Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
16 November 1921, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: I am sorry I have not been here for so long. Let us take a look at what we need to do today.
A teacher asks if they should turn some of the more difficult children away or if a trial period should be implemented.
Dr. Steiner: That is a question we can decide only when we have analyzed each case.
A teacher: One of the children, B.O., stole something.
Dr. Steiner: Is he just spoiled or is this habitual?
A teacher: The child is really quite spoiled. Our question is whether it would be responsible of us to have that child with the other children.
Dr. Steiner: You would have to see whether the boy is disturbed. I hope I can come by again for a while tomorrow. We have already had some children who had stolen something, and we still have them.
A teacher speaks about H.M.A. and asks if she can be excused from foreign languages.
Dr. Steiner: There is no reason to not have her in the school. It is for just such children that we need a remedial class.
That is something we need to do. Even though they may be disturbed, the children need to learn, and we do not want to turn them away. The situation is somewhat different in B.’s case. We have to admit it is difficult to come to grips with him. If he is disturbed, he would also have to go into the remedial class. The question is not easy to decide. With such children, it is not so easy to turn them away after a time. Accepting them and then rejecting them would lead to a bourgeois tendency in the school. We would all become bourgeois, just like everyone else. We certainly cannot accept children and then turn them away. There are not many children like B. and were we to observe him more closely, the various tricks he plays, we would probably see the meaning of it. For instance, in the case where he said he was someone else, there is certainly some other circumstance that would explain that.
A teacher: He has a bad influence on the others. When he is around, they act differently.
Dr. Steiner: That is true, the danger of infection is high. It will not be easy to find a way to work with him. In any event, before I consider the question, I would first like to meet him.
We have already had some thefts, but we never really considered whether we should keep the children or not. What kind of criteria could we make?
The difficulty is in determining some criteria and then sticking to it. Surely, there must be some way of doing that. How can we set the boundary between those who are servile enough for the Waldorf School and those who do not deserve it? How would you want to determine a tendency for theft? We can take note of the question, but such questions are more easily asked than answered. We are not done with the question yet, and I do not tend to give general answers to such questions. We must answer them case by case.
A teacher: The Independent Anthroposophical Youth has asked the teachers to give a course.
Dr. Steiner: They are mostly those who were down there in the Society branch building. They already had a few small meetings. Why shouldn’t you do that?
A teacher requests some guidelines.
Dr. Steiner: It would be quite a service if you were to do it. But stay more in the area of pedagogy. They are certainly thinking of pedagogy in general and not specific pedagogical methods. They are thinking more of cultural pedagogy. There is certainly a lot more going on in young people since the beginning of the century, or perhaps a few years earlier. There is a great deal going on in their unconscious. That is why the youth movement has a supersensible foundation. We should take this up seriously. I was in Aarau last Friday. It was not really a discussion, but a few people spoke up. One of them was a very curious person. During the first university course, I was put in a difficult position. I had received an unexpected telegram stating that two students had cut class and gone to the course. That is quite dangerous in Switzerland. Dr. Boos lay in wait for them and caught the two rascals. We gave the money back. It was one of those boys who spoke last Friday.
In reality, what happened was that a minister spoke first, a middle- aged man who really had nothing to say other than that we shouldn’t talk only about death; then, a teacher; and then that boy. The boy actually spoke best. He said something that was really quite correct. The whole conversation ended in the minister saying that modern youth does not recognize authority. Then the young man said, “Who should have authority? You should not complain if I state things radically, but if you want authority, then you have to be able to justify it. Don’t older people make compromises? If we see that, how can we look upon them with a feeling of authority?” He spoke very insightfully, and it made a good impression upon me.
We should pay attention to the youth movement. It is a cultural movement of great significance. Nevertheless, we need to avoid narrow-mindedness and pedantry in connection with the youth movement.
The teachers could give lectures on three days around Christmas and New Year’s.
A teacher asks about the behavior of some of the older students toward the girls and about smoking.
Dr. Steiner: Have they been making some advances? Let’s leave the question of smoking to the side, we can discuss that later. These other things we can do now. Has anything occurred that goes beyond reason? Of course, when a number of children get together, certain things happen, at least to an extent. Has anything happened that goes beyond reasonable limits?
