Subject: On the slanderous nature of PLANS' site and argumentation
Date:  Thu, 23 Aug 2001 15:07:27 +0200
From: Sune Nordwall <sune.nordwall@home.se>

[Comment after the posting: the email address above is no longer valid. To write to me, add "i." between "sune." and "nordwall" in the address]

Maybe some personal reflections on the issues raised by [someone]

[someone] writes:

Let's just look at one specific thing that I say they lied about: whether Anthroposophy is taught to the children, or is in any way in the classroom.

I have quoted Rudolf Steiner on this subject, commanding teachers to make every attempt to have Anthroposophy in the classroom -- a rather general command that applies to every SWA school that hews to Steiner's way.

[soneone else] and [a third person] have deconstructed a large amount of the curriculum which makes up the "special character" of SWA schools which use Steiner's pedagogy. I and others have given accounts of how we saw Anthroposophy in our children's lessons constantly.

In general, what a number of critics call 'anthroposophical indoctrination' refers to aspects of Aristotelean or Platonic perspectives and views, constituting basic perspectives on man, nature and the universe and cultivated by these traditions since the times of the Greek Antiquity.

As such, they constitute the dominating basis of WE in the lower grades, integrating them as an expression of the view that it is the essence in education to absorb the central basic, essential, cultural understanding and perspectives developed not only during the last centuries or decades, but from the beginning of the cultural evolution of humanity, dominated by the evolution since the last ice ages, ending some 9 - 10 000 years ago.

Present perspectives usually consider human cultures out of their beginnings as 'river cultures', developing from c. 3 000 B.C. in different parts of the world. Waldorf education also includes the earlier mythological experiences of Asian cultures as they come to expression of Indian and Persian mythology, making them come alive to the children in the lower grades.

This should not be done in that way, according to a number of critics, as 'we' now 'know' that what people believed and thought before the scientific revolution of the last and especially the 20 century, was untrue and kids at school should be taught that from the beginning, and preferably as early as possible. 

Some way not only making children experience 'pre-scientific' cultures, without from the beginning also telling them what to think rationally about it is a violation of their right to be told what a 'true', sceptic and rational understanding of the world has to say about it.

To some of the things that upset a number of rational, sceptic critics belong everything having to do with 'threefold', 'fourfold', 'fivefold', 'sevenfold' or 'twelve fold' structures in nature and man in any form being mentioned or pointed to in different contexts in WE.

This awakens psychically allergic reactions in critics like MK, DD, DW and SL on this list, arguing that whenever anything,in any form refers or relates to 'three', 'four', 'five', 'seven' or 'twelve' in WE, they are expressions of a pre-scientific magical world view, that it constitutes 'anthroposophical indoctrination', and that is in violation of a rational, secular humanist philosophy, prescribed as the philosophy of American schools.

The parents at WS's haven't been informed of this, it is prohibited by the Constitution in US and it upsets a number of sceptic conscious secular humanists having a world view that finds everything that is an expression of this Aristotelean-Platonic 'idealistic' tradition to be in complete opposition of everything that they believe in.

A number of more Christian parents of at times fundamentalist orientation agree with this, finding anything related to this Aristotelean-Platonic tradition to be a cultivation of magic and paganism. 

To this belongs:

- Describing the 'threefold nature' nature of man in having a sense-nervous system developed much out of the ectoderm, a 'rhythmical' system develop similarly much out of the mesoderm and nutritive-muscle structures developed out of the endoderm of the embryo.

- The 'four elements' and everything connected to such a concept, like in the lower grades relating to the world out of this not 'sight' ('atoms') but 'touch-based' (warmth-humidity -> 'elements') ontological perspective and in different ways relating to nature out of the four seasons, especially in the lower grades, like picking fruits and products of nature in the autumn and putting them on a table to awaken the experience of 'autumness'.

