December 2, 2007

PLANS case lives on, almost 10 years later

Two years ago I wrote about how PLANS had failed in its lawsuit seeking to have the curriculum changed at two California charter schools on the basis that Waldorf pedagogy as it was practiced in these charter schools was inherently religious and therefore contrary to the current case law on the separation of church and state, which prohibits public money from funding religious education. PLANS hopes such a ruling would effectively prevent any public school in the United States from employing Waldorf methods, though in reality the response by the dozen or so Waldorf-inspired charters in five states would probably be that to make a few modifications and continue as before. The California school districts, as well as almost everyone in the Waldorf movement, disagreed that Waldorf methods are at all religious. The suit was filed in 1998. Given the high stakes involved, the suit moved rapidly through the system (I am being ironic), finally coming to trial in 2005. The actual trial lasted 31 minutes, and the suit was dismissed on its merits. The judge ruled that PLANS had failed to prove any of its contentions. PLANS appealed on a technicality (the only thing you can appeal on), alleging that the exclusion of the testimony of two witness was improper. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals considered the specifics, and decided that the judge had improperly excluded the witness. The case was remanded to the lower court, where more hearings are scheduled for mid-January, 2008. The lawsuit will be re-run, this time with the testimony of the two additional witnesses, sometime in the coming years. Doubtless PLANS hopes the retrial will last longer than 31 minutes. To this end PLANS is also trying to introduce new evidence, since the evidence they had originally presented was ruled inadequate. It is not clear whether the judge will allow this, hence the January hearings. At this point it seems unlikely that the retrial will come to any different of an outcome, but hope springs eternal. At last reckoning the baseless PLANS lawsuit has cost the taxpayers of California $300,000 (the school district’s declared legal costs back in 2005) taking much needed money away from educating children. This amount will escalate as the school districts continue to defend themselves. Meanwhile the Waldorf-methods charter schools named in the original suit have been in operation over ten years, graduating at least two 1st Grades from 8th Grade. The schools are largely successful, and much loved by students and parents alike. PLANS’ quixotic, narrow ideological crusade continues.

Posted by Daniel at 7:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 15, 2006

Another non-PLANS member

"Pete is a fervent representative of the PLANS group."

This, of course, is an outright LIE. Said by Pete on the

Comments on "Deny, Deny, Deny"

Back in August 2005, Linda wrote two blogs about the odd discrepancy between the description on the PLANS web-site and the actual membership of PLANS.
Lies on the PLANS Web-site and Recap on PLANS membership

Linda wrote:

"People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools (PLANS) is a world-wide network of former Waldorf parents, teachers, students, administrators and trustees who come from a variety of backgrounds." Really? Who are they? Where are they? Very few I met there over the years would admit to being part of PLANS. In fact, I was scolded and lectured on several occasions for presuming anyone to be so. Besides those individuals (seven) who are identified as members of the board of directors of PLANS, I found just *one* other person willing to admit to actually being a member of this supposed "worldwide network".

So, now we have it on record. Pete is another person who is absolutely not to be considered as a member of PLANS, much less any sort of representative thereof.

Which leaves me wondering. Why are these folks so vehemently opposed to being publicly connected with this organization?

Posted by Deborah at 9:13 PM

June 4, 2006

Deny, deny, deny

Diana Winter posted on AT on May 7, 2006

Did PLANS tell lies to obtain a grant? Is there some reason you might think this? What kind of lie? To who, about what? Is there some evidence for this, or any reason you can think of PLANS would lie to obtain a grant? I can certainly agree that telling a lie is usually unethical, but until you bring this into the realm of something that actually might have happened, and explain why you think so, it is your own behavior that is unethical.

Diana Winter posted on AT on May 8, 2006

Christian fundamentalists are also entitled to religious freedom, which is the basis of the lawsuit. You or I don't have to like their religion, I don't like it any more than they like anthroposophy, but they have a right to support, via grant giving, a lawsuit that protects their rights. It was a *good* thing to do - it was not ethically "murky." Nor did PLANS, in accepting it, do anything ethically "murky." (It's a PR disaster, I agree; but not ethically wrong.)

Well, the telling lies in the grant applications turned out to be pretty bad for the fundamentalists, in this particular case, although I think they got what they deserved. No, not for being fundamentalists, nor for funding a case against waldorf in public education. They got what they deserved for skipping out on their responsibilities as grantors and not bothering to do a smidgen of research and some critical reading. Where did these folks get the money to make grants? Obviously, from donors. Donors to a cause deserve fiscally responsible behavior from the people they give their money to. PLANS and their lawyers were a bad investment and this should have been obvious within a couple of days of the receipt of the grant application. Would you give money to a group to pursue a lawsuit if they can't get their facts straight? If they call something Wicca when it is something else entirely? PLANS and their lawyer have done a pathetic job on this lawsuit (see PLANS Loses Waldorf Court Case, Lies About it in Press Release ) and the clues were there to begin with. It is too bad someone wasn't paying attention.

Diana Winter posted on May 9, 2006

When confronted, deny, deny, deny

Later that same day I put up a couple of quotes from the grant application.

We didn't hear from Diana again until May 13. I've already quoted her initial (feeble) response on this blog Responses to: A Peculiar Grant Application--Part I

Here, at 9:08 a.m. on May 13 is Diana Winter's final response (at least on AT).

No, Deborah. This game is finished. You simply make yourself appear desperate when you immediately abandon one accusation the moment it is challenged, and start a new one. The whole question of who accused who of Wicca is not going to be revived here now, at least not with my participation. I've gone on record about it several times. Nice try changing the subject though!

The quotes I posted included the Wicca bit, so in what way was I changing the subject? Obviously, by raising a topic Diana wanted to ignore. I presented a package deal, not of accusations, but of direct quotes from an actual PLANS grant application. The question I asked was if these quotes were lies. Diana decided that one item could have been a mistake, rather than a lie. So, until I concede that it could, indeed, have been a mistake, rather than a lie, I'm not allowed to discuss anything else? Odd concept of the rules of online discussion.

So who is desperate? Who ran away to hide back in the cozy WC where it is possible to pretend that everything is okay?

Posted by Deborah at 2:58 PM | Comments (10)

June 1, 2006

Warm thanks to Diana W!

