Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
15 March 1922, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: Today, we have come together to discuss the results of the official school inspection. From what you told me over the telephone, I have formed a picture. Before I take any position, though, I think it would be a good idea to hear what each of you who participated in the inspection has to report, so that we all have a complete picture. I have repeatedly said that I am willing to meet with the man, but that has not occurred as yet.
We need to discuss all this to attain a perspective from which we can ward off any blows that may come from the public. It is unnecessary, and it would be fruitless, to make objections to the officials. If such things could be successful, we would not need a Waldorf School. The reason the Waldorf School exists is because the official bureaucracy does not understand our methods and our direction.
Let us go through the classes, then each of you can say what occurred in your class.
The teachers report about the inspection in each of the classes. The inspector had asked only very superficial questions..
Dr. Steiner: A boy in Zurich told me that he does not want to go to the school any more because the teaching through illustrative material was too dumb. When I gave the course in Berlin, I spoke about learning to read.1 Such things are very current and should be put into the Threefold newspaper and be used. For instance, how children learn to read, or the fact that our children — this is something I say everywhere — thank God, learn to read only at the age of eight or nine. We need to put such things right under people’s noses. They are certainly more important than some essay about a convention in Honolulu. We should also criticize the practice of failing children. We should mention that, too.
A teacher: He wanted to have quick answers in arithmetic.
Dr. Steiner: If children cannot do arithmetic quickly, their body is still slow.
A teacher: My perception is that what we teach children about grammar is something still foreign to them. Do we have to do that in the second grade?
Dr. Steiner: It depends upon how you do it. You do not always need to teach them the terminology, nouns and verbs, but use them only for yourself to form an objective polarity. A child of seven and a half can certainly differentiate between an activity and a thing. You do not need to emphasize the terminology. You could begin with stories and make the difference between a thing and an activity clear. That is something a child at that age can grasp. They should be able to grasp the difference between running or jumping and a human being or something of that sort. We do not need to follow the form of a pedantic grammar. In particular, with children in the lower grades, you should completely avoid using definitions.
There are further reports.
Dr. Steiner: (Laughingly, to a teacher who was happy about a positive remark made by the school inspector) Yes, you will certainly need to improve there.
The subject teachers report also.
Dr. Steiner: He will come to handwork class only with some old lady.
It is clear that this sort of inspection is an example of something that could never lead to an understanding of what actually happens in a school. When you think of the goodwill this man could have brought to understand at least a little about the Waldorf School, you will see that he had none whatsoever. He simply tried to determine to what extent the children meet the requirements of a regular school. He would need to know that he could learn something about what is actually going on only if he asks himself questions. He would have needed to ask himself how to question the children about what he wanted to know. His primary task should have been to find out from the children what they have learned, and the children would have needed to provide him with the possibility of asking the proper questions.
No one can learn very much if they simply ask the teachers questions, listen to the answers, but lack a firm foundation for forming a judgment about them. I make no assumption about that. There are a large number of psychological reasons why children answer their own teacher well or not. You need only recall how it is at the university for people who do their major examinations with the same professor they had for their seminars. It is easy for them. For the students who have not worked with the same professor, it is more difficult. Those who know the professor have an easy time. Having simply heard the professor’s lectures is not sufficient, since you could not discover his method of asking questions.
It is quite important to make the public aware of the things we consciously had to forego. We should use the space available to us in the “Threefold Social Organism” to present such things to the public. The different anthroposophical organizations here should work together, otherwise everything will dissipate. Everything is already falling apart, becoming unglued. We must work together. We need to publish articles, but of course, we should not obviously direct them at this particular point. That would be quite false. Nevertheless, the official inspection of the school could play a role. We should publish an article presenting, from various perspectives, how important it is for a child to learn to read only around the age of eight or nine. We could give examples like Goethe, who could not read and write until the age of nine, or Helmholtz, who learned to read and write only much later. We could, in contrast, give examples of people who learned to read and write at the age of four or five, then became complete idiots.
This is what we must do. If we do this properly, so that when we see ourselves in danger, and people everywhere are talking about these things, then we will have an effect. Then people could also not say that our intent is aimed at a very limited group. In this way, we can bring many of the weird judgments of the present into line. The actions of a person like the school inspector are simply an extract of the general perspective. If you turn to the entire civilized world using someone like that as an example, what you do will be good. The school inspection shows us what should not be done. Now we can turn to the world and try to make clear what should have been done.
