|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
MR. DUGAN'S CONNECTION TO WALDORF
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
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
WALDORF: JUST ANOTHER PHILOSOPHICAL BATTLE
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.
THE PUBLIC ANTI WALDORF-METHODS SCHOOLS CAMPAIGN
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
Waldorf-methods schools, which was at the time viewed as a new experimental
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.
THE FORMATION OF PLANS
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.
LITIGATION, ATTACKS, RHETORIC, MISINFORMATION
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
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