A number of teachers speak about the behavior toward the girls.
Dr. Steiner: Well, it could simply be naïveté.
A teacher: It was sharper, more than naïve.
Dr. Steiner: It depends upon their character. If someone is rather coarse, he could still be naïve. It is important since we have looked at this point, that when nothing else can be done, we should somehow step in. On the other hand, we should not go into the situation with the children themselves. That would certainly make them difficult to handle. Take one such instance that occurred. A girl sits upon an older boys’ lap. You can be certain that you should ignore it as long as possible. You need to try to inhibit such actions, but don’t go so far as to put the children off. If you do, you will certainly draw their attention to it. You should handle such things with extreme care. You cannot teach boys and girls together if you do not avoid taking direct action.
Our materialistic age has created horrible prejudices in this regard. It often happens that a mother and father come to me and ask for advice because their children are developing a perverse sexuality. But when I see the child, he is only five years old and supposedly perverse! He doesn’t have any sexuality at all. This is pure stupidity. At the end, they bring out the Freudian theory that says a baby’s sucking on a pacifier is a sexual act.
What is important here is your tact. It can happen on occasion that you must act upon something sharply. However, in this question, you should do things more indirectly, otherwise you will draw the children’s attention to them.
It would be a good idea to report these cases psychologically, at least where a discussion of them is justified. Have you told me of all the instances? That doesn’t seem to be the case?
A teacher: Z.S. has a little circle of admirers around her.
Dr. Steiner: Such things have been cause for great tragedies. We need to handle them indirectly. Suppose a tragedy is playing out there. Because of that tragedy, one of the older girls says something to a teacher, then the girl sees that as a terrible breach of trust, and then the other girl finds out that you have told it further. You told something to another teacher that was told you in confidence, and the girl finds that out. The girl has cried a great deal over that. We really need to take these things in a way so that we can see they are actually an enrichment of life. These are things we cannot handle in a pedantic way. Every person is a different human being, even as a child.
A teacher: In my discussions about The Song of the Niebelungs in the tenth grade, I have come across a number of risqué passages. How should I behave in this regard?
Dr. Steiner: Either you have to pass over them tactfully or handle them seriously. You could try to handle such things in a simple and natural way, without any hint of frivolousness. That would be better than hiding them.
Concerning a restriction on smoking and similar things, it is quite possible that the children feel they are above that.
A teacher: One boy smoked a whole pack. We also find the name “Cigarette School.” It is not good for the school when the students smoke.
Dr. Steiner: In Dornach, the eurythmy ladies smoke much more than the men. The best thing would be to teach them to exercise some reason in regard to smoking.
A teacher: The result was, as they noticed, that they only hurt themselves.
Dr. Steiner: I think you could say what the effect is upon the organism. You could describe the effects of nicotine. That would be best. You may be tempted to do one and not another. This question in particular is a textbook example of when it is better to do one thing, namely, when the children who have such bad habits learn to stop them. In that case, pedagogically you have done fifteen times more than if you only prohibit smoking. A restriction on smoking is easier, but to teach the children so that they understand the problem affects the entirety of their lives. It is very important not to forbid and punish. We should not forbid nor punish, but do something else.
A teacher: Some of the teachers have started a discussion period for the students. We have discussed questions of worldview.
Dr. Steiner: It does not appear that children from the specific religions stay away. In any event, such a discussion period is good. It would be impossible to avoid having the discussion of worldview take on an anthroposophical character. You can barely avoid that in the religion classes, but in such a discussion group it is unavoidable. It is also not necessary to avoid it.
A question is asked about tutoring for foreign languages.
Dr. Steiner: That is a question about the extent to which we can make the foreign language classes independent of the grades, so that a child in one of the lower grades could be in a higher foreign language class.
A teacher: That would be difficult.
Dr. Steiner: It is still a question whether we can solve it or not.
A teacher: It will hardly be possible to teach foreign language in all the classes at the same time. That is why we thought of tutoring as a temporary measure.
