Talk:Waldorf education

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Request for comments: allegations of promotional tone[edit]

Consensus is that the article had a promotional tone at the time the RfC was posted.- MrX 18:10, 20 October 2015 (UTC)

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

There is a critique that this article has a promotional tone. I'm listing all the objections made above separately, so that each may be discussed.

Claim of Sources from within movement[edit]

The claim has been made that there are too many sources from within the Waldorf movement. A request for examples was ignored, so that the claim has not been supported by a single concrete instance.

As far as I can see, the citations in this article are all to WP:Reliable sources. The only times sources internal to the Waldorf movement are used is for matters of fact such as school counts, which are not under dispute here. HGilbert (talk) 02:30, 3 September 2015 (UTC)

Claim of Promotionalism[edit]

A number of specific passages have been critiqued as "promotional" in tone, as well as the article generally.

I believe it is important to differentiate between descriptions of an institution's intent or mission, and what it actually accomplishes. It should be possible to describe both, so long as it is clear which is being referred to. It seems to me the critique is confusing the two; it is not promotional to say that a school system has as one of its chief goals (fill in the blank), so long as it is clear that this does not constitute a claim that the system achieves this.

All the passages listed above as problematic are given here with the original citations (in one case no citation was originally given, but one is provided here). The latter seem to me to meet WP:RS in every case.

  1. "Steiner/Waldorf education is fundamentally about the development of free-thinking individuals" [1]
    This source was praised by the same editor criticizing this quote. If it is a good source, quotes from it should be acceptable in the article.
    Resolved by replacing quote with a clearer and more comprehensive one (by the same author). HGilbert (talk) 10:37, 5 September 2015 (UTC)
  2. " In order that students can connect more deeply with the subject matter, "[2][3][4]
    Excellent sources
  3. "Elementary school educators' stated task is to present a role model children will naturally want to follow,"
    Is there any doubt that this is what the "stated task" is? [5] But I have added two citations for this, and filled out the statement using one of the sources added. HGilbert (talk) 23:32, 4 September 2015 (UTC)
  4. The overarching goals are to provide young people the basis on which to develop into free, morally responsible[6][7] and integrated individuals,[2][8][9] with the aim of helping young people "go out into the world as free, independent and creative beings".[10]
    Excellent source
  5. " to cultivate a sense of the "meaningful wholeness of nature; a wholeness from which the human being is not separated or alienated"" [11]:111
    Excellent source
  6. "Waldorf education is infused with spirituality throughout the curriculum, "[12]
    Excellent sources
    Resolved by removing quote (the theme is already covered in better language elsewhere in article)
  7. " a high degree of creative autonomy" , ;exact quote is "One of Waldorf education's central premises is that all educational and cultural institutions should be self-governing and should grant teachers a high degree of creative autonomy within the school"[13] [4]
    Excellent sources
  8. "American state and private schools are drawing on Waldorf education ... in expanding numbers.". [14]
    Statement of fact supported by academic-published source HGilbert (talk) 02:30, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
RfC Comment: As a neutral editor, I see the problem here to be that the comment below ("Survey") needlessly mentions FCOI and arbcom, making that comment look more like pursuit of a vendetta than a dispassionate editorial evaluation on the merits. That is not to say that the article is in perfect shape: few are, but let improvements be made in npov manner. I see small reason for quibbling about the sources listed above numbered 1 to 8, but the use made of them in their contexts in the article may deserve some tweaking or trimming. Qexigator (talk) 18:34, 3 September 2015 (UTC)



