The Kingdom of Childhood
14 August 1924, Torquay
Today we will characterise certain general principles of the art of education for the period between the change of teeth and puberty, passing on in the next lecture to more detailed treatment of single subjects and particular conditions which may arise.
When the child reaches his ninth or tenth year he begins to differentiate himself from his environment. For the first time there is a difference between subject and object; subject is what belongs to oneself, object is what belongs to the other person or other thing; and now we can begin to speak of external things as such, whereas before this time we must treat them as though these external objects formed one whole together with the child's own body. I showed yesterday how we speak of animals and plants, for instance, as though they were human beings who speak and act. The child thereby has the feeling that the outside world is simply a continuation of his own being.
But now when the child has passed his ninth or tenth year we must introduce him to certain elementary facts of the outside world, the facts of the plant and animal kingdoms. Other subjects I shall speak of later. But it is particularly in this realm that we must be guided by what the child's own nature needs and asks of us.
The first thing we have to do is to dispense with all the textbooks. For textbooks as they are written at the present time contain nothing about the plant and animal kingdoms which one can use in teaching. They are good for instructing grown up people about plants and animals, but we shall ruin the individuality of the child if we use them at school. And indeed there are no textbooks or handbooks today which show one how these things should be taught. Now the important point is really this.
If you put single plants in front of the child and demonstrate different things from them, you are doing something which has no reality. A plant by itself is not a reality. If you pull out a hair and examine it as though it were a thing by itself, that would not be a reality either. In ordinary life we say of everything of which we can sec the outlines with our eyes that it is real. But if you look at a stone and form some opinion about it, that is one thing; if you look at a hair or a rose, it is another. In ten years' time the stone will be exactly as it is now, but in two days the rose will have changed. The rose is only a reality together with the whole rosebush. The hair is nothing in itself, but is only a reality when considered with the whole head, as part of the whole human being. Now if you go out into the fields and pull up plants, it is as though you had torn out the hair of the earth. For the plants belong to the earth just in the same way as the hair belongs to the organism of the human being. And it is nonsense to examine a hair by itself as though it could suddenly grow anywhere of its own accord.
It is just as foolish to take a botanical tin and bring home plants to be examined by themselves. This has no relation to reality, and such a method cannot lead one to a right knowledge of nature or of the human being.
Here we have a plant (see drawing) but this alone is not the plant, for there also belongs to it the soil beneath it spread out on all sides, maybe a very long way. There are some plants which send out little roots a very long way. And when you realise that the small clod of earth containing the plant belongs to a much greater area of soil around it, then you will see how necessary it is to manure the earth in order to promote
healthy plant growth. Something else is living besides the actual plant; this part here (below the line in drawing) lives with it and belongs to the plant; the earth lives with the plant.
There are some plants which blossom in the spring, about May or June, and bear fruit in autumn. Then they wither and die and remain in the earth which belongs to them. But there are other plants which take the earth forces out of their environment. If this is the earth, then the root takes into itself the forces which are around it, and because it has done so these forces shoot upwards and a tree is formed.
For what is actually a tree? A tree is a colony of many plants. And it does not matter whether you are considering a hill which has less life in itself but which has many plants growing on it, or a tree trunk where the living earth itself has as it were withdrawn into the tree. Under no circumstances can you understand any plant properly if you examine it by itself.
If you go (preferably on foot) into a district in which there are definite geological formations, let us say red sand, and look at the plants there, you will find that most of them have reddish-yellow flowers. The flowers belong to the soil. Soil and plant make up a unity, just as your head and your hair also make a unity.
Therefore you must not teach Geography and Geology by themselves, and then Botany separately. That would be absurd. Geography must be taught together with a description of the country and observation of the plants, for the earth is an organism and the plants are like the hair of this organism. The child must be able to see that the earth and the plants belong together, and that each portion of soil bears those plants which belong to it.
Thus the only right way is to speak of the plants in connection with the earth, and to give the child a clear feeling that the earth is a living being that has hair growing on it. The plants are the hair of the earth. People speak of the earth as having the force of gravity. This is spoken of as belonging to the earth. But the plants with their force of growth belong to the earth just as much. The earth and the plants are no more separate entities than a man and his hair would be. They belong together just as the hair on the head belongs to the man.
