A Waldorf-inspired public charter school in Oakland? Not likely.

a Waldorf School in El Sobrante, Calif.
File photo of East Bay Waldorf School in El Sobrante, 1997

A group of educators says if the Oakland school district permits them to open a charter school in East Oakland’s San Antonio neighborhood this fall, they will blend the unorthodox pedagogy of a traditionally private Waldorf School with methods used in public schools for low-income children and English learners.

It’s unlikely to happen, at least this year. Oakland Unified’s charter schools office is recommending against the opening of the Community School for Creative Education (for the second time). The reasons behind the denial are outlined in a 50-page report posted on a committee agenda for tomorrow night.

The Community School for Creative Education wouldn’t be the first public school built upon the Waldorf model, an approach to learning developed by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in 1919 that places much emphasis on the child’s imagination and overall development (and which doesn’t require children to read until the end of third grade, the same year OUSD officials say they expect all kids to be able to read).

Still, the model doesn’t have much of a history in low-income communities with large numbers of English-language learners — a fact that seemed to worry Oakland’s charter schools coordinator, David Montes de Oca and others on the panel who reviewed the charter proposal.

Montes de Oca writes that the proposal left him unclear about how, exactly, the Waldorf model would be adapted to meet the needs of English learners — or how it would be blended with Open Court, the language art curriculum used by Oakland’s non-charter schools (as stated in the charter school’s petition), or what its core curriculum would look like.

Another challenge for public schools using the Waldorf model is the adaptation of anthroposophy, the Steiner philosophy on which Waldorf schools are based; critics say its presence in public schools, however small, violates the separation between church and state. A San Francisco Chronicle article from 2000 reported that one group, People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools, filed a federal lawsuit in Sacramento to that effect (which, I’m told, is still pending).

Referencing a 1995 guidebook titled “Waldorf Education: A Family Guide,” Montes de Oca wrote he was unclear which festivals or other aspects of Steiner’s philosophy — if any — would be celebrated in the new Oakland charter school:

Additional Celebrations outlined in the guide book include “The Christmas Festival” and “The Day of the Holy Kings”. Festivals of Easter and Passover are described as “the victory of good over evil, of light over darkness, of life over death.” Rudolf Steiner is quoted here in the guide book. “Festivals are meant to link the human soul with all that lives and weaves in the great universe. We feel our souls expanding in a new way during these days at the beginning of spring… It is at this time of year, the time of Passover and Easter, that human souls can find their lives…in the innermost core of being, a fount of eternal, divine existence.”

Celebrations such as May Day are described in which the May Pole Dance is performed. “Eventually the celebrations were emancipated from their ‘pagan’ origins and large May poles, cut from the tallest trees which could be found, were erected in England’s public squares or occasionally before churches, to ward off evil spirits that might abound at this time, during the transition between darkness to light”. The guide book includes descriptions of the Celebrations of the Pentecost, occurring “50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus, celebrated on Easter,” and the Celebration of St. John’s Tide associated with the Summer Solstice and John the Baptist….

… Little to no evidence has been provided in the charter petition or in the petitioner interview responses indicating critical thought having been given to the modification of Festivals and Celebrations necessary to accommodate a public school setting.

The Oakland school board doesn’t vote on the matter until Wed., Jan. 27, but it would come as a great surprise to me if the trustees went against the charter office recommendation and approved the school. Most of the trustees seem to have a neutral-to-negative stance on opening new charter schools.

Do you think a Waldorf-inspired public school has a place in Oakland?

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • John Garrett

    I think Waldorf’s focus on practical and experiential learning is great, and don’t oppose incorporating those elements in a public school education. But the spiritual teaching is problematic. For me at least.

    I know families who attend East Bay Waldorf and Marin Waldorf, and both love their schools. They say the spiritual stuff is minimized in favor of a sort of artistic, hippie-ish (Their words, not mine!) vibe. The kids only real complaint is having to do eurythmy, a kind of dance/performance art invented by Rudolf Steiner.

    Katy, I was speaking with a group of teachers at our grade school last week, and the consensus among them is that Open Court reading instruction is a terrific curriculum, especially for low-income or English language learners. The link you provide in the post indicates there aren’t conclusive studies. Have you heard any opinions on this? The district seems to believe in it.

