|As part of a developing ethnic and cultural xenophobia
in Europe, the U.S. and Asia the last years, a number of myths have arisen
and are cultivated also by small groups of critics of Waldorf education
and anthroposophy. To the ones engaged in it most intensely belong some
people with an outspoken secular humanist orientation in the U.S., where
Waldorf schools increasingly have developed in one form as charter
schools within the public school system.
Waldorf education is based on a spiritual philosophy
that, while not a religion or religious in itself, yet takes the soul and
spirit of man to be a reality that needs to be taken into conscious consideration
and related to in education. This has challenged some who feel that such
a school form not should get public support, arguing that public Waldorf
schools violate the First
Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution, that stipulates that "Congress shall make no law respecting
an establishment of religion".
This is not supported by a federal court in California,
that after investigation in 1999 ruled that public school programs in U.S.
that use Waldorf methods have a secular, non religious purpose.
The ruling concerned a litigation, initiated by
a small anti-Waldorf group in San Francisco, "PLANS";
"People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools", but financed and run by a
fundamentalist right wing law firm and individual in 1998 against two school
districts in California for accepting two Waldorf oriented schools as charter
schools. The litigation alleged that the public Waldorf charter schools
should have as their "primary purpose and primary effects [...] to advance
religion, including the religious doctrines of Anthroposophy".
To investigate whether public Waldorf oriented
education might have the unintended result of promoting anthroposophy,
the court however let the case proceed, but dropped it in 2001, based on
a recent legal precedent in New York, deciding that the anti-Waldorf group
in question not had a standing in the case.
After an appeal by the group, an appellate court
in February 2003 however has filed a decision, reversing the decision on
taxpayer standing by the lower court, making the case seemingly head for
court after all during 2004.
While the reversed ruling on the groups taxpayer
standing is based on the width of the allegation in its litigation in contrast
to the case in New York, it does not reverse the earlier ruling by the
lower court in 2001 that the public schools involved, using waldorf school
programs not have as "a primary purpose and primary effect [...]
to advance religion, including the religious doctrines of Anthroposophy",
being the main allegation by the group in the litigation. It makes it to
difficult to pinpoint clearly what will be the exact issue in the case.
Possibly time will tell.
For a comment on the issue concerned, see here.
For some of the myths about Waldorf education,
2004-2006: Robert Mays and Sune Nordwall