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BHA comments on Steiner schools and Anthroposophy

A feature in today’s Guardian explores Steiner education, including the prospect of state-funded Steiner Free Schools. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has drawn attention to the link between Steiner schools and Anthroposophy, also known as ‘spiritual science’.

Earlier this month, the BHA was a signatory to a letter in The Observer expressing concern at the prospect of further state-funded Steiner schools. The letter said that:

Since the formation of the coalition, a lot of public concern has been expressed over the potential establishment of creationist Free Schools. This concern resulted in the Government changing the rules for Free Schools to prevent them from teaching pseudoscience (Richard Dawkins celebrates a victory over creationists, 15 January 2012). However, not enough attention has been paid to what we believe to be two equally grave threats to science education, namely Maharishi and Steiner schools… Steiner education is based on an esoteric/occultist movement called Anthroposophy, founded by Austrian mystic Rudolf Steiner (Holistic unit will ‘tarnish’ Aberdeen University reputation, 29 April 2012)… Anthroposophy, or spiritual science, is centred on beliefs in karma, reincarnation and advancing children’s connection to the spirit world. The first Steiner Academy opened in 2008, with a Free School pre-approved by the Government to open this September. [Steiner] groups have interviews to open more Free Schools in 2013. We believe that the new rules on teaching pseudoscience mean that no more Steiner or Maharishi schools should open.

This month has seen Steiner groups in ExeterLeeds and Suffolk (the Fullfledge Ecology School) have interviews at the Department for Education (DfE) to open Free Schools. At least three other groups applied; their progress is unknown.

Speaking today, BHA Education Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘Steiner schools will always argue that they do not teach Anthroposophy, and in a narrow sense this is true as it is not a term that pupils will ever come across. However, the beliefs of Anthroposophy form the core of the teacher training courses and are the pedagogical motivation for everything that is taught in Steiner schools. The criteria for Steiner schools to be a member of their national body, the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship includes that “An Anthroposophical impulse lies at the heart of planning for the school, including the Waldorf curriculum.”

‘Anthroposophists believe that they have an objective, scientific way in to the so called “spiritual” world. Children with their innocent sense of wonder are particularly well connected to the “spiritual” world, and the motivation for Steiner schools is to nurture this connection. The reason that SWSF schools do not teach children to read and write before the age of 6/7, or use computers before 13, is because anthroposophists believe that to do so damages this connection by quashing this naivety and playfulness. In reality, all it does is damage children’s education.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7462 4993.

Read The Guardian feature, A different class: the expansion of Steiner schools, 26 May 2012: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/may/25/steiner-state-funded-free-schools

Read the press release, BHA signs letter expressing concern at pseudo-scientific Maharishi and Steiner Free Schools, 14 May 2012: https://humanism.org.uk/news/view/1035

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/faith-schools

View the BHA’s table of types of school with a religious character: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/schools-with-a-religious-character.pdf

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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