The most dangerous school in Los Altos

By Felix Salmon
November 1, 2011
Matt Richtel wrote a long and glowing profile of the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, looking into the apparent irony that a Silicon Valley school is decidedly low-tech.

" data-share-img="" data-share="twitter,facebook,linkedin,reddit,google" data-share-count="true">

A week or so ago, Matt Richtel wrote a long and glowing profile of the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, looking into the apparent irony that a Silicon Valley school is decidedly low-tech; he quoted one parent, Alan Eagle, a senior Google employee, as saying that “I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school”.

But there’s more to technological progress than iPads. And I wonder what Alan Eagle would say if he knew that fear of life-saving technology at the Waldorf School is exposing his children to a much-heightened risk of painful, untimely, and easily-preventable death.

Screen shot 2011-10-31 at 5.44.15 PM.png

The first thing to say about this tragic chart is that both Los Altos city and Santa Clara county have extremely low immunization rates. The right level of immunization is 100%, and rates of 90% or 94% are very dangerous indeed.

But 23% is positively evil.

This is a very dangerous level of immunization–the level where herd immunity gets lost, disease reservoirs are established, and children emerge from their school to infect infants, immunocompromised adults, and people whose vaccinations didn’t take or have waned, with potentially fatal diseases.

No responsible parent would ever let their child attend a school with a 23% immunization rate. And indeed there’s a strong case to be made that public-health officials should simply refuse to allow any such school to open its doors unless and until that rate improves. I’ll be charitable here and assume that Richtel didn’t know this number when he wrote his piece — but still, the NYT owes its readers something of an apology here for leading them to believe that there might be something admirable about this sinkhole of highly-dangerous fear and ignorance.

By far the best book on this phenomenon is The Panic Virus, by Seth Mnookin; I can highly recommend it. He tells of how when public-health officials try to work out which areas are at highest risk of fatal outbreaks, one thing they do is look at a map of Whole Food stores — it’s the crunchy-granola college-educated liberals who are by far the worst offenders when it comes to putting their own children and everybody else’s at risk. And they love to eat up pseudoscientific claptrap about “immature thymus glands” when it’s published by outlets like the Huffington Post.

It’s a statistical certainty that children die, unnecessarily, when immunization rates fall. The Los Altos parents sending their kids to the Waldorf School of the Peninsula are at best misguided and at worst downright malign. No matter how skeptical they are of technology, school administrators have an overriding moral duty to do something about this. Now.

Update: I should have put this in the original post, sorry, but the chart comes from the Bay Citizen’s immunization pages, which show that “at Waldorf School Of The Peninsula, 72.73 % of kindergartners weren’t fully immunized in the 2010-11 school year due to their parents’ personal beliefs”. The data comes from the California Department of Health.

Update 2: A fascinating comments thread, which is worth reading, or at least skimming through. Thanks in particular to LaraR, who notes that kids can’t enroll in public schools in Santa Clara unless they’re immunized. Which seems to have had the unintended consequence that parents who don’t want to immunize their kids all end up sending their kids to the Waldorf School, with potentially disastrous consequences. There’s already a pertussis epidemic in the county.

62 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

It is truly unfortunate how intolerance, fear, and statistics can control others. In the 1980′s I spoke to an East German couple who said that if your child could have a “Rudolf Steiner” education aka Waldorf, that it is the best education one could possibly give your child. At that time, under Communist rule, there was a huge underground movement of Waldorf educators and students who would have given up their lives to give their children this education. In Germany, the government supplements the cost of going to this school so that all have the opportunity to attend. When the wall came down, Waldorf schools flourished in East Germany. Unfortunately, living in America is costly. I believe the immunization factor is a separate issue. Each family and person has the right to decide what is good for their child. I, personally, have chosen to never get influenza vaccines. I am surrounded by people who get the flu shot and 2 months later catch the flu. I haven’t had the flu in 5 yrs, and realize that the only time I get sick is when my immune system is weak…created by not getting enough sleep, not eating right, or overworking, etc. In any case it is a choice, and there are parents that later in life change their mind, and get immunizations for their children. I am truly sorry that you have created conflicts between a wonderful school and immunizations.

Posted by Setsuko | Report as abusive

This article makes me really sad. Any parent can sign a waiver in the public school which allows them to enroll without immunizations. Maybe educated people are questioning the status quo. My daughter had a seizure IN MY ARMS when she was 8 weeks old…”a vaccine induced encephalopathy due to the Pertussis vaccination” they called it. Sound fun to you? I don’t vaccinate anymore. Subsequently, my kid went to a public school and then left that shame of an education system for a Waldorf School. You should concentrate your efforts on “How Public Schools are Failing to Educate our Kids and Our Country.”

Posted by OntheTrail | Report as abusive

The longchamp handbags outlet tributes to Longchamps heritage by harkening back to past collections. The leather can be used in the smoothest and many organic form using a lighting patina effect and also in warm shades, to provide a antique visual appeal towards the different types. A restrained, stylish and easy

Finally, a challenge which i are excited regarding. I’ve got seemed with regard to facts on this caliber going back several hours. Your web site is usually tremendously treasured.

Kimree is a world-leading e-cigarette company. According to Frost & Sullivan, Kimree was the second largest e-cigarette designer and manufacturer in the world in terms of both revenues and production volume in 2013. The Company designs and produces a broad range of e-cigarette products, including disposable e-cigarettes, rechargeable e-cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories. Visit http://www.kimree.com/ for more.

Wedding ceremony in which primarily through with body mass, It’s a particular warning flag about related intensity(Recommendations safe you might be with the weight and height). “That standard could be 15 when, Waterbury utters. Folks who wants do that a great many, Come up.

layout to get people’s focus,with fair price and original package deal! thanks for visiting store shopping along with us! less costly Longchamp Eiffel Tower Hand bags outlet may be worth you buying!

Posted by traducere romana daneza | Report as abusive

You could certainly see your enthusiasm in the paintings you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. Always go after your heart. “We may pass violets looking for roses. We may pass contentment looking for victory.” by Bern Williams.

Simply want to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity in your post is simply cool and i can assume you’re an expert on this subject. Fine with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the gratifying work.

“Those I called desired to take hold of a property and put these individuals available without any subsequent intending according to risk tolerance and / or the things i asked to utilize any property more than a long time,Half inch she states that. “These were being top quality counselors exactly who just didn’t view the everyday life intending costs associated with the serious obstacles of growing aged the united states. With its model, these would not be certain that a funds would certainly be as durable after i could need the idea in order to.

just article!

Looking forward to reading more. Great blog post.Much thanks again. Really Great.