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Criticisms of Waldorf? - Page 2

post #21 of 74
Thread Starter 
In the interest of clarity and brevity, and because I love lists , let me try and boil down some of what has been said. Based on their personal experiences (some of which were shared by others), folks who responded on this thread were turned off by:

1. Eurocentrism, or limited multicultural teaching
2. Lack of diversity among students
3. Degree of authority invested in teachers
4. Application of rules pertaining to play and development that they did not agree with
5. Cliques within community
6. Ideological difference with other parents
7. Whole-class curriculum that didn't meet needs of all students

Thanks mamas, for the responses! This really helps me figure out where and how I want to plug in with the whole idea, and offers specific things to be aware of should I ever be considering a Waldorf, or any other school, really.
post #22 of 74
I am so glad we've been able to discuss this in such a rational and open minded way, it's appreciated!

I still think that many of the responses will be school and/or personally biased, it can't be helped as we are all basing our thoughts on personal experience. Some of what has been said is just not true in our school and some closely matches.

Quote:
Originally Posted by karne View Post
What I had thought was education geared to individual needs is, in my own experience, geared rather to the mean, or class norms. If your child falls outside those pre-conceived norms (which I think are as rigid as those in other school systems, just not identified in the same way), there isn't any way to attend to the child, because there is only the "waldorf way" of teaching. I have seen bright kids be underwhelmed, and struggling kids just struggling along, being told they will "get it" leading to some level of frustration.
There is no denying the beautiful environment that can be created, but at some point some kids need to be themselves and respected, and met, where they are.
This one is a very big issue for us at the moment. It's not putting me off Waldorf at all for now but it has come up. I will spare you the details but is has seemed that the individual child is less considered than "the way it's supposed to be"

Some other things that are less than ideal for us are...
-The dealing with (or not) of gifted kids, as has been mentioned already. My just turned 4 year old seems to be gifted, she writes, is starting to read and is passionate and knowledgable (without pressure or other influence from us) about things that are beyond her age. I am sure to be seen as intellectualizing her and I do have the fear of that passion being quashed in her.
I have no issues at all with a non academic kindergarten but I don't want her to be told that the things she loves like words, letters and learning are wrong. It remains to be seen what will happen at our school as she starts kinde in August.

To be honest, that is the one thing that has made me think that I will re-evaluate the situation after kinde.

-The less than open mindedness. In my experience, those that are really wrapped up in a certain philosophy/lifestyle find it difficult to see beyond that philosophy as far as solutions to problems go.

Ooops, it's 1am here and I am being paged by my daughter who's woken up. I'll have to come back to this later.
post #23 of 74
My impression, from many years of studying Rudolf Steiner's works, is that he was anti-dogma, didn't want to be seen as an AUTHORITY, wanted people to think for themselves, encouraged flexibility and creativity in the people he worked with and so on.

Some anthroposophists can handle this sort of freedom, some can't.

I've experienced dogmatism in waldorf schools and openness. It just depends on the people, the situation and so on.

One thing I've experienced, which I find quite interesting, is that anthroposophists tend to feel free to take their children out of a waldorf school if they don't think it is working well for them. And they can pull their kids very quickly. My sense, is that someone with a clear picture of what waldorf is aiming for can see clearly when it is failing. Equally, when a situation has been cleared up, the kids will go right back into the school. Other parents, less knowledgeable, will hang in longer, trying to sort things out, or not realizing how bad the situation actually is. Then they'll decide that waldorf is really, really awful and never want anything to do with it again.

I think waldorf would benefit from more knowledgeable parents, frankly, who could call things when they need to be called.
post #24 of 74
:
I totally agree with you Deborah!
I remember well, that my mother did go into the school and complain once or twice about some things and she was taken seriously by the school staff and the problems were resolved,....and she is not an anthroposophist!

Also, a lot of the things that were mentioned by previous poster were never an issue at my school, nobody ever told my parents what to feed us children at home, what to wear (besides the character themes and logos, which my family hated always anyway), what to do with us while being at home and what not to do. TV was discouraged but never forbidden and especially no contract to sign?

We had 4 disabled children in my class and only one of them got transfered in grade 9 into a school for the disabled, the other 3 children graduated with us!

