|In recent decades, fundamentalism has become increasingly
common in different parts of the world in a way that crosses religious
and philosophical boundaries and national borders.
All three of the main religions of the world, Christianity,
Judaism and Islam are experiencing an increase in fundamentalist groups.
But the same sort of dogmatism can be found in secular humanist and atheist
circles, and is a potential danger facing all world views and philosophies,
People who adopt inflexible positions become defensive
or hostile when faced with conflicting worldviews. We are entering a world
increasingly filled with groups of people who on more or less well founded
grounds feel as though their most basic beliefs are under attack, and take
more or less extreme action to defend and assert it.
This theme was clearly articulated in a 1993 essay
by Samuel Huntington, The
Clash of Civilizations, in Foreign Affairs. This seminal
article by a Harvard scholar identified seven main world cultures and predicted
that in the future, relative homogeneity would continue to exist within
the areas dominated by these cultures, but that conflicts would develop
along the borders where they meet.
According to Huntington, such conflicts based on
cultural differences will replace the conflicts between nations and political
ideologies the last centuries.
MR. DUGAN'S ATHEIST "PHILOSOPHICAL" CRUSADE
AGAINST WALDORF-METHODS EDUCATION
PLANS, Inc., an odd group whose only
purpose seems to be attacking Waldorf education and anthroposophy, tries
to present itself as a organization which includes and welcomes both secular
and religious views.
However, the main force behind its ten-year old
anti-Waldorf and anti-anthroposophy campaign, carried on through the Internet
and other media, is Dan Dugan, PLANS secretary
Mr. Dugan has spent many years campaigning in San
Francisco to promote an atheist and secular humanist worldview, starting
with a failed
internal rebellion in a local "skeptic" organization at the end of
the 1980's. His goal at that time was to transform it into a crusading
organization, preaching atheism and secular humanism at the grassroots
level in Bay Area colleges.
A couple of years later he turned up in a different
campaign, attacking audiophiles with McCarthyist smears (see Stereophile
magazine for the full story).
In 1995, he started a personal mailing list against
Waldorf education. On the main page of the listserv he runs, Mr. Dugan
describes it with:
"Sharing of Waldorf horror stories. Anthroposophists
"defending the faith" against PLANS philosophy warriors".
On his mailing list, he attracts and supports smear,
and untrue demonization of everything even remotely
related to Waldorf and Waldorf-methods education, and then at first republished
all of this nastiness as archives at a section on his personal site. Later,
the section has been transformed into the PLANS site.
PLANS' PUBLIC ANTI WALDORF WITCH HUNT
In 1997, Mr. Dugan fired up his witch
hunt against Waldorf education, using the newly formed PLANS to attack
school districts applying Waldorf methods in public schools. According
to the Sacramento Bee, PLANS charged
that the schools not only practiced witchcraft, but also taught it to their
In the media (California Aggie, May 22,
1997), Mr. Dugan commented on the Waldorf School in Davis, CA:
"They believe that there are spirits behind
everything. I know there are people who would call that evil. (They) would
consider anthroposophy a satanic religion."
When criticized even by a supporter for the way PLANS
used allegations of witchcraft at Waldorf schools in its anti-Waldorf campaign,
he defended this on his personal mailing (June 9):
"What I say 'in defense of the Waldorfians'
is that 'they don't eat babies.' "
The false allegations of wicca that PLANS had encouraged
were then used by a right wing law firm, naming the president of PLANS
Debra Snell as client, to solicit $15,000 from an
"Am I pandering to the prejudices of Christians?
Personally, yes I am!"
The money was used to finance the initiation of
a litigation by PLANS against two public
school districts, Sacramento City Unified School District and Twin Ridges
Elementary School District, for "advancing religion" by using Waldorf teaching
methods in two public schools.
The schools were using Waldorf teaching methods
as part of developing an increasing methodological diversity in public
education, and had been organized specifically so as not
on any point to violate the U.S. Constitution regarding the separation
of church and state.
In the litigation, PLANS accused the two school
districts of causing PLANS' (six) members "great
and irreparable injury" with their support of the use of Waldorf teaching
methods at the two public schools.
a federal court ruled that the two school districts have a secular, non-religious
purpose for the operation of the two schools. But it let the case proceed,
to find whether public Waldorf-methods programs might have the unintended
consequence of directly and substantially "advancing religion"
to such an extent that it violates the U.S. Constitution.
the court dropped the case, following a review. In 2003,
an appellate court overruled that decision. It returned the reactivated
case to the lower federal court where it was filed. The court scheduled
the case for an actual trial on September 12, 2005.
When it started, seven years after the litigation
was filed, it turned out that PLANS was unable to produce a single witness
or admissible piece of evidence to prove that anthroposophy is a religion in a traditional sense,
and the case was concluded after only 30 minutes of proceedings.
WHY DOES HE DO IT?
Mr. Dugan has offered up reasons for
his attacks in depositions for the trial against the two public school
districts for operating, not independent Waldorf schools, but public
I'm being taxed to support a religion.
I am supposed to be protected from that.
Do you think that violates some of your
It violates my future, my ability to live
in a world that is free from this kind of thinking. [...] It's increasing
something that I think is bad. This worldview.