  • Katy Murphy

    In general, people seem to feel strongly about Open Court, one way or the other. Some teachers and parents say it’s too scripted and that it saps the creativity from teaching, but others say there is plenty of room for creativity (as long as you don’t have the “Open Court Police” at your school — an administrator with a checklist, making sure teachers incorporate every element of the program into every lesson).

    One of the reasons Open Court was adopted across the board, rather than school by school, was to provide consistency for kids — mostly, from low-income homes — who move around a lot. But I think that, as with most programs, success with Open Court has more to do with its implementation than with the program itself.

    Teachers and principals? Parents? Students? You know much better than I do about this program’s strengths and limitations.

  • Katy Murphy

    I meant to include a link to a recent post about the Waldorf charter proposal on the Perimeter Primate blog. It’s written by Sharon Higgins, an Oakland public schools advocate and charter school critic:


  • Max Allstadt

    Waldorf Schools, when they follow the original model very closely, are set up for all sorts of issues that would prevent them from being appropriate for public education.

    In addition to some religious tendencies, some Waldorf Schools have been criticized for not teaching evolution.

    That said, while doing research for the architects who designed projects for the Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan, I saw a lot that I liked. There is a very gestalt outlook, as well as emphasis of creativity and craft that is often entirely forsaken in public school systems.

    Lets hope this school can find what’s appropriate within the Rudolf Steiner system for adaptation to a public school. Throwing out an entire philosophy because some of it doesn’t fit isn’t very American. Assimilate and improve.

  • CarolineSF

    I spoke against a proposed Waldorf-inspired charter school here in San Francisco. My view is that if you have to ask 1) if it’s based on a religion; and 2) if the writings of the person who inspired it are as racist as they seem to be — if you even have to ask those questions, a public school should not be based on that philosophy.

    That’s why god (or Lemurians or whoever) made private schools. (Lemurians are the beings in outer space whom Waldorf inspiration Rudolf Steiner believed are the ancestors of today’s humans. Atlanteans from a real live Atlantis are in our lineage somewhere too, Steiner taught.)

    The people proposing the school in San Francisco seemed to be uninformed about those points and were quite taken aback when they were raised. I think they’ve dropped the proposal. Perhaps in more placid or disengaged communities, there aren’t so many questions raised when Waldorf public charters are proposed, since quite a number do exist.

    On a more pragmatic level, I have friends whose children attended Marin Waldorf through I believe grades 2 and 3 (two children one grade apart). Then the tuition was the casualty in a divorce, and the students were moved to a high-scoring Marin public school. Because of Waldorf’s philosophy of late reading, the parents had to spend thousands on tutoring to catch the kids up to their public-school peers. The mom said she had been fully on board with the late-reading philosophy, but that did give her second thoughts.

  • Nextset

    One of the drawbacks of the Charter School Movement is that every cult, gang, terror cell, and low down nutty or crazy group will want their own Charter School and they’ll get it too. Remember the Black Panther Gang in Oakland and their “schools” with the bookkeeper found floating in the bay? The East Bay alone was home turf for the Moonies, Synnanon, The Kool-Aid drinkers who went to Guyana, The Black Muslim Bakery Gang with the little girl sex slaves. The list goes on.

    If there is no mechanism to stop these people from getting and operating a Charter they’ll all have one. Or an existing Charter may find themselves with new “friends”. It’s not as if there is any real awareness of exactly what’s going on from day to day in these places.

    So one of them decided that kids don’t need to read when the rest of us all know otherwise.

    It’s all part of the Brave New World where people spin off into their own worlds and there is less and less of a common denominator about anything.

    All this is what strong public schools would have prevented.

    If the state collectively decides to not have public schools that are worth anything – are dangerous to the health and social standing of any who attend them – people have to either homeschool (not likely with these tax laws) or rummage around for whatever might do.

    We need public schools that are as good as the ones in 1960. Where discipline is robust and campuses and programs are sorted so people understand what is required of them to attend or stay at a campus (attendance, deportment, performance).

    We need competitive academic public schools so that good families don’t have to turn to these Charters.

  • Harold

    @nextset – there are many types of gangs … including the gangs of lobbyists in D.C. and Sacramento.

    … i like a lot of what you wrote in #6, just wondering if the BPP, did anything that you “admire”?

  • CarolineSF

    Yes, and the gangs of eduvulture “philanthropist” billionaires. Now those guys are scary!

