I dunno…I dunno…I dunno

PLANS is supposed to be made up of people who have developed expert knowledge about waldorf schools and waldorf education. However, whenever anyone asks them an awkward question, they suddenly either disappear or become exceedingly ignorant. Consider, for example, the snippet below, taken off of the the Waldorf Critics discussion list.

The children were also required to say a pledge to the sun
flag, and other Wicca based religious practices.
I don’t know what he was talking about there.
-Dan Dugan

Dan was quoting from the grant application, submitted by PLANS, with the name of PLANS lawyer as author and the name of PLANS president, Deborah Snell listed as responsible person. But Mr. Dan Dugan has no idea what his lawyer could be talking about. No idea where he could have gotten the idea that Waldorf Education and Waldorf Schools could be related to Wicca. Just no idea at all.
However, consider this snippet:

On May 26, 1997, PLANS president Debra Snell responded that while allegations of witchcraft were not part of PLANS’ agenda, she had done nothing to correct them, and she was “happy” that they were made in the media.
Debra Snell: We did not phone the Sacramento Bee to dispute Sac. City Unified School Officials statement that PLANS claims is based on rumor either…
Anyone who knows PLANS’ claims, knows that witchcraft has not been our handle.
[But] We’re frankly happy to see the issue in the news, and it has certainly been there lately.

So PLANS was happy to have false claims of witchcraft associated with waldorf schools and waldorf education, but Dan has no idea, no idea at all, where his lawyer got the idea, just not the slightest bit of comprehension as to why this blatant falsehood turned up in the grant application.
And yes, the lawyer did it.
Now, where have I heard that excuse before?

Responses to: A Peculiar Grant Application

The response has been dismayingly feeble. So, I think I’ll start with some quotes from Diana Winter, berating me in her inimitable manner for implying that PLANS might have lied on their grant application.

You made innuendos that you are refusing to explain. You should explain them, or your own tactics are sleazy, while you wax eloquent that other people are doing things that are supposedly “murky.” You retract the word with your exaggerated politeness, but offer no explanation. Have you no shame? Perceive no irony? Other people are up to dirty tricks, but these tactics you are using, these are honorable? You planted the suggestion here that PLANS lied in a grant application. This is really not costing you a little sleep?

So, I explained, I substantiated, I quoted directly from the PLANS grant application. I’m sure that no one acquainted with Diana Winter will be surprised that she failed to apologize for her abusive remarks. In fact, her behavior was quite murky. First she disappeared from the AT for a few days. Complete and total silence, after she insisted that I had to substantiate my claim, or commit hari-kiri or the online equivalent. Then she returned, offered the feeble explanation that:

The name of the school is wrong on the grant application? I have no idea the meaning of this, but it looks like an error to me. So conspiracy hounds, if they’d written “Yuba River Charter School” on that form instead of “Yuba City,” PJI would have said; “There is no school by that name. The correct name is blah-blah. Funding denied.” LOL.

Just in case somebody is having trouble following this somewhat murky discussion, Diana chose the most extremely minor point in the quote from the grant application, that one of the school names is incorrect. The far less minor point is the claim that the school, still unnamed, was compulsory. There is NO compulsory elementary school and there WAS NEVER a compulsory elementary school. But Diana doesn’t touch on the real point, just says, “Gosh, a boo-boo, but it isn’t important.”
I review grant applications for a foundation. I’ve been reviewing grant applications for over ten years now. If I received a grant application with an obvious error, or with questionable claims, I would call up the grantee and ask some pointed questions about the content of the grant application. I would be irresponsible if I recommended a grant to somebody who was spouting inaccuracies, and way beyond irresponsible if I recommended a grant to someone who included obvious falsehoods in their grant application.
It isn’t okay to lie in a grant application. A grant application is a request for money for a particular purpose. Requesting money using false information is fraud. Certainly, it is possible to make a mistake on a grant application. An HONEST applicant who discovers they have made a mistake, contacts the grantor and submits a correction.
So, even if the lawyer did the whole thing all by himself, as Dan Dugan claims (a most unlikely story), at some point Dan received a copy of the grant materials. At that point he could have corrected the various errors. Ms. Snell, whose name is on the grant application could have corrected the various errors. Neither of them bothered.
I don’t think, at this point, that holding them responsible for the statements that appear on this grant application is particularly harsh.
The folks they submitted the application to? Either incompetent, stupid, or longing to be suckered. They obviously didn’t make the slightest attempt to verify ANY of the information submitted.

