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Anti-Waldorf ?

I always feel sad when I come across articles or sites that are dedicated to negative comments about Steiner Education.  There are many. Some of them are even by people who grew up in Steiner schools or were raised by parents who were Anthroposophists. Some critics have said that Waldorf schools are a front for the shady agenda of Anthroposophists–whatever that is.  I’ve been here for over 10 years and I haven’t even caught a whiff of it.  The only difference is, I became a Waldorf parent because of my interest in Anthroposophy, so I find no dissonance there.

Anthroposophy is the study of the human being.  That is what it is.  It is not a religion.  It is not a cult. The main view is that the human being is fourfold–having a physical body, spirit, soul, and the “I” or the higher ego that integrates everything. From this belief and study, founded by Rudolf Steiner, many initiatives were born: biodynamic farming, eurythmy, Anthroposophic medicine, Waldorf/Steiner education and many more.  Because it deals with intangibles, like soul and spirit, Anthroposophy is naturally open to criticism, but anyone who has really tried to study Rudolf Steiner, will find it difficult to say it is total nonsense. My rule is:  if you understand it and it resonates and makes perfect sense in your life, do it. If not, leave it behind.  In short, don’t read Steiner and follow everything he says just because he said it. That seems to have worked for me so far.

You don’t have to be an Anthroposophist to be in a Waldorf School.  In fact, many Waldorf school parents are not, but there will always be a group of parents who put their children in this school, precisely because they believe in what Steiner brought. Because of that, they tend to be the most active parents in the school, also because they  live by the same philosophies at home. But, believe me, they are everything but a cult. Anthroposophists are notorious for not getting along and for doing their own thing.  I’ve seen and experienced that time and time again.  This is because in the course of your study and practice, you do become a stronger individual with clearer opinions and convictions.  But Anthroposophy is not a cult. There is no recruitment, membership, costumes, tithes, nothing.  We love to joke about it, though, because it is a wild and hilarious idea.

Steiner/Waldorf Education is based on the priniciple of the fourfold human being but it is not Anthroposophy itself. Anthroposophy is not taught in a Waldorf school, though I personally believe that a good Waldorf teacher would have to have a good understanding and grasp of it.  Still, nothing is imposed on parent or child.  There is a child in our school whose parents do not attend the festivals because their religion does not celebrate them. They are free to do what they want, though the celebration of festivals is a wonderful way to live into the rhythms of the year in nature and to create a mood of reverence in children. There is nothing in them that goes against any religion. But the school will not impose on anyone’s personal faith or beliefs.  There is no hidden agenda in Steiner Education to produce Anthroposophists.  It is not even everyday conversation in the schools, not because there’s a sinister plot that must be kept hidden, but because it isn’t necessary for parents to get into it, though I believe it would enhance their understanding of the kind of education they chose for their children.

For me, the greatest struggle Steiner Schools must face today, is how to stay true to Rudolf Steiner’s impulse AND how to renew it and make it relevant in the world so that nothing becomes dogma.  I have a feeling those who rail against Steiner/Waldorf education received a dogmatic and dead version of the education so that they felt stifled and imprisoned.  It can happen if the carriers of the school — or the parents of these children — are stuck in Steiner’s teachings and do not see the world as it is today, or do not recognize what the children are asking for or need in the present.

I have met dogmatic people in the Waldorf/Steiner community who are no longer that–they were once, but through the years have also loosened their grip and are trying to achieve balance.  The main thing is to always ask questions and to never take anyone’s word for it.  Any parent in a Waldorf School must learn to ask questions of himself, his child’s teachers and the community at large.  If you hear something that doesn’t make sense, ask.  If you don’t agree, don’t go with it.  I have sought the help of my children’s teachers during crisis points in our lives and I’ve always appreciated their view but I haven’t always followed their advice.   In anything we do today, we have to learn to think on our own, regardless of what others may say.

