Thursday, October 7, 2010

WALDORF RANT: Part 2

It was surprising to receive so much feedback from my first Waldorf RANT. 
I have met victims of Waldorf abuse from all over the world who have been through horrific experiences. Children and parents, all victims of emotional abuse. The schools are everywhere and have large support groups of parents devoted to Steiner's teachings. As long as freedom of religion is a protected right, cults like Waldorf will exist.



The first time we sang a spiritual song out on the green lawn, I got a little bit spooked. But, I was in for the ride. My ex and I had researched the school and loved the spiritual side of Steiner's teachings. Although we didn't agree with some of the strange rules, we decided to invest ourselves for our children. We believed that the campus and the school's  philosophy would help our children stay centered while growing up in the midst of the entertainment jungle of Los Angeles. What we didn't realize was that we were entering a whole new jungle with it's own set of rules and morals that did not relate to anything in the "real" world. And my ex was soon to be brainwashed.

I never really understood anthroposophy. The meaning of that word made no sense to me. I thought that it was like any other philosophical concept...That I could interpret it as I liked. What I soon realized was that anthroposophy is a religion. A religion that Steiner invented and Waldorf takes very seriously.

I understood the idea that children developed in stages. I already experienced that in my home and had been a part of scheduling parent ed lectures at other private schools.
I understood that children were being rushed through academics in our society at very young ages, and that Waldorf took academics slowly. Children had time to adjust to new ideas and learn when they were developmentally ready. I loved that the children sang, painted, played in the mud, and climbed trees. I loved the focus on children learning physical balance and that balance helped them with their ability to learn. And, most importantly, I loved the food the parents made! Always wholesome and organic.

Then I saw my first Eurythmy performance.
I have tried to explain eurythmy to people who have never visited a Waldorf school. It is impossible. When I first learned that this was a type of dance/movement that all children would be performing...On stage...I was confused.
It's not pretty. It isn't ballet, tap, jazz, or gymnastics.
The children wear special cloth slippers and robes while performing.
They gesture and move stiffly...
movement from the spirit.

We were told to take our younger daughter out of hip hop.
Eurythmy OK.
Hip Hop not OK

When the children began painting, they were allowed one color for a week. They painted exactly what the teacher painted in exactly the same formation. Each color was introduced one by one and only one color at a time. Painted on paper with rounded corners. (We still have shelves full of that expensive paper!) No deviation or individuality.
No black.

The kindergarten teacher once met with me to discuss my daughter's details in her free drawings. She was putting too much detail on dresses and in girl's hair. The teahcer told me that she needed to simplify her drawings to just the basics.
Plain people without faces GOOD
Princesses with frills BAD

I was very involved at the Pasadena Waldorf School. I co-chaired the Elves Faire and helped run fundraising events. Initiated events and get togethers. I knew where all of the various props and supplies were in the school. Had a connection with most teachers and the head of school. Served my time on the Parent Council (I can't remember if that is what it was called), and brought up issues to discuss with the head of school and College of Teachers.

It took a lot of us to run these huge events, and I threw myself into them. We spent late nights and weekends preparing and working on Waldorf events. We earned large sums of money for the school so that teachers could go on educational retreats, update and maintain the huge property, and purchase new equipment. Including the building of a new kindergarten in the back yard. Used my professional talents as an Illustrator and Designer to make flyers, print up materials, and organize auctions. I spent thousands of dollars. Plus paid thousands of dollars per child per month. I think it was around $11,000 a year per child when we left the school.

I remember hiding my "TV talk" crew jackets and tee shirts when I came to pick up my children. Once I was wearing a Simpsons tee shirt and the little kids teased me on campus, yelling, "TV TALK, TV TALK!"  My job and source of Waldorf tuition was now BAD.
Gnomes GOOD
Cartoons BAD

There were many of these kinds of judgements on a weekly basis.
I got in trouble by one Mom because I took a group of ice skating girls to McDonalds once (I hadn't eaten and was craving french fries). She was upset that her child had been corrupted by a McDonald french fry. I felt terrible, but I knew that her daughter would survive that one incident.

The Wishing Well was our hub. Where parents and kids gathered after school. Knitting circles gathered in the morning. Bake sales every Friday. And gossip abounded all day long. It was a happy place of comfort until I was banished from campus. Then it was dark and full of gossip. All of a sudden I was an expelled member of anthropsophy and Waldorf. Never to be spoken to again. Even by my friends.

Here's where it got crazy:

How can you have such close friends for 6 years only to be silenced by the school? How can parents allow a school to have so much power over their opinions and friendships?
Friends called me occasionally and asked that I tell no one they called.
What kind of crazy was this?
The head of school ignored a cease and desist order I sent the school and held a meeting in my daughter's classroom to explain to the confused parents that they should not have any contact with me.

