Lingering colonial racism at some Dutch Waldorf schools
Max Stibbe (1898-1973) was a Dutchman who lived in South Africa for many years. Although he worked with children of all races in South Africa, he was influenced there by the ideas of apartheid and defended them on occasion. Stibbe strongly influenced the geography curriculum of the Dutch Waldorf Schools by suggesting to add "racial ethnography" to the cultural anthropology that Rudolf Steiner had proposed as part of the social studies or geography curriculum.

The suggestion continued to influence a geography main lesson block lasting several weeks in 8th (sometimes already 7th) grade in most of the Dutch Waldorf Schools. The subject was meant to awaken interest in the different cultures of the world. 

Inappropriate and stereotypical views going right back to Stibbe had, however, continued to influence the way some of the teachers taught this subject in Dutch Waldorf schools for 30 years, in a way not found at other Waldorf schools around the world, despite a renunciation by leaders of the Waldorf movement in Holland in the 1980s.

In 1995, a mother was taken aback by the racial stereotypes of one of her daughter's school note books, and inquiries at the school did not result in satisfactory explanations, so she decided to go public.

The Deputy Minister of Education, Tineke Netelenbos, promptly instructed the State Education Inspection Service to carry out an investigation. The results of the investigation were made public in a joint press release on March 28 1995 by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Science and Cultural Affairs and the Association of Rudolf Steiner Schools in the Netherlands.

"The investigation into Steiner Schools in the Netherlands, carried out by the State Education Inspection service at the request of Deputy Minister Netelenbos, conclusively proved that there is no evidence of racism in the Steiner Schools. In fact much attention is given in the schools to developing an awareness among the students so that racism is actually countered."
In 7 of the 95 Dutch Steiner Schools, the State Inspectorate, however, also reported evidence of a stereotyping of races and peoples with discriminatory tendencies. The main lesson block on "racial ethnography" was consequently dropped by those schools that had had them in their curriculum. A non-discriminatory code of behaviour for Rudolf Steiner Schools, including a complaints procedure, was set up by the Dutch Steiner School Association.

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Copyright 2004: Detlef Hardorp