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Plymouth University Axes Steiner BA Degree Course

University of Plymouth – the ‘enterprise University’ as it promotes itself – has ceased offering its BA course in Steiner Waldorf Education. I was informed by Plymouth’s Faculty of Education that the Steiner BA course was dropped due to insufficient demand for it, the course simply wasn’t attracting enough students.

The educational wing of the UK Anthroposophy movement will be deeply hurt to see the scrapping of the course, a collaborative venture between the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) and the University of Plymouth which has been running since 1992. The Plymouth Steiner Waldorf BA certification is considered by Anthroposophists to be the alternative if not the equivalent to a mainstream teacher training qualification. Also axed has been the Foundation Degree in Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Education. The fate of a Steiner education degree at MA level and some post-grad work is unclear at this stage. Plymouth assured me that students already enrolled on the now abandoned Steiner courses will be allowed to continue with their studies through to completion.

I was also told the University is considering including ‘some’ Steiner related material within a broad based degree course titled Education Studies but not a single course bearing the Steiner imprimatur survived the carnage at Plymouth. The only fixed Steiner presence remaining at Plymouth is a rump group dubbing itself the Steiner-Waldorf / Hereford Academy Research Network, a rather fancy title for a group of five people.

Yesterday the Guardian newspaper reported the story in a piece penned by Polly Curtis, the paper’s education editor. When it comes to Steiner-related news Polly isn’t renowned for any critical analysis of what she’s told by Anthroposophists and her latest effort at the Guardian is highly likely to be simply regurgitated Anthroposophical feed lines.

According to Polly Curtis the reason for Plymouth axing the Steiner Waldorf BA is all down to the cost to students taking a second degree. She writes:

“The university’s decision is being blamed on the government’s withdrawal of funding for second degrees. As many people begin the course later in life after a change in career, they faced charges upward of £8,000 a year instead of the standard £3,225.”

To put that into some sort of context, a typical student without rich parents and seeing a BA/BSc through to completion can expect to be saddled with a debt of about £20,000. Students are aware of the price they’ll have to pay for a degree but it doesn’t appear to have had a significant impact on student numbers nationally.

Nowhere in the Guardian report do we find anything about the actual numbers of students enrolling for the axed BA course and so no comparisons of student intake prior to the government’s withdrawal of funding for second degrees can be made. Instead Guardian readers are only offered Anthroposophical educator Christopher Clouder’s explanation for the low intake of students, which was that ‘people who wanted to do this course were priced out of it’. That explanation presumes most middle-aged people wanting to take up teaching Steiner education already have a degree of some sort. Possible but even if it’s true the way around it if cost is an issue would be to opt for a PGCE and Plymouth does offer PGCE’s (peruse here for examples). Rather than axe a course at short notice –first term is well under way and ends in a few weeks – surely if there was sufficient interest in the course then the University would instigate a Steiner slanted PGCE course. Under current rules the middle-aged or any other existing degree holders suffer no penalty for taking a PGCE.

Of course providing a PGCE for Steiner types would reduce the intake for the Steiner Education BA course but Plymouth didn’t only axe the Steiner Waldorf BA, it also axed its Foundation Degree in Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Education.  This course is described on the SWSF website as:

“A two-year programme for Early Years Practitioners and Assistants. Operates through flexible and distributed learning. It is taught in a variety of locations and is structured to enable students to study over some weekends, in residentials and in the classroom. This is accredited at Level 5. There is a progression to the Steiner Waldorf BA (Hons.), an Early Childhood Studies degree or Early Years Professional Status.”

Level 5 being degree level last I heard surely there’d be room for manoeuvre here, perhaps merge the two BA level courses and create a Steiner PGCE?

Polly Curtis might have missed a scoop or two for the Guardian.

Not reported in the Guardian and not mentioned by Plymouth’s Faculty of Education is that the university has had a recent appointment, the new boss there being Vice Chancellor Professor Wendy Purcell. Remember that new tagline Plymouth has, the enterprise University? Well, Wendy’s presence is entirely in keeping with that. The university has been made over to one more in keeping with a market driven education sector. Departments have been downsized, the faces that didn’t fit with the new enterprise ethos have been sacked, and efficiencies have been made.

We have heard rumours here at UK Anthroposophy that financial management at Plymouth had been somewhat lax in recent years and, on appointment, one of Wendy’s first acts was to see to the removal from post (given the sack was the rumour I heard) of a Head of Finance at Plymouth.

Against that backdrop of a makeover of Plymouth from provincial and pedestrian university to a lean clean market-driven machine it is little wonder that an esoteric low intake course such as the Steiner BA would get the chop.

Readers might take note that requests made by myself and others to Plymouth for details of the Steiner Waldorf BA course materials – its reading lists and the like – have in the past been either refused or ignored. So, even were there to be more to the reason for axing the BA course than Plymouth or the Guardian is giving out, it’s going to be a hard task to discover it. I’d ask the SWSF for a comment but, sad to say, the SWSF refuses to acknowledge let alone reply to my emails. I’d also email a comment to the Guardian report but for some reason or other the paper isn’t taking comments on that Polly Curtis report.

Happily, a correspondent using Freedom of Information has prised from Plymouth’s Faculty of Education basic documents such as recommended reading for students of the BA Steiner course and has passed on findings to me. It shouldn’t have to be this way. Members of the public shouldn’t have to resort to legal means to discover what or how our publicly funded Universities are teaching BA students; registered charities such as SWSF shouldn’t behave like sulky adolescents when they receive enquiries from a member of the public.

Anyway, the documentation in front of me includes the Student Handbook for year 2008/9, hardly a top-secret hush hush item. Ironically, it proclaims the BA course to have had “an important role in helping the Steiner Waldorf movement develop professional standards in teacher education”, standards the secretive SWSF and adminstrators of the BA course might fruitfully emulate.