All because my daughter's teacher and her father were in a secret relationship.
The teacher stopped communications with me about my daughter. Even when I initiated communication.

My ex and the teacher told the head of school that I was crazy and jealous. They did not believe that my daughter was upset.
I was concerned about my child and the ethics of such a teacher.
My daughter was severely depressed, crying daily.
I was worried about her and that we would probably have to leave the school so she could be taught by a teacher with ethics and morals.
My ex and the teacher continued to attack me instead of deal with the issue.
I suggested a mediator to come to the school. I even brought one with me once.
He was not allowed in the school office.
My ex would not meet with me.
The teacher would not discuss my daughter.

The head of the school and staff ignored the issue.
They took our money, but did not care about the students.
The teacher and my ex continued to ignore my pleas to discuss this problem.

"You're making this a problem," they said to me.

I could not stop my daughters tears for months, and she still cries a few times a month, confused about what happened.

All of a sudden I was banned from campus.
My daughter drew a picture of her experience.
She is behind a wall with her teacher and her Dad. I am on the other side of the wall. She wants to see me, but there is a wall in front of her.
The weird part was that I had full custody.

Once banned...It was time to leave the school.
In a 50/50 legal custody situation, both parents must agree to all educational decisions.
My ex refused to allow our daughter to leave the school.
She went to school every day, with her teacher who chose her Dad over her. Went to her father's house who chose the teacher over his own daughter. But was stuck in class all day every day no matter how uncomfortable she was.

Finally my ex agreed to leave the school.
With the despicable behavior by the Waldorf staff, there was no reason for us to stay at such a horrible place.
We pulled all 4 of our children out of the school.
No refunds.
I couldn't even help my children carry their belongings out of the classroom.
And the teacher did not turn over my daughter's school work until two months into summer break.

But...
The situation got much worse.
The head of school, my ex, and the teacher worked together to try to take my daughters away from me in court. The head of the school concocted a letter and sent it to my ex for him to use in court.
He lost in court.
But, just knowing that my ex, the teacher, and school were a part of something so awful, has deeply affected me.

So much distrust:
The school and teacher deliberately separating my children from me.
The teacher not divulging information about my daughter in school, although I had full custody.
The exclusion from parent/teacher meetings and school events that my children were participating in.

There were quite a few broken laws.

Now that all of our children are attending public school, they are thriving.
It was a blessing in disguise to get out of Waldorf.
I just wish it hadn't been so traumatic. It didn't have to be!



























The ex and the Waldorf teacher are getting married next year.






17 comments:

  1. Carol,

    I very much hope for the best for you and your children, especially for you having all the energy needed to give your children what they need: the double-single caring parent.

    Alfa-Omega

    ReplyDelete
  2. You have just perfectly described occult behavior concerning the Waldorf administration, teachers and parents and most unfortunately the children. Carol, do you think any of these so-called friends were really your 'friends'? What advice would you offer up to someone like me who has family members involved with Waldorf Education? What I see is gross negligence in teaching and diagnosing children.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your situation and mine are very similar. In my case it was sister-school Highland Hall. A similar situation exists at The City School Waldorf school (near Highland Hall). The harm these schools have done to children is immeasurable.
    http://petekaraiskos.blogspot.com/2010/03/highland-hall-breaking-mandated.html

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous: Because of the "us vs. them" mentality in Waldorf schools, you start believing the rhetoric after a while. It is very difficult for a parent immersed in the school to see what is really going on. My best friend was relieved when we left the school, but supported us while we were there. There are children and parents that go through the school unscathed. As long as your family doesn't have a problem while at the school, they will probably be fine.
    Some of the parents I knew well were friends, but are not now. There were a few who kept me informed of things that were going on while I was banned. Whenever parents leave they call me to share their experience. Most parents pull their kids out because the education is so poor.
    We have a child with mild autism who did not learn anything while there. With the sing song teaching and chanting, he was confused most of the time. If children have special needs, they should get the special ed they need away from Waldorf.
    I don't think you could ever convince your family that Waldorf is dangerous. They will only be able to learn that on their own.
    You are right...It is gross negligence.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Pete: I heard about this at Highland Hall. We also had a situation at PWS a few years ago where a kindergarten boy was touching a girl every day and the teachers did nothing about it. I am not sure what finally happened, but the girl's parents may have sued. There was also a teacher who so seriously abused her students that most of them are on medication and in seriously depressed now. They are going on to college now. When the parents told the school about the abuse their children were suffering, the school protected the teacher. They make up their own rules and go above the law often. As they did in my daughter's case.
    Private schools should have to adhere to the same laws as all other schools. I don't understand how they can be exempt from basic laws.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Boy, you sure have had a rough time of it lately!

