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How is this "not religious"? - Page 3

post #41 of 66

Why I get super frustrated in discussions about waldorf

So, I'm going to try to explain what I've experienced in discussions about waldorf.

A parent has a bad experience. For example a creepy song, talk about Jesus and a teacher who won't offer an explanation as in this thread.

The parent concludes that this experience proves something conclusive about waldorf. Mijumom wrote, for example:
I also think there are elements to it that can be unaccpetable and surprising to many.
They talk over the experience with other parents online and accumulate such experiences and it piles up and looks more and more solid and conclusive and true. And people will begin sentences: waldorf is__________

On the other hand, there are people like me, or Linda. Between the two of us we have well over 50 years worth of waldorf experience. I've seen a lot of bad stuff in waldorf schools. But I've always been able to put it in context. I know where the good comes from and I know where the bad comes from and I don't form conclusions from single experiences or even a pile up of experiences.

Every time someone makes a statement that waldorf is _______________ it is a slap in the face to someone like me with many years of experience in waldorf, who has dealt with people who were unhappy with it, with people who were delighted with it and with everything in between. It says that my years of experience and observation were useless and a waste of time. It says that I've been deceived and didn't notice (not to mention that I participated in deceiving others). It says that my daughter was messed up by her education and I didn't notice and she didn't notice (since she is now messing up her kids by putting them in a waldorf school). And all of my friends and acquaintances who think they had good experiences of waldorf were also deceived and confused.

The problem is, either waldorf, as a system, as an educational approach, occasionally messes up, sometimes hugely (as do we all), and the problems that occur are the results of such mess ups OR it is a sinister, nasty, deceptive, unhealthy, sneakily religious approach to educating children.

Personally, I don't think there is a middle ground or an innocuous way of explaining this disagreement.

So, that is my frustration.

If you think waldorf is sneaky, evil and sinister...say it outright...and if you think it doesn't work very well for many people...just say it...and if you hated it...just say it.

And then those of us who liked it can just say so too and we can go our separate ways.

And I have, in fact, considerable sympathy for people who have had bad experiences in and around waldorf schools and I know it can happen and I'm not denying that it happens. I just DON'T AGREE WITH some of THE EXPLANATIONS OF WHY IT HAPPENS.
post #42 of 66
Okay, people, the "Ring around the Rosie is about the bubonic plague" thing is TOTALLY UNTRUE.

post #43 of 66
Thread Starter 
I would like to clarify that this song and the religious talk were not the only strange and unacceptable things that happened in our experience.

I believe that some people in some Waldorf schools may very well never experience these things. I don't think you are wrong or you've been deceived. At the same time, these things happen a little too often in Waldorf schools IMO.

If we hadn't had these experiences, obviously, we would have stayed and probably would have continued to tout Waldorf as the be all and end all in education. I am actually relieved to recognize after all of this that my children are wonderful and will thrive with or without Waldorf. It is also daunting to know that there isn't a black or white answer as far as the best education.

When I was a huge Waldorf fan, I felt sorry for those who couldn't provide it for their children. I've come a long way. I do not believe in one doctrine and while some teachers and some schools can breathe fresh life into Waldorf Education, at it's core, it is based on one doctrine.

You don't have to be wrong for me to be right. This debate is like any other. It is a matter of perception and personal experience. There are many women who have had epidurals who can argue that it was a better birth experience while I argue that having an unmedicated homebirth is better. It really depends on what you want to get out of it. And, while I am suspicious of the medical industry when it comes to birth, some people feel it is the best technology can offer and it provides a service they wouldn't want to do without. If I think Waldorf is dishonest, sneeky, weird etc. that is just my experience of it. It doesn't have much to do with you.

I have some friends who circumcised their kids. How could I believe that circumcision is barbaric and still be friends with them? Because, I realize that they experience it differently.

I hope I'm making sense. I think very intelligent, actually brilliant people can and do love Waldorf Education. Why there are so many difficult experiences and disillusioned ex-Waldorf parents is something worth exploring and worth those intelligent minds examining and making efforts to make it better.

post #44 of 66
post #45 of 66
Final points and then I'm really going to let this go.

This song is not waldorf and should not be in a waldorf kindergarten. Talk about death is not appropriate for kindergarteners, not even in the context of moving on to first grade. Talk about Jesus is not part of the waldorf kindergarten curriculum and is inappropriate.

The teacher was doing a lot of stuff that was not normal waldorf. Unfortunately, it was not challenged by going up to the next level of responsibility in the school. [Also the fault of the school, as the path for raising problems should be totally clear to every parent and parents should be encouraged to take problems that a teacher doesn't resolve to the next level] I would be very angry with any waldorf teacher who taught a song like that, who talked about death to 5 or 6 year olds or who encouraged Jesus talk, especially if they made the claim that this was part of the waldorf early childhood curriculum...because it absolutely in not.

The whole thing makes me
post #46 of 66
I agree Deborah.

I wasn't being dismissive of the song. I found the song to be less creepy the more I read about it on online. Still, I do not find it appropriate for young children to be singing. In the earlier Scottish versions, it appeared to be a song sung by adolescent girls about leaving childhood and marrying.