  • Nextset

    Harold: No.

    The Black Panthers were nothing but Trash – a criminal gang that was smart enough to use the facade of “racial justice” as a cover for extortion robbery and murder. They were born from shakedowns of the black merchants and liquor store operators. They went on to be caught beating older and frail black tradesman like the tailor who was beaten at the condo high rise at Lake Merritt. Reportedly they roughed up a black doctor during some kind of call also. They expanded into race social service swindles which the local white establishment turned a blind eye to instead of exterminating them. Nobody seemed to worry as long as they didn’t target white businesses with the violence they used on the blacks. They were in business to hurt people and take money. They did have a sense of style and theatre along the way. Everybody likes entertainment. I read Elaine Brown’s Book about beating Tina Turner during an Ike and Tina Turner concert at the Oakland Auditorium. Typical.

    The bakery gang had exactly the same MO. And just as before they were allowed to exist and the reports of their sex crimes and violence were back burnered. As long as the victims are black and they stay in the ghetto, no pest control.

    Of course such people will be allowed to have their own schools. If the establishment doesn’t really care about the children in their own schools why should they care if predators go into the education business with the same children?

    At least that is the way I see it and I grew up in the East Bay. The SLA would still be here if they’d left Patty Hearst alone. Maybe with a storefront and a Marijuana Collective.

    Brave New World.

  • Nextset

    At lunch I was catching up on reading – at GlobalGuerrillas.Com there was an interesting passage from Jan 3rd 2010. It expresses what I’ve been fretting about since I started the “Brave New World” slogan thing.

    “All of the requirements for entry into the middle class are now private expenses. From health care to a college education, if you can’t afford the minimum (let alone high quality versions), you aren’t allowed entry. Worse, those expenses are spiraling out of control at rates many times the rate of inflation. Nothing is being done to address this.”

    Myself and my cousins all went to public high schools in the Bay Area. Public Colleges were then affordable – cheap even. Most everybody in that group is solidly middle class.

    The destruction of public schooling is a massive threat to the continuation of this state and this country as we knew it. We are to be a society of shrinking haves and teeming have-nots with the vote. Not good for political or economic stability.

    In the time we have to deal with all this I see no chance of change. Certainly not in California. We are living in interesting times.

  • http://tonerdeeski.blogspot.com toner deeski

    I met several of the proponents of the waldorf school. I guess they work at a private waldorf school in richmond?
    The man of the group, a seemingly unapologetic chain smoker, told me that he felt that creating a waldorf school in Oakland was a “Herculean” task. I pressed him for more detail, and he talked about how Hercules had been “sent to hell to bring order to chaos.”
    Needless to say, I was highly offended.
    San Antonio is hardly the worst neighborhood in Oakland. If he considered San Antonio to be “hell,” they aren’t an appropriate group for any neighborhood in Oakland.

  • Mary

    I know the team of educators and parents who put together the proposal for a Waldorf charter school. There is no chain smoking male among them, just some hard working women who think it would be good for Oakland parents to have a public Waldorf School as one of a rich array of public options…currently OUSD offers arts infused elementary schools, dual-immersion elementary schools, expeditionary learning elementary schools, etc. Deborah Meier writes about the pedagogy of poverty…the tendency to offer very structured, skill based instruction to the children of the poor, while the children of the wealthy have classes in dance and music and cooking and yoga…Thankfully, Oakland has bucked the trend of focusing exclusively on skill based instruction, and test scores are steadily rising in the elementary schools. How wonderful it would be if families who can’t afford a private Waldorf school had the option of sending their children to a public one. It’s not for everyone, but the point is to find the school that is a good fit for your child.

  • Bruce

    If my memory serves me correctly, go back 8 to 10 years and you will find a Waldorf based charter school that was approved in Oakland. As I recall, it lasted just a few years and ran into problems that were mostly of the financial variety. There were stories in the Trib about it at the time.

    A Waldorf style option isn’t a non-starter in my mind. There is a lot to be said for a method of instruction that takes a different tact than most of our schools do. Not all people learn in the same way, much less children, so having an option that allows children who need the incorporation of art and movement into their school day would seem to me to be a good thing. As Mary says, it’s all about finding the right fit for your child to have the best chance at success.

