Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
April 28, 1922, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: All of the eurythmists are missing at the same time? Why everyone at the same time? Something like that should not happen in the future. Even though it may be short notice, it must be possible not to leave all at the same time.
The seventh-grade class teacher asks about K.F.
Dr. Steiner: I will speak with him when I return on the ninth. I think he should go into the parallel class. He can return, but a man should take care of the things that have happened. You cannot do it, at least, until he is better. Since it is possible to have a man take care of it, we should do that. I think the boy needs to go through a kind of healing process. I will speak with him, then we must handle him in a strict way. It would not hurt anything if he were there during the other periods.
If I allow him to stay, then someone else would need to do it. We could also arrange things so that Dr. Schubert and Wolffhügel work on healing him, and he stayed with you. That would not be such an embarrassment for him. In general, he’s just a little at loose ends. He has a sexual aberration that gave rise to the problem.
Work together willingly! Understand your colleagues in the faculty! Things are getting better. You need to be interested in speaking about pedagogical questions. We should need no major preparations for discussing pedagogy. Outline it, like going for a walk, then follow that with a fruitful discussion.
We see these things everywhere in the world. They are particularly apparent in England where you have to tell people things ten times before they begin to understand you. Two and a half years ago, I had an experience with the proletarian workers. Those who were not good in school understood the things we discussed about the threefolding of society well. In contrast, there were speakers who showed they understood nothing but the words they used to write their Marxist propaganda. You could see that they had heard nothing of what was actually said. Such things occur time and again. With pedagogy, things are said about which people then say that is just the way they teach. We must make it clear that is not the case. You have to say that as often as possible. Continue to emphasize the basis of the pedagogy so that people can hear it. They hear only what they are used to hearing.
In Vienna, Professor Cizek said some things. He teaches at the Zugbrücker School. He looks like an archetypal pedant, like a real old goat. He has a certain reputation with people who know nothing about art for taking elementary school children with no talent and getting them to paint quite well. The paintings made by these children are impressive, but when they are about fourteen or fifteen, they can’t do it anymore. They simply cannot paint anymore. The children are painting from their own metabolism, something that is possible until puberty, but then changes. The fact that it disappears is connected with the forces of the chest and circulation. The moment human beings begin to awaken, it all stops. People are extremely impressed by all this, but we must recognize such things for their inner nonsense. This is all simply nonsense, but people wallowed in the sensationalism of it. I try to counteract this by trying to impress upon people that they need to paint through quite different powers. The children paint Madonnas with all the details. They paint battles, for instance, Constantine with the other Caesars. It is really unbelievable, they are absolutely perfect. He looks like a decadent old goat.
You can see that there is a counterforce in this man that excites the forces in the children. Here you can see what is actually at work in the area of education, and for that reason, you, the faculty, must learn to recognize the false paths of modern pedagogy more clearly. You must have a clear insight into everything that is the human being.
A teacher asks a question about a parent evening.
Dr. Steiner: I am really very short on time, so I think it would be best if we held the parent evening on the evening of May 9, just after the school association meeting. The general meeting is in the morning, and at four o’clock there is one for the Waldorf School Association, so we could have the parent meeting at 7:30. The members of the Waldorf School Association could then also come to the parent meeting, but we would have to announce it as an evening for parents and members of the Waldorf School Association.
A teacher asks about a child in the first grade who cannot do arithmetic.
Dr. Steiner: You will need to do some specific exercises with the child. First, draw him a circle, and then draw half a circle, and have him complete the other half of that circle. In other words, draw a symmetrical figure, but only one side and have him complete it. You should probably have him in the remedial class.
A question is asked about the eighth-grade Competency Test and the corresponding recommendation.
Dr. Steiner: You mean Jungens. Why do we need to test him? We should write our reports so that they document. You could make the reports optional. Simply give them a report that allows them to accomplish what they need to accomplish depending upon their age and grade. I do not think the report will have much effect.
A teacher: The question has arisen as to whether the Waldorf School provides enough factual material. The students in the ninth grade made a comparison and saw that they do not know enough.