We must also learn to see how our children really are.  If there is something wrong with the school, or the kind of education your child is getting (Steiner or not), you will be the first to see and experience it in your child’s behavior and health.  I am happy with Steiner/Waldorf education, though it is far from perfect here. We have to find a way to run the schools more efficiently while keeping the substance whole. Each Waldorf School has to define for itself exactly what its vision is, apart from it being “a Waldorf School”. We need a lot more experienced, grounded teachers. It is my opinion that we need more teachers who have a solid background in Anthroposophy, because the more they understand the picture of the whole human being, the better able they are to be strong individuals, able to bring our children to wholeness.  This is an opinion not shared by many, but I would personally not be comfortable putting my children in a Waldorf school that denies Anthroposophy.  But that is me.

I recently met a woman who said she didn’t believe in Waldorf Education because it doesn’t work. I told her it works for my children, but I agree that it is not for all.  She said that it was clearly not for her son, but later she said she kept bugging her therapist about her son who did nothing but stay on his computer all day long. I just smiled.  My children don’t do that, thanks to Waldorf Education.  If she never experienced it, I don’t see how she could have said it would not work for her son.

I have no illusions that my children will develop an interest in Anthroposophy.  They may or may not, but that is not  important to me.  The only thing I really dream is for them to become integrated, whole, creative and fully human.  The labels don’t interest me.  I will do what I can with everything I know and feel and then let them be whomever they are meant to be.  That is also the essence of Waldorf Education, which is why I am confident there are no sinister plots or agendas lurking anywhere.

Don’t let the anti-Waldorf stuff frighten you, but don’t be afraid to ask questions, either.  Remain open, look at everything, and then simply decide what resonates and works for you and your child.  It is as simple as that.

31 Comments

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  1. Mae Paner / Jun 13 2008 6:36 am

    grabe ang galing mo! both in the concept and practical level!

    so whole!

    so waldorf? so steiner?

    so panjee! ikaw ang applied and improved version ng waldorf education at anthroposophy.

    everything evolves!

    buti na lang kaibigan kita! am so proud!

  2. panjeetapales / Jun 13 2008 7:19 am

    Shhh. Nahahalata na yata ang mutual fan club natin! He he. Thanks, kapatid!! Am so proud of you, too! You’re so busy and you still came to this site after Dale’s shameless spamming!

  3. Gladys Malixi / Jun 13 2008 9:00 am

    Hi Panjee,
    I think it is good when we parents have some fears and doubts about our children’s education. That way we start asking questions, finding answers and weighing in the end what is best for them. It will be so hard to find the perfect school for our kids .Because of our tremendouos love for them, the best will never be good enough .
    I have been a Waldorf parent for 7 years and there are so much to thank my community for. When my 1st child was born in 1998, I was 35 years old and full of so many dreams which were shaped by earlier experiences of my friends who had kids way ahead of me and by what I read and hear.I wanted so many things for my daughter- I wanted her to learn all the musical instruments she could master, I wanted her to be an excellent all around athlete, I wanted her to be the number 1 in class so she can go to the best college in the world etc. I just wanted her to be the best. These are not bad things to want for your kids. But then when we started playgroup which was Waldorf -inspired when she was 2, there I gradually realized that I forgot what I Really want for my child ,which is to be a happy human being. True happiness entails a lot of responsibilty towards oneself, the people around you and the world you live in.
    It scares me a lot that there are so many changes around us, so many things to learn and forget, so many things to desire and my thoughts are how will I best help my children go through all these in their lives. If as children they experience what is beautiful, what is kind , what is joy, what is caring and loving, what is understanding, what is fun and what is right, then we strengthen their being instead of wounding it.
    What is funny is that all these things Waldorf believes in are not new to most of us. On the contrary, these are the very things most of us grew with when we were young. Modern times just made us believe they won’t work anymore.

  4. Susana Calalay / Jun 13 2008 10:01 am

    Correct ka dyan. It just so happened when we discovered Steiner we were ready to listen. He is saying what other credible paths are saying too but perhaps with a more acceptable preamble for us.

    Sabi nga ni Bob Dylan ” Don’t criticize what you can’t understand ”

    I guess that’s why we do not recruit members, those who belong to this path automatically find their way into our group.

