At its web site, PLANS Inc. describes itself and its views of Waldorf education.

The following is what PLANS' president, Debra Snell, writes at the PLANS home page, with some of our comments on it. The PLANS page was created with the help of Lisa Ercolano, a professional journalist and for long vice president of PLANS. For more on Ms. Ercolano's ideas about Waldorf schools, see myth six in the myths section.

PLANS Inc. writes:

"People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools (PLANS) is a world-wide network of former Waldorf parents, teachers, students, administrators and trustees who come from a variety of backgrounds with a common goal: to educate the public about the reality behind Waldorf's facade of progressive, arts-based education."

PLANS Inc. is a corporation, situated in San Francisco, California. It is not a membership association but does have a board, currently with 3 members. In 2000, after five years of anti-Waldorf campaigning, PLANS claimed a membership of 44 people who had contributed at least $15 during the year. The size of its membership at that time suggests that many or most of them were probably local friends of the secretary and president of "PLANS Inc."

The president of PLANS, Debra Snell, is a former Waldorf parent. Dan Dugan serves as the secretary and is the main driving force behind PLANS. Mr. Dugan's son was in the second part of grade six and in grade seven at the San Francisco Waldorf School. Mr. Dugan is a sound technician and inventor of an automated microphone mixer, and since the 1980's has been a secular humanist "missionary" in the San Francisco Bay area.


"Waldorf is the most visible activity of Anthroposophy, an occultist sect founded by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)." 

Waldorf education, with some 1,400 independent kindergartens and more than 1000 independent Waldorf or Steiner schools world wide, from grade school to adult education, is one of many activities to emerge from anthroposophy, a spiritually oriented human philosophy, expounded and developed initially by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925).

Other activities developed out of anthroposophy include biodynamic farming, curative or "Camphill" education for the developmentally handicapped, eurythmy as an art of movement, visible speech and music, and anthroposophically extended medicine.

Anthroposophical Societies exist in numerous countries worldwide, with a total of approximately 50,000 members. In contrast to "cults" or religious sects, the only loose prerequisite for membership in an anthroposophical society is that one sees the existence of something like the Goetheanum in Dornach, as a School for Spiritual Science, as justified.

The charter and bylaws of the Anthroposophical Society are public. The geographically-based anthroposophical societies are open, democratic, interest-based societies and have none of the characteristics that define cults or religious organizations, compared with any other organizations.

While PLANS Inc. claims that Waldorf schools are "anthroposophical parochial schools", this is contradicted by the many later well-known students, such as Kenneth Chenault, the current CEO of American Express, Jennifer Aniston, and Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of Norway.

Former Waldorf parents world-wide include Russell Schweickart, Apollo 9 astronaut, Helmut Kohl (former German chancellor), Hans-Dietrich Genscher (former German minister of foreign affairs), Mikhail Baryshnikov, Clint Eastwood and Frances Fisher, and Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullmann.

PLANS' claim that Waldorf schools are an activity of an "occultist sect" is ridiculous, unless Kenneth Chenault, Jennifer Aniston, Jens Stoltenberg, Russell Schweickart, Helmut Kohl, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullmann were to reveal that they are closet anthroposophists, something that would indeed make headlines.


"Together, we have performed exhaustive research on Waldorf schools and Anthroposophy, the esoteric, occult religion that both guides and inspires Waldorf teachers. PLANS affirms the right of all religious groups to practice and to teach their beliefs. But we expect those groups -- including Anthroposophy -- to tell the truth about their missionary efforts."

Waldorf education and anthroposophy are extensively documented in the literature, easy to find and order from and as web pages on the Internet. For some of the many resources found on the web, see the links page.

In 2004, PLANS filed a motion in a California Federal court, in a lawsuit (which started in 1998 against two public school districts in California, for their operation of two Waldorf-methods charter schools), requesting that it rule, as a matter of law, that anthroposophy is a religion. The court denied the motion stating that "triable issues of material fact exist as to whether anthroposophy is a religion".

