Myths by Andy Lewis about Steiner Waldorf education and schools
Since 2012, the UK blogger Andy Lewis has pursued a defamation campaign against Steiner Waldorf education and schools.
His seemingly just matter of fact tone in what he writes can give the impression that he is well informed and reliable as source on what he writes.
However even a quick reading of what he writes shows he is not and how superficial and unreliable his writings are. It reveals the hubris of the title of his main article on Steiner Waldorf education, that seems to indicate that what he writes should be taken as "knowledge" by parents of pre-school children, or children in any school.
It should not.
Just some few examples:
According to Andy Lewis, Rudolf Steiner viewed it as important that children have measles. He did not.
ACTUAL RUDOLF STEINER VIEW
But there are two reasons for not preventing children at all costs from getting measles. As was well known up to the middle of the 20th century, properly mildly treated (avoiding antipyretics, monitoring the fever, giving the child plenty of fluids and using external measures to control it), normally measles is a harmless child disease in otherwise healthy and well fed children with no immunological problems.
While it is understandable that you want to protect your child or children from any possible suffering, on balance there are two reasons for not at all costs preventing them from getting measles if they are otherwise healthy and well fed with no immunological problems.
One is that it mostly benefits children in their maturational development if they get it according to an empirical study of a measles epidemic in 1994-1996 in an anthroposophically dominated community in Sweden, south of Stockholm, afflicting 300 unvaccinated children, adolescents and a few adults. It was possible to find and document 235 of the cases.
No serious complications were found in the study. A followup investigation of the remaining 65 cases at their local child care centers or with their GP's revealed no difference in relation to the children included in the study with regard to positive development or serious complications.
The other is that research indicates that having gone through a measles infection contributes to resistance against developing allergic disease. See also.
If your child or children are not basically healthy and well fed or have immunological problems, this is a reason to immunize them to protect them from possible complications from measles if they are in danger of getting it.
However, in 2001, the European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education unequivocally agreed on the policy that opposition to immunisation per se – or resistance to national strategies for childhood immunisation in general – forms no part of Steiner Waldorf education and that it should be a matter for parental choice.
Insofar as schools have any role to play in these matters, it is in making available a range of balanced information both from the appropriate national agencies and from qualified health professionals with expertise in the field.
The schools themselves are not – nor should they attempt to become – determiners of health or medical decisions
According to Andy Lewis, it was Steiner's view that "blond haired and blue eyed Aryans", as viewed and propagated as ideals by the Nazis, were "the pinnacle of spiritual maturity". It was not.
ACTUAL RUDOLF STEINER VIEW
In Steiner's view, the main post-glacial cultures originated with the one that in the Torah is referred to as Noah (the Vedic scriptures describes the same mythical gestalt as Manu) and Steiner repeatedly criticized the developing anti-Semitism of his time.
As integrated or assimilated as a part of other cultures and nations, people of Jewish origin have, for two millennia, played an important role in the development of these cultures and have made an essential contribution to the development of a universal humanity.
In Germany, that has the largest number of Steiner Waldorf schools in the world, according to independent research in 2005, the pupils at the schools are least racist and right wing oriented of all pupils in Germany.
It was also Steiner's view (he died 1925, eight years before the Nazis rose to power), that German culture at the beginning of the 20th century, with its racist focus like in many countries at the time, developing anti-Semitism, and argumentation for "Aryan supremacy" was a culture on the decline in relation to the idealististic culture at the beginning of the 19th century, to which he connected with anthroposophy.
The anti Steiner crusade by some critics have their roots in a misleading, probably to most enraging term used in the theosophical tradition before Rudolf Steiner became general secretary of one of the theosophical societies in Germany in 1902. (The Anthroposophical Society was only founded in 1912/13.)
It is the theosophical, not anthroposophical term: "Aryan Root race". While Steiner was general secretary of the society in question, he used it at times when he addressed theosophical audiences when commenting on what it referred to. This was not "white European Aryans", but the whole of humanity that originates in those that had been saved and led by the one that in the Torah is referred to as Noah after the Flood, to become the first post-glacial culture.
He also lectured extensively on the depth and importance of Genesis, the importance of Abraham in human history and the continuing importance of Moses as something that did not end in the past, but will continue into the future. He also lectured extensively on the depth of the Gospels but also of the Bhagavad Gita.
How is that possible?
Understanding Steiner often takes some research and thinking.
For a clarification of this puzzle, see here and here.