  1. ^ Martin Ashley, "Education for Freedom: The goal of Steiner/Waldorf schools", in Alternative Education for the 21st Century: Philosophies, Approaches, Visions, Philip A. Woods & Glenys J. Woods (eds.), Palgrave (2009) ISBN 9780230602762, pp. 209-225
  2. ^ a b Thomas William Nielsen, "Rudolf Steiner's Pedagogy of Imagination: A Phenomenological Case Study", Peter Lang Publisher 2004
  3. ^ Carolyn P. Edwards, "Three Approaches from Europe: Waldorf, Montessori and Reggio Emilia", Early Childhood and Practice, Spring 2002, pp. 7–8
  4. ^ a b Easton, F. (1997). "Educating the whole child, "head, heart, and hands": Learning from the Waldorf experience". Theory into Practice 36 (2): 87–94. doi:10.1080/00405849709543751. 
  5. ^ Trevor Mepham, " The Riddle of Teacher Authority: Its Role and Significance in Waldorf Education"
  6. ^ Woods, Philip; Martin Ashley; Glenys Woods (2005). Steiner Schools in England (PDF). UK Department for Education and Skills. ISBN 1 84478 495 9. 
  7. ^ *"The overarching goal is to help children build a moral impulse within so they can choose in freedom what it means to live morally."—Armon, Joan, "The Waldorf Curriculum as a Framework for Moral Education: One Dimension of a Fourfold System.", (Abstract), Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Chicago, IL, 24–28 March 1997), p. 1
  8. ^ Peter Schneider, Einführung in die Waldorfpädogogik, Klett-Cotta 1987, ISBN 3-608-93006-X
  9. ^ Ronald V. Iannone, Patricia A. Obenauf, "Toward Spirituality in Curriculum and Teaching", page 737, Education, Vol 119 Issue 4, 1999
  10. ^ Carnie, Fiona (2003). Alternative approaches to education : a guide for parents and teachers. London: RoutledgeFalmer. p. 47. ISBN 0-415-24817-5. 
  11. ^ Østergaard, Edvin; Dahlin, Bo; Hugo, Aksel (1 September 2008). "Doing phenomenology in science education: a research review" (PDF). Studies in Science Education 44 (2): 93–121. doi:10.1080/03057260802264081. 
  12. ^ McDermott, R.; Henry, M. E.; Dillard, C.; Byers, P.; Easton, F.; Oberman, I.; Uhrmacher, B. (1996). "Waldorf education in an inner-city public school". The Urban Review 28 (2): 119. doi:10.1007/BF02354381. 
  13. ^ Ullrich, Heiner (2008). Rudolf Steiner. London: Continuum International Pub. Group. pp. 152–154. ISBN 9780826484192. 
  14. ^ Pamela Bolotin Joseph; et al. (6 December 2012). Cultures of Curriculum. Routledge. pp. 118–. ISBN 978-1-136-79219-9. Retrieved 1 February 2013. 