The contents of the information within the Handbook, the course outlines, reading lists and the recommended texts would appear bizarre to the general public or to academics and others approaching education from any perspective other than that of the esoteric/occult and spiritual one informing that of the Anthroposopophical educator.

Perhaps fear of ridicule is the reason Plymouth tried for so long not to divulge what students would be learning there, ridicule for delivering a teacher training course from an esoteric or occult perspective. However, there are already examples of Steiner teacher training course outlines, reading lists etc out there on the net. Steiner pedagogy is fairly rigidly adhered to wherever it is taught or put into practice and so it follows that the teaching materials for one course will be pretty much the same wherever the course is taught. So, why the secrecy about Plymouth’s own Steiner teacher training course materials?

Well, one thing that will differentiate Anthroposophical training courses from country to country is the written language of the texts students will be reading. As we know, Steiner lectured and wrote in German and the English translations of his original work are often Bowdlerised, or incomplete or truncated versions of the originals (see here for example). Perhaps amongst the recommended texts for students of the Plymouth Steiner course some unexpurgated examples of Steiner’s infamous racism can be found but I’m beggared if I’m going to source the texts, purchase or borrow them and then read them all to see if anything toxic is within them. Instead I’ve listed the texts here on the blog so that readers can see what prospective UK Steiner taught teachers read before they’re let loose on children. I’d be particularly interested to hear from readers should they know if any of the listed texts contain examples of Steiner’s racism or anything else in need of a public airing.

Presumably most readers will know of the controversies surrounding Steiner and Anthroposophy and so it’d be pointless rehashing the various claims and counter claims on the issues here in this post. There will be an article covering the controversies here on the blog at some stage but let’s just stick with Plymouth University for now and demonstrate via the recommended reading for its Steiner Waldorf  Education BA course an example of the way Steiner belief is structured on racist notions.

Here’s a quote from one of the recommended texts students study, Steiner’s ‘Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment’:

“…people and races are after all,merely different developmental stages in our evolution toward a pure humanity.The more perfectly that individual members of a race or people express the pure,ideal human type-the more they have worked their way through from the physical and mortal to the super sensible and immortal realm-the “higher” this race or nation is.”

Now, I don’t have the exact same edition of the text the quote comes from but it is only slightly different from this quote:

“…peoples and races are but steps leading to pure humanity. A race or a nation stands so much the higher, the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal human type, the further they have worked their way from the physical and perishable to the supersensible and imperishable. The evolution of man through the incarnations in ever higher national and racial forms is thus a process of liberation.”

The above quote is from page 108 of the fifth edition of the same Steiner text and was published in 1914.

OK, that reeks of racism to me but we don’t know the context within which students on the Steiner BA course will be considering it and the example is only offered as an example of one strand of Steiner’s racist doctrine.

Returning to Plymouth and the formerly highly confidential Steiner Waldorf Education BA programme’s official Student Handbook. The Handbook is a good start when looking at the links from the Steiner camp within the Faculty of Education at Plymouth to the UK Anthroposophy movement as a whole (example here). Oh boy, you only have to scratch the surface…

From the Student Handbook for year 2008/09, page 3, regarding expanding their BA programme:

“…we plan to complement this with regular off-campus residentials at Trebullom Farm, an Anthroposophical environmental teaching and learning centre in rural North Cornwall”

Trebullom Farm is owned by Peredur Trust, a charity and registered company running an Anthroposophical social care residential setting. It has an estate valued at over 1.25 million quid, runs a biodynamic farm as part of the remedial work and setting it provides for between 6 to 8 residents in need of care. Until recently the Trust kept itself to itself but appears to be freeing up some of its spare land to other Anthroposophical projects so as to steady out a somewhat erratic income. Plymouth’s John Burnett – Programme Director of the University of Plymouth’s BA in Steiner Waldorf Education – set up Trebullom Farm Project in Autumn of 2006 as a sort of Anthroposophical environmental residential school. At about the same time Bowhill Educational Trust, a near dormant(edit January 2013: now defunct) Anthroposophical environmental charity, became involved with both the Farm project and with Peredur. This triumvirate was actively planning Anthroposophical eco-style weekend bashes last I heard.

Again from the Student Handbook, page 10, and describing student modules of study that have a ‘hands on’ approach:

“There are residential workshops led by the Hiram Trust where you will be introduced to aspects of the craft curriculum”

Hiram Trust, a registered charity, is another Anthroposophical organisation, is or was an affiliate member of SWSF and at the time of writing is linked/pointed  to by the national Anthroposophical Society website.

Hiram Trust has an interesting constitutional power in that it allows itself to ‘explore the therapeutic value of a craft curriculum for the incarnating adolescent’, has an annual income in the order of £60,000 and assets of over a million quid. In year 2005 through to at least 2007 a trustee of Hiram was also Chief Director of Ruskin Mill Educational Trust, another Anthroposophical organisation. Ruskin is a very big player in the Anthroposophical social care field. Hiram rents space to Ruskin for one of  its, Ruskin’s, operations. Now get this, again for year 2007, the brother of the trustee who was also Chief Executive of Ruskin is the director of The Waldorf College Project (edit website appears to be compromised Feb 2019, link removed, the registered charity is now defunct). The Waldorf College, an Anthroposophical organisation, received donations from Hiram in the same year. Talk about incestuous!

Nothing much else in the Student Handbook to note except to point out that many of the lecturers, visiting lecturers etc will have links to the wider Anthroposophical community. Christopher Clouder, for example,  is a tutor on the Plymouth Steiner Waldorf BA module titled ‘ The Image of the Human Being Derived from Anthroposophy’. Clouder is amongst other things the current boss of SWSF.