(Source: Deposition of Mr. Dugan, March 24, 1999,
He then tries to summarize the essence of what
he means by saying that he feels that it violates his personal
"quality of life".
if students at public Waldorf-methods schools, where
he has no children attending, learn through Waldorf methods instead of
mainly by studying textbooks and using computers.
They learn by reciting, singing and listening to
stories, by knitting, drawing, painting and sculpting, by participating
in plays and rhythmic games, and by learning about the world and its cultures
by engaging in them artistically, and about nature by carefully observing
natural phenomena and thinking for themselves about what they observe.
In the end, this is what Mr. Dugan considers his
personal and legally protected right to a quality of life: to live in a
world free from anything he considers to be religious.
His dream for the future is a world free of everything
he considers to be even slightly religious elements.
This is the reason he has, as a professed atheist
"philosophical warrior", spent ten years pursuing a public "philosophical
war" against Waldorf and Waldorf-methods schools. He has fought this crusade
on the Internet and in the media. This is why he has written a number of
letters to academics and to school districts to share his concerns about
the "dangers" of Waldorf and Waldorf-methods education.
This is the reason he has spent seven years pursuing
a legal battle in court against Waldorf-methods schools formed specifically
not to violate the separation of church and state, a battle he has continued
despite the fact that a federal court ruled in 1999
that the school districts have a secular, non-religious purpose for their
And finally, it is for this reason that he publishes
the PLANS web site where he is not satisfied with trying to prove that
anthroposophy is a religion, but adds to this the publication
of smears and demonizations
of independent Waldorf and Waldorf-methods schools as allegedly racist,
occult sect schools that indoctrinate students with anthroposophy instead
of giving them a good basic education, as schools that are haunted
by bullying, and even as a sort of "nazi
training camps" (as one reader understands his site).
WALDORF STUDENTS AND RESEARCH
Left out of Dugan's rants are the realities
of Waldorf education in the world. Large numbers of parents and children
have connected with Waldorf schools and been thoroughly satisfied with
what they found. For example: The parents of former Presidential candidate
John Kerry and his sister Diana chose a Waldorf school for them when
the family lived in Berlin in the 1950's. A Waldorf school was also the
choice of the parents of African-American Kenneth Chenault, now COO
of American Express.
It was also the choice for the Auschwitz survivor
and long-time Chairman of the Central Jewish Council in Germany, Heinz
Galinski, for his daughter after the war. Later in life, this daughter,
Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, commented :
"I personally have had only good experiences
during my school time; it was liberal, anti-racist, tolerant of every faith
and not missionary" (Allgemeine Jüdische Wochenzeitung, March
A Waldorf school was also the choice of the former
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the parents of the labor Prime
Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, former
German Minister of Foreign Affairs and the present German Minister
of the Interior Otto Schily also chose Waldorf education for their
The long roster of distinguished parents and graduates
somehow doesn't seem to match the picture of Waldorf schools painted by
Mr. Dugan and his friends at the PLANS web site.
in Sweden on several hundred Swedish Waldorf students, who had spent
the majority of their twelve school years in a Waldorf school, compared
them with students in the corresponding grades in municipal (public) schools.
Among other things the research showed that the majority of the pupils
in both types of school repudiated Nazism and racism.
However, the proportion of pupils who suggested
anti-Nazi and anti-racist solutions, i.e., solutions that involved
counteracting or stopping Nazism and racism was considerably
greater among the Waldorf pupils than among pupils at municipal
schools. This is in striking contrast to the various claims of racism and
anti-Semitism connected with anthroposophy and Waldorf education published
on the PLANS web site.
Another part of the study compared 9th grade pupils
at nine Waldorf schools with 9th grade pupils at municipal schools, and
corrected for the difference in the social background of the pupils in
the two groups. According to the study, the Waldorf pupils felt to
a lesser extent than the municipal students that they were bullied or unfairly
treated. They also felt to a greater extent than the pupils at
municipal schools, that teachers or other adults quickly intervened if
a pupil was bullied.
The study also shows that the Waldorf pupils in
Sweden go on to higher education to a greater extent than pupils
in general at public schools, and that few of them consider it
to have been a disadvantage to have gone to a Waldorf school.
And another study, an overview of all Waldorf high
school students in North America (including Canada) during the last 10
years, shows that 77% of them have gone on directly to college after
high school. Of the remaining 23%, 9% had either been accepted
to a college and deferred admission for a year, announced plans
to enroll in college after a year of work or travel, or were pursuing the
Ontario Academic Credit (OAC).
THE VICTIMS OF MR. DUGAN'S ATHEIST "PHILOSOPHICAL"
Who are the victims in Dugan's "philosophical"
crusade? Is anyone damaged by his dreams of a world free of religion?
Children are damaged who are pulled out of their
independent Waldorf school or Waldorf-methods school because of the publication
of untrue stories. Children are victims who never have the opportunity
to attend an indepdendent Waldorf or Waldorf-methods school because of
the publication of defamatory and demonizing myths by PLANS at its site.
Parents are being methodically deceived about the nature of Waldorf education
by Dugan as part of his "philosophical" crusade.
And there can be no doubt that children attending
school in the two school districts targeted by the PLANS lawsuit have been
injured by the enormous legal expenses involved in defending this case
for over seven years.