I stand corrected on Ring Around the Rosie.
post #47 of 66
Thread Starter 
In my heart, and based on my experience, it is my deep belief that this was not an aberration. There were many teachers involved and this is a very established school. I mentioned it to other teachers and the administrative director and none of them seemed too phased by it. And, even the few parents, who had been there for a while, that I told thought the song was strange but expressed that there is a lot they don't understand and I just have to trust the teachers and the system or I will go nuts. I knew I couldn't take any more evasive answers.

There were many things that occurred at this school that contributed to my understanding that strange things happen and usually a clear explanation or remedy are nearly impossible to come by. I can't even get into some of it here as it would be too inflammatory. Watching other parents struggle to communicate and make sense of what is happening in their children's classrooms really impacted me. I know that I am not willing to subjugate myself to a school or system. Our previous school has been riddled with controversy. Limitations on communication of parents is standard and treatment of children is affected by parents standing with teachers and administrators.

I find it disheartening that what we experienced fits in with so much of what I have read and heard but didn't used to believe.
post #48 of 66
Originally Posted by Deborah View Post
I'd love to see this addressed within the school where it is happening, rather than on mothering. We just don't have enough of the picture to form a clear judgement of the situation, although you have done a good job of describing what you know.

Well, I'm thankful to her and others who have posted before her, informing me of the type of things that go on in Waldorf. If these types of things hadn't been posted on Mothering, I may still have been planning on sending my kids to Waldorf. (Although I did find some other websites as well informing me of Waldorf).

I really don't need to know more about the situation. I have read the song, the teachers have confirmed that yes, they really do have the children sing that song. That's enough for me.
post #49 of 66
I think what Deborah and I have been trying to say, is that we have been involved with our particular Waldorf schools for some time and we have never experienced anything like this. My eldest has been in Waldorf since 4 years of age and is now 11 years old. I have never seen anything like this. I have asked questions about the whys and wherefores of many different things that I didn't understand at the time and I have always received very straightforward answers to my questions.

My kids have never sung a song like this. They have never talked or learned about Jesus in the school. What she and her child experienced is nothing whatsoever like what my family has experienced. I am not dismissing her experience. I too would be concerned if I were in her shoes.

Our school is not perfect. It is too expensive, getting a decision made can be like pulling teeth because they always want consensus, and there are other things I would like to see improved. Overall though, when I compare it to the public schools, other private schools and Montessori schools, it is the right school for us. I would hate for someone to dismiss our school because of some wacky experience at another Waldorf school. Unfortunately, it is human nature to do that. I myself struggle with the bad experience I had at a local Montessori school so even though I know not all Montessori schools are like this one, that one school colored my whole view of Montessori.
post #50 of 66
Thread Starter 
I would encourage people who are interested in Waldorf to look at the specific school and go with their gut feelings.

The only reason I have written off Waldorf is because I feel that the issues we had were rooted in the schools allegiance to one doctrine (Steiner's). I have come to realize that I am just not comfortable with that nor with a philosophy that is so heavily based on one man's opinion.

Even at our current non-Waldorf school, I sometimes try to impart some of the Waldorf concepts I value (no media, natural environment, age appropriate exposure). I think there is a lot to appreciate in Waldorf education.

I personally do not believe that it is just a coincidence that our experience was so disturbing in the same ways that I have heard and read about regarding Waldorf schools across the globe.

Still, I believe that there could be some schools that don't have these issues. There are many people who have horror stories about Catholic schools but there are some that are wonderful, right?

The difficulty is how does a parent determine how much Steiner is in a particular school or how much dcotrine will be there?

I don't have the answers. I know that I feel misled and I feel that we were in a very unhealthy place. I don't think anyone will be able to clearly define whether the main issues are because of Steiner/Waldorf in general or each individual school. I have come to believe that in many schools it is both.
post #51 of 66
Hi Mijumom,

You've said enough in one of your recent posts that I can now identify the school you are talking about. You might want to edit a bit if you want to, for any reason, protect the identity of this school.
post #52 of 66
Thread Starter 
Well, that feels creepy. I'll try to go back and figure out what gave it away. Should I be afraid?
post #53 of 66
I can't figure out the school. If you are concerned and can't figure out why Deborah figured it out, I would PM her. I don't think you need to be too concerned. You have expressed concern before about giving away the school so that is probably why Deborah mentioned it.
post #54 of 66
Thread Starter 
Well, I definitely didn't want to come straight out with the name of the school(that is also against the rules here).

I would venture to guess that most people wont try to figure it out or be able to if they do.

The only way Deborah has figured out which school it is would be if she has some prior knowledge about this particular school. I guess she's aware of the problems as well.

I'm comfortable with what I have written. I think I have been honest and fair. I have actually shown restraint. I also think I've probably said enough (for my own sake and everyone elses)...
post #55 of 66
post #56 of 66
I have nearly ten years experience in the Waldorf movement. The song is about reincarnation and karma. I feel quite certain, but I could be wrong. I've heard it sung in four Waldorf schools in various parts of North America. It's a beautiful song for adults to sing if the meaning is revered, but I also question singing it with young children.

