Waldorf Education - One family's story

The Cult ?


Since leaving the Waldorf School I have been told by many people that Anthroposophy is a cult and that Waldorf schools are a way of indoctinating new people, especially children into it, as well as providing suitable education for the children of those already converted.
I have been told that the image projected to the world, of an alternative, arts based, non pressured education, is only a tiny part of what the schools are there for.
Once, when discussing this with others who had been disillusioned by Waldorf education, someone spoke of the image of the house in the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel that is made of lovely things to eat. The children are drawn to it, but, of course, it is a trap. She suggested that this analogy seems to suit Waldorf schools in that what they present themselves to be on the outside is quite different from their true purpose.
 That's ironic, since fairy tales form a big part of the Waldorf curriculum.


When I was at the Waldorf School I didn't see it as a cult, in fact, I remember thinking the idea ridiculous when I heard that this was being said by some people. It was only after leaving, when I joined the Waldorf Survivors online support group and  read articles on the Internet that I began see that the behaviour of Waldorf people was what many people would call cultish.
When we joined the school we knew nothing of Anthroposophy and had never heard of Rudolph Steiner. We were attracted by what appeared to be an alternative style, arts based, child centred education.
Once in, however, we gradually became indoctrinated. I admit that I in particular, was very vulnerable. I was very disillusioned by conventional education because of my own experiences. Waldorf people think they have the answer to everything and I believed them. They encourage you to believe that conventional education is very damaging to children. I even remember one Kindergarten meeting where it was said that early academic education could cause school phobia in later years. Looking back I find this very ironic as both of my younger two children developed school phobia and my eldest has other social type phobias, yet all were Waldorf educated in the early years.
You are expected to devote a great deal of time to helping and supporting the school. I do not see this as unreasonable in itself as it helps to keep the fees down, but this together with the unconventional lifestyle you are expected to follow, has the effect of isolating you from people outside of the community.
In the early years we made a great effort to see that our children mixed with children who did not go to the school, but as they grew older it became difficult. Waldorf children are not supposed to watch television, use computers, or listen to recorded music. Children from other schools regard this as very odd.
Anthroposophists have their own type of alternative medicine. We were already very much into alterative medicine, but some of their ideas, in retrospect, seem way over the top. I remember at one parents evening we were discussing vaccination. Anthroposophists don't believe in vaccination and were explaining why they felt it to be damaging. Some of the new parents were becoming concerned as they had had their children vaccinated. It was then said that they were not to worry because any damage would be healed because they were in a Waldorf School. Looking back, I can't believe I accepted this.
The thing is, once you accept these ideas, the thought of your children going to any other school fills you with fear. This is why we got into debt to keep our children there, and this is why it was so traumatic for us when our daughter was asked to leave. I felt as though she was being thrown out of paradise. Many people reading this may think I am some kind of nut to say this, but, believe me, most of the people there felt this way.
Teachers at Waldorf Schools are usually Anthroposophists. It is claimed that this is not taught to the children, and it is not taught directly. However, everything they teach is influenced by their beliefs.

It is difficult to say how you define a cult but I will say this. When you join a Waldorf School they are not open with you about their true purpose. They will tell you as much as they think you will accept. Then gradually they indoctrinate you with their ideas.

I think the word indoctrinate is justified because they put great pressure on you to conform. Free thinking is just not allowed. Most importantly is their attitude towards television, computers, pop music etc. All of these are forbidden to the children. If you allow your children to watch television you are made to feel guilty. If you allow them to play with plastic toys, you are made to feel guilty.

I feel this is different from expressing opinions. I often disagree with friends, but I do not try to make them feel guilty. Nor do I insist I am right. This sort of non judgemental attidude is simply not tolerated at a Waldorf School. They ARE right. The is no other alternative. It goes on and on until you either agree or appear to do so.