Misogyny - Steiner’s Antidote to Accountability



A 1997 study by Golden (“Narrative - the use of story in Waldorf education”) concerning narrative and gender, mentioned in the 2005 Woods Report, suggested that “the stories used throughout the Steiner curriculum are embedded "within patriarchy"”, that “the male, and male hierarchy, appear as the norm in stories”, and also that ”on the basis of interviews with children, stories are interpreted in ways that reinforce gender stereotypes”.


Stories embedded "within Patriarchy" assume a confidently masculine set of values in which the feminine may have its well-ordered place, but communally accepted reality is predicated through the masculine point of view.


Meet Steiner's super web propagandist, Sune Nordwall. Sune regularly floods the Steiner hashtag on Twitter with tweets, comments and links about how wonderful Steiner education is, and defends it from critics using predominantly three accounts, “Mycroft II”, “The3bee” and “Robert Mays”. He also throws out antidoting articles he's written about individuals, questioning their facts, their motivation, and also their mental health.


Sune's "storytelling" about our Human Rights settlement over unchecked bullying at Titirangi Rudolf Steiner School (which following press coverage was found to have been going on for decades), provides food for thought when looked at through Golden's light.


To be fair to him, Sune did start off being apparently genuinely concerned and apologetic about what had happened to us, as he wrote to us:




That soon changed however, when he realised that we were committed to sharing the information. This was the point of it, of course, to hopefully offer a practical agency to others in a virtual global vacuum of helpful process for families facing situations in which their children were being allowed to be bullied, “unchecked” by staff, who all too often turn on those children and their families as well.


Sune’s initial regret soon turned to frustration and he very soon told Steve:


“If your wife had let you handle the relation with the school, I have a hunch everything would have developed differently”.

(24-Dec-2012)



A hunch is probably the most useful weapon in the patriarch's arsenal when it comes to strong women who aren't sidelined by paternalistic warning smiles and a pat on the knee. But looking at this jibe a bit more carefully, the comment is clearly embedded in patriarchy, normalises male hierarchy, and interprets the story of a Steiner school admitting to unchecked bullying in a way that reinforces gender stereotypes as per Golden's findings within the classroom.


Prior to the publication of the settlement’s statements, Sune wrote to Steve:


“not your children but you and your wife were expelled for your wife's bossy attitude, as you show in your vids.”

(23-Dec-2012)



The only material Sune has at his disposal to make this judgement is a handful of videos, like this one, fronted by Angel, a mother who had been watching her child suffer bullying and assault for weeks during which the school had been promising to sort the situation out. One video was shot at the precise time that the long-awaited meeting to resolve this matter should have taken place. Instead, it shows us being given trespass notices as we questioned the school about their letter expelling all our children, which we had only received that morning without warning.


Sune's ducking-stool comment about a "bossy attitude" is towards a distressed mother, whose willingness to engage with the school is amply demonstrated by the length of the delay in staff getting round to dealing with the situation. This willingness to engage was taken advantage of to allow weeks of yet more bullying, which caused sleep problems in her daughter for years after the expulsions, as well as many other PTSD symptoms, clearly recognised, prior to any diagnosis, by a teacher at a subsequent school who happened to live with a veteran of the war in Iraq.


And, to be clear, bossy means telling people what to do, whereas our video at the school shows someone asking for answers and being royally bossed about herself.  


But these facts don’t matter to Sune, because of his hunch. He really has been suckered by the magic of video here as he appears to believe that the camera was following her about all by itself. 


This clear victim-blaming of a child reporting bullying, by means of personal criticism of her distressed mother, heightens the impression that a “safe, peaceful and natural learning haven” can obviously not be expected to prevent vulnerable children from being bullied, i.e. it endorses the unchecked bulling that the school subsequently admitted took place.


And such comments attempting to paint a picture of a dominating wife with a passive, hen-pecked husband who can only act with female permission, i.e. emasculation: again clearly reinforces the gender stereotype noticed by Golden.


The reality of course was quite different and as Steve told Sune:


  


But even when picked up on his sexist remarks nearly a year later, Sune still employs the Les Dawson school of gender diplomacy:





All this “comedy”, however, is merely intended to disguise the actual lengths he will go to, including concealing and misrepresenting facts, in order to safe-guard the happier gentler image of Steiner education.


Case in point again, the Human Rights settlement with the Titirangi Rudolf Steiner School, in West Auckland. Once Sune realised that we were determined to overcome every obstacle to make sure people know about this, he decided to create an "antidote", quite like the ones he uses about critics.


For a long time, he took the most cowardly but probably safest path, and just left he settlement out of his "antidote" narrative completely. He therefore just presented another Eugene Schwartz-like situation in which any admitted bullying wasn’t really significant at all, it was all the parents (read mother's) fault.


“That Human Rights case had nothing to do with the bullying as such, but with the attitude and actions of the parents of the bullied child”

(sometime in late 2013)



He wanted that to be true so much, he just made it up in the face of all the evidence of us being happily at the school for a year previous to the bullying, which itself is admitted in the settlement statements, as he well knows. Never mind facts, he just shoved it into his antidote, as a hopefully potent obfuscating brew, to offer to anyone on twitter or elsewhere who was informed about the situation.


