The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) recently hired a ‘Communications Officer’ to handle PR. This will leave long standing SWSF executive member Sylvie Sklan free to continue in her lobbying role, a role that paid huge dividends to the movement recently when a Herefordshire Steiner school became the first ever UK Steiner school to become state funded, albeit via the controversial academy programme.
The new appointee to SWSF is a stalwart of the Steiner education movement, one Jeremy Smith. Taking his lead from an increasingly bullish Sylvie Sklan, Smith charged into an ongoing internet discussion of Steiner belief and openly insulted posters exchanging opinion of Steiner there. His entrance to the discussion was merely farcical:
“A colleague has drawn my attention to this blog and the recent exchanges on Rudolf Steiner and Steiner schools. I’m the communications officer for the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF), the membership organization for Steiner schools in the UK and Ireland.
It’s good to see some familiar Waldorf Critics people posting their usual stories here, though as is their normal practice, using a variety of different aliases. I don’t propose to get into a discussion of what Steiner did or didn’t say or the context in which he said it, because this truly would be to enter into a dialogue of the deaf. There are different world-views represented in these debates and there simply is no point in engaging in arguments with individuals who proceed from such totally different premises.”
His exit, though, was sulky and derogatory to the point of insult:
“Since it is my policy not to feed the trolls or further inflame the condition of those poor unfortunates with marked symptoms of OCD, I will not be making any additional postings on this blog. However, if anyone has a genuine concern about a UK or Irish Steiner school that they have been unable to resolve, please contact me via the SWSF office and I will do my best to help. Kind regards, Jeremy Smith”
So much for the professionalism of Steiner educators and the SWSF itself. The movement’s ‘Communications Officer’ rushes into an ongoing discussion, churlishly refuses to engage in dialogue with participants, insults them and then slams the proverbial door on his way out. The use of the term OCD as an intended insult will hardly encourage parents of children with special needs to be looking at a Steiner placement. OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a debilitating mental health disorder.
The entire discussion was a spin-off from an article published on the counterknowledge website during late February. The website appears to be down at time of writing due to a technical hitch but I have a cached version of the discussion which took place there should it ever be needed. (EDIT Feb 2012: the link given is to the cached version of the article, counterknowledge appears to be defunct)
Returning to Smith, he continues and elaborates on his theme in a piece penned by him appearing in the current (Spring 2009) SWSF Newsletter. In his article titled ‘Rebutting Waldorf Critics’ in the Newsletter, Smith appears somewhat shocked to find that a quick Google will discover “many attacks being made on Steiner Waldorf education in Internet forums and blogs”. Regarding these warmongering ‘attacks’ (aka opinions, critiques and criticisms), Smith then goes on to offer this:
“This has been a feature of life for schools in the USA for a number of years but it has now spread over here to the point where prospective parents may actually be dissuaded from choosing a Steiner school for their child. The people making these attacks are comparatively few in number but they are obsessive and trawl the internet and blogosphere for potential threads that they can use to post anti-Steiner misinformation and scare stories, under a variety of different aliases.”
So according to the SWSF ‘Communications Officer’, the growing numbers of critics of Steiner education are all obsessives. They spy out cyberspace looking for targets to plant their propaganda bombs in. They operate in disguises to hide their true identities.
Officer Smith then rallies his spiritual troopers by inviting “teachers and parents who share these concerns…to join me in posting replies to anti-Waldorf threads in an attempt to give a more accurate picture to the outside world of what Steiner education is all about.”
But the SWSF isn’t acting alone in this, it’s all part of a pan-European plan; Officer Smith finishes his article by stating: “We are also coordinating this internationally through the European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education. Please contact me at email@example.com if you are interested in becoming involved. JEREMY SMITH, SWSF Communications Officer”
Prepare to be insulted and stereotyped if you write anything critical of Steiner education on the internet; there’s an entire wing of the Anthroposophy movement rallied and organised to counter what is presumably perceived their end of things to be your lonely, obsessive scare-mongering lies.