To Diana

Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

 

From: winters_diana
Date: Mon Apr 12, 2004 5:13 am
Subject: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

I'll break this in half, as it got long. The more important part (to me) is the second part – where I address what I believe is a fallacy that "early readers burn out after fifth grade."

Patrick asked:

What is your reference for Rudolf Steiner's supposed statement that children should not write before 14? Did you mean read before 14?

(Steiner is explaining his basic method, where children see the letter evolve from a picture, i.e., the letter "K" from a picture of a king, or the vowels from eurythmy-related gestures: perhaps this is what you mean, Patrick, by Steiner's phonics method? He explains first that letters "mean nothing" to children and "the child feels something demonic in the letters, and rightly so" . . . "You must begin with the picture" . . .)

"People will object that the children then learn to read and write too late. This is said only because it is not known today how harmful it is when the children learn to read and write too soon. It is a very bad thing to be able to write early. Reading and writing as we have them today are really not suited to the human being till a later age – the eleventh or twelfth year – and the more a child is blessed with not being able to read and write well before this age, the better it is for the later years of life. A child who cannot write properly at thirteen or fourteen (I can speak out of my own experience because I could not do it at that age) is not so hindered for later spiritual development as one who early, at seven or eight years, can already read and write perfectly." (RS, Kingdom of Childhood, Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, revised translation 1995, pp. 26-27).

In my opinion this is likely the basis of the Waldorf approach to reading. Parents are repeatedly told children should not read and write "early" and Waldorf parents are almost always on board with this; yet rarely is it explained that "early" as defined by Steiner is seven or eight!

My reference for Steiner's comment that children should be able to write simple sentences in the first grade will be found in the volumes, Meetings with Rudolf Steiner.

I don't have that one. I'd love the complete quotation and citation.

I did not say that "Waldorf first graders spend most of the year copying the alphabet."

I know you didn't say that – you said the opposite, and I was refuting what you had said. Sorry that wasn't clear. You said they don't, I replied that everyone knows that they do. Of course they do other things besides copying the alphabet and saying that they also do "auditory discrimination," would seem to me to go without saying, so as a refutation of the statement that Waldorf children spend most of first grade copying the alphabet, it seems disingenuous to me. Copying the alphabet is the focus of first grade, it is the basis of many main lessons, and I am not in the dark about what is the "norm" in Waldorf schools, Patrick. That is the norm. It doesn't mean they don't also whistle Dixie, but if we're actually trying to discuss the focus of the curriculum (and how it contrasts with a typical first grade curriculum elsewhere), to say that they spend first grade copying the alphabet is a fair, descriptive and informative statement.

It's what parents need to know. Parents will certainly realize that in most first grades, much more is done towards learning to read than laboriously copying each letter of the alphabet for weeks at a time – whether this goes till January or June. It should really go no later than, say, the end of September, since most first graders already know the alphabet, even in a Waldorf school. (Whether you think they should or not, fact is, many if not most do.) This is a deliberate delay and it's not done because anyone thinks it helps children learn to read – it's done because Steiner said it was good to delay reading as long as possible. That is what parents need to be told – not that Steiner had a phonics method!

during the introduction an equal amount of time is spent in recognition and auditory discrimination.

Well Good Lord I would hope so. Otherwise you might as well be trying to train monkeys. Of course, most of them recognize the letters and probably know most of the sounds, before first grade. I don't think we actually disagree that Waldorf teaches the alphabet in first grade, Patrick. No one is likely to take that to mean without learning the letter sounds.

The rest of the year is spent writing sentences and words that have meaning and practicing and learning digraphs and blends.

I'm glad this is what you do in your class, and I have had other Waldorf teachers tell me this is their approach. I do not doubt there are Waldorf schools moving in the direction of encouraging literacy, and there have certainly always been individual Waldorf teachers doing so. I applaud this. However, it is far from accepted in the Waldorf world. I've also had Waldorf teachers tell me they were fired for doing this. In no other school system can you be fired for trying to teach kids to read. Countless Waldorf parents report that their children did nothing but copy, without having a clue what the words might say, all year long, in not only first but also second grade and later. A third grade Waldorf teacher bragged on the SJU list once that she had her third graders go around reading aloud – one word at a time – one word per student. (Of no use to third graders having trouble reading, and a torture session for those who already read.)

Yes, part of what we do could be compared to the "look say" method.

It's very difficult for me not to guffaw at look-say and talk of the "gestalt" of a word, as in your earlier post. Words don't have a "gestalt," Patrick. This is a good way to foster illiteracy. A child who tries to memorize every word by its "gestalt," or its appearance as in look-say – and many children do try to do this, as they think that this is what reading is, if no one's taught them otherwise – will run out of steam by about third or fourth grade (well, later in Waldorf, I guess), as their memory overloads. If they don't know how to sound out unfamiliar words phonetically, or, for instance, recognize related word forms, like figure out what "nationality" might mean because they already know the word "nation" (and many children do need word-building principles like this explained to them), then "look-say" will only serve them so long, for as long as they need to know only perhaps a few hundred, short, one- or two-syllable words.

The other parts of what we do are included in two other common methods known colloquially as "phonics" and "the spelling method". Steiner outlines these methods in two books entitled, "A Child's Changing Consciousness" and "Soul Economy and Waldorf Education."

I'll look at those, I have both of those (though complete citations with page numbers would be helpful), and will see what you are referring to as "Steiner outlining these methods." I can't say that I recall reading anywhere where Steiner outlines a phonics method. I wonder if you have ever studied phonics outside of reading Rudolf Steiner? It would be hard to confuse what Steiner advocates with "phonics" as understood by other educators. Do you actually tell parents Steiner had a phonics method? The only Waldorf teachers I've known yet who knew about reading instruction learned it in non-Waldorf teacher colleges or education programs, or sought outside help. In the world of reading instruction, Rudolf Steiner is not cited. Many methods are debated, and fads come and go of course, but Steiner isn't one of them. He had no expertise in teaching children to read. (Perhaps we could poll listmates again. Anyone know of any evidence Steiner ever taught a child to read?)

Do you mind if I ask what your own training consists of? Do you have teacher training outside of Steiner or anthroposophical institutions?

at the Sacramento Waldorf school at least, reading comprehension scores on standardized tests showed that on average, our classes rank in the 80th percentile or above.

I am very glad to hear it; however, there remains no documentation of the effectiveness of Waldorf methods, and much reason to doubt their effectiveness. The appropriate comparison, to determine how good this rank of your school really is, would be with comparable private schools in the area with comparable demographics. If you know of such data, please let me know. I would need to know a lot more about these statistics to comment on them. For instance, what grade or grades are you talking about? What percentage of these children actually learned to read at the Sacramento Waldorf school, versus another school which they attended before they came to the Waldorf school? Or knew how to read before they entered first grade? Etc. (If many children join the school after the early grades, most of them will probably already know how to read.)

That is, by the way, not the highest scores in the class but the class average! It is simply not true that our methods do not work.

Which is it? Your classes rank in the 80th percentile or above – or this is the class average? Do you know what year these data came from?

It may well be true that your methods don't work. I'd need to see some convincing evidence you actually taught these kids to read. A lot of times, the parents have taught the kids to read, or tutors have taught the kids to read, or the kids have taught themselves. Sometimes Sesame Street or Sponge Bob has taught the kids to read. With virtually any method, or non-method, some kids will learn seemingly effortlessly with little adult involvement, and no matter how good the method, it appears some kids will struggle. (The truer test of the method is of the middle ground.)

Of course, all that is true in any non-Waldorf school as well, so the test would need to compare Waldorf with non-Waldorf schools, controlling for many variables such as socioeconomic. (And please don't take personally my statement that I'm not convinced you taught your students to read. I tutor kids in reading and I don't know whether I could fairly claim to have taught anyone to read or not – I often wonder. I'd like to think so, but there's lots of other input that could also explain kids' progress. I often have no idea what kind of help they're getting at home, for instance.)

Diana

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From: dottie zold
Date: Mon Apr 12, 2004 7:09 am
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

Diana:

Words don't have a "gestalt," Patrick. This is a good way to foster illiteracy.

And you know this how Diana? Are you aware that also in the Hebrew schools they teach in a very similar manner if not the same manner as Waldorf regarding this point. Each letter has its own gestalt and we learn it as we write. I am now studying this alphabet and I sense into the letters as I write them. It becomes very beatiful in this manner as well as a happy experience. I can imagine if I had been taught this in school I could imagine my happy go lucky self over joyed to learn such a thing. It truly brings a smile to my face, the sense of wonder that I had innately within me would have indeed been prolonged before it was taken away by the world. That's actually how I feel about it. I feel as if I am now getting back to the childhood of my self these last ten years.

It's funny reading alot of what you are saying and how it seems to me you assume most of the schools are as you and the critics say. Your group is a very small group compared to all the Waldorf schools in America not to mention the world. Not to say there are not valid points, there are I am sure, and have heard, but to act as if what you are saying regarding the negative aspects of the school apply to most, apart from the spiritual aspect, I would say is an exageration from what I have seen on your list and the other parents that give you positive stories. I think it is important to keep it in right juxtoposition with the whole.

Keep the wonder in childhood is what I say, we grow up very fast and without a sense of wonder we will be longing for something that we may not find ever or possibly when we pass our thirties and recognize something missing. And usually, from what I have seen, it is the wonder and joy of self that has been taken. How very very sad to push a child to the extent the schools do today. I wish a child would just find art and love and song and dance for the first few years if school. I think it is great a child, from a loving home and attentive parents, is not taught all this stuff to early. There is plenty of time and lots of great ways to bring a child to learning versus the same old same old we have been taught. Why push the child to read before seven or eight. Let it come naturally. And yes, the parents should definetly be made aware.