Why did Dan Dugan have to write the following explanation for the, um, mistatements in the grant application?

Because of Diana W., of course. Her over-the-top, totally ridiculous response to my mild, light-hearted hint that PLANS just might have lied in a grant application, forced me to actually publish quotes from that grant application. I wouldn't have cared if she had ignored my remark. Nobody else would have noticed if she had ignored my remark. Within days, everyone would have forgotten that anyone had said anything at all about PLANS lying on a grant application. But Diana, in her attempt to defend PLANS from attack, opened them up to public humiliation and made it necessary for Dan to go out and try to explain the unexplainable and justify the unjustifiable. I just hope Dan appreciates her efforts to protect him.

While I'm at it, I'd like to acknowledge a couple of other achievements from Diana.

One of my favorites is her role in getting Pete kicked off of Mothering. I won't go into details, but she probably knows what I'm talking about and I'm sure that Pete has figured it out.

Her outstanding ability to present the Waldorf Critics as nutcases and fruits has been very useful over the years and is highly valued by everyone who tries to protect Waldorf education from defamation.

So, I just wanted to take this opportunity to express my warm appreciation of Diana. My favorite Critic and a truly thoughtful and courteous human being. One who can be depended upon to open her mouth and insert not only her foot, but her leg, and beyond.

Posted by Deborah at 12:32 PM | Comments (4)

September 21, 2005

Belated Response to Dan Dugan

I was delighted to see that Dan claimed (well, sort of) to have identified the mystery quote. This "quote" is described in an article written by Peter Staudenmaier. Oddly, the actual text that Staudenmaier was supposedly drawing on in his article has never been identified, either by anthroposophists, nor by any of the faithful waldorf critics. The offer has been boosted up to $100, as Linda has decided to put in another $50. Both of us feel that our money is very safe. Please see: The Big Lie from PLANS and And There it Sits for the previous installments in this exciting non-event about the non-existent Steiner quote (one of the most quoted non-quotes ever).

Dan wrote (on Sept. 1), quoting from the article by Peter Staudenmaier (which is published on the PLANS web-site):

In June, 1910, Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy, began a speaking tour of Norway with a lecture to a large and attentive audience in Oslo. The lecture series was titled "The Mission of National Souls in Relation to Nordic-Germanic Mythology." In the Oslo lectures Steiner presented his theory of "national souls" (Volksseelen in German, Steiner's native tongue) and paid particular attention to the mysterious wonders of the "Nordic spirit." The "national souls" of Northern and Central Europe belonged, Steiner explained, to the "germanic-nordic" peoples, the world's most spiritually advanced ethnic group, which was in turn the vanguard of the highest of five historical "root races." This superior fifth root race, Steiner told his Oslo audience, was naturally the "Aryan" race. [1]

I'm sure you understand that the [1] refers to a footnote. The note is:

[1] See Rudolf Steiner, Die Mission einzelner
Volksseelen im Zusammenhang mit der
germanisch-nordischen Mythologie, Dornach,
Switzerland 1994. These lectures are available
in English under the title The Mission of the
Individual Folk Souls in Relation to Teutonic
Mythology, London 1970. The "Nordic spirit" of
Scandinavia continues to fascinate European
anthroposophists; see, for example, Hans Mändl,
Vom Geist des Nordens, Stuttgart 1966.

I have the book before me. I highly recommend
that you, or anyone who claims that Steiner
wasn't a racist, read this lecture series before
going on any further. Have you read it?

My response:

Dan, the question is not whether Steiner was or was not a racist. The question is whether PLANS publishes lies. If the lecture series you cited includes the material in question you should be able to offer up confirmation of the quote, claim the $100, and smear mud all over anthroposophy and anthroposophists. What is stopping you? The utter non-existence of this quote, perhaps?

I'll even offer some helpful hints.

Mr. Staudenmaier provides some brief quotes that should be able to guide you to the right material (if it exists). Look for the following words or phrases:
"national souls" "germanic-nordic" "root races" "Aryan" (Note: Real scholars rarely use single word quotes, and they do provide notes that link the reader not to an entire lecture series but to the page on which a quote occurs.)

Quote the paragraphs in which these words or phrases show up. If this lecture series contains the points in question: you have won the bet! I'll even stretch the point and allow you to pick and choose passages from several different lectures, as though Staudenmaier's summary covers the entire lecture series.

Just a reminder. If it turns out that Peter made a teensy little mistake and just happened to footnote the wrong lecture series--my bet was easy and open. I asked that the passage merely occur in a lecture given in Norway. This gives you at least one more lecture to search for the mysterious quote.

You do know that the "quote" in question was a fabrication. So why is this article still up on PLANS web-site? Why do you publish lies?

Another peculiarity. The footnote says that the title of the lecture series is: The Mission of the Individual Folk Souls in Relation to Teutonic Mythology. Staudenmaier gives the title as: "The Mission of National Souls in Relation to Nordic-Germanic Mythology." How did the word "folk" become "national"? Did someone have an agenda? The word volk in German has a very similar meaning to the word folk in English. German has a word for national, just as we have in English. We don't say: national tales instead of folk tales. Neither do the Germans. We don't say national arts instead of folk arts. Neither do the Germans.

I can think of some reasons for the odd translation of volk into national. None of them reflect well on Staudenmaier or PLANS.
Just had an amusing thought: the material in question was never offered up by Rudolf Steiner at any time. It was written by Peter Staudenmaier and published by PLANS. So if anyone is spreading racism...

Posted by Deborah at 8:35 PM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2005

PLANS Loses Waldorf Court Case, Lies About it in Press Release

On September 14 th, 2005 PLANS lost its seven-year old lawsuit attempting to have public-methods Waldorf Charter schools in two California school districts declared religious schools and shut down for violating the Constitutional separation of Church and State (known as the Establishment Clause, because it reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".)

The reason for the loss? In seven years, PLANS failed to submit sufficient evidence to substantiate the contention that Anthroposophy is a religion. The trial lasted 31 minutes. [transcript here] The judge, the Honorable Frank C. Damrell, Jr., awarded the case to the school districts under Rule 52(c), meaning that the plaintiff, PLANS, failed to provide enough evidence to prevail. The result is that PLANS lost their lawsuit.

