"Setting a novel in a Waldorf school community while "largely avoiding" Anthroposophy is a bit like setting a novel in Yankee Stadium while largely avoiding baseball. The point of Yankee Stadium, after all, is that it is a place for playing baseball. Likewise, the point of Waldorf schools is that they are places for applying Anthroposophy. Most Waldorf schools acknowledge this, if only indirectly, when they profess their debt to Rudolf Steiner — whose teachings are found in the tenets of Anthroposophy.
THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD may be a good novel, but — because it largely sidesteps Anthroposophy — it cannot present a reliable picture of Waldorf education. Read the novel for its literary and entertainment value, by all means. But if you want to learn about Waldorf education, look elsewhere."
I have to love it when people dismiss my book without ever actually cracking the spine. This was an especially interesting series of criticisms for him to make, given that his very own site is one I used a great deal in my research for the book-- in tandem with Waldorf Critics-- and that in the same month he discourages his own readers from reading my work, he posts about the low vaccination rate in Waldorf schools, an issue of which I'm openly critical from the first page of Chapter One of my novel.
I admit it does take one doing a little homework on me to find out I'm quite critical of Waldorf education. For example, you'd have to hunt down my guest post on Bea's Book Nook, in which I detail my son's poor experiences in a Waldorf preschool and how that shaped my skepticism about whether the ideals of this system match up to the reality. Or you'd have to find the comment thread on The Ethereal Kiosk in which I share all kinds of opinions about Steiner and his philosophies, and with a candidness that usually takes several glasses of wine to procure, but can be achieved with none if you speak negatively of my work. But yes, it's true that I haven't come out swinging where Waldorf is concerned, and that's for two reasons. One, that it's a novel, not a platform, and I'm not about to promote my creative writing based on some kind of noisy agenda; the fiction should speak for itself, and that's that. And Two, because I'm not interested in alienating anybody-- Waldorf critic or Waldorf devotee-- who might want to pick up the book. If I start making tedious chess moves into the "pro-Waldorf" or "anti-Waldorf" camps, then either one group or the other will decide they're not the audience, when in fact it holds valuable things for both.
The other thing that's amusing-- or perhaps irritating, I can't decide which-- about posts like Rawlings' is that my novel is the first widely-distributed pop-culture account of Waldorf schooling, EVER. And it isn't either pro or anti, and so it puts this subject which is of such great importance to them before a national audience and makes their positions that much more engaging and relevant to a much larger group. I've seen one review after another in which readers have said they had never heard of the philosophy before, but after they finished the book, went hunting for more information. So here's your chance, guys, to influence their opinions. By dismissing my book as irrelevant to the discussion, you're handing over a golden opportunity to argue your own pros and cons.
Of course, right away I went looking for a way to tell Roger Rawlings that. But he has no contact information-- not surprising, given that incendiary content leads to incendiary emails. But there's something particularly annoying about issuing a public dismissal of my work without ever reading it, and not providing any way for the author in question to respond. It's like those groups that declare that Harry Potter is anti-Christian because there's magic in it, without ever actually reading the book to discover it's all about the battle between good and evil.
Now, let me talk about this anthroposophy thing for a minute, as long as my lack of inclusion of it in the novel-- as a term, at least-- is "more than a little questionable." And defensive, but I'll own that one.
This is a novel, not a philosophical text. If this were a book about a Catholic priest, I would not be required to explain Christianity beginning with the birth of Jesus in order for the priest character to be believable, so long as his actions, his words, and his motivations are all informed by his belief system. And so it is with Judy, and the rest of the characters who work at and populate the book's fictional Waldorf school. Did I factor in the teachers' beliefs, or training, in anthroposophy into my writing of the story? Of course I did. That's perfectly apparent to anyone with a knowledge of the subject who reads the book. Having said that, it's also clear from the story that the two main characters are not practicing anthroposophists; Judy professes not to believe in anything anymore, and Zach's family cannot possibly be, given that his mother practices the kind of attachment parenting (including extended breastfeeding) that is discouraged by that philosophy.
So I would ask Roger Rawlings-- and other critics of Waldorf-- to consider reading The Kingdom of Childhood, fictional version, if for no other reason than to take advantage of the opportunity to either support or refute what I actually wrote. How many times is it going to happen that a book featuring Waldorf schooling is available in airport bookstores? If you take issue with anthroposophy, by all means write about it. I certainly did.