http://www.waldorfcritics.orgDebra Snell, President 12562 Rough and Ready Highway Grass Valley, CA 95945 (530) 273-1005 snell netshel.net Dan Dugan, Secretary 290 Napoleon St. Studio E San Francisco, CA 94124 (415) 821-9776 dan dandugan.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 1/23/01
CHICO SCHOOL BOARD REJECTS WALDORF CHARTER APPLICATION
At their regular meeting January 17, 2001, the Board of Trustees of the Chico Unified School District (Butte County, CA) unanimously rejected the application of the Blue Oak Charter School, a proposed "Waldorf Method" school. The decision was based on testimony at a January 4 hearing at which Debra Snell, president of PLANS, Inc., and Dan Dugan, PLANS' Secretary, were given equal time to speak against the promoters of the charter.
Ms. Snell told how she herself had won approval for a Waldorf charter in Nevada County, only to see it taken over by "Anthroposophists," the followers of Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher who founded the first Waldorf school in Germany. Snell said that despite all good intentions to separate the education from Steiner's mystical world-view, teachers trained by Anthroposophists were unable to distinguish between scientific and historical truth and Steiner's doctrines.
Mr. Dugan, a former Waldorf parent who since 1995 has moderated the internet discussion list "waldorf-critics," deconstructed the language of the charter school application.
The charter's outline of the fourth-grade science curriculum included Steiner's "threefold physiology," a system unrecognized by science. The description of fifth-grade botany included "To develop an image of the tree's relation to the earth, i.e., the tree as a pushed up extension of the soil, covered with a multitude of tiny plants." This is typical of occultist pseudo-science in which appearances are more important than structure.
Dugan argued that if the school's founders were unable even to keep Anthroposophy out of the legal charter document, they were not likely to be able to keep it out of the classroom. Board President Scott Schofield chided the applicants for not mentioning, during long negotiations with a school district committee, the facts that Waldorf was controversial and that two public Waldorf schools were being sued.
The board's principal concern was the vulnerability of the school to charges of violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. PLANS is suing a Nevada County school district (which operates Waldorf charter schools) and the Sacramento, CA, school district (which has a Waldorf magnet school) on that issue. The trial is scheduled to start March 19 in federal court in Sacramento.
PLANS was organized in late 1995 by former Waldorf parents and teachers concerned about both private and public Waldorf schools. It is an unlikely coalition, uniting liberals and evangelical Christians, factions that disagree strongly on other topics. PLANS became a California non-profit corporation in July 1997. PLANS' volunteer board includes two public school teachers, one of whom has received Waldorf teacher training, the president of a skeptical society, the associate director of a Christian anti-cult ministry, and two former Waldorf parents. PLANS' President, Debra Snell, was a director of a private Waldorf school and helped found a Waldorf charter school. For more information, please see the PLANS web site, http://www.waldorfcritics.org.
PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and inseparably based upon Anthroposophy, a New Age occultic religion. Public Waldorf school curriculum decisions and teacher training are based on Anthroposophy's spiritually based child development model. Publicly funded use and reliance upon the doctrines of Anthroposophy impermissibly endorses that religion in violation of the United States and California constitutions.
PLANS filed its federal lawsuit in Sacramento on February 11, 1998, naming as defendants the Sacramento Unified School District, which operates a "Waldorf Method" magnet school, and the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, which has established several "Waldorf-inspired" charter schools. The trial is set for March 19, 2001.