Steiner Academy Hereford and access to computers

Catherine Payer’s TES article on Steiner education providing “ethos that fosters humanity” prompted me to take a quick look at the Steiner Academy Hereford (the UK’s only state-funded Steiner school). I was disappointed to find some rather misguided ideas about human-computer interaction. Their Home-School Agreement asks parents to commit to

Protecting my/our child from unsuitable and unwarranted access to some of the concerns and worries of the adult world and from unmonitored exposure and un-mediated access to media such as television and DVD, computer games, internet chat-rooms and so on. Medical research shows that screen-based activity such as TV, videos, films and computer games can have a negative effect on children (brain activity, concentration, heart-beat, emotional balance and well-being). The younger the child, the greater the effect. For the well-being of your child and their ability to access the education and programme of teaching and learning, please allow no regular screen-based activity/watching for under 8s, no more than 3 hours a week for 9 to 14s and moderate and selective use for young people aged 15 and over. Please try to make sure TVs and computers are not kept in your child’s room so that his/her bedroom is free to be a place of rest and comfort. (Further reading ‘Remote Controlled’ by Dr Aric Sigman & ‘Toxic Childhood’ by Sue Palmer, amongst others)

This is troubling for a number of reasons:

  • There is not good evidence for the Academy’s recommendations.  The evidence re the psychological and social effects of using computers is, at worst, mixed.   There is actually some interesting evidence suggesting that using computers in various ways might bring psychological benefits – some of the discussion at Mind Hacks is a great place to start.
  • Computers can be a valuable tool for many, and can be essential for those with some disabilities.  Placing arbitrary limitations on their use can seriously impact on the education of some students.

Of course, this does not mean that all exposure to information technologies is safe – everything has (potential) risks. However, relying on bad science to justify educational choices is a truly sorry situation. Providing state funding to support this is even worse.

h/t to @david_colquhoun and @zzzooey for the link.

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2 Comments

Filed under patrick holford

2 responses to “Steiner Academy Hereford and access to computers

  1. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that the Steiner negativity about electronic media of all kinds is extremely ‘loopy’ to put it kindly.

    ”Eliminating television is not only a practical concern. There are spiritual reasons for eliminating television. Some members of the Waldorf community believe that a being called Ahriman is especially present in electronic media such as computers and the Internet. This might help explain why Waldorf is so adamant about eliminating television for children, even when the American Association of Pediatrics says limited TV is OK for kids over 2 years of age.”

    ”Steiner says:..the Ahrimanic influence has been at work since the middle of the fifteenth century and will increase in strength until an actual incarnation of Ahriman takes place among Western humanity.

    Now it is characteristic of such things that they are prepared long in advance. Ahrimanic powers prepare the evolution of mankind in such a way that it can fall a prey to Ahriman when he appears in human form within Western civilization — hardly then to be called `civilization’ in our sense — as once Lucifer appeared in human form in China, as once Christ appeared in human form in Asia Minor. It is of no avail to give oneself illusions today about these things. Ahriman will appear in human form and the only question is, how he will find humanity prepared.
    Steiner, Rudolf. The Ahrimanic Deception”

    http://www.openwaldorf.com/media.html

  2. John

    Poor evidence for educational methods and philosophy? In a state funded school? Whatever next….

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