A teacher: I have written an article for “Die Drei.”
Dr. Steiner: Make it short and sweet, don’t write ten pages about it. There is nothing to prevent something that appears in “Die Drei” from also appearing in “The Threefold.”
We’ve already talked about these things. A careful presentation of the impossibility of determining what a school is like by using such inspection methods could be one topic for discussion. Then we would have to defend against all the objections to teaching according to historical periods. When the inspector made his judgment, he said something very characteristic of our times, namely, that life requires people to do arithmetic quickly, and, therefore, we should teach that to the children.
Nearly everything you have said today offers wonderful examples of the way things should not be and how we can improve them. For instance, flunking children. The fact that he referred to the children as bright and dumb in front of the children is absolutely impossible.
He will probably also do what bad teachers always do. He will ask questions that require an exact answer and ignore everything else. He will have no sense of the way children express things. It is really very nice to receive a response from the children in their own way. It would be interesting to know what part of the poem he misunderstood.
You reported his remark that our method of teaching foreign language leads to a mechanical understanding.
These are the things we need to put out in public: Learning to read and write at a not-to-early age; a defense of teaching foreign language at an early age; flunking children; the manner of asking children questions; and, assuming that children will answer in exactly the way you expect them to. We should also mention superficial questions, senseless questions.
This is all connected to modern culture. These methods are decades old, and modern people have developed a spirituality, an attitude within their souls, that shows how they were mistreated as children. Today, only those who are more or less healthy, who have a counterforce within them, can hold up against that. The physical and psychological condition of modern people is often quite sad. That comes from such incorrect forming of questions. You can even see that in the physical body, that is, whether the forces of the soul have become incoherent. Many people take leave of their senses later. Many who still have their senses notice through their heart or lungs that they were mistreated by such things.
We need to be clear that if we did things to satisfy the education authorities, we would have to close. We could then simply put the children in any other school. They see the Waldorf School as an attack.
It is not so important to develop the letters the way they historically developed, since they developed differently in different regions. What is important is a renewal of the artistic path of work. We do not need to use historical forms. We must make that point very clear. From such events, we should learn what we must make clear.
A teacher: I asked the children in my seventh-grade class why they went along and behaved so well. They replied that they did not want to get me into trouble.
Dr. Steiner: That is wonderful behavior on the part of the children.
We should make notes of all of this so we can publicize it. There is so much interesting material that we could fill our publications with it. External activities and specific questions. We need to see that people pay more attention to us and learn more about our way of thinking if we want the Waldorf School movement to spread.
During the course I gave in Berlin, there was something that could also have been published. (Speaking to Dr. von Heydebrand) You remember you had said some things and then someone with an education background said that you had overemphasized the dark side. We should have stepped in then. We should have shown that you were not too extreme, that, in reality, things are very much worse. Experimental pedagogy is reasonable only in its basic ideas, but regarding other things, it is quite unreasonable. It is something only for professors who have to do as many experiments as possible.
The situation in Berlin was impossible. A discussion of barely an hour. There was sufficient time for many people to say really dumb things, but not enough time to defend yourself. In such cases, it would be better not even to speak. We should not leave our people out on a limb. It would be best not to give such presentations. We cannot allow only our opponents to be heard. The situation there was the best possible for those who want to hurt anthroposophy.
Our outside activities are, of course, connected with the outside, but they also belong here in the faculty.
A teacher asks whether they should start teaching Greek and Latin at the same time.
Dr. Steiner: The best, the ideal, would be to begin Greek earlier and then begin Latin after two years. However, that is difficult to do in practice. Then, we would have to drop something else for Greek, and that would be difficult. Our plans are designed to correspond to the individual and to development, so that doesn’t work out. Latin is required for external reasons. It is helpful to do things the way I described in my lecture in Berlin in order to slowly understand the language.
I based the entire development of language upon an imagination, but K. spoke of inspiration and intuition. People today have no sensibility for exact listening, and we need to take such things into account. The things I discussed need to be felt. That is something that can be taught through Greek. Latin is not as important because it does not teach feeling in the same way as Greek.
A teacher: How can we determine which children should attend that class?
Dr. Steiner: As long as we are only a single school, we cannot do much. Only when there are more schools could we make a decision of that sort according to their characteristics, that is, when we can influence the further course of the child’s life. That we have thirty percent who participate in this class is still too few to justify changing our plans for them. We need everything we have.
