Saturday, 3 October 2009

Here come the gnomes!

Maybe it's because they leave reading and writing until pretty late, or perhaps it's the emphasis upon weaving, woodwork and organic food, but something about Steiner schools seems to strike a chord in the hearts of the woollier minded type of home educator. The rejection of traditional science in favour of a weird mixture of astrology, herbal medicine and clairvoyance seems only to add to the appeal. I have known a few home educators who subsequently enrolled their children at Steiner schools and heard of many more via the internet. This is of course in addition to those parents who in defiance of all reason follow some watered down version of Steiner's methods in the comfort of their own homes.

Steiner schools, or Waldorf schools as they are known in the USA, are based upon the ideas of a very intelligent but quite mad Austrian called Rudolf Steiner. His educational techniques were devised not empirically, that is to say by observation and experiment, but were learned clairvoyantly from, among others, the spirits of dead Atlanteans. Call me Mr. Conventional Stick- in- the-Mud, but this has never served to recommend his educational philosophy to me.

It is hard to know where to begin when discussing Steiner and his crazy ideas. I am enormously fond of the belief in gnomes which is an integral part of the Steiner's philosophy. It might make some people a little uneasy, but I love the thought of these little folk who spend much of their time in woods and then migrate underground for the Winter. Very useful too, as some of the metal ores which we extract from the Earth apparently owe their distinctive characteristics to the passage of gnomes through the nearby rocks! I visited a Steiner school in North London during an open day and my six year old daughter was given a piece of polished rock. One of the teachers explained carefully how the thoughts of passing gnomes had altered the composition of the stone.

Talking to the parents of children at this particular school, I was struck by how many of them had either tried or were considering trying home education. I was incidentally, also taken aback by the huge number of children with really strange names like Sky, Andromeda, Amethyst and Summer.

A short piece like this really cannot do justice to the astonishingly wide range of completely bonkers notions championed by Steiner. I certainly feel a strange and inexplicable reluctant to give serious thought to anything said about education by a man who believed that Buddha retired to Mars and that planet Earth is the fossilised remains of a giant vegetable. I am aware that many religions subscribe to the theory of reincarnation, but even here Steiner added his own demented twist to the idea. According to him, if you don't watch your step in this life you could end up being reincarnated as a gnome. If that doesn't serve to keep one on the straight and narrow, then nothing will!



  2. The above link leads to stuff like this;

    He is calling for the state to organize raiding parties to kidnap the children of Autonomous Learners so that they can be put into schools. This is violence pure and simple. He is willing to use others to commit violence to force his own opinions on Autonomous Learners.

    It's quite true that my memory is not as sharp as once it was, but I don't recall ever saying this. I shall have to rack my brains and see if I can remember expressing this view. Perhaps I am suffering from multiple personality disorder?

  3. Ok, lost the plot - so who is calling for kidnap?
    The Gnomes?

  4. I had the exact same experience at a Steiner school open day. I went home conviced that Gnomes were real though and that the corridors had been full of them that day. They were just bigger than I expected. I think they were the ones wearing pointy woolen hats.

    Mrs Anon

  5. The person encouraging kidnap is, I am afraid, me Julie! My wife and daughter were both shocked to hear about this. Here is another extract from the Blog to which the link is given above;

    "What Simon Webb is advocating is that violence should be used against Autonomous Learners to stop them from Home Educating in this way."

    Strong words indeed!

    You are right Mrs. Anon, that after talking to these people you actually half begin to believe that there must be something in what they say. To hear a teacher calmly telling me about the activities of the gnome community was a surreal experience and not one to be missed.

  6. Don't forget the mushrooms!

  7. So the government are happy to fund a Steiner School from public funds but is unhappy about home educators funding autonomous education themselves? It gets stranger and stranger...

  8. It does seem strange, but it's those contradictions that we can use to justify our own positions.

    That and the really, truly awful exam rates in some of our local areas!

  9. Steiner schools get public funding?

    Mrs Anon

  10. Sadly the gnomes are the least of my worries:

  11. Yes, perhaps I should have mentioned that Steiner thought that black people were at a lower level of development than whites.

  12. Mrs Anon, at least one has public funding, not sure if there are any more yet.

  13. Simon, I have just found your blog and I am lovin' it. But I do have to gently bring you into the 21st century when it comes to the oddness of names. Like it or not, Summer was the 23rd most popular girls name last year, with 2,266 babies rejoicing in the name. More popular than Amy, Emma, Elizabeth... Skye was the 77th most popular.
    I have no particular drum to bang here, my own son is called James, you couldn't get much more traditional. You can't move in Hackney for "interesting" names.

  14. Well, I guess I'm a little conservative about names! Anyway this was ten years ago. Hackney, eh? The school about which I was writing is actually in Hackney, up by Mildmay Park. It's called the St. Pauls' school, because it is on St. Pauls' Road. Maybe you know it? I have an office in Queensbridge Road, which as you probably know is not far from Dalston. I lived in Hackney for years, I dare say you know the Stoke Newington end?