  • http://www.waldorfcritics.org Dan Dugan

    I’d like to repeat what I said at the hearing. Everything “Waldorf” comes from Anthroposophy. There is no secular Waldorf movement. Waldorf teachers are trained at Anthroposophical seminaries. The Oakland charter specifies Waldorf training for their teachers.

    Dan Dugan, Secretary, PLANS, Inc.

  • Caroline

    Based on my friends whose children attended Waldorf preschool and early grades, a low-income family would have a pretty hard time following Waldorf’s rules, which are extremely rigid.

    At the preschool level, the families had to have a cloth drawstring bag for spare clothes (my kids’ urban co-op preschool used shoeboxes, by comparison). Well, where do you even get a cloth drawstring bag in the right size? My friends, who are lovely but also super-wealthy, solved that problem because the mom had a couple of pairs of $200-plus shoes from Nordstrom that came in just the right cloth drawstring bags. I’m not sure where a low-income parent would come up with them, though.

    The kids were also required to have a matching fabric placemat and apron, which was a really hard item to find — I think my friend found hers at a crafts fair. And they had to bring their organic lunches in baskets, and also have slippers to wear in class (shoes are too noisy). The ban on commercial “character” logos tends to make it hard to buy inexpensive items too — at least when my now-teens were young, the budget way to buy shoes was character shoes at Payless Shoe Source. And of course natural wooden toys (which are strongly encouraged at home, not just at school) tend to be much pricier than the standard plastic Target items. It was really pretty expensive just getting the kids outfitted according to all those very strict and specific mandates.

    And when you don’t have a nanny, it is really hard to avoid letting your kids watch TV when you need to keep them occupied. So those dictates are a much bigger burden on low-income parents than on the privileged. There must be some low-income children at Waldorf schools somewhere, but it would be interesting to find out what their parents are going through trying to follow all those rules and restrictions.

  • Union Supporter-But

    Ouch Caroline. We did not have a nanny. I worked full time and the requirement for the child care centers was no TV any time. My children did not even watch TV at all until after age 3 which is the recommendation of that flaky group of the American Pediatrics Association.

    Draw string bags are pretty easy to make, you buy 1/2 yard of cotton fabric, you thread a needle, you sew the bottom and a side, you flip over the top and sew a one inch “hem” along the top, pull a shoe string through and you have a cloth bag – no nanny required.

    What I see about Waldorf education that is enticing is that children spend time working on problems together, not against each other, but together – young children are taught to believe what they can imagine, not just what they see with their eyes – this is part of the reason a good number of physicists have a background in Waldorf. So far if you add up three children in public schools there has been at least 25 hours of video and DVD watching during school hours – we’re not talking biographies, we’re talking Star Trek, Monsters, Inc. – commercial movies to kill extra classroom time. That would not be done in a Waldorf setting – while some may find it as offensive as I find the movie watching – children would take walks in nature and build “fairy houses” basically strong small structures (think architecture and science principles) to be strong enough to shelter fairies. They would bake bread (think about the scientific properties of yeast and the math lessons in measuring and the reading of recipes along with writing notes of how to make the recipes better).

    You can spend a great deal on Waldorf education – and on any other type of education – you can also give high quality education on less money.

    Waldorf families have fewer toys in their space – they are taught to creatively fill their time – think of the students in East Oakland who have x-boxes, TVs, Cell phones, Wiis, DSs, and on and on. None of that is wanted, needed or required for a happy childhood full of learning.

  • Caroline

    Yes, i’m a veteran seamstress and could easily whip out drawstring bags. But then I have time (or enough freedom to make some time), resources for materials and so forth, so it’s easier for me than it would be for a struggling parent living in poverty.

    I’m just saying that the rigid requirements in Waldorf schools would be far more difficult for stressed low-income families to follow.

    The public-school bashing that goes on in Waldorf and other holier-than-thou communities is really annoying, too. Of course we inferior public-school parents allow our kids to be pitted against each other all the time rather than encouraged to work “together.”

    This makes me think of the “South Park” episode about the toxic cloud of smug (since I’m a trashy public-school parent I let my kids watch “South Park”).

  • Nextset

    The above stories about what one has to do to attend a “Waldorf” (do they serve the salad also?) school is hilarious. It all reminds me of some Berkeley cult, attended by children of weird and strange families. We can respect this, especially if the food is good.

    I agree this is a fad for the nutty well-to-do. And that’s all it is. It has no place in the society that is the OUSD core constituiency.

