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.