To this belongs also in the background of the mind in any way thinking of and relating to the children in terms of four 'temperaments' and taking any measures on the basis of this like putting children tending in the same 'temperamental' direction close to one another as a pedagogical measure to via experiencing their one-sidedness mirrored to them from their bench neighbours, restrict it somewhat to become more balanced.

- Anything related to 'five', like walking pentagrams in eurythmy or basically drawing any geometrical form, of triangle, quadrate, pentagram or heptagram in form drawing or in mathematics.

- Anything related to 'seven', like a number of Waldorf teachers, being fascinated by it, in some abstract way mentioning and making the basic 'seven colours' of the rainbow and different grains something that they cultivate the awareness of in relation to the seven days of the week.

- Anything related to 'twelve', like in passing when discussing the senses of man mentioning that it is possible view them from a 'twelve' perspective, as Kant did in relation to the thought categories of man. 

Some of what [someone else] has 'deconstructed' is:

- 'Advent tables' in WS' 'teach' the children anthroposophy by sometimes placing first minerals on the table the first week of Advent, then adding plants the second week, animals the third week and the humans the fourth week. This basic Aristotelean way of ordering things to a number of the critics is 'religious' 'anthroposophical indoctrination' and therefore prohibited by the US Constitution.

Can't immediately remember anything else from her as 'deconstruction'.

Some of the things that [a third person] has 'deconstructed' are that:

- Using 'wet-on-wet' painting techniques as such 'in reality' are making 'talismans' filled with 'spiritual power',

This has been argued by [this third person] using pics from her child's school of which most are traditional ones, but then also including some few pics that have nothing to do with the technique and not were (typical) wet-on-wet pictures, but were really very 'impressive'/strong 'symbolic' pictures, of the two I remember one being a pic of the lightening of Thor (Zig-zag form) and one of a pyramid or tetrahedron. Why they were done by the pupil, I don't know. They have nothing to with painting using wet-on wet as such. But they sure scared [this third person], making her arguing that the basic intention of wet-on-wet  is to create 'talismans'. 

[later comment by S.N.: the implied 'scare' in the argumentation by this third person in perspective stands out as mainly rhetoric arguing from her position as freethinker, arguing against every view that takes anything spiritual to be an actual reality.]

As 'supportive' arguments, [this third person] has referred to among other lectures by Steiner where he talks about what types of spiritual qualities that live in different colours with regards to among other things the rainbow, a general theme in Art, investigated and discussed by painters like Kandinsky (writing 'On the Spiritual in Art', a classic in Art theory.).

- Eurythmy as such is 'ritual magic'.

This is based on recommendations by a curative eurythmist to [this third person] to rub in some oil on her child's chest over the heart in the form of a 'flame' as part of a treatment of her for some problems.

It has also been argued by demonstrating that the basic components of language, consonants and wovels, in different spiritual traditions have been experienced out of their 'inner' qualities, with spells being based on the use of magical qualities of language, also being the basis in Judaism for the prohibition to express the name of G-d.

- When Waldorf teachers talk of 'imagination' in the normal sense in relation to WE, they actually do not refer to this, but to 'Imagination' as a term used by Steiner to refer to the first stage in as adults through self-chosen self-disciplining of attention developing external sight into also 'inner' sight.

I won't argue these arguments by [this third person] here, as they are extreme mis- and over interpretations far beyond any normal meaning and use of wet-on-wet painting, eurythmy and the concept of 'imagination' in a way also exemplified by other arguments by her on this list.

The understanding that WE is religious is argued as having been supported by Eugene Schwartz in connection with a visit by Dan Dugan to a Waldorf conference two years ago.

[someone] describes this with:

... statements from people like Eugene Schwartz that SWA schools are indeed mystery schools for the inculcation of the religion of Anthroposophy, and much more.
What Eugene Schwartz said was, according to MS:s transcript of him: *... if we believe Waldorf education to be a modern mystery, and the schools to be mystery centers, are you allowed to be initiated in a mystery center without going through the ordeals, the trials, the struggles?