If you file a lawsuit, you have the burden of proof of supplying evidence to support your complaint. PLANS' complaint is that the religion of Anthroposophy is being taught in California Charter Schools. The school districts argued in defense that 1.) Anthroposophy is not a religion, and 2.) even if it is a religion, it is not being taught in the Waldorf-methods Charter Schools. The trial examined these two issues, one at a time. In 31 minutes the Judge determined that PLANS had submitted no evidence to support the first contention, while the school districts had offered substantial arguments for why Anthroposophy is not a religion. The judge then ruled in favor of the school districts.

What happened next was interesting. PLANS issued a press release claiming that they had not actually lost, and promised to appeal. (Comments in red)


The trial was not "aborted". The trial concluded successfully, and PLANS lost.

In a move that shocked participants and observers in a Sacramento federal courtroom during the opening of its September 12 trial, People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS) refused to present its case without key witnesses and evidence that had been excluded by the the Hon. Frank C. Damrell.

The only people "shocked" were PLANS. The outcome was widely predicted since the Pretrial Conference Order of February 18 th, 2005 was issued. ( ) Given the evidence PLANS had submitted in the timeframe allowed, it was hard to imagine any other outcome.

Judge Damrell said he intends to dismiss the case.

The case will not be dismissed. The case was awarded to the school districts. The districts prevailed. They won. They proved their point, and PLANS did not. The result is not a dismissal.

As a result, PLANS will take its case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

PLANS will appeal the exclusion of two witnesses to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will not decide whether Anthroposophy is a religion or whether Waldorf-methods Charter Schools violate the separation of church and state. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will decide whether the exclusion of two witnesses was procedurally incorrect.

Two witnesses--Betty Staley, creator of the Rudolf Steiner College public school teacher training program, and Dr. Crystal Olson, a Steiner College staffer who teaches courses on music education--had been listed as expert witnesses by the defendant school districts, and as percipient witnesses by PLANS. In fact, PLANS' attorney, Scott Kendall, had taken lengthy depositions from the two in 1999. However, the defense team's three attorneys changed their minds and withdrew both Staley and Olson's names from their list of expert witnesses after reading each woman's testimony. (Presumably, the lawyers recognized that the women's testimony would do the schools' case more harm than good.)

The two witnesses mentioned by PLANS were disallowed because PLANS failed to follow proper legal procedure and give copies of the depositions to the school districts within the timeframe required. For this reason they lost the right to use these two witnesses. Their appeal concerns the issue of whether the exclusion was valid. If the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals hears the case and rules in favor of PLANS' (a very unlikely scenario) the case will be retried by the lower court, and the new trial will include the two excluded witnesses. The outcome will likely be the same, because the two excluded witnesses are sympathetic to the school districts, and hostile to PLANS.

The school districts were certain that both Ms. Staley and Dr. Olson would support their side. PLANS took a deposition from both, but when they failed to make copies available to the school districts within the require timeframe, the judge then disallowed Staley and Olson as witnesses for PLANS. They could still be called as witnesses for the school districts, but the districts decided that, with overwhelming amount of other evidence, they did not need the additional testimony of Ms. Staley and Dr. Olson. It makes absolutely no sense for PLANS to object to the exclusion of these two witnesses, since these two witnesses, by their sworn testimony, disagreed with PLANS' position, and offered testimony to refute it. A new trial that includes these two witnesses will very likely come to exactly the same result, with the school districts prevailing. That is why the appeal makes no sense.

Judge Damrell then accepted an objection from the defense, who alleged that PLANS had not properly disclosed those witnesses according to the federal court rule of "automatic disclosure" (rule 26a). This rule requires parties in lawsuits to give all their information about witnesses and evidence to the opposing party immediately, without being asked. PLANS' attorney Scott Kendall asserts that the rule does not apply in this case because it was not in effect in this court in 1998, when this case originated.

PLANS is asking the appeals court to rule that, if you take a deposition in 1999, but you filed the lawsuit in 1998, then the 1999 rule does not apply to you. Judge Damrell disagrees, and is unlikely to be overruled by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. If the 9th Circuit does overrule Judge Damrell, then the case will be retried with the two witnesses hostile to PLANS, and PLANS will in all probability lose again.

"PLANS was unable to put on its case because of the court's evidentiary rulings, which we believe to be both erroneous and prejudicial," Kendall stated. "Therefore, PLANS is taking this case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals."

PLANS did put on its case. It filed the suit, put on its case, the case was heard, and PLANS was found not to have any evidence to support its contentions. The two excluded witnesses are not materially relevant, since their testimony was hostile to PLANS anyway.

Debra Snell, President of PLANS, said "After seven and a half years of dealing with legal technicalities, we expected that we'd finally be able to have a trial of the real issues in court. We are disappointed, but also more determined than ever to continue to press our case, no matter what we have to overcome. Steiner's books—which form the foundation of Waldorf education and the basis for Waldorf school teacher training--are shelved in the spirituality section of the bookstores, not the philosophy section! We have plenty of evidence that Steiner's doctrines leak into the public Waldorf schools that citizens pay taxes to support. If that's not a breach of the Establishment Clause, I don't know what is."

Debra Snell does not appear to know what a breach of the Establishment Clause is. Nor does she have much understanding of Steiner's philosophy. PLANS has blathered a lot of illogical nonsense over the years. The difference here is that in a court case, the rules of evidence are strict and fair. Under these rules, PLANS was completely unable to offer any evidence that Anthroposophy is a religion. Snell and Dugan may one day realize that the US Court system functions differently from the Internet. On the Internet you can make all sorts of wild allegations, and then insist that the people you slander bear the burden of proof in defending themselves. In court, such wild allegations must be substantiated by the person filing the suit, or they lose the case. PLANS lost.

The Administrative Director of the Anthroposophical Society in America, Jean W. Yeager, attended the trial, despite the fact that public Waldorf schools claim they have no connection with Anthroposophy whatsoever. On February 4, 2004, Yeager intervened in a Waldorf charter school application by writing to the Benecia, California, school board, and the Anthroposophical Society submitted an amicus curiae brief in the PLANS lawsuit.

Jean Yeager attended the court case. Upon consideration it should be obvious that the Anthroposophical Society has a strong interest in not being misclassified as a religion.

