|The Waldorf education movement
has grown rapidly in the last decades world wide, and Waldorf schools increasingly
have become a role model within the New Education movement.
This development and expansion also has increased
the degree of contact with society in general,
leading to different forms of questions, discussions and dialogues, as
well as different forms of criticism and the cultivation of various myths
by individuals and small groups of people.
Some of the questions cultivated
from time to time by such individuals and small groups are:
For comments on some even more uncommon questions
than the above, see here.
Some say that Waldorf schools recommend that parents
avoid childhood immunizations. Is that correct?
Some say that Waldorf schools seem to be rigid in
their policies and attitudes. Is that the case?
Some Waldorf schools don't seem to describe the relation
between Waldorf education and its underlying philosophy very fully to prospective
parents. Is that the case?
Some say that Waldorf teachers are
not always being adequately trained. Is that the case?
Ethnic diversity does not seem to be an outstanding
quality of Waldorf schools. What do they do about
Some say Waldorf schools don't give their pupils a
good basic education and instead teach them anthroposophy. Is
that the case?
Opposition to systematic mandatory childhood immunizations
in early life is a growing world wide movement that has developed in recent
years, independently of Waldorf education, both outside and inside Waldorf
schools. See Global Vaccine Institute and Global Vaccine Awareness League.
This has led to questions if it is a general official
or tacit policy of Waldorf Schools to oppose to childhood immunization.
That is not the case. The expressly stated policy
by the European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education, in which also the
Association of Waldorf Schools in North America participates, is that vaccination
of children is something for the parents of the children, not Waldorf schools,
to decide on. (PDF)
It is important for parents to be fully informed about this question, for example to understand some of the common misconceptions about immunization.
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RIGIDITY OF ATTITUDES
As in public schools and other independent schools,
difficulties with discipline, rigidity of attitudes or policies, and the
quality of teaching may come to expression in younger, less mature Waldorf
schools, and even at times in a more mature Waldorf school.
While developing Waldorf schools have many of the
basic qualities of more developed and mature
Waldorf schools, parents need to be aware of the possibility that problems
may arise at young and growing Waldorf schools. Waldorf schools are not
centrally governed and ruled, but rather are free, independent and self
If you are a prospective parent, visit the school
you plan to put your child in, talk to the representatives of the school,
the prospective class teacher, and parents with children in the school,
to get to know it and see if it meets your expectations.
Parents should not hesitate to ask questions if
they feel something is not correct, including the way the faculty responds
to concerns from parents. Parents, even in young Waldorf schools, have
a right to expect a reasonable level of quality of education. They also
have a right to thorough, prompt, and proper answers when raising issues
at their school.
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INCOMPLETE DESCRIPTION OF
THE BASIS OF WALDORF EDUCATION GIVEN TO PROSPECTIVE PARENTS?
As growing, free, independent and self determining
schools, some young Waldorf schools are not fully prepared to meet, not
only the pedagogical needs of the children, and the demands connected with
growth (buildings, personnel, administration), but also the informational
needs of parents.
This has led at times to the experience of prospective
or new parents that Waldorf schools have failed to describe and explain
the nature and basis of Waldorf education.
This problem, also found at times in Waldorf schools
which are mature in other respects, can lead to misunderstandings by the
parents. If such an omission occurs, it infringes on their freedom and
right to make an informed school choice for their children.
Some parents at times make the unreasonable demand
that all Waldorf teachers have read all the published works by Rudolf
Steiner (not just the basic works related to Waldorf
education), that they defend and can explain all of it to questioning
parents and also describe it fully in introductions on Waldorf education.
This is not reasonable.
The published works by Steiner consist of nearly
90,000 pages in c. 350 volumes. They have the form of books, collections
of articles, essays, notes, drawings, poetry, meditations, and more or
less correct notes or transcripts of some 4,000 lectures in all sorts of
forms, from well prepared lectures to ad hoc ones. Most of Steiner's work
is not directly or is only very peripherally related to Waldorf education.
is the general basis of Waldorf education and in some form is the basic
world view of many Waldorf teachers, it is not and should not be taught
as a subject in Waldorf schools. See below.