There are and have been links between Plymouth University and the wider UK Anthropsophical community for a long time. In recent times Beechtree Steiner kindergarten in Leeds reported a small donation, about £500, from the University in year 2007, another £1000 went to Hebden Bridge Steiner Initiative (aka Calder Valley Steiner Education) spread over years 2006 and 2007. Various other Anthroposophical schools have seen Plymouth Steiner Education BA students training within their schools via placements and so on.

Regarding Plymouth University, two other Anthroposophical organisations are of interest. Novalis Trust (formerly known as Cotswold Chine School) and the Godparents Anthroposophical Training Fund (formerly the Godparents Association) have long and strong links with University of Plymouth.

Novalis Trust is now an amalgam of several Anthroposophical organisations but its core activity is in Anthroposophical social care. In years 2006 and 2007 it reported that 14 members of its staff were studying for MA degrees at Plymouth . In 2006, when known as Cotswold Chine School and operated solely as a residential special needs school with a maximum of around 40 pupils, it reported 13 teachers to be ‘working toward the MA in Waldorf in partnership with Plymouth University’ and another 4 teachers working for postgrad certification in Special Needs Education at the University of the West of England (UWE) with UWE delivering some teaching sessions at Cotswold Chine.

Back in 2003 Cotswold Chine reported that it had  ‘effectively formed a partnership with both Plymouth University and the University of the West of England with courses being delivered at Cotswold Chine…..Initially 15 members of Cotswold Chine Education department are studying the new modules’.

UWE was the University of Philip Woods at the time he was undertaking and leading the government commissioned research eventually published as ‘Steiner Schools in England’, government commenced state funding of Steiner/Anthroposophical education after publishing Woods’ research. Just as a matter of interest, our old friend Dr Peter Gruenewald was Cotswold’s School Medical Officer around the year 2005.

The Godparents Anthroposophical Training Fund (GATF), like Novalis Trust, is both a registered charity and an incorporated company. GATF doesn’t fund godparents, it funds students, students studying Steiner courses at Plymouth University. It has another thing in common with Plymouth University and SWSF; it doesn’t like to divulge information.

GATF’s registered office is in Stourbridge, home of a host of other Anthroposophical organisations. GATF reported an income of around £88,000 last year and assets of £807,000. The secretary, Jane Avison, is also a trustee of Drayton Manor Trust, an Anthroposophical special needs school (now defunct Feb 2019). The majority of GATF income comes from two sources, Drayton Manor Trust and Camphill. GATF annual accounts routinely convey thanks to Drayton and ‘Camphill’ for their continued support. When asked to clarify which Camphill was donating to GATF, the GATF secretary, Jane Avison, cited the Data Protection Act in declining to divulge the information.

Back in 2005/2006 Drayton Manor Trust reported in its accounts for year ending 2006 a £10,000 pound donation to GATF and a £20,000 to SWSF and reported that during the same period Mrs Jane Avison was an administrator and employee of both SWSF and Drayton Manor but that ‘She is excluded from any decisions to donate funds to trusts in which she is a connected party.’ Apart from SWSF refusing to answer or acknowledge my own emails, the SWSF -according to this newspaper report – also refuses to make public the name of the person or organisation stumping up the sponsorship money necessary for and enabling the Hereford Steiner Academy to go ahead.

More pertinent to what is happening at Plymouth, in recent years right up to its latest accounts and report for year ending 2008 GATF has reported the charity’s grant making policy:

“Grants are made to students on the BA course in Waldorf Education at the University of Plymouth, which are funded by the donation received from Drayton Manor Trust. Otherwise, it is the policy to only make grants in exceptional cases when a loan is not appropriate.”

For the same year GATF reported outgoings as part of its charitable activities (i.e grants and loans) amounting to just over £84,000. The amount was over £90,000 the preceding year. For the year 2008, £54,000 of the £84,000 charitable expenditure went out in the form of grants and, as we know via the GATF grant making policy, a lot of that £54,000 would have gone to students on Plymouth’s Steiner Waldorf Education course. No shortage of money for the Steiner BA students there it seems and no shortage of students for the MA course at Plymouth.

If a dozen and more students all from the same small Anthroposophical organisation enrolled for the MA course then surely students nationwide must have been clamouring to get into Steiner courses at Plymouth. Competition to get into Plymouth’s Steiner courses must have been very fierce. If it wasn’t then it raises serious questions about the fairness and openness of the admissions procedure to the MA course and perhaps the other Steiner courses at Plymouth, questions we can add to those concerning the reason for Plymouth’s axing of its Steiner related courses.

(Update January 2013: Since the Plymouth Steiner BA was axed the Godparents Anthroposophical Training Fund’s annual income has near halved. On its recently launched website it now claims to be funding students ‘undertaking designated Anthroposophical vocational training courses in the UK’.)

Update Feb 2019: the GATF policy re grants, notes on expenditure appear to be more transparent than they had been, see e.g. any accounts here


  1. maura kwaten maura kwaten November 10, 2009

    Thanks ,what an informative post !

    I’m a Mum who took her daughter out of a Steiner School in Kings Langley,I was horrified to learn about the racism that is inherent in Steiners philosophy Anthroposophy and also that parents are not informed about what Anthroposophy is and how much the school is steeped in the belief system,we were not told about the beliefs in reincarnation etc but were told the school was ‘broadly Christian’.We were given a disclaimer when we left explaining that there are a ‘few racist phrases’ contained in Steiner’s work.I have pages of racist statements from Steiner,not phrases.Anthroposophists often say Steiner was a ‘man of the times’ that there was a lot of racism around then,but they still reprint it,is it not racist now ? They believe he is clairvoyant- they can’t have it both ways,if he’s clairvoyant do they believe the spirit world is racist? And if he’s not clairvoyant which bits are Anthroposophists to believe and which bit to chuck out ?