Dr. Steiner: We can certainly do what we can in that direction. In the continuation school in Dornach, all the children from eight until eighteen sit together in the various subjects. There is also a forty-five-year-old woman with them. I cannot say that is such a terrible thing since it really isn’t so bad. Yesterday, an “officer of the law” came who wanted to take the children away from us.
We cannot make many classes, but we could do something. However, the teachers would have more work than if we simply tried to get past some of these small problems.
A teacher: Then, it would be good to leave the children there?
Dr. Steiner: That is the ideal. We could give them some extra instruction, but not take them out of the class. That would actually be too strenuous for the children. Otherwise, we would have to form the language classes differently from the other subjects.
A teacher: That is enormously difficult.
Dr. Steiner: We cannot easily increase the number of teachers. There is a discussion about art class in the upper grades and about some drafts for crafts.
Dr. Steiner: In art, you can do different things in many different ways. It is not possible to say that one thing is definitely good and the other is definitely bad. In Dornach, Miss van Blommestein has begun to teach through colors, and they are making good progress. I have seen that it is having a very good influence. We allow the children to work only with the primary colors. We say, for instance, “In the middle of your picture you have a yellow spot. Make it blue. Change the picture so that all of the other colors are changed accordingly.” When the children have to change one color, and then change everything else in accordance with that, the result is a basic insight into color. This can be seen, for instance, when they sew something onto a purse or something else and then do crossstitch on it so that it sits at just the right spot. The things you have told us about all result in essentially the same thing, and that is very good. The only question is when to begin this. You will have the greatest success if you begin in the very low grades, and then develop handwriting from that.
A teacher: Wouldn’t the class teacher contradict the shop teacher then?
Dr. Steiner: The person giving the art class needs to be aware that these children have all done this as small children. Now we could do it like you said; however, later you will need to be aware that the children have already done all that. Today, you first have to get rid of all bad taste. In this connection, people have not had much opportunity to learn very much. When people today do some crossstitch upon something, they could just as easily have done it on something else.
A teacher: I did not agree that the children in my third-grade class should paint in handwork class.
Dr. Steiner: If the children paint in your third grade, they will begin painting in handwork only in the eighth grade.
A teacher: What I meant is, I think the children are too young to do anything artistic.
Dr. Steiner: In your class, there is still not any artistic handwork. There is some discussion about this conflict.
Dr. Steiner: The individual teachers need to communicate with one another. The fact that there is no communication can at best be a question of lack of time, but, in principle, you always need to discuss things with one another.
The shop teacher: I think the children in the ninth and tenth grades should have more opportunity to work in the shop. I have them only every other week.
Dr. Steiner: Only every other week? How did that happen? The shop teacher: I can have only twenty-five at a time.
Dr. Steiner: It is impossible to have more time for that. Rather than dividing the classes, which is pedagogical nonsense, it would be better if you compressed everything into one week, namely, that you had the children every day for a week. That is something really important for life, and the children suffer from having to do without their work for a longer period. This tearing apart is significant. Perhaps we should consider this more according to our principle of concentration of work.
Why do we have to have this class in the afternoons? Is it a question of the class schedule? There must surely be some solution.
A teacher: We only need to know what would have to be dropped.
Dr. Steiner: Well, we certainly cannot affect the main lesson.
A teacher: Then, that would mean that for a week we would have only shop.
Dr. Steiner: We could do it so that only one-third has shop class.
The only class that is suffering less from a lack of concentrated instruction is foreign language. It suffers the least. The main lesson and art class suffer not only from a psychological perspective, there is something in human nature that is actually destroyed by piecemeal teaching.
The children do not need to do handwork, knitting or crochet, for a week at a time. That is something they can do later. We don’t need to be pedantic. I could imagine finding it very intriguing to knit on a sock every Wednesday at noon for a quarter of an hour, so that it would be done in a half year. To work every Wednesday on a sculpture is something else again. But, you can learn to knit socks in that way.
You need to simply find a solution for these things. A handwork teacher: I find it very pleasant to have the children once a week.
Dr. Steiner: If it does not involve crafts, then the pauses are unimportant. However, when it does involve crafts, then we should try to maintain a certain level of concentration. When we have the children learn bookbinding, that certainly requires a concentrated level of work. This is something that is coming. In the tenth grade we already have practical instruction. In such a class, we wouldn’t do any other crafts.