When the trial finally came to take place in September 2005, PLANS lost its case based on lack of acceptible evidence, but has appealed and gotten its appeal approved, sending the case back to court at some unclear time, as its legal councel since ten years in February 2008 informed the court that he wants to withdraw from the case, based on mental problems, and the court in March has dismissed the case against one of the two public school districts.

Today (2008), Alliance for Public Waldorf Education lists 13 waldorf-inspired charter schools in California and 8 other waldorf inspired charter schools using Waldorf methods as members.

While PLANS claims its goal is to "educate the public about Waldorf education", most of what is published on their web site consists of disinformation, a number of more or less defaming and even demonizing myths, skewed arguments and fabricated misinterpretations by a Peter Staudenmaier.

According to Lisa Ercolano, journalist and former Waldorf parent in Baltimore, "the secret agenda of Waldorf education, not disclosed to Waldorf parents", is to train the future rulers of the world, an Anthroposophical world conspiracy myth found already in a press release in 1999 from the Pacific Justice Institute, based on "information" provided by PLANS secretary, Mr. Dugan.

In 1997, believing PLANS' claims that Waldorf schools practice and teach their students witchcraft, the Pacific Justice Institute helped PLANS Inc. get $15,000 from a religious organization to finance the litigation against the two public school districts, accusing them of "advancing religion." And so the witch hunt began.

After Ms. Ercolano spun the myth of the "Anthroposophical world conspiracy" on Dan Dugan's list serve in 2000, she was promoted to vice president of PLANS, a position from which she now (2008) has withdrawn.


"My personal experience with Waldorf was very confusing. Instead of the progressive and liberal alternative school I was led to expect by the school's promotional materials and staff, I discovered a rigid, authoritarian environment that seemed to be rooted in a medieval dogma that I did not understand. When, in an effort to make sense of things, I asked questions about this, I found Waldorf teachers to be strangely defensive."

As an activity rooted in the idealistic philosophical tradition, Waldorf education differs in a number of ways from activities that are based on the view of man as primarily a physical being.

The breadth and complexity of the philosophical basis of Waldorf education, called "anthroposophy", makes it challenging for a number of Waldorf teachers to explain in depth the basis for Waldorf education.

Indeed, the published works of Rudolf Steiner as the founder of both anthroposophy, Waldorf education, biodynamic farming, and many other practical activities based on anthroposophy, encompass approximately 90,000 pages. Waldorf teachers are not required to study and know anthroposophy more fully to become and work as Waldorf teachers. 

Further, it is not a goal of Waldorf education to proselytize and make children or parents into "anthroposophists". Most Waldorf pupils probably have not even heard the word "anthroposophy" mentioned, and relatively few know anything about anthroposophy or Rudolf Steiner by the time they leave high school.

The lack of interest in proselytizing is one reason Waldorf schools are reluctant to go into detail when they describe the philosophical foundation of their work.

Finally, when faced with complicated questions about anthroposophy as the philosophical basis of Waldorf education, teachers may be put on the defensive when they realize how difficult it is to answer questions more than just superficially.

Grasping anthroposophy requires that one come to grips with concepts concerning the essential being and nature of the human being as a physical and spiritual being, rooted in the thinking of Aristotle, Plato and Thomas Aquinas and later developed by Rudolf Steiner during the beginning of the 20th century.

As they may be difficult (at first) since they take time to understand -- more time and effort than many teachers are prepared or able to spend, this makes many, if not most, people who are familiar with anthroposophy, even for a long time, hold the view that "Steiner is difficult". Waldorf techers may therefore respond to questions with reactions ranging from defensive sighs, as described by PLANS, to enthusiastic descriptions of Steiner as "one of the most spiritually gifted and accomplished figures of the Twentieth Century".

For some descriptions in between, see Wikipedia on Waldorf education, Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy, and Rudolf Steiner Web.