According to Andy Lewis, Steiner believed there was a hierarchy of existence that souls could inhabit, driven by karma, and writes:
"Nearer the bottom of the spiritual hierarchy we can find animals such as fish and reptiles. Those animals with good karma will progress to become apes, Indians and finally Aryans - white and fair Germanic-Nordic humans."
That it not Steiner's view.
ACTUAL RUDOLF STEINER VIEW
Animals don't have "karma", a view Andy Lewis ascribes to Steiner, fish have not and will never become apes, Indians, or - as he writes - "white and fair Germanic-Nordic Aryans".
In Steiner's view (he died 1925, eight years before the Nazis rose to power), German culture at the beginning of the 20th century, with its racist focus, developing anti-Semitism, and argumentation for "Aryan supremacy" was a culture on the decline in relation to the idealististic culture at the beginning of the 19th century to which he connected with anthroposophy.
In 1881, at age 20, he condemned as "barbarian nonsense" the philosophy of Eugene Dühring, one of the most prominent German anti-Semites of his time, who argued for the physical annihilation of the Jews.
In the 1890s, he expressed his vehement opposition to what he described as the “outrageous excesses of the anti-Semites”, and denounced the “raging anti-Semites” as enemies of human rights.
At the turn of the 20th century, he was deeply and actively engaged in the Berlin "Association against anti-Semitism".
In a report to the German Secret Service, February 7, 1935, Prof. Dr. J.W. Hauer, a German Indologist and religious studies writer, wrote
"To briefly summarize my judgement: Every undertaking and activity of anthroposophy necessarily arises out of the anthroposophical world view. The anthroposophical world view is in its most important points directly opposed to national socialism. Therefore, schools which are built out of the anthroposophical world view and led by anthroposophists constitute a danger to true German education, particularly through the relation of the anthroposophical communities to Dornach, the international center of anthroposophy, in which Jews also play an important role, or at any rate have played until the present."In June 1935, the Anthroposophical Society was prohibited in Germany, with the motivation, signed by Reinhard Heydrich, in absentia, arguing.
"The methods of teaching developed by its founder, Steiner, and followed in the anthroposophical schools still existing today follow an individualistic and human-oriented education, which has nothing in common with principles of National Socialistic education.In March 1936 Waldorf schools were prohibited from taking on new students and by the summer of 1941, all Waldorf schools in Germany had been forced to close their door.
Andy Lewis also makes some comments based on polemical comments by Rudolf Steiner on a purely mechanical view of the heart as a "pump".
ACTUAL RUDOLF STEINER VIEW
For a more full description of Rudolf Steiner's view of the heart, see
Andy Lewis also comments on a remark in passing by Steiner, when the theory of plate tectonics was only in its infancy, that the British isles are floating (which they are as part of one of the tectonic plates, that float on the interious of the earth).
IMPLIED RUDOLF STEINER VIEW
For some comments on the perplexing comment, see
- Peter Staudenmaier
One of the "sources" that Andy Lewis bases his writings on, recommends and promotes at his site is Peter Staudenmaier, a minor Janus faced american academic, who fills a similar function to Steiner Waldorf critics as David Irving does to anti-Semites. Personally, I have never encountered or come upon anyone like him in my 60 years before.
Repeated discussions with him since 2000, when he started to refer to himself as "historical scholar", based on a B.A. in German literature, showed him to be fervent and outstandingly "bold" as intellectual con artist, lightheartedly and confidently lying people straight in the face with a smile on his lips (between the lines, and Andy Lewis knows this), intensely promoted by a small rabid group of american Steiner Waldorf critics.
Seven years ago (2007) the most rabid members of the group made a raid at the British Mumsnet forum to promote him, but were booted after five months when the forum administrators had had enough and decided to implement a policy not to allow single issue crusaders in the forum. This made some of them furious and one of them threaten to sue Mumsnet for not letting him continue to participate. Today, he has found a new forum as "commentator" at Andy Lewis' blog.
When Peter Staudenmaier was pointed to the untruthfulness of his published writings when he started to write on anthroposophy, he commented
In 2013 Staudenmaier (who only long after 2000 actually aquired a PhD in history while continuing to publish his early con stories up to this day as now assistant professor of history at the Jesuit Marquette University in Wisconsin) and that Andy Lewis depicts as a serious academic scholar, commented on and described himself in a talk:
“I’m a person who makes copious use of insinuation and innuendo in polemical contexts. I’m a big fan of using those as a way of getting a point across.”- French former Steiner Waldorf teacher
Some years ago, someone who had worked four years as a Steiner Waldorf teacher in France had a mental collapse in connection with having to leave his work at the school. Since then, as a revenge he has published a number of articles that criticize and with little justification defame his former school and Steiner Waldorf education, and Andy promotes him.