Happy Monday,

Dottie

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From: Patrick
Date: Mon Apr 12, 2004 1:51 pm
Subject: RE: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

Dear Diana,

You speak with the high tone of an expert on Waldorf education. I don't know why you think you are more qualified to speak on this matter that I am. From what I gather from my limited knowledge of you, you have not attended a Waldorf teacher training course nor have you taught in a Waldorf classroom. It seems that most of your knowledge has come from your participation on various lists, conversations, and through reading. From what you say you have gained as a knowledge of Waldorf education, I can only reasonably assume that either you have chosen to ignore some and have given weight to others because it fits your preconception or your population is skewed. What you say is not the norm. I believe I have a right to say this given my twenty years in Waldorf education both as a class teacher who taught three classes, one six through eight, one first through eighth, and one first through sixth. I have taught summer continuing education courses as a Waldorf educator for nine years and trained teachers full-time for three years. I have observed in the classrooms of dozens of teachers, mentored many of them, and acted as a consultant for boards and schools. What I have said in my posts is the norm. You have likely run across a few uninformed and unmentored teachers some of whom perhaps have a fanatical streak. It also appears that you have run across other, more reasonable ones, but have chosen to think that they are in the minority. The passage you quote from Kingdom of Childhood is generally interpreted to mean that a child is better off not learning to read and write early than to receive early instruction in these skills. The annals of history are full of individuals who were great contributors to humanity who did not learn these skills early including Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, and Rudolf Steiner. You may disagree that such early instruction can be harmful or at least counterproductive, but there are many, including many non-Waldorf educators and thinkers who agree with that statement. In that passage he is also making a personal statement about himself. The point of the passage is not that you withhold all instruction in reading or writing until 11, 12, or 14, but that you should put the abilities and achievements of your students in perspective. In other words, be patient with them; there are benefits to late blooming. You will note the phrase, "reading and writing as we have them today." He advocates the teaching of reading and writing using different methods. These methods do not force the child, but allow each to go at his or her own pace. The Waldorf methods allow for a child to read and write each according to his or her interest. It is true that we do not foster early intellectual development. It is true that we encourage play, art, and "will activities" as superior to intellectual activity in the early years. It is also true that competence in thinking can be taught using non-intellectual means. It is important of course that the intellect be developed -- but at the right time. In our training courses, teachers are taught to differentiate between those children "who choose to wait" and those who have true learning disabilities. There were not as many children with learning disabilities in Steiner's day as there are now. Modern life has brought it about that children are not well integrated in their muscular and nerve-sense systems. This must of course be recognized and remediated. The teachers are now taught and given assessment tools whereby they can help in these children. Not all children have these difficulties of course.

You asked for certain clarifications. Here they are:

1. When I said that the classes ranked in the 80th percentile in reading and reading comprehension and added the phrase, "the class average", I was trying to make clear that this was the ranking for the whole class not the top third or so. The top the third was well into the 90th percentile. This has been the case for the 17 years I worked there. We discuss these sorts of things in teachers meetings. I have never known a class to go below the 76th percentile in these categories in my twenty years of teaching.

2. No, I do not believe that a child who teaches himself to read, will later on not enjoy it. My youngest, who taught himself to read early on, enjoys reading and is quite a good writer. He is in a public high school now and doing well. My eldest recently won a scholar athlete award also at a local public high school.

3. You seem to have misunderstood me when I said that in my experience children with early instruction tend to burnout. I was not speaking about Waldorf students who have been there since kindergarten. I am speaking about children who come into the school from the public sector. This has also been borne out in conversations that I have had with public school teachers. This is a known phenomenon to them. Not all students, of course, but enough to be significant and worrisome. Our Waldorf students tend to go the other way. The trend is up with no dips. One of the parents of a student I taught in first grade recently told me that her daughter had made a perfect score on the English section of the S. A. T. Not that I rank this above other accomplishments. I am just as proud of those students of mine who became firemen, homemakers, and goldsmiths. My point is, our method works, each according to his own.

4. I don't know any teacher who thinks that he taught a child to read. Given the right tools and situations, it dawns on them. Decoding is only a step toward grasping the gestalt of a word. Gestalt is not a Steiner word by the way, it is my own terminology. A successful decoding process results in a sight word. Reading is a complex process and I don't know of any burden on the memory from knowing too many sight words! No, I have not been trained at any University on reading instruction. I have been trained in Waldorf education at a good institution. I have also taken seminars on the subject from mainstream educators and have done a fair bit of reading and private research.

As for the rest, I am running out of time and must answer you in another post when time is allowed me.

Patrick

P.S. I think that your concern for the middle ground as a proving ground for teaching effectiveness should be allayed by the fact that our classes in the seventh and eighth grade do well on standadized reading tests. Again I can only speak from my experience, as you say no data, to my knowledge has been compiled.

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From: winters_diana
Date: Mon Apr 12, 2004 7:20 pm
Subject: Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

I wrote:

Words don't have a "gestalt," Patrick. This is a good way to foster illiteracy.

Dottie:

And you know this how Diana?

Would you like references? (sigh) I think such a discussion is probably beyond the interest or patience of most here, and fairly off topic for this list. I shouldn't have said "words don't have a gestalt." Perhaps they do. It's a very interesting way to relate to words, artistically and spiritually. Perhaps it is helpful and inspiring, but I think probably more so for adults such as yourself learning a foreign language. Even then, I would question whether it will help you read text in this language better than another method might. I suspect (correct me if I am wrong) you are learning Hebrew more as a spiritual experience than for practical reasons, such as reading books in Hebrew. That would, in a roundabout way, actually be my point, regarding Waldorf. Experiencing the "gestalt" of a word is very nice if you want a spiritual experience out of it. I suspect the experiences you are having in your Hebrew class closely approximate what is supposed to be going on in a Waldorf main lesson.

But for teaching children to read, "look-say," which is what relating to a word to experience its "gestalt" boils down to, is long since discredited, and I could probably find you hundreds of references on this, if you were really interested. It encourages children to guess at unfamiliar words, or gives them the very misleading idea that if they stare at it long enough, summon enough human feeling, perhaps, or try to think of words that look kinda similar ("house" and "horse," for instance, commonly confused by beginning readers relying on "gestalt"), an unfamiliar word will eventually reveal its meaning (magically, I guess). It would be nice if it worked (I would agree that it would be very much more spiritual than "succumbing to dead conventions," as per Detlef) - but it does not work. Look-say teaches a child that reading is memorizing as many words as you can and guessing at new ones, based on their looking kinda like some other word you think you remember once seeing. This is a recipe for frustration and failure – both of which go a long way toward destroying a child's "wonder," not to mention his/her confidence. I'm all in favor of keeping wonder in childhood, and think teaching a kid to read is a great way to do this.

Diana

P.S. I'll get back to Patrick and others tomorrow.

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From: Patrick
Date: Tue Apr 13, 2004 12:43 pm
Subject: RE: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

Part II

Dear Diana,

It looks to me as if you are trying to turn our conversation into a debate of styles of teaching reading. You seem to think that the Waldorf methodology is identical to the "look-say" method of reading. You, therefore, are taking the opposite stance in support of phonics instruction. As you know, this debate has long been waged in reading education from about 1810 onwards. It was in 1810 that the "look-say" approach was introduced as a way to teach deaf mutes to read. It was in contrast to what was called the alphabetic method derived from Greek education which can be compared to a phonetic approach: in other words, training the student with regard to the sounds and shapes of the letters and moving from that to reading whole words, sentences, etc. Phonics as it is now understood is a more complete and detailed approach than the one used at that time. Horace Mann picked up the idea, the "look-say" method, and brought it into public education. From that time the pendulum has swung widely in support of one method or the other and took up political overtones in the 1950s. The "look-say" method has since been modified somewhat and given different names, most notably "language experience" and the "the whole language approach." Educators have waged what has been called "the reading wars" for decades. A third method has emerged called, "the writing road to reading" which is a method employing phonetic instruction and the act of writing and reading what has been written as the basis, simply put. Given this is a background, I wish to put our discussion in perspective. The Waldorf approach to teaching reading is not the same as the "look-say" method. You cannot categorize it in this way. If one wants to compare it to to any of these three modes of instruction one cannot because it is not one, or the other, or the other! One can rightfully say that it uses elements from all three although not in a derivative sense. The Waldorf method is its own method derived from an intuitive knowledge of the human being and its relationship to language. In one sense it acts as a redemption of purely mechanical phonics. For example, we are not merely teaching of the alphabet in the beginning -- of course we know that the children mostly know the alphabet when they arrive -- we are helping the children form an artistic relationship to the abstract forms. We are also paying attention to the different sounds evoked by these shapes. Through our methods the shapes "live and speak." We do not neglect the categories of digraphs and blends, etc. discovered in phonics texts. By writing meaningful sentences and paying attention to shape, sound, and meaning, we can also be compared to the approach known as "the writing road to reading." We also utilize the basic methods of the "look-say" approach, but only as an aspect of our teaching. We do this not because we're advocates of that approach, but because we believe that one must begin with wholeness, with an holistic approach. And do not label us with another method of the same name. I repeat, we have our own method arising out of the knowledge of the human being. What I'm trying to impart to you is that I believe that you are tilting at windmills. Each one of the aforementioned methods has an aspect of truth in it. But each is a fragment and not the whole. Of course one must learn the mechanics of language. One can do this, however, without using mechanical means and definitions. In other words, and in short, we use all three, none to the exclusion of the other. When Steiner spoke of these three -- in the books I mentioned -- he related each one to an aspect of the human being. He made no statement of preference for one or the other but gave it in such a way that teachers, in freedom, could draw their own conclusions. (I must apologize for not being able to give you the exact reference at this time but because of my health conditions I cannot get to my office where the books reside.) What he was very specific about was that education is fundamentally an artistic process and all instruction must be permeated with this. The main problem I have with your argument is that you seem to be limiting Waldorf education -- at least with regard to reading instruction -- to, as you call it, a discredited approach. The enemy you are fighting is, in this case, but a phantom.