A teacher requests help with students in the upper grades, N.G. and F.S.
Dr. Steiner: With such difficult cases as N.G., we can approach him with understanding if he still has some belief in a person who can be completely objective about the life he has experienced. He grew up as an extremely lively little spirit from the very beginning. He gave many insightful answers. Now he is growing up with a mother who is the personification of a lie. She is one of those people who falls down with a heart attack, but on the soft carpet, not next to it. She is completely untrue. She is a woman who always wanted to bring Anthroposophy to her husband, a very superficial and trivial person. The children knew about this at an early age. This is one of the comedies in life that have such a tragic effect upon children that they lose all trust in life.
Now, the boy knows all this. He needs only the fulfillment he so much desires. He needs to be able to believe in a person. That is an opportunity he should have, namely to have people in his surroundings who are interested in telling the truth about even the most mundane of things.
A teacher: He says that he smells anthroposophy everywhere.
Dr. Steiner: In such cases, you can help him form a sound judgment if you take everything into account. The beliefs of such boys as N.G. are based upon the idea that everyone lies, but that can be cured. It could be difficult for him because he knows he was forced into the Waldorf School. For that reason, he now asks what is right. That is one thing.
Now that he is here in the Waldorf School, he must be able to find something that he can believe in anthroposophy. This is a truly Herculean task. It would have been quite normal for him to attend a school where life approached him from outside. The worst thing for such a boy is to place him in the Waldorf School. A child does not have to be in the Waldorf School. A school that pleases the school board could be a good school in which to spend your time from the age of six until fourteen. The Waldorf School is not necessarily the right school for everyone, but one day, there he was.
I am not sure it is pedagogically proper that F.S. is here. In 1908 I held a course about the Apocalypse. He occupied himself by digging deep holes in the garden soil. If you came close to him, he stood up and kicked you in the stomach. He never gave an answer. Once, an older lady wanted to do something nice for him, but he took some sand and threw it in her eyes. He broke nearly all of the coffee cups. He called himself “you” because people told him, “You did it.” If he is still behaving the same way, but at a higher level, then things have not improved. Now he would call himself, “I,” but for a different reason.
Somehow, we will have to come to grips with F.S. and N.G. Someone who has never been involved with his situation and in whom he can trust, will need to take over N.G. In the case of “you,” only someone who impresses him can help. He never knew his father very well. He needs someone who would impress him. (Speaking to a teacher) Can’t you do that? You have impressed many people. You certainly gave X.Y. the idea that you are impressive.
While I was in Berlin, someone approached me and told me about this boy. From that, I had an impression that the real reason for these things lies in his living conditions. We should try to avoid having anyone lodge there. X. does not like the Waldorf School. I promised the woman to ask you if he could live with one of you. He posed some questions concerning Schopenhauer, and that is quite positive. He also greets me very warmly.
A teacher asks about a child with curvature of the spine.
Dr. Steiner: He should be in the remedial class for a time. Let him do only what he wants, and discover what he does not want to do.
A language teacher complains about difficulties in the 7b English class.
Dr. Steiner: That is not at all surprising when you consider how their class teacher keeps them under control. That certainly calls forth a comparison. He knows what he wants. If she did not have him, but someone else instead, then (speaking to the language teacher) it would be much easier for you. You have a rather uncertain nature, and your own thoughts sit within the form of the children’s thoughts. These are things that would not occur to such an extent if you had a colleague more like yourself. The class teacher impresses the entire class because he is so much a part of things. You will have to break your terrible, vaguely lyrical, sentimental attitude when you go into the class.
The language teacher says something about boxing children’s ears.
Dr. Steiner: If you give them a slap, you should do it the way Dr. Schubert does.
Dr. Schubert: Did somebody complain?
Dr. Steiner: No, you are always slapping them.
Dr. Schubert: When did I do that?
Dr. Steiner: Well, I mean astral slapping. There are physical slaps and astral slaps. It doesn’t matter which one you give, but you cannot slap a child sentimentally.
The class reflects our thoughts. You need to be firmer in your own thoughts. If I were in your class, I would do the same. I would certainly behave terribly. I wouldn’t understand what is happening. I wouldn’t know what you want. You must be firmer in your thinking. The battle of a whole class against the teacher is not actually real, it is not something you can touch. We can talk about individual children, but not about a whole class. Look at the things Baravalle has written. Keep them until Whitsun. We cannot hold some lyrical discourses about a class. You seem to me today to be like one of those books from Husserl. Break your habit of thinking like that. It is a picture of your own inner nature.