  5. Noemi Jara / Jun 13 2008 1:14 pm

    If anthroposophy is a cult, then I am a witch! 😉

    – from a happy mom of a Steiner School student who dreams of becoming a Steiner School teacher someday

  6. Shirley Libre / Jun 13 2008 3:07 pm

    Haaay naku panjee, anghel ka talaga!

    i am not a waldorf mom (pass ako this lifetime) but a tita to some waldorf kids and a friend of a few waldorf teachers and moms.

    marami na rin akong narinig na kwento of amazing progress that kids had within waldorf schools (kasama na yung mga pamangkin ko sa Australia) at marami ring narinig na mga problema. Minsan masalimuot.

    steiner education will always challenge our core beliefs about life and human beings, kaya naman makulay ang drama sa loob ng waldorf school.

    salamat at malakas ang loob mo! agree ako sa mga sinabi mo. mabuhay ka!!! ISA KANG ALAMAT!!! hehe

  7. panjeetapales / Jun 13 2008 3:20 pm

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Sana nga anghel ako pero mukhang anghel na may emphasis sa “hel”. 🙂 But thanks all for your comments. It’s good to hear from everyone!

  8. Susan Quimpo / Jun 13 2008 6:07 pm

    HI Panjee,
    Just wondering what the original comment was that made you write the article “Anti-Waldorf?” Was it a published article or a response to your blog?
    Thanks,
    Susan

  9. panjeetapales / Jun 13 2008 6:24 pm

    Hi Susan,

    Someone forwarded an angry essay on why Waldorf and Anthroposophy are so bad for you. The essay itself was hardly worth my time. Parang puro exaggeration. What concerned me more was that it was even sent out to many and that the sender was asking for thoughts and comments. That was the starting point. Then I googled “waldorf mom” to see if there were any similar blogs I might link with and other stuff came up. I’ve always known all kinds of negative literature is out there and I just thought it a good idea to respond. So far, wala pa naman dito.

    Panj

  10. Sheila / Jun 15 2008 12:43 am

    Hi Panjee,

    As a parent in Steiner/Waldorf School community (for the past 10 years now), I have had the privilege of bearing witness to the unique journeys of many other parents and individuals that I have met through the years.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for taking a firm stand as a Waldorf parent. I agree with you and would like to share:

    1) I have learned to be more conscious that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, and that we can “agree to disagree”, and respect each one’s unique journeys. There is a right time to learn for each of us…

    2) Nothing is a coincidence. Individuals, educators, parents, and children that are drawn to Steiner education (and other Steiner initiatives) are there for a reason, for their own unique reasons…

    3) I also believe that in a Steiner school or any other school for that matter, it is every parent’s responsibility to educate and re-educate themselves as they go along… One cannot form a fair and accurate conclusion on anything unless one has thoroughly studied and walked the paths to increased experience, knowledge and self-awareness…

    As the questions come, these create more exciting opportunities for learning… As a parent, I have always made a conscious effort to get to know my children’s school community…

    In the Steiner/Waldorf school community, I took it upon myself to read books, attend activities, festivals, trainings and workshops, talks and study groups, and interact with parents, teachers and mentors in the different Waldorf schools – all these have helped me a lot in learning more about Steiner education, anthroposophy, biodynamic farming, eurhythmy, music and art, etc… My husband jokes that I have also been going to school (just as my children are), – and indeed, yes, maybe I am!

    I just wish more parents would wake up and take the initiative to educate and re-educate themselves in order to be better able to understand more of what their own children are going through in their own lives, in their lives in a Steiner/Waldorf school, or in whatever school community they are in…

    Thank you again Panj, and I am looking forward to more articles and thoughts from you in this blog. More power to
    you and to the divine working in you…

    Sheila

  11. jare / Sep 24 2008 12:07 am

    i am a believer of waldorf education. is there a way to share this kind to children whose parents cannot afford such education?