  15. Maybe some comments on the article and comments:

    Simon writes: "According to him (Steiner), if you don't watch your step in this life you could end up being reincarnated as a gnome."

    This is one of the many nonsensensical things promoted by a smail anti-Waldorf fringe group in the US: WC on the net since a number of years.

    "Mrs Anon" has posted some links as implied "information" about Steiner Waldorf education. She sound much like a "barking" who regularly pursues anti-Steiner crusades at Mumsnet in cooperation with a Northernrefugee39: Some comments on discussions of Steiner Waldorf education at Mumsnet.

    For some basic info about Waldorf education, see the

    - Wikipedia article on the subject. Since some years, it is only allowed to use reliabale sources as basis for the article. WCs don't like that. Or

    - Waldorf Answers.

    For some comments on the hate-type of "information" about Waldorf education and anthroposophy that "Ms Anon" promotes here, not dissimilar to that promoted by Jewwatch as "information" about Jewry and Judaism, especially the writings of a "Peter Staudenmaier" (search on his name at Google ...), see

    - On the stories by Peter Staudenmaier

    - Peter Staudenmaier on the importance of the truthfulness of his published writings:
    "I don't take these things
    nearly as seriously as you do"

    - Peter Staudenmaier's Anthroposophy and Ecofascism

    - Top 10 things wrong with Peter Staudenmaier's Anthroposophy and Ecofascism

  16. Continued:

    For some complementing comments on some more of the simplified myths about Waldorf education at times spread, see

    - Some myths about Waldorf education and anthroposophy

    - Some more comments on the myths

    - "Anthroposophy is a religion"

    - "Anthroposophy and Rudolf Steiner are racist"

    - "Anthroposophy and Rudolf Steiner are anti-Semitic"

    And do Steiner Waldorf schools promote and "produce" racist pupils?

    Research indicates that this is just one more of the many myths cultivated in secular humanist anti-Steiner/Waldorf campaigns. The greatest number of Waldorf schools are found in Germany. According to a study some years ago by an independent criminological research institute at the request of the German parliament, to find out among other things how wide spread racism is among German school pupils, the proportion of xenophobic pupils, hostile to foreigners, was by far the lowest among Waldorf pupils, 2.8%, compared to “Gymnasien” (High schools) 8.3%, “Gesamtschulen” 16.5 %, “Realschulen” 17.4 % and “Hauptschulen” (main schools) 24.7 %.

  17. Oh for goodness sake Simes, you're a fine one to talk. I wouldn't bring up the ludicrous nature of Christian belief normally, but I find it fairly hypocritical of you to sneer at Anthroposophy, so...

    A burning bush issuing instructions.
    A virgin giving birth.
    A star leading magi to Bethlehem.
    Joseph's dream interpretation.
    Walking round walls and blowing trumpets causing the destruction of a city.
    Someone turning water into wine, walking on water, dying and reappearing three days later.
    The Devil.
    Evil spirits.
    When you die you go to a magical paradise where everything's lovely, unless you don't believe the words in a book, in which case you go into a firey pit for ever.
    Don't even get me started on the psychadelic nightmare of a lunatic that is Revelations.

    Shall I go on? Do you want to take the piss out of Jews next or Catholics? People who believe that the wine actually turns into blood, and the wafer into flesh when it enters their mouth? They've got to be good for a laugh! Oh, it's people who use a little more imagination than the rest of us in the naming of their children is it? Let's go for some more stereotypes. We know the 'type' eh? Hippies. Crunchy granola eaters. Wooly thinkers.

    Seriously Simes, you really do debase your own arguments elsewhere by sinking to this level. If you keep trying to dish out cheap laughs by using stereotypes, you cannot be taken seriously! When you compound this by using widely discredited myths to attack the subject, you are intellectually impoverished.

  18. >>>>>>>>>>>>"Mrs Anon" has posted some links as implied "information" about Steiner Waldorf education. <<<<<<<<<<<<<<

    No, I didn't.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>She sound much like a "barking" who regularly pursues anti-Steiner crusades at Mumsnet in cooperation with a Northernrefugee39: Some comments on discussions of Steiner Waldorf education at Mumsnet.<<<<<<<<<<


    You are possibly in need of some reading glasses.

    Mrs Anon

  19. Mrs Anon said:

    "Anonymous said...."

    No, it was Theebee who said, not Anonymous, and it was Anonymous who said, not Mrs Anon. Both of you need reading glasses.

    And there are too many people called Anonymous.

  20. Mouse, I have my reading glasses on.{g} All comments start with Autonomous said...(automatically) unless you choose another profile.

    "Anonymous said..." was not part of my post.

  21. And that was me, the one and only Mrs Anon LOL!

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