Waldorf Critics and why Eurythmy is not “Anthroposophy”

Over in the commnts of my posting on the Influence of Books, Peter "Pete" K. has taken me to task for misunderstanding Rudolf Steiner‘s indications about how Eurythmy=Anthroposophy, and accused me of using "Waldorf Speak" to obfuscate the fact, parrotting a "party line" because I disagree with him. He is mistaken, as I labor to demonstrate in my response, which I copy below. Peter wrote:

Daniel, I’m quite aware of the party line on Eurythmy. That you say it is not Anthroposophy is, well, bizarre. But, I have no desire to come here to your site and teach you about what Eurythmy is. Here is what Steiner said about it – and I would recommend you read the entire lecture before suggesting Eurythmy is nothing more than an art form. Some of us who are accustomed to Waldorf-speak have better things to do than to be instructed by you on what you apparently know very little about, or if you do, are unwilling to discuss honestly. Here – talk to Steiner:

“I speak in all humility when I say that within the Anthroposophical Movement there is a firm conviction that a spiritual impulse of this kind must now, at the present time, enter once more into human evolution. And this spiritual impulse must perforce, among its other means of expression, embody itself in a new form of art. It will increasingly be realised that this particular form of art has been given to the world in Eurythmy.

It is the task of Anthroposophy to bring a greater depth, a wider vision and a more living spirit into the other forms of art. But the art of Eurythmy could only grow up out of the soul of Anthroposophy; could only receive its inspiration through a purely Anthroposophical conception.”

From Rudolf Steiner’s “Lecture on Eurythmy” August 26, 1923
And please, take the time to read the entire lecture.
http://wn.rsarchive.org/Eurhythmy/19230826p01.html

Pete

It is not my intention to parrot any sort of "party line". First, no one has ever suggested that I do so, much less told me what such a line should be, and second, I’m not the type of person for parties or conformity. You appear frustrated that you find so few people who agree with you, but I would suggest that this is because the facts are against you, and not because of some sort of Waldorf conspiracy.

I have read the entire lecture in question (and several others). More importantly, I have about 15 years experience practicing Eurythmy (I can also sing fairly well, play three instruments, draw, paint, and knit, thanks to a Waldorf education). So when I talk about what Eurythmy is or isn’t, I can talk as one who has done the movements and exercises (just as I have practiced scales on my cello, and done life-drawing exercises in graphic arts). I have experienced about 10 different Eurythmy teachers on three different continents, observed their different approaches to teaching Eurythmy, and observed several professional performances. I have also studied a lot of anthroposophy. None of my Eurythmy classes ever talked about anthroposophical subjects; they described the movements and what they were looking for as far as forms. And they really tried to get us to have a feeling for what we were doing, so that the movements would come from the heart, and not be mechanical. A parallel is perhaps applicable in music. Beethoven’s piano sonatas are renown for being fairly simple to play. Yet they are one among the more difficult pieces to perform, because you really have to feel them properly in order to have them sound satisfying. Done improperly, they sound plodding and mechanical. It takes a real artist to bring them to life. Eurythmy is the same, and I say this from experience.

I’ve had a lot of real Eurythmy teachers (it is a four-year training, seven for Curative Eurythmy), I don’t need you to "teach" me what Eurythmy is, because, frankly, you are not qualified.

Rudolf Steiner said a lot about Eurythmy, five volumes worth, in all, including the lecture I quoted. You have taken two further paragraphs from it, and apparently misunderstood them, because you have drawn a conclusion from them that is not supported by what is there. Rudolf Steiner said:

I speak in all humility when I say that within the Anthroposophical Movement there is a firm conviction that a spiritual impulse of this kind must now, at the present time, enter once more into human evolution. And this spiritual impulse must perforce, among its other means of expression, embody itself in a new form of art. It will increasingly be realised that this particular form of art has been given to the world in Eurythmy.