Sincerely,
Patrick

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From: winters_diana
Date: Wed Apr 14, 2004 5:10 am
Subject: Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

Patrick,

Let's leave aside my "tone" and your concerns about whether I even have a right to speak on these topics, how about? (I worked as an assistant in 3 Waldorf kindergartens – and have sundry other related experiences as well, but it's irrelevant. If we were actually going to talk about who had more experience teaching reading, hate to break it to you, but I have more than Rudolf Steiner had!) Need a new guru? :)

What I'm really curious about is exactly what we are actually disputing here, in terms of what goes on in Waldorf first grades. You haven't really disputed my description factually, you are apparently just offended by hearing it described rather baldly as "copying the alphabet." You want to make sure people realize that when they copy the alphabet, they also learn the letter sounds.

This thread began awhile back with Daniel reporting that he had been to a Waldorf open house and saw first grade main lesson books, including sentences the children had written. He asked rhetorically, How can this be, since the critics claim reading is not taught in first grade. I replied that they do copy, though often without comprehension, and this is a large part of first grade.

I can't find anything you've written since to dispute this?

Of course, you claim "the method works," and I've heard lots of people claim that it did not work for their children. It is very unfortunate that there are no data.

We hear all the time that any problems are due to a few "fanatics." But the funny thing is, if you look at what Steiner said to do, they're really interpreting him reasonably, and not fanatically at all.

The passage you quote from Kingdom of Childhood is generally interpreted to mean that a child is better off not learning to read and write early than to receive early instruction in these skills.

Uh – yes. That's how I interpret it, and it seems to be how the world of Waldorf interprets it generally. What is our disagreement then?

You may disagree that such early instruction can be harmful or at least counterproductive, but there are many, including many non-Waldorf educators and thinkers who agree with that statement.

The problem is Waldorf needs to get its PR honest on this point. It is easy to get people to agree that "early" reading instruction is dubious (JoAnn cited the usual suspects), but usually these discussions are rather vague on the meaning of "early" (not to mention "reading" and "instruction," as I pointed out earlier). Of course there are people against "early reading instruction" now who aren't Waldorf teachers, and the two sides seem to get more polarized all the time; there are just as many arguing more vociferously than ever that the earlier the better (which I don't, personally, agree with totally either, but they do have good arguments, which are totally ignored in Waldorf). But most people probably think of "early" in the context of learning to read as meaning, say, before age 5 or 6. In Waldorf, even 7 or 8 is "early."

(None of the people JoAnn cited can be found agreeing that all children should wait until first grade even to learn the alphabet, or that a year should be spent on the alphabet, – and none of them, ever, mention "change of teeth" as a reading readiness criterion, by the way.)

In that passage he is also making a personal statement about himself.

Yes – he holds himself up as proof that late writing (he doesn't say reading here specifically) need not hinder spiritual development. The audience is assumed to share his understanding that spiritual development is the goal. (This is lecture 2 in the series; lecture 1 is devoted to an understanding of education as soul and spiritual development of the child. – You wouldn't think I'd have to explain such things to anthroposophists, but critics are always accused of taking things out of context . . . that's the context. The context is not Steiner's personal biography, he is not musing on which subjects he liked best in school. He was telling a group of teachers in England how to set up a school on solid spiritual principles.)

The point of the passage is not that you withhold all instruction in reading or writing until 11, 12, or 14, but that you should put the abilities and achievements of your students in perspective.

That's one interpretation, but it's certainly not the closest to his words. He said the child is "blessed" who reads and writes late. Now who doesn't want a child to be "blessed"? That's strong language. That's a strong incentive to delay instruction as long as possible. Any other interpretation would seem to quite water down his intent. He speaks of the importance or advantageousness of such a delay for spiritual purposes, and Waldorf is all about the optimum spiritual development of the child (as virtually every lecture in the volume repeats many times).

Obviously, you cannot literally withhold all reading and writing instruction until later than age 11 and expect to run schools. I personally think this is the appropriate lens for understanding the odd mix of attitudes and practices in Waldorf reading instruction: they are trying to make an uneasy compromise out of the inescapable need to at least try to teach children to read and write, which of course they recognize is necessary in society, and their spiritual goals, which are always more important, and which they know from Rudolf Steiner are better served by minimizing, delaying, and downplaying the acquisition of literacy (which is ahrimanic, dead, abstract, etc.; Steiner and many other anthroposophists are on record repeating this ad nauseum) till the latest age possible.

It's a difficult compromise with society, with many detractors. Isn't spirituality always so?

In other words, be patient with them; there are benefits to late blooming.

And those benefits are in fact the goal of a Waldorf education. The passage doesn't read as a prescription for "patience" with slow learners. It is not a passage or a lecture about how to handle reading difficulties, or handle the children who are slower learners. He was speaking in generalities of what is best for children, he was helping them set their program up at this new school. Context galore folks.

You will note the phrase, "reading and writing as we have them today." He advocates the teaching of reading and writing using different methods.

No, that's not the context of this passage. The discussion is preceded by talk of "how writing really originated," i.e., through pictures: "Today it is difficult to recognize from the words themselves that the letters were once pictures." (p. 24). That was thousands of years ago, of course. He is not contrasting his method with other pedagogical methods in other schools today (or circa 1924, date of lectures); he's contrasting alphabetic writing with pictographs.

These methods do not force the child, but allow each to go at his or her own pace. The Waldorf methods allow for a child to read and write each according to his or her interest.

Then why should children who are interested earlier be held back?

2. No, I do not believe that a child who teaches himself to read, will later on not enjoy it.

Ok – so you personally are opposed to "instruction" in some direct sense; not to early reading per se?

I like that interpretation, the far more liberal interpretation of Steiner. What we don't really know is how many people interpret it your way versus following Steiner more literally. We do know that the latter cause a lot of problems. And we know that he didn't actually say, Be patient with late bloomers; what he said is closer to, A delay is actually good for them spiritually.

3. You seem to have misunderstood me when I said that in my experience children with early instruction tend to burnout. I was not speaking about Waldorf students who have been there since kindergarten.

Neither was I. I was speaking in general terms of the child who everyone thought was reading well, and seeming to read with eagerness and enjoyment, who suddenly announces that "reading is boring and I don't wanna do it anymore." Whether the child learned in Waldorf or elsewhere, this should be taken as an indicator to find out where their knowledge gaps are or what strategies they are using that are inadequate. Those strategies may have been sufficient when the words were simple and the child recognized many words by sight. When the words and concepts or themes get harder, strategies that previously worked may stop working.

My point was that far from confirming the Waldorf teacher's bias (though yours seems quite confirmed) that this child shows "burnout" because they've already been reading too long, or the problem is specifically attributable to the age at which instruction began (conveniently, that's in the past and can't be changed) - this is probably a sign that the early instruction had serious gaps. That can be changed.

I am speaking about children who come into the school from the public sector. This has also been borne out in conversations that I have had with public school teachers. This is a known phenomenon to them. Not all students, of course, but enough to be significant and worrisome.

It may be a "known" phenomenon to them, but they have every bit as much reason to pass the blame to earlier teachers or parents as a Waldorf teacher does, rather than working with the kid, which is incredibly time-consuming. I'd love to think that no matter how much you disagree with me on everything else, you'd actually take it to heart that these children need evaluation and probably assistance – not to just be left alone or learn basket weaving because reading "isn't interesting" and not particularly good for them anyway. I'd just love to think that you'd really consider this. That is exactly the place many children fall through the cracks, and never become easy, fluent, expert, accomplished, fast readers who can use the written word for their own purposes. Many doors close at that point, intellectually, in terms of careers, etc., when the child is able sort of to muddle through, but avoids anything too challenging, and saddest of all a lifetime of pleasure from reading is probably not going to happen.

Just do me a favor and consider this next time a fifth or sixth grader is said to be "burned out" on reading supposedly because they had "early reading instruction." They may have had and may still be having poor reading instruction and it is not too late to get them better instruction, but it will soon be if no one bothers. I am not saying this is necessarily possible to do in the classroom with 25 or more kids, but there are other ways, such as tutoring. (Tutoring is not Ahrimanic.) :)

Our Waldorf students tend to go the other way. The trend is up with no dips.

Well, I'm glad to hear that, but as you yourself note, there are no data on this, and plenty of parental testimonies in both directions. I hear from the people whose kids dipped really badly.

4. I don't know any teacher who thinks that he taught a child to read. Given the right tools and situations, it dawns on them. Decoding is only a step toward grasping the gestalt of a word. Gestalt is not a Steiner word by the way, it is my own terminology.

Well, hardly. But let's not take the time on that. The "gestalt" of words was indeed invoked in reading instruction in decades past, you probably read it someplace.

A successful decoding process results in a sight word.

That's not the meaning of the term "sight word" in the reading literature. Obviously, after you have learned a word, it is in some sense a "sight word" in that you recognize it by sight after that. By that meaning, every word you know is a sight word, yet surely you didn't just memorize new ones as you went along for the past however many decades you've been reading!

I thought Waldorf teachers didn't believe children were vessels to be filled up with facts!! "This word says 'cow'."

In early reading instruction, "sight words" refers to asking kids to memorize a bunch of words "by sight," i.e., without reference to phonetic principles. Just learn `em `cus you gotta know `em. Weekly spelling lists are in some sense sight words. Whether this should be done at all is hotly debated in some circles, though it seems hard to get around asking kids to learn a few words by sight. As a primary strategy, however, it is generally a disaster, and there is agreement on that all along the phonics/whole language spectrum.

Reading is a complex process and I don't know of any burden on the memory from knowing too many sight words!

