The Child's Changing Consciousness and Waldorf Education
21 April 1923, Dornach
As you can probably imagine, it is not easy for one who is free from a fanatical or sectarian attitude to accomplish the kind of education, based on knowledge of the human being that we have spoken of in the past few days. Many of you will have noticed already that what is considered here to be both right and good in education differs in many ways from what is found in conventional forms of education, with their regulations, curricula, and other fundamental policies. In this respect, one finds oneself caught in a dilemma.
On the one hand, we stand on the firm ground of a pedagogy that derives from objective knowledge, and that prescribes specific curricular and educational tasks for each year (as you will have discovered already from what you have heard so far). To ascertain what must be done in this education, we take our cue from the children themselves; and not only for each year, but also for each month, each week, and, in the end, each day. Here I feel justified in expressing appreciation for how much the teachers of the Waldorf schools have responded to the objective demands of a truly grounded pedagogy, and also for their insight into how this pedagogy is related to the needs of the growing child. 1In August and September 1919, Rudolf Steiner gave three courses to the teachers of the first Waldorf school, which was founded by the industrialist Emil Molt for the children of the workers in his cigarette factory, and which was opened on September 7, 1919. They have come to realize that not a single detail of this pedagogy is arbitrary, that everything in it is a direct response to what can be read in the child's own nature. This represents one side of what has led to the dilemma. The other side consists of demands made by life itself. Those who are free of any fanaticism despite their own ideals (or whatever else you choose to call these things), and who feel the need for firm roots in life's realities, experience this other aspect with particular acuity.
Sectarianism to any degree or fanatical zeal must never be allowed to creep into our educational endeavors, only to find at the end of the road that our students do not fit into life as it is; for life in the world does not notice one's educational ideals. Life is governed by what arises from the prevailing conditions themselves, which are expressed as regulations concerning education, as school curricula, and as other related matters, which correspond to current ways of thinking. And so there is always a danger that we will educate children in a way that, though correct in itself, could alienate them from life in the world — whether one considers this right or wrong. It must always be remembered that one must not steer fanatically toward one's chosen educational aims without considering whether or not one might be alienating one's students from surrounding life.
Opponents of anthroposophy have often attributed fanaticism and sectarianism to this movement, but this is not the case, as you will see. On the contrary, it is precisely these two attributes that are alien to its nature. They may appear within some individual members, but anthroposophy itself always strives to enter fully into the realities of life. And just because of this, one is only too aware of the difficulties encountered in dealing with the practical sides of life. From the very beginning of the Waldorf school something had to be done. It is difficult to give it a proper name, but something bad or negative had to be agreed upon — that is, a kind of compromise — simply because this school is not grounded in fanaticism but in objective reality. At the very beginning, a memorandum addressed to the local school authorities had to be worked out. In it I made the following points: During the first three years the students in our school are to be educated, stage by stage and wherever possible, according to what is considered relevant to their inner needs. At the same time, the standards generally achieved in other schools are to be respected to the extent that, after completion of the first three years, the students of the Waldorf school should be able to fulfill the necessary requirements for entering corresponding classes in other schools, if desired. Such an offer, for our teachers, amounted to an “ingratiating compromise” — forgive this term, I cannot express it otherwise. A realistic mind has to take such a course, for discretion is essential in everything one does. A fanatic would have responded differently. Naturally, many difficulties have to be ironed out when such a policy is chosen, and many of our teachers would find it preferable to steer a straight course toward our aims and ideals. Lengthy and minutely detailed discussions occurred before a passage was found through these two conflicting approaches.
Another point in my memorandum was that, after completion of their twelfth year — that is, when our pupils are in the sixth grade, counting upward from the first grade — they should again be able to fulfill the requirements for entry into the corresponding class in another school. My choice for this particular age is based on the fact that it marks the end of a period of development, as already described during a previous meeting. And finally, it was presented in the memorandum that, in their fourteenth year, our students should have reached again the necessary standards of learning that would enable them, if desired, to change schools.
