Fundamentalism Shrouded in Friendliness

Kelowna Waldorf School

Canada’s Kelowna Waldorf School made the news recently when Nicholas Johansen, writing for Castanet, reported a mass exodus of families who left the school following the firing of the principal, resignation of the majority of its board of trustees, and several teachers quitting. This apparently stemmed from a group of "“fundamentalist” anthroposophists who subscribe to some of Steiner's more radical ideas. Near the beginning of last semester, the group petitioned to have the board of trustees removed and replaced with those who he says subscribe to fundamentalist ideals."

This is not an isolated incident as the pages on this website will attest, and the story is very similar to others worldwide. These "radical ideas" are in fact fundamental tenets of Anthroposophy, the philosophy at the core of the schools' pedagogy, from beliefs in reincarnation, questionable notions on race, demonic incarnations, to the troubling blurring of boundaries between teacher and pupils.

Dan Ryder, a parent who had, up to now, sent his daughter to that school for seven years, revealed to Castanet his reasons to choosing a Waldorf education - which are similar to so many other stories we’ve heard: “Limiting use of technology in the classroom, going at the child's own pace, it's very arts and humanities focused schooling, and it's very socially nice, in that the classroom environment is very friendly, these are the sort of things that appealed to us when we first saw the school.

Unfortunately, this friendly atmosphere conceals a hidden purpose, one that is designed to “help guide human evolution down the right path and resist the forces of the demon Ahriman.”

Of course, none of this is revealed to parents when they first enrol their children in any Steiner-Waldorf school. In fact, they most likely will never hear about it from staff, especially if no issues raise their head during their child’s schooling. Parents may only ever discover the concealed guiding influences of Anthroposophy through their own research.

As Mimi Thorp said, “We were looking for an open-minded, heart-based, alternative school, but instead experienced an environment run on archaic, dogmatic, and intolerant principles”.

Anthroposophy may not be taught to the children directly, but it definitely influences what and how they're taught, and what happened in Kelowna Waldorf School makes this very clear:

““My daughter came home talking about 'trunk animals,' 'head' animals and 'limb animals,” Ryder said. “I looked it up, and this is directly out of Steiner.”

“Heidi vant Geloof, another former school parent, said her Grade 2 son came home one day and told her how each child had chosen a saint they could talk to during difficult times to “guide” them.”

The usual unchecked bullying which is anecdotally reported by so many families worldwide, and which our family exposed at New Zealand’s Titirangi Rudolf Steiner School through a landmark Human Rights Settlement, was present at Kelowna as well: “Vant Geloof says her younger daughters faced bullying at the school, but that Steiner's philosophy was to let the bullying be and that children needed to sort things out on their own.”

What is disturbing is that yet again, the fear of speaking out is ever present: "Several former parents confirmed Ryder and vant Geloof's accounts, but asked to remain anonymous."

We can vouch to this ourselves: over the years, we've been in touch with numerous people who elected not to have their story published for fear of reprisal from the school community. We have personally suffered greatly for advocating for our children, and standing up to the school and its philosophy, and know full well that these fears are definitely not unfounded.

Not exactly what you'd expect from places with an apparently caring, gentle, holistic reputation and supposedly high ideals.

Beware of the wolf in sheep's clothing. As Rudolf Steiner said himself, if the connection were made between the schools’ pedagogy and Anthroposophy, “people would break the school's neck”.

Sadly, it seems the appeal of a positive alternative education that focuses on the heart and the gentle pace of learning is too appealing to research it properly, so positive articles like this one are exceedingly attractive. Much more in fact than those where exactly the same philosophy is revealed to be part of an eternal struggle as angels battle the forces of darkness to save humanity, and if children get hurt in the process, it was probably due to their karma.

Perhaps the belief in angels could come in handy because Heaven help you should you choose to stand in the way of this mission by looking after the welfare of your child, and express concern for the wellbeing of other children in the class.

Update [21 February 2017]: Rick Salsa, President of Kelowna Waldorf School’s Board of Trustees had his response to Nicholas Johansen’s article published in Castanet:

“My fellow Trustees and I were dismayed to see a very misleading article about our school, the Kelowna Waldorf School, posted February 18th on your website by Nicholas Johansen.

Since 1981, our school has filled a vital role in the Okanagan’s private education community, and we are very proud of our accomplishments, our contributions and our many graduates. It is our primary mission to provide our students, staff and families with a safe, stable and stimulating educational experience. While it is certainly true that our school has gone through a challenging time in the past several months, we feel confident that our current Board of Trustees are providing the strong leadership necessary to guide our community.

Many of the statements in the Castanet article about Waldorf educational principles and methods were completely inaccurate – too many to cite individually! To correct these misapprehensions, we direct your reporter and readers to for a brief overview of the Waldorf educational philosophy.”

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The Karmic Burden of Vaccination

The Myth of the Top of the Tree - Evolving Along Hierarchical Races

The Lure and Appeal of a Low-Tech Steiner-Waldorf Education

An Almost Imperceptible Manipulation and Indoctrination

A Duty of Care

Lies, Damned Lies, and Steiner Education

Collateral Damage

Communing With an Archangel

Frailties and Limitations - Bullying, Karma and Parental Involvement

Titirangi Steiner Messenger

My Big Fat Steiner Education

1861-2011 : 150 years of Rudolf Steiner

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