As can be seen from the preceding text blocs, what he referred to was the learning the future teachers to really understand the actual meaning of such basic concepts as 'ether body' and 'astral body', that is, the origin, nature and transformations through life of the 'body of life forces' and the 'body of star forces' that constitute the supersensible 'life body' and 'soul body' of man respectively.

To actually understand them in terms of personal experience, you must become master of your thoughts in a somewhat full sense, to understand and actually experience what 'ether body' is, and master of your feelings in a similar way to experience and understand what your 'body of star forces', (your soul 'body') is and its transformations through live.

That traditionally has been cultivated in places that have been called 'mystery schools'. To learn what such concepts mean, as part of studying to become a waldorf teacher in that sense, makes Waldorf teacher training centers into a form of 'modern mystery schools'.

To work as teacher at a Waldorf school is to use a more or less conscious and understood 'mystery knowledge' and understanding of man as body, soul and spirit as a basis for educating children according to their not only intellectual needs, but also out of hopefully understanding also the deeper needs of the children as humans in a more full sense also as beings of soul and spirit. Not relating to children as also beings of soul and spirit is to harm them more or less deeply in the long run.

That he (Eugene Schwartz) did not take the time in his ad hoc speech to distinguish between the different natures of Waldorf teacher training centers and Waldorf schools has since then been used by a number of 'critics' to argue that Waldorf schools are 'mystery schools'. 

As can be seen from what he actually said, what he referred to with 'mystery centers' was the former, only (on the fly) sloppingly using 'Waldorf education' in the broad sense also cultivated by different critics.

Schwartz also said:

*I have a 9-year-old daughter; she's in third grade at Green Meadow Waldorf school. And these are some of my experiences. I know every morning she says a verse, and, as Dan pointed out, it's a verse that speaks to God. I would call it a prayer: that's what I used to tell my class. You're speaking a prayer. I want you to stand still, I don't want you to move around, I want you to really be respectful because we're talking to God now. And a child said, "You mean we're praying?", and I said yes, we're praying. And I spoke to the parents about this, and that was [...]

When I saw that last night again--I've seen it before--the verse said in the Waldorf public school, I was blown away again. How could she do that to children? How could she take God out of that verse? Why bother saying it at all? You mean the white kids who can afford to go to a Waldorf school, they can talk to God, and the African-American kids who can't afford to go to the Waldorf school, [they can] talk to the Earth? That's the message I got, anyway.

I'm glad my daughter gets to speak about God every morning: that's why I send her to a Waldorf school. She's learning stories from the Old Testament, or the Hebrew Scriptures, as her teacher--it took me a while to figure out--did you used to learn the Old Testament? 

So she's learning from the Hebrew Scriptures. She's learned that God created the world in seven days; she's learning about Abraham, and the terrible existential struggle he had when he was asked by God to sacrifice his son. She's going to learn about the king, the battles, the Israelites. 

Does she learn from her teacher? Well, archaeological evidence has pointed out recently that the size of David's empire might have been severely exaggerated by the scriptures. Not at all: she's learning it as truth. She comes home filled with this, bubbling up with it. She speaks about it as she crochets socks for her sister, she talks about it as she gets out her violin and begs to practice. She's filled with it.

That's why I send her to a Waldorf school. She can have a religious experience. A religious experience. I'll say it again: I send my daughter to a Waldorf school so that she can have a religious experience. So that she learns something about reverence. So that she learns something about respecting a higher being. If she didn't learn that, she'd be out the door in a minute. I don't want her to go to a school that calls itself Waldorf, and denies her a religious experience.*

As can be seen, what you, [someone], have edited out from your transcript of Eugene's speech, is a description about which the surrounding text indicates that it refers to the way that the morning verse that Eugene Schwartz - as he says - wants to use as a 'prayer' in WE, but that not is being used as a 'prayer to God' in public Waldorf schools, which upsets Eugene deeply. 

Eugene wants it to be used as a 'prayer', not a philosophical-reverential saying, directing the attention to what surrounds man and for focussing on oneself being present as a human during the day ahead.