If you show a child plants out of a botanical tin and tell him their names, you will be teaching something which is quite unreal. This will have consequences for his whole life, for this kind of plant knowledge will never give him an understanding, for example, of how the soil must be treated, and of how it must be manured, made living by the manure that is put into it. The child can only gain an understanding of how to cultivate the land if he knows how the soil is really part of the plant. The men of our time have less and less conception of reality, the so-called “practical” people least of all, for they are really all theoretical as I showed you in our first lecture, and it is just because men have no longer any idea of reality that they look at everything in a disintegrated, isolated way.
Thus it has come about that in many districts during the last fifty or sixty years all agricultural products have become decadent. Not long ago there was a Conference on Agriculture in Central Europe, on which occasion the agriculturists themselves admitted that crops are now becoming so poor that there is no hope of their being suitable for human consumption in fifty years' time.
Why is this so? It is because people do not understand how to make the soil living by means of manure. It is impossible that they should understand it if they have been given conceptions of plants as being something in themselves apart from the earth. The plant is no more an object in itself than a hair is. For if this were so, you might expect it to grow just as well in a piece of wax or tallow as in the skin of the head. But it is only in the head that it will grow.
In order to understand how the earth is really a part of plant life you must find out what kind of soil each plant belongs to; the art of manuring can only be arrived at by considering earth and plant world as a unity, and by looking upon the earth as an organism and the plant as something that grows with this organism.
Thus a child feels, from the very start, that he is standing on a living earth. This is of great significance for his whole life. For think what kind of conception people have today of the origin of geological strata. They think of it as one layer deposited upon another. But what you see as geological strata is only hardened plants, hardened living matter. It is not only coal that was formerly a plant (having its roots more in water than in the firm ground and belonging completely to the earth) but also granite, gneiss and so on were originally of plant and animal nature.
This too one can only understand by considering earth and plants as one whole. And in these things it is not only a question of giving children knowledge but of giving them also the right feelings about it. You only come to see that this is so when you consider such things from the point of view of Spiritual Science.
You may have the best will in the world. You may say to yourself that the child must learn about everything, including plants, by examining them. At an early age then I will encourage him to bring home a nice lot of plants in a beautiful tin box. I will examine them all with him for here is something real. I firmly believe that this is a reality, for it is an object lesson, but all the time you are looking at something which is not a reality at all. This kind of object-lesson teaching of the present day is utter nonsense.
This way of learning about plants is just as unreal as though it were a matter of indifference whether a hair grew in wax or in the human skin. It cannot grow in wax. Ideas of this kind are completely contradictory to what the child received in the spiritual worlds before he descended to the earth. For there the earth looked quite different. This intimate relationship between the mineral earth kingdom and the plant world was then something that the child's soul could receive as a living picture. Why is this so? It is because, in order that the human being may incarnate at all, he has to absorb something which is not yet mineral but which is only on the way to becoming mineral, namely the etheric element. He has to grow into the element of the plants, and this plant world appears to him as related to the earth.
This series of feelings which the child experiences when he descends from the pre-earthly world into the earthly world — this whole world of richness is made confused and chaotic for him if it is introduced to him by the kind of Botany teaching which is usually pursued, whereas the child rejoices inwardly if he hears about the plant world in connection with the earth.
In a similar manner we must consider how to introduce our children to the animal world. Even a superficial glance will show us that the animal does not belong to the earth. It runs over the earth and can be in this place or that, so the relationship of the animal to the earth is quite different from that of the plant. Something else strikes us about the animal.
When we come to examine the different animals which live on the earth, let us say according to their soul qualities first of all, we find cruel beasts of prey, gentle lambs or animals of courage. Some of the birds are brave fighters and we find courageous animals amongst the mammals too. We find majestic beasts. like the lion. In fact, there is the greatest variety of soul qualities, and we characterise each single species of animal by saying that it has this or that quality. We call the tiger cruel, for cruelty is his most important and significant quality. We call the sheep patient. Patience is his most outstanding characteristic. We call the donkey lazy, because although in reality he may not be so fearfully lazy yet his whole bearing and behaviour somehow reminds us of laziness. The donkey is especially lazy about changing his position in life. If he happens to be in a mood to go slowly, nothing will induce him to go quickly. And so every animal has its own particular characteristics.