In retrospect, one could say that during the first three grades this plan has worked fairly well. At that level it has been tolerably successful. With a great deal of effort and trouble, it is still workable until the students' twelfth year. However, the real difficulties begin during the following years, for out of a dark subconsciousness, some knowledge of what is happening in a young child lingered from the distant past into our present time, however dim this insight may have become today. And because of this it is now customary to send children to school when they are losing their first teeth. Today people hardly realize that these two things are connected. Nevertheless, entering school at about six is still the result of ancient wisdom, passed on through the ages, which today has become only vague and instinctive. Since these things are no longer recognized, however, there is a tendency toward arbitrarily establishing the age for entering school at the completion of the sixth year, which is always a little premature, and therefore not in keeping with the child's nature. There is nothing one can do about it, because if parents do not send their children to school when they have completed their sixth year, the police or bailiff, or whatever else such people are called, will come and take the children to school.
However, as previously mentioned, it is relatively easy to work with this compromise during the first three years. Admittedly, if one or another student has to leave the Waldorf school for another school during this time because of circumstance, one is usually told that such students are behind in reading and writing. They may be considered far ahead in artistic subjects, such as in drawing or eurythmy, but these, so we are told, are not generally considered to be very important.
Such official judgments, however, can even be seen as an affirmation of Waldorf methods! They prompt me to tell you something interesting about the young Goethe. 2Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) German poet, scientist, and philosopher. If you look at his spelling, even when he was much older than seven or eight, you will find it full of atrocious mistakes. It is easy to deduce from this that far more is expected of an eight-year-old child today (if “more” is the right word) than what Goethe managed to achieve at seventeen (only with regard to spelling, of course). This certainly demonstrates that there is also another way of judging the situation, for Goethe owed much to the fact that, even at the age of seventeen, he was still likely to make spelling errors because, not having been too fettered to rigid rules, his inner being could remain flexible with regard to the unfolding of certain soul forces. If one knows how these things interact with each other (and a more sensitive kind of psychology is needed for this than is frequently encountered today) one will be no more influenced by adverse criticism than by the superficial criteria of such a historical fact, which is interesting, at least.
Another interesting example can be found in so-called Mendelisms, which emerged around the beginning of the twentieth century (perhaps even around the end of the nineteenth century), and which was considered by natural scientists to be the best theory for explaining the phenomena of heredity. It received its name from a certain Gregor Mendel, 3Gregor Johann Mendel (1822–1884) Austrian botanist. He became a monk in the order of Saint Augustine in 1843, and taught in a technical school from 1854 until 1868, when he became abbot. He is known for his experiments in breeding peas in the monastery garden, and from the statistics gathered, he established certain laws concerning heredity, which became the foundation of the science of genetics. a botanist who lived during the middle of the nineteenth century and was also a teacher at a Realschule in Moravia. 4Realschule (or Realgymnasium) is the high school equivalent in Germany for preparation in the sciences, trades, or technical studies, whereas Gymnasium usually refers to a high school for classical preparation toward university study. Gregor Mendel made careful experiments with plants in order to investigate their inherited properties. His writings remained obscure for a long time, only to surface again toward the turn of the century, to be hailed as the most convincing theory regarding heredity.
Now it is interesting to consider the biography of Gregor Mendel. As our Austrian friends here know, monastic clerics had to pass an examination before they could become eligible for a teaching post at a high school. Mendel failed his exam brilliantly, which meant that he was considered incapable of becoming a high school teacher. But an Austrian regulation existed permitting failed candidates to retake their exams after a certain period of time. Gregor Mendel did so and again failed spectacularly. I believe that even today in Austria such a person could never find a high school teaching position. In those days, however, regulations were a little less stringent. Because of a shortage of teachers at the time, even failed candidates were sometimes hired as teachers, and so Gregor Mendel did finally become a high school teacher, even though he had twice failed his exam. Since this had been made possible only through the grace of the headmaster, however, he was considered to be a second-rate staff member by his colleagues and, according to the rules governing high school teachers, he was not entitled to add “Ph.D.” to his name. Successful exam candidates usually write these abbreviated degrees after their names, for example, “Joseph Miller, Ph.D.” In the case of Gregor Mendel these letters were missing, the omission of which indicated his inferior position. Well, several decades passed, but after his death this same individual was hailed as one of the greatest naturalists!
