Who is Mr. Dugan?
The scathing Internet assault campaign currently raging against the Waldorf movement is largely attributable to the zealous efforts of Dan Dugan, a self-described skeptic crusader who first declared war against Waldorf some fifteen years ago. Some time thereafter, Dugan began launching vociferous assaults from his personal web site, and much of the site was later polished up and incorporated into a site now named “waldorfcritics”.


Dugan, who identifies himself as a sound technician and inventor of a microphone mixer, had been a Waldorf parent for a short period of time and developed disagreements with the school about how science was being taught in his child’s classroom.

Besides his deep interest in sound technologies, Dugan has been, and remains today, a fervent (and at times somewhat strident) supporter and activist for many pet “skeptic” and secular humanist causes. As a Waldorf parent, he began to agitate within the school community to reform the curriculum to better fit his own skeptic philosophy and approach, and when these attempts proved unsuccessful, he and the school came to what Dugan describes as a somewhat fractious parting.

His disappointment in failing to transform his child’s classroom, to remake the curriculum from the Waldorf approach into the fundamentally different skeptic approach he envisioned for it, resulted in his leaving the school. It also inspired Dugan to relocate his campaign from the school to a few of the local “Skeptic Society” chapters he belonged to.

Though it is clear that Dugan's profound disagreements with Waldorf's humanistic and educational philosophies made Waldorf education an unsuitable option for him from the beginning, Dugan seemed to find it incomprehensible that any sensible person could see any value in it for themselves or their children.

Those who were disinterested in his missionizing, or resentful of his somewhat provocative efforts to change Waldorf into something else altogether, would need rescuing from their own supposedly “flawed” judgments and “brainwashed” thinking, it seems. And to accomplish this, Dugan then enlisted the aid of fellow Skeptic Society activists, and declared full-fledged “epistemological warfare” against the entire Waldorf movement. Waldorf then found itself under attack by a number of Dugan's Skeptic associates, philosophical ideologues who'd never been Waldorf parents, never been Waldorf students, and probably never visited a Waldorf school.


Dugan's penchant for provocative, and oftentimes incendiary, activism isn't a result of his son's experiences in a Waldorf school. In his own accounts, Dugan claims that his son had kind and generous teachers, and that the school was filled with a warm and wonderful atmosphere. The frictions between Dugan and the school began when he brought his activism to the school in order to reform the curriculum.

Waldorf is just one of Dugan's philosophical battlegrounds — and he has many. He would appear to enjoy the fights he starts much more than his opponents do. From one such battle, an almost twenty-year-long war waged against what he characterizes as “consumer fraud” in the field of audio cables, and against those “complicit” audiophiles who claim they can truly hear a difference among them, Dugan's particular “style” of activism became the focus of a scalding article published in the magazine Stereophile. The author of the Stereophile piece likened Dugan's style of advocacy to “McCarthyism”. 

“McCarthyism” would not be an unfair characterization of Dugan's crusade against alternative medicine, another of his “causes”. For example, Dugan has written arguments urging that fully licensed MDs be denied the right to practice medicine for simply studying, let alone prescribing, homeopathic or other therapies which he characterizes as “pseudo-scientific”. There are even reports that his tastes toward confrontational advocacy and his zeal for “agitating” reform have led to sharp divisions among his fellow members in the Skeptic Society.


About ten years ago, the attacks against Waldorf posted by Dugan on a personal mailing list he had set up began to attract the attention of a small group of parents then involved with public Waldorf-methods schools, which was at the time viewed as a new experimental approach.

Waldorf methods were just beginning to attract the interest of educators throughout California who were actively exploring innovative alternatives to bring to the public school system. Several people who were involved with one of these experiments, a charter school in northern California then contacted Dugan, including Debra Snell who would go on to become a fellow activist in Dugan's campaign against Waldorf education.

Snell was at one time the parent at a private Waldorf school, which she was very happy with. Unfortunately, the school was forced to close for financial reasons, and Snell, together with several other parents, worked to bring Waldorf back to their community by starting a public Waldorf-methods charter school. This experience was much less satisfactory from Snell's perspective, and eventually she became disenchanted with the entire Waldorf movement.


Dugan, Snell and several others then came to form the "People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools" (PLANS). A few years later, the organization became a tax-exempt corporation. Though it is difficult to determine the current status today, in 2000 Dugan claimed the then five year-old organization had 44 members. PLANS does currently identify seven active directors on its governing board, and five affiliated as “Supporting Advisors”.

Though PLANS portrays itself to be a grassroots movement begun by disenchanted Waldorf parents, the bricks-and-mortar framework of Dugan's forerunning efforts as a philosophical and ideological crusader remain firmly intact.

Even today, among the twelve most public PLANS members, the organization has more representation from the Skeptic Society than it has from dissatisfied Waldorf parents. Including Dugan himself, only three of the twelve individuals publicly representing PLANS actually had a child in a Waldorf school.

Since 1996, Dugan has served as the secretary and main representative of PLANS Inc (People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools). He is presently the webmaster and de facto editor of the PLANS web site as well. In these capacities, Dugan is essentially the Minister of Information at the PLANS web site, and its colorful kaleidoscope of criticism and misinformation, defamation and myth making against Waldorf education, Waldorf schools, Waldorf teachers, and others.

Dugan is also the frequent author of letters, complaints, and press releases sent to school boards, academics, newspapers and journals to “spread the word” against Waldorf education. He has been a frequent presenter before school boards, public meetings, conferences and other such events, as well as the organization's media spokesperson.


And from its earliest beginnings, the tools used in PLANS’ “information campaign” included staged confrontations, incendiary proselytism and rumor-mongering.

In 1997 in Sacramento, CA, PLANS began orchestrating protests at schools and delivering anti-Waldorf diatribes to the media. At one point, having first alerted the media to make sure the spectacle was captured on the evening news, they planted themselves near the exit of a school using Waldorf methods and distributed maligning misinformation and innuendo-filled anti-Waldorf propaganda to the students and parents as they passed by.

Another staged school demonstration turned very ugly when parents were led to believe their children were secretly engaging in wicca rites and satanic rituals. The situation quickly became so intense that some individuals were victims of anonymous death threats. 

PLANS then quite calculatedly exploited the explosive situation further, both for its power to attract media attention to their anti-Waldorf cause, and to recruit otherwise unlikely allies in their war against Waldorf. They even capitalized financially on the explosive media frenzy that resulted, by repeating in a funding grant application  the scathing lies that were attracting such big headlines. The alarming headlines helped persuade one conservative religious organization to fund litigation against Waldorf methods in two California school districts

With Dugan at the helm, PLANS continues these volatile tactics in their Internet campaign. Highly inflammatory rhetoric is their favorite tool to antagonize Waldorf supporters and plant irrational fears. Fevered emotions are necessary, because PLANS has taken on the very difficult task of convincing its readers that Waldorf schools aren’t the wonderful and promising educational alternative that thousands and thousands of its former students and parents, and the increasing numbers of school districts, public school educators, and educational and child development researchers, would have you believe. 

PLANS’ legitimate complaints and philosophical differences with Waldorf education aren’t compelling enough to inspire the wide-spread anti-Waldorf “uprising” they’re after. To arouse antipathies, Dugan and PLANS depend on alarming the public with scurrilous attacks and calculatedly misleading innuendo, as well as inflammatory rhetoric and careless misinformation. And there is no greater purpose served that would justify such senseless attacks than to deny thousands of parents the choice of a Waldorf education for their children