« Anthroposophy and its Defenders - first impressions | Main | PLANS - accurate? Responses and comments thereon »

August 2, 2005

PLANS - accurate?

quoted from PLANS:

Parents should be told that although Waldorf bills itself as "arts-based" education to attract holistically minded parents, creativity is actually discouraged, and many of the "artistic" activities in Waldorf are more accurately described as religious rituals, such as meditation on symbols important in Anthroposophy. Children spend a lot of time copying the teacher's work directly off the board. Fourth graders embroidering a purse must all use the same pattern (often with esoteric symbols).

Some comments from DK (waldorf student, waldorf sibling, waldorf parent, waldorf staff member, waldorf grandparent)

Like most of the material on the PLANS site, the above remarks are not backed up by any citations or documentation.

To tackle one piece of the above nonsense: My daughter did cross-stitch in the fourth grade along with the rest of her class. Every child did an original design and had a choice of making a pillow or a backpack. I still have the pillow almost 30 years later. It has a nice picture of a house, some trees, grass with flowers and a blaze of sunlight in the corner. The teacher didn’t make any suggestions at all about the design or the choice of colors.

It is certainly possible that in at least one fourth grade at one or another waldorf school, somewhere in the world, the teacher told the children what to embroider...but I find it hard to believe that all of the disgruntled parents who have passed through PLANS and the WC have all encountered this same rigid teacher.

No creativity? At another school I know well, the eighth grade class spends their craft periods learning to design and sew clothing. At the end of the year they put on a fashion show. Every garment is different: different fabric, different choice of design, different items of clothing. Dresses, jackets, skirts, pants, shirts, blouses, everything from formal wear to swimwear. The parents and children at that school would be quite surprised to discover that creativity is supposedly discouraged at waldorf schools.

Esoteric symbols is another odd one. No examples are given (this is typical of the material on the PLANS site, vague smears are always preferred over facts that could be verified), but I suppose some of the symbols that turn up in children’s notebooks could be interpreted as esoteric. The difficulty here is how broadly you interpret the term. The sun, for example, has been used as an esoteric symbol at various times and places. My daughter’s pillow includes a sun in the design. Aha, proof positive! The moon, the signs of the zodiac, angels, stars, flowers, symbols used for the elements and much more could legitimately turn up in children’s work...but is the presence of such symbols actually proof of occult indoctrination? Only for people who are easily, very easily, convinced.

Years ago I had a friend who had spent many years studying the “New Age Conspiracy.” Everything she encountered in life was neatly slotted into her theories as evidence of this all-pervasive conspiracy. I think she managed to cook dinner without obsessing about it, but it is hard to think of anything else that was allowed to exist without being linked. The folks who believe that waldorf is an evil conspiracy seem to operate the same way. Are there stars in the sky in a picture in a second grader’s notebook? They must be occult symbols, not simply an attempt to indicate that it is night in the picture. And so on and on...

After over 40 years of exposure to waldorf education I can’t think of a single incident of children being asked to meditate in class or out of class. Teachers do sometimes ask children to be quiet...perhaps this is being misinterpreted by a creative member of PLANS?

Reading about waldorf on the PLANS site is like a trip through the looking glass! I need to practice believing six impossible things before breakfast. After a couple of weeks of this profound spiritual exercise perhaps it will stop sounding so silly.

One short paragraph. I didn't even cover every point. But every statement (supposedly a careful critique of an aspect of waldorf education) is distorted, exaggerated, and undocumented.

Posted by Deborah at August 2, 2005 4:03 PM