It is the task of Anthroposophy to bring a greater depth, a wider vision and a more living spirit into the other forms of art. But the art of Eurythmy could only grow up out of the soul of Anthroposophy; could only receive its inspiration through a purely Anthroposophical conception.

According to Rudolf Steiner, all of the arts originated in spiritual impulses, Eurythmy like the rest of them. Steiner is explicitly NOT saying that Eurythmy is Anthroposophy. He is saying that Eurythmy, like literally everything else in the world, originates from a spiritual impulse. Steiner was an Idealistic philosopher (in the technical sense); he believed that everything in the material world had its origin in the spiritual world. Now this spiritual world is not "Anthroposophy". The term "Anthroposophy" is not synonymous with "spiritual world". Anthroposophy is a method of investigating what exists, it is not the thing investigated. (For some, Anthroposophy is the results of such investigations in the form of hypotheses, or "Steiner says" quotes, but these are really just shadows of the real thing.) Now, according to Rudolf Steiner as cited above, the art of Eurythmy has its origin in a spiritual impulse, one that is closely related to the Anthroposophy. But this does not change the fact that the result of this impulse is an Art, an Art just like the other arts. Now that it exists, it is possible to study Eurythmy and perform it entirely without reference to its origins, as is done in Waldorf schools.

You are quite combative with your opinions, but that does not change the fact that they are hasty and ill-informed. You presume to "teach" me about Eurythmy, but you can’t take the time to read and understand two paragraphs. So I’m sorry if everyone who has actual experience with the subjects we are talking about contradicts your opinions. If several people disagree with you, it may simply be because you are wrong, and not some "party line" designed to fool you. If I could recommend anything, it would be to slow down and study a subject before becoming an instant expert in so-called "Waldorf Speak". Get your basic facts correct, please.

The influence of books

On the Waldorf Critics list it has been suggested that you can tell how much Anthroposophy is taught to the students in a Waldorf School by the types of books in the school library. Beyond the basic illogic of the entire premise, I have to ask the question, which library? At the school where I teach, we have a student library, and a Faculty Library. All the anthroposophical books are locked in the Faculty Library, and students are not allowed access to them. It is probable that not all Waldorf Schools have dual libraries; however, using the above test, the students at my Waldorf School must be entirely free of anthroposophical influence simply due to the library arrangements.

I don’t recall any anthroposophical books at the Waldorf Schools that I attended, either. The whole subject was entirely uninteresting to me until I was past school-age; probably a healthy situation. In any case, the mere presence of books is not going to have much effect. To demonstrate influence, you would have to show that students were actually reading such books. I have a hard time picturing a 5th grader getting more than one page into a Steiner book. Heck, most Waldorf Critics can’t get that far, much less read an entire book! But they would have us think that school-aged children are reading Rudolf Steiner?