Well, you've misunderstood the definition, yes there is a burden on children's short-term memory learning sight words. There is research on this, someone has quantified the numbers, I forget what it is, perhaps a few hundred or thousand. (Obviously people have different memory capacities.) But more importantly it teaches them the wrong strategy, it encourages reliance on memory (and even Waldorf teachers don't want memory overtaxed!!) Some kids in the process of memorizing many words may figure out for themselves certain aspects of how the code actually works, even if they aren't being taught, and apply these principles as they go. The problem is that many kids don't, and they do indeed come to a dead standstill when they simply can't memorize any more words, and the words, at the same time, are getting longer and multisyllabic and there are additional burdens on memory and intellectual capacity in terms of vocabulary, concepts, etc., and school assignments are also getting longer, and the poor kid is suddenly way over his or her head.

Diana

...................................................................................................................................

From: winters_diana
Date: Wed Apr 14, 2004 5:13 am
Subject: Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

Patrick:

It looks to me as if you are trying to turn our conversation into a debate of styles of teaching reading.

Uh . . . what were we talking about then? Weren't we talking about how to teach reading? I'll continue this in a couple of hours.

Diana

...................................................................................................................................

From: Jo Ann Schwartz
Date: Wed Apr 14, 2004 10:42 am
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

--- Diana wrote:

The problem is Waldorf needs to get its PR honest on this point. It is easy to get people to agree that "early" reading instruction is dubious (JoAnn cited the usual suspects), but usually these discussions are rather vague on the meaning of "early" (not to mention "reading" and "instruction," as I pointed out earlier). Of course there are people against "early reading instruction" now who aren't Waldorf teachers, and the two sides seem to get more polarized all the time; there are just as many arguing more vociferously than ever that the earlier the better (which I don't, personally, agree with totally either, but they do have good arguments, which are totally ignored in Waldorf). But most people probably think of "early" in the context of learning to read as meaning, say, before age 5 or 6. In Waldorf, even 7 or 8 is "early."

Dear Diana,

Well, since we are not to talk about your tone, I tried to let your snide comment on "the usual suspects" pass. But really, what is the use of citing non-waldorf researchers who agree with some aspect of the waldorf approach if all you do is dismiss them with an airy "the usual suspects." Your mind is made up, heaven forbid we should try and confuse you with contrary opinions.

Waldorf students tend to enter first grade at the age of 6 or 7. And reading instruction begins in first grade, although it is true that children are not expected to be fluent readers by the end of first grade.

(None of the people JoAnn cited can be found agreeing that all children should wait until first grade even to learn the alphabet, or that a year should be spent on the alphabet, – and none of them, ever, mention "change of teeth" as a reading readiness criterion, by the way.)

As it happens, researchers at the Gessell Institute have noted a correlation between change of teeth and first grade readiness. Loss of baby teeth is mentioned by Ames and Ilg of the Gessell Institute (which conducts child development studies, and is not associated with Waldorf education) as one indicator of readiness for schooling. See Your Five-Year-Old, Your Six-Year-Old, etc., all by Ames and Ilg.

Obviously, you cannot literally withhold all reading and writing instruction until later than age 11 and expect to run schools. I personally think this is the appropriate lens for understanding the odd mix of attitudes and practices in Waldorf reading instruction: they are trying to make an uneasy compromise out of the inescapable need to at least try to teach children to read and write, which of course they recognize is necessary in society, and their spiritual goals, which are always more important, and which they know from Rudolf Steiner are better served by minimizing, delaying, and downplaying the acquisition of literacy (which is ahrimanic, dead, abstract, etc.; Steiner and many other anthroposophists are on record repeating this ad nauseum) till the latest age possible.

Er... or they may believe that children are not well served by instruction that sees the students as interchangeable parts on an educational assembly line -- insert reading instruction here -- and labels as "defective" children whose own developmental timetable differs from the norm. As I have noted, one of my children read quite early by waldorf standards (she was polishing off the Little House books in first grade) and she was in no way discouraged in her desire to read by either her kindergarten or her grades teachers. One read relatively late, not reaching fluency until near the end of third grade, and she was not discouraged from her task by being labeled 'slow' nor was she discouraged from undertaking her own artistic and literary projects. (I have a number of 'books' she wrote and illustrated during her early elementary school years. She enjoys writing a lot and filled up a number of notebooks with words and letters as early as kindergarten.)

[Patrick:]

These methods do not force the child, but allow each to go at his or her own pace. The Waldorf methods allow for a child to read and write each according to his or her interest.

[Diana:]

Then why should children who are interested earlier be held back?

Again, it is not my experience (or rather, my eldest child's experience) that they are. I understand that some of the waldorf critics and their children have had the opposite experience. However, my experience -- and Patrick's experience -- suggests that the notion of holding back children who are interested in reading is not universal within waldorf education, which is what this rhetorical question of yours seems to imply.

Again, YMMV.

Musing on what 'evidence' Diana would be willing to accept....

JoAnn

...................................................................................................................................

From: winters_diana
Date: Wed Apr 14, 2004 11:09 am
Subject: Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

JoAnn:

Well, since we are not to talk about your tone, I tried to let your snide comment on "the usual suspects" pass.

Oh, lighten up, JoAnn. "Usual suspects" was meant light-heartedly (and it didn't refer to you but to the authors you cited, sorry if you read it that way). I didn't mean to offend you.

Since when has my asking people to talk about something, or not talk about something, influenced anyone here? Talk about my tone if you find it really an interesting topic :) Geez, I'm jumping through hoops for you people. Deborah demands a list of what I like about Waldorf, I pop it off an hour later. Could we talk about Bradford's tone? It's just a tad out of control. I'm not sure, but he may have just called me a parasite. At any rate, he seems to suspect that my opinions on reading instruction link me, in some occult manner, to George Bush and the situation in Iraq. I could find that distressing if it weren't so funny. (Having a few mood swings myself today regarding George Bush and Iraq. Whew. Better laugh than cry. Log onto anthroposophy_tomorrow and find out people here think it's my fault, me and those Retarded Beings.) :)

Waldorf students tend to enter first grade at the age of 6 or 7. And reading instruction begins in first grade,

I find that this is stated differently depending on the audience. To an audience that agrees "early reading instruction is bad," it is a point of pride in Waldorf that they don't do reading in first grade. When the audience is skeptical, all of a sudden there's lots of reading instruction in first grade.

As it happens, researchers at the Gessell Institute have noted a correlation between change of teeth and first grade readiness.

JoAnn: "First grade readiness." What do you think they mean by this? Do you think they mean Waldorf first grade which doesn't teach reading . . . or other first grades? What do you think most people mean when they say "first grade readiness"? They mean reading readiness. But Waldorf doesn't teach reading in first grade!!

So we need the Gessell Institute to revise that to show change of teeth correlating to SECOND GRADE readiness if you want to cite this honestly in favor of Waldorf!

Another often overlooked point is that since so many children start first grade at SEVEN in Waldorf, that's not a one-year delay, but two, relative to children in other schools.

Er... or they may believe that children are not well served by instruction that sees the students as interchangeable parts on an educational assembly line --

Er. . . .yes, JoAnn, but who is advocating that?!

insert reading instruction here -- and labels as "defective" children whose own developmental timetable differs from the norm.

I do not support labeling any child "defective" who differs from the norm, and neither does any decent educator.

my experience -- and Patrick's experience -- suggests that the notion of holding back children who are interested in reading is not universal within waldorf education,

I agree. Even another staunch critic and I once had a little dispute over whether I should make a fuss out of Waldorf teachers advising parents not to get their children library cards. (This happened at our school.) This other critic said that was the craziest thing he ever heard of, since their teachers never did anything so bizarre, and I shouldn't mention it, 'cus it was obviously not representative, that teacher must have been a fanatic, and no one would believe it anyway. (You know we do try not to misrepresent Waldorf.)

Diana

...................................................................................................................................

From: Deborah
Date: Wed Apr 14, 2004 2:36 pm
Subject: Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

Dear JoAnn,

Well, you have probably figured out how Diana worked this, but in case you missed the trick, here it is.

First, she asks for some outside authority for a waldorf practice.

You come up with "the usual suspects."

Diana responds:

"First grade readiness." What do you think they mean by this? Do you think they mean Waldorf first grade which doesn't teach reading . . . or other first grades? What do you think most people mean when they say "first grade readiness"? They mean reading readiness. But Waldorf doesn't teach reading in first grade!!

So we need the Gessell Institute to revise that to show change of teeth correlating to SECOND GRADE readiness if you want to cite this honestly in favor of Waldorf!

Another often overlooked point is that since so many children start first grade at SEVEN in Waldorf, that's not a one-year delay, but two, relative to children in other schools.

Turning your outside authority against the waldorf case and against your argument. And of course, since you cited the outside authority, you are now vulnerable to the criticism that they don't "really" support what waldorf is actually doing.

However, if you just say, "waldorf does what waldorf does, and furthermore it works just fine" then you are hanging out in the wilderness and ignoring all that great research about education that supports what everybody else is doing.

You can't win.

Of course, the bright side is that so far, the WC ain't winning the argument, either. People keep putting their children into waldorf schools. New schools keep on opening. Students keep on graduating from 8th grade or 12th grade and go on into regular high schools or colleges where they do not seem to stand out as having terrible problems from their non-mainstream education.

Towards the end of my three years as business manager at the Chicago Waldorf School, the school decided to become accredited. The accreditation process involved being scrutinized by the midwest association of private schools (can't remember the exact name, so no caps) and simultaneously scrutinized by AWSNA. Everybody working at the school and many of the volunteers had to write up in detail what they did and how they did it. This included the entire curriculum from the youngest kindergarteners to the 12th grade. All of this material was reviewed by the accreditation team which was, if I remember correctly, four waldorf people and four non-waldorf people. At the end of the process the group came and spent a week at the school, observing in every class, talking to all of the teachers and staff and so on.