    I hope things get better for you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dear Carol,

    I don't think those people had the same Waldorf training I am receiving. We are encouraged as strongly as a person could be encouraged, to Own Our Own Problems. To be ethical, to own up to our own mistakes, to make things right when we do make a mistake. We're (I'm talking about people in my Waldorf teacher training) supposed to be working on ourselves so that we become worthy of standing up in front of a class and bringing the example of the upright human to the children.

    I'm ashamed that person claims to be a teacher. I'm ashamed that school calls itself Waldorf, and I'm ashamed that they lied to you and about you.

    I don't have any right to apologize to you on their behalf, and I don't want to, that's their own shame to take care of. I apologize on my own behalf, as a decent human being. I am a student of life who wants to teach in a Waldorf school and take a group of children up through the grades, treating each child like the wonderful individual creation he or she is.

    Please don't blame the whole Waldorf movement for the actions of this one school. There really is love, community, and wonder out there in Waldorf schools. The upside of Waldorf schools being independent is also the downside. There's nobody to tell the school how to teach, but there's nobody to complain to outside the school or to act as "enforcer" of proper manners.

    I hope you will forgive me for logging my comment anonymously, please know that I am thinking of you and hope you find a way to heal from this horrible mess.

    Yours,
    Elizabeth

    ReplyDelete
  8. HI Elizabeth,

    Now that we are in public school, we can openly talk about problems with our school.
    No one expects any school to be perfect, but to pretend that it is is crazy. And then blame the parent for pointing out how wrong a situation is, is also crazy.
    There are always serious issues at any school. And there are always bad teachers. It would be better for a school to deal with the bad stuff than continually hide it and heap lie upon lie.
    My children are so uncomfortable when their Dad takes them to visit PWS and he won't listen to me when I tell him not to. The teacher and the Dad just don't care about how any of this has affected the children.
    When I had meetings with the school about this issue, they just acted like this was the way it is and too bad. We had no choice but to leave. And no refunds when the parent is seeing the teacher.

    Luckily we are out of this situation.
    I still have to deal with the teacher in my children's life, but she is no longer their teacher.

    I hope you are able to be free at the Waldorf school you choose. There is a very closed society and the College of Teachers can be a big cult like setting.

    Good luck and thanks for your support.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Ah! you're so cute and innocent, it wasn't PWS that hypnotized your ex, it was your daughter's teacher's big ta-tas and empty scull cavity that did it!

    ReplyDelete
  10. and that doesn't absolve PWS from their own lack of judgement and horrible cult mentality!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Carol -
    I just want to say how sorry i am for all you had to deal with at PWS. I myself am a victim of that school's poisonous atmosphere, but from the faculty/staff side. I will be brutally honest here and say that I was never a stellar practitioner of the Waldorf teaching craft. My removal from it was heart-breaking, but probably the best thing for all concerned. I was in constant, unremitting stress from the long, exhausting hours of work, the incredibly low pay and non-existent benefits, and the atmosphere of judgmentalism and back-biting. Oh, and I never completely bought in to anthroposophy - I now think Steiner was essentially just full of shit.

    I encountered wonderful parents and children at the school, and a few truly loving and dedicated teachers, but dear God did I see and experience some horrible emotional, professional and spiritual abuse being meted out there. And your story just caps it all.