"I was stunned to arrive at the conclusion that the education of children -- at least as I use the term "education" -- did not seem to be the school's most important focus and objective. But what was?" 

In kindergarten and the early grades, Waldorf education is not primarily focused on conveying "facts" to the pupils, but to support their development as human beings in a developmentally proper way, through play and artistic activities in different forms, as a basis for the increasingly reflective teaching in the upper grades.

This does not mean that the pupils do not learn the usual subjects at independent Waldorf schools and Waldorf-methods schools. The test results of the pupils at public Waldorf-methods charter schools, are on a par with other public schools in the same district.

A recent academic study in Sweden [120K] (where Waldorf schools are state financed) shows that Waldorf students go on to higher education to a greater extent than students in general at public schools, and that few of them consider it to have been a disadvantage to have gone to a Waldorf school.

An overview of all Waldorf high school students in North America during the last 10 years [1.2M] shows that 77% of them had or have gone on directly to college after high school. Of the remaining 23%, 9% had either been accepted to a college and deferred admission for a year, announced plans to enroll in college after a year of work or travel, or were pursuing the Ontario Academic Credit (OAC).


"I began to ask questions. What is Anthroposophy?" 

While it is difficult to give a simple summary of anthroposophy, which was developed primarily by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), because of its breadth and complexity, it can be described as an effort to develop the idealist school of thought as spiritual research, rooted in the thinking of Aristotle, Plato and Thomas Aquinas.

As such, it is primarily defined by its research methods, and secondly by its possible research results. The core of anthroposophy is the completely individual thinking, judgments and decisions made by those who work with it.

In addition to developing anthroposophy as a philosophy and research method, Steiner also put much effort into showing how it could be fruitful for contemporary mankind. Waldorf or Steiner education, today practiced at some (2008) 1000 schools world wide, including adult education, is one of the fruits of anthroposophy.

For more on this, see Waldorf Answers for a short overview and Wikipedia for a more detailed overview. For a large part of the published works of Steiner online in English, see here and here.


"Why do students use the wet-on-wet watercolor painting technique exclusively for so many years?"

As a painting technique, wet-on-wet watercolor painting allows the person using it not to become immediately fixed in what is first put on the paper, but to continue working with it for a much longer time than with other painting techniques, focusing on the color and the interaction of colors, more than on form. The goal of wet-on-wet painting at Waldorf schools is to support the flexibility of thinking and imagination of the growing child.

While this technique dominates painting in the lower grades in Waldorf schools, color crayons are used extensively from an early age. In the upper grades, other painting techniques are also used.

One of the many allegations by PLANS is that wet-on-wet painting is a "secret" exercise in meditation. According to another allegation published by PLANS, wet-on-wet painting at Waldorf schools is used to make "magical talismans".

Ask any Waldorf student about this; it will probably make him or her raise at least one eyebrow, and most of them two. It is complete nonsense.


"Why is mythology taught as history?" 

It isn't. History is taught as history, and mythology as mythology. Cultural history includes studying the mythology of different cultures. This is taught in addition to the more prosaic "dates and battles" aspect of history. Many cultures, both ancient and modern, are taught in Waldorf schools. This is in keeping with Waldorf's strong emphasis on multiculturalism.

"Where is the American flag, and why don't Waldorf schools teach civic lessons in America?"

Whether or not to display the flag, and where, is a matter left entirely to the individual schools. Some fly the flag on the front lawn. Others may not have thought to do so. Though Waldorf schools are independent, and decide for themselves what to teach in different grades, civics is normally first covered in the 8th grade curriculum, and then more extensively in high school.


"In a school system that promotes itself as "education toward freedom," why do students copy everything from the blackboard?"

In the lower and middle grades, standard school books are not used in Waldorf education. Instead, the pupils make their own school books. At first, this is done by copying what the teacher writes on the blackboard and writing it as reports of subjects taught in the Main Lesson (a morning double period devoted to a single subject, typically lasting three or four weeks).