    The nice thing about the Charters is that there is something for everyone, especially if the proposed school is going to be a small one anyway. I repeat my thoughts about cults and criminals all wanting their very own school and getting it in this Brave New World.

    We were all better off when the public schools actually functioned as well disciplined and orderly schools. Too bad those days are gone.

    Brave New World.

  • WaldorfParent

    Anytime a Waldorf related story hits the presses, one is sure to see Dan Dugan and his cadre of followers to quickly throw water on the entire thing. As a Waldorf parent of many years (22 and counting), I have seen a definite shift in thinking to incorporate lots of different cultural and artistic influences. There are definitely things that Steiner said, which in today’s context are irrelevant and/or hurtful. However, I’ve never felt that my teachers were all encompassing Steiner lovers, but thought his tenets were worth exploring. As more research is done on motivation, rewards, mastery, etc… it is clear that Waldorf is on to something.

    All this stuff that Waldorf parents supposedly “have to do” to fit into a Waldorf school does not take into account that most of our parents want to do anything they can to support their children and are supported by a nurturing community that is there to help. Almost half of our families receive financial aid, and many are on full financial aid. That is a choice our community made – to support this educational avenue for even the most economically distressed.

    That children do not watch TV doesn’t mean that there is now all this time that a parent has to be engaged (although many probably are), but many Waldorf children can sit for hours imagining and creating stories of their own rather than being force fed one from the tv. It has been wonderful for my family, and would probably be great if many more followed that thinking. However, these tactics for successful parenting are not rigidly enforced, and each family has to find their own way in the world.

    I personally think it would be great if the mudslinging around alternative educational approaches would stop, and the benefits found in the Waldorf educational curriculum could be mined for things that are appropriate for public schools. That would definitely mean stripping out some of the more religious aspects (including Jewish, Christian, Pagan, etc… holidays), but I think festival life could continue in a new and culturally significant way. I mean… the seasons do occur and drive lots of our day to day lives whether we like it or not.

  • beth

    welp, public waldorf is workin in sactown, ha ha ha

  • Bill A

    Hi, I was searching articles on the net for waldorf method schools in the East Bay, and found this discussion. My daughter goes to John Morse, the Waldorf methods public school in Sacramento. Let me clear up a few misconceptions.

    There is NO religious component to the Waldorf educational method in a public school setting. None. The use of myth- which can be taken from any cultural background, and is *appropriately* done so with a cultural sensitivity by the teachers, is part of an integrated instructional method. Children find myth useful as a sandbox for discussing morality and ethical behavior. That is its purpose, and it works very well. This teaching results in kids learning the basics of conflict resolution, as they are often tasked with assisting each other, as well as helping younger students as they advance in grades.

    Holiday celebrations are necessary and important for community building and having a showcase for gaining accolades in having learned new skills and crafts. Those craft, music, and performance skills are integral in teaching language and mathematics. Our holiday festivals are Harvest and Spring. Nothing religious to it, just going along with the seasons, and teaching an appreciation for the limitations and benefits presented by each season.

    As for being too costly, I can’t see how that is the case. Quite a few of the parents there are on public assistance or unemployment due to economic issues in the region. Most jobs in Sacramento don’t pay very well anyways, and I don’t see a bunch of new cars sitting in the parking lot. Yes, there is a *recommendation* for the types of toys kids should have- but the focus is on learning toys, not just simple wooden dolls and the like. Legos work just as well.

    The Waldorf method was originally designed, by the way, for workers at a cigarette factory, and once the educational concept was proven, took off all over Europe. Components (such as not reading until seven) are part of a method of teaching to the developmental strengths of a child. The Waldorf method classes I see are playing concerts and reading sheet music by sixth grade, building structures to do comparative design testing, and in general are exceeding STARS testing expectations by the time they leave at 8th grade (except that they also have the ability to also perform basic construction, play music, etc).

    Criticizing teachers for following the Waldorf model when our state’s placement in US education is so low doesn’t seem like a fair comparison to me. Even our US model of education is flawed. Countries with much better educational systems than ours (Norway and Sweden, for example) don’t enforce attendance of school until age seven, but graduate kids at 16 who are fluently multi-lingual, perform at our advanced placement high school science levels in grade 8, and have trade skills upon graduation. I’d say really investigate what the presenters for the Waldorf charter said with an open mind before passing judgment based upon your own personal likes or dislikes for religion, educational methods, etc.

