Sparks fly over science in Steiner schools

21st September 2012 at 01:00

The misconceptions conveyed in the article about Steiner free schools need correcting. The suggestion that they "dismiss" Darwin is absurd. The best way to celebrate the genius of Darwin or any other scientific thinker is to engage with his ideas and to place them in context. This is what good schools do and it is what Steiner schools do. Contrary to the views of professors David Colquhoun and Edzard Ernst, Steiner schools are strongly pro-science. They are also pro-enquiry and pro-academic rigour. Young people today face the threat of having science-as-orthodoxy - what the biologist and author Rupert Sheldrake would call "scientism" - thrust upon them as a creed that may not be questioned. Pupils must be encouraged to question everything, including orthodoxy.

In Steiner schools, all science teaching begins with the close observation and direct experience of physical phenomena in order to gather evidence, rather than with a description of prevailing theories and models. It is an approach that resulted in the 2006 Pisa study into Austrian Steiner schools concluding that state schools could learn from Steiner methods; that led to the same recommendation from a national academies report in the US; that assists Steiner pupils in their generally excellent results in GCSE science subjects; and that is favoured by parents who want their children to receive a scientific education that empowers them to question and explore.

Alan Swindell, Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, Stourbridge.

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