Racist Steiner Schools: BBC’s Robert Peston gets it almost right.

As regular readers will know, I have over the past few years been very concerned about the growing popularity of mysticism and racism within ‘alternative’ and ‘green’ political and social culture. Exemplified by Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy and spread by practitioners of all things ‘New Age’, the attitudes that might easily be termed ‘Blood and Soil’ have also crept into ideas of localism and various brands of social-anarchism and right-wing individualism.

Anthroposophical Advocate Francis Russell of Greenwich Steiner School, London UK

Anthroposophical Advocate Francis Russell of Greenwich Steiner School, London, UK

I have been particularly concerned with the way in which our publicly funded broadcaster, The BBC, has often slipped positive and supportive pro-Anthroposophy messages into otherwise trustworthy programmes. On this blog, I have noted such messages in programmes such as Countryfile, and The Food Programme as well as open support from trusted BBC presenters such as Kate Humble. Of course these cases are just the examples I’ve noticed and have decided to explore.  BBC’s Newsnight  has also been guilty of giving credence to Anthroposophical thought by it’s extraordinary and inept piece about the crisis in the bee population and the neonicotinoids debate.

So it was with great pleasure that Robert Peston’s piece on Newsnight recently made clear that Anthroposophy is actually based upon a racist doctrine that also typifies and includes more ‘New Age’ spiritual nonsense that it would be possible to list here.

The Newsnight piece is now on i-player for the next few days.

Peston’s two guests, Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association and Francis Russell of the Greenwich Steiner Schools were both invited to comment on the accompanying film and while it was gratifying that the BBC invited a spokesperson for each side, it gave the slight impression that the Steiner nonsense being exposed was somehow of equal value to the critics perspective. But, overall, Mr. Peston was very much on the case and he did not shirk from stating that racist events at Steiner schools are directly linked to Steiner’s racist philosophy. In that regard, the piece was one of the very best that the BBC has produced on the subject along with Sam Smith’s report for BBC South West’s Inside Out. Ms Russell, for her part, simply rubbished all that was said in the report. Given that in our society racism is still sadly endemic, it would be utterly ridiculous not to acknowledge it’s existence in Steiner schools and to explain how and when the schools gave up encouraging formalised racism (as they claim to have done) and how they deal with endemic racism now, along with their spiritual eugenics and somatotypes. Had the piece been longer we might have heard Mr. Copson provide a robust reply.

In the Newsnight film there were, of course, the usual denials of any problems concerning racism. Sylvie Sklan, speaking for the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship says,

“…reincarnation through the races is a very controversial idea that is not part of our modern thinking in Steiner Schools at all.  In fact I would find it quite outrageous and unacceptable…. …it does not exist, it is not what we believe.”

And while we all should be glad to hear Ms Sklan does not believe in racism she does not say Steiner was wrong or that Steiner was a racist or that the idea is unacceptable. Yes, she says that it would be unacceptable for those ideas to be taught because “…they don’t exist…”  but as for the idea itself, she uses the description “controversial”. Quite what is controversial about an idea that is factually nonsense and disgusting is a mystery; to the rest of us, racist spiritual hierarchies are simply wrong in every respect. Only racists would say the idea of a racist hierarchy was controversial. Only racists would support organisations founded upon racist principles.

Many critics of Steiner education have come to treat these denials with the utmost skepticism. Questions concerning racism, bullying, eugenics, spiritualism and all things Steiner, have been put to Steiner advocates countless times for many years and the answers are always pretty much identical. If it’s a question regarding aspects of the pedagogy or teaching practice or philosophy that are particular to Steiner, the answer is that the schools teach according to Steiner’s views on education except the outmoded and unacceptable subject being criticised. So we are always left with the same questions that Anthroposophists always fail to answer; if you don’t believe in all these things then why call yourself a Steiner School? Why teach the teachers to use Anthroposophical values but ban them from telling the parents?

The fact is that if one takes out the Anthroposophy from Steiner schools one is left with nothing attributable to Steiner. Furthermore, if one believed in, for example, dance therapy or not teaching reading until a child is 7, or in painting not using line, or in many of the other aspects of education that Steiner schools also practice (but are not attributable to Steiner) then one could teach those in an entirely non-religious and rational setting without recourse to pseudo-science, mysticism, racism and the rest of it.

But the sad fact is that Steiner followers and practitioners still fly the Steiner banner and brand even though they know about the racist and mystical underpinning of the doctrine. It’s a bit like supporting a school run by the BNP or the EDL or the NF and pretending that the racist nature of their political position is irrelevant; and those organisations don’t even have written racist hierarchies – in that regard, Anthroposophical schools, farms, banks, homes for the disabled, Steiner-Christian Churches and NHS-funded medical practices are frighteningly different.

About Nick Nakorn

This is the blog of a concerned citizen.
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10 Responses to Racist Steiner Schools: BBC’s Robert Peston gets it almost right.

  1. Scotty says:

    Great entry Nick!