When a court is asked to decide whether or not Anthroposophy is a religion, the Anthroposophical Society has an interest in the outcome. In this particular case the Anthroposophical Society filed an Amicus Curiae Brief [] explaining why Anthroposophy is not a religion. An Amicus Curiae Brief can be filed when a person or group who is not party to the lawsuit nevertheless has an interest in the outcome.

Jean Yeager's presence has nothing to do with Waldorf education, and everything to do with the fact that the court was being asked to determine the status of Anthroposophy, something the Anthroposophical Society has an interest in. The Anthroposophical Society will likely always be involved when the material status of Anthroposophy is a point of contention, such as was the case in the Benecia Charter application. The Anthroposophical Society became involved in Benecia in order to set the record straight when PLANS mischaracterized the nature of Anthroposophy. Otherwise it has no interest in Charter schools, Waldorf-methods or otherwise.

Both the court case and the reaction by PLANS are typical. The court case revealed PLANS to be a fanatical, disorganized group with no clear arguments, and the press release following PLANS' stinging defeat showed an organization partially out of touch with reality. In actual fact, Anthroposophy is not a religion, a position that the court agreed with, based on the evidence presented. The individual members of PLANS (all 10 of them) may feel differently, but they had their day in court, and utterly failed to prove otherwise.

PLANS often complains, without substantiation, that Waldorf-methods Charter Schools harm children. PLANS frivolous lawsuit has cost the school districts over $300,000 in legal fees, money that could have gone towards educating children. Twin Ridges School District Superintendent Stan Miller is "…outraged at the amount of taxpayer dollars it's taken to defend this case that could have been spent on student programs." The irony is that by filing this baseless suit, PLANS has done substantial harm to children of California, and the Twin Ridges Waldorf-methods Charter School has not.

Posted by Daniel at 10:09 AM | Comments (1)

August 30, 2005

The Big Lie from PLANS

Yes, the web-site of PLANS includes a lot of lies. This quote is a particularly glaring example. The untruth of this particular example has been pointed out over and over and over again. It has been pointed out on the Waldorf Critics discussion list. It has been pointed out on Anthroposophy Tomorrow. Daniel Hindes provided a detailed analysis of the first half of this article, coming up with 66 pages worth of paragraph by paragraph analysis of the problems with the article. But the article is still up on PLANS site. [Link to Daniel's article can be found starting from his page of Refutations:
This example of something that Steiner supposedly "said" has been up on the PLANS web-site for years. It is the first paragraph of an article by Peter Staudenmaier entitled: Anthroposophy and Ecofascism.

In June, 1910, Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy, began a speaking tour of Norway with a lecture to a large and attentive audience in Oslo. The lecture series was titled "The Mission of National Souls in Relation to Nordic-Germanic Mythology." In the Oslo lectures Steiner presented his theory of "national souls" (Volksseelen in German, Steiner's native tongue) and paid particular attention to the mysterious wonders of the "Nordic spirit." The "national souls" of Northern and Central Europe belonged, Steiner explained, to the "germanic-nordic" peoples, the world's most spiritually advanced ethnic group, which was in turn the vanguard of the highest of five historical "root races." This superior fifth root race, Steiner told his Oslo audience, was naturally the "Aryan" race. [1]

I would like to challenge the Waldorf Critics to verify this quote by providing:
1)The full quote.
2)The date and title of the lecture in question.
3)The GA number of the volume wherein it was published.
I will personally donate $50 to PLANS for their court case if anyone can verify this quote. Since I am a very poorly paid public librarian, $50 represents a lot of money. I am putting up this offer to show that I am quite serious about the claim that PLANS and the WC publish lies.

A few ground rules - the lecture proffered must have been given in Norway. The quote needs to be translated into English, but it would be best if it could also be provided in German. If the quote provided includes ellipses, the amount of skipped text must be identified in brackets. I have ten days after a quote is offered to research the quote and confirm that it is indeed an accurate reflection of Steiner's spoken words. The sample quotes need to be offered as comments on this blog. Any irrelevant quotes (attempts to prove that Steiner was indeed a racist by quoting other stuff, not connected with the example above) will result in $5 being subtracted from the proposed donation each time such a quote is put forward. And, to be even meaner, I will only publish the citation for such quotes, not the quote themselves.

I'm waiting...I have a feeling I'll be waiting a very, very long time.

Posted by Deborah at 7:14 AM | Comments (0)

August 27, 2005

No Progress to Report

I'm delighted to report that PLANS has made no progress at all in correcting the lies on their web-site.

The piece about children having to all embroider the same design has not been modified (as suggested by Dan Dugan) with the word "usually." The unsubstantiated claims that children "meditate" in school have neither been substantiated nor removed.

My highlighting of the outrageous cutting of Eugene Schwartz' talk has been ignored. There it still sits, missing over 700 words, kindly represented by 4 sets of dots. Still no link to his complete talk. Still no apology for the blatant misrepresentation of his meaning. No withdrawal of the rumor mongering about the end of Mr. Schwartz' employment at Sunbridge.

Now, the WC has provided a good explanation of why they don't have to correct any of the lies we have been pointing out. It is because we aren't pointing them out on the WC list. Right. Sure. Okay. Who could possibly argue with logic like that?

Posted by Deborah at 1:46 PM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2005

Lying by omission (or how to misuse ellipsis)

Here is a wonderful example of how PLANS (with malice) distorts a quote. This excerpt from a talk is available on the PLANS website. The poster inserted 4 ellipses. As you can see by my inserts in brackets, these ellipses represent substantial amounts of missing content, a total of 730 words snipped. Although this is certainly not correct usage * this blatant chopping is not, by any means, the worst bit. What makes the entire thing totally outrageous is that the entire talk by Eugene Schwartz is posted on the PLANS site. Two minutes of effort would have provided a link to the complete content, making it possible for the reader to experience the unsnipped remarks for him/herself. Nope. Unless the site browser is smart enough to realize that the editing has changed the meaning and smart enough to try to track down the actual talk, this bit of blatant deception will go undetected. No one can possibly claim that this sort of “editing” happens by accident. Nor can it be claimed that the meaning of the material is not changed by quoting a few carefully selected words and leaving out 730.