But we cannot think of human beings in this way. We cannot think of one man as being only gentle and patient, another only cruel and a third only brave. We should find it a very one-sided arrangement if people were distributed over the earth in this way. You do sometimes find such qualities developed in a one-sided way, but not to the same extent as in animals. Rather what we find with a human being, especially when we are to educate him, is that there are certain things and facts of life which he must meet with patience or again with courage, and other things and situations even maybe with a certain cruelty, although this last should be administered in homeopathic doses. Or in face of certain situations a human being may show cruelty simply out of his own natural development, and so on.
Now what is really the truth about these soul qualities of man and the animals? With man we find that he can really possess all qualities, or at least the sum of all the qualities that the animals have between them (each possessing a different one). Man has a little of each one. He is not as majestic as the lion, but he has something of majesty within him. He is not as cruel as the tiger but he has a certain cruelty. He is not as patient as the sheep, but he has some patience. He is not as lazy as the donkey — at least everybody is not — but he has some of this laziness in him. Every human being has these things within him. When we think of this matter in the right way we can say that man has within him the lion-nature, sheep-nature, tiger-nature and donkey-nature. He bears all these within him, but harmonised. All the qualities tone each other down, as it were, and man is the harmonious flowing together, or, to put it more academically, the synthesis of all the different soul qualities that the animal possesses. Man reaches his goal if in his whole being he has the proper dose of lion-ness, sheep-ness, tiger-ness, the proper dose of donkey-ness and so on, if all this is present in his nature in the right proportions and has the right relationship to everything else.
There is a beautiful old Greek proverb which says: If courage be united with cleverness it will bring thee blessing, but if it goes alone ruin will follow. If man were only courageous with the courage of certain birds which are continually fighting, he would not bring much blessing into his life. But if his courage is so developed in his life that it unites with cleverness — the cleverness which in the animal is only one-sided — then it takes its right place in man's being.
With man, then, it is a question of a synthesis, a harmonising of everything that is spread out in the animal kingdom. We can express it like this: here is one kind of animal (I am representing it diagrammatically), here a second, a third, a fourth and so on, all the possible kinds of animals on the earth. How are they related to man?
The relationship is such that man has, let us say, some
thing of this first kind of animal (see drawing), but modified, not in its entirety. Then comes another kind, but again not the whole of it. This leads us to the next, and to yet another, so that man contains all the animals within him. The animal kingdom is a man spread out, and man is the animal kingdom drawn together; all the animals are united synthetically in man, and if you analyse a human being you get the whole animal kingdom.
This is also the case with the external human form. Imagine a human face and cut away part of it here (see drawing) and
pull another part forwards here, so that this latter part is not harmonised with the whole face, while the forehead recedes; then you get a dog's head. If you form the head in a somewhat different way, you get a lion's head, and so on.
And so with all his other organs you can find that man, even in his external figure, has what is distributed amongst the animals in a modified harmonised form.
Think for instance of a waddling duck; you have a relic of this waddling part between your fingers, only shrunken. Thus everything which is to be found in the animal kingdom even in external form is present also in the human kingdom. Indeed this is the way man can find his relationship to the animal kingdom, by coming to know that the animals, taken all together, make up man. Man exists on earth, eighteen hundred millions of him, of greater or less value, but he exists again as a giant human being. The whole animal kingdom is a giant human being, not brought together in a synthesis but analysed out into single examples.
It is as though your were made of elastic which could be pulled out in varying degrees in different directions; if you were thus stretched out in one direction more than in others, one kind of animal would be formed. Or again if the upper part of your face were to be pushed up and stretched out (if it were sufficiently elastic) then another animal would arise. Thus man bears the whole animal kingdom within him.
This is how the history of the animal kingdom used to be taught in olden times. This was a right and healthy knowledge, which has now been lost, though only comparatively recently. In the eighteenth century for instance people still knew quite well that if the olfactory nerve of the nose were sufficiently large and extended backwards then you would have a dog. But if the olfactory nerve is shrivelled up and only a small portion remains, the rest of it being metamorphosed, then there arises the nerve that we need for our intellectual life.