Real life presents some strange examples. And, although it is impossible to plan the education of young people to suit the practical demands of later life (since, if this were the only aim, some very strange requests would certainly be made), even though one cannot adapt the curricula to what life itself will bring to maturity later on, one must nevertheless be ready to listen with inner clarity and a sense of psychology to what the many occurrences in life are trying to tell us, with regard to both primary and secondary education. So it could certainly be said that it is not really a tragedy when a Waldorf student has to leave during the third grade, a student who has not yet reached the same level of achievement in certain elementary skills as students in another school, who were drilled using bad methods, the harmful effects of which will surface only later in life. Many life stories could be told to substantiate this claim. Strange things sometimes show up when one looks at obituaries. R¶ntgen, for example, was also excluded from teaching at a high school, and only through the special kindness of an influential person was he allowed to gain a teaching post at all. [Wilhelm Konrad von RÃ¶ntgen (1845–1923) German physicist, discoverer of the “RÃ¶ntgen” rays or X-rays.] As already said, one cannot base one's educational ideas on such things, but they should be noticed, and one must try to comprehend their significance through a more discriminating psychology.
Returning to our point, after the twelfth year it becomes increasingly difficult to find a workable compromise in our way of teaching. Until the twelfth year it is just possible to do so, as long as one really knows what is going on inside the students. But afterward, the situation begins to get more and more difficult, because from that time on, the curricula and the required standards for achievement no longer have any relationship to the nature of the growing human being; they are chosen entirely arbitrarily. The subject matter to be covered in any one year is chosen entirely autocratically, and one simply can no longer bridge the conflicting demands, on the one hand, from the powers that be, and, on the other hand, those that arise directly from the evolving human being. Remember what I said yesterday: by the time puberty is passed, the adolescent should have been helped toward developing sufficient maturity and inner strength to enter the realm of human freedom. I referred to the two fundamental virtues: gratitude, for which the ground has to be prepared before the change of teeth, and the ability to love, for which the ground needs to be prepared between the change of teeth and puberty; this was the theme developed yesterday.
Furthermore, we have seen that, with regard to the ethical life, the soul life of the child must also experience feelings of sympathy and antipathy toward what is good and evil. If one approaches a student at this age with a “thou shalt” attitude, proper development will be hindered in the years to come. On the other hand, when one instead moves the pre-adolescent child, through natural authority, to love the good and hate the evil, then during the time of sexual maturity, from the inner being of the adolescent, the third fundamental virtue develops, which is the sense of duty. It is impossible to drill it into young people. It can only unfold as a part of natural development, based only on gratitude — in the sense described yesterday — and on the ability to love. If these two virtues have been developed properly, with sexual maturity the sense of duty will emerge, the experience of which is an essential part of life
What belongs to the human soul and spirit realm has to develop according to its own laws and conditions, just as what belongs to the physical realm must obey physical laws. Just as an arm or a hand must be allowed to grow freely, according to the inner forces of growth, just as these must not be artificially controlled by, for example, being fixed into a rigid iron frame — although in certain places on Earth there is a custom of restricting the free growth of feet similar to the way we impede the free unfolding here of the child's soul life — so must adolescents feel this new sense of duty arising freely from within. The young person will then integrate properly into society, and Goethe's dictum will find its noblest fulfillment: “Duty is a love for what one demands of oneself.” Here again you see how love plays into everything, and how the sense of duty must be developed so that one eventually comes to love it. In this way one integrates properly as a human being into society. And then, from the previous experience of right authority, the ability to support oneself by one's own strength will evolve.
What is finally revealed as genuine piety, when seen with spiritual eyes, is the transformed body-related, natural religiousness during the time before the change of teeth, which I described to you in fair detail. These are all things that must be rooted deeply in a true pedagogy, and applied practically. Soon enough, one will realize how necessary it is to allow the curriculum — from the twelfth year until puberty, and, most of all, after puberty — to be more and more inclined toward practical activities. In the Waldorf school, the ground for this task is prepared early. In our school, boys and girls sit side by side. Although interesting psychological facts have emerged from this practice alone — and each class has its own psychology, of which we will speak more tomorrow — one can definitely say: if one lets boys and girls practice their handcrafts side by side as a matter of course, it is an excellent preparation for their adult lives. Today there are only a few men who recognize how much the ability to knit can help toward healthy thinking and healthy logic. Only a few men can judge what it means for one's life to be able to knit. In our Waldorf school, boys do their knitting alongside the girls, and they also mend socks.
Through this practice, the differentiation between the types of work performed by the two sexes will find its natural course later on, should this become necessary. At the same time, a form of education is being implemented that considers fully the practical aspects of the students' future lives.