Dr. Steiner: The question is resolved. At the time when the school was founded, I wrote a memorandum that states that we are to have a completely free hand between entry into school and completion of the third grade so that our students could enter any fourth-grade class. The same is true for them at the age of twelve and we could continue that to the age of eighteen. The problem is solved. The only problem is that we should not just say it, but we should work in the most efficient manner to actually achieve that goal. It is possible to achieve the teaching goals in many different ways, but we can certainly bring the children so far along that they reach a genuine degree of maturity. Test a child in the eleventh grade to find out what he or she knows about history, and then think of everything that child has forgotten. You will see that one of our children at the same age will know just as much. Of course, we cannot achieve everything because some of the teachers are not able to sufficiently prepare. You need to prepare your instruction more carefully, and then we could certainly write a report in good consciousness.
A teacher: In many of the subjects, the children do not learn enough to enter the eleventh grade. Many ninth graders are still at the very beginning in English.
Dr. Steiner: The solution to that is that we work upon our teaching plan from the very beginning. We cannot solve the problem with those we received at the fourth or fifth grade, but we must be able to solve it for those who came to us in the first grade. It would be a mistake if we could not do that. We must teach the children enough in the most important subjects that they can pass their examinations.
We could give them a supplementary report that would be easier to write. For instance, we could say that the student has achieved the learning goals for the third or sixth grade, in particular in the following subjects.… We do not want to issue grades as such, but we would express it in reasonable words. We could consider such reports for the third, sixth, eighth and twelfth grades as we promised to do. We must have this report for the eighth grade.
If the children do not leave, they do not need it, so we should write it only for those who need it. For the higher grades, you need to write it only as part of the graduation report.
A teacher: We are required to give the children a copy of the constitution upon graduation.
Dr. Steiner: Then we should do that.
There is a question about the Greek and Latin classes.
Dr. Steiner: Since they are not living languages you can translate them.
You are not teaching efficiently enough. That is a particularly important principle for the upper grades, and something I always find lacking. You need to go through some material in considerable detail, for instance, in physics you should do experiments with prisms. After you have done that so that the children genuinely understand it, you can later look at it again more or less aphoristically, in a more cursory way. Then take up another area in detail. If that is not done, you are not teaching the children enough, and what they do learn does not form a complete picture. In physics, you are not taking up the main subjects in sufficient detail. This is true for all sorts of things you should be doing in detail, for instance, Eichendorff. Afterward, you should close with a survey of a number of things. Then take up something else in great detail so that you achieve a rounded understanding. I have never seen an instance when something is taught in that way that the children do not meet their learning goals. It is important that you get the children to concentrate on their work. A great deal depends upon that, and with it, we can, in fact, move forward. Reaching the real goals of the instruction should be child’s play.
A teacher: We do not have enough time for mathematics and physics. We could achieve a great deal through teaching in blocks.
Dr. Steiner: A normal middle-grade school class has thirty-two hours per week. Five hours are used for mathematics, three for physics, and two for nature studies. But that is not particularly important. We must teach so that we achieve our goals in the time available. Time cannot be our ruling principle.
A religion teacher thinks that three-quarters of an hour is not enough for religion class.
Dr. Steiner: It would certainly be good for the children if they could have that class more often, but I do not understand why three-quarters of an hour is not enough. I certainly think it is better when the children have the class twice a week. I would prefer to have the periods even shorter, but more often.
A teacher: The children in the seventh grade should feel responsible for their work.
Dr. Steiner: We should try to make the children curious about their work. If you ask the children such questions, that makes them curious about what they can find out for themselves. That is something that will excite them. I would do it in that way. The children cannot develop a feeling of responsibility before you teach them the meaning and consequence of the concept of responsibility.
Give them such themes for their essays as “The Steam Engine: Proof of Human Strength” and then follow it immediately with “The Steam Engine: Proof of Human Weakness.” Give them two such themes, one right after the other, and I think you will certainly arouse their interest. You can organize your instruction so that you arouse the children’s interest. They will become excited about it, but you must keep the excitement down to an extent. They must also be able to attentively follow the instruction without such excitement. People understand the idea of responsibility only with very great difficulty and so late that you should actually begin to speak about it with children. You can give them some examples and teach them about people with and without a feeling of responsibility. The children have understood that the squid is a weeping person and the mouse an attentive eye. We need to develop the things that lie within our pedagogy so that the children receive really strong pictures, and those are engraved in them. That is something that excites them. We need to give the children pictures that become deeply engraved within them. To do that, however, we need time. We need time until the children understand them. Once they have that, they will yearn for pictures.
