UK Anthroposophy

October 4, 2011

Free Schools(5b) – Steiner’s ‘Study of Man’, a blueprint for Anthroposophical education

Filed under: Uncategorized — ukanthroposophy @ 5:53 pm

Readers will find it easier to follow this post having read the one previous to it in this series – this saves me from having to re-explain what the acronyms mean, where a resource came from or can be found. The story so far anyway:- It was established in the previous post that the right to use the terms ‘Steiner’ and ‘Waldorf’ in a school name is legally controlled by the Pedagogical Section of the School of Spiritual Science at Dornach, headquarters of the global Anthroposophy movement – the terms are thus a sort of brand name. Thanks to UK government commissioned and published research (the Woods Report) it was also shown that Steiner branded schools are all underpinned by Anthroposophy, the schools can therefore more accurately be referred to as Anthroposophical schools. AWSNA and SWSF were both shown to control the Dornach brand in their respective countries. They also accredit Anthroposophical schools and work as guarantors of their member schools being Anthroposophic. Our government recognises SWSF as representing Anthroposophical schools here in UK.

The focus in this post is on the fundamental importance Steiner’s text ‘Study of Man’ has for Anthroposophical schools, for Anthroposophical teacher training courses and for Anthroposophical education training generally. A key point established is that Anthroposophical school pedagogy is geared to Steiner’s understanding of how humans develop. Additionally, the post broaches the possibility of Anthroposophy being a cult and shows – with a few examples – how teachers must and how parents (in the UK at least) can and are expected to become immersed in Steiner belief. As usual, online resources are used throughout.


The characteristics of orthodox, Dornach branded, Anthroposophical schools were first published in 2009, a few years after publication of the Woods Report and, better late than never, 90 years or so after the first Anthroposophical school opened. Courtesy of the Anthroposophy movement’s headquarters at Dornach, the characteristics are given in a document published by the Hague Circle, a sub-group of Dornach’s Pedagogical Section.

The Preamble of the Hague document in full reads:

Waldorf pedagogy serves as the basis for early childhood education and schools all over the world which exist under the name Waldorf Schools/Kindergartens, Rudolf Steiner Schools/Kindergartens or Independent Schools/Kindergartens. Irrespective of their name and their rich, cultural diversity, they are all unified through several essential characteristics which are described below. Schools or kindergartens which do not reflect these characteristics don’t belong to the worldwide movement of Waldorf schools or Waldorf kindergartens.

The next section of the document is titled ‘Guidelines of Waldorf Pedagogy’. It says, in full:

The basis of Waldorf education is a study of human being and developmental psychology presented by Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925) in his volume of lectures entitled “A General Knowledge of the Human Being” or “Study of Man”. Since then, differentiated work has extended the fields of developmental physiology and psychology, methodology and didactics, as well as the number of new teaching subjects all of which now belong to the foundation of Waldorf education. It is a pedagogy which has its origin in the child and its goal is to develop each child’s individual potential. It takes cultural diversity into consideration and is committed to general, human ethical principles (cf. U.N. General Agreement on Human Rights, December 10, 1948, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, November 20, 1989, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, December 13, 2008). It is the foundation of work within all types of institutions involved in education and professional training (for example, institutions for pre-school education, kindergartens, schools, job training, schools for children with learning difficulties, and many more). Educators and teachers require teacher training in Waldorf education, and feel obliged to undertake a form of self-education which is appropriate to Waldorf education, as well as further continuing professional development.

Taking the above two quoted sections together and bearing in mind what has already been established about the nature of the Dornach ‘brand’, it can be seen that Dornach recognised schools must follow Waldorf pedagogy and that the basis of Anthroposophical education itself is Steiner’s ‘Study of Man’. The pedagogy, in any usual sense of the definition, is therefore geared to Steiner’s understanding of how humans develop – that is, of course, unless the Dornach recognised schools operate within a philosophical or ideological vacuum. What the pedagogy delivers is covered in the main body of the Hague Circle document where it speaks about the characteristics of ‘Waldorf’ (i.e. Anthroposophical) schools. Of relevance here is this from the document:

The Waldorf School is a unified, inclusive school model spanning all ages from preschool to the end of the upper school/high school. Within the curriculum framework of the various class levels, the subjects are connected to each other. As the subjects are oriented to the developmental phases of the children and adolescents, they enable multi-faceted, age-related possibilities of developing the individual.