  • Yes, we have a problem. This is not a very helpfully framed RfC, since it omits mention of the objections to the current article because of it's cherry-picked sourcing and omissions of critical material. However, even within the examples shown the article's problem's are apparent. It is not enough that text in our articles can be defended as somehow mirroring some text in a source. Sources must be reliable, must be used fairly and with due weight. This is not was has been happening in this article. To take just the first example, our article has, as a brochure-like "pull quote":Steiner/Waldorf education is fundamentally about the development of free-thinking individuals
Yet the source has much more pertinent to say, since this statement devolves around what people in the Steiner movement believe, having as context, e.g.: :Ogeltree (1998) in a large international study of 234 Waldorf/Steiner schools found that over 90 percent of the teachers believed that Steiner/Waldorf education develops free-thinking individuals. [my bold]
The full sentence in the source is thus treating this as a proposition to be considered, not an absolute statement of fact. The full sentence (we give no indication, BTW, that we have elided text) is:Given that Steiner/Waldorf education is fundamentally about the development of free-thinking individuals, it is reasonable to ask if this is achieved. [my bold]
And so, crucially, the source then goes on to qualify the text Wikipedia uses with this omitted material:It is difficult to assess however, whether Steiner/Waldorf schools really do achieve this aim. We were presented with much anecdotal evidence during our own study, but as with the two studies above, it was compromised through originating from within the Steiner/Waldorf movement itself.
Later in the source there is a related discussion of how Steiner alumni's "surfeit of individuality" may sit uneasily with democratic societies. But we do not mention this either, thus being partial in our approach to the source. So, overall this is a rather partial use of the source which results in Wikipedia being used for promotionalism. It should also be noted that the instigator of the RfC, who has a FCOI, has been censured by arbcom before for promotional editing and incautious use of sources. So the problem we have in this article is a chronic one. Unfortunately, it is going to be necessary for neutral editors to go through the text and sourcing in detail to try and undo all the damage that has been done. Alexbrn (talk) 06:15, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
The source treats the intention and the achievement quite properly as two independent questions. It is very clear about the intention, and this can properly be quoted. It concludes that there is insufficient data to determine the actual achievement in this regard. This could also be mentioned in a neutral way. HGilbert (talk) 20:40, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
Yes, we have a problem with cherry-picking and accuracy;
  1. Ashley's statement that many state teachers and parents "would" find the role of spiritual guidance problematic was changed to "have proved problematic," a completely different claim.
  2. Ashley's statement "Anthroposophy underpins a pedagogy of education toward freedom that sees schools and teachers charged with the sacred task of helping the child’s threefold being (body, soul, and spirit) to incarnate" was changed to read "Anthroposophy forms the basis of Waldorf education, which is seen as a sacred task in which a child's threefold being is helped, with the aid of schoolteachers, to move from a prior spiritual state and become flesh in the real world of the present." The emphasis on freedom, which is consistent throughout Ashley's text, was dropped completely. I have placed Ashley's exact wording in the article now to avoid any danger of cherry-picking on either side. HGilbert (talk) 20:59, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
  • Yes, poorly formed RfC. First, I agree that the RfC is poorly formed. The POV of the OP very evident; if an OP cannot understand both sides of an issue, the OP should ask others to state the opposing side, not dismiss it as part of the RfC intro. Perhaps as a result of this, the RfC has quickly dispersed to several smaller issues, so it's hard to know where I should respond to the RfC. Okay, now for my attempt to respond to the RfC...
  • Yes, promotional. Sources that may not be neutral are used to support statements in the article that are in WP's voice. Also several peacock and weasel words have gotten in; even if a source uses such words, WP shouldn't. Some critique of the system is present, but enfeebled and dis-proportionally under-developed, such as California court challenges are mentioned, but in a single sentence, and doesn't even say why it was challenged. Whatever arguing individual issues may do, the article as a whole ends up unbalanced. For the record, I like what I've heard about these schools, but not what I read here. In total, it comes off as a hard sell; readers will be put off by this. --A D Monroe III (talk) 15:51, 8 September 2015 (UTC)
  • Comment: That seems more or less fair comment, and I feel some tweaking would improve the article here and there, but overall it looks like a reasonable description of the topic, and as I look at the archives, it seems it has not been easy to save the article from going the other way and becoming unduly hostile. Qexigator (talk) 16:30, 8 September 2015 (UTC)
Actually, it does say exactly why they were challenged. Are we looking at the same section? And what sources are you talking about? HGilbert (talk) 04:22, 13 September 2015 (UTC)
  • very poorly formed RFC, but yes, the content is overly promotional and relies too much on non-independent sources. Gaijin42 (talk) 14:12, 8 September 2015 (UTC)
Thanks, but the above request to name any non-independent sources (used for something other than undisputed facts such as counts of schools or history, as in footnotes 20-27 and 115-120) has received not a single response. Can you give examples, please? HGilbert (talk) 14:54, 8 September 2015 (UTC)
  • I'm here via the RFC but I can't make heads/tails of it. Is the issue promotional tone and proper sourcing? Most of the example footnotes above are not "excellent sources" (well, perhaps they are for other things, but...)—extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Statements on the nature of Waldorf education, especially overview parts, should not be sourced to individual studies in journals but to tertiary source works that provide an overview of the topic. (E.g., lit reviews of Waldorf education, definitive histories, feature articles in magazines). This is to say that the sources in this article should be mostly from the overview level and not from studies of individual schools, which would be better served for smaller claims (and even then would be best when vetted by another source). This article needs a lot of work, which is surprising for something so heavily edited. The numerous low-level headings should be obliterated and the prose restructured for a better overview of the topic. The two-sentence paragraphs and frequent bullet lists should be restructured as prose. Apply liberal amounts of TNT. I am no longer watching this page—ping if you'd like a response – czar 04:49, 25 September 2015 (UTC)
@czar: I very much appreciate your suggestions, and we can work on the structure.
RE the citation problems you mention: as far as I can tell, only example 6 above is sourced to an individual study, and (as noted above, directly below the example itself) the text was long ago removed because the same content appears elsewhere, but better sourced. All the other examples have citations to tertiary sources as per your description (research reviews, book-length analyses, chapter-length treatments in books devoted to a range of alternative pedagogies, in-depth magazine articles). Can you point to one which does not (other than the removed #6)? HGilbert (talk) 08:48, 25 September 2015 (UTC)