    I have been researching what the teachers have to read before they teach the children;

    I have recently read EURYTHMY AS VISIBLE SPEECH by Rudolf Steiner,Rudolf Steiner Press 1984.It is on the reading list for the Steiner Teacher Training list at the University of Plymouth ;

    Eurythmy for anyone who doesn’t know is compulsory for all children at Steiner Waldorf schools,kids usually have two lessons a week.It is pushed as a dance/movement class….

    ‘Exercises based on the moving circles of the Zodiac and Planets and their corresponding spiritual gestures.Such exercises bring the eurythmic movements and postures right down into the organism.’ Pg 18

    ‘The soul must learn, as far as eurythmy is concerned,actually to live in the body.In eurythmy the whole body must become the soul.’

    Marie Steiner’s forward to the book,
    ‘If we allow ourselves to receive this aid,we shall be in the position to open ourselves to the spirit in every sphere of activity,-in that sphere also which this book illumines with spiritual revelation and human knowledge.Then we shall no longer need to stimulate our slackened nerves by means of decadent negro dances which are hammered into us by machinery,turning us into machines and gradually killing out our finest human qualities:but we shall gain an understanding for a noble art of movement ,having its source in the spirit,an art of movement which is the reflection of the Dance of the Stars,and which makes the language of the stars sound visibly within us in purity and truth.’

    Interesting Rudolf Steiner press need think its necessary to include a foreward with this racist content in 1984.There was more racism in this foreward ,I can send it if you like.

    Some more from Mr Steiner ,in the same book,
    ‘It is deeply interesting to consider such things,for in the breath sounds what really comes to expression is this:I will have nothing to do with Lucifer: everything which is Luciferic must disappear -and the consonants of force express this feeling: I will hold fast to Ahriman,for if he escapes me he will poison everything :he must be held fast,_Thus the influence of Lucifer and Ahriman has been implanted into these sounds.’ Pg119,re the sounds,speech which are made during eurythmy.

    ‘But if you form two groups -the one group of choleric,the other group of phlegmatic children-and make both these groups run the spiral forms,and in such a way that the children must constantly look into each others eyes,then they will mutually correct each other.’ Pg 202

    There are plenty more interesting quotes from this book if you’d like me to forward them,
    Very best,Maura.

    Comment by maura kwaten — November 8, 2009 @ 5:27 pm

  2. maura kwaten maura kwaten November 11, 2009


    Sorry,I put the post in the wrong place at first.

    To answer your question,yes,’Eurythmy as Visible Speech’ R.Steiner R.Steiner Press 1984 edition is the book I’m quoting from,its the one on the teacher’s reading list.I ordered it from Amazon and paid good money for it !

    I felt I had to research what the teachers are actually being taught as it is a way to inform prospective parents and Government ministers who are thinking of funding these schools with public money.So,I have been up late at night reading a lot of books I wouldn’t normally have chosen for my library !

    If the school we chose for our daughter had been open about Anthroposophy in the first place to be honest we would never have put her in the school.We didn’t research it fully at the time as the school said Anthroposophy is not taught to the children,but the whole way of educating the kids is based on Anthroposophical beliefs about helping the kids reincarnate well.As you say the schools say they are broadly Christian when in fact they are not.

    Our daughter misses her friends and some of the teachers as some are very well meaning kind people.I’m still angry that we were not informed about the racism in Steiners belief system and his books.

    I feel its so important that the schools are open about what they are doing ,what they believe and also that they face the racism head on,its there,its not going away,if they want to live with it as it seems they do there must be information in the school prospectus’s informing future parents why they feel this is acceptable,why the teachers are taught about reincarnating through races.

    I believe if parents of nonwhite children were given this information then very very few would feel comfortable sending their kids to these schools,that,in my mind is a huge problem if they want state funding.

    There was a quote from the Eurythmy book starting,’The soul must learn… I forgot to put the page number,it was Pg 20.

    Another couple of quotes from the same book,

    ‘Now this exercise is most excellent in the teaching of eurythmy from an educational point of view.Indeed,when one has observed in a child the tendency towards jealousy and ambition-qualities which one wishes to eliminate -one must persuade such a child to do this exercise with special warmth and ardour…It can be said that this dance is a remedy against jealousy and false ambition.’ Pg 190

    I’d rather like my kids to be ambitious !! And to think I thought Eurythmy was a dance lesson,the thing is its advertised as a dance/movement lesson,only when you read this book do you understand what its about.You won’t see this description of it on the SWSF website or Steiner school websites.The teachers read this book.

    ‘In curative education,this first spiral exercise is specially applicable to children who are the reverse of anaemic ,it can be applied to combat undue egoism..’ Pg 200.

    It is fine if Steiner Waldorf Schools want to follow Steiners theory on education.
    Its not fine not to tell parents what its about …It shouldn’t be left to disgruntled ex Steiner parents to inform the world…

    And its such a long winded job,there really are things I would rather be doing !! .Thank goodness for the internet, yours and Unity’s new article on ‘Liberal Conspiracy’ are so good and will help people make an informed choice,thanks again,


  3. ukanthroposophy ukanthroposophy November 11, 2009

    Maura, don’t worry about adding a comment in the wrong place, my fault for not editing stuff properly. To clarify for readers what’s happened, Maura first commented elsewhere and I’ve asked her to repost here, original comment is here

    So yes,thanks for confirming that the example of racism within Steiner texts is from the same text as is on the Plymouth reading list. OK it’s Mrs Steiner rather than Rudolf but it does raise questions as to what the heck Plymouth students were exposed to as part of their studies and what the other texts have within them.

    I’ve just read the piece by Unity you mention, it’s at
    should anybody want to have a look. Yes it’s a cracker isn’t it. I’m not a great one for posting comments, forums and so on but I’ll likely add a comment to Unity’s piece during the day

    From what I’ve read and from emails I’ve received it appears to me that some Steiner schools do not fully or adequately inform parents about the beliefs underpinning the Steiner education the schools deliver. This can and does lead to confusion and suspicion on both sides.