Now, this system is not designed to "critique" waldorf, but on the other hand inviting outside observers to scrutinize every aspect of your curriculum and teaching methods is not what you do if you are an evil cult with a hidden agenda. Not if you want to keep your agenda hidden, anyway.

Nor is Chicago the only school to go through this process. Toronto did it first and Austin, I believe, went second. A number of other schools are in process.

Deborah

Accreditation

...................................................................................................................................

From: dottie zold
Date: Wed Apr 14, 2004 4:55 pm
Subject: Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

JoAnn

Musing on what 'evidence' Diana would be willing to accept....

I think the only 'evidence' that Diana and most of the critics would accept is their own. Unfortunately for them they are not considered experts on Dr. Steiner no matter how many years they have been fighting his Waldorf schools.

I find it astounding that Diana would think she has more teaching experience than Dr. Steiner. Truly. I mean it is just a lack of common sense. I guess we would have to see where the WORD teacher sat before his name. It's really just ridiculous to me to see this kind of answer time and time again. If you are a critic and have read Dr. Steiners work and disagree with it you must know what you are talking about. If you are a student of his works you must have no idea what the man is saying. It's just so ass backwards and illogical.

Dottie

...................................................................................................................................

From: winters_diana
Date: Wed Apr 14, 2004 6:15 pm
Subject: Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

Deborah:

First, she asks for some outside authority for a waldorf practice.

Well, I didn't actually, so your cleverly catching me in the act is a little off-base. You guys are really, really paranoid. Everyone is out to get you. If you are reading Bradford and taking him seriously, it's no wonder. Bradford needs to calm down just a bit, he's now pasting in the same texts over and over again.

Yes, Deborah, if someone claims they're citing an authority that supports Waldorf, or anything else, they are "vulnerable" to someone examining it to see if it really does. I thought you liked "conventional historical writing." You were speaking admiringly of it earlier today. Aren't you one of the ones regularly up on your soapbox fretting that everyone else's claims must be examined, references checked, credentials inspected, etc.? So what is this whining about JoAnn's claim being inspected to see if it supported Waldorf practices?

A post or two later, you are bragging about how Waldorf submits itself to outside inspection of its claims and practices. It's a roller coaster ride here, isn't it?

However, what I said to JoAnn was wrong. She only claimed to have found someone else who used change of teeth as a criterion for school readiness. My reply really made no sense. Assuming she has her facts straight about Ilg and Ames, I stand corrected on that point.

Diana

...................................................................................................................................

From: winters_diana
Date: Wed Apr 14, 2004 6:17 pm
Subject: Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

Dottie:

I find it astounding that Diana would think she has more teaching experience than Dr. Steiner.

Not more "teaching" experience overall, if he really tutored so many people through high school and college etc. I haven't heard anyone claim he ever taught reading to young school-age children. Feel free to correct me if you know otherwise.

Diana

...................................................................................................................................

From: Deborah
Date: Thu Apr 15, 2004 10:16 am
Subject: Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

One way to look at the question of when to introduce reading and writing and how fast to go with the process is to see it as a continuum.

At one end is the people who believe that reading readiness begins in the womb and act on this belief.

At the other end: well, somewhere there is probably a sect that believes no one should read or write. They are probably, one hopes, not online.

Waldorf falls somewhere along this continuum. So do a variety of public and private school practices. Waldorf goes farther than most schools in delaying formal instruction.

The question can then be broken into various pieces:

1) is waldorf style delaying a bad idea for the majority of children?

2) do the specific waldorf methods of introducing the alphabet, etc. cause problems for the majority of children?

3) even if one and two can be answered with a no, you can still ask if children would be better off if they were taught in some other way. Number 3 is a very hard question to answer, partly because the studies haven't been done, and partly because it is hard to quantify better off.

To give a definite example.

My granddaughter is very bright. At four, she is interested in reading, loves books and with a bit of coaching and encouragement would probably start reading. Her parents have a strong attachment to waldorf and are withholding this coaching and encouragement. Are they harming her?

Well, since she isn't learning how to read, she has developed several interesting work arounds. First she just pretended she was reading, holding up the book and sort of muttering to herself. Then she started being able to tell parts of the story. After that she began to memorize entire books. At any given time there are at least seven or eight that she can recite all the way through and several more that she has partially memorized. Recently she was amusing herself by reciting one book while looking through another.

So, if her parents had jumped on the first signs of her interest in reading, she might have lost out on some interesting experiences. These self-chosen activities may be developing valuable capacities for the future. Or they may just be fun. Who knows? Would she definitely be better off starting to read at four? Why? What might be lost? What would be gained?

Deborah

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From: Jo Ann Schwartz
Date: Thu Apr 15, 2004 3:12 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

--- Diana wrote:

Deborah:

First, she asks for some outside authority for a waldorf practice.

Well, I didn't actually, so your cleverly catching me in the act is a little off-base. You guys are really, really paranoid. Everyone is out to get you.

Diana, Diana, Diana....

Way back on April 12, you wrote the following to Patrick:

Patrick:

It is my experience, again from 20 years of teaching, that children who have early reading instruction may tire of reading and find it uninteresting after grade 5.

[Diana:]

Nonsense. This is another cherished Waldorf legend. I'VE NEVER HEARD ANYONE CLAIM THIS OUTSIDE OF WALDORF. It is convenient for scaring parents away from the other, bad schools where children are "pushed." I learned to read early (at least by Waldorf standards) and am a lifelong voracious reader. I WONDER IF YOU KNOW OF ANY DOCUMENTATION FOR THIS CLAIM or if it is just another one of those things Waldorf teachers assure one another, and assure parents, is true. [emphasis added]

And again, you wrote to Detlef on April 13, 2004:

About the "early readers burn out" claim, I wrote:

I've never heard anyone claim this outside of Waldorf.

It was these two comments from you that prompted my original post noting that Moore, Elkind, Healy and others have done research supporting the waldorf position that early academics -- aka, early reading instruction -- can lead to student burnout in the upper elementary grades.

So your claim that you didn't actually ask for some outside authority for a waldorf practice is disingenous at best. As was your claim that you'd never heard anyone claim that early academics could lead to student burnout. After all, why refer to the folks I cited as "the usual suspects" if you'd never even heard of them, hmmmm?

Whilst it may be true that I am somewhat paranoid where the waldorf critics are concerned, it's a paranoia born out of experience. (Nothing personal, Diana.)

Hey, just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean all y'all aren't out to get me! <G>

Still musing on the evidence Diana would accept....

JoAnn

...................................................................................................................................

From: winters_diana
Date: Thu Apr 15, 2004 7:15 pm
Subject: Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

Deborah, I didn't think you owed me an apology. JoAnn . . . sigh. It's more just the general paranoia here - I'm sorry if I wasn't clear either, but I was really reacting more to Deborah's seeming to feel that I had very slyly set you up. Look what Diana does! She demands evidence, then look how mean she is when you give her evidence! come on people.

I wrote another (long) reply a day or two ago to Patrick that has not shown up here (yet?). I don't feel like rewriting it. So let's just chill. I do not want to start checking in Healy, David Elkind etc., I don't have time. I do find that various people are cited by Waldorf advocates as supporting Waldorf who have little notion of what goes on in Waldorf. I agree with you in a very general fashion that there are people outside of Waldorf who oppose "pushing children into academics too early." (I put this in quotes not to imply that you said this specifically; I'm trying to just characterize a general attitude). I don't favor "pushing" children either, I'm in favor of lots of play, etc., etc. This was why we put our child in a Waldorf school.

So my disagreement is a little different - it is not that I don't realize there are other people who worry about "early academics." I think you might find it difficult to show, however, that Healy believes children should not read in first grade. Or that children who read in first grade are burnt out on reading after fifth grade. Perhaps I'm wrong, I think she's written a new book since last time I discussed this with someone. I remember she talks about brain development complete with myelinization of neurons (don't make intellectual demands before this process is complete; smthg like that), and people at our school jumped all over that because it was scientific. Neurology backing up Waldorf! We had a whole parent evening on Healy once (in fact, I wrote the darn thing up for the school newsletter.) I remember no one understood what "plasticity" meant in terms of brain development :) Uh-oh, the brain is plastic?

If you actually examine the book closely (which of course I didn't do at the time; I wanted neurology to back up Waldorf too), there was no mention of exactly what age this myelinization is complete (probably because no one knows, or because it differs by individual). I could not find a prescription of a specific age for reading instruction.

As for Elkind, I'm not sure about him either. I'd be very interested if you have a quote from Elkind saying first graders should not be taught to read. I always find it amusing when Elkind is cited as supporting the Waldorf media ban - in one of Elkind's books, he advises no more than 2 hours TV a day. (In other words, he advises you allow Ahriman to suck out your child's soul.) But he speaks of "limiting media," so he supports Waldorf.

Diana

P.S. I think it's the same Jane Healy who also wrote a book on left- handers. Someone here might be interested in checking to see if she mentions switching them to the right hand. Hint: NO! She doesn't mention it. I suspect she doesn't know anyone does this anymore.

...................................................................................................................................

From: Deborah
Date: Fri Apr 16, 2004 9:17 am
Subject: Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

Dear Diana,

Methinks the pot is calling the kettle black. So, waldorf people are careless in the way they cite and use resources?

[QUOTE]

So my disagreement is a little different - it is not that I don't realize there are other people who worry about "early academics." I think you might find it difficult to show, however, that Healy believes children should not read in first grade. Or that children who read in first grade are burnt out on reading after fifth grade. Perhaps I'm wrong, I think she's written a new book since last time I discussed this with someone. I remember she talks about brain development complete with myelinization of neurons (don't make intellectual demands before this process is complete; smthg like that), and people at our school jumped all over that because it was scientific. Neurology backing up Waldorf! We had a whole parent evening on Healy once (in fact, I wrote the darn thing up for the school newsletter.) I remember no one understood what "plasticity" meant in terms of brain development :) Uh-oh, the brain is plastic?