You can read Mr. Schwartz’ complete talk here:

There are some further distortions in the frame added by the poster. Although it is perfectly true that Schwartz is no longer the director of teacher training at Sunbridge College, the underlying thrust is that his frank speaking pushed him to the fringes of the waldorf movement in the U.S. His biography and C.V. are available here:
Note that his books continue to be published by SteinerBooks, he has been continuously employed as a Waldorf teacher and he works as a consultant, working with 20+ Waldorf schools every year. This doesn’t seem to be a movement that can’t handle frank speaking.

Mr. Schwartz said, near the end of his talk: “Let's leave the quoting and back-quoting and citation and finding new obscure manuscripts ...”
PLANS is as much in the habit of quoting (well, mostly misquoting) as they were six years ago. There just seem to be some folks who get stuck and can’t move forward. Eugene Schwartz isn’t one of them. By and large, the teachers and administrators and parents who make up the Waldorf movement aren’t stuck either. But the folks who created the PLANS site and who post on the WC are, with a few exceptions, the quintessence of stuck. They are the malevolent lunatic fringe of the Waldorf education movement.

2. Waldorf Is Based on Occult Theory

On rare occasions a leader in the Waldorf movement has called for full disclosure to parents concerning the Anthroposophic basis of the schools. Eugene Schwartz, a respected Waldorf master teacher and former director of teacher training at Sunbridge College in Spring Valley, New York, says, in a lecture at Sunbridge, November 13, 1999, regarding his own daughter's experience in Waldorf: "I'm glad my daughter gets to speak about God every morning: that's why I send her to a Waldorf school [175 words]. . . I send my daughter to a Waldorf school so that she can have a religious experience . . . [127 words] when we deny that Waldorf schools are giving children religious experiences, we are denying the [whole] basis of Waldorf education . . .[417 words] The time has come for us to stop pussyfooting around [theories] that will sound too strange if we tell parents what we are really doing. . . Tell everybody what we are about. The day they walk into the school, let them know [actual wording: Stop pussyfooting around. Tell everybody what we are about. The day they walk into the school, let them know then.]...[11 words]it is our responsibility to share with the parents those elements of Anthroposophy which will help them understand their children and fathom the mysterious ways in which we work. Yes, we are giving the children a version of Anthroposophy in the classroom; whether we mean to or not, it's there." Schwartz was replaced as director of teacher training at Sunbridge shortly after making these public remarks. Perhaps other Waldorf leaders are not ready for this level of openness.

*Ellipsis indicate an that part of a quotation has been omitted. Be certain that the omission does not change the sense of the excerpt. If the part of the passage following the ellipsis begins mid-sentence, capitalize the first word and place it in brackets.

Four ellipses alone on a line Indicate that an omitted portion of the text is a paragraph or more. David Toomey - 481 Bartlett Hall - Department of English - University of Massachusetts - Amherst MA 01003)

Posted by Deborah at 12:46 PM | Comments (1)

August 20, 2005

Is Eurythmy Anthroposophy?

As an example of anthroposophy in a Waldorf classroom, someone recently brought up Eurythmy. Eurythmy is taught in Waldorf schools to the students. Is not Eurythmy a perfect example of anthroposophy in the classroom? I can see how, if you knew nothing about Eurythmy, this idea might seem to have some validity. But a proper understanding of what constitutes Eurythmy will show that this is not so.

Eurythmy is an art, like modern dance or sculpture. In a slightly modified form, it can also be applied therapeutically, similar to the way the painting can be applied as a form of therapy, known as Art Therapy. Eurythmy is not anthroposophy. It is possible to practice Eurythmy while knowing nothing whatsoever of anthroposophy, either as an adult or as a child. Anthroposophy is a path of knowing, a way of looking at the world, or a body of teaching. Anthroposophy is a conscious path, through the exercise of thinking. It involves a working with concepts, and applying rational logic. Eurythmy, on the other hand, is artistic expression, in the form of movement. It presupposes no knowledge, no doctrine, no theory. You simply have to do it. Is it good for you? Of course, and so is painting, and so is sculpture, and so is choral singing. This does not make any of the above into anthroposophy. Only by defining anthroposophy as "that which anthropsophists do" is it possible to consider Eurythmy as "anthroposophy".

While it is true that Eurythmy is primarily found around anthroposophical initiatives, such as Waldorf schools, this fact alone does not change the nature of the art form. I know at least three people who work as consultants teaching Eurythmy to business groups as a form of team building. When you create a Eurythmy form in movement with other people, it is absolutely necessary to know where each other person is in their path through the form, in order for you to create your movements in proper harmony with the whole. Interestingly, this awareness of what other people are doing is something that businesses also find valuable. And I also heard a number of comments by coaches about how well Waldorf basketball teams perform, attributed to their training during Eurythmy in keeping track of the movements of other people in a group. So yes, practicing Eurythmy confers benefits. But this does not make Eurythmy "anthroposophy". A quote from Rudolf Steiner may be elucidating:

Rudolf Steiner:
... But some little time after the founding of the Waldorf School, it was discovered that Eurythmy can serve as a very important means of education; and we are now in a position to recognise the full significance of Eurythmy from the educational point of view. In the Waldorf School, [The original Waldorf School in Stuttgart of which Steiner was educational director] Eurythmy has been made a compulsory subject both for boys and girls, right through the school, from the lowest to the highest class; and it has become apparent that what is thus brought to the children as visible speech and music is accepted and absorbed by them in just as natural a way as they absorb spoken language or song in their very early years. The child feels his way quite naturally into the movements of Eurythmy. ... The Waldorf School has already been in existence for some years, and the experience lying behind us justified us in saying that in this school unusual attention is paid to the cultivation of initiative, of will — qualities sorely needed by humanity in the present day. This initiative of the will is developed quite remarkably through Eurythmy, when, as in the Waldorf School, it is used as a means of education. One thing, however, must be made perfectly clear, and that is, that the greatest possible misunderstanding would arise, if for one moment it were to be imagined that Eurythmy could be taught in the schools and looked upon as a valuable asset in education, if, at the same time, as an art it were to be neglected and underestimated. Eurythmy must in the first place be looked upon as an art, and in this it differs in no respect from the other arts. And in the same way that the other arts are taught in the schools, but have an independent artistic existence of their own in the world, so Eurythmy also can only be taught in the schools when it is fully recognised as an art and given its proper place within our modern civilisation.
Lecture of 26th August, 1923 (GA 279)

So the supposition that, "only anthropsophists do it, so it therefore must be anthroposophy" is both factually incorrect and logically in error. Quite a few non-anthroposophists practice Eurythmy. And practicing Eurythmy is not anthroposophy, it is simply art.