From the following it is clear that he personally sends his daughter to a Waldorf school because he wants her to be taught and revere the God of the Old Testament according to the Hebrew scriptures, to be taught about how God created the world in seven days, to learn about Abraham and the prophets and the struggles of the Israelites and the greatness of the Empire of David.

His reason for having his daughter in a Waldorf school - according to what he said - is he wants the Waldorf school to give her a good Jewish education , as a religious experience.

This good Waldorf-Jewish education in the essential sense of the word at one stage in WE is then used 

1. by some critics to smear Waldorf education in general for being 'religious' while 

2. in other contexts arguing that Steiner and WE should be 'anti-Semitic', using a TV-program in Germany that - based on anti-Waldorf lobbyists in CH and D pictures WS as places out of which Jewish parents should take their children - argues this the same untruthful way PLANS hypocritically does, with Dan Dugan smearing Steiner as the originator of WE as being 'anti-Semitic' in an article in 'Natural Jewish Parenting'.

Waldorf Education is neither 'religious' education in general, nor 'anti-Semitic'.

The CENTRAL 'religious' experience that Eugene Schwartz describes that WE gives to children, for which he loves it, is that of Judaism, not 'anthroposophy'.

...
It would be helpful if you could give simple answers to the questions, without rehashing all the arguments from anthroposophical apologists and without characterising all of the above as "disinformation, smearing and slandering".
These Waldorf schools with their at one stage CENTRALLY Jewish oriented education, at one stage making ALL the pupils into 'good Jews', BASED on suggestions by Rudolf Steiner for the curriculum, are then hypocritically slandered by PLANS for being 'racist' and 'anti-Semitic' by using among other slanderous, untruthful propaganda articles by Staudenmaier and Zegers and the deeply in US ingrained paranoia of things related to 'Germany', Germans and Nazism.

Waldorf schools are based on but not teaching 'anthroposophy' as an encompassing understanding of the cultural evolution of mankind and only 'teaching' it as it comes to expression in these cultures and their achievements, taking them deeply seriously as experiences up to the present.

That of course does not accord with a sceptic, rational, secular humanist world view, that wants to limit what is taught to children to what can be understood of the world and man based on strict experimental investigations manipulating material-spatial objects to investigate their properties and making that the basis of a philosophy and world view.

That is clear.

It is not good if people holding strictly to a sceptic, rationalist and secular humanist world view, like you, [someone else], Dan and maybe others on this list, by mistake put their children in a waldorf school, not realizing that Waldorf schools and education are based, built on and try to cultivate an education that encompasses not only man as body, but also as 'soul' and 'spirit' taking them to be actual realities.

Waldorf schools have a duty to make it clear to prospective parents that they are based on a philosophy that take both the body, soul and spirit of man to be actual realities and explain in general what that means in printing and verbal information.

The Pine Hill Waldorf School Parent Handbook published by Neil Faiman at http://www.jlc.net/~faiman/waldorf/handbook.html is - I think - a good example of what is a duty of Waldorf schools to explain to modern, prospective Waldorf parents. That is also developing, I think.

What you and others have experienced is deeply regrettable and - in my opinion - demonstrates the immaturity of a number of Waldorf schools in meeting the justified demands by prospective parents to understand the basics of the school they're about to put their children in, beyond selling 'slogans' like 'Head, heart and hands' and Waldorf education being 'art-infused', to the extent that that is the general level of all that is told to the parents.

But the site of PLANS - even if containing some interesting parts - is seriously untruthfully slanderous about Waldorf education, especially in its digging into the swamp of anti-Semitism, trying to use it to slander WE.

Regards,

Sune Nordwall
Stockholm, Sweden

http://hem.passagen.se/thebee/indexeng.htm
- a site on science, homeopathy, cosmological cell
biology, EU, globalization and social threefolding

http://hem.passagen.se/thebee/comments
- some comments on PLANS


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