Our school was very diverse, regardless of socioeconomic statues, or religion. Although I must admit we did not have many Muslim students in the 80s in Europe, but we did have a couple.
We had strong Christian believers within the students as well, one of my friends read the Bible every night before she went to bed, even on school trips and nobody made fun of her because of it.

We never had ANY parent look down on another family, it did not matter where they came from or how much money they had!
There were no cliques within the community and no ideological differences with other parents, everybody was easy going and working towards a common goal, to get a good and holistic education for their children, that was it!
Children that were not able to pay for a school trip for example were financially supported by the school community, including the other parents, but without them knowing who needed the financial support.
Parents who were able to pay a bit extra that time around for another student did not mind paying a bit more, maybe next time around they needed the support...

I guess a few things have changed since I went to school!
post #25 of 74

sorry to rehash....

...but I thought it would you all might be interested in knowing a little tidbit about good ol' Steiner himself, especially in talking about the anit-dogmatic persona he carried with him....He himself was not a member of the Anthroposophical Society, the very one he coined!...he did not want to be a part of any one "group" or pigeonhole himself...Which I think is such the message of Anthroposophy--it's relation to the ebb and flow of the cosmos, why would anyone want to stop their spirit from wandering, internally and externally alike?!
I also wanted to touch on the comparison aspect...The haves and have-nots can be a great weight on any parent's shoulders, however I think that is merely a societal thing, not a Waldorf Education thing.....I actually recently bit the bullet and entered GASP Wal-Mart looking for a pool for Jonah Kai....Granted I didn't buy one, and was gritting my teething the whole time (I swear only overstimulated megalomaniacs shop there...sorry), but a plastic pool is just so much fun! The following day I went to toys r us to buy a sand and water table, frankly because we didn't have time to build one (our usual route with DH as fun and funky carpenter)....It was $80 and so blatantly, shiny yucky icky plastic...but again, so much fun for Jones!
So, it is what it is....
Simple living is what you make of it....

I babble!

great thread, though.....you all speak with such grace!

cheers
Kyara
post #26 of 74
Okay, I haven't read the whole thread, but my first gut response as a dyed-in-the-wool (ha!) anti-authoritarian is that I am bummed about the teacher-student dynamic in the grades. Waldorf has managed to turn so many mainstream things on their heads, but the basic dynamic of "I am the teacher, I will tell you what's what" remains. If it weren't for that, I would not have many complaints.
But again that's my radical perspective. Summerhill is in many ways my "ideal school".:

In many, many ways, I love waldorf. Our home has taken on many waldorf-y aspects.:
post #27 of 74
It has been my experience that the teachers become less authoritarian the older the children get. By 7th or 8th grade, the class is having regular class meetings where many things are decided as a group. The older children in our school are currently working on a dress code. By writing it themselves, they will be much more accepting of it.
post #28 of 74
looking forward to reading the entire thread, but don't have time right now...

I would agree with the pp who said eurocentric and lack of multi-cultural. there is a huge waldorf communtiy-school, farm, sunday children's services, clinic, stores etc near me. I love to go there, but find it odd that so many people are choosing to speak german or to give their kids german names.

Also, i personally dont' agree with a lot of steiners' philosophies. I dont' believe in reincarnation or that it takes time to "incarnate" so I dont' agree with some of the ed philosophies that arise out of that.

That being said, I *love* a lot of waldorf stuff.

Ok, gotta get dd to bed...
post #29 of 74
"there is a huge waldorf communtiy-school, farm, sunday children's services, clinic, stores etc near me. I love to go there, but find it odd that so many people are choosing to speak german or to give their kids german names."

we have that, too, in Kimberton, PA....but they're actually just tons of German people!

I love being around them, though, since we share so many of the same philosophies--Athroposophy aside....They are lots of drum circles and
bon fires, potlucks and every kind of community-oriented anything ALL THE TIME...the only problem is that we're an hour away
post #30 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by Attached Mama View Post
I would agree with the pp who said eurocentric and lack of multi-cultural. there is a huge waldorf communtiy-school, farm, sunday children's services, clinic, stores etc near me. I love to go there, but find it odd that so many people are choosing to speak german or to give their kids german names.
Interesting. I know several people have commented on this and I wonder if that is pretty common.