Not that this says much about the content of Anthroposophical school curricula but it does at least show that whatever is taught is oriented – as Dornach puts it – to Steiner’s understanding of human development. Volume 2 of the Waldorf Journal Project (an AWSNA publication) titled ‘Child Development and Pedagogical Issues’ is more explicit about Steiner developmental matters and shows that Anthroposophical education is taught according to the evolutionary teaching of Steiner. The journal’s introduction says:

Rudolf Steiner gave a detailed description of the human being’s physical, psychological, and spiritual development from pre-natal existence through old age, death, and beyond. This view of the evolving human being provides a cornerstone for the unfolding of the curriculum in Waldorf schools around the world.

The AWSNA text doesn’t refer to ‘Study of Man’ directly but the first sentence of the above quote so neatly encapsulates what ‘Study of Man’ is about it could hardly refer to anything else. Besides which, it isn’t as if Steiner proffered more than one version of evolution and human development and the AWSNA text can, therefore, be taken to be referring to the same evolutionary teaching and developmental sequence as is found in ‘Study of Man’, a version of which can be found online at the Rudolf Steiner archive.

AWSNA holds the rights to the Dornach brand in its geographical area and its schools must therefore conform to Dornach’s stated characteristics as to what an Anthroposophical school is. Even so, AWSNA’s accredited schools all differ as to how much information they put on their websites as regards Steiner, Anthroposophy and the evolutionary teaching guiding their pedagogy and curricula. I haven’t worked through all of the ANWSNA school websites but one that does provide information pertinent to the topic here is the Calgary Waldorf School. Its website mentions ‘The curriculum directly reflects the developmental stages of childhood.’ Calgary’s Mission Statement tells us what the school is about:

Recognizing and honouring the stages of child development as elaborated by Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy to ensure that these stages inform our pedagogy and curriculum so teachers will bring appropriate educational content through appropriate educational methods to their students at the right time.

SWSF holds the rights to the Dornach brand for schools in UK. Bristol Steiner School is an accredited SWSF Anthroposophical school, a member school of SWSF. Bristol’s curriculum policy says:

Our School aims to provide an education according to the understanding of the developing human being as set out in the lecture cycles and books by Rudolf Steiner.

I could plod through more SWSF member websites and find similar examples but there’s no need, it would only mirror the characterisation of ‘Steiner’ education as per the Woods Report, government published research that SWSF, the Bristol and other SWSF member schools are happy to quote extracts from and publish on their websites. Apologies for repeating this quote yet again – from the Woods Report, page 84:

‘(An) understanding of child development according to the principles of anthroposophy is at the core and heart of Steiner education…’

It’s worth re-quoting the Woods Report because we can now say that when Dornach refers to Steiner’s ‘Study of Man’ and and its content Dornach is in fact referring to an Anthroposophical understanding of human development, a fact alluded to by Calgary’s Mission Statement.

In summary, from the Hague Circle document and the various other sources quoted and the information given in the first post in this series, it has been shown Steiner’s ‘Study of Man’ is the bedrock of Anthroposophical education and that the same text directly informs Anthroposophical school pedagogy and curricula. We can also rightly say that Dornach not only controls the Anthroposophical school brand, it assures the schools’ Anthroposophical nature.

Before signing off this post I want to draw attention to ‘Study of Man’ as being essential reading for Anthroposophical educators (particularly teachers) and how Anthroposophical schools attempt to draw parents into studying Anthroposophy.

Returning to the Hague Circle document, the last sentence of the ‘Guidelines’ section of it struck me as being distinctly odd – it says ‘Educators and teachers require teacher training in Waldorf education, and feel obliged to undertake a form of self-education which is appropriate to Waldorf education, as well as further continuing professional development.’ Obliged? Why the educators and teachers should ‘feel obliged’ becomes clearer elsewhere in the document. It turns out education of teachers within Steiner/Anthroposophical schools is routinised by collective study of ‘Study of Man’ at a weekly meeting, a characteristic of the schools:

Each colleague feels obliged to participate in the weekly pedagogical conference. This is the leading pedagogical body of the school or kindergarten and includes foundation work (the study of man/education), dealing with pedagogical questions, the observation of children, questions of organisation and the task of leading and shaping the school together with other committees. The teachers’ conference is not only a place where colleagues receive further training, but also where perception, judgement, learning and giving the school new impetus all lead to a common consciousness for the whole.

