From criticism to demonization
An overview of PLANS' method of argumentation
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 awarded investigative 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 site.