A teacher: We did Faust in the eighth grade.
Dr. Steiner: I would not read the Gretchen tragedy with fourteen or fifteen-year-old children, but you can certainly use some passages from Faust.
I have given a lot of consideration to Shakespeare and was deeply concerned by it. I was concerned with the question of how to use Shakespeare in school. We would have to have a special edition for school because Shakespeare’s plays have been edited so much that they contain many errors. Shakespeare’s plays were not originally given as they are performed. The things contained in Shakespeare’s plays can be given through a special youth edition.
I mentioned this in Stratford. In England, you can go further in a lecture with some things than you can in Germany, and for that reason I mentioned that Shakespeare was a man of the theater. Just as a genuine painter knows that he only has a surface to work upon, in the same way, Shakespeare knew he had only a stage. That is important. When you make Shakespearean characters living in that sense, you can raise them into the supersensible world where they remain living. Of course, they do not do in the higher worlds what they do on the physical plane, but they remain alive, nevertheless, and they act there. It is, however, a different drama. If you take one of Hauptmann’s dramas into the spiritual world, all the characters die. They become simply wooden puppets. The same is also true of Isben’s characters. Even Goethe’s Iphigenia does not completely live at the astral plane. Shakespeare’s characters move about there and do things in the same style, so that it is possible to rewrite a Shakespearean play. We could actually rewrite them all.
That was something quite surprising for me. I have until now only made some attempts. You could do it with Euripedes, but Iphigenia is not completely alive in the astral plane. There is something else that matters and that we should develop in detail. Sophocles and Aeschylus characters, like Prometheus, live in the astral plane. That is also true of Homer’s characters, the figure of Odysseus. The Roman poets are not alive in that way. The French poets, Corneille and Racine, they melt away like dew and simply exist no more. Hauptmann’s figures are stiff like wood. Goethe’s Iphigenia is a problem, not a living character, something true of Tasso, also. Seen from the astral plane, Schiller’s characters, Thekla and Wallenstein are like sacks stuffed with straw, though Demetrius is more alive. Had Schiller worked on the Maltese, it would have become a living drama. Such characters as the Maid of Orleans and Mary Stewart are simply horrible on the astral plane. All of which, of course, says nothing about their effect in the physical plane. In contrast, even Shakespeare’s most incidental figures are all alive because they arose out of a true desire of the theater. Things that imitate reality no longer live upon the astral plane. Only what arises from emotions and not from the intellect. Vulgarly comical things come to life immediately on the astral plane as they are not created in order to imitate reality.
I ventured to say that the most important thing about Shakespeare was his enormous influence on Goethe. The reason for that can be found in the fact that Goethe was completely unaffected by what was stated in an academic way about Hamlet and Julius Caesar. What had an effect upon Goethe was not what we can read everywhere, including those things that Goethe himself said about Hamlet. There is certainly much of what he said in that regard that we can object to. I am speaking of something, however, to which there can be no objection. Namely, where he says they are not poems, but are more like the book of fate, where the stormy winds of life flip the pages back and forth. That is something that more closely expresses his own experience, but when he speaks of Hamlet he does not really express his own experience.
A teacher: We read Macbeth in my eighth-grade class.
Dr. Steiner: You can certainly read Macbeth. You may need to modify some of the things we cannot give to children. Schlegel’s translation is better than Schiller’s.
There is a question about Bible editions.
Dr. Steiner: We should teach the Bible so that the children can understand it. The Old Testament is not intended for children. It contains things you should not teach them. The Catholics have done a good job. Schuster’s Bible is good for children. I saw a copy in Schubert’s room. It is very well done.
These are problems you could solve within the faculty. How could we prepare the Bible for each age? How about Schiller or Goethe or Shakespeare?
All of the attempts until now are childish. Things cannot be done that way, they need to be done with some interest and insight. Things need to be rewritten and not simply left out. Certainly, we can use Shakespeare’s comedies very well.
A teacher: I have been asked about books that are not in the school library, for instance, Hermann Hesse.
