Here in Vermont, the good people of Waldorf are going about their business. They are weaving fuzzy organic spaces in their personal cocoons and sending out dendrites of support and concern to other Waldorf families. They are buying organic nutriment for themselves and their children, and fermenting active cultures, trying to restimulate their little corners of the violated biosphere out of their post-industrial lethargy, bidding them to enrich and increase and to bless them with sustaining vegetable matter on which to batten, and suffering their cows to feed on the democratic grass without the poisonous addition of steroids or antibiotics, if they happen still, rather guiltily, to eat meat.
They live in a folkloric space with a folkloric science that they are saving from the ravages of industrialization. Although they embrace the soft political aims of progress, their project is deeply conservative. They gather their wool, and they dye it and spin it, and knit it and weave it, and they teach their children these homespun crafts. They surround themselves with talismans against what they perceive as the disconnect between the natural world and modern American living, bringing into their homes their crystals and tallow candles, their bees wax icons, their flower arrangements. Television, video games—anything a Mennonite might eschew—they bar their doors against.
Good for them. They have the courage of their convictions. Doubtless, it is a good thing to be makers, and to teach one's children to be makers. In the round of the seasons, they celebrate a denatured, fuzzy Christianity, with momentary references to St. Michael and the major religious holidays in the course of the revolving calendar, infused with pantheistic naturalism and a strangely incongruous belief in reincarnation. They wish to be kind to each other and to themselves, and aspire to learn mindfulness and contentment. They are ambitious to be gentle and nurturing and yogic.
They believe in a God who is also warm and fuzzy, and largely contiguous with nature, by which I mean that the are capital-R Romantics. Their educational methods are informed by the philosophy of the German educator Rudolf Steiner, an early 20th century systematist influenced by Piaget's developmental ideas. Beneath the methodology lies a revolt against the particular kind of mechanistic science that shaped the 19th century German educational technocracy, and which seeks to rescue a knowledge of artisanship and home economics, folklore and narrative play, and seeks to reconstruct the organization of the village and the homely dynamics of the cottage, maintaining a sense of connectedness with nature rather than domination over it. It is established as a kind of anti-matrix, or, more properly, an anti-'patrix'. Its fundamental conservatism is also manifested in, for example, its use of the idea of the archetypal dispositions of choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic and sanguine in describing human varietals and tailoring educational plans to suit them. Because of these heterodoxies, anthroposophical schools have come under scrutiny by various educational establishments, for example for fostering an unscientific belief in homeopathy and for the resistance of many Waldorf families to innoculation programs. Proponents point out that as a result of the centrality of experimentation to the curriculum, Waldorf students tend to emerge with a measurably better understanding of science than students whose tutelage relies largely on textbooks. In other cases, anthroposophy has been attacked as fundamentally racist, due to the purported views of Steiner on the subject (of which I am ignorant), although in certain places the curriculum has been modified in the direction of afrocentrism, et cetera.
My purpose is not to criticize Waldorfers. As an empiricist, I am willing to accept whatever educational methods seem to produce the best results. My interpretation of what constitutes good results is liable to be quite different from what the secular humanists believe. I do think, though, that the Waldorfers are blissfully unaware of how threatening to their project is the 'liberal' state that they overwhelmingly support. Their philosopy may be anodyne, but it is still an attempt to carve out an educational and social space separate and distinct from that provided by the statists in service of the state, and ultimately that is unjustifiable in the eyes of the totalitarians. For the moment, they are not as directly in the line of fire as, say, the Catholics, whose views regarding human nature and moral agency are distinctly repugnant to secular humanist ideology, but the totalitarian state that their embrace of 'tolerance' facilitates (and they do embrace it, as I am reminded daily on Facebook) will brook no rivals or divided allegiances. As bucolic and unoffensive as they wish to be and to present themselves as being, they are sowing the (non-genetically modified) seeds of their own destruction.
It was not until Obama signed the bill that they like to refer to as the Monsanto Protection Act that most of them had any qualms whatsoever regarding the administration. My views on GMO are certainly not as alarmist as theirs, but I do think that it's reasonable for them to demand that GMO foodstuffs be labelled as such, because it is a concern to them. What strikes me as very odd is that they seem to have little or no interest in the rest of the administration's agenda, particularly as set forth with regard to education:
Research fellow Joy Pullmann at the Heartland Institute points to a February Department of Education report on its data-mining plans that contemplates the use of creepy student-monitoring techniques such as “functional magnetic resonance imaging” and “using cameras to judge facial expressions, an electronic seat that judges posture, a pressure-sensitive computer mouse and a biometric wrap on kids’ wrists.”