Lies on the PLANS website

After thrashing with critics on PLANS discussion list, off and on, for a few years now, I relish the opening to contribute something to Dan Dugan’s challenge to “point out the lies” on his website. A very entertaining assignment :-).
At PLANS’s official website, waldorfcritics, things begin well. It’s hard to find anything wrong with its opening sentence: “Welcome!”. But things immediately slide downhill from there.
Second sentence at this official website begins: “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”. Of those eight members identified, six are from Northern California. A total of four of the eight are former Waldorf education parents, one of them also a former trustee. Two are public school teachers, one of them with no apparent link to Waldorf education. The other did actually teach for a time in a public school which had adopted Waldorf methods in the classroom (though this particular teacher did not). So four of the eight (including the teachers) are decidedly NOTformer Waldorf parents, teachers, students, administrators and trustees.” In fact, none of the eight have publicly identified themselves to be a former Waldorf student, although one of them (one of the teachers) did serve a very brief stint (a couple days?) in a “Waldorf for Public School Educators” training program before dropping out.
The individuals PLANS has identified as “supporting advisors” have no relationship to Waldorf either. Instead, I think it would be fair to describe them as borrowed ‘guns’ from Dan Dugan’s “Skeptic’s Society” circle. At least Mr. Randi’s presence on the “advisory” panel broadens the “skeptic” panel beyond Mr. Dugan’s Northern California backyard, where the rest of them all live. I think Mr. Randi comes all the way from Florida.
PLANS is not a “world-wide network” organization-it’s a motley handful, most of them living close enough that they could lunch together. And this motley crew beckons attention with just these three fingers.
1. A lawyer, who has been funded by a religious organization which was deceived into believing that Waldorf schools engage in witchcraft. Of course, along with this lawyer, PLANS has a lawsuit, initiated against two public schools for incorporating Waldorf methods in the classroom. One of those schools no longer exists, the other no longer incorporates Waldorf methods~~yet the lawsuit lives on.
2. A website~~one filled with laughably alarmist graspings, such as “Nature Table or Altar” and “Wet-on-Wet Painting as Talisman”, as well as some very “unfunny”, shameful and disgusting tabloid garbage like, “DENVER SKINHEAD’S FAMILY PROFESSED SOPHISTICATED VERSION OF ARYAN SUPERIORITY MYTH”.
3. And lastly, a public discussion board~~which has, over the course of seven or eight years, lured a very limited number to come and post complaints they have toward Waldorf, a surprisingly sizeable number of these people having had no real experience with Waldorf at all. That’s right–no real experience, neither as student, parent or teacher, but rather they’re what I’d call the garden variety “internet opinionators”, who despite having no experience or related qualifications, do enjoy giving a good sermon from the soapbox.
Wow. I managed to say a lot, and I haven’t even gone past PLANS’s first paragraph! Maybe I can write another chapter later, one on the claim made in paragraph two, “Together, we have performed exhaustive research on Waldorf schools”–the “exhaustive research” which uncovers all manner of reportedly Secret Truths about Waldorf education that nobody who is actually *IN* the Waldorf movement knows anything about.
And in this, I see an intriguing paradox. Which is the *real* Waldorf? And which is the *lie*? The Waldorf that is actually practiced in real schools, by real Waldorf teachers? Or the archetype Waldorf school pieced together via PLANS “exhaustive research” as their “researchers” cherry-pick for odd quotes through the voluminous writings of Rudolf Steiner, reassembling the queerest fragments and filaments into a bizarre monster that the overwhelming majority of Waldorf educators dissociate themselves from immediately, a (luckily) thus far wholly abstract institution which has no real counterpart in existence outside the hallowed walls of the PLANS Research Lab?
Linda Clemens

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.

PLANS – accurate? Responses and comments thereon (cont further)

Walden wrote:

And this is it? This is the propaganda???

in reference to my first blog on this topic. I’ve been observing Walden’s style on the WC and he has this tendency to put words into people’s “mouths.”
Cheer up Walden. I’ve only just begun. I’m rather impressed with the number of distortions that have turned up from the analysis of one short paragraph from PLANS. Doesn’t look as though the site is actually the result of careful thought and research, does it?
Most of what Walden points out has already been covered in my exchanges with Dan (see the earlier blogs on this site).
He does write:

Better still, there is a very informative book on the esoteric background of Waldorf Education – “oddly” enough, the book has those words right there in the title. I doubt the author is attempting to smear the movement. See: “Esoteric background of Waldorf Education – The Cosmic Christ Impulse” by R. Querido

Ah, Walden, please note the word “background” in the title. Nobody I’ve come across in these discussions has been trying to pretend that waldorf education has no connection to anthroposophy and anthroposophy is full of esoteric material. The argument is whether children are indoctrinated with esoteric material as part of their education at waldorf schools. The paragraph I originally quoted (here it is again)

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).

tries to describe waldorf education as using religious rituals, meditation on symbols, embroidering symbols, suppressing creativity…but so far neither you nor Dan nor the PLANS site has actually done a reasonable job of backing up any of these smears.
Further, Daniel Hindes has demonstrated over and over and over again that various materials on the PLANS site include fake quotes, falsified quotes, purposeful mistranslations, distortions and other outrages against scholarship and truthfulness. Your response? To pretend that none of this material exists.
Serena was right when she talked about heads being buried in the sand.
Deborah

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
counter-example.

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
transparent.
How about adding the word “usually” before
“fourth graders”? Would that be sufficient
qualification?

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…
Enough.
I’ll continue my comments on Dan’s and Walden’s responses tomorrow or perhaps Saturday.
DK