For observe how a dog smells; the olfactory nerve is extended backwards from the nose. A dog smells the special peculiarity of each thing. He does not make a mental picture of it, but everything comes to him through smell. He has not will and imagination but he has will and a sense of smell for everything. A wonderful sense of smell! A dog does not find the world less interesting than a man does. A man can make mental images of it all, a dog can smell it all. We experience various smells, do we not, both pleasant and unpleasant, but a dog has many kinds of smell; just think how a dog specialises in his sense of smell. Nowadays we have police dogs. They are led to the place where someone has pilfered something. The dog immediately takes up the scent of the man, follows it and finds him. All this is due to the fact that there is really an immense variety, a whole world of scents for a dog. The bearer of these scents is the olfactory nerve that passes backwards into the head, into the skull.
If we were to draw the olfactory nerve of a dog, which passes through his nose, we should have to draw it going backwards. In man only a little piece at the bottom of it has remained. The rest of it is present in a morphosed form and lies here below the forehead. It is a metamorphosed, transformed olfactory nerve, and with this organ we form our mental images. For this reason we cannot smell like a dog, but we can make mental pictures. We bear within us the dog with his sense of smell, only this latter has been transformed into something else. And so it is with all animals.
We must get this clear in our minds. Now a German philosopher called Schopenhauer wrote a book called The World as Will and Idea. But this book is only intended for human beings. If a dog of genius had written it he would have called it The World as Will and Smell and I am convinced that this book would have been much more interesting than Schopenhauer's.
You must look at the various forms of the animals and describe them, not as though each animal existed in an isolated way, but so that you always arouse in the children the thought: This is a picture of man. If you think of a man altered in one direction or another, simplified or combined, then you have an animal. If you take a lower animal, for example, a tortoise, and put it on the top of a kangaroo, then you have something like a hardened head on the top, for that is the tortoise form, and the kangaroo below stands for the limbs of the human being.
And so everywhere in the wide world you can find some connection between man and the different animals.
You are laughing now about these things. That does not matter at all. It js quite good to laugh about them in the lessons also, for there is nothing better you can bring into the classroom than humour, and it is good for the children to laugh too, for if they always see the teacher come in with a terribly long face they will be tempted to make long faces themselves and to imagine that that is what one has to do when one sits at a desk in a classroom. But if humour is brought in and you can make the children laugh this is the very best method of teaching. Teachers who are always solemn will never achieve anything with the children.
So here you have the principle of the animal kingdom as I wished to put it before you. We can speak of the details later if we have time. But from. this you will see that you can teach about the animal kingdom by considering it as a human being spread out into all the animal forms.
This will give the child a very beautiful and delicate feeling. For as I have pointed out to you the child comes to know of the plant world as belonging to the earth, and the animals as belonging to himself. The child grows with all the kingdoms of the earth. He no longer merely stands on the dead ground of the earth, but he stands on the living ground, for he feels the earth as something living. He gradually comes to think of himself standing on the earth as though he were standing on some great living creature, like a whale. This is the right feeling. This alone can lead him to a really human feeling about the whole world.
So with regard to the animal the child comes to feel that all animals are related to man, but that man has something that reaches out beyond them all, for he unites all the animals in himself. And all this idle talk of the scientists about man descending from an animal will be laughed at by people who have been educated in this way. For they will know that man unites within himself the whole animal kingdom, he is a synthesis of all the single members of it.
As I have said, between the ninth and tenth year the human being comes to the point of discriminating between himself as subject and the outer world as object. He makes a distinction between himself and the world around him. Up to this time one could only tell fairy stories and legends in which the stones and plants speak and act like human beings, for the child did not yet differentiate between himself and his environment. But now when he does thus differentiate we must bring him into touch with his environment on a higher level. We must speak of the earth on which we stand in such a way that he cannot but feel how earth and plant belong together as a matter of course. Then, as I have shown you, the child will also get practical ideas for agriculture. He will know that the farmer manures the ground because he needs a certain life in it for one particular species of plant. The child will not then take a plant out of a botanical tin and examine it by itself, nor will he examine animals in an isolated way, but he will think of the whole animal kingdom as the great analysis of a human being spread out over the whole earth. Thus he, a human being, comes to know himself as he stands on the earth, and how the animals stand in relationship to him.