Nor can a Waldorf teacher be expected to know and defend everything that
Steiner expressed on different subjects at different times throughout his
But it is reasonable to expect that there are teachers
at every Waldorf school who not only are knowledgeable of and can describe
and explain the basics of Waldorf education, but also the
basic pedagogical background and reasons for
the specific educational methods used in Waldorf schools to questioning
parents and others interested.
There also are a number of good introductions to
Waldorf education which do this, one of the
many being "Waldorf
education: A Family Guide". See also here. For a more complete list, see here.
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OF QUALIFIED WALDORF TEACHERS?
The increasing demand for Waldorf education in
recent years has at times led to problems, in terms of a corresponding
development of Waldorf teacher training and attracting and educating a
sufficient number of Waldorf teachers to meet the needs of newly founded
and developing schools. As a consequence of this, new and developing Waldorf
schools have at times needed to take on teachers not fully qualified as
While Waldorf teacher training centers work at
catching up with the needs of the schools, this is still not a fully solved
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LOW DEGREE OF ETHNIC
While there are Waldorf schools in an increasing
number of countries in the world, Waldorf schools in the West do not always
reflect the ethnic diversity of the countries in which they are found.
In the U.S., most non-profit, independent Waldorf schools have fewer than
10% minority students.
There are some notable exceptions where an independent
Waldorf school may have 30% minority students and one public Waldorf school
working as a charter school, the
Urban Waldorf School, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has a majority of minority
students. But this is still a problem not fully handled by the Waldorf
movement in the West.
Long lingering and deeply seated racial patterns
and prejudices in parts of the U.S. has probably been one major factor
making the mean income of black
households in general on the order of only c. 65%, and of hispanic
households in general the order of c. 70-75% of that of white
households in the U.S. in 2000. These economic disparities are one
central factor contributing to the low degree of ethnic diversity at independent
Waldorf schools in the U.S..
by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2002, that school
vouchers do not violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,
stipulating the separation of church and state, hopefully will contribute
to counteracting this inequality of income, and the development of an ethnic
diversity at U.S. Waldorf schools that matches that of American society.
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Avoiding all talk of anthroposophy is a common
trait in Waldorf schools to an extent that Waldorf parents at times feel
that they not have been told about something they had wanted to and should
have been told about. Also, most Waldorf pupils when leaving school probably
know very little about Rudolf Steiner as the founder of Waldorf education,
and have been told and know nothing or next to nothing about anthroposophy.
While it is not common in the basic Waldorf tradition,
anthroposophy seems to have flowed in some instances into individual Waldorf
schools and has been taught at or applied in an improper way. Also some
people who have taught Waldorf teachers or who have developed curriculum
materials for home schoolers have improperly incorporated anthroposophy
in their teaching materials.
While people home schooling their children are
free to form the curriculum the way they wish, it is against the basic
Waldorf tradition to insert anthroposophy as content in the curriculum
at Waldorf schools. It is a violation of the spiritual freedom and integrity
of the parents and pupils, and in complete contradiction
to the intentions of Waldorf education, as expressed by Rudolf Steiner
as the founder of Waldorf education.
It is also a misunderstanding of anthroposophy
if one believes that it should constitute a basis or support for any kind
of racism. A focus on the individual and a multi-cultural orientation have
been marked traits of Waldorf education since its start 80 years ago.
In this, Waldorf education from the beginning was
way ahead of its time in the U.S., where it took until 2002, 74 years from
its inception in 1928, for the Academy Award for best actress to be given
to an outstanding African American actress,
The same type of discrimination and racism that
has prevented female African American actors from getting an Oscar for
their performance in leading roles, all through the 20th century up to
2002, has, in a few instances, also been found expressed by some authors
who are said to be motivated out of anthroposophy. It also seems to have
come to expression in the past in some isolated individual instances at
some of the c. 870 Waldorf schools in the world.
Such individual racism was more based on personal
prejudices and a racism of the time than on an understanding of anthroposophy,
and is indefensible in any instance it may come to expression. It runs
counter to the very heart and essence of both Waldorf education and anthroposophy
as its spiritual philosophical basis, and has no place in Waldorf schools
nor in any other school or place in society.
2004-2019: Robert Mays and Sune Nordwall