The highlighting of ‘study of man’ is my own to emphasise its presence there and so confirm the importance Steiner’s text has in the field of Steiner/Anthroposophical teacher training, some of which could well be Dornach organised. Again from the document:

…further training and exchanges with colleagues on a national and international level also take place. The Pedagogical Section of the Goetheanum and the Section groups in other countries, working together with national associations, are responsible for this.

According to this Steiner sympathetic doctoral thesis (page 98 of a big pdf), the ‘Study of Man’ is near invariably required reading for Steiner trainee teachers the world over and, as we have seen, within Dornach recognised Anthroposophical schools ‘Study of Man’ is obligatory reading for teachers. For many Steiner critics Anthroposophy is seen as a cult. If it is a cult then its potential recruits must include Anthroposophical school parents, children and teachers because they are routinely and programmatically exposed to Anthroposophical belief and culture.

For parents, as was shown in the first of this series of posts, this happens by their forming and participation in Anthroposophical study groups as part of the school’s formation process. As shown below, exposure continues after the school has been formed. For teachers it happens during their teacher training and, on an ongoing basis, within the schools they work in when perusing the ‘Study of Man’. An example of this is at the Ringwood Anthroposophical school, an SWSF member school. Its Spring 2010 newsletter mentions:

This emphasis on self-education and experiential study, and the sharing of classroom experiences, has been largely taken over by the Teachers’ Meeting attended by the whole faculty of teachers on Thursday afternoons. At the moment we are working through Steiner’s ‘Study of Man’ to deepen our understanding of child development. Parents too take part in this deepening of their understanding with weekly study groups and weekend events.

For Steiner Waldorf/Anthroposophical teacher training courses, Steiner’s ‘Study of Man’ is required reading on this American course and, here in UK, was on the now-axed Steiner Waldorf Education BA degree course reading list albeit under the title ‘Foundations of Human Experience’, a title used on the latest translation of the German written Steiner original.

Parental involvement with Anthroposophic belief in established Anthroposophical schools such as at Ringwood isn’t accidental or infrequent, it is programmatic. Woods Report page 17:

An integral feature of Steiner schooling is the importance attached to family support for the education of the child, and the importance of adult learning and development in the wider school community. The schools need to explain their distinctive philosophy to parents and do so through means such as evening lectures or informative articles in newsletters.

All of which might help explain why it is that although Anthroposophical schools claim not to teach Anthroposophy 70% of 233 Anthroposophical school teachers surveyed by Prof James Ogletree in this study (see question 48 of the downloadable doc) agreed that Steiner education subtly influenced or predisposed students to be open to the spiritual world and Anthroposophy.

Consideration of Anthroposophy as a cult will be explored further at a later date.

The next instalment in this series of posts demonstrates Steiner’s ‘Study of Man’ to be contiguous with his over-arching evolutionary teaching, a fundamentally racist doctrine which frames and informs ‘Study of Man’.



  1. I don’t see the point of this blog. Steiner teachers study and work out of Steiner’s Study of Man – so what? What is your point – it’s hardly a secret as you yourself point out

    Comment by Anonymous — October 24, 2011 @ 11:33 pm

  2. Anonymous, to aid navigation, the current post advises readers to read the precursor to it. The intent of the current post is laid out in its second section/paragraph. Hope that helps.

    Re Steiner teachers & Study of Man, the point of that part of the post is more that the teachers are obliged to study it as part of their training and when in post in Anthroposophical schools. Further, parents are routinely exposed to it or similar Steiner pseudoscientific blathering (aka Anthroposophy) and children somehow or other become inured to Anthroposophy.

    I do take your own point though and see that the second section/paragraph of the current post could have done with some additional wording/explanation of what the post establishes (e.g. having something on Study of Man’s developmental stuff consisting of Steiner evolutionary doctrine) and I’ll perhaps tighten that up as and when I reassemble all of the series of posts into the one article size piece. Some of the nuances we can tease out from Dornach and other sources are presented in the main body of the post though and I felt when writing it that overburdening the intro would be a tad cumbersome. Thanks for your comment.

