• Irish government give a primary school to a racist, anti-science, occultist patron.

    I wish I were being hyperbolic in my title but, unfortunately, it is entirely accurate. Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, issued a press release announcing new multi-denominational schools, one of which is in Knocknacarra, Galway. The patronage for this primary school was awarded to Lifeways Ireland whose pedagogy is based on the Steiner model.

    The Steiner model of education is a more holistic approach to education. During the early stage there is a focus on play, hands on activities, arts and crafts etc. Students don’t start reading and writing until around 7. This method of teaching is based on the philosophy of Anthroposophy. Anthroposophy states that there is a spiritual world, and it is possible to objectively comprehend this world by cultivating a form of clairvoyance.”

    “Anthroposophy forms the educational pedagogy that underpins Steiner schools, and anthroposophy traditionally holds that the point of Steiner education is to improve children’s karma by nurturing their connection to the spirit world.”

    Anthroposophy and the Steiner model of education were founded by Rudolf Steiner. Obviously there is a lot more to it than what it is stated above, none of which is more worrying or more fantastical than other schools based on religion. However Steiner was a rampant racist and his racist views are incorporated into Anthroposophy.

    Anthroposophy states that different races exist along different levels of a spiritual hierarchy, with Aryans at the top. He believed good souls would be reincarnated into Aryans and bad, evil souls will be reincarnated into lower races. “The remaining human bodies belonged to the races that had become decadent and were falling into decline. The [good] souls left the bodies of [these] races and rose up to higher races.”


    Some might argue that Steiner was a product of his time and the fact he was a racist does not mean we shouldn’t use his pedagogical model if it is effective. For example, we still drive Ford cars and watch Disney movies despite the fact their founders were antisemitic. However, the Steiner model of education is intertwined with its racist doctrine. The objective of Steiner education is to train and discipline students so they can experience the spiritual world and increase their chances of reincarnating in a better race. It is why they don’t teach children how to read or write until the age of 7. Steiner believed that learning how to read and write before 7 would hurt their spiritual development and their karma, thus impact their chances of reincarnating into a better race.

    All teachers in Steiner schools have to undergo two years of training, one year of which is to study Anthroposophy which includes the racist doctrines. This has led to an apathetic attitude to racism in schools as the British Humanist Association reports:

    Two parents who contacted us sent their mixed-race daughter to the Kings Langley Steiner School. In one lesson her German teacher read out a poem from a book which she translated as ‘the boy got so much chocolate on his face he looked like a nigger’. The daughter complained that the word is racist, but was told that ‘nigger’ is not a racist word and was moved to the corner of the room for complaining. Meanwhile, another student who told the daughter that ‘all black people are niggers’ was not punished at all. ‘The teacher was not disciplined, but the Education Co-ordinator point blank refused to answer us when we asked him if he believed in Steiner’s theory that people reincarnate through the races starting with black and progressing upwards to white, with blond blue eyed people at the top.’ Subsequently to this, the parents persuaded the teachers to have a racism awareness day, but at that, ‘a few teachers filled in every ethnicity on the form as they said they had been through all races: the teachers were white so obviously saw themselves as being at the pinnacle.’

    Trevor Mepham, the head of the Frome Academy and former head of the Hereford Academy, told the BBC that ‘I do acknowledge that some of the things that were said in the 1920s do not sound quite right today in the 21st century. What I’m saying is that fundamentally, Rudolf Steiner is not a racist and these schools do not promote anything like that.’

    You will be hard pressed to find an advocate for the Steiner model and Anthroposophy who will admit Steiner was a racist despite the fact he clearly was.

    “The French are committing the terrible brutality of moving black people to Europe, but it works, in an even worse way, back on France. It has an enormous effect on the blood and the race and contributes considerably toward French decadence. The French as a race are reverting.”

    “Negroes” are “decadent” and “completely cut themselves off from the spiritual world.”

    Other than the racism, Stiener schools endorse books which are notably anti-science:

    • They have Anthroposophy Doctors who visit the school and homeopathy is advocated.
    • Evolution is questioned and described as “rooted in reductionist thinking and Victorian ethics and young people need to emerge from school with a clear sense of its limits”
    • The heart is said not to be a pump but a sense organ. ‘The circulation of blood is not a closed system and the pump model is not sufficient to understand the circulation of the blood and the sensitivity of the heart to the emotions’

    Steiner schools often opt out of vaccinations and Stiener himself opposed them as he believed they damaged karma. A report by the UK government described Steiner schools to consist of “high risk populations” and “unvaccinated communities” which are a danger to children’s health with an increased risk of contracting and spreading diseases.

