world do not teach reading until age 7 but this is in fact misleading, because this lumps reading and pre-reading together. Most public schools in the western world do teach pre-reading skills well before age 7 (letters, sounds associated with letters, spelling one's name) and many start reading in grade 1, which in most systems is at age 6. In France, children learn the letters, the associated sounds and writing (cursive writing, not printing!) in ecole maternelle (pre-school and kindergarten) and reading in grade 1. In Waldorf, you don't learn about a single letter or associated sound until you are 7.

There are lots of arguments for and against starting at age 7. I have read all kinds of stories on the internet about Waldorf children who missed the "window of opportunity" by starting reading and writing too late and not being able to spell or print their name at the age of 9 or 10, etc. and lots of other stories about how well-rounded, artsy, intellectual, etc. Waldorf kids turn out in addition to being excellent spellers, so there you have it. The first Waldorf family that I ever met had a boy who had just turned 7 and and was just finishing kindergarten! I observed him with his kindergarten class and he looked and acted soooooo bored.
post #79 of 109
My granddaughter just turned six in December. She'll be starting first grade next fall. She will start with learning letters and sounds at the beginning of first grade, so she won't be waiting until 7. Several other children in her class have November and December birthdays, so most of the first graders will be six at the beginning of the year.

Now, due to her own demands, she already knows how to write all the letters in caps and most in small letters. She is also beginning to catch on to the concept that letters represent sounds. However, she also knows that she will be learning how to read in first grade and is quite happy with this. In the meantime, her parents and her grandparents get to read to her, and she memorizes the books and "reads" them to her little brother.

My experience is that the pre-reading happens in first grade and then the first steps towards actual reading occur by the end of first grade. Serious work on actual reading happens in second grade. Many children are good readers by third grade, most waldorf kids are reading at grade level by fourth grade.

All of this varies by school and by teacher. I only have direct experience with 4 schools at this point, all of which were effective at teaching reading. I do have experience of one failure of the system: when I was going to a waldorf school in the 8th grade (1964), many of the kids in the class were not good readers. That was one of the earliest classes at that particular school and I think they just had a lousy teacher. It didn't strike me at the time, because most of the kids I knew in public school weren't good readers either. In fact the only good readers I knew were in my own family, plus a very small group of kids I ran into in my constantly moving childhood. Perhaps one or two in each class were really fluent.

That same school was doing an excellent job by the time my daughter attended 1st grade (1974?). She loved her school, learned how to read really well by 3rd grade and has been an enthusiastic reader ever since.

The problem nowadays doesn't seem to be that the majority of children fail to master reading (except, perhaps, in really awful schools, which tend to fall, unfortunately, in really awful neighborhoods), but many children are not enthusiastic readers. They have mastered the mechanics, but never had, or have lost, the love of story and literature.

Deborah
post #80 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaCl
The Waldorf movement isn't "sick". It is thriving. Every Waldorf school in this country has been initiated by highly motivated families. It isn't perfect. It is growing too fast in some ways. There aren't enough resources, especially good teachers, to meet this demand, and that's a symptom of too much success, not too little. . . .This is an extraordinarily difficult undertaking, starting a school like this. The fact that there continues to be so many new ones is a sign of their success.
Today I came across older Waldorf school counts put out by AWSNA back in 1992. Back then there were 91 schools, now there are 151, as well as another 30 "initiatives" aspiring to become official Waldorf schools.

A growth of 150%, and all of it springing independently, from the grass roots. The challenges aren't those of a sick "system", though there certainly seem to be some sick schools. The challenge is how each of these independent schools can gracefully and capably negotiate through the difficulties, conflicts, and even natural growth pains, and mature into the solid, healthy, and inspired institutions they should be.
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