Going forward[edit]

Right now we have a series of well-sourced statements that are being critiqued. It's hard to see how to go forward with these.HGilbert (talk) 19:31, 4 September 2015 (UTC)
  • Comment: Let us go forward. Of 1 to 8 above, 1. has been done, while, given that the sources are acceptable, the text of the others is acceptably descriptive of the article topic, with the possible exception of 6."Waldorf education is infused with spirituality throughout the curriculum", which may be seen as voice of WP unless tweaked, and may be better left out: infused with spirituality is not too helpful without some fuller explanation, which, if sufficient in another sort of context, would probably be excessive ("undue") here. Qexigator (talk) 22:02, 4 September 2015 (UTC)
+ Item 6: Is there not some (unhelpfully confusing) duplication in this passage and section with what is written under 'Anthroposophical basis'? I feel the 'Spirituality' section would be improved by tweaking the lead sentence to read more simply:
Waldorf education is infused with spirituality throughout the curriculum, educating children aims to educate children about a wide range of religious traditions without favoring any one of these.< ref name="McDermott _etal"/ >
As it stands, that passage of the article appears to reduce the "spirituality" "infusing" the curriculum to "a wide range of religious traditions without favoring any one of these", which is too commonplace to be worth special mention, and (in my view) is no better than verbiage. If, instead of any particular explanation in this article, a link is made to "Spirituality", the reader would find this: Spirituality may refer to almost any kind of meaningful activity, personal growth, or blissful experience. It is often separated from organized religious institutions, as in the phrase "spiritual but not religious". Traditionally, spirituality refers to a process of re-formation of the personality to live a life according to divine will, but there is no single, agreed-upon definition of spirituality.... Surveys of the definition of the term, as used in scholarly research, show a broad range of definitions, with very limited similitude. etc. Would that be good enough? In fact, Steiner proposed a definite philosophical foundation for linking spiritual activity with what in his native German language is named "freiheit". The title of Rita Stebbing's 1992 translation was " The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity: A Philosophy of Freedom" (my italics): that looks as well said as could be in English for an encapsulation in less than a dozen words of Steiner's intentions here.[1], and Metaxa's translation of 1923 has the title "The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity". [[2]]
Qexigator (talk) 09:20, 5 September 2015 (UTC)

You are correct; historically the passage in item 6 stems from a time before the separate section on the 'Anthroposophical basis' even existed. Nice catch. HGilbert (talk) 10:34, 5 September 2015 (UTC)

At least way back to June 2007, I see: Throughout the curriculum, Waldorf education is implicitly infused with spirituality; one school review committee described this as "an appreciation of the complexity and mystery of both nature and human experience."[3] Qexigator (talk) 16:26, 5 September 2015 (UTC)

...' free-thinking individuals'...[edit]

This passage: Most Waldorf teachers believe that the Waldorf system produces free-thinking individuals, but it is difficult to know whether this is really so because the evidence for it comes from within the Waldorf system, and so is considered unreliable does not make much sense from any point of view, regardless of source, but it seems to imply a pov opposed to letting education have the production of free-thinking individuals as a principle or a principal objective. Is the article on Waldorf education the place to make a politically or philosophically biased point of that kind? All in all, it is better to let the article be trimmed and leave out this tendentious passage, which anyway lacks informative value. Is the passage based on the supposition that other teachers, and other thinking people generally, hold that the education offered, for example in public schools of USA, does not have the production of free-thinking individuals as a professed aim or purpose? Is there evidence for that, and where is it discussed? Or is there a view that the Waldorf system has that aim and purpose no less than others? What criteria apply for evaluating any of the systems in this respect? The Education article includes A right to education has been recognized... Right to education (my quoting selectively) includes "passing on the social, cultural, spiritual and philosophical values of the particular community": what does that mean in relation to English speaking countries of north America and western Europe or in the south eastern part of the globe (Australia, NZ)? Do not the sort of democratic institutions and professed values which have evolved there have the production of free-thinking individuals as an aim or purpose for modern education? See also Liberal education. How does it compare with education offered or prescribed in other countries? We may suppose that Waldorf teachers are not alone in seeing education, especially of children, as a sacred task, free from scare quotes. Qexigator (talk) 15:13, 3 September 2015 (UTC)