Later, while the teacher summarizes the content of the lectures, developed in interaction with the pupils, on the blackboard, they create their own Main Lesson book pages. For a description of this by Julianna Margulies, a former Waldorf pupil, see here.


"Why do Waldorf teachers talk in high voices and sing-song directions to their classes?" 

Teachers in the lower grades are encouraged to use their voice in a vocal register that children can imitate easily. Children's voices are high, so teachers sing in the children's range. This is a basic principle of all music instruction. Singing instructions in the lower grades is done to set a warm, welcoming mood for the children.

The described way of talking and giving directions to the classes in the lower grades, perhaps done to some extent in the U.S., varies around the world and in many Waldorf schools is not practiced.


"Why must the kindergarten room walls be painted "peach blossom"?" 

There are very few "musts" in Waldorf education, and there are many kindergartens without "peach blossom" walls. Those that are painted "peach blossom" are painted that way because Rudolf Steiner, who developed most of the pedagogy, suggested that it would be a nice thing to do, and many agree.


"Why is learning to read before the age of 8 or 9 considered unhealthy?" 

There is nothing unhealthy about learning to read by oneself at any age. There is something unhealthy about being forced to learn how to read, particularly for children younger than 6. For a number of discussions of the push in recent years for early literacy, see the site of Waldorf Research Institute.

By fifth grade (age 11) there are, for all practical purposes, no differences in ability between children who learned to read at age 4 and those that learned at age 8.

Every child reaches the milestones of child development at their own rate. This is recognized in Waldorf education. While learning to read starts in first grade, at first not through direct reading, but through writing, no undue pressure is placed on first graders who are still struggling to master reading. While there may be differences among Waldorf schools, there is concern and often intervention when students still can't read at age 8.

"Why do so many Waldorf classes have problems with bullying, and what is the school's policy for dealing with this?" 

Bullying is a serious problem and an increasing phenomenon in schools of all kinds world wide, and at times also regrettably occurs at Waldorf schools.

According to a report in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) in 2001, in general, the prevalence of bullying among U.S. youth is substantial, and one in three (29.9%) of 15,686 students in grades 6 through 10 in public and private schools throughout the United States in 1998 reported moderate or frequent involvement in bullying.

Two studies on or related to bullying at Waldorf schools are known to Americans for Waldorf Education (AWE).

One is a study from 1996, by Rivers and Soutter: Bullying and the Steiner school ethos - a case study analysis of a group centered educational philosophy.

This study, conducted on three classes of 30 pupils in one Waldorf school in the South of England, found a very low level of bullying at the school, despite the fact that many pupils came to the school because they had been victimized elsewhere. The study suggests that bullying is a situational problem rather than one due to the fact that some young people are so-called 'natural' victims.

The other is a study from 2004 of Waldorf schools in Sweden: Waldorf schools and civic moral competency. A comparison of Waldorf pupils with pupils in public schools. (Swedish original [3.8M], English summary [120K])

The study among other things compared 196 9th grade students at nine Waldorf schools distributed in a geographically representative way in Sweden, with 5,941 9th grade students at municipal (public) schools, correcting for the difference in the social background of the students in the two groups.

According to the study, the Waldorf students felt to a lesser extent than the municipal students that they were bullied or unfairly treated. They also felt to a greater extent than the students at municipal schools, that teachers or other adults quickly intervened if a student was bullied.

These studies contradict that bullying is a specific problem at Waldorf schools, as alleged by PLANS.


"Why are teachers always lighting candles?" 

Candles are not mentioned in any of Rudolf Steiner's pedagogical indications for Waldorf schools, as the founder of Waldorf education. Before asking such a question, interested parents should observe whether this is, in fact, a practice at the school. If a particular teacher is fond of candles, they doubtless have a reason which they will share when asked.