A teacher: …
Dr. Steiner: You should learn stenography in your sleep, that is without any particular concentration. Teaching stenography at all is basically barbaric. It is the epitome of Ahrimanism, and for that reason, the ideal would be to learn stenography as though in sleep. The fact that is not possible makes it significant when it is being done so poorly, as though there was no concentration given to it while learning it. It is simply all nonsense. It is cultural nonsense that people do stenography.
A teacher: Shop was connected with gardening class. Now Miss Michels is here, so how should we divide that?
Dr. Steiner: Miss Michels will take over from Mr. Wolffhügel. The best would be for them to discuss how to work together. They can discuss it.
A teacher reports that the faculty began an extra period for tone eurythmy.
Dr. Steiner: That is possible with tone eurythmy. It is not something that burdens the children. It could, however, open the door to other things. If we have a tutoring period for every regular period, that will be too much. We would have to teach all night long.
A teacher asks about eurythmy for the children in the remedial class.
Dr. Steiner: I hope I will have time to have a look at them. For the children in the remedial class, it would be best to do eurythmy during that period.
A teacher asks about the development of the curriculum.
Dr. Steiner: In the pedagogical lectures, there was a large amount of theoretical material. Now we also have some practical experience.
A teacher: Attempts have been made to create a boarding school.
Dr. Steiner: Under certain circumstances, boarding schools are good, but that is seldom the case these days. They are not a purpose of our Waldorf School. It is not the purpose of our Waldorf School to create special situations. We are not here to create a special social class, but, rather, to bring out the best we can from the existing social classes through our teaching.
If the home is good, we can recommend it for the children.
A teacher: Mrs. Y. had asked if other parents want to participate.
Dr. Steiner: That is possible only if the parents ask the school, and if the school determines that Mrs. Y.’s home is adequate. Then the faculty would recommend it. Right now, we do not know. What we should really work for is the founding of as many Waldorf Schools as possible, so that parents would not have to board the children for them to go to a Waldorf school. Right now, there is only the one Waldorf school, and that is why we could support a boarding home. Actually, it must become possible for children everywhere to go to a Waldorf School, otherwise Stuttgart will remain only as model.
There is a tremendous amount of hubbub. If I look at the letters I have received in just the last three days, people want to create boarding homes everywhere. This sort of thing happens all the time. People want something, but we really need to look at it critically. People are always poking their nose into things as soon as something like the Waldorf School is created. All kinds of uncalled for people appear.
A comment is made about a continuation course that has started.
Dr. Steiner: In principle, there is nothing to say against it. You only need to be careful that some guys don’t come into it who would ruin the whole class.
A question is asked about the biennial report and whether Dr. Steiner would write something for it.
Dr. Steiner: I will write something; now there are a number of things to say.
A question is asked about the reading primer.
Dr. Steiner: I don’t have the primer. I haven’t had it for a long time. I have nothing against it if it is done tastefully. If I am to do the lettering, then I will have to have it again.
One of the subject teachers complains about the disturbances caused by the confirmation class.
Dr. Steiner: Are there really so many? That is an invasion into healthy teaching.
A teacher: The faculty would like a special Sunday Service for teachers only.
Dr. Steiner: We already discussed something like that. I would have to know if there is an extensive need for it.
A teacher: The desire was stated.
Dr. Steiner: Of course, something quite beautiful could come from that. I could easily imagine a unified striving coming from it. It will not be so easy to find the form. Who should do it? Suppose you choose by voting and then rotate. Those are very difficult things. You must have a deeply unified will. Who would do it?
A teacher: It never occurred to me that this could cause an argument. We certainly may not have any ambitions.
Dr. Steiner: If everyone had a different opinion about who could do it well, then it would be difficult. You would all need to be united in your opinion about who could do it. But then, problems arise. That is like the story about Stockerau: Someone asks a man in Vienna if it is far to America, to which he replies, “You’ll soon be in Stockerau and afterward, you’ll find the way.”
A teacher: Should only one person do it?