    It doesn’t help alleviate suspicions when the Anthroposophical educators either hide information such as Plymouth’s reading list or depict perceived critics to be part of a global conspiracy against them. For example, the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) – national body for Steiner/Anthroposophical education here in UK – published in its own newsletter a paranoiac article about ‘Steiner critics’ making ‘attacks’ on Steiner education and using ‘alaises’ when posting or publishing ‘attacks’ on the internet. The author of the article was the SWSF’s own Communications Officer, Jeremy Smith. Smith is on record as having used the term OCD (Obsessive Compulsory Disorder) intentionally as an insult to ‘critics’ when engaging in an ongoing discussion about Steiner education. There’s a post about all of that on the blog here

    As you say, it shouldn’t be up to disgruntled ex-Steiner parents to be doing the SWSF’s job for it but when SWSF’s own Communications Officer can only answer ‘critics’ with smears and misinformation and when Anthroposophical educators hide information away etc what alternative is there?

    I’ve prattled on long enough, thanks again for the quotes from the Plymouth recommended text, do please post any further examples in to the blog if you come across any more. Mike

  4. Bryn Bryn November 24, 2009

    Hello, how interesting that you are all taking offence at a type of schooling that actually approaches education in a way that appreciates all the qualities that need to be encouraged in a child to help them develop into a happy person. Look at the alternative, state education is so focused on academic acheivements, continual tests and pressure on children.
    As for racism, your examples don’t really sound that convincing. Do you know the meaning of phlegmatic and choleric??? The use of the word negro isn’t PC today I know, I put that down to the age in which he was living.
    “decadent negro dances which are hammered into us by machinery,turning us into machines and gradually killing out our finest human qualities”, I think you’ll find it is critising machines playing music not negro’s.
    Well I’m not going to bother writing too much, if you have a genuine interest in steiner education, talk to someone involved, I assure you there is no secrecy. You may not agree with all aspects of it, as I’m sure you don’t with the state system, though I am sure you will find many advantages.

  5. David Macgregor David Macgregor March 16, 2010

    …well, I’m an anthroposophist and I find the information you’ve gathered on the anthroposophical movement fascinating. I do not agree with your assessment of the value of anthroposophy, but I am certainly grateful for all the statistical research you’ve put in…

  6. David Macgregor David Macgregor March 16, 2010

    I agree that Marie Steiner’s remarks toward the end of the 1927 Foreword (quoted above in Maura’s contribution) are absolutely outrageous today.
    Her remark in the previous paragraph is also illuminating: “It does not, however, lie in ‘keeping the race pure’, as the slogan has it.” (Presumably she was referring to the proto-Nazi ideas already circulating in Germany in 1927.)
    It should be born in mind that the Anthroposophical Society was banned during the Nazi Terror…
    Anthroposophy itself is not racist, rather the opposite. I fail to understand how anyone with an otherwise open mind could imagine that anthroposophy or Waldorf education were racist.
    @Maura: we also lived in Kings Langley till 2005. I chaired the PTFA at the Steiner School. No-one there was racist or put forward racist ideas.

  7. maura kwaten maura kwaten March 17, 2010

    David.I think its racist and many other people do because Steiner taught that humans evolve through the races from Black to white.Why don’t you go to Hackney and ask the Black community there if thats a racist philosophy ?

    One of my daughters teachers at the Kings Langley Steiner school told her that nigger was not a racist word. The Education Co-ordinator point blank refused to answer when we asked if he believed in the reincarnation through races philosophy.Nick Kollerstrom taught Maths at RSSKL, he wrote articles denying the Holocaust.So you believe there is no racism at Kings Langley ,thats your belief.

    ‘ Peoples and races are after all,merely different developmental stages in our evolution toward a pure humanity. The more perfectly that individual members of that race or people express the pure,ideal human type -the more they have worked their way through from the physical and mortal to the super sensible and immortal realm-the “higher” this race or nation is.’ R.Steiner ,’How to Know Higher Worlds’.Anthroposophical Press 2008 Pg 201.

    The above was obtained from Uni of Plymouth via FOI. Training teachers read this stuff here at Plymouth Uni and abroad, lot of teachers train abroad and teach here.. Time and again I read posts etc with Anthros denying the racism.That is the problem with Anthroposophy.

    Bryn,you think Ms Steiner is criticising the machines and not Black people.That is what you believe.It may be good if you too take a trip to Hackney too and see what reaction you get.How can there not be secrecy when reincarnation and karma are never mentioned in the school prospectus and yet teachers do child studies discussing it ? Do you think we would have gone anywhere near this schooling system if we had read the pages of racist quotes,been told that my husband would after many lifetimes be born white…

  8. David Macgregor David Macgregor March 17, 2010

    @Maura: I’ve yet to come across a racist anthroposophist…
    The quote from page 201 appears to imply that I too may anticipate being liberated from any constraints of my race…
    An official inquiry in the Netherlands found Rudolf Steiner did not support or promote racism…
    Please could you adduce the evidence to support your assertion that Nick is a holocaust denier?

  9. maura kwaten maura kwaten March 17, 2010

    Nick Kollerstrom .If you simply Google his name and Holocaust denial there are plenty of articles on him inc the fact that he was thrown out of UCL.He has yet to be ejected from Steiner circles unfortunately.
    Anthroposophists believe they will become raceless,sexless beings who procreate through the larynx.On the journey to that they would see Black people as having further to go,being further down the line,if you are blond and blue eyed they believe they are closer to that goal.To not see the racism in that is very sad… a trip to Hackney ?

  10. David Macgregor David Macgregor March 17, 2010

    @Maura: I am grateful for the link to Nicholas Kollestrom’s writings; if this is the same Nick Kollestrom I have met, I find it quite horrifying… thanks!
    PS I have squatted in Brixton…

  11. ukanthroposophy ukanthroposophy March 18, 2010

    David, there’s a photo of Kollestrom the Holocaust denier here:

    Perhaps it will jog your memory, the picture is about half way down the article.