People are always extremely surprised when they hear me say (and the following assertion not only expresses my personal conviction, but is based on a psychological fact) that I cannot consider anyone to be a good professor in the full meaning of the word unless that person can also mend a shoe in an emergency; for how could it be possible for anyone to know something of real substance about being and becoming in the world, unless that person can also repair a shoe or a boot if the situation demands it? This is, of course, a rather sweeping statement, but there are men who cannot even sew on a button properly, and this is a lamentable failing. Knowledge of philosophy carries little weight, unless one can also lend a hand to whatever needs doing. This is simply part of life. In my opinion, one can only be a good philosopher if one could have just as well become a shoemaker, should this have been one's destiny. And, as the history of philosophy shows, it sometimes happens that cobblers become philosophers. 5For example, Jakob BÃ¶hme (1575–1624), the shoemaker from GÃ¶rlitz, whose influence has been far-reaching in Western philosophical and spiritual streams.
Knowledge of the human being calls on us to make adequate provision in our curricula and schedules for preparing pupils for the practical side of life. Reading in the book of human nature, we are simply led to introduce the children — or rather, the young men and women, as we should call them now — to the art of setting up a loom and weaving. From there it follows quite naturally that they should also learn to spin, and that they gain a working idea of how paper is made, for example.
They should be taught not only mechanics and chemistry, but also how to understand at least simple examples of mechanical and chemical processes used in technology. They should reproduce these on a small scale with their own hands so they will know how various articles are manufactured. This change of direction toward the more practical side of life must certainly be made possible. It has to be worked toward with honest and serious intent if one wants to build the proper curriculum, especially in the upper classes.
But this can place one in terrible difficulties. It is just possible to equip children under nine with sufficient learning skills for a transfer into the fourth grade of another school, without neglecting what needs to be done with them for sound pedagogical reasons. This is also still possible in the case of twelveyear-olds who are to enter the seventh grade. It is already becoming very difficult indeed to bring pupils to the required standards of learning for their transfer to a high school. Tremendous difficulties have to be overcome if pupils from our higher grades have to change to a high school.
In such cases one would do well to recall ancient Greece, where a wise Greek had to put up with being told by an Egyptian, “You Greeks are like children — you know nothing about all the changes the Earth has gone through.” A wise Greek had to listen to the judgment of a wise Egyptian. But nevertheless, the Greeks had not become so infantile as to demand of a growing youth, who was to be educated in one or another particular subject, that knowledge of the Egyptian language should first be acquired. They were very satisfied that the young person use the native Greek language. Unfortunately, we do not act today as the Greeks did, for we make our young people learn Greek. I do not want to speak against it; to learn Greek is something beautiful. But it is inconsistent with fulfilling the needs of a particular school age. It becomes a real problem when one is told to allocate so many lessons to this subject on the schedule at a time when such a claim clashes with the need for lessons in which weaving, spinning, and a rough knowledge of how paper is made should be practiced. Such is the situation when one is called on to finalize the schedule! And since we very well know that we shall never receive permission to build our own university anywhere, it is absolutely essential for us to enable those of our pupils who wish to continue their education at a university, technical college, or other similar institution, to pass the necessary graduation exam.
All this places us in an almost impossible situation, with almost insurmountable difficulties. When one tries to cultivate the practical side in education, prompted by insight into the inner needs of adolescent pupils, one has to face the bitter complaints of a Greek teacher who declares that the exam syllabus could never be covered with the amount of time allocated to the subject, and that, consequently, the candidates are doomed to fail their exams.
Such are the problems we have to tackle. They certainly show it is impossible for us to insist on pushing our ideals with any fanatical fervor. What will eventually have to happen no longer depends solely on the consensus of a circle of teachers about the rights and wrongs of education. Today it has become necessary for much wider circles within society to recognize the ideals of a truly human education, so that external conditions will render it possible for education to function without alienating pupils from life. This is obviously the case if, after having gone through a grammar school kind of education in one's own school, pupils were to fail their graduation exams, which they have to take somewhere else. 6Waldorf school pupils had to take the required graduation exams (Abitur) at a state school.
Speaking of failing an exam — and here I am speaking to specialists in education — I believe that it would be possible to make even a professor of botany, however clever, fail in botany — if that were the only intention! I really believe such a thing is possible, because anyone can fail an exam. In this chapter of life also, some very strange facts have shown up. There was, for example, Robert Hamerling, an Austrian poet, whose use of the German language was later acclaimed as the highest level any Austrian writer could possibly attain. 7Robert Hamerling (1830–1889) Austrian poet and philosopher. The results of his exam certificate, which qualified him for a teaching position at an Austrian Gymnasium, make interesting reading: Greek — excellent; Latin — excellent; German language and essay writing — hardly capable of teaching this subject in the lower classes of a middle school. You actually find this written in Hamerling's teaching certificate! So you see, this matter of failing or passing an exam is a very tricky business.
