Waldorf responds to critics

The president of Kelowna's Waldorf School's Board of Trustees says he “couldn't begin to answer” why a third of the students left last semester, but he maintains the school provides a “phenomenal education.”

Rick Salsa spoke to Castanet following a recent article about the exodus of students from the school.

Several parents, some whom had their kids at the school for more than seven years, told Castanet that political infighting with the board of trustees, among other issues, drove them away.

Salsa said sometimes opinions can differ about the direction of a school, but he's confident in the school's leadership going forward.

These parents expressed concerns that the school claims to be non-denominational, yet Waldorf education's founder, Rudolf Steiner – and his philosophy of anthroposophy – make their way into the teachings in less-than-desirable ways.

“Anthroposophy isn't taught directly to the children, but it's something that the teachers have training on to help them understand how the curriculum is suited to the children,” said Salsa.

A recent job posting for a Kelowna Waldorf School teacher says the school is “proud to offer a full anthroposophical curriculum.”

Salsa says “anthroposophy is about the wisdom of humanity, the evolution of human consciousness” and that “it allows the teachers to understand how to teach the children in a developmentally-appropriate way.”

A former parent at the school, Dan Ryder, said a less-fundamentalist board was elected during a 2015 board of trustees meeting. At that time, a founding member of the school stood up and lectured those in attendance on the “malign influences of the demon Ahriman.”

Ahriman, a demonic figure Steiner predicted would one day incarnate amongst Western humanity, appears in many writings of Steiner, including a lecture, 'The Ahrimanic Deception.'

When asked about Ahriman, Salsa said, “I don't know what that is.”

He says he doesn't know why former parents would say the current board subscribes to Steiner's more fundamentalist beliefs.

As for claims from a former Waldorf parent of inadequate bullying policies, Salsa says he doesn't “really understand why somebody would say that.” He said the school takes bullying very seriously.

The Kelowna Waldorf School began operation in 1981.

Following Castanet's original article, Salsa wrote a letter, claiming the article had many statements that were "completely inaccurate – too many to cite individually!"

When asked to identify these inaccuracies, Salsa responded with what he called, "the important point."

“The important point to understand is the environment we provide the children with here is, we try and prioritize a safe and stable and stimulating environment,” Salsa said. “The Waldorf education is a phenomenal education for the children.”

Salsa did not return numerous calls from Castanet prior to the original article.

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