    Comment by ukanthroposophy — October 26, 2011 @ 12:39 am

  3. I don’t agree with the comment by Anonymous as there is definitely a need for a blog as yours. Thank you for having placed it and for keeping it up and free – I really appreciate it.

    Comment by Tatiana — October 26, 2011 @ 8:23 pm

  4. “The point of this blog”, for me at least, is that prospective and current Steiner parents may not be aware of the basis of this education. No, it’s hardly a secret, but you’d be surprised at the level of ignorance among those who should know…

    I’m certainly always learning something new from the thoughtful and carefully argued posts here.

    Comment by MarkH — November 2, 2011 @ 8:01 pm

  5. I found the first part of your blog very interesting. However, this next section, in comparison seems rather undeveloped. To give you a comparison; Darwin’s origin of the species and his survival of the fittest theory was originally based on race i.e. it was a racist theorem in order to prove the supremacy of the white man. However, nobody today (or very few) would doubt the relevance of Darwinism. It is for modern human beings, who are rather sophisticated to extract the necessary information and synthesise it with our more sophisticated thoughts on humanity – and not keep it within the framework of 19th century colonialism. Would you not agree that human beings who are drawn to steiner teaching are able to isolate the context and century in which Steiner lived and distance themselves from some aspects of his works whilst taking the very gentle, sensible style of teaching that allows children to develop at their own pace and adapt it to the 21century? as with all movements there will be some who are quite happy to keep the racist elements alive if that is in their blue print- I would imagine it is the same with Darwinism but british steiner schools are, despite imbalances in society at large which create socio-economic barriers, multi-cultural places. furthermore, I do not believe that the Steiner waldorf fellowship have ever denied that there are elements of racism in steiner’s work – I have found them to be open and honest about this – I can’t quite see how you have argued, as you suggested you would, that these racist theories form the basis for the teaching of the children, although I am of an open mind and would be willing to hear how you develop this argument further.

    Comment by Rachael — January 24, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

  6. Rachel, I completely disagree with your assertion of Darwin being a racist. His text ‘Ascent of Man’ for example demolished the racist notions and explanations for differences between people current in his day. We don’t need to make excuses for him or his evolutionary theory. Steiner, though, was a racist individual offering a racist theology dressed up as and presented as pseudoscientific fact. Even were we to make allowances for Steiner’s racism as an individual on the basis that many of his contemporaries were racist (but why should we?), we are still left with Steiner’s racist theology. Steiner’s ‘Study of Man’ presents his pseudoscientific findings on how children evolve. A doctrinal tenet pitched by Steiner educators as a model of how children develop, it’s the foundation upon which Steiner education rests. As said in the blog post, I’ll be demonstrating the racism of the Steiner ‘model’ of how children develop in my next post here on UK Anthroposophy.

    You asked a question of me re the abilities of Steiner teachers to distance themselves from Steiner. You also claim Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship has never denied the fact of there being racist content in Steiner’s work. Er, I think you’ll find SWSF has only recently begun to address the issue of Steiner racism, albeit by a combination of means including sophistry, issuing ambivalently worded statements, not engaging in dialogue with people SWSF perceives to be ‘Steiner critical’ and so on. It was only after the publication here on the blog (and subsequently elsewhere) of the infamous ‘special seminar’ post that SWSF stuck a craftily worded ‘disclaimer’ on its website re Steiner racism.

    And to answer your question I refer you to the seminar notes

    Actually I’ll save you the bother, here’s a report of what was said at the ‘special seminar’ SWSF organised:

    An observer was asked which Steiner quotes he/she had seen online and elsewhere. The oberver gave the example of the spiritual hierarchy of the races. It was acknowledged that the Steiner schools Fellowship should give a clear and categorical rebuttal of these aspects of Steiner’s work. Clear statements should be made stating “We do not believe that human beings evolve through the races. We do not believe that blond hair bestows intelligence, etc…”.

    It was felt that there may be some difficulty in making a blanket rebuttal of all Anthroposophy because many people throughout the Steiner schools system, especially teachers, strongly support many aspects of that belief system. If teachers were asked to make a blanket rebuttal of Anthroposophy, many of them may not do this. In any event it was agreed that a message along the line of “The Steiner School is committed to equal opportunities and is opposed to racism and all forms of discrimination” should be placed on all Steiner school websites and promotional material.