We have to strongly integrate the art of teaching with the subject, but at the same time selflessly integrate it with the subject. Those are not common characteristics.
The 7a class has become quite good, and you can work well with them. The effectiveness of teaching depends upon the overall impression the teacher makes upon the children and not upon some small misdeeds or acts against authority. It is easy for a teacher to become laughable through some piece of clothing, but that will recede after a time. Perhaps you have a hole in your boot, but that is not very important. You cannot change those things. What is important is the humanity of the teacher.
The context of the following is unclear.
Dr. Steiner: They had the audience in their control. In the Vienna hall, Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony was presented in 1887. I attended a concert by Schalk. That was the first performance of Bruckner’s symphony.
A question is asked about four students in the 7a class.
Dr. Steiner: Will the children go into an apprenticeship? They are all nearly the same type. I would hope that things would become better if, with these children, you were to introduce a reading of a speech by Buddha objectively and formally, with all the repetitions, and then had them memorize short passages. You could also use The Bhagavad Gita. You could do that with the whole class. Go through it with the whole class and have those children copy it, then do it a second time and they should be able to present it. You should particularly aim at those children. This could also be done in teaching history and language. You could do that every day.
A teacher asks about a girl whose parents do not want her to participate in eurythmy.
Dr. Steiner: Convince the parents. She should not interrupt the eurythmy lessons.
A teacher asks about P.R., a student with a crippled hand.
Dr. Steiner: We should think about what profession we should direct him toward. He is not very dexterous with that hand. He writes poorly. He should become something like a bookkeeper, or some other job where that is not important. He certainly cannot become an actor. The best would be if we could bring such children so far along that they could then participate in the normal morning instruction, and then have some continuation of their education following elementary school. We need to try to bring him along so that he overcomes his self-consciousness and participates in handwork. He should certainly learn bookkeeping. We need to find a teacher for him.
A teacher: The elementary schools here have more periods of handwork.
Dr. Steiner: So much handwork is unnecessary.
A teacher: R.L. in the fourth grade is not coming to school.
Dr. Steiner: We cannot force the children if parents don’t want it.
We need to work practically with the things you mentioned today. There is no doubt that we have to take over a greater responsibility toward extending the movement so that the movement is not torn apart by some small thing one day. The whole world is looking at the Waldorf School, the whole civilized world. We must do a number of things well in the school that the movement is not doing very well in other areas. The main thing is that everyone in Stuttgart work together, that all the different groups connected with the movement, that is, really connected, find some way of working with one another.
When you are active in the anthroposophical movement on a broader scale, you will find that elsewhere people do not know how to relate to Stuttgart and what is happening here. It is important that the Waldorf School movement keep its promises. In particular, even though we may fail in other areas, the cultural areas need to be particularly strong in the world. The Waldorf School and its faculty need to always be careful to spread an understanding of themselves. Lectures like those given by Schwebsch, Stein, and Heydebrand are particularly effective. Answers to specific questions are often misunderstood.
The Waldorf teachers should not slide into that mistaken behavior so common today, that is, to write articles like the one X. wrote about the article from S.G. We will slowly die if we engage in normal journalism and a non-objective treatment of our work. It, the lecture from S.G., was certainly unbelievable, wasn’t it? I like S.G. quite a lot, but he needs to gradually learn what is important. For now, he is simply in his baby shoes. It makes our movement laughable. It is a hymn sung out of tune with the worst journalistic attitude. I would prefer to have said that when X. was here. It is a sad day, a very sad experience. We must remain above all that. There is not one uplifting thought in the entire article aside from those dealing with declamation and recitation. If we do such things that show so little goodwill to remain with the subject, if such habits enter our work, we will soon have a complete demise.
Concerning the education conference.
Dr. Steiner: It should be in a broader context that would enable us to work not from compromises, but toward the real perspective of our pedagogy. We do not want to do what was done at previous conferences and simply talk about things. We should discuss things in such a way that people genuinely understand them. We must create a feeling that our people already know what others want to say. Our people should not simply stand there while someone else says something we do not know. We must know which of the questions could arise in the conference. We cannot allow people to say we are poking our noses into everything, but when experts come along, you can see how little we know. We need to arrange things so that someone cannot come along and say something and there not be enough time for us to reply.