  2. simon singh koli says:

    I’m also concerned with authoritarianism in so called “liberal” atheist movements like humanism. They hate everyone who doesnt agree with them. Blog collaboration? No to far right phonies bullying schools.

  3. Nick Nakorn says:

    Hi Simon, I’ve not noticed any greater degrees of authoritarianism from liberals, atheists or humanists compared to, say, religious leaders or extreme politicians, though some of the pronouncements from ‘The Four Horsemen’ on issues concerning race and gender have been pretty dire – though not as dire as the written tenets of most religions. I think, by and large, authoritarianism is endemic within society as a mechanism for gaining power, particularly with celebrity movement leaders who use their hunger for power to get to their famous or infamous positions. As for far-right phonies bullying schools – that sounds abhorrent – were you referring to UKIP? Mind you, a phony far-right is preferable to a real far-right I suppose. Blog collaboration – in what sense?

  4. Alan stockwell says:

    Just for the record, the Steiner Christmas tree copper decorations are signs of the planets, Venus , Jupiter etc. and NOT signs of the occult. I should know as i am a Wiccan. It’s laughable but also frightening how the Steiner hate stuff is getting out of control. The occult has no connection with Steiner or anthroposophy. This is something that was brought up by Helen who is opposed to the free school. I am not an anthroposophist but I live in the stroud community . All that is being bred is hatred.

  5. Nick Nakorn says:

    Alan, I think you’ve commented on the wrong site. The discussion you are referring to is on the ‘Stop Steiner in Stroud blog’ – perhaps you clicked on the link to this blog while thinking about the other? By the way Simon, the fact that I know of, and read, Helen’s site is not evidence of ‘collaboration’ as you put it but a shared interest. I mention the point because, though I would have nothing against collaborating with other Steiner critics, I don’t have the time. Unlike Anthroposophy, Steiner critics are not an organised group but a collection of individuals with similar concerns.

  6. Z says:

    interesting post. I used to live very near a Steiner bookshop in the UK and would go regularly to read their books to find out the belief-system. What I think Steiner critics need to realise is that Anthroposophy is an esoteric movement, claiming secret knowledge. As such they would believe that its proponents or practitioners may practise dissimulation about some core tenets and keep knowledge about them only to the initiated. At the same time in esoteric religious groups like this, many people employed or volunteering at the lower end of the organisation don’t really realise this; it’s the people higher up who are in the know. This is what I see happening with the way they have continuously fobbed off criticisms about racism in their reincarnation philosophy. If you follow and take a deep academic interest in esoteric religions you will see this happen quite often – you do need a knack, admittedly, to spotting it.
    As regards doctrines, Steiner was deeply influenced by the Hermetic tradition which goes back to Hellenistic Egypt, and these texts teach that the human race was sprung from seven offspring of one androgyne being, who became the parents of the different races. It’s important to realise that this is a polygenetic account of human origins, and that polygenesis was formally disapproved of in the first UNESCO Statement on Race in July 1950.
    The other thing that is important to realise is that Steiner himself had at one point been a Freemason but broken away from that movement, and one could argue that there are hidden racist beliefs in Freemasonry, at least in one of the higher degrees which has a ritual rewriting the story of Noah’s sons in the book of Genesis, so that the sons of Ham – Africans – get left out of the spiritual history of the human race. This is not exactly the same belief as that found in Anthroposophy, but it isn’t far off, and the Royal Ark Mariner degree was founded in the late 19th century when a lot of modern esoteric groups were formed and popular in Britain, the Netherlands and Germany.
    Here is the text of the Royal Ark Mariner degree in English:
    Lastly, if you study Anthroposophical books on the Bible, the Jewish background to Christianity, which is right there in the Old and New Testaments, gets airbrushed out. It should be no surprise that Anthroposophy became associated with Nazism.

  7. Nick Nakorn says:

    Thanks for your comment Z.
    When becoming interested in Steiner schools over 20 years ago, I was not too concerned about their esoteric beliefs as I knew very little about them. But I was concerned about their anti-science positions and their odd double standards on many issues concerning the ‘acceptance’ or not of technologies and various materials, about which they were very open. So, having spent a fair amount of time at Steiner events and visiting the local Steiner School, I decided it was not the right place for my daughter.
    More lately, over the last few years, I wanted to know more about Biodynamics (I wrote about that in ‘Mystic Shadows of Colour’, see: http://www.nagara.co.uk ) in response to what I was told at a local green group meeting.
    Since then, I’ve read huge amounts of Steiner’s ‘work’ from the Steiner on-line archive and tend to agree with all you’ve said above in your comment. I didn’t know about the Freemasonry connection and it doesn’t really surprise me. So many secret societies are secret precisely because they wish to cement tribal affiliations and, often, racist positions. Scientology, too, fits that category.

  8. Pingback: Why Greens in particular should call out and denounce Anthroposophical organisations. | Nagara

  9. Paul Orsi says:

    Racist facts do not necessarily facilitate racist reactions . There was a time when the Polar race migrated both to Europe and the other to India. India had the greatest civilization before the European inhabitants. So who’s on first and does it matter?

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