Posted by Daniel at 11:27 AM

August 16, 2005

More on Dan's evidence for soggy meditations (wet-on-wet)

Or is it soggy evidence? I'm beginning to think that Dan's reasoning is all wet.

Last night I chatted with my sister, who spent, if I remember correctly, four years in a waldorf school. I asked her if she thought that wet-on-wet painting was a form of meditation exercise. She was just as incredulous as my brother. What makes this response amusing is my sister's religious orientation: she is an extremely devout and devoted born-again Christian. She doesn't approve of anthroposophy, although she tolerates me and I tolerate her (this is an achievement for both of us). But she is quite positive about waldorf education, is pleased that her great niece and nephew will be attending a waldorf school and has good memories of her years at the waldorf school.

So, do waldorf schools produce anthroposophists? This is one of the assertions that has been made on the WC.

In my family:
I attended waldorf two years as a teenager - several years later I started studying anthroposophy - mostly through the influence of my aunt who was a long-time anthroposophist

my sister was at a waldorf school for about 4 years (5th - 8th?) and became a born again Christian

my brother was at a waldorf school for about 6 years (3rd - 8th?) and is, as far as I can tell, cheerfully agnostic

my daughter was at two waldorf schools for a total of 13 years (nursery through 7th, 10th-12th) and eventually decided to study anthroposophy. She was at least 28 or older when she decided to take it seriously. Considering that she had a great-aunt who was a totally dedicated anthroposophist, a mother who was and still is very involved in anthroposophy it doesn't seem likely that her "exposure" at school was a deciding factor. On the other hand, the fact that she liked her education is definitely the deciding factor in her choice of school for her children.

I'll have to ask my daughter about her recent high school reunion. How many of her former classmates are involved with anthroposophy, I wonder?


Posted by Deborah at 7:42 PM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2005

The RULES according to the WC and PLANS

THE BASIC RULE: Only negative stuff counts when it comes to waldorf

In practice this means:

Positive newspaper stories are automatically the result of
deception, etc., but a negative newspaper story is the result of a
penetrating and thoughtful investigation.

Positive waldorf anecdotes are always isolated stories, but negative
waldorf anecdotes can be combined into a convincing narrative of
horrors that prove how awful waldorf is.

And so on...

ADDITIONAL RULE: Critics are capable of objectivity about waldorf
due to the strong emotions arising from the terrible experiences
suffered by their children, but waldorf supporters are totally
subjective due to the strong emotions arising from the wonderful
experiences of their children.

Please add additional rules that occur to you...I'm sure I haven't covered all the possible variations!

Posted by Deborah at 4:39 PM | Comments (0)

Is wet-on-wet painting in waldorf schools a form of meditation?

Just a quick recap: I grabbed a brief quote off of the PLANS web-site which included the statement:

many of the "artistic" activities in Waldorf are more accurately described as religious rituals, such as meditation on symbols important in Anthroposophy.

I made fun of this statement and Dan offered up the claim that wet-on-wet painting exercises actually were meditation exercises.

I responded:

Please offer up a quotation from Steiner or from a waldorf
teacher using the word meditation in connection with wet-on-wet
painting exercises for children.

Dan’s response fell extremely flat in my opinion. I simply asked for the word meditation used in connection with wet-on-wet painting exercises. He offered two quotes, neither including the word meditation (nor can anything within the quotes be interpreted to imply meditation) and claimed that this matter proved his point. [I’ve included all of Dan’s material at the bottom so that everyone can examine it for themselves.]

To finish off the subject, he includes a quote from Steiner about a color meditation. The work quoted is not a teacher training text, does not describe an exercise for children and isn’t even a painting exercise. (This exercise could be done while contemplating fabric, construction paper, oil paints, pastels or any other color medium. From the actual wording it sounds to me as though it is supposed to be done as an inward exercise, with no color medium whatsoever.) Then he shows some painting samples from a parent which could, possibly, be construed as having something to do with the exercise in question. On the other hand, the painting samples could be the result of perfectly straightforward color work for children. Remember that the children in waldorf schools mostly paint with the three primary colors, so the fact that some of the paintings include red and blue is not exactly an amazing coincidence. Nor are solid backgrounds with a single color in the center conclusive evidence. Many of my daughter’s painting were painted with a single color and many more with just two colors. It is certainly, faintly possible that a teacher at that particular school was indeed trying to influence children by exposing them to a color exercise meant for adults, but I think I’d want a bit more evidence on the point before I formed a final judgement on the matter.

As an example of PLANS research this is pathetic. As “proof” that all of the wet-on-wet painting classes at all of the waldorf schools in the entire world are actually meditation exercises...words fail me.

As part of my “research” on this topic I called up my younger brother who spent several years at a waldorf school. He isn’t an anthroposophist and isn’t terrifically devoted to waldorf (nor does he loathe it). I’d call him cheerfully neutral.

I asked him if he remembered doing wet-on-wet paintings.

B: Yeah, we did a couple a week or so.
D: Do you remember ever doing anything that could possibly be interpreted as a form of meditation in connection with painting?
B: Huh?
[I explained that it was a serious question.]
B: Well, I suppose when we were trying to decide what to paint it might be called a form of meditation...
D: Well, what do you remember about doing these paintings? Did your teachers show you how to do stuff or what?
B: I remember one class where we learned how to paint mountains in the distance.
D: Describe.
B: Well, first you diluted your paint until there was just a little paint, but mostly water and covered the whole paper. Then you took a little more paint, but still fairly dilute and started further down the page and laid down a second layer. Then more paint and a third layer further down. If you made the tops of the layers a little jagged it looked like mountains going off into the distance.
D: Okay.

First, he describes thinking about what to paint. Whoops, creativity and freedom of choice rearing their ugly head. Then he describes a perfectly straightforward class in technique. Hmmm..

My brother’s teacher was a very serious anthroposophist: but somehow he missed the class on making the kids meditate during their wet-on-wet painting classes. Damn!