That must not happen. It was a real problem in Berlin since people went away thinking that we spoke about Einstein, but knew nothing about him. Aside from that, the discussion leader thought that idiot was right. The others who put on the symposium also thought the same thing. In any event, it happened — something that had a detrimental effect upon the whole scientific mood from the very beginning. The first problem was that Rittelmeyer came along and said we had done poorly. Such things simply must not happen. If that were to happen here with pedagogy, it would be terrible. The listeners should perceive that our work and each speaker is of a high level.
We have put enormous effort into setting something up. The conferences have had an enormous success, but no one lets the results of the conferences be truly effective. If we could only find a way to let what we accomplish have a practical effect. What you have to say does not actually affect people. Afterward, no one actually knows what you have to say. Our work needs to be used more. We need to affect opinions. However, I am convinced that this thing with X. will be forgotten. For example, we have long had the problem that we have an economic movement, but we cannot get any economists to speak about it. The economic perspective is important. Leinhas’s lecture was good, and people will not forget it. The same is true for Dr. Unger’s essay about valuation. That is the beginning of something we should further develop in economics. Now, however, we must talk about the existence of three pillars that should in some way be comprehensive.
Everywhere I went in my long series of lectures, I mentioned the lectures given by you, Dr. von Heydebrand, and Leinhas. I spoke of them everywhere. We must create opinion. Our work must speak to people. Pedagogy needs an opinion connected with the substance of our movement. We can ignore negative opinions. We must do what is good.
That is something that is painful for me, but I want you to know it because the Waldorf School has developed that good spirit. This does not need to be said to the Waldorf School itself. The Waldorf School has a great task because there is no leadership in other areas. The school is moving along well, but it has a responsibility to take up some things that have an even larger responsibility associated with them. When something negative occurs now, with the increasing number of followers, then it is a negative event that is actually gigantic. That would, of course, not happen with the Waldorf School. Such things can tear a spiritual or cultural movement apart. For that reason, those working in the Waldorf School need to be the primary support for the whole movement. That is how things are today. The Waldorf School has a broad basis because it has kept all its promises. It can, therefore, be the primary support for the entire anthroposophical movement. We need such a support today. Your responsibility is quickly growing. That is something each of you needs to take to heart. We haven’t the least reason to be happy when the number of followers increases. We should be aware that every increase in interest is also an increase in our own responsibility.
A teacher asks about a pedagogical conference in Kaiserslautern.
Dr. Steiner: We have already decided against the proposal for Bremen. I looked at the big picture. We cannot accomplish much by systematically discussing pedagogy before there is any possibility of seeing some movement in regard to pedagogical questions in modern times. The seventy or so people who would come there would come only out of politeness. They would not know what is needed. We would first have to tell them that something is happening in the world. We would first have to hold a cultural and historical lecture on pedagogy. That would be necessary. Giving a three-day course for people whom you cannot help any further would mean too much wasted strength.
We saw that here. The teachers were the least interested. They all said they could not attend. I am uncertain if that has gotten better, but what else could happen?
We must awaken people’s awareness of what needs to be done. I’m afraid people believe we should begin the threefold. I think that if two or three of you want to give a lecture there on the return trip from Holland, that would be good. People need to be aware. God, there was a conference in Stuttgart and then one in Berlin. Now things need to be made more well known, otherwise we will be running to every village giving lectures. It is enough when we do that in some of the central areas. It is not efficient if we are running everywhere. We must improve the efficiency of our work.
A teacher: Is there something concrete we could do in Berlin?
Dr. Steiner: Quite a lot. We could discuss a large number of questions there and essentially nowhere else in the world today, but theology is too strong there. There were a large number of questions that could be treated nowhere else in the world. We need to make the lectures more well known. The question is, how? Steffen printed the “Christmas Conference” in Das Goetheanum in such a way that I would almost prefer to print his report than my lectures. He did a wonderful job there.
When such dry reports are published, the kind people are used to seeing in academic journals, then people have difficulty getting through them. Not just my own lectures, but also those of others, were written in an indescribably pedantic way. In that case, I can only say there is not much goodwill behind them. R. could do it better. When he gives a lecture, it is really very good, but when he writes something, it would drive you up the walls. Here, we see no goodwill. Such things wash the ground away from under our feet.