If you actually examine the book closely (which of course I didn't do at the time; I wanted neurology to back up Waldorf too), there was no mention of exactly what age this myelinization is complete (probably because no one knows, or because it differs by individual). I could not find a prescription of a specific age for reading instruction.

As for Elkind, I'm not sure about him either. I'd be very interested if you have a quote from Elkind saying first graders should not be taught to read. I always find it amusing when Elkind is cited as supporting the Waldorf media ban - in one of Elkind's books, he advises no more than 2 hours TV a day. (In other words, he advises you allow Ahriman to suck out your child's soul.) But he speaks of "limiting media," so he supports Waldorf.

Diana

[/QUOTE]

Here is the list of articles currently listed on the PLANS site.

Waldorf in General, Description & Critique

2003 Why Waldorf Programs are Unsuitable for Public Funding By Dan Dugan, published by Cultic Studies Review, Volume 2, Number 2, reproduced by permission 2003

Spotlight on Anthroposophy By Sharon Lombard, published by Cultic Studies Review, Volume 2, Number 2, reproduced by permission December 21, 2001

Question: Who Was Rudolf Steiner? Answer: Who Is Asking? By Steve Walden December 21, 2001

The Role of Gnomes In Waldorf Kindergarten By Diana Winters June 20, 2001

The Spirit of Waldorf Education written by David Ruenzel, Education Week, June 20, 2001

April 26, 2001 Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner, and Waldorf Schools An article in The Skeptic's Dictionary by Robert Todd Carroll, last updated April 26, 2001

(not dated) Waldorf Schools, Anthroposophy, and Rudolf Steiner A concise description, including good list of sources. Cincinnati Skeptics, The Association for Rational Thought

September 1, 2000 Mein Konflikt mit meiner Anthroposophischen Erziehung A German article by Christoph Keller dated September 1, 2000

November 13, 1999 Waldorf Education -- For Our Times Or Against Them? Transcript of talk by Eugene Schwartz, Director of Teacher Training, Sunbridge College: November 13, 1999. Edited by Michael Kopp.

October 1999 Letter To Editor re Antlantic Monthly Article by Todd Oppenheimer titled "Schooling the Imagination (Atlantic 9/99). By Kathleen Sutphen

February 8, 1999 A Parent's List Of Questions And Concerns. By Steve Premo via post to waldorf-critics discussion list (not dated)

Waldorfschule und Kritik??? [in German] web page by Reinhard Karst. November 21, 1998

An Interview With PLANS President. by college student Jeff Horseman. November 2, 1998

Critical Waldorf Article For Minnesota Parent Thwarted. By Mary Petrie.

Fall 1998 "Partial Vision in Alternative Education" by Ron Miller, Renewal: Fall 1998, Vol. 7 No. 2, p. 20.

April 3, 1990 Survey of San Francisco Waldorf School Parents: Report. by Dan Dugan, April 3, 1990.

Personal Stories of Former Waldorf Parents, Students, Teachers, Administrators

Many more personal stories are currently being written and will be posted in the near future. Many others are reluctant to be so public about their experiences due to the pain that they are feeling and fear of repercusions, and remain on our waldorf-survivors discussion list to tell their stories there.

December 21, 2001 Anonymous Testimonial From Waldorf Parent. By Anonymous #1.

December 21, 2001 Anonymous Testimonial From Waldorf Parent. By Anonymous #3.

December 19, 2001 Parent Testimonial in waldorf-critics Post. By Kathy H.

April 2, 2000 Anonymous Testimonial From Waldorf Parent. By Anonymous #2.

January 31, 2000 Thanks PLANS! Email From Sharon Lombard. By Sharon Lombard.

January 12, 2000 Woman Sees Waldorf Racism On First Visit. By Anonymous.

September 11, 1999 Waldorf Student Testimonial - Rosie. By Rosie. 1999 The phlegmatic sits by the window...: Experiences with actual Waldorf teaching. Miss Claudia Pangh, published by Reinhard Karst, 1999.

December 4, 1998 A Note Of Thanks. By [name withheld by request].

February 4, 1998 My Education Towards Racism. By Edwin Kreulen.

October 8, 1997 "We don't need no Steiner education". Pink Floyd leader David Gilmour speaks his mind about his children's Waldorf experience. An article by Cassandra Jardine, Education section, The Daily Telegraph, 10-08-1997, pp 22.

April 1996 Waiting for the reincarnation of Jesus and Steiner in one person; MIZ interview with Norbert Biermann, April 1996.

Fall 1991 Weird Science At Steiner School. Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 16 (Fall 1991), page 23. Dan Dugan's personal story.

Quotations About Waldorf and Anthroposophy by Rudolf Steiner and Others

September 2002 Quotations by Rudolf Steiner and others on the spiritual importance of color and art, compiled by Sharon Lombard. January 2001 Wet-on-wet Painting As Talisman, a series of posts to waldorf-critics by Sharon Lombard, January 11, 2001 - January 22, 2001.

September 1996 The Roots of Racism in Waldorf Schools: Quotations from Rudolf Steiner and other Anthroposophists compiled by Dan Dugan, July 1995, revised September 1996.

Waldorf Curriculum and Anthroposophy in the Classroom January 2001 Wet-on-wet Painting As Talisman, a series of posts to waldorf-critics by Sharon Lombard, January 11, 2001 - January 22, 2001.

May 2000 Our Brush with Rudolf Steiner by Sharon Lombard. Freethought Today. Madison, WI: May 2000, p. 8.

July 27, 1997 Nature Table or Altar?: by Dan dugan, July 27, 1997.

1996 Mathematikunterricht an Freien Waldorfschulen: [in German] by Susanne Prediger & Heiner Ullrich. Journal für Mathematikdidaktik 17 (1996) 3/4, S. 192-211.

Spring 1994 Are Rudolf Steiner's Waldorf Schools 'Non-Sectarian'? by Dan Dugan and Judy Daar, Free Inquiry, Spring 1994 (Vol. 14 No. 2)

Winter 1994 Waldorf Schools Teach Odd Science, Odd Evolution by Eugenie C. Scott. National Center for Science Education Reports, Vol. 14, No. 4, Winter 1994, p. 20.

Waldorf Teacher Training

1993-1994 Waldorf Teacher Training Reading List, First Year: Rudolf Steiner College 1993-94.

1993-1994 Waldorf Teacher Training Requirements, Second Year: Rudolf Steiner College 1993-94.

[inserted comment by DK, note how Dan keeps his material accurate and up to date :)]

Anthroposophy, Steiner's Occultist Sect

January 28, 2001 Anthroposophy: by Fredrik Bendz, July 4, 1997, last update January 28, 2001.

February 9, 1999 Why Anthroposophy Is Cult-Like By Dan Dugan.

April 1996 Anthroposophy: Rudolf Steiner's 'Spiritual Science': by Rob Boston, Church and State, April 1996.

1991 Is Anthroposophy Science? by Sven Ove Hansson, Conceptus: zeitschrift für philosophie, XXV (1991), No. 64, p. 37.

Anthroposophical Medicine

September 2002 Atlantic Monthly article on vaccination controversy in Boulder, Colorado:Bucking The Herd by Arthur Allen

not dated Health Care Reality Check FAQ Sheet, Anthroposophical Medicine.

Racism and the Relationship of Anthroposophy to Nazi Philosophy

2001 The Art of Avoiding History. This is a reply that Peter Staudenmaier wrote to Göran Fant's article The Art of Making White into Black. Both articles were originally published in the Swedish skeptical-humanist magazine Folkvett in 2001.

June, 2001 This is the second reply that Peter Staudenmaier and Peter Zegers wrote to Peter Normann Waage. The reply was published in a much shortened version in "Humanist" (Oslo) 2/2001.

1997 - 2001 Anthroposophie und Antisemitismus: Frequently updated: articles in German from 1997 to the present on the web page of Aktion Kinder des Holocaust.

August 4, 2000 Intimidation of the Waldorf kind An article written by Arno Frank that appeared August 4, 2000 in German publication TAZ, Translated into English by CISAR.ORG July 10, 2000 This is an unauthorized translation of the news broadcast shown on German national TV on July 10th, 2000 about racism in Waldorf schools Report Mainz: July 10th, 2000

4/2000 Anthroposophy and its Defenders. By Peter Staudenmaier and Peter Zegers, published in Norwegian magazine Humanist 4/2000, replying to Peter Normann Waage, whose Humanism and Polemical Populism was published in Humanist 3/2000

(not dated) Anthroposophy and Ecofascism by Peter Staudenmaier (pre-publication).

Spring 1999 Three people reflect on Waldorf Education: Recollections, published in Natural Jewish Parenting, Spring 1999

Spring 1999 Rudolf Steiner and the Jews by Dan Dugan, published in Natural Jewish Parenting, Spring 1999

Spring 1999 What every Jewish parent should know about The Waldorf Philosophy by Deborah Salazar, published in Natural Jewish Parenting,

Spring 1999 1995 - 1997 Antroposofie: [in Dutch] A collection of articles from the Dutch anti-racist paper Kleintje Muurkrant.

September 1996 The Roots of Racism in Waldorf Schools: Quotations from Rudolf Steiner and other Anthroposophists compiled by Dan Dugan, July 1995, revised September 1996.

1996 Waldorf Salad with Aryan Mayonnaise?: A mother challenges 'race' theories in Rudolf Steiner education by Toos Jeurissen, 1996.

June 1996 Racism and Waldorf Education by Ray McDermott and Ida Oberman. Research Bulletin: Vol. 1, No. 2 (June, 1996) p. 3, Waldorf Education Research Institute.