    Also, if I may say so, your earlier post is completely misleading and wrong. The ‘official’ Dutch inquiry into Steiner’s racism was conducted by Anthroposophists themselves and even though a partisan group, the Anthroposophists still found evidence of racism within Steiner texts.

    Regarding relations between the Nazis & Anthroposophists, you should bear in mind the documented links between Anthroposophists and the Nazi party and its apparatus. You should also bear in mind that Nazis comepeted and killed their own kind, the Nazis were riven by internal power struggles and competing ideologies – similar to e.g. the way Soviet Russian leaders banned individuals/groups etc should they appear to be competing powers within the regime.

    Thanks for the kind remarks about the research, it is intended to be of use to everybody having an interest in Steiner belief and his followers in Anthroposophy.

  12. Imker Imker March 19, 2010

    When charges of racism in Waldorf and/or anthroposophy are leveled, the defenders invariably respond by saying something to this effect: “Well OK, what RS said here could be construed as racist today, but such utterances are few and far between; and besides, after all, most of all, he was just a ‘man of his time’.”

    As an anthroposophist myself since 1976 and a former Waldorf teacher, I too, once subscribed to that “quantum defense.” However, in recent years, I have come to see the total irrelevance of that argument, because it is clear that racial differentiation is not peripheral to, but actually absolutely fundamental to the doctrine of anthroposophy itself.

    And for my evidence, I must quote Rudolf Steiner’s own words from a lecture he gave in 1923 to the workmen re-building the burned down Goetheanum in Switzerland. Now some of you recognize the more spectacular contents of this lecture, such as this diagram showing how the brains, bodies and skin colors of the 3 main races: Negro, Asian and Caucasian are constituted.

    This is the famous, or infamous, lecture, whose title is “Color and the Human Races” and which goes into great detail about the differing racial characteristics of the 5 basic human races: Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, White, and how the White race is the “spiritually creative race,” and all that.

    However, no one ever quotes the very beginning of the lecture, where Rudolf Steiner himself — as any good lecturer would do at the beginning of a public talk — gives the important reason why we need to study these racial characteristic and differences in the first place.

    So while the sketch with the 3 racial figures, their various brain characteristics correlated with skin color, etc., is quite sensational and draws all the attention of critics and defenders alike, the very purpose of the study, i.e. the intention of the lecturer, is overlooked.

    After greeting the audience in the first paragraph, Rudolf Steiner then provides the rationale and the overview of the coming lecture: (given March 3, 1923, part of GA 349)

    (I put my own translation first, followed by the German original.)
    “But now, in addition to this European skin color, we also have four other major skin colors. And we want to investigate that today a little bit, because, in reality, we may only understand all of history and the entire [past] social life, as well as today’s social life if we can really delve into the racial characteristics of human beings. And only then will we be able understand everything spiritual in the true sense [of that word] — if we occupy ourselves first [and foremost] with how this spiritual essence in human beings functions precisely through skin color itself.”
    Nun haben wir aber außer dieser europaischen Hautfarbe noch vier hauptsachliche andere Hautfarben. Und das wollen wir heute ein bißchen betrachten, weil man eigentlich die ganze Geschichte und das ganze soziale Leben, auch das heutige soziale Leben nur versteht, wenn man auf die Rasseneigentumlichkeiten der Menschen eingehen kann. Und dann kann man ja auch erst im richtigen Sinne alles Geistige verstehen, wenn man sich zuerst damit beschäftigt, wie dieses Geistige im Menschen gerade durch die Hautfarbe hindurch wirkt.”

    You really can’t get any clearer and more foundational/fundamental than that statement. The reason anthroposophists need to study skin color is so that they can truly understand the spiritual essence of all human beings, as that essence expresses itself through skin color!

    Yet I also see Steiner’s racism as earnest and benevolent, very akin to the idea of seeing the Negroes as the “white-man’s burden.” Thus, the Caucasian race is not superior in the Nazi sense, but its spiritual maturity is more like that of a Chief Executive Officer of a corporation, a kind of benevolent “parent-figure” of the other races, that is to say, the white race can best manage society and take care of the more child-like races, especially the Negro race, and even show great “compassion” for the present “elderly and dying” American Indian race.

    Tom Mellett
    Los Angeles, CA

  13. Student at Plymouth University Student at Plymouth University April 5, 2010

    Interesting comments. I am not an anthroposophist (yet) i just want to be a good teacher. It is a real shame the course is coming to an end. I’ve never been involved in anything quite so amazing. Who knows what the future may hold.


  14. Student at Plymouth University Student at Plymouth University April 12, 2010

    “[We] must cast aside the division into races. [We] must seek to unite people of all races and nations, and to bridge the divisions and differences between various groups of people.” — Rudolf Steiner [“The Universal Human,” Lecture 1]

  15. ukanthroposophy ukanthroposophy April 16, 2010

    Student, you didn’t give a source for your quote from the ‘Universal Human’ and it is quoted out of context. It comes from the first of a series of lectures Steiner gave in Munich in the year 1909, an authorised English translation of the series is available in full here

    In Lecture 4 of the ‘Universal Human’ series Steiner informs his audience of the 7 root races and how they were destined to appear in succession. However – according to Steiner – things haven’t gone according to plan, Ahriman and Lucifer interfered and, to quote Steiner from Lecture 4:

    “forms that should have disappeared remained. Instead of racial diversities developing consecutively, older racial forms remained unchanged and newer ones began to evolve at the same time. Instead of the intended consecutive development of races, there was a coexistence of races. That is how it came about that physically different races inhabited the earth and are still there in our time although evolution should really have proceeded as I have described it”

    So, Steiner presented a racial classificatory scheme, presented the order in which the ‘root races’ were destined to evolve.