One of the things he claims is that the schools engage in indoctrination of the pupils with anthroposophy. As an argument for this he writes that they are taught that the human being and other organisms biologically exhibit a threefold structure. According to him, this is an example of anthroposophical indoctrination.
While his having to leave the school is sad, his argumentation is not that well founded. Humans and other organisms do exhibit a basic threefold structure. It comes from the differentiation of the embryo at an early stage into an endoderm, a mesoderm and an ectoderm, and the development of the nerves and senses out of the ectoderm, the development of the digestive system out of the endoderm, and the development of the heart and circulation system out of a mesenchyme as part of the mesoderm. For more on this as the background for the teaching about the heart in Steiner Waldorf education, see here.
For more on the argumentation by the former Steiner Waldorf teacher about Steiner Waldorf education, see here.
As description and distorted "summary" of the central ideas in anthroposophy, Lewis uses twisted writings by Peter Staudenmaier, that reflect an Indian-theosophical attitude and that do not reflect an anthroposophical view.
RUDOLF STEINER'S ACTUAL VIEW
What are the central ideas in anthroposophy as the general philosophy at the basis of Steiner Waldorf education?
Is anthroposophy "secret" and difficult to investigate for anyone even slightly interested, one of the myths Andy likes to cultivate?
There are a number of reasons for this.
Anyone can in two minutes find out at Wikipedia, or any dictionary, that the general philosophy of Rudolf Steiner as originator of Steiner Waldorf education is called anthroposophy. But it is not a goal of Steiner Waldorf schools to proselytize and make children or parents into "anthroposophists", and it really doesn't matter if you're interested in anthroposophy or not or what you think of it to have your child at a Steiner Waldorf school.
What you believe in is a personal thing, and as long as you think that Steiner Waldorf education is good for your child, the same way biodynamic farming is good for the earth and biodynamic products are for your health, and don't try to start to change a lot of things at your child's Steiner Waldorf school to make it be more like other schools, you can have any worldview you like as a parent.
Did Steiner as originator of both Steiner Waldorf education and anthroposophy think that it should be secret, as a comment by him in connection with the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart 1919 could seem to indicate, but that refers to something else than at first can seem to be the case?
anthroposophy is an effort and work to make public, develop and fruitful in personal and public life spiritual understanding of what we are as humans as a continuation of the idealistic tradition during the first half of the 19th century, in Europe represented by Goethe and others of the tradition, and in the U.S. represented by Ralph Waldo Emerson and other transcendentalists. In Europe, it was later partly developed by Edmund Husserl as "father" of the phenomenological tradition in philosophy.
With anthroposophy Steiner connected to and continued to develop this idealistic tradition as spiritual research, that then also led to a renewal of among other things education, called "Steiner" or "Waldorf" education, out of what is purely human in all of us regardless of our origin and where we happen to live.
All of it is published, also on the net, much in English translation at
In November 2012, BBC Southwest broadcast a film, much resulting from intense lobbying the last years by a slightly rabid former Steiner Waldorf parent in Devon, Melanie Byng, enraged by the untruths of Peter Staudenmaier, and based on interviews with her, Andy Lewis and a John Boxall.
For some comments on the film, that broadcast Staudenmaiers's very first made up enraging untruths from 2000 as solo writes on anthroposophy, as a claimed description of anthroposophy as the general broad basis of Steiner Waldorf education, see
According to Andy Lewis, Steiner Waldorf education is "Absurd Educational Quackery".
Andy Lewis likes to play with empty words. There are some arguments against this and some people who don't seem to agree with his characterisation.
According to Andy Lewis, papers used for art at Steiner Waldorf schools also have to have rounded corners, something he seems to think that it is important for every parent to "know".
So, is Andy's anti-Steiner campaign as he first can give the impression of, well founded, serious and truthfully argued in a way that does justice to the important strife for truthfulness at the roots of all scientific strivings, that he seems to view himself as a defender of in the spirit of the Enlightenment?
Not that much. Above, I have just mentioned some few of his distortions and errors. At his site he also promotes even more serious distortions of anthroposophy, and Steiner Waldorf education and schools on the net. For some comments on some of them, see here.
Maybe, finally, a picture of Rudolf Steiner as the main originator of Waldorf education and anthroposophy can be of some interest.
If you have some comments, feel free to write to me at
© 2013-2014 Sune Nordwall