|The web site for "PLANS Inc." features a jumbled
montage of assorted news clips, personal complaints, vitriolic commentary,
and irresponsible rumor mongering, all gathered together into a collection
labeled "Articles". This collection better reflects the cynical ideology
and philosophical crusades of PLANS' secretary and webmaster, Dan
Dugan, than it does Waldorf education.
Some members now with PLANS have worked on the
collection for over ten years, before the organization was formed, scouring
the Internet, monitoring news services, and fishing for articles and stories
on Internet message boards. PLANS members have publicly solicited negative
articles about Waldorf, and many of those in the collection were written
by PLANS members themselves.
There is little evidence that the curators of this
collection engaged in any measured assessment of the content, nor are there
signs of responsible editorial review in the selection process. There is
only one standard applied: the article must be critical of Waldorf education.
And PLANS promises, “to make available all the critical opinions about
Waldorf that we can find.”
Considering it is their goal to showpiece every
critical opinion that they find—and considering how far and wide they've
plumbed for such stories, some of them in the collection nearly twenty
years old, gathered from as far as New Zealand, and some not even translated
into English—it is heartening to find that the collection is nevertheless
a small one!
Indeed, it isn't at all easy to find troubling
criticisms of Waldorf, and PLANS has resorted to some robust cherry picking
in order to expand a somewhat scanty collection.
Take for example one item in the collection --
a scathing diatribe written by a PLANS board member to the editor of the
highly respected, 150 year-old Atlantic Monthly Magazine. It is
a lengthy and bitter complaint alleging one of the magazine's journalists
had “provided yet another inaccurate picture of Waldorf education.” What's
startlingly missing from the PLANS collection is a link, or otherwise accurate
representation of the the
article itself that PLANS has found to be so objectionable!
Journalist Todd Oppenheimer's 8,000 word article,
“Schooling the Imagination”, was an exploration into the unique Waldorf
approach, taking its author to a half dozen different schools, and interviewing
innumerable students and teachers. Oppenheimer provides a good background
in the educational philosophy of Waldorf's founder, Rudolf Steiner, and
compares it to the educational and child development philosophies of such
important figures as John Dewey, Jean Piaget, Bruno Bettelheim, and Robert
Coles. The author is clearly impressed with Waldorf, so PLANS deliberately
neglects the actual article itself entirely.
Unfortunately, PLANS did not likewise ignore its
author, Mr. Oppenheimer. They not only publicly denounced the nationally
journalist for “doing an injustice to the field of journalism” for
writing an article complimentary of Waldorf education, but continued crafting
“hit pieces” against him several years later, after the release of Oppenheimer's
book investigating the current computer “fad” taking hold in education.
Americans for Waldorf Education (AWE) does
not take issue with those individuals who've had unhappy experiences with
Waldorf education, nor do we object to PLANS for publishing or collecting
their stories. We don't seek to invalidate or excuse any allegations of
misconduct by any school or educator. Unhappily, problems can arise within
a Waldorf school, as they can in any school system.
There are nearly 900 schools worldwide in the eighty
year-old Waldorf movement, and there have been tens of thousands of teachers.
Though PLANS promises to “make available every criticism we can find”,
they have managed over the years to collect few first-hand accounts of
misconduct arising at a Waldorf school. That there are any such cases is
regrettable and certainly none should be tolerated at all. But such scant
and scattered reports do not suggest that the problems are chronic or pervasive
throughout the entire movement.
AWE does not object either to those who hold opposing
views about how best to educate children and young people. Waldorf philosophy
and methodology present an alternative approach in education, but it is
just one among many diverse opinions. We fully support a vigorous debate
over differing views about the merits and flaws, the advantages and disadvantages,
not only of Waldorf education but all of the various educational options
before us today.
But we are outraged that at PLANS, legitimate “debate”
is only a pretty veneer covering an ugly and vicious campaign of defamation
and reckless fear mongering, unleashed against the entire Waldorf movement
and anyone supportive of it.
At PLANS, sensible debate and honest testimony
are diminished by their close proximity to wild and hate-filled nonsense.
PLANS has created an infectiously poisonous enclave where paranoid speculations
are cultivated and shared, and where honest concerns or disagreements are
transformed into wholesale bigotry.
At PLANS, baseless charges are welcomed, no matter
how vile or preposterous, while any defense offered against them is rejected
out-of-hand as either “delusion” or “deliberate propaganda” perpetrated
by Waldorf's supporters.
At PLANS, Waldorf's founder is characterized as
a schizophrenic, megalomaniac, drug addicted, Nazi, Satanist who practiced
sex magic and started a school to trick children into performing Luciferian
rites and spiritual incantations covertly through the practice of tracing
magical symbols with their crayons and painting magical talismans with
their watercolor paints.
At PLANS, Waldorf kindergarteners are given gnomes
to play with to “indoctrinate” them about karma and reincarnation, and
grade school children are “indoctrinated” in paganism by arranging toadstools
and bright autumn leaves on a nature table display.
At PLANS, Waldorf schools welcome bullying as a
sacred ritual of spiritual purification. At PLANS, Waldorf teachers are
undereducated and nonintellectual Aryan Nation sympathizers and brainwashed
guru-following cultists who engage in routine child abuse.
And according to PLANS, the predictable outcome
of Waldorf education are students who ultimately become, as adults, either
pitiable victims of abuse and educational neglect, or dangerous, hate-filled
racist skin-head predators. (For PLANS' top ten myths, see here.)
And finally, at PLANS, anyone who offers any challenge
to these heinous accusations is targeted, rebuked, and maligned. PLANS
isolates those who object to these outrageous accusations and reckless
attacks, ridiculing those who do as “defenders of the faith”.
PLANS has developed a “witch hunt” psychology,
where not only Waldorf teachers, parents and former students but also independent
journalists, university professors and researchers, doctors, child development
psychologists and educators in the public schools are, one by one, stamped
and marked as “one of the usual suspects” should they express even the
slightest enthusiasm or regard for Waldorf education.
These aren't the tactics of debate or reform. These
are the tactics used to inflame prejudices, to stir unreasonable panic,
and to inspire a mob. It is shameful that PLANS gives such reckless and
irresponsible rhetoric as this a role to play in its activism. Such tactics
should be deplored, not indulged.
PLANS discredits themselves and their cause by
providing a platform for these prejudices, and they have done a disservice
to those who may have shared concerns or disagreements with Waldorf and
were drawn to PLANS for genuine answers to their concerns.
The top ten myths about Waldorf and Rudolf
Steiner promoted by PLANS are explained in more detail here.
Further information on PLANS myths is presented
at the Waldorf Answers