  • Elizabeth Daniels

    I am a Waldorf trained teacher and I did not attend a seminary.

    Also, like most Waldorf trained teachers, I do not believe everything that Steiner said. And I, as Steiner would have liked, can think for myself and decide what to believe.

    I am not an Anthroposophist and neither were/are most of my classmates. Stiener had his take on early East/West spirituality. It was his view, he said take it or leave it, but above all think for yourself.

    By the way, Biodynamic gardening was also one of Steiner’s initiatives. I don’t think farmers imploying this method around the world worry any more than teachers do about Anthroposophy.

  • http://lizditz.typepad.com Liz Ditz

    Publicly funded Waldorf/Steiner schools have become controversial in the United Kingdom as well. Here are two articles on the subject, for your use:

    The true nature of Steiner (Waldorf) education. Mystical barmpottery at taxpayers’ expense. Part 1

    The Steiner Waldorf cult uses bait and switch to get state funding. Part 2

  • E Hansen

    A couple of things: If I had had the opportunity I’d have joyfully attended and experienced a Waldorf education K – 12. It’s amazing, refreshing, child centered, educational, artistic, musical, each grade level adds something new giving the mind and heart that sense of wonder and imagination it eagerly seeks. Just read what Rachael Carson thought a child needs, and you’ll find it in a Waldorf school.

    Instead I attended K – 12 Oakland public school education 1954 – 1966, which was ok at the time. I had some excellent teachers and one History teacher in particular, and there were quiet classrooms, but overall and since I do not live in the Chabot, Crocker Highlands, Montclair, or other more favorable elementary school areas, and that I am a public school teacher myself in another inner city school district, I decided to make the sacrifice and send my daughter to the East Bay Waldorf School instead.

    She attended K – 12, and I’d do it all over again, and so would she, and if I could I’d take the 14 years of time even as an adult and go through the K – 12 curriculum myself, if there was such a thing. My daughter is now a junior at UCB in Architecture.

    When my daughter was in Kindergarten at a Waldorf school, I took a leave of absence for two years and we moved to Eugene, Or (I am a single mother, having raised her as a single mother for all of her life) where she attended the Eugene Waldorf School and I took the Waldorf teachers training. If there would become a charter Waldorf School in Oakland, I would definitely apply to teach there.

    Until the advent of NCLB I was able to use many parts of the Waldorf curriculum in in my own classrooms. I even took several years of summer classes at the Sacramento Waldorf Teachers Training school for public educators to do this.

    The public school children I taught these Waldorf methods of education to thrived. They stimulated for them the awe and wonder of education with should clearly be part of any person’s education.

    Not so today, leap forward to the last 8 years as we have been saddled with NCLB, and Open Court. Together they are the most mundane, horrific way in which to teach children. There is no creativity, and as was once said about the Mudville fans that day when Casey struck out, there is no joy in education, instead we are losing our children, and we are losing ourselves.

  • Jessica

    I live in Oakland and am the mother of 5 super bright kids (ages 4-14) who were bored (and one was acting out in public schools and got expelled) so I was forced to move them to the cheapest private schools I could find. They are not the best, but way better than public.

    When we were at an Oakland Charter School in 2000 (EBCC), we had a Waldorf teacher for several years and she is by far my kid’s favorite teacher and most memorable elementary experience. She connected with the kids deeply and cared about their long term success.

    In 2010, my eldest was awarded a full scholarship to SF Waldorf High School. I am extremely happy with his educational experience. The teachers see my child for the genius he is and they support his development in all areas. I would love to have my other 4 kids in a Waldorf school, but the only way that could happen in Oakland is with a Charter School.

    I support a Waldorf Public Charter School! Thanks for your article and everyone for sharing their thoughts.

    Be well!

  • Juli

    I am also in Waldorf teacher training and I can attest to the fact that the teacher trainees are at no point asked to subscribe to everything Rudolf Steiner said. Most of the teacher trainees connect to some of Steiner’s ideas, but not to others. And there is definitely no Anthroposophy whatsoever taught in a Waldorf classroom. If the festivals based on religious traditions are dropped, I think Waldorf methods are wholly applicable to a public school setting.