    If you read comment number 12 above you’ll find an example of Steiner’s characterisation of three races. Steiner is racist because his characterisation of the various racial categories puts white (Germanic) people at the top of a spiritual league table, black people are consigned (by Steiner) to the bottom of this ‘league table’.

    However, Steiner racism extends beyond a claim for the spiritual superiority of white people – for Steiner and his followers in Anthroposophy, the physiology and brain structures of black people reflects their supposed spiritual evolutionary inferiority. You can verify this by reading comment 12 here on the blog but better still you might find and track down the lecture the comment refers to, the infamous Steiner lecture titled ‘Colour and the Human Races’.

    The ‘infamous’ lecture is so toxic that it has been excised from at least one English translation of it. You can read the toxic portions of it and other examples of the sanitisation of Steiner texts here

    Perhaps your student reading materials don’t include the complete words of Steiner. It is worth quoting in full what the
    has to say:

    QUOTE: The second example of sanitisation of English translations of Steiner texts is another one where an entire chapter of the original book is absent from the English translation of it. The book concerned is Steiner’s book ‘From Limestone to Lucifer’ (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999). The omitted chapter if translated would be titled “Color and the Races of Mankind” and is about sixteen pages long. If translated into English it would contain the following passages:
    “One can only understand history and all of social life, including today’s social life, if one pays attention to people’s racial characteristics. And one can only understand all that is spiritual in the correct sense if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin.”
    “We here in Europe call ourselves the white race. If we go over to Asia, we have mostly the yellow race. And if we go over to Africa, there we have the black race. Those are also the original races. Everything else living in these regions is based on migration. Thus when we ask which race belongs to which part of the earth, we must say: the yellow race, the Mongols, the Mongolian race belongs to Asia, the white race or the Caucasian race belongs to Europe, and the black race or the Negro race belongs to Africa. The Negro race does not belong to Europe, and the fact that this race is now playing such a large role in Europe is of course nothing but a nuisance.”
    “Let us look first at the blacks in Africa. These blacks in Africa have the peculiar characteristic that they absorb all light and all warmth from space. They take it in. And this light and warmth cannot penetrate through the whole body, because after all a person is always a person, even if he is black. It does not penetrate through the whole body, but lingers on the surface of the skin, and the skin itself thus turns black. So a black in Africa is therefore a person who absorbs as much warmth and light as possible from space and assimilates it within himself. In this way the energies of the cosmos affect the whole person. Everywhere he takes in light and warmth, everywhere. He assimilates it inside of himself. There must be something there that helps him in this assimilation. Now you see, what helps him in this assimilation is his rear-brain. In the Negro the rear-brain is therefore especially developed. It goes through his spinal cord. And this is able to assimilate all the light and warmth that are inside a person. Therefore everything connected to the body and the metabolism is strongly developed in the Negro. He has, as they say, powerful physical drives, powerful instincts. The Negro has a powerful instinctual life. And because he actually has the sun, light, and warmth on his body surface, in his skin, his whole metabolism operates as if he were being cooked inside by the sun. That is where his instinctual life comes from. The Negro is constantly cooking inside, and what feeds this fire is his rear-brain.”
    “Very few inventions have been made in Asia. They can assemble things, but as for inventions themselves, that is, that which arises from experience with the external world, the Asians cannot do this. […] This sort of independent thinking which Europeans develop in dealing with their surroundings, the Asians do not have this. The Japanese will therefore follow all the European inventions, but they will never think up something on their own.”
    “Thus it is really very interesting: on the one hand there is the black race, which is the most earthly. When this race goes toward the West, it dies out. Then there is the yellow race, in the middle between the earth and the cosmos. When this race goes toward the East, it turns brown, it attaches itself too much to the cosmos and dies out. The white race is the race of the future, the spiritually creative race.”
    The English sanitised version of the book is an otherwise complete translation of Steiner’s ‘Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde’ (Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1993). The missing chapter in it is titled “Farbe und Menschenrassen”. UNQUOTE

    Forgive the unorthodox way in which the citations are presented and sourced but at least they are given.

  16. Cathy Cathy April 17, 2010

    The historian Peter Staudenmaier researches and writes on Steiner and his racist belief system. He’s recently replied to comments to his Anthroposophy and Ecofascism article at the Social Ecology website here

    A comment there from “Phil”, who has trained in anthroposophical studies, went to Steiner waldorf school, and worked in curative education ( so an insider from all accounts) caught my eye. He says “Much that is exposed in this study is absolutely unknown in the lower ranks…….Anthroposophy makes use of the innocent and idealistic feelings of young people……. Everything is karma, and those higher up, know everything better……Many anthroposofists (sic) are charming lovely people. They take out the sweets and do not know the deeper layers of the movement…..It is important that the hidden side of Anthroposophy comes in the open. In this way it can be cleaned and what is left over may be weight as to its value to all of us, aryans, jews indians, moslims or whatever”

    Peter Staudenmaier replies to comments about the nature of Steiner’s racism, and the reaction he is used to seeing from Steiner admirers.

  17. PlymouthStudent PlymouthStudent April 25, 2010

    With regard SPECIFICALLY to the University course at Plymouth I would like to make something clear:
    We don’t have to, and are far from expected to, believe all, if any, of Steiner’s ideas. Do people doing Philosophy degrees have to choose a philosophy, stick with it, live by it upon graduation? No. Does reading say Freud or Nietzche and critically assessing it suddenly make you agree with all that both said? Do I secretly want to sleep with my Dad? No. Am I raving racist?! Certainly not. Like it or lump it, Steiner was a fascinating guy – hell, he’s got all you lot ranting on message boards!? That is why the degree exists, not just for those who want to become Steiner teachers. The presence of racism in core texts is challenged in lectures; all the time we wrestle with bonkers concepts. Racism will always remain a bonkers concept to me and, I can speak with 100% truth and sincerity, EVERY single person enrolled/teaching on the University course.