  12. Laura / Jan 28 2009 10:48 pm

    Hi Panjee,

    Naku, mahirap ituro ang ‘anthroposophy’ sa kindergarten ah!
    Pero paulit- ulit at pinipilit na isa-praktika ang mga sinabi at nabasa tungkol dito. At sa buong 12 taon bilang guro, sa kalooban ko, masaya na may pagkakataon pa akong matuto.
    Kung may grade ito, ay! kahi’t pasang awa, malayo ako.
    Salamat sa mga magulang na binigyan ako ng pagkakataon maging bahagi sa buhay ng mga anak nila. Salamat, sa mga batang ito, sila ang mga naging ‘guro’ ko!

    From,
    Laura

  13. Yvie / May 20 2009 4:44 pm

    Again, thanks for enlightening me!

    This morning I had a great time listening to Ms. Athena. It was a joy to learn how things are running in your child’s classroom but the best thing about this is you learn with your child too as you go along with this.

    Looking forward to send my child to a Waldorf School! 🙂

  14. katy / Jul 24 2009 3:55 pm

    I completely agreed with you, until you wrote this:

    “I recently met a woman who said she didn’t believe in Waldorf Education because it doesn’t work. I told her it works for my children, but I agree that it is not for all. She said that it was clearly not for her son, but later she said she kept bugging her therapist about her son who did nothing but stay on his computer all day long. I just smiled. My children don’t do that, thanks to Waldorf Education. If she never experienced it, I don’t see how she could have said it would not work for her son.”

    Its rather judgmental, and I see that many times in Waldorf. I’m really interested in Waldorf, and I’m looking, in the people I know, and in the wider community, for some clarity. I would love Waldorf and Anthroposophy if it it didn’t have such a judgmental feeling. Perhaps it is human nature!…..none of us are perfect, none of us know, truly, if we are doing the right thing, every second of the day. We just have to hope, pray, and have some humility. I’m glad it is working for you! I just hope, maybe in the future, that you give other mothers the benefit of your good thoughts, that as women, and mothers, we can bring to the world loving and good people in many different ways.

    • panjeetapales / Jul 24 2009 4:18 pm

      Thanks for your feedback, Katy, and I’m sorry that you feel I am being judgmental. I read my statement over and felt that I did leave it open. Waldorf Education is not for all. It is an objective comment. I recognize that it works for some, but I have also seen how it’s not the thing for others. However, I believe that you can only really say “it doesn’t work” if you’ve tried it and actually experienced that it’s not for you. I think it’s judgmental to say “it doesn’t work” when you haven’t experienced it at all.

      I do have to say that when my children were very little I always had the feeling I was “wrong” or “lacking”, until I grew into acceptance of the kind of mother and individual I am and what I could do. I could never be the perfect Waldorf mom with the sing-song tone and never raising my voice. You are right. No one is perfect and we’re all just trying to do our best at every moment. If that’s what you mean by “it’s rather judgmental, and I see that many times in Waldorf”, I get it. I had to find out what in Waldorf works for me and what doesn’t. I’m still doing that today and simply writing out of that experience which you may or may not accept. I recognize that there are many paths that work and I’m sorry that didn’t come through, perhaps because the topic was specifically all the “Anti-Waldorf” stuff you encounter out there.

      Thanks for dropping by anyway and for taking the time to write.

  15. mia / Sep 25 2009 11:38 pm

    I am interested in steiner education, is there a school near makati? thanks

  16. shwetha / Feb 26 2011 10:27 pm

    Hi perents,
    I just joined my daughter in a waldorf school.
    and i m really enjoying the concept of waldorf education.

  17. Karla Castillo / Oct 18 2011 11:49 pm

    I feel sad ‘coz Im from lucena city and we dont have waldorf here. I want to put up our own waldorf school because I want their philosophy so bad!!! pls help

    • panjeetapales / Oct 19 2011 4:05 pm

      Hey Karla,

      The best thing to do is train to be a Waldorf Teacher and start a school in your area!

      Panjee

  18. Karla Castillo / Oct 21 2011 11:28 am

    I really wanted to.. Where can I have training? tnx for ur advice!! =)

    • panjeetapales / Oct 29 2011 10:08 am

      Hi Karla,

      Under Blogroll on the right side of the blog you will find Gamot Cogon and RStep. These are good places to start for teacher training.

