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Saturday, November 20, 2004

Religious Rights Have No Priority Over Human Rights.

A group of Muslim parents from a Toronto high school want to exclude their children from anti-discrimination class. No, they don't want to be discriminated against... apparently, anti-discrimination education violates their religious rights. That is, the anti-homophobia type of discrimination, of course.

Gladly, the board has refused to exclude students from anti-bigotry education, stating that religious rights do not trample human rights, and children of same-sex parents have the right to be represented and *gasp* respected. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty notes that "tolerance is a two-way street". Now if only those Christians South of the border realized that...

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Hippie is Evil part 3: "Alternative" Education and Waldorf Schools.

The public school system is shit, no doubt about it. Wouldn't it be great to enrol your child in a school that claims to "fully develop the capacities of each student and to inspire a love for lifelong learning"? Actually, no, if by doing that you're screwing up your child's education. Those are just a few of the emptly claims of Waldorf Schools. A few editions back, Utne Reader magazine dedicated several pages to promote these schools, since they, of course, are ever-increasingly hippie.

Waldorf Schools were founded by a nutter named Rudolf Steiner, founder of anthroposophy, who believed in spiritual evolution, astral bodies, and the lost continent of Atlantis. In regards to actual schooling, they are not "alternative" at all, and in fact they believe in a very authoritative form of education.

In Germany, where I spent 5 weeks of my grade 9 year in a Waldorf School, they go so far as to have a Waldorf College, the only privately-owned college in the Country. For a while I thought it must have been real bad luck to have had such a horrible experience in such a "great alternative school", but then I found that there are a great number of people who don't have too many good things to say about these schools. People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools offers a great deal of information and personal stories. I highly recommend it for anyone who thinks otherwise. A few points they make:

  • young students are not allowed to use black crayons
  • left-handedness is a sign of karmic weakness and must be corrected
  • they do not teach evolution
  • mythology is taught as hystory
  • they believe it's bad to learn how to read and write before the age of 8 (11 or 12 according to Rudolf Steiner)
  • they teach several other things that are unscientific at best, including astrology.

In my experience, the schools are not academic-oriented. They offer crafts classes like woodwork and gardening, and that would be good if it weren't for the huge proportion of time that they take up. The curriculum varies on a weekly basis, and the students focus on only one subject per week. Classes that were offered every week included grammar, 3-years-behind math, music, arts, and religion, which was divided into catholic and protestant, and I somehow ended up in the catholic class, where all we did in those 5 weeks was read Wir Kinder Vom Bahnhof Zoo out loud. Go figure.

Waldorf schools also have only one teacher for the same class form grades 1-12, for all subjects excluding the crafts and religion, to promote the feeling of family, or something wishy-washy like that. My case might have been an exception, but the teacher was a tyrant who frequently screamed at the students (especially in music class) and humiliated them in front of the class, including me. If we were not perfect, we were stupid. Apparenlty their policy is "punish not praise", as far as I could see. Other than bad non-academic teaching, they had extremely strict bizarre little rituals, such as the freaky chanting when it was someone's birthday. There were no smiles, no congratulations, not any sign of happiness. The teacher would light a very big candle, which the birthday child would hold in her hands, while the class chanted for what seemed like forever. Then the child would blow the candle and everyone would look down until the wick had completely ceased to smoke, and then the class would go on.

Eventually there was a class trip which I wasn't invited to because it would disrupt class cohesion, and I took the opportunity to get the hell out of there. Months later I found out one of the students killed himself during that class trip. I kid you not.

Not all alternative education is bad, obviously. I didn't find any "survivor groups" and criticism for Montessori schools, for example. The point remains that just because a school calls itself "alternative" doensn't mean that it's any good or better than the public education system. So please think twice, or 10 times, about putting your child in a Waldorf school.

P.S. Yes, there was another boob event, this time Tara Reid. I'll refrain from comments since she was obviously on drugs and I feel bad for her. And her nipple.