  • mali

    Hi to all, and thanks for your posts. Just wanted to provide an update- the Waldorf charter for oakland HAS been approved to open for the 2011-2012 school year. I know this because I am one of several potential candidates for teaching there. The few staff I have had the opportunity to meet are very intelligent, compassionate educators, and in no way did i detect a cult-like vibe, just a focus on creative expression and discovery in learning, and a well-rounded education that encourages students to work together to problem solve, make meaningful connections, and think for themselves(which differs greatly from my experiences teaching and working in other public school settings in Oakland).

    However, there is a dilemma that we are currently facing- it has recently been brought to our attention that the site we had been promised- Garfield Elementary- which is located in the San Antonio/Fruitvale district- has been taken off the table, and exchanged with the Howard site (near the Oakland Zoo) which is an entirely different district, and much more difficult for members of our community to access. We strongly believe that this action by the OUSD and others is in direct violation of Prop 39, which states that a charter site cannot be moved without expressed approval from the charter or a state board waiver. We intend to fight for our original site at upcoming boardmeetings at OUSD head quarters.

    Anyone who is interested in learning more/supporting our efforts, please feel free to contact me at my email address: mali_r_b@yahoo.com

  • Lisa Capuano Oler

    This description of Waldorf education is an oversimplified bastardization of a teaching methodology that is complex and creative.
    There are many Waldorf inspired public schools in the United States.
    But I am sickened by the fact that these charters seem to think it is ok to move into a community as though they have a history there, with no conscience to the damage they are inflicting. NOT VERY WALDORF FOLKS.

  • J.R.

    I am amazed at the attitude of obliviousness for the past three or four decades of history in this district(the damage of neglect,passivity and under-achievement). The public schools think they have ownership in the community just because of the passage of time(there is more to it than that), but they don’t want to own up to the results of multiple decades of bad priorities(this district is under-performing with a few exceptions). if the charter teachers genuinely care about my child then that makes them part of my community.Charters have only been around(in appreciable number)in the last decade or so, and yet all we hear is about the greedy corporatism. Not all charters are corporate owned, and furthermore charters would have never been needed or wanted if public’s were doing their job of teaching, caring and nurturing to the best of their ability. It all starts with the attitudes and priorities of the people involved, and if the results aren’t there it’s time to check attitudes.

  • Jim Mordecai


    It is clear that corporate charter schools do not have ownership by the community. Their authorizers have poor oversight of high stakes testing as well as poor oversight of daily operations of their charter schools. In the case of KIPP, ownership is not in Oakland and the governing power is not even on this side of the Bay. Aspires seven charter schools are governed by corporate governing board for over 30 charter school across the state of California.

    Even the single charter school with transparent governance is most likely to take taxpayers’ money and use that tax money to pay for membership in an association that hires charter school lobbies for Sacramento and Washington D.C. (Unfortunately in Oakland and some big school districts taxpayers’ money is diverted to lobbying.)

    And, it is these charter school lobbies with those privatizers wanting to increase charter school market share that frame charter school laws both state and federal.

    Although high scoring schools with poor testing oversight is problematic, so far testing of the hypothesis that charters deliver better scores than public schools is not true. Stanford study found some charters deliver better scores and some charters don’t. At least in that huge study public schools delivered better scores by almost two to one.

    Idea that poor performance created charter schools is false, because charter schools were created by the state legislature not inner cities poor test scores. Legislature did not have children attending schools that were not scoring well and dissatisfied with the schooling their children and grandchildren were receiving. Charter schools seemed like an experiment that would be good for other parents’ children from the lower classes.

    Finally to say that not all charters are corporate owned is a lie. Every charter school in Oakland takes out papers of incorporation. You can’t name one that hasn’t. I know what you mean by saying there are charter schools that are not corporate owned in the sense they are mom and pop operations and not like KIPP or Aspire corporate management organizations. Yet, legally no matter how small they are corporations with the public’s access legally restricted to what the corporation wants to share with the public. And, collectively they naturally contribute to lobbying in the interest of charters schools to gain more education dollars.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Abby Crain


    I wanted to say, halfway through the Community School for Creative Educations first year, that my daughter is in second grade there, and IT IS A TRULY WONDERFUL PLACE. I am continually impressed by the intention and commitment of the satff and families at the school and the way in which standards based and waldorf curriculum are being blended in a way that seem to enrich them both.

    Come check us out!