Your questions are valid. Your concerns should have been dealt with much more professionally...and humbly! There are also a lot of teachers who are simply beginners in learning the philosophy, and don't necessarily mean to condescend, yet are not ready or able to articulate an answer to your question. Your questions might stir up thier own feelings of uncertainty. And, well, there are some narcissists in Waldorf education who use the philosophy for superiority, but that's not uniquely Waldorf, it's everywhere. I try to let that strengthen me rather than get to me, but it's sometimes easier said than done.

I'm glad you found something that works better for your family. I do agree with other Waldorf parents that it is difficult to be accurate if one says "Waldorf is_____." I have been in many Waldorf schools as an observer. Each school is unique. I'm wondering if it might be more appropriate to say, "This teacher seems_____." I'm just wondering that. I don't want to jump to a conclusion without knowing more. I absolutely believe that this song needs to be questioned, but as Deborah has indicated, it's never crossed her seasoned path in Waldorf. It's not everywhere in Waldorf.

For those curious how to ask questions of a school, here's what works best in my experience: 1. Talk to the teacher first. 2. If talking to the teacher does not help much, talk to the administrator or address the chair of the college of teachers or both. 3. Contact AWSNA and ask the questions. Describe your experience. Each school is evaluated by AWSNA regularly.
post #57 of 66
Oh, and btw, the version I have heard was much, much more abbreviated than the song linked, and I don't recall any shaming verses.

Water Water Wallflower growing up so high
We are all God's children and we all must die

I cannot remember the whole song accurately enough to write out, but that part I know, as it is repeated. The version linked above, is much, much longer than the version I have heard. I will try to reach one teacher I know who has used it in circle and ask her version of the meaning. I feel very certain it is about reincarnation and karma.
post #58 of 66
Thread Starter 
browneyedsol- Thanks. I think I have made pretty clear that it is my opinion that my experience is a reflection of problems in Waldorf in general. I also think I have illustrated why I have that opinion and that I am willing to accept that other's opinions and experiences may different. I am still entitled to come to the conclusions I have. I don't think I have been hasty or shortsighted. I am fine with you disagreeing with my assessment.

As far as the teachers go, my son's teacher and the two other kindergarten teachers are seasoned teachers (I mean 10-20 years each) so I don't think it was lack of experience or timidity that inhibited them. The condescending tone was typical of many (not all) of the teachers at the school.

With regard to going to the administrator and so on, the reality is that there were too many things that added up. As outspoken as I am as a person, within that system, I felt intimidated and like I was being difficult if I pursued things. I am a rather neurotic and involved parent and I held back most of the year because the condescending smiles and short answers led me to feel rather foolish even asking. I bought into it. I don't think I should have to go to AWSNA to get an answer regarding a song. Plus, and most compelling, I have seen how alienated parents are who do ask too many questions or make too many requests. It just was not the right place for someone like me who would want an explanation too often.

I was willing to give the school another shot but even my correspondence with the incoming teacher and other communications led me to believe that the evasive answers would be something I'd have to live with indefinitely.
post #59 of 66
Hi Mijumom.

For clarity, I don't disagree with you. I also know you are not alone and that continues to concern me. I'm deeply saddened by the shadow of Waldorf, and though I am involved with a school, I'm not in the dark with those shadows. I used to be. Some people leave Waldorf feeling worse than you, and that's simply not right. The condescending attitude is really hard to shake, I know. I've experienced that numerous times. I just want you to know I believe you. I revere anthroposophy, but there is no spiritual hierarchy or code that will prevent me from caring that some families are clearly feeling misled or leaving feeling looked down upon as though they are simply not "enlightened" enough to "get Waldorf." Ick.

For me, there is a richness in the curriculum that is brighter than the shadows. The beauty of the arts in the grades curriculum and the right fit for my kiddos fuels my desire to continue on for now. I re-evaluate ever year, and often play with the idea of starting a holistic charter in our area. It's a big job to take on, though!

post #60 of 66
Thread Starter 
browneyedsol- Thank you so much!! You just made this whole thread worthwhile to me. I've been feeling like a fool for continuing to post on here and I'm glad I have.

I agree that the curriculum has so much beauty and richness. It was very hard for us to leave. It is also very hard to get that magical feelling elsewhere. I have decided and feel convinced now that it is more important to have healthy, clear communication with our school and teachers. But, sure, we have given some things up that I longed to give my kids. My priorities have changed.

I agree that holistic charters are wonderful for our kids and the community at large. Also, as part of the public system (for better and worse), they have to have a transparent curriculum and philosophy and they have to meet certain criteria. They also have to tread much more carefully with regard to religion etc.

Thanks again for sort of creating a bridge between the pro vs. anti Waldorf as I never set out to be on one side or the other. Inherent in the structure of this debate is a sort of black and white deliniation. Of course the more I am probed the more the incidences add up and my feelings of disdain build toward the movement as a whole. In reality, I know it just wasn't right for us. As I stated before, I am not a one dogma kind of gal.

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