Dan, thanks very much for including correct citations with each quote. You made my librarian's heart rejoice :-)

Dan offered the following material:

"Art is taught in the Steiner schools independent of contemporary
trends and tastes ... Art is taught, not to make the children into
artists, but to expose them to the healing influence of color, to
exercise their creative wills, and to counteract the tendency of our
time to set the imagination apart from other learning activities."
[Richards, Mary Caroline. Toward Wholeness: Rudolf Steiner Education
in America. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press,
1980, p. 26]

"What we first and foremost want to achieve is to open the mind of
the child for the true quality of the colors, to give him the
exciting experiences of red and blue and yellow and green, and to let
him partake as fully as possible in the healing truth: "Color is a
manifestation of life revealed by the spirit." [Pusch, Ruth, Editor.
Waldorf Schools: Volume I: Kindergarten and Early Grades:
Thirty-three articles from "Education as an Art", Bulletin of the
Waldorf Schools of North America 1940-1978. Spring Valley, NY:
Mercury Press, 1993, p. 111]

Grounding us in Steiner, a meditation on colors:

Concept of a blue circular disc with red surrounding. Then
transformation into a red disc with blue surround. Reconversion to
the original state. Do this seven consecutive times. Conceive through
inner observation how thinking thereby becomes mobile and free in
itself and ultimately is raised to the condition free from the body.
[Steiner, Rudolf. From the History and Contents of the First Section
of the Esoteric School 1904-1914: Letters, Documents, and Lectures.
Edited by Hella Wiesberger, Trans. John Wood. Hudson, NY:
Anthroposophic Press, 1998, p. 71]

And finally, an example of this very exercise, as given to Sharon
Lombard's daughter at the Viroquoa Waldorf School:

Posted by Deborah at 3:49 PM | Comments (2)

August 8, 2005

Why have this blog?

The description of the WC-Watch blog is as follows:
A lot of nonsense gets repeated on the WC list (that's "Waldorf Critics") as simple fact. Yet those who challenge these erroneous statements are frequently banned on the flimsiest of pretexts. This blog will examine the facts in an unrestricted forum.

Now I'm sure that some people are scratching their heads. I mean, the Waldorf Critics list is an unmoderated list, right? They have listed themselves as an unmoderated list over at Topioca. (List Type: Unmoderated discussion). The site description sounds rather liberal:

A free-speech public forum operated by PLANS, Inc., as an information resource for anyone interested in Waldorf education who wants to hear views from outside the cult of Rudolf Steiner. Subscription is open to the public, and postings are not reviewed in advance. Not for the overly sensitive.

Wow. Public. Free-speech. I mean, what how can this cause any sorts of problems? Well, there are rules (on a "free-speech" list).

No ad hominem arguments. This means that you speak freely about the topics, but not about the other subscribers. ... Violation of either of these rules will result in immediate suspension of subscription privileges for a week, and repeat offenders may be permanently banned.
This is where the peculiar interpretation of "ad hominem" comes in. The fancy Latin describes a type of argument based on the premise that the speaker can't be trusted, a kind of "don't listen to what he says, just look who he is". In classical logic, this was considered a fallacy. On the Waldorf Critics list, it is grounds for dismissal. Except that Dan Dugan interprets "ad hominem" slightly differently. To Dugan, an "ad hominem" argument is one that shows a rabid Waldorf Critic to be in error. Saying "you're wrong" is an "ad hominem" to Dugan. Of course, you have to say it more directly, for example, try saying "Peter Staudenmaier is a liar." This will get you banned. It doesn't matter if you have just proven that very point, with quotes, citations and references. Once you come to the logical conclusion, you have just committed a Dan Dugan "ad hominem": you have demonstrated a Waldorf Critic to be in error, to know that they are in error, and then to claim not to know that they are in error. For that, you are banned, from a "free speech" forum!

Additionally, I should point out the basic illogic of having any rules at all on a "free-speech" forum. Either it is free-speech, or it has rules. It can't be both. But that is how PLANS works: not through logic, but by propaganda – using attention-getting words in close proximity (just look at how many times Hitler's name comes up in proximity with Rudolf Steiner on the flimsiest pretexts).

So that is why this Blog is necessary. Over at PLANS' moderated "unmoderated", censored "free-speech" Waldorf Critics mail-list, they can't handle the truth.

Posted by Daniel at 1:29 PM | Comments (4)

August 7, 2005

More "truths" from the PLANS web-site

I was fascinated by the question and answer quoted below. Like most of the material coming out of PLANS it isn't totally false, but there is very little resting on solid ground, to put it mildly.

Most of the waldorf parents I've known, confronted with this sort of "explanation" would be irritated, disgusted, or, I must admit, amused at such bare-faced exaggerations and distortions.

So, I'll take it bit by bit.

First, throughout, the writer acts as though the "school" and the "parents" are two very separate entities. This is odd because most waldorf schools are founded not by teachers, nor by groups of anthroposophists, but by groups of parents. These parents choose to start a waldorf school. They raise money, find a location, hire a teacher or teachers, take care of administration, incorporate, join the board, do everything involved in creating the waldorf school except teach. And, due to the extreme shortage of waldorf teachers in the U.S., some budding schools send someone (usually a parent) off to a teacher education program so they will have a teacher.

Schools that have been around for a few years are also full of parents. The majority of the staff are parents. Most of the teachers are parents. The board consists largely of parents. If "the school" is hiding something from parents "the school" includes...parents! And parents in positions of power and authority.

What sort of people are waldorf parents? Helpless victims who will continue to keep their children in schools that are failing them year after year (and paying high tuition for the privilege besides)? Well, they are a varied group. Many are self-employed entrepreneurs, bossy, domineering, argumentative and very clear on what they expect and want from a school. Others are successful professionals, many are educators (lots of Chicago Public School teachers had their children in the Chicago Waldorf School), some are eccentrics, some are ex-hippies, some are devoutly religious, and so on and on. I've never met any who saw themselves as helpless victims of a waldorf school. This rare species seems to thrive only in online circles.

I suppose I should deal with a few of the actual points raised.