But Sune’s assumption that it wouldn’t be too hard to obfuscate to his intended audience backfired when it was pointed out to his targets that his misogynist flannel was fact-free.

Even Sune realised it was ridiculous to expect to be taken seriously when you give your opinion but don’t even include the facts that your opinion is claiming to be about!


So realising that his “antidote by omission” was making him look a chump, Sune has more recently adjusted it to make mention of the settlement, and in doing so, the benevolent mask of paternalism has slipped a little bit more to reveal the naked patriarch underneath.


Tellingly, of course, Sune still hasn't been able to bring himself to supply the actual facts, the statement's seven paragraphs that describe so accurately the "unchecked bullying" scenario, and how it is used to target families. But in a typical projection, he attributes this lack to the settlement itself, casually stating that it is only due to what is not said in it that:


“The settlement [...] describes everything the couple had done as fully understandable and only done out of their concern for their daughter”

(sometime in mid 2014)


An 8 year old was left alone, against an express promise from a teacher, with boys who had repeatedly bullied her, one of whom then pushed her down a steep bank, and another threatened her with an axe, so that she walked into a tree in confusion while trying to get away. The school’s response was to compound the bullying by expelling her; it was lucky that someone had "concern" for her as the staff clearly did not.


To appreciate the extent of the damage such bullying actions by teachers can have on the integrity of a family, you need only to consider the misogynist message to young girls, on top of being expelled for being bullied, in then being invited by the school to blame this action on your own parents' (especially your mother’s) advocacy for you in the face of the school's failure to implement its own anti-bullying policy!


But Sune’s mother-blaming narrative has no room for recognition of a young girl’s agency in having continued to follow school policy on reporting bullying, while the school did nothing, or of the inevitable distress to her parents, so he just ignores it, thus further compounding the invisibility of bullied children within the Steiner PR narrative to the general public in a way that fits comfortably in with the patriarchal bias noticed by Golden.


But it gets worse, because as happens so often following accountability process in Steiner schools, the school itself, or individual members of staff, tend to go back on their word, and Sune gleefully shares this information, not to further show how dishonest such behaviour clearly is, but to paint a picture of the school, as the injured party.


And not just the injured party in fact, but the actual victim.


Because even though the school was caught red-handed operating pedagogical unchecked bullying, the Human Rights deliberately brokered false statements according to Sune. But of course the school only signed them at all because, wait for it...


“The couple had the school by the throat”

(sometime in mid 2014)


While still not providing the statements themselves, this supremely masculine violent imagery is Sune Nordwall’s description of this one successful and documented case of due process for unchecked bullying among so many similar anecdotal accounts globally.


What his fact-free switcheroo of the school from bullying aggressor to poor little victim reveals more than anything else is that it is accountability process itself that is experienced by Sune as a violent attack on both the Steiner school and the wider Steiner movement.


It's hard not to conclude from Sune’s misogynist “accountability anecdote”, that vulnerable children not being bullied at all and being instead protected, supported and vindicated might be the ultimate act of violence for Sune, and by association for the Steiner movement, provoking angry, violent images and stories that further reinforce the "gender stereotypes" observed by Golden.


If the facts agreed by us and the school in the presence of the Director of the Human Rights Tribunal were so extraordinary, a one-off, why hide them? If they are "the exception that proves the rule" of a kinder gentler education system, why lie about them?


And if the hugely fluffy PR of Steiner were genuine, wouldn’t they be publicly committed to transparently rooting out all such abuses as fast as possible instead of covering them up so abusers can quietly move on, dissembling and victim blaming, and then relying on the eager distortions of qualmless internet trolls to stop it all from coming undone?


Perhaps one could continue to humorously dismiss Sune's misrepresentations as "sour-grapes", but that would play into yet another well-worn patriarchal tactic of minimising victim-blaming, as well as ignoring the increasingly regular exposure of bullying and abuse at Steiner schools.


As Helen from Stop Steiner in Stroud wrote recently:


“It is not a failing of the children or their parents, as the schools would have us believe, but of a secretive and destructive cult which has wormed its way in to the state system by deception and obfuscation”

(14-Jul-2014)



Sune’s violent feelings about the Titirangi settlement shows how crucial it is not to have accountability in Steiner, how important it is, in fact, to publicly go against a Human Rights approach in resolving violent episodes if they occur, even if they’ve already been admitted, and to try and project the blame for them back onto the parents, back onto the family, and eventually back onto the little girls/children themselves, just as all those hundreds of other anecdotes describe.


His ridicule and transmogrification of this unique settlement, as an uninvolved but Steiner-promoting observer, not only reflects Golden's findings within Steiner pedagody, but also certainly help to explain why there are not more such documents.


It should be a huge red light to parents concerned about the welfare of their children.




The Nigella Lawson article (whose screenshot can be seen in this article) can be read here;

Sune Nordwall’s photo was taken from his public twitter account;

The picture of the ducking stool was taken from wikipedia.

 
1861-2011 : 150 years of Rudolf Steiner

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