News of the Conservative’s intention of expanding state funding for Steiner education was widely covered by the press and prompted a brief but entertaining exchange of opinion on the Evening Standard’s website and a splendid blog article.
From the same blog article and news to me at the time was that Nick Kollerstrom, active within the Science group of the national Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain, is a holocaust denier. When the news appeared over on the PLANS forum, historian Peter Staudenmaier commented:
“Another member of the growing list of anthroposophical holocaust deniers. This is a genuine problem for anthroposophy, and one that isn’t really being addressed by the rest of the anthroposophist movement…it is a particularly disturbing instance of the broader anthroposophist predilection for conspiracy theories, combined with longstanding anthroposophist beliefs about Jews and Jewishness.”
The UK’s national Anthroposophical Society is aware of problems arising from the behaviour of its members. Its 2007 Annual Report says:
“A number of Anthroposophical societies have been accused of holding, or been held to account for the views expressed by members. The society attempts at all times to emphasise that the Society holds no view or political stance on any exoteric issues, nor are any of its members’ views to be held to be those of the Society. Council members regularly review publication of articles by members for public dissemination.”
A similarly worded statement has appeared in the national Society’s Annual Reports for the last few years.
Presumably, if a member brings the national Anthroposophical Society into disrepute then the Society would take action but it is unclear if and what sort of action would be taken whereas, for example, University College London ditched Kollerstrom as soon as they learned of his repugnant views – his position there as an Honorary Research Fellow was terminated in April 2008. Kollerstrom last had an article published in the Science Group’s newsletter dated September 2008 some 6 months after UCL gave him the boot. One would hope that nothing further penned by him appears in a Science Group or any other Anthroposophical organisation publication until he publicly changes his position regarding the reality of the holocaust as historical fact. Perhaps Dr Graham Kennish of Plymouth University’s Steiner-Waldorf/Hereford Academy Research Network and an Anthroposophical educator might educate Kollestrom as to the error of his ways – Kollestrom and Kennish are both active in, perhaps members of, the Science group of the national Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain.
Rather than guess at how or even if Kollerstrom’s peers in Anthroposophy might sanction or discipline him let’s take a look at some known instances of misbehaviours by people in positions of responsibility within Anthroposophical settings and how the wrongdoers were disciplined.
Although we won’t know how David Drage, the fraudster, would have been disciplined, we do know that the school’s Resources Manager, Richard Zienko, was suspended from his position more or less immediately after the fraud was discovered in June 2006. Zienko resigned as Resources Manager in October of the same year. Zienko’s suspension came about as a result of advice received by the school, advice given to ensure an impartial investigation into the school’s accounts could take place. It would seem that the school’s disciplinary measures in this instance were fair enough even if the school’s financial controls and so on were faulty.
A little while ago a teacher behaving abysmally in a Steiner school made a few headlines. OK, lighting a cigarette and passing it around the class for kids to try isn’t exactly the crime of the century, it is illegal though as well as being potentially harmful to the kids but notice how the school dealt with the errant teacher. Instead of dismissal the teacher was subject to undisclosed disciplinary measures ‘proportionate in the circumstances’.
Presumably it was the Canterbury news and the fallout from it that resulted in this minuted report of an Anthroposophical meeting at which the SWSF rep told the meeting ‘Canterbury has had some undermining attacks and some bad publicity – they are dealing with these problems very sensibly’. So, not sacking the teacher and not disclosing how the errant teacher was punished is, apparently, dealing with problems very sensibly. Hmmm, well at least the teacher was punished is about the best can be said of that incident.
By the way, at the same Anthroposophical meeting the same SWSF rep reported on an ‘Interesting discussion on the generic characteristics of Steiner Waldorf education’ which doesn’t seem to have gotten any further than asking, ‘Do we need to mention Anthroposophy or Rudolf Steiner?’
Bearing in mind the commonality of Steiner schools, readers might compare the – to my mind – lenient Canterbury disciplinary measures with those at a Steiner school in Newcastle, Australia.
There, a founder member and a teacher at a Steiner school, Roger Graham, wrote love letters to a 16-year old female student, a relationship that later became a sexual one. The teacher was sacked in 2001, reemployed by the same school in 2003, sacked again in 2006 and resurfaced in 2009 at the same school as a ‘consultant to the teachers’. The teacher is also allowed to help in the school’s garden but only ‘so long as there are no kids around’. I pity the gnomes in that scenario. Full story can be found online here
So there you go, too few examples to identify any pattern in how Anthroposophists deal with the misbehaviours of those within their ranks but if you know of any other instances please feel free to get in touch.