    This, this is who our government is giving a school to. Racist, anti-science, child endangering occultists. As a Galwegian I certainly don’t want this school in my city and I fear there simply isn’t enough information out there for parents to be fully informed. I ask anyone who reads this to contact Jan O’Sullivan and ask her to revoke the patronage. Also make as much noise as you can about it via social media. We simply cannot allow for such a school to exist, especially government funded.

    For a more detailed read on Steiner schools please read this by the British Humanist Association.

    Category: AtheismPhilosophySecularism

    Article by: Humanisticus

    • Dermot Canniffe

      Please don’t read the BHA documents and imagine this is applicable in Ireland.

      Irish Steiner schools neither teach, promote, or require in their staff, racist ideologies. Racism and bullying is anathema to the Steiner approach, which is one of inclusiveness.

      The Knocknacarra school will not teach creationism as scientific fact, will not dismiss Darwinian evolution for any reason but especially “as a product of Victorian ethics”, will not administer medicine or homeopathy (not least because administering any medicine or “medicine” is restricted in a school setting in Ireland), and most certainly, along with all Irish national schools, will not take a particular stance on vaccination. The decision there is down to the parents. Furthermore, we will not be teaching that the physical heart and figurative heart are one and the same thing.

      Irish Steiner schools (and I think Steiner schools globally) are not teaching children “how to be reincarnated” – we’re more concerned with *this* life, and how to live it, by giving the children the tools they need and the confidence to use them.

      We are trying to open and run an Humanist school. If anyone actually asks us, they would find this out.

      I would ask that you enquire of some Irish sources before posting what you have. As a humanist myself, I find the BHAs documents alarmist, especially when they are used in the Irish context – a context for which they were not intended. The perception by various humanist organisations that Steiner pedagogy is antithetical to Humanism or is somehow racist in nature is problematic to say the least, given that Rudolph Steiner identified himself as – and is acknowledged as being – himself a humanist. You may wish to read this as a starting point to applying critical thinking to the accusations: http://uncletaz.com/waage/waagenglish1.html#anchor137327

      I have shared and retweeted your blog posts in the past, especially regarding MarRef, and have been glad of your dedication to research, your thoroughness and your erudition. Please don’t let me down now. If you’ve any further questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

      • Let’s take the point Steiner was a racist first. Whether he describes himself as a humanist is moot. To me he is quite clearly a racist given the comments above and elsewhere. Do you at least agree that Steiner was a racist?

        • Dermot Canniffe

          Declaring “Steiner was a racist” would negate his change of heart. Therefore I cannot make such an overly simplified statement as it is factually incomplete.

          He wrote racist things. Was wrong. Corrected the mistake.
          You mentioned the “product of his time” argument, which I think holds here.

          • Could you link to where he had a change of heart please, thanks.

            • Dermot Canniffe

              Here : http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/19030326p01.html

              Here he contends in effect that there are no sub-classes of humans, that there is no racial evolution within homo sapiens sapiens and that the the soul of early humans is of the same value as the soul of modern humans.

              At any rate, whether he adhered to racist views or not, doesn’t mean that I do. I resent the implication.

              The Department of Education would certainly not have allowed a school to be formed were such the case.
              The difference between here and the UK situation is the lack of oversight in the UK “Free Schools” program. In the UK basically anyone can come along and say “we’re starting a school, here’s our business plan” and get funding to start a school. How those schools are implemented is then left entirely to that group, with neither assistance nor oversight from the Ofsted.
              We don’t have that in Ireland.
              So can you please reword your defamatory article title please? And then look at modifying the content so that you make it clear that the article refers to the UK schools only and not Ireland or specifically Knocknacarra, or else do some research on the school in Knocknacarra, Lifeways, and the way Steiner pedagogy is delivered in Ireland and change the article.
              Basically, please apply some rigour.
              Because I’ve started seeing a lot of shares and retweets of this blog post, and your ill-considered post may end up hurting us for no good reason.

            • I haven’t read that piece yet but what I will say is that it is edited so who knows what he actually said but far more importantly it was in 1903, Steiner was still propagating racist tenets in years after so this can’t be evidence that he “changed his mind” as he was still being racist afterwards.