"What answers I received were not forthright, and the teachers made it clear that my questions were not welcome. They told me, 'If you understood Anthroposophy, you wouldn't be asking that question.' " 

This statement appears to be the opinion of one person. From the information given, it is not possible to speculate on the nature of the situation that led to the formulation of this opinion.

Waldorf education is a partnership between parents and teachers for the education of children. If either parents or teachers feel that the other party is not being honest, this can have a detrimental effect on the quality of education that the children receive. 

Waldorf schools encourage parents to actively participate in the education of their children, and most schools hold lectures, workshops and study groups for parents, making every effort to explain the pedagogy. Much introductory literature is readily available, and parents are encouraged to learn as much as possible about the aims and methods of Waldorf education.

Occasionally parents will have a problem with a teacher, or vice versa, that can lead to the termination of the partnership for the education of the children. Such personal difficulties, while regrettable, are a fact of life in every venue of human activity.


Yet before we enrolled, I was told that the school was non-sectarian and that Anthroposophy was not "in the classroom!" I was eventually invited to leave. 

This sounds like someone's personal history, and the story behind this "question" is doubtless far more complex than  the statement here indicates.

On the rare occasions when a child is asked to leave a school, anthroposophy as such has very little to do with it. A child might be asked to leave for misbehavior, or  disruptive behavior on the part of one or both parents.


Thanks to PLANS' dedicated researchers, I now have answers to all of my questions, and many more that I had not even thought of asking! 

AWE encourages interested parents to ask questions of any school before considering enrolling their children. The above questions should not pose a problem for any Waldorf school admissions officer to answer. Keep an open mind, visit the school, ask all the questions you wonder about, have your child visit, and then make the decision you find is the most proper for you and your child or children.


If the information on the PLANS Web site had been available 9 years ago, our family would have passed by Waldorf's door, knowing that its sectarian, occultist nature was not what we were looking for after all. My sincere hope is that the information contained in this Web site will help other families avoid a Waldorf disaster.

While the personal experiences of Debra Snell as president of PLANS Inc. are regrettable, the main part of the "information" published at the site of PLANS as "education of the public about Waldorf education" consists of myths, pseudo-scholarly disinformation and misrepresentations amounting to defamation about and related to Waldorf education.

In 2001, this made the Open Directory Project (DMOZ) delete the link to the PLANS site from its main Waldorf category, after a review of the site showed that it did not fulfill the demands of informational sites by the portal.

In 2002, Google AdWords stopped publishing a sponsored ad for the group, after reviewing its site, finding that it violated the requirements by Google AdWords for advertisers.

And in 2003, Altavista, for similar reasons after reviewing the site, took the drastic decision to delete the site completely from its web index, and stop publishing sponsored ads for the group.

As at all schools, there are parents, who are more or less dissatisfied with the school they have their child or children in, for various reasons.

The view of the President of PLANS of Waldorf schools as "sectarian, occultist schools" is contradicted by the views and experiences of a large number of people. 

According to Kenneth Chenault, President and COO of American Express and former Waldorf student (Waldorf School of Garden City): 

"Waldorf taught me how to think for myself, to be accountable for my actions, to be a good listener, and to be sensitive to the needs of others. It also helped me to focus on the underlying importance of beliefs and values that are the foundation of good leadership."
According to Ernest L Boyer (1928-1995), former President, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching: 
"Those in the public school reform movement have some important things to learn from what Waldorf educators have been doing for many years. It is an enormously impressive effort toward quality education, and schools would be advised to familiarize themselves with the basic assumptions that undergird the Waldorf movement. Art as it helps to reveal the use of language, art as it can be revealed in numbers, and certainly in nature."
According to Jennifer Aniston, former Waldorf student: 
"I was always fascinated by acting, but my experience at Rudolf Steiner [school] encouraged me to pursue it as a career." "Steiner was a free-spirited school that encouraged creativity and individualism."
According to Joseph Weizenbaum, Professor (now emeritus) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of Computer Power and Human Reason
"Being personally acquainted with a number of Waldorf students, I can say that they come closer to realizing their own potential than practically anyone I know."
According to Evelyn Galinski, former Waldorf pupil and daughter of Heinz Galinski, Auschwitz survivor and for many years Chairman of the Central Jewish Council in Germany:
"I personally have had only good experiences during my school time; it was liberal, antiracist, tolerant of every faith and not missionary"
For some more comments, see here.