      Warm regards,
      Panjee

  19. allthingsviolet / May 30 2012 7:36 pm

    Hi Panjee! I am very interested in the waldorf system. Thank you for providing info on it! Aside from the Mikaela playhouse, are there other options in MAkati? Thank you.

  20. Fabienne Wolf Tellenbach / May 2 2016 10:25 pm

    I enjoyed reading your well-informed and balanced article on the controversial topic of Anthroposophy and Waldorf education.
    As a Waldorf teacher, I have myself witnessed the erosion of the Waldorf School concept through an increasing lack of teachers and parents familiar with and interested in Anthroposophy; that is to say, with the spiritual foundation which, while never explicitly addressed or taught, needs to form the Waldorf teacher’s foundation from which he or she draws daily inspiration. Otherwise, the curriculum remains an empty shell of endlessly rehashed things other teachers have done before; a repetition of recipes that indeed may come to look like a dogma.
    In our times, so much more open to the spiritual than Steiner’s era, one would wish the Waldorf Schools (i. e. their teachers) the courage quietly to celebrate an awareness of the non-denominational spiritual foundation of their education. It is, after all, their greatest strength.

    • panjeetapales / May 3 2016 8:11 am

      Very well said, Fabienne. I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for dropping in.

  21. Cat / Feb 12 2017 9:04 pm

    Hi! Does Waldorf education advocate “no vaccination”? I’m really interested in the curriculum and Im thinking of enrolling my son in a Waldorf school; however, in my research Ive read some of their advocacies like no vaccination and my profession will disagree with that. does that mean I cannot enroll my son in a Waldorf school? thanks

    • panjeetapales / Feb 13 2017 1:01 pm

      Hi Cat,

      I don’t think any Waldorf school would advocate “no vaccination”, but the educators and mentors will be able to discuss why they feel there is a healthier approach to vaccination, if you are interested to hear it. They will not turn any child away based on whether he is vaccinated or not. (Since we are on the subject, please do look up my post on my own vaccine choices to give better context about this.)

      Thanks and I hope this helps.

  22. Cat / Feb 13 2017 6:34 pm

    wow thank you. that was a relief. one more question. Are they recognized by the DepEd? Im particularly eyeing Kolisko because it’s the one nearest our house 🙂

    • panjeetapales / Feb 23 2017 9:09 am

      Yes, they are.

  23. AJ / Aug 1 2017 9:26 am

    Maybe you can give some insight as to how children of color are viewed and treated into this community… From what I’ve read, Anthroposophy asserts that black people are the “child” race, Asians are the “juvenile” race, and whites are the “adult” race. I was reading one woman’s experience working at a Steiner school and she said that children of color were not pushed as hard academically compared to their white peers, is this something that you can shed some light on? I like a lot of the same ideas that Steiner promoted but I can’t support racist ideas such as that.

    There are other things that worry me, like unresolved bullying (leaving it up to the students), lack of supervision outside, etc. Not sure what to make of what I have read and heard. Hopefully someone here could give me another perspective on this.

    • panjeetapales / Aug 1 2017 11:41 am

      Hi and thank you for dropping in. I would say that when you read really wild things like that, go to the source. What did Steiner really say about that? What was the context? This community is welcoming, respectful, and more than inclusive. It is a community that holds love and freedom as core values. I can’t speak for that “one woman’s experience” but I have never seen nor experienced that. My son was bullied, too, and I can tell you it was not left up to the students. Here’s the thing: no school is perfect, whether it be a Steiner school or a traditional school. I think it’s every parent’s responsibility to go to ANY school he or she is considering for her child and do the research. Ask questions. Feel into the community. There are plenty of opportunities to test the waters and see if it’s right for you. I am glad that something in you is still looking for perspective despite what you have “read and heard”. Keep asking, researching, (attend orientations, visit schools, talk to parents) and forming your own conclusions. That’s the best way to go.

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