The difficulties that beset us, therefore, make us realize that society at large must provide better conditions before more can be accomplished than what is possible by making the kind of compromise I have spoken of. If I were to be asked, abstractly, whether a Waldorf school could be opened anywhere in the world, I could only answer, again entirely in the abstract, “Yes, wherever one would be allowed to open.” On the other hand, even this would not be the determining factor because, as already said, in the eyes of many people these are only two aspects of one and the same thing. There are some who struggle through to become famous poets despite bad exam results in their main subject. But not everyone can do that. For many, a failed graduation exam means being cast out of the stream of life. And so it must be acknowledged that the higher the grade level in our school, the less one can work toward all of one's educational ideals. It is something not to be forgotten. It shows how one has to come to terms with actual life situations.
The following question must always be present for an education based on an understanding of the human being: Will young people, as they enter life, find the proper human connection in society, which is a fundamental human need? After all, those responsible for the demands of graduation exams are also members of society, even if the style and content of their exams are based on error. Therefore, if one wants to integrate Waldorf pedagogy into present social conditions, one has to put up with having to do certain things that, in themselves, would not be considered right or beneficial. Anyone who inspects our top classes may well be under the impression that what is found there does not fully correspond to the avowed ideals of Waldorf pedagogy. But I can guarantee you that, if we were to carry out those ideals regardless of the general situation — and especially, if we attempted to make the transition to the practical side of life — all of our candidates for the graduation exam would fail! This is how diametrically opposed matters are today. But they have to be dealt with, and this can be done in great variety of ways. At the same time, awareness has to emerge regarding the degree of change necessary, not just in the field of education, but in all of life, before a truly human form of education can be established.
Despite all obstacles, the practical activities are being accomplished in the Waldorf school, at least to a certain extent — even though it does happen, now and then, that they have to be curtailed in some cases because the Greek or Latin teacher claims some of these lessons. That is something that cannot be avoided.
From what I've said, you can see that puberty is the proper time to make the transition, leading the adolescent into the realities of ordinary life. And the elements that will have to play more and more into school life, in a higher sense, are those that will make the human individual, as a being of body, soul, and spirit, a helpful and useful member of society. In this regard, our current time lacks the necessary psychological insight; for the finer interrelationships in the human spiritual, soul, and physical spheres are, in general, not even dreamed of. These things can be felt intuitively only by people who make it their particular task to come to understand the human psyche.
From personal self-knowledge I can tell you in all modesty that I could not have accomplished in spiritual science certain things that proved possible, if I had not learned bookbinding at a particular time in my life — which may seem somewhat useless to many people. And this was not in any way connected with Waldorf pedagogy, but simply a part of my destiny. This particularly human activity has particular consequences to most intimate spiritual and soul matters, especially if it is practiced at the right time of life. The same holds true for other practical activities as well. I would consider it a sin against human nature if we did not include bookbinding and box-making in our Waldorf school craft lessons, if it were not introduced into the curriculum at a particular age determined by insight into the students' development. These things are all part of becoming a full human being. The important thing in this case is not that a pupil makes a particular cardboard box or binds a book, but that the students have gone through the necessary discipline to make such items, and that they have experienced the inherent feelings and thought processes that go with them.
The natural differentiation between the boys and girls will become self-evident. Yet here one also needs to have an eye for what is happening, an eye of the soul. For example, the following situation has come up, the psychology of which has not yet been fully investigated, because I have not been able to spend enough time at the Waldorf school. We will investigate it thoroughly another time. But what happened was that, during lessons in spinning, the girls took to the actual spinning. The boys also wanted to be involved, and somehow they found their task in fetching and carrying for the girls. The boys wanted to be chivalrous. They brought the various materials that the girls then used for spinning. The boys seemed to prefer doing the preparatory work. This is what happened and we still need to digest it from the psychological perspective.