    So, no, generally speaking, I don’t feel Steiner teachers have the ability to distance themselves from Steiner racism. Neither did the Steiner educators attending the SWSF’s special seminar. That isn’t to say things might not change but it is hard to see how that can happen without SWSF abandoning Anthroposophy or Steiner belief.

    Comment by ukanthroposophy — January 27, 2012 @ 2:00 pm


    Racism and Darwinism

    The greatest influence in the sudden development of racism in the 19th century Europe was the replacement of the Christian belief that “God created all people equal” by “Darwinism”. By suggesting that man had evolved from more primitive creatures, and that some races had evolved further than others, it provided racism with a scientific mask.

    In short, Darwin is the father of racism. His theory was taken up and commented on by such ‘official’ founders of racism as Arthur Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, and the racist ideology which emerged was then put into practice by the Nazis and other fascists. James Joll, who spent long years as a professor of history at universities such as Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, explained the relationship between Darwinism and racism in his book Europe Since 1870, which is still taught as a textbook in universities:

    Charles Darwin, the English naturalist whose books On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, and The Descent of Man, which followed in 1871, launched controversies which affected many branches of European thought… The ideas of Darwin, and of some of his contemporaries such as the English philosopher Herbert Spencer, …were rapidly applied to questions far removed from the immediate scientific ones… The element of Darwinism which appeared most applicable to the development of society was the belief that the excess of population over the means of support necessitated a constant struggle for survival in which it was the strongest or the ‘fittest’ who won. From this it was easy for some social thinkers to give a moral content to the notion of the fittest, so that the species or races which did survive were those morally entitled to do so.

    The doctrine of natural selection could, therefore, very easily become associated with another train of thought developed by the French writer, Count Joseph-Arthur Gobineau, who published an Essay on the Inequality of Human Races in 1853. Gobineau insisted that the most important factor in development was race; and that those races which remained superior were those which kept their racial purity intact. Of these, according to Gobineau, it was the Aryan race which had survived best… It was.. Houston Stewart Chamberlain who contributed to carrying some of these ideas a stage further… Hitler himself admired the author (Chamberlain) sufficiently to visit him on his deathbed in 1927. [2]

    The evolutionist German biologist Ernst Haeckel is one of the most important of Nazism’s spiritual fathers. Haeckel brought Darwin’s theory to Germany, and prepared it as a program ready for the Nazis. From racists such as Arthur Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain Hitler took over a politically-centred racism, and a biological one from Haeckel. Careful inspection will reveal that the inspiration behind all these racists came from Darwinism.

    Comment by Rachael — January 27, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

  8. Rachel, Darwin can hardly be held responsible for what people do with his work or how his work is interpreted. Darwin was not a racist. A useful article examining the issue can be found here
    Please be careful when copying and pasting articles wholesale such as you have done, might be a copyright issue. Also, at least a few words from yourself as to why you sent the link and article in is needed else your ‘comment’ is not much more than spam really. Besides which I’m sure all readers would prefer to read what you have to say more than being given tracts of stuff from elsewhere.

    Comment by ukanthroposophy — January 28, 2012 @ 1:20 am

  9. I think you have to come up with a proper definition of racism.
    According to Albert Memmis definition (which is a leading one) we can not speak of racism by Steiner.
    To give quotations without a definition is a form of populism.

    Comment by Jan Luiten — January 29, 2012 @ 4:03 pm

  10. Yes you’re quite right Jan, I do need to explain what racism is as I understand it. In the next post in this series on Free Schools I very briefly do that.

    Comment by ukanthroposophy — January 30, 2012 @ 1:27 am

  11. It is rather naive to quote Harun Yahya writing anything at all about Darwin.

    Comment by Melanie Byng (@ThetisMercurio) — February 6, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

  12. A reblogué ceci sur Blog de Grégoire Perra and commented:
    Un article anglophone qui montre comment s’y prennent les écoles Steiner-Waldorf pour endoctriner subtilement les parents à l’Anthroposophie. A lire en complément de la dernière section de mon article paru sur le site de l’UNADFI.

    Comment by gperra — August 5, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

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