It is of very great importance that from the tenth year until towards the twelfth year we should awaken these thoughts of plant-earth and animal-man. Thereby the child takes his place in the world in a very definite way, with his whole life of soul, body and spirit.
All this must be brought to him through the feelings in an artistic way, for it is through learning to feel how plants belong to the earth and to the soil that the child really becomes clever and intelligent. His thinking will then be in accordance with nature. Through our efforts to show the child how he is related to the animal world, he will see how the force of will which is in all animals lives again in man, but differentiated, in individualised forms suited to man's nature. All animal qualities, all feeling of form which is stamped into the animal nature lives in the human being. Human will receives its impulses in this way and man himself thereby takes his place rightly in the world according to his own nature.
Why is it that people go about in the world today as though they had lost their roots? Anyone can see that people do not walk properly nowadays; they do not step properly but drag their legs after them. They learn differently in their sport, but there again there is something unnatural about it. But above all they have no idea how to think nor what to do with their lives. They know well enough what to do if you put them to the sewing machine or the telephone, or if an excursion or a world tour is being arranged. But they do not know what to do out of themselves because their education has not led them to find their right place in the world. You cannot put this right by coining phrases about educating people rightly; you can only do it if in the concrete details you can find the right way of speaking of the plants in their true relationship to the soil and of the animals in their rightful place by the side of man. Then the human being will stand on the earth as he should and will have the right attitude towards the world. This must be achieved in all your lessons. It is important — nay, it is essential.
Now it will always be a question of finding out what the development of the child demands at each age of life. For this we need real observation and knowledge of man. Think once again of the two things of which I have spoken, and you will see that the child up to its ninth or tenth year is really demanding that the whole world of external nature shall be made alive, because he does not yet see himself as separate from this external nature; therefore we shall tell the child fairy tales, myths and legends. We shall invent something ourselves for the things that are in our immediate environment, in order that in the form of stories, descriptions and pictorial representations of all kinds we may give the child in an artistic form what he himself finds in his own soul, in the hidden depths which he brings with him into the world. And then after the ninth or tenth year, let us say between the tenth and twelfth year, we introduce the child to the animal and plant world as we have described.
We must be perfectly clear that the conception of causality, of cause and effect, that is so popular today has no place at all in what the child needs to understand even at this age, at the tenth or eleventh year. We are accustomed nowadays to consider everything in its relation to cause and effect. The education based on Natural Science has brought this about. But to talk to children under eleven or twelve about cause and effect, as is the practice in the everyday life of today, is like talking about colours to someone who is colour blind. You will be speaking entirely beyond the child if you speak of cause and effect in the style that is customary today. First and foremost he needs living pictures where there is no question of cause and effect. Even after the tenth year these conceptions should only be brought to the child in the form of pictures.
It is only towards the twelfth year that the child is ready to hear causes and effects spoken of. So that those branches of knowledge which have principally to do with cause and effect in the sense of the words used today — the lifeless sciences such as Physics, etc. — should not really be introduced into the curriculum until between the eleventh and twelfth year. Before this time one should not speak to the children about minerals, Physics or Chemistry. None of these things is suitable for him before this age.
Now with regard to History, up to the twelfth year the child should be given pictures of single personalities and well-drawn graphic accounts of events that make History come alive for him, not a historical review where what follows is always shown to be the effect of what has gone before, the pragmatic method of regarding History, of which humanity has become so proud. This pragmatic method of seeking causes and effects in History is no more comprehensible to the child than colours to the colour-blind. And moreover one gets a completely wrong conception of life as it runs its course if one is taught everything according to the idea of cause and effect. I should like to make this clear to you in a picture.
Imagine a river flowing along like this (see drawing). It has
waves. But it would not always be a true picture if you make the wave (C) come out of the wave (B), and this again out of the wave (A), that is, if you say that C is the effect of B and B of A; there are in fact all kinds of forces at work below, which throw these waves up. So it is in History. What happens in 1910 is not always the effect of what happened in 1909, and so on. But quite early on the child ought to have a feeling for the things that work in evolution out of the depths of the course of time, a feeling of what throws the waves up, as it were. But he can only get that feeling if you postpone the teaching of cause and effect until later on, towards the twelfth year, and up to this time give him only pictures.