But this possibility of “switching our craft lessons around” — if I may put it that way — allows us to change to bookbinding now, and then to box-making. All are part of the practical activities that play a dominant role in Waldorf pedagogy, and they show how an eye for the practical side of life is a natural byproduct for anyone who has made spiritual striving and spiritual research the main objective in life. There are educational methods in the world, the clever ideas of downright impractical theoreticians, who believe they have eaten practical life experience by the spoonful, methods that are nevertheless completely removed from reality. If one begins with theories of education, one will end up with the least practical results. Theories in themselves yield nothing useful, and too often breed only biases. A realistic pedagogy, on the other hand, is the offspring of true knowledge of the human being. And the part played by arts and crafts at a certain time of life is nothing but such knowledge applied to a particular situation. In itself this knowledge already presents a form of pedagogy that will turn into the right kind of practical teaching through the living way in which the actual lessons are given. It becomes transformed into the teacher's right attitude, and this is what really matters. The nature and character of the entire school has to be in tune with it.
And so, in the educational system cultivated in the Waldorf school, the center of gravity iis within the staff of teachers and their regular meetings, because the whole school is intended as one living and spirit-permeated organism. The first grade teacher is therefore expected to follow with real interest not only what the physics teacher is teaching to the seventh grade, but also the physics teacher's experiences of the various students in that class. This all flows together in the staff meetings, where practical advice and counseling, based on actual teaching experience, are freely given and received. Through the teaching staff a real attempt is made to create a kind of soul for the entire school organism. And so the first grade teacher will know that the sixth grade teacher has a child who is retarded in one way or another, or another who may be especially gifted. Such common interest and shared knowledge have a fructifying influence. The entire teaching body, being thus united, will experience the whole school as a unity. Then a common enthusiasm will pervade the school, but also a willingness to share in all its sorrows and worries. Then the entire teaching staff will carry whatever has to be carried, especially with regard to moral and religious issues, but also in matters of a more cognitive nature.
In this way, the different colleagues also learn how one particular subject, taught by one of the teachers, affects a completely different subject taught by another teacher. Just as, in the case of the human organism, it is not a matter of indifference whether the stomach is properly attuned to the head, so in a school it is not insignificant whether a lesson from nine to ten in the morning, given to the third grade, is properly related to the lesson from eleven to twelve in the eighth grade. This is in rather radical and extreme terms, of course. Things do not happen quite like that, but they are presented this way because they correspond essentially to reality. And if thinking is in touch with reality, judgments about matters pertaining to the sense-perceptible world will differ greatly from those based on abstract theories.
To illustrate this point I would like to mention certain lay healers who give medical treatment in places where this is not illegal. They are people who have acquired a certain measure of lay knowledge in medicine. Now one of these healers may find, for example, that a patient's heart is not functioning normally. This may be a correct diagnosis, but in this case it does not imply that the cure would be to bring the heart back to normality. And according to such a lay healer, the patient may have adapted the entire organism to the slightly abnormal function of the heart. This means that if now one were to get the heart to work normally again, such a “cured” heart, just because of its return to normality, might upset the entire organism, thus causing a deterioration of the patient's general condition. Consequently the therapy could actually consist of leaving the heart as it is, with the recommendation that, should the symptoms of the slight heart defect return, a different course of treatment should be given from what would normally be done through the use of medications under similar circumstances.
I said yesterday that educating and healing are related activities. And so something similar is also called for in the field of education. That is, a kind of conceptual and sensitive feeling approach, both comprehensive and in touch with reality, since it would have to apply to other realms of cognition directly related to practical life.
If we look at what contemporary anatomy and physiology tell us about the human being — not to mention psychology, which is a hodgepodge of abstractions anyway — we find a certain type of knowledge from which a picture of the human being is manufactured. If this picture is used as a means of selfknowledge, it creates the impression that we are merely a skeleton. (Within certain limits, knowledge of the human being is also self-knowledge — not the introspective kind, but rather a recognition of essentially human qualities found in each individual.) If, when looking at ourselves, we had to disregard everything within and around our skeleton, we would naturally conclude that we were only skeletons. This is how the whole human being — body, soul, and spirit — would appear to us if we used only what contemporary anatomy and physiology offers as a picture of the human being. Psychology needs to truly permeate the human psyche with spirit. If this is done, we can follow the spiritual element right into the physical realities of the body, because spirit works in every part of the human body.