The experience we have had is really different from this it may be Eurocentric but then it's locate din Europe. I live in a distinctly less than multi-cultural city-well much less so than most in North America that I've lived in. However, our school seems to have loads of people from all over the place.

Or, do you mean that the lessons seem to not be multi-cultural?
post #31 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hannahsmummy View Post
Interesting. I know several people have commented on this and I wonder if that is pretty common.

The experience we have had is really different from this it may be Eurocentric but then it's locate din Europe. I live in a distinctly less than multi-cultural city-well much less so than most in North America that I've lived in. However, our school seems to have loads of people from all over the place.

Or, do you mean that the lessons seem to not be multi-cultural?

Both...The curriculum is very eurocentric, but also the schools tend to attract an un-diverse population. Yes, here the people at the school are certainly international (European, Asian, etc) but not reflective of the diversity of the area; i.e. very few African American or Latino families, and certainly not diverse socio-economically. It was the same, or even more so, at our UK school.
post #32 of 74
One thing I have found interesting at our school is that while we attract very few African Americans, we do attract POC from Great Britain and the Caribbean and Africa. One of my children's assistant Kindergarten teachers was from Tanzania. She taught the children many songs and games from her home country. Her son attended one of the Waldorf schools in Seattle. Alas, she was only here for a short time before she graduated from teacher training and went back to Tanzania to work in a Waldorf school there. Another Kindergarten teacher, nap teacher and preschool teacher was from Great Britain and was a POC. She and her husband and daughter are now moving to an even whiter part of WA state on the peninsula to be a Kindergarten teacher at the school in Port Townsend.

Lastly, I have found that our teachers from Europe have actually done a better job of bringing multiculturalism and American history/culture to the classroom than our American born teachers. It reminds me of the American fascination with knights and swords while our German friends seem much more fascinated with Native American culture.
post #33 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhonwyn View Post
Lastly, I have found that our teachers from Europe have actually done a better job of bringing multiculturalism and American history/culture to the classroom than our American born teachers. It reminds me of the American fascination with knights and swords while our German friends seem much more fascinated with Native American culture.
That is funny and sort of sad.

Marian Anderson, the woman with the amazing voice who sang at the Lincoln Monument, spent many years singing and training in Europe, where she was treated with respect. She was discovered in Europe (Paris?) by Sol Hurok, who brought her back to the U.S. to tour. Even though she was a great artist, she still could not stay in hotels in many cities because she was a POC. In some ways racism and intolerance are as deep seated in the U.S. as anywhere in the world.

And of course the reason she had to sing at the Lincoln Monument? Because the Daughters of the American Revolution, who owned Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., had a ban against colored performers. Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the DAR over this. The outdoor concert attracted 75,000 people (the hall held 3,000), plus it went out over the radio and was heard by millions.