Dr. Steiner: Seventeen or eighteen year olds could read that. In regard to reading Faust, you should also consider that if children read such things at too young an age, their taste will be spoiled for later life. A young person who reads Faust too early will not understand it. I did not even know it until I was nineteen.
Fourteen or fifteen year olds can read Wallenstein as well as Shakespeare. Lear is perhaps the most disturbing modern drama dealing with fate, and should probably be read later. A feeling should remain and you should not numb it.
Marie Steiner: The Maid of Orleans is certainly the most beautiful ideal. I was shaken as Salome was set forth as the ideal some twenty years later.
Dr. Steiner: I am not in favor of having the children read The Robbers, but they can certainly read Schiller’s later plays. Don Carlos presents a distorted picture, but I think that Schiller’s historical works would be good reading. Such books are excellent for thirteen and fourteen year olds. I do not think that any of Kleist’s works are appropriate for school. At best The Broken Pitcher. As a playwright in connection with tragedy, Kleist has insufficient education [incorrect pictures?]. Aside from that, he is a Prussian poet. All this, with the exception of The Broken Pitcher. They cannot read Katy, nor The Prince of Homburg. The Battle of Hermann is Prussian. Grillparzer has a bad influence upon youth, but Raimund has a good influence. Grillparzer makes them soft. They can read Goethe’s Egmont. The characters in Hebbel’s Demetrius do not live. They can read Genoveva along with The Niebelungen. You could also include Wagner’s Ring and Jordan’s Niebelungen. From a historical perspective, Calderon, who represents the dying drama of the middle ages and a completely decadent life, lived at the same time as Shakespeare’s rising life. There are many things you could give to the children as a first drama. I think you might perhaps begin with one of the dramas of antiquity, for example, Antigone. However, you cannot present real drama until at least the age of twelve or thirteen. They can read Wilhelm Tell, but Ühland’s Baron Ernst is a silly Schwabian work with no real value. It is simply straw, not well done. It does not even live on the physical plane.
During the whole week in Stratford, there were performances of Shakespeare. Representatives from various countries spoke on the twenty-third. It was rather humorous that the most important Frenchman, Voltaire, referred to Shakespeare as a “crazed wild man.” I noticed how much better the comedies were performed. Julius Caesar was not well done. The Taming of the Shrew was done well. There was also Much Ado about Nothing, All’s Well That Ends Well, and Twelfth Night.
The children should read Cid in French. They should know something of that. They can also read Racine, Corneille, and Molière. Every well-educated person should be able to speak of Corneille and Racine. People should also know Molière.
The ninth-grade teacher asks about essay themes. He has had them write essays about Faust and the character of Faust.
Dr. Steiner: That is really too much for them. You should remember that even Kuno Fischer did not write well about that. I would center the themes more on observations of life, like the ones I mentioned earlier. For the eighth grade, we could also do such things as “What Is Beauty in Nature?” and then follow it with “What Is Beauty in the Soul?” You should use more themes like that, where the children have to concentrate on developing the theme.
A teacher: Should we first discuss the theme?
Dr. Steiner: You should discuss the theme in the normal context of the lesson. You will need to have discussed a number of things. While you were discussing Jean Paul, there were a number of good theme possibilities. You set the themes too high.
A teacher: What would you give the ninth grade as an essay about the friendship between Schiller and Goethe?
Dr. Steiner: I would describe how it looked when Goethe went from Weimar to Tiefurt. Then I would have them describe “A Walk with Goethe” as concretely as possible. These are things they can do.
A question is asked regarding the exercises for kleptomania, namely holding on to the feet and remembering things in reverse order.
Dr. Steiner: It is better if both things are done together, that is to remember backward while holding on to the feet. We may not make an error here. The exercises should be continued for a quarter year.
A teacher asks what the eighth-grade art class should do.
Dr. Steiner: Do Albrecht Dürer and also something that is, musically related, for instance, Bach. Treat the black-and-white drawings in a very lively way.
Children only truly take in a fairy tale when they tell it. Miss Uhland in the third grade is very good at coaxing it out of them. I think she can do that very well and perhaps she should speak about it in a meeting. She just coaxes it right out, but she does not need to be too proud for that reason. She does it sitting next to the child so that the entire class is interested in what happens. She is quite good at that.
A teacher asks about the curriculum for the eleventh-grade handwork class.
Dr. Steiner: We