I strongly believe parents have the right to make fully informed decisions about their children's education.

Probably everyone involved in Waldorf education, without exception, agrees with this sentiment completely.

Waldorf education and anthroposophy, as its central philosophical basis, are complex and not easy to describe and explain in two sentences. Still, for anyone with the slightest interest in Waldorf education, wanting to know more about it, there is an abundance of information on both Waldorf education and anthroposophy easily available, in books at (do a simple search with "waldorf education"), at open houses at Waldorf schools and Waldorf-methods schools, at numerous web sites, and from other sources.

A large part of Rudolf Steiner's works is freely accessible in full online, at the Rudolf Steiner Archive. For the section on Waldorf education, see here. For one large site on Waldorf education, see Waldorf Answers. For its resource page on Waldorf education, see here. For almost all lectures on Waldorf education by Steiner, and conferences with teachers online, see here.


Until Waldorf promoters start being honest, PLANS will be here.

Debra Snell


The conscious publication and promotion by Mr. Dugan and PLANS for many years at the PLANS web site of numerous myths about Waldorf education, which are defamatory to the point of demonization, when scrutinized more closely, puts PLANS in the category not of "informative and educational", but essentially of hate groups, in our opinion.

In the words of one casual browser of the site, the PLANS web site depicts Waldorf schools as "nazi training camps", This is just one example of how the public is misinformed by Mr. Dugan, in this case by publishing the writings of one of PLANS' supporters, Peter Staudenmaier, whose repeated untruthfulness can readily be demonstrated. See also here.

At another page, PLANS quotes parts of sentences from a speech by a central Waldorf teacher, where he says that he has his daughter in a Waldorf school so that she can have a religious experience. The quote is depicted as arguing not only that Waldorf education, but also Waldorf-methods education as practiced at certain public charter schools, in general, is religious.

What PLANS leaves out, among other things in the fragmented quote, are the specific reasons this Waldorf teacher mentions, that make him think that Waldorf education (not Waldorf-methods education as practiced at public charter schools) is religious. 

For this teacher, one reason is the way the morning verse, which is said by the children in the lower grades at Waldorf schools (but not in Waldorf-methods charter schools), mentions and addresses God. The other is how the Waldorf schools teach about the origin and dramatic history of the Hebrew people as a central theme in Grade Three, which for a time immerses the pupils, in a way, in Judaism. These are the specific reasons this teacher mentions for having put his daughter in a Waldorf school.

Later, in the same way, during other lessons, the pupils are taught about other cultures in a way that makes them into dedicated Indians, dedicated Persians, dedicated Greeks, dedicated Romans, or -- in the upper grades -- into dedicated modernists, and as one possibility, dedicated secular humanists.

The fragmented "quote" used by PLANS also leaves out how in his speech this teacher tells how upset he is that "God" has been taken out of the morning verse said by pupils at public Waldorf-methods schools to avoid a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

In its distorted form, this quote is then used by PLANS as support both for its view that anthroposophy as such is a religion, and that public Waldorf-methods schools advance religion in a way that violates the separation of church and state stipulated by the U.S. Constitution.

By any normal definition, such "argumentation" by PLANS Inc. does not stand out as a model of "honesty" or sincerity.

The actions taken by the large portals/search engines Open Directory Project, Altavista and Google with regard to the site of "PLANS Inc.", deleting it from Waldorf categories at their portal, refusing to publish ads for the site, and deleting it completely from their web index after having reviewed it, indicate that they do not view the PLANS site as an "honestly informative" site on Waldorf education.