The DOE report exposes the big lie that Common Core is about raising academic standards. The report instead reveals Common Core’s progressive designs to measure and track children’s “competencies” in “recognizing bias in sources,” “flexibility,” “cultural awareness and competence,” “appreciation for diversity,” “empathy,” “perspective taking, trust, [and] service orientation.”
That’s right. School districts and state governments are pimping out highly personal data on children’s feelings, beliefs, “biases,” and “flexibility” instead of doing their own jobs of imparting knowledge — and minding their own business. And yes, Republicans such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush continue to falsely defend the centralized Common Core regime as locally driven and non-coercive, while ignoring the database system’s circumvention of federal student-privacy laws.
It's hard to imagine a more reductionistic and invasive approach to the production of good citizens, but as Marshall McLuhan observed a long time ago, the medium is the message, and in this case the medium says that the totalized surveillance state has the right to treat the children who are nominally yours as though they were lab rats (which should, on the other hand, be liberated).
Yesterday, I read a case in point:
Children who are given anti-racism lessons in school are more likely to be intolerant outside the classroom, a major study found yesterday.
It said accusing white pupils of racism causes animosity, and discussing sensitive ethnic concerns such as honour killings paints minority group children in a bad light.
The survey said children who live in mixed neighbourhoods are often free of hostility towards other racial groups.
But it found that ‘when more attention in class is being paid to the multicultural society, the liberalising effect of positive contact in class on youngsters’ xenophobic attitude decreases’.
The teenagers, drawn from different class and racial backgrounds, and with differing academic abilities, were questioned on their attitudes to those from different ethnic backgrounds and about multicultural teaching in their schools.
It said boys tended to be more intolerant of other groups than girls, and intolerance was greatest among those with strong religious or ethnic identity, among those from Turkish or Moroccan backgrounds, and those with the lowest educational achievements.
But it said the teaching of multiculturalism had an ‘unexpected negative effect’.
It added: ‘The impact of positive inter- ethnic contact in class disappears or even reverses when multiculturalism is more emphasised during lessons. Discussing discrimination and the customs and habits of other cultures during lessons affects the youngsters’ xenophobic attitudes indirectly.’
The report added that bad feelings among minority groups could be generated by discussion of topics such as honour killings or female circumcision. Animosity could also be caused by ‘a one-sided offender- victim approach to racism’.
Patricia Morgan, an author on the family and education, said yesterday: ‘If you rub children’s noses in their supposed racism, they resent it.
‘Pupils are being accused of things they haven’t thought or done. Multiculturalism attempts to manipulate children’s thoughts, beliefs and emotions, it amounts to indoctrination, and it doesn’t work. It is counter-productive.
‘This study shows that when people try to manipulate children’s minds, it bounces back on them.’
There are two parts to this finding: 1) accusing people of harboring bias that they don't have makes them resentful, and 2) discussion of certain cultural differences must be bracketed, because if honestly presented they might cause unpleasant feelings of loathing and disgust. The first is a matter of common sense, and the second is counselling censorship. It is easy to imagine that similar results might be expected from early childhood sex education.
I could name a hundred other issues toward which they express a strange apathy, for all their cultivating mindfulness, but it is hard to imagine a more mechanistic approach to the informing of young minds. The specific grounds on which their educational system will be indicted are those of diversity. The standard curriculum consists in a recapitulation of European culture, particularly in the early years. So, for example, students in the grade schools will be exposed to Old Testament stories at the appropriate developmental stage, then Norse myths, then Greek and Roman myths. All of this is far too Eurocentric for the educrats.
Now, these myths, or stories, or narratives, or however you wish to refer to them, arise out of the particularities of specific cultures and their self-understandings. Whatever we may think of their relative merits, they are expressions of cultures that were at one time successful, and that had distinct views of the relations of people to God (or gods), to the natural world, and to members of their own society and those outside of it. Haeckel's maxim that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny is the undergirding and shaping theme of the curriculum, and that phylogenic understanding is drawn from Western history, which must be demolished and deracinated (because it promotes privileged white Europeanism) in accordance with the elite Progressive design (except for the moment in institutions such as La Raza, where aspects are temporarily promoted for ideological purposes). The great project of Progressivism is to destroy in the name of diversity all particular expressions of culture, especially Western culture, in the service of generalized ahistorical precepts that do not emerge from, but are imposed from, a post-historical perspective. The historical success of Western culture is viewed by this elitist cadre not as a representation of merit, but as a symptom of comparative cultural neurosis. History is baggage. It must be forgotten.
This is only a contemporary expression of an old utopian strategy.
To my bitter clinger friends in the Waldorf community I say, "Good luck with that." You will not be spared.