I have already said that the tragedy of materialism is its inability to understand the true nature of matter. Knowledge of spirit leads to true understanding of matter. Materialism may speak of matter, but it does not penetrate to the inner structures of the forces that work through matter. Similarly, pedagogy that observes only external phenomena does not penetrate to the regions of the human being that reveal what should be done about practical life. This causes a situation that, to the spiritual investigator, is very natural, but would appear paradoxical for many people. They wonder why a pedagogy grown from anthroposophy always emphasizes the
necessity of training children at specific ages in certain practical activities — that is, the necessity of training them in the correct handling of material processes. Far from leading students into a foggy mysticism, the principles and methods of the education based on anthroposophical research will not estrange them from life. On the contrary, it will induce spirit and soul substance to penetrate their physical bodies, thus making them useful for this earthly life, and at the same time, provide them with the proper conditions to develop inner certainty. This is why we feel it necessary to expand the practical type of work, and, of course, difficulties therefore increase with the beginning of every new school year when we have to add a new class to the existing ones (we began with eight grades, adding the ninth, tenth, and eleventh, and we are about to open our first twelfth grade).
This has led to the situation where, while other problems facing the anthroposophical cause were being dealt with very recently, a memorandum was handed in by the pupils of the current highest grade level in the Waldorf school. Those among them who were expecting to have to take their graduation exam had worked out a remarkable document, the deeper aspects of which will be appreciated only when the whole matter is seen in the proper light. They had sent more or less the following memorandum to the Anthroposophical Society:
Since we are being educated and taught in the sense of the true human being 8they had somehow gleaned this and, consequently, since we cannot enter existing types of colleges, we wish to make the following proposal to the Anthroposophical Society: That a new anthroposophical college is to be founded where we can continue our education.
No negative judgment regarding colleges in general is implied in this wording, although such judgments are frequently encountered in contemporary society.
All of this presents us with the greatest difficulties. But since you have made the effort to come here to find out what Waldorf pedagogy is all about — something we very well know how to appreciate — these problems should also be aired. Any sincere interest in what is willed in this education deserves a clear indication of all the difficulties involved.
Thus far, Waldorf pedagogy is being practiced only by the teachers of the one existing Waldorf school, and there we find our difficulties increase the higher we go with the school. I can only assume that the problems would be even greater in a college operated anthroposophically. But since such a college is only a very abstract ideal, I can only speak about it hypothetically. It has always been my way to deal directly with the tasks set by life, and this is why I can talk about this education only up to the twelfth grade, which is opening soon. Things that belong to a misty future must not take up too much time for people standing amid life, since it would only detract from the actual tasks at hand.
One can say only that problems would increase substantially, and that obviously there would be two kinds of difficulties. First, if we were to open a college, our exam results would not be recognized as proper qualifications, which means that successful candidates could not take up professional positions in life. They could not become medical doctors, lawyers, and so on; professions that in their present customary forms are still essential today. This presents one side of the problem. The other side would conjure up really frightening prospects, if certain hard facts did not offer relief from such anxieties; for, on the strength of the praiseworthy efforts made by our young friends, an association has actually been founded with the express aim of working toward the creation of such a college, based on the principles of Waldorf pedagogy. The only reason there is no need to feel thoroughly alarmed about the potential consequences of such an endeavor is that the funds needed by this association will certainly not reach such giddy heights that anyone would be tempted to seriously consider going ahead with the project. The underlying striving toward this aim is thoroughly laudable, but for the time being it remains beyond the realm of practicality. The real worry would come only if, for example, an American millionaire were to suddenly offer the many millions needed to build, equip, and staff such a college. The best one could do in such a situation would be to promote, en masse, the entire teaching staff of the Waldorf school to become the teachers of the new college. But then there would no longer be a Waldorf school!
I am saying all this because I believe actual facts are far more important than any kind of abstract argument. While acknowledging that the idea of basing education, including college education, on true knowledge of the human being represents a far-reaching ideal, we must not overlook the fact that the circle of those who stand firmly behind our ideals is extremely small. This is the very reason one feels so happy about every move toward an expansion of this work, which may gain further momentum through your welcome visit to this course. At the same time, one must never lose sight of all that must happen so that the Waldorf ideal can rest upon truly firm and sound foundations. This needs to be mentioned within the context of this course, for it follows from the constitution of the Waldorf school.
Tomorrow, in the concluding lecture, I would like to tell you more about this constitution of the Waldorf school — about how it is run, about what the relationship should be between teachers and students, as well as the interrelationships of pupils among themselves, and teachers among themselves. Furthermore, I would like to speak about what, in our way of thinking, are the proper methods of dealing with exams and school reports, so that they reflect knowledge of the human being.