    Many of us on the course are more than aware of Steiner’s flaws, none of us are indoctrinated. We do not wear white cloaks and perform bizarre rituals but I whole heartedly understand why you could think differently- chinese whispers and all that which flourish in the ‘cloak and dagger’, not talking openly, environment that (unfortunately) it would seem you researchers come up against time and again.

    Free speech – fucking brilliant. Don’t stop talking guys, it’s essential that your voices are heard. With regard to state funded Steiner schools I say ‘bring it on’ but much has to change and evolve. Steiner education was born in a cigarette factory for inner city working class kids of cigarette factory workers and now resides in country estates for (sadly) middle class bohemian kids. It was right for the time, so right for the time (the education) but times are a changing and as the ‘movement’ grows, one man’s clairvoyancy wont cut the mustard anymore. You know that and hell, we at the forefront of it, studying it at University, know that more than anyone. Our generation seek ‘truth’ and without tangible evidence wont believe a sausage over our own truths. Especially when it comes to something so down right daft as white superiority. That said, to scrap the lot on the grounds of a few ridiculous notions would be terrible. Steiner has alot to offer education, believe.

    Yes, people have had awful experiences but so too have people come out the other end smiling. There simply isn’t an educational mould that suits everyone – the beauty of the human race dictates that we are all different and thus have our own unique ways of learning. For what it’s worth, I was state educated and loved every day of it. It was my interest in working with the children who ‘slip through the net’ of mainstream education that led me to Steiner.

    To the lady who wrote on mumsnet (referenced on the tories funding alternative education board), I am so so sad that you were treated in that manner and that in being involved in Steiner study I might be in some way affiliated with a rascist school of thinking. I beg that you don’t mark all the Steiner types with the same pen.

    Thanks for reading,

  18. ukanthroposophy ukanthroposophy April 27, 2010

    PlymouthStudent, you didn’t mention which of the Plymouth courses your post refers to, presumably the Steiner BA in Waldorf Education? In which case it was decent of you to confirm that racism is present in core Steiner texts.

    You seem to be downplaying the difference between vocational training and studying and also appear to be implying that Steiner schools are free to pick and mix from Steiner belief in the same way as individuals can.

    The Steiner BA as described by Plymouth University and others promoting it (e.g. SWSF) is a Steiner teacher training certification course. Students will learn Steiner theory, pedagogy & curriculum and, as part of their training, be found placements in Steiner schools. As the blog post shows, Plymouth students will also spend time at other Anthropsophical settings. All of this is a prelude to the student becoming a Steiner teacher – students enrolling on vocational training programmes are expected to take make use of their vocational training are they not? Fair enough a very few students may opt for a Steiner teacher training course simply to immerse themselves in studying Steiner belief but for the most part they’ll be there because they want and expect to become Steiner teachers.

    Yes, as an individual, student or graduate you can reject Steiner/Anthropsophical belief, you don’t have to make use of the vocational training. However, a Steiner school is severely constrained as to how many and which, if any, of its Steiner trappings it can vest itself of else it loses its Steiner identity. The SWSF exists in part to ensure aspiring Steiner schools operate in accordance with Steiner belief.

    I would argue that the Steiner school’s model of child development is an essential component of Steiner school identity. If the model is an essential then all Steiner schools must be seen as accepting of Steiner’s evolutionary teaching. This is so because Steiner’s evolutionary teaching spells out how human beings evolved and provides Steiner educationalists with their model of child development, the model itself being derived from Steiner’s over-arching evolutionary teaching.

    Given that Steiner’s evolutionary teaching is a racist doctrine then Steiner schools are left with a bit of a problem aren’t they. Or perhaps you and your colleagues feel Steiner’s evolutionary teaching is non-racist?

    You mention secrecy in your comment, perhaps you could ask of your lecturers or course co-ordinators why a member of the public had to resort to Freedom of Information law to obtain your course reading list?

  19. ThetisMercurio ThetisMercurio May 1, 2010

    Plymouth Student – you appear to be realising that the course that’s now disappearing about you is deeply flawed, indeed it is.

    Steiner has nothing to offer education. If he had, he would be cited more widely than by a tiny group of adherents. He is not. He is fascinating to students of early 20th century esoteric sects, that is all. If those who have a concern about the education of modern children take the trouble to understand his oeuvre, they do so to protect children from those individuals naive enough to take him up as a serious contender. This was understood by the Vice Chancellor and both science and humanities staff of Stockholm University who firmly rejected their Steiner teacher training course as containing material ‘unscientific and downright dangerous’, a fact that it is impossible to believe the University of Plymouth failed to notice.

    If you want to become a health professional, become a nurse or a doctor, not a homeopath. If you want to be a teacher, take a real teacher training course. Please don’t impose this fantasy particularly on the most vulnerable of children.

    It’s good that you realise how muddled the whole thing is, how many problematic and confusing areas there are to justify. The mother you refer to knows perhaps more than you, having read assiduously through your required texts. What’s painful for you to accept is clearly there for all of us to see. You should not take it upon yourself to defend the indefensible.

  20. Bungo Bungo July 23, 2010

    OK Steiner stuff aside: an interesting article. As one who lives in the ‘heartland’ of Novalis Trust, Ruskin Mill, etc (and who has worked for them) – I think their economic dealings are too shady for words – RM don’t take students who aren’t funded through the LSC (ie the tax payer)can’t say I know about Novalis but what’s that about gift horses…? Their cavalier attitude to buying in of goods and services is legendary in the area. Economic investigation into their finances is LONG overdue – I’d like to know how they are getting away with it – and I don’t mean Ofsted inspections!!!

  21. Anonymous Anonymous June 2, 2011

    Please someone investigate RMET, Crossfields et al

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