It is true for example, that children in a waldorf school would have trouble transferring for the first 3 or 4 years, due to the different approach to teaching reading. I've never heard of any waldorf school that wasn't totally upfront with parents on this matter and parents are warned that there could be problems transferring their children in the lower grades. It isn't a problem in the upper grades. Children frequently transfer in 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and very often after 8th grade. I suppose children occasionally have problems, but most of the families I've known had no difficulties at all. At the Chicago school the 8th grade students moved on into the best high schools (private and public) in the city and suburbs. The school newsletter would have several articles a year telling about one student or another who had won an award, starred in a play, received a scholarship and so on. The demand for waldorf graduates by other schools actually undermined the first few years of the waldorf high school: parents who were offered a generous scholarship by another school with a well-established high school usually took it.

On the retention rates: While I was working at the Chicago Waldorf School we began our accreditation process. This involved simultaneous accreditation through the regional private school association and AWSNA. After we joined the regional group we gained access to their numbers: tuition, attrition rates and lots of other interesting stuff. Our attrition rate was slightly below that of most of the other schools in the region. If I remember correctly, we lost 7% per year, most schools were hovering around 8%.

The most obvious point is that waldorf schools couldn't stay in business if they were as bad as PLANS makes out. Not only are most of the waldorf schools in North America doing quite well, new ones keep opening, year after year.

My daughter recently attended her 20 year class reunion at the Toronto Waldorf School. Twelve out of sixteen graduates managed to make it to the reunion. All of them had positive memories of their waldorf experience, all of them have done well in life, several of them have children in waldorf schools.

Happy parents and happy students and happy graduates are the norm. The victims described below are the exceptions. Whoever they are...they have my sympathy.

Many parents decide not to get involved in the religious nature of the school (Anthroposophy study groups, various workshops, etc.)
One more comment: this represents a catch-22 for waldorf schools. If they do offer information on anthroposophy they are imposing their beliefs on the parents, but if they don't offer information on anthroposophy they are hiding the awful truth. A perfect example of damned if you do and damned if you don't. And typical of the careful reasoning offered by PLANS.


Question: Why don't parents simply pull their children out of Waldorf schools when/if they learn of the occultism? Answer: Many parents do pull their children from Waldorf schools. PLANS would like to see data from Waldorf Schools for a statistical comparison with other independent schools' enrollment/retention records. Waldorf education differs from other schools in many ways. It is difficult to simply pull a child and enroll him/her elsewhere. For example, Waldorf discourages reading until the second grade; a child arriving in a public school for grade two after a year at Waldorf would find it very difficult, academically, to catch up. Many ex-Waldorf students require private tutors. Waldorf Education involves learning-by-copying in the elementary years - virtually every lesson is copied from the teacher. Changing to another school can be difficult for young children. Many parents decide not to get involved in the religious nature of the school (Anthroposophy study groups, various workshops, etc.) They leave their children in Waldorf - hoping it will all work out. Waldorf schools do not have a reputation for answering questions or being forthright with information about the connection between themselves and Anthroposophy. Eventually, when the religious/occult nature of the school is seen, many parents feel their options are limited. Some parents simply put up with it and others get more involved in Anthroposophy, changing their lifestyle and losing touch with old friends. They call their schools Waldorf communities. Some parents become engulfed by their school, spending many hours volunteering, attending meetings. Some parents end up donating most of their spare time (and money) for their school. Many parents who leave Waldorf schools find it difficult to adjust and refer to their time there as time spent in a cult. It is not at all unusual for parents and children to seek professional help after leaving a Waldorf Community.

Posted by Deborah at 7:21 PM | Comments (0)

August 4, 2005

PLANS - accurate? Responses and comments thereon

Dan Dugan quoted me (8-3, on WC)

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

and then responded:

The claims made on Waldorf web sites are backed
up by citations and documentation?

PLANS claims, more than once, to be presenting the results of "research." Research can be (and should be) backed up by citations and documentation.

Next I offered an example of 4th graders doing original designs in craft class. Dan responded:

OK, DK got us. Any categorical statement like
"fourth graders embroidering a purse must all use
the same pattern" is bound to be falsified by one

There are a lot of categorical statements on the PLANS website. I plan to spend the next few months falsifying them one by one. Unless Dan would like to change all the categorical statements into something less absolute?

Dan continues:

Of course not. My son's teacher, for example,
wasn't rigid at all. But you know, Detlef, that
it's the rule in the early grades that all the
kids do the same art. This smoke screen is too

How about adding the word "usually" before
"fourth graders"? Would that be sufficient

Unfortunately he starts directing his comments to Detlef, who is an innocent bystander. Detlef simply copied my post to share with the WC.

Now Dan does raise an interesting point. Kids do similar artwork in the early grades. What is this about? Does something sinister lurk (weird music please)?

It is mostly about mastering technique. When I joined a waldorf class, in the 8th grade, everyone could draw really well: except me. As the beneficiary of many different public schools across several states I'd never learned how to draw. Once someone learns how to draw pictures it is quite difficult to keep them from drawing anything they want to draw. I know one waldorf kid who does super-heroes (exquisitely). However, if you never learn the basic techniques, only the kids with a natural, god-given (or hereditary) talent will be able to draw well. Same thing applies to painting, knitting, crochet, sewing, embroidery, felting. Before you can be creative you need to master the basic techniques.

My daughter learned how to knit in the first grade. Everybody knitted the same projects (but hey, they did get to choose their colors). Knitting was revisited in the third grade where everyone made hats and the super knitters got to make scarves too. This time they got to choose two colors and figure out their own stripe arrangement. Knitting was revisited again in (5th?) a higher grade where they did a project involving knitting in the round on multiple needles.

You can, I hope, see the development here. Increasing skill level, increasing complexity, increasing design freedom. My daughter, as an adult is a highly skilled knitter, capable of figuring out almost any pattern and also quite capable of designing a knitted item from scratch. She can work with incredibly complex color arrangements, too. One vest she created is such a work of art that no one ever believes she made it herself.

If you believe that the foundation to artistic creativity is handing kids a blank piece of paper and some crayons, then waldorf indeed stifles artistic creativity. So do all the art classes in the world because all of them (whoops, I'm getting categorical) involve training in technique. This applies to music, singing, drawing, painting, composing, dance...


I'll continue my comments on Dan's and Walden's responses tomorrow or perhaps Saturday.


Posted by Deborah at 1:38 PM | Comments (0)

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 4:03 PM