Here again this makes demands on the teacher's fantasy. But he must be equal to these demands, and he will be so if he has acquired a knowledge of man for himself. This is the one thing needful.
You must teach and educate out of the very nature of man himself, arid for this reason education for moral life must run parallel to the actual teaching which I have been describing to you. So now in conclusion I should like to add a few remarks on this subject, for here too we must read from the nature of the child how he should be treated. If you give a child of seven a conception of cause and effect you are working against the development of his human nature, and punishments also are often opposed to the real development of the child's nature.
In the Waldorf School we have had some very gratifying experiences of this. What is the usual method of punishment in schools? If a child has done something badly he has to “stay in” and do some Arithmetic for instance. Now in the Waldorf School we once had rather a strange experience: three or four children were told that they had done their work badly and must therefore stay in and do some sums. Whereupon the others said: “But we want to stay and do sums too!” For they had been brought up to think of Arithmetic as something nice to do, not as something which is used as a punishment. You should not arouse in the children the idea that staying in to do sums is something bad, but that it is a good thing to do. That is why the whole class wanted to stay and do sums. So that you must not choose punishments that cannot be regarded as such if the child is to be educated in a healthy way in his soul life.
To take another example: Dr. Stein, a teacher at the Waldorf School, often thought of very good educational methods on the spur of the moment. He once noticed that his pupils were passing notes under the desk. They were not attending to the lesson, but were writing notes and passing them under their desks to their neighbours who then wrote notes in reply. Now Dr. Stein did not scold them for writing notes and say: “I shall have to punish you,” or something of that sort, but quite suddenly he began to speak about the Postal System and give them a lecture on it. At first the children were quite mystified as to why they were suddenly being given a lesson on the Postal System, but then they realised why it was being done. This subtle method of changing the subject made the children feel ashamed. They began to feel ashamed of themselves and stopped writing notes simply on account of the thoughts about the postal system which the teacher had woven into the lesson.
Thus to take charge of a class it is necessary to have an inventive talent. Instead of simply following stereotyped traditional methods you must actually be able to enter into the whole being of the child, and you must know that in certain cases improvement, which is really what we are aiming at in punishment, is much more likely to ensue if the children are brought to a sense of shame in this way without drawing special attention to it or to any one child; this is far more effective than employing some crude kind of punishment. If the teacher follows such methods as these he will stand before the children active in spirit, and much will be balanced out in the class which would otherwise be in disorder.
The first essential for a teacher is self-knowledge. If for instance a child makes blots on his book or on his desk because he has got impatient or angry with something his neighbour has done, then the teacher must never shout at the child for making blots and say: “You mustn't get angry! Getting angry is a thing that a good man never does! A man should never get angry but should bear everything calmly. If I see you getting angry once more, why then — then I shall throw the inkpot at your head!”
If you educate like this (which is very often done) you will accomplish very little. The teacher must always keep himself in hand, and above all must never fall into the faults which he is blaming his children for. But here you must know how the unconscious part of the child's nature works. A man's conscious intelligence, feeling and will are all only one part of his soul life; in the depths of human nature, even in the child, there holds sway the astral body with its wonderful prudence and wisdom. 1For an elucidation of the “astral body” and other higher members of man's being, see Rudolf Steiner:The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy.
Now it always fills me with horror to see a teacher standing in his class with a book in his hand teaching out of the book, or a notebook in which he has noted down the questions he wants to ask the children and to which he keeps referring. The child does not appear to notice this with his upper consciousness, it is true; but if you are aware of these things then you will see that the children have subconscious wisdom and say to themselves: He does not himself know what I am supposed to be learning. Why should I learn what he does not know? This is always the judgment that is passed by the subconscious nature of children who are taught by their teacher out of a book.
Such are the imponderable and subtle things that are so extremely important in teaching. For as soon as the subconscious of the child, his astral nature, notices that the teacher himself does not know something he has to teach, but has to look it up in a book first, then the child considers it unnecessary that he should learn it either. And the astral body works with much more certainty than the upper consciousness of the child.
These are the thoughts I wished to include in today's lecture. In the next few days we will deal with special subjects and stages in the child's education.