It's how a high-quality secondary source comments on the system. We reflect such sources here to build an encyclopedia. It's one of the least problematic pieces of text in the entire article in that respect! Alexbrn (talk) 15:43, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
No, you are mistaken in your evaluation, for the reasons I have stated above, whether or not it suits your pov, which appears not to be entirely without some bias. You should reconsider your position on this, but I am happy to agf. Qexigator (talk) 16:17, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
In what way am I mistaken? This is what this very good source says on this topic; we relay it fairly and plainly (not like it was before). This is the essence of building an encyclopedia. What we don't want to do is to remove any content that fails to hit the promotional note this article otherwise so consistently sounds - that would be to perpetuate the whitewashing problem. The key to a neutral article is to make a fair summary of accepted knowledge in WP:RS. Alexbrn (talk) 16:27, 3 September 2015 (UTC)

edit conflict...

Actually Qexigator, Alexbrn is not mistaken. We cannot and must not analyze our sources for their so called truth. An encyclopedia is a sum of all published human knowledge but does not include an analysis of that knowledge as might be the case in an academic or research paper. We are in effect gathering the information that has been published on the topic rather than commenting in any way in our articles on those topics.(Littleolive oil (talk) 16:33, 3 September 2015 (UTC))
Please read my comment at the top of this section, which is not about the source but about the use made of it in the article: its quality was manifestly below par. Qexigator (talk) 17:55, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
What is the point of using space to say that nothing is known about something? HGilbert (talk) 20:09, 3 September 2015 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Settled issue HGilbert (talk)

Yes, we follow fundamental policy and properly reflect what the best sources say. No amount of argument not based in policy will overturn that. You do not have to "see the point" for the views in strong RS to become eligible for inclusion. Alexbrn (talk) 16:24, 8 September 2015 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

"brand and messaging"[edit]

As a guide for what could be unacceptably promotional, the article can be compared with AWSNA's 'brand essence map' (p.17).[4] I see nothing in the article that should be purged by reason of resemblance to anything in the 'map', but the map may be seen by editors as a useful checklist of points for inclusion in the article in npov, non-promotional style. Qexigator (talk) 06:07, 17 September 2015 (UTC)

Useful comparison, perhaps. But that probably shouldn't be an external link for the article. I'm removing it, but would not battle over the issue if you really feel it needs be here. HGilbert (talk) 11:07, 17 September 2015 (UTC)

What category?[edit]

Can anyone explain the anomaly of including 'Alternative education' in the Category box ? As a result of discussion on this page, I have been looking for a rationale for it, but there seems to be none. It first appeared there in January 2006[5]. It may have been one of those mistakes made in good faith, and, after a break from July 2012, the contributor was editing other articles in January 2015. To take two examples of distinctive types of school in UK, where one name self-identifies 20-30 schools:

Both of those groups are alternative to the public system of education, and have a distinct ethos of their own. The other Categories in the box are: Anthroposophy, Philosophy of education, Pedagogy, School types, Waldorf education, 1919 introductions, Progressive education: none of those are anomalous. In the USA, if Waldorf schools are private schools, why is that not also a Category? Qexigator (talk) 09:57, 17 September 2015 (UTC)

Category structure: it might conform more to WP category structure were Category:Waldorf education to be created as a subcategory of Alternative Education, and this article associated with that subcategory. This is what has been done for Category:Montessori education and Category:Democratic education, for example.
Regarding the other point: there are both private and public Waldorf schools. I'm not sure what that means for categorization! HGilbert (talk) 11:05, 17 September 2015 (UTC)
But, as mentioned above, here are three examples which show conclusively that 'alternative education' has no place in the article, and equally is not properly in that Category, nor, so far as I can see, is Montessori education, which has the categories Educational psychology, Pedagogy, Montessori education (q.v.)
  • A Publication of the National Dropout Prevention Center, South Carolina,[6]
  • 'The Real Meaning of Alternative Education' Focal Point A National Bulletin on Family Support and Children's Mental Health (2001),[7] and
  • Definition: Alternative schools are designed to educate students who have not been successful in regular schools, often because of behavior, disciplinary, and safety concerns. An alternative school may involve a range of different educational settings other than the typical school. Many alternative schools have regular and special education programs and use building-wide behavior intervention programs.[8]
Qexigator (talk) 12:23, 17 September 2015 (UTC)