As I am reentering the world of Waldorf on the blogosphere, I found the usual Waldorf friends and foes websites. This got me thinking about why Waldorf education is education's best kept secret and why there are such fierce battle-lines between felt fairies and plastic demons.
When I was a Waldorf teacher I wondered why there was little marketing, promoting (besides the once or twice a year Open House), and knowledge of such a unique educational philosophy. I remember asking a couple of my teacher trainers about this. I guess they didn't feel as though that was Waldorf's way, they felt interested families should come to them. (Probably having to do with free will, etc.)
Obviously those who are proponents of Waldorf have had good experiences and those who negate it have had bad ones. So why do families have bad experiences with Waldorf?
The sweeping answer is this: Waldorf education lives in a bubble. When your education's philosophy is shrouded in mystery and esoteric writing it inevitably gets labeled as cult. When you are not interested in reaching out, you are constantly reaching in. Fine. But as our global community gets smaller, it's important that we have compassion, get along and understand one other.
From what I can tell, those who have been burned by Waldorf, were burned off because Waldorf lives in it's own bubble or world. The bubble is aesthetically pleasing and peaceful, but a Waldorf school is going to have the same issues as any other school and like any school if you are unable to handle those issues, folks are going to get mad.
If I say, the Waldorf faculty or community is unable to deal with reality, anybody who is in or has been part of Waldorf with laugh or at the very least smirk. A fairy tale world is fine for the children but the adults are doing the moderation and the leading. Education doesn't know what it's supposed to do anymore.
If politics is sleeping with the enemy then education doesn't realize it is. And not unlike politics, education attracts some real loonies. And Waldorf education attracts some real crazies. It's hard for it not to, you're dealing with an education that is foreign to the masses and confusing even to those immersed in it.
Waldorf is a religion and as a result there is controversy. But I truly believe, it's the lack of transparency, this bubble that Waldorf creates that is at the epicenter of it's problems. There is no doubt there is some amazing ideas out there for educating our children. That's not the problem. The problem is we can't seem to get along.
Waldorf needs to come out of the closet. It needs to go mainstream and I believe it still can keep it's "alternative-ness". This is not a dirty thing, it's an airing out of the laundry and the way that the world is turning.