February 4, 1995 Racial Ethnography by Robert Sikkes. Zutphen, Netherlands. De Volkskrant, February 4, 1995.

Leaving aside the articles originally published in anthroposophical or waldorf sources are people who read these articles going to end up with an accurate picture of waldorf education and anthroposophy? Are the articles based on accurate and fair analysis of source material? Do the quotes chosen actually represent waldorf practices in the U.S?

PLANS and the waldorf critics have had several years to build a case against waldorf education. What sort of case have they built? Is it a structure of smears based on sloppy scholarship? I think so. Why hasn't PLANS been able to put together a reasonable case. Why do they go for this distorted nonsense? It certainly doesn't help potential waldorf parents who go looking for accurate information on potential problems with waldorf education!

I have heard of waldorf schools that actually point potential parents to PLANS. Why? Because it is so easy to debunk the information that PLANS dispenses.

Cheers,
Deborah

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From: winters_diana
Date: Fri Apr 16, 2004 11:53 am
Subject: Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

Deborah:

Methinks the pot is calling the kettle black. So, waldorf people are careless in the way they cite and use resources?

(and then pastes in a list of articles from the PLANS web site).

I'm not sure what your point is. I'm not PLANS, I do not represent PLANS or speak for PLANS or determine what goes on their web site, I'm not "Waldorf critics," and I didn't write any of those pieces on that list, except for that little thing on the gnomes (which wasn't intended as an article in the first place, it was a post to critics originally, that I aimed to turn into an article and never did). I'd really rather they'd take it off as it doesn't make a lot of sense kind of floating around as a little snippet like that. (But I think what it says is fair or I wouldn't have said it.)

I'm not sure if you expect me to take responsibility for everything on the PLANS web site, or to say that I agree with everything there, or expect me to comment on how the authors of those various articles, most of whom I don't know, "use sources," etc. I'm not even sure what I could say in reply to this, if that's indeed what you expect, as it just seems off the wall. There are various people and groups involved in this question; only some of them are formally affiliated with PLANS. How about Openwaldorf? Shall I take responsibility for everything there too? (a rhetorical question!) (There are many things at Openwaldorf I do not agree with, not just in content but in overall approach.) PLANS I am more in line with philosophically, but by no means in every way.

Diana

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From: Tarjei Straume
Date: Fri Apr 16, 2004 12:46 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

At 20:53 16.04.2004, Diana wrote to Deborah:

I'm not PLANS, I do not represent PLANS or speak for PLANS or determine what goes on their web site, I'm not "Waldorf critics,"

Could have fooled me :)

I find it odd that you keep insisting upon casting me in the role of Waldorf administrator interviewing parents and what-have-you time and time again when I'm in the business of communication services. I'm inclined to agree that you're not a "Waldorf critic" in the real sense of that word. Your mind is too made up in advance about Waldorf, RS, and Anthroposophy to be a critic. This is something you have in common with Peter Staudenmaier, Dan Dugan, and most of the other regulars on the WC list. You have given me the distinct impression that you are in basic agreement with what PLANS stands for - way beyond its proclaimed mission - and that you approve of the articles on that website.

I'm not sure if you expect me to take responsibility for everything on the PLANS web site, or to say that I agree with everything there, or expect me to comment on how the authors of those various articles, most of whom I don't know, "use sources," etc. I'm not even sure what I could say in reply to this, if that's indeed what you expect, as it just seems off the wall.

You seem to be very uncritical of PS, although he has indeed revealed once and for all that his Nazi-related allegations against RS and Anthroposophy are based upon blatant intellectual dishonesty and illegitimate manipulation of language and definitions. I don't think anyone wants to make you responsible for everything written on the PLANS site, but you do come across as totally uncritical of its material, as though you automatically endorse any argument that can be used to discredit Waldorf, Steiner, and Anthroposophy - perhaps with the sole exception of Christina Stoddard because she was so extremely right-wing, although you'll have to admit her style is reminiscent of Sharon's.

There are various people and groups involved in this question; only some of them are formally affiliated with PLANS. How about Openwaldorf? Shall I take responsibility for everything there too? (a rhetorical question!)

I empathize with your objection here, but you're hurling bricks from a glass house in view of your strong endeavors to make me responsible for what Waldorf schools are doing.

Tarjei
http://uncletaz.com/

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From: Deborah
Date: Fri Apr 16, 2004 2:09 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods,

Dear Diana,

I was hoping you would say exactly this. Thanks.

Deborah

At 20:53 16.04.2004, Diana wrote to Deborah:

I'm not PLANS, I do not represent PLANS or speak for PLANS or determine what goes on their web site, I'm not "Waldorf critics,"

...................................................................................................................................

From: winters_diana
Date: Sun Apr 18, 2004 4:12 am
Subject: Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

This is another reply to Patrick which I sent several days ago and it never showed up.

Patrick said:

It looks to me as if you are trying to turn our conversation into a debate of styles of teaching reading.

Isn't that what we were discussing?

You seem to think that the Waldorf methodology is identical to the "look-say" method of reading.

I commented that your description reminded me of "look-say," particularly the talk of learning words by their "gestalt," and you replied that I was correct.

You, therefore, are taking the opposite stance in support of phonics instruction.

I didn't decide to take this stance to spite you, Patrick. There is greater support for phonics than for look-say.

The "look-say" method has since been modified somewhat and given different names, most notably "language experience" and the "the whole language approach."

Those are three different things. You'll certainly offend "whole language" proponents if you confuse it with "look-say." Language experience is something else yet again, I've used it with adult struggling readers. It's really logically flawed to decide that a person can read something they've written. This is only correct if the person . . . can read. If they can't, they are basically taking dictation, and then parroting back to you what they wrote, because they remember what they said, not because they can read it. This is, at base, the same as look-say, in that you expect the person to look at some words and just remember them for next time. You have added a step where they have to write it themselves first instead of copying it; but they might as well copy it, since they can't write it unless you dictate it. It's like poor Alice in Wonderland.

Dressing these theories up with holistic jargon doesn't improve them. It is exactly, precisely, what Waldorf claims to avoid - filling someone up with meaningless facts and giving them no context for actual learning.

Whole language is a different matter. Whole language is heavily under fire (though in my personal opinion, there is a danger of throwing too much of the bathwater out with that baby), but it's still better, a far more complex theory and set of practices, than look-say - and it's still better than Waldorf! Whole language shares a lot of fuzzy ideas with Waldorf about holistic learning, assumptions about how children will learn "naturally" (or, more accurately, it encourages the parents to believe this so they don't fuss; it's not really Steiner's view), and not troubling children with boring skill-based work. But at least whole language insists that children should be exposed to, surrounded by, good literature, and encouraged to revel in it, from an early age.

At least whole language doesn't take the stingy, frightened, and paranoid approach to the very idea of the written word that Waldorf inherited from Rudolf Steiner. There's no talk of letters being "demonic" and frightening children or shriveling up their internal organs or causing painful illnesses in middle age. :)

Educators have waged what has been called "the reading wars" for decades. A third method has emerged called, "the writing road to reading" which is a method employing phonetic instruction and the act of writing and reading what has been written as the basis, simply put.

I understand why that appeals to Waldorf teachers, since I think Steiner said writing should come before reading.

The Waldorf approach to teaching reading is not the same as the "look-say" method. You cannot categorize it in this way.

No, I agree, you cannot. I asked you if there were similarities, in your opinion, and you replied that there were.

If one wants to compare it to to any of these three modes of instruction one cannot because it is not one, or the other, or the other! One can rightfully say that it uses elements from all three although not in a derivative sense. The Waldorf method is its own method derived from an intuitive knowledge of the human being and its relationship to language.

I'm still hoping to get those quotes from you on Steiner's phonics method. I understand if you can't get your books, no hurry, but I'd really appreciate it if you can post it here someday.

In one sense it acts as a redemption of purely mechanical phonics.

Sorry, I'm going to start to have a lot of trouble listening, I must admit, perhaps my bias, if you start talking about "redeeming" the language or the relation between the written and spoken language (phonics). It is not in need of redeeming, in my view. The spiritual talk grates. It has little to do with teaching children to read, and in terms of how languages work, it's nonsensical.

For example, we are not merely teaching of the alphabet in the beginning -- of course we know that the children mostly know the alphabet when they arrive -- we are helping the children form an artistic relationship to the abstract forms. We are also paying attention to the different sounds evoked by these shapes. Through our methods the shapes "live and speak."

Guess what? They do anyway.

This other stuff is an impediment, an artificial (I might even say dead and lifeless) thing imposed on the child. I really don't think you can force someone to have an "artistic relationship" to something. It's overbearing. Teach them. Let them form their own relationships to the letters. Or better yet, teach them the alphabetic code of our language – then, they can read books, and have relationships with the people and places and ideas in the books. This is a lot more gratifying, not to mention a lot more useful in life, than having a relationship to individual letters outside of any context of stories and ideas written down by people. It's almost a fetishizing of individual letters. (Indeed, esoterically so, that's exactly what it is.)

(Incidentally, there's also a school of thought now that it confuses some children to be told that the letters "speak" ("What does `t' say? `t' says /t/") In this view, the letters are all silent, and it's we who speak. In a certain way I can see this being compatible with Steiner's views, too, and even "redeeming" those frightening little black marks on the page, bringing them into a human realm.)

However, I disagree thoroughly with Rudolf Steiner that the language, written or spoken, or the process of learning to read and write it, is "dead," "abstract," "soulless," or "damaging." (Never mind demonic. This is some kind of anxiety thing teachers are communicating to children.)

Literature, to me, is a profoundly alive way of relating to the world, for children as for anyone; there is nothing mechanistic about it and nothing damaging to children about learning the conventions of their language. These are religiously based hang-ups being imposed on children, to their detriment. I think it the opposite of life-giving. It's sort of Puritan.