              “Peoples and races are but steps leading to pure humanity. A
              race or a nation stands so much the higher, the more perfectly its members
              express the pure, ideal human type, the further they have worked their way from
              physical and perishable to the supersensible and imperishable. The evolution of
              man through the incarnations in ever higher national and racial forms is thus a
              process of liberation. Man must finally appear in harmonious perfection.” – 1904

              “the great Aryan Race has been the dominant one on earth” – 1904

              “Furthermore, there would not be such a decline of culture if there were a strong enough feeling for the fact that some people, the ones who are particularly ruthless, are not human beings at all but demons in human form.But do not let us broadcast this. There is enough opposition already. Things like this give people a terrible shock. People were frightfully shocked when I had to say that a quite famous university professor with a great reputation had had a very short period between death and re-birth and was a re-incarnated negro scientist.” – 1923

              As you can see in these quotes Steiner still believed in reincarnation and was still spouting racism. So no he didn’t change his mind.

            • Dermot Canniffe

              OK, I shouldn’t have to emphasise this again, but you need to read more than just The BHA stuff. As one skeptic to another, you’re not being rigorous here and you’re falling into fallacies.

              My point still stands, unless you can prove that the Knocknacarra school & lifeways are “racist, anti-science and occultist” you *must* change this article, because otherwise it’s defamatory. Burden of proof falls to the person making the accusation.

            • I have read a lot more than the BHA’s report. I have read Steiner’s own words, I can’t get more rigorous than accurately quoting an individuals own words.

              Lifeways advocate the Steiner approach, which is based on Anthroposophy. Teachers are educated about and/or are adherents of Anthroposohy. I have proven that Anthroposophy has racism at its heart. (Unless you don’t think having different races exist on a spiritual hierarchy in which some races are labeled decedent is racist).

              As both the organisation and the teaching model is based on Anthroposophy then my description is entirely accurate.

              Also, the fact you are issuing apologetics for what is clearly racist language and saying Steiner “changed his mind” when he clearly didn’t is not putting my mind at ease about the situation.

              If a representative from the Knocknacarra school came out and disavowed Anthroposophy and Steiner’s racism that would be a start.

              Are yourself an adherent of Anthroposophy? Do you believe in reincarnation, and if so, do you think their is a spiritual hierarchy with Aryans at the top?

            • Dermot Canniffe

              Have you asked anyone yet? Have you read the link I posted above? Have you read *all* of Steiner’s works?
              You have not proven that modern Anthroposophy has racism at its heart, you have only proven that the author who came up with some of the tenets of modern Anthroposophy also wrote racist epithets, the same as anyone else writing – particularly in Germany -in that era.
              It’s a different thing entirely to put 2 and 2 together and get 40 by saying modern organisations based around modern Anthroposophy are racist, occultist and anti-science.

              I am apologist for no-one – I condemn racism and bigotry in all its forms, wherever I see it. There is a simple fact about historical analysis – judging someone from the past and his/her works through the lens of modern ethics is a double edged sword. Naturally we have to reflect on how wrong the occurrences of racism/misogyny/bigotry etc.. given our modern understanding of these power structures. However it is incompatible with the pursuit of knowledge to discount absolutely everything output by an individual because of any inappropriate or toxic epithets they have included because it was deemed societally appropriate at the time. You must know the series of ethical questions around the Person and the Thing they contributed – you gave the example of Henry Ford and Walt Disney. There are more, of course:
              Francis Galton and James Watson were both undeniably racist and sexist but we rely on the scientific breakthroughs they made every day. Also the myriad technologies and breakthroughs that came out of the Space Age, founded in part by contributions from unrepentant scientists imported from the 3rd Reich as part of Project Paperclip. These are standard examples.
              If you have read all of Steiner’s writings, then you’ll notice a fascinating, yet frustrating, habit of issuing racist epithets in one piece and ridiculing it in another. You cited a number of the former type above, here’s another of the latter type:
              “The leanings towards internationalism in our time are due to the fact that souls no longer concern themselves with the element of race.” – which is from 1919, when the first Steiner Waldorf school was founded.
              So aspects of Steiner’s writings which were racist (which constitute .05% of his total works, apparently ) were shed and then some of the remainder evolved into what we now know as Anthroposophy, and aspects of Anthroposophy underpin the Steiner Pedagogy. Some of this process occurred within his lifetime, but more of it has happened in the 90ish years since his death.