    My loving prayers go out to you and your children, that you will fully recover from the toxic experience of the school.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Anonymous, I'm sorry to hear of your situation as well. But, not surprised. It is better to get out of that toxic environment.
    Now that my ex is married to one of the PWS teachers, and the reason we had to leave, my children are receiving a different kind of treatment than before the marriage. They are not too happy with it. The teacher has always made fun of certain normal things my children do. It is awful...the back biting you speak of. Like a really bad clique. But, most of the time things are OK over there. They have learned that the teacher comes first and they are no longer as important to their father. He is definitely under the PWS teacher and the Waldorf spell.
    I hope you have found a great way to move on. Life is much better out here.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I pulled my son out of a Waldorf inspired charter in Oakland. His first grade teacher was nuts. She would ostracize a few students. I was told by one parent that I was racist because my son likes the American flag. Yep! And then I question the curriculum and said that my son needs to be academically challenge. They accused me that I was being unfair, and that he needs to be "equal" (or let's say dumb down) with everyone else. I was accused for disrespecting "equity" because I dared to advocate for him. Wow! Needless to say, he is thriving in a public school, where he has more freedom to be who he is. Don't be get fooled by the Waldorf quaint creativity. It's dogmatic.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi anonymous, They are a crazy lot. My children's now step mother (they spend half of their lives with her), who is also a Waldorf teacher, is trying to change their home life completely. She is criticizing the things they love to do and making them eat things that kids just don't want to eat. My younger daughter is really confused. She wants to do cheerleading and for some odd reason that is unacceptable. The Waldorf dogma is as random as an alcoholic's mood swings and they are constantly putting themselves above humanity. Music is bad, except this kind of music.... Toys are bad, except these kinds of toys.... Questioning the reasoning behind these decisions is considered rude. I am concerned about my children while in this woman's care.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'd seriously consider getting the children counseling and then have that counselor testify in court and have your husband's custody visits seriously curtailed. That woman is a nut job. Alternatively...teach your kids to be combative at their house. It is a common thing for children to break up second marriages. If the kids fight back and refuse to listen to that nutjob, she may very well forbid your ex to let the kids visit. If he has a spine, he'll finally chose his kids over the waldorf skank. Or maybe she'll leave voluntarily. Either way, the kids won't have to see her.

    Lorie Blaine,
    Former Richmond (VA) Waldorf Parent ..
    We yanked our kid out after 1 1/2 years
    mid way thru 3rd grade and paid
    Huntington Learning Center an obscene
    amount of money to get her caught up
    for 4th grade.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I was in a Waldorf school, and they're not any different here in Illinois.

    The thing is, I keep seeing a lot of people (I didn't really notice you saying anything like this, but it seems to be a general thing) saying that Waldorf is a creepy cult because Anthroposophy is a polytheistic religion. First off, the idea that anything is a cult just because of polytheistic beliefs is ludicrous (I can attest to that as a pagan). Second, when I was a Waldorf student, sure they taught us about other mythologies, but they shoved the Christian God down our throats. If anything, I think Anthroposophy is monotheism, but they've equated Steiner with God.

    That said, I do think Waldorf is a cult simply because of the mentality and environment of the schools. You mentioned the "us vs. them" mentality, and it's true. At my Waldorf school, they were pretty fond of scapegoating, and I was the perfect target. I'm Autistic, quiet, and nerdy. I was unfeminine. I loved reading, math, and science. I hated eurythmy and the stupid songs they would make us sing. Basically, I was the Waldorfian version of the anti-Christ (funnily enough, a teacher and some other parents did tell me I was going to Hell).

    I went on to public high school after 7th grade (didn't even do 8th grade), and I did great because of my own intelligence, but I still feel like there are major gaps in my academic and social skills because of Waldorf. I'm a sophomore in college and I still don't know how to study (neither does my sister, a senior in high school). Because of the bullying I experienced from other students, teachers, and parents, I am terrified of people (not an exaggeration).

    I think it's pretty great that you posted this rant. I've wanted to vent my feelings about Waldorf on my own blog for a while now, but I can't (my mom freaks when I so much as say a negative word about the school). I once posted a negative review of the school I went to on an education website, and the school administrators saw it and called my mom, and they forced me to take it down. So, since my own voice is constantly being silenced, thank you for using yours.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Sorry to hear of your horrific experience. We had a specialist from Pasadena come in and look in on our son's class. It's the law here in California, that any special needs child has access to services whether in private or public school. The woman from Pasadena looked in on two separate days and wrote a report listing the services and education our son needed. Waldorf did not comply. They only recommended additional eurythmy and ignored the real needs of our child. The specialist wrote a scathing review of the teacher and the classroom activities. Luckily he has received services in public school. They aren't perfect or easy to attain, but they are legally available and the schools have to comply. I can't imagine a public school teacher telling a student they will go to hell. It sounds like you were seriously abused. The problem with private schools in America is they can make up their own rules without being monitored. If you complain or sue, you have to have an iron clad case with proof to back up the abuses. Public schools, as imperfect as they are, have to comply with the laws and are held accountable when they don't comply. I'm not sure why you were forced to take down your opinions online. And, really, no one can force you to say or not say anything. Since writing these posts, I have received numerous emails from victims, including ex Waldorf teachers, around the world. In England, there are groups trying to expose Waldorf abuses. Sometimes successfully. They want you to be afraid so they can continue to act without impunity. But, their reach only goes as far as their campus grounds. Now that you are out of the school, you have nothing to fear. One of the teachers slapped her daughter one morning on campus. It was a regular occurrence whenever they got in arguments. The teacher is still at PWS. I hope someday they shut down the schools for abuses.

    ReplyDelete