If the teacher believes written language is a set of dead conventions that are damaging and soul-destroying to which the children must "succumb" (to quote Detlef) (and Bradford, trying to generate as much sky-is-falling fear and panic as he possibly can, says parasites and bacilli will infect them too!!)! well! a the teacher who is herself infected with this paranoid nonsense will convey these fears and shame to the children. If she believes that reading is for pleasure and beauty, and knowledge and truth, and adventure and wisdom, and learning of worlds you never knew existed and is crucial to a zestful and engaged and joyous life for anyone alive today – that is probably what she will communicate to her students. I know which teacher I'd rather my child got.

we believe that one must begin with wholeness, with an holistic approach.

That has more in common with whole language than look-say, I agree. It's the misguided notion that children can enjoy literature without having to be troubled to learn to read first. It's a well- intentioned but romantic notion – spare them any effort. It's like passing out Moby-Dick or War and Peace the first day of school and saying, Here, read this, literature is so wonderful, plus you'll learn phonics. The problem is they're first graders and can't read.

But I must repeat the big thing whole language has got over Waldorf is that part about literature being wonderful. I've never heard Waldorf teachers talk about that. They're too busy worrying about all the damage to the kids from being "in their heads."

And do not label us with another method of the same name. I repeat, we have our own method arising out of the knowledge of the human being. What I'm trying to impart to you is that I believe that you are tilting at windmills. Each one of the aforementioned methods has an aspect of truth in it. But each is a fragment and not the whole.

Okay, so you view all the other approaches as being little pieces of truth, but Waldorf has the whole truth. Where have I heard this before.

Diana

...................................................................................................................................

From: Patrick
Date: Tue Apr 20, 2004 6:54 pm
Subject: RE: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

Dear Diana, the the the the

I'll begin by holding out something of an olive branch to you. My listmates Deborah and Dottie have convinced me that it would be appropriate to give you the benefit of the doubt. I must confess that I really don't know why you're here on this list. You say you are interested in anthroposophy and yet it seems to me that you are here to try and save the world from anthroposophy. I wish I could ascertain your purpose. Your mind seems generally closed. I do however understand that you have had bad experiences in a Waldorf school. I do not doubt you. I do think that what you have experienced, however, is not the norm. For instance, I have never heard of the teacher advising parents against getting a library card for their children. I too would have been appalled had I heard it. You have also stated that you have never heard a Waldorf teacher extolling the virtues of reading and good literature. I am completely amazed by this. Bear in mind that I literally have had contact with dozens of schools and hundreds of teachers and heard of various complaints, but never this. In my 20 some odd years of Waldorf teaching, I have encountered only teachers who loved good literature. I have encountered a few teachers who did not read newspapers because they were appalled by what was going on the world, but Steiner points out that it is critical for teachers to be interested in everything that is going on the world. In fact, most of the errors I found teachers making was because of something in their own soul, not something arising out of anthroposophy. Dogma and fanaticism are specifically warned against in the statutes of the Anthroposophical society. I am engaging in this dialogue with you because I believe that you have stated things that simply are not true. When you say that first graders spend most of the year merely copying, I must protest. This is not true. I have already enumerated all of the things that they do. The things that are written arise out of a story. The meanings of the sentences and phrases are thoroughly explored. Virtually all of the things that they write are things they already know by heart. Everything we do is in context. Whether you believe it or not, Waldorf teachers work with their children on word families, blends, digraphs, and so on. The silent "e" is also explored. Visual memory and auditory discrimination skills are developed. We write about our trip to the pond; we write thank you notes; we teach the children to love language. Throughout the whole of the elementary school and junior high years a rich vocabulary is developed. In my own classes, by third-grade in a class of 30 children, 10 were reading chapter books, 10 were reading grade appropriate readers, 5 were in readers below grade level and 5 were receiving remedial support. By the end of the year, three readers were receiving remedial support and the others were working at grade level or above. This breakdown was fairly normal in our school. I already told you that our seventh and eighth graders are successful readers. When you said that we force the children to have an artistic relationship with letters I was dumbfounded. We approach the letters with awe and wonder. I think that Steiner's ideas have basically shocked you. You imagine that these teachers are going around terrified of squiggles on paper and imagining parasites eating away at the minds of children. Nothing could be further from the truth. Steiner was shocking when he said things, I think in part to wake us from our slumber. Let us demystify this word "parasite". A parasite is a natural occurrence. It takes life from a living being in order to sustain its own life. When we paint and draw letters in rich color, we give them life; we are able to love them. This is what I meant by redemption. Now you may disagree that they need redeeming. Fine. We simply know that abstractions and definitions are like stones; children are not nourished by stones; they require bread: bread for the body, art for the soul. I know that you love reading; so do I. I have carried that love to my students. Rudolf Steiner read a lot and spoke with great joy at many passages of poetry, drama, and literature. Reading will be taught to Waldorf students out of a sense of awe and wonder and each will learn to read, each in her own time.

Finally, I feel that a mood of outrage does not foster our faculty of reason. One thing I have learned is that people often confuse venting with truth telling. Because words are charged with emotion does not mean they are to be believed. We often get caught believing another's venting. I do not doubt the that a number of parents have had their ideals shattered through an encounter with this or that Waldorf teacher or school. I do not think it is fair to impugn the whole movement because of these unfortunate incidents much I am certain are in the minority of experiences "in the Waldorf world". We have scads of very happy parents and children in our schools. Most of us teachers are very open to constructive criticism.

I hope we have communicated,

Patrick

-----Original Message-----
From: winters_diana
Sent: Sunday, April 18, 2004 4:13 AM
Subject: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

This is another reply to Patrick which I sent several days ago and it never showed up.

<snip>

...................................................................................................................................

From: winters_diana
Date: Tue Apr 20, 2004 7:51 pm
Subject: Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

Hi Patrick, no time for a lengthy response tonight. Will try later. I'll speak to one point quickly, which perhaps truly is in the interests of communication. Here is a small (?) point you misunderstand about my experiences:

I think that Steiner's ideas have basically shocked you. You imagine that these teachers are going around terrified of squiggles on paper and imagining parasites eating away at the minds of children. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This is a backwards description of my experiences with Waldorf and Steiner (this is not a criticism of what you wrote; no reason you should know what all my experiences were).

My understandings of the Waldorf classroom come from Waldorf classrooms; however, I was not initially shocked by Rudolf Steiner's ideas, I was very excited by them. I studied them eagerly. It was after I saw them implemented that I soured on them. "Terrified of squiggles on paper" is exactly the attitude I saw conveyed to children. I would never have believed it if I hadn't seen it. I thought they must be misunderstanding Steiner, who couldn't possibly have meant for teachers to tell parents not to let their children have books, to declare "nonfiction" inappropriate for second graders, to refuse to answer if a child asked the meaning of a word, or how to spell a word, to pretend I didn't hear them if a child wanted to say something about the story or ask a question, to discourage them from writing their name. I had to, later, delve more deeply into Steiner to figure out where this stuff came from. I did not start off shocked, I became shocked as I began to understand that this was from Rudolf Steiner and was not some big misunderstanding. The strange remarks about parasites and demons and sclerosis and dead soul-sucking abstractions etc etc. simply made me finally understand what I had seen. I am quite clear I did not misunderstand. Detlef is just the most recent to repeat the stuff about deadness and the poor children "succumbing" and the other very oddly negative remarks about learning to read - very odd indeed coming from educators.

Diana

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From: winters_diana
Date: Tue Apr 20, 2004 8:02 pm
Subject: Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

[Patrick:]

I'll begin by holding out something of an olive branch to you. My listmates Deborah and Dottie have convinced me that it would be appropriate to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Thanks, but you know, it really isn't necessary to hold out an olive branch. I do not perceive you as an enemy. I'm really not sure whether to be flattered or even more annoyed that you need to be convinced by other listmates to "give me the benefit of the doubt." Regarding what? Do I strike you as dishonest in some way? You, personally, seem less inclined to the whole mentality or worldview of attack, siege, enemies lurking and smearing and smiting, in which so many of your listmates seem mired, but it is probably contagious if you read Tarjei or Bradford for awhile.

Why does there have to be all this intrigue? Why not have a discussion, without there always having to be a conspiracy going on in the background, or at least, somebody trying to figure out if there is a conspiracy going on?

As to why I am on the list, there really is no need to be reading between the lines, trying to deduce motives, etc. I think I say what I have to say, good God, I am at pains to say it clearly and at length.

Diana

...................................................................................................................................

From: dottie zold
Date: Tue Apr 20, 2004 8:14 pm
Subject: Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

Diana:

Thanks, but you know, it really isn't necessary to hold out an olive branch.

Just give a little will you Diana. It's all defense. Lets all have some real conversations instead of looking at it as an insult that 'I am not really insulted by'.

It seems, and I took this out of another post because I thought it was too much, that we become desensitized to how others treat us or we treat them because it is on line. Lets just trust one another.

d

...................................................................................................................................

From: dottie zold
Date: Tue Apr 20, 2004 8:18 pm
Subject: Re: Reading and writing: age, first grade methods, look-say approach

Diana:

Why does there have to be all this intrigue?

And you keep repeating this as if it was a mantra over and over and over again. We're just trying to find a good place to start aknew without all the animosity. Can you make a new start as well?

Diana:

Why not have a discussion, without there always having to be a conspiracy going on in the background, or at least, somebody trying to figure out if there is a conspiracy going on?

Yes, lets please. You have this conspiracy theory that everyone thinks there is a conspiracty theory. Can we please move past this?

And yes, please lets discuss the issues. That would be a good start.

Can we now please move on,

d

 Accreditation
 Reading and writing: do early readers burn out?

 To Diana

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