              I have had no accredited Anthroposophy training, but I like the concept that everyone has a contribution to make in society, small or large. As I have stated before, I am an agnostic secular Humanist, and was drawn to the Steiner ethos because of its inclusive nature and it’s pedagogical concepts which are referred to as being “child-centric”, that is to say, skills are taught when the child is ready for that particular skill, and the learning of these skills uses as many sensory inputs as possible. Delayed start (school age *isn’t* at 4, unlike most schools in the UK and Ireland) and the exam-free schooling appealed also. All of these concepts have been borne out by modern pedagogic research as being beneficial to the child.

              The aspects of modern anthroposophy which inform modern Steiner education contain no theories or concepts based on race or any other divisive aspect of humanity. Modern anthroposophy holds that all human beings are equal and that humans need to respect each other as they respect themselves.

              Now, unless you can prove, somehow, that the methodology in use in Irish Steiner schools is somehow racist, has any links to the occult or employs pseudo-science as part of the core curriculum, you should not write what you wrote in the article. There is no smoking gun here.

            • Except their racism and their ideas aren’t intertwined like Steiner’s are. He founded the Steiner model of education to help students progress through the spiritual hierarchy of races. The hierarchy of races is and of itself racist. The two are inextricably linked.

              Again I ask. Do you believe in reincarnation and if so do you believe in the spiritual hierarchy of races?

            • Dermot Canniffe

              I beg to differ – Galton began the field of what would be come genetics with the ultimate aim of breeding out what he regarded as “inferior races”.
              For me, as I said, I’m agnostic, so as far as reincarnation goes, I simply don’t know. But I neither believe in nor agree with any hierarchy of races, spiritual or otherwise. And neither do any modern Steiner schools or organisations.
              As indeed I keep telling you.

            • Then why are Steiner’s books with his racist ideology still being used to train teachers for Steiner schools? I have also searched high and low and can’t find one Anthroposophical organisation that will disavow his racial theory.

              It’s almost like they accept it but don’t want the world to know that they do.

            • Dermot Canniffe

              Why are Galton’s works still being used for students of genetics? That argument doesn’t hold water. Any student of history is able to separate the wheat of an historical text from the problematic chaff.

              “It’s almost like…” is supposition and an insufficient basis on which to form a judgement.

              When you say “searched”, do you mean Googled? Where? What countries? Have you emailed any of the national or international Steiner organisations? How would you put your question? I would hope that you not ask the same leading question you asked me: “Do you at least agree that Steiner was a racist?”? And when the other person gives their response regarding historical context and an historical individuals idealogical complexity over the course of their life, please do not demand a “Yes or No” answer when it’s clearly not a “yes or no” question.

              I’m going on vacation tomorrow and will have little or no internet access for the period I’m away. I’ll be happy to debate this further once I get back. In the meantime, please do contact one of the many Steiner groups out there, give some background to your research, include the url for this blog post so that they may read what has gone before, and – with an open mind and an even temper – ask if they are able to denounce the racism featured in the 16 racist quotes that are contained in the >89,000 pages of Rudolph Steiner’s writings.

              Please remember that the burden of proof is on you, not them. You may be proceeding from a false premise, so please, be courteous and civil in your questions.

            • Steiner’s whole philosophy is based on a hierarchy of races, with darker races at the bottom. This isn’t “a few quotes”, this a philosophy built upon degrading numerous peoples worldwide.

              These books are being used to train Steiner teachers and the group behind the school are all proponents of anthroposophy. All of this is hidden from the parents in the area.

              Oh, and it’s way more than 16.

            • Dermot Canniffe

              Okay, now you’re ignoring what I’m saying.

              To repeat:
              “Steiner’s whole philosophy is based on a hierarchy of races, with darker races at the bottom.” – No, his philosophy is based on the idea that the person is more than their body and their knowledge. The racist hierarchy notion is ancillary to that. And it’s an notion that proponents of the Steiner Pedagogy have chosen, thank goodness, to discard when formulating modern Anthroposophy and Steiner pedagogy.

              “These books are being used to train Steiner teachers”
              Yes, like Galton’s works, and modern adults are wise enough to be able to say “Hay! That’s racist! I don’t agree with that bit!” and carry on. Why can’t you?