Sol Hurok was a Russian, by the way : who seems to have been prejudiced against no one who could sing: they could be anything from Jewish to Siberian to African-American, if they had a great voice he adored them.
post #34 of 74
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post #35 of 74
I am so happy to see this thread. We went to an open-house today at our local Waldorf school ( hour away) because I am considering the parent-child class in the fall for my 4 year old son.
A few observations and questions:
My son is a talker! Never quiet. He was the only one in a room full of children who was animated and talking for a good part of the 2 hours. He has lots of questions, in general. I didn't get the impression this was looked upon favorably, but don't know if this was just today-these teachers-or a way of dealing with a chatty little guy? They smiled, said ummm, etc. Interesting to watch but my son was obviously confused with thte lack of interactive conversation.
During the story, one child ( about 3 years old) starting pushing/arguing with his older brother for his seat on the tree trunk. The roaming teacher tried to physically move the younger boy, then when he avoided her she made a very expressive disapproving face ( shaking her head/frowning/eyes scrunched a bit). Didn't get a good feel from that!
At one point my son pulled a couple of leaves off the class tree. The first one came off as he touched it, but he really pulled the 2nd I was talking with the teacher and he gave me one, then turned to her and said " Even though I know I should have left this leaf on the tree, it was so interesting I wanted to hold it, and now I want you to have one to keep." She smiled at him and very sweetly said it was very smooth and she knew of a little fairy who would use it as a blanket. WHAT?!! I understand pretend play but will there be actual conversations here? Later my son said "Mom, you know how we pretend there are fairies and pirates well that lady really knows one!"
Sorry if this isn't exactly what this thread was about, but its hard to tell as a newbie whats Waldorf ( or in some schools anyway) or a teacher.
post #36 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by lberk View Post
I was talking with the teacher and he gave me one, then turned to her and said " Even though I know I should have left this leaf on the tree, it was so interesting I wanted to hold it, and now I want you to have one to keep." She smiled at him and very sweetly said it was very smooth and she knew of a little fairy who would use it as a blanket.
Ds would LOVE this sort of thing! So would I. I don't mind the pretending thing so much, I guess it depends on how important scientific facts for a four-year old are to you...
post #37 of 74
Not sure what you mean by asking how important scientific facts are....? My point was that she took an honest exchange from a little boy and looked him right in the eye and fed him this! She didn't say "I will like to play with this and use it as a fairy blanket" or whatever.
post #38 of 74
Early childhood waldorf focuses a lot on fantasy so that conversation wasn't at all out of the ordinary. Many teachers will discuss gnomes and fairies as if they really exist. They don't believe in teaching more than "softcore" sciences until the older grades. I"m sure someone else will chime in with what age that would be because I don't remember. If a child that age asks serious science questions they are likely to get answers about fairies or gnomes or "soft" explanations. Steiner very much believed in only exposing children to certain things when they are developmentally ready, including science, so that is where this comes in.

Other than that, I wouldn't feel good about the lack of interaction between the children and teachers you noticed, unless it was specifically a quiet time. If it were an open house I would expect a lot of talking and playing. At least that is how our open house was.
post #39 of 74
I'm still confused, or maybe I'm just not stating this right....Nobody was asking for science instruction or conversation at all. I am fine with slowing down the academic aspects of education and in fact that is why we are homeschooling/considering Waldorf. I was concerned- and wondering if this was typical of Waldorf- about the way the fairy reference was used in the interaction with my son. I am all for developing pretend play and imagination but to me it seemed very odd that this adult would throw this into a conversation with a child ( on his first visit) in such a way. I'm trying to find out if this will constantly be done, and if so, I see that as a negative aspect of this program for sure. Same for the way the other child's "disruptive"behavior was frowned upon in such an exagerrated, negative manner.
I found the visit to raise more questions than it answered, which I suppose is okay. In other aspects, the teacher was responsive to my son. I have not been able to find out specifics about how things are handled in the classroom , that's why I was happy to see this thread. I want to learn of others experiences.
post #40 of 74
Quote:
She smiled at him and very sweetly said it was very smooth and she knew of a little fairy who would use it as a blanket. WHAT?!! I understand pretend play but will there be actual conversations here? Later my son said "Mom, you know how we pretend there are fairies and pirates well that lady really knows one!"
You ask is this common in Waldorf? I'd say so, yes, up through kindergarten for sure.

Is this a negative? Well, for some people I guess. But I think the real answer depends on how a child responds to the teacher. If the child's eyes light up, they're intrigued, engaged and their imaginations soar then it's positive. If the child rolls their eyes and does the kind of "huh? are you mental?", then it might not be such a positive experience. In Waldorf philosophy, though, it's definitely felt that this kind of fairy tale consciousness is exactly where most children are naturally at the kindergarten age, and that it's an important developmental stage.

There is so much written about what goes on in the Waldorf kindergartens and about what the Waldorf philosophy is about it, what's its purpose. I don't know about every child, everywhere, but I must admit, most all the children I've know this age were "right there" where Waldorf says they are at kindergarten age. So to me, Waldorf kindergartens pretty much "get it". When I was a kid this age, I just adored the adults who could relate to me at that kind of level--not necessarily about fairies per se, but about living creatures, the stars, stones, etc. One of my most beloved "teachers" was my great aunt. She would admire my mudpies and put them out on the table at night for a nice desert for the night elves, and would tell magical stories based on this incredible looking weed that grew on our ranch, "devil's claw" Devil's claw
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