Dr. Steiner: Then every week you’ll wonder who could do it well.
A teacher proposes Mr. N.
Dr. Steiner: Now we will have to hold a secret ballot.
A teacher: What seems important to me is that we have it.
Dr. Steiner: Of course. This is a difficult thing, like choosing the Pope.
A teacher: Everyone would be fine with me.
Dr. Steiner: Now we would have to think about the form. I would never dare say who should do it.
A teacher: Perhaps one of the three men now doing the children’s service.
Dr. Steiner: Only if it were perfectly clear that that is acceptable. A service is either simply a question of form, in which case you could do it together, or it is a ritual act, and you have to look more seriously at it. In that case, you can have no secret enemies. Another teacher speaks about the question.
Dr. Steiner: Now I am lost. I don’t understand anything anymore. A sacrament is esoteric. It is one of the most esoteric things you can imagine. What you said is connected with the fact that you cannot decide upon a ritual democratically. Of course, once a ritual exists, it can be taken care of by a group. But, the group would have to be united.
A teacher: I thought we shouldn’t demand things of individuals.
Dr. Steiner: That is what I mean. It should be like the ritual we provided for the children. That was not at all the task of the Waldorf School.
The question is whether something that, in a certain sense, requires such careful creation might be too difficult to create out of the faculty and too difficult to care for within the faculty as a whole. Let us assume you all are in agreement. Then, we could only accept new colleagues into the faculty who also agree. We could esoterically unite with only those people who are united in a specific esoteric form. A service is possible in esoteric circles only when it is to be something. Otherwise, we would need to have just a sacrificial mass. You would need that for those who want something non-esoteric, and it would exist in contrast to the esoteric. You cannot have a mass without a priest. In esoteric things, people should be united in the content.
A question is asked about esoteric studies.
Dr. Steiner: That is very difficult to do. Until now, I have always had to avoid them. As you know, I gave a number of such studies years ago, but I had to stop because people misused them. Esotericism was simply taken out into the world and distorted. In that regard, nothing in our esoteric movement has ever been as damaging as that. All other esoteric study, even in less than honorable situations, was held intimately. That was the practice over a long period of time. Cliques have become part of the Anthroposophical Society and they have set themselves above everything else, unfortunately, also above what is esoteric. Members do not put the anthroposophical movement as such to the fore, but, instead, continually subject it to the interests of cliques. The anthroposophical movement is dividing into a number of factions. To that extent, it is worse than much that exists in the exoteric world. I say that without in any way wanting to express a lack of understanding for the history of it. Think about what you have experienced in the external bourgeois world led by functionaries. When some important government official moves from one city to another, he must, with great equanimity, introduce himself to all the various people with their differing opinions. However, in the Anthroposophical Society, if someone comes to a city that has a number of branches, it might occur to him that, since there are many branches, that is good, and he can go to all of them. But after visiting one, the others turn him away. A naïve person would think he could go to all of them. There are cities in which numerous anthroposophical branches exist, and that is how they treat one another.
Esotericism is a painful chapter in the book of the anthroposophical movement. It isn’t just that people always refer to what has occurred in the past. It is, in fact, the case that when Kully writes his articles in the local newspaper, you can clearly see that he is well informed about the most recent events within the Society, right down to the most unimportant details.
We would first need to find some form.
A teacher: Is it possible to find that form?
Dr. Steiner: We must truly find the form first. You can see that since now there is this wonderful movement that has led to the theological course. It was held very esoterically and contained within it the foundation of the sacraments in the highest sense of the word. There you can see that people were united.
In any event, I would like to think about this, and what can be understood about your needs.
The children’s Sunday service, isn’t it an esoteric activity for the individual human beings who attend it, regardless of whether they are children or not?
Finally, you need to remember that lay people have a priest— Protestantism has no esotericism within it any more — the priest has a deacon, he has a bishop and that goes right on up to the Pope. But even the Pope has a confessor. You can see there how human relationships change. That ironclad recognition of the principle is what is necessary. The confessor is not higher than the Pope, but nevertheless he can, under certain circumstances, give the Pope penance. Of course, the Roman Catholic church also comes into the most terrible situations.
I want to think about this some more.