              “and the group behind the school are all proponents of anthroposophy”
              Really? All? I’m generally more concerned with the practical application of Steiner pedagogy myself, though I’ve no problem with Modern Anthroposophy. But have you spoken to the Group? Anthroposophy is the philosophy underpinning Steiner education and any racist bits that may have been included in the original literature by Rudolph Steiner have been excised from Modern Anthroposophy, which is definitely all about equality among human beings. I keep telling you this, and you have yet to prove me wrong. Why are we going round in circles?

              “All of this is hidden from the parents in the area”
              You were at the parents meeting last week then, yes?

              “Oh and it’s way more than 16”
              An independent review of the full corpus of Steiner’s writing found that the racist comments accounted for approximately 0.05% of his complete output. So yes, it is only 16.

              Your arguments are beginning to take on the characteristics of moral panic.

            • Ancillary? You must be having a laugh. It is central. As for proponents discarding the racist notions, this isn’t true. I have listed a couple of examples above.

              Galton’s works are most certainly not being used today. Only for historical reasons if they are and he isn’t exalted in the manner Anthroposophists exalt Steiner.

              Any members of the group that I have been able to identify are all Anthroposophists.

              I wasn’t. But nowhere on the website or literature does it mention the link between the Steiner model and Anthroposophism. Nor was it mentioned in any media outings. So I find it surprising if they opened up about it during the parent’s meeting.

              Well I am looking at way more than 16 right now. So I am not sure what “independent” study you have read. Feel free to link it.

            • Dermot Canniffe

              Your perception that it is central is your own. Entirely subjective. You

              have not listed any examples of Irish Steiner groups discarding these racist notions. You continue not to do so. Your reasoning is flawed.

              Anthroposophists do not “exalt” Steiner. To say so demonstrates a vast misunderstanding of the whole subject.

              As for the website mentioning Anthroposophy, you’re right, thanks for the feedback. We’ll add something in. It was of lower priority, given that the children are not themselves taught any part of anthroposophy and it is most critical to talk about what the day to day teaching will be managed and how the school will match up to the DoES curriculum, etc.

              As for the study, here’s a summary:

              Not, I notice, independent, however the findings were reviewed by Wolfgang Ullmann and Jörn Rüsen, who are not affiliated in any way with Steiner or Anthroposophy and found that the reasoning was sound.

            • Geoff Lillis

              “The leanings towards internationalism in our time are due to the fact that souls no longer concern themselves with the element of race.”

              From the same speech: “I told you that Europeans who settle in America develop hands resembling those of the Red Indians; they begin to resemble the Indian type. This is because the souls coming down into human bodies to-day are directed more by geographical conditions, as they were in the olden days.”

              “For a period of time a certain sympathy existed between the souls descending from the spiritual world and the bodies on the earth below. Speaking concretely: souls who were sympathetically attracted by the bodily form and constitution of the descendants of the Angles and Saxons, now living in the British Isles, incarnated in those regions. In the 15th century this sympathy began to wane, and since then the souls have no longer been guided by racial characteristics, but once again by geographical conditions, the kind of climate, and so forth, on the earth below, and also by whether a certain region of the earth is flat or mountainous”

              This strikes me as moving from a belief that people of colour are inferior to a belief that people born in countries primarily populated by people of colour are inferior.

              I do not see this as a resounding improvement.
              – See more at: http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/19190413p01.html#sthash.OfpVKSsv.dpuf

      • John Kavanagh

        Nice to read that the article seems to be mostly scare mongering but could you please explain more what this means

        “will not dismiss Darwinian evolution for any reason but especially “as a product of Victorian ethics”

        I don’t understand this sentence?

        Thank you

        • It isn’t just scare mongering, everything I have said has been backed up.

          • Dermot Canniffe

            …but not for Irish Steiner Schools, and neither you, nor the BHA have proven a link between Rudolph Steiner’s racist epithets and modern practical Steiner education.

        • Dermot Canniffe

          Hello John, the sentence:
          “will not dismiss Darwinian evolution for any reason but especially “as a product of Victorian ethics”

          Refers to a point raised by the BHA about a problematic text book in use at one or more Steiner schools in the UK, which states that Darwinian evolution was a product of Victorian ethics and is therefore “of its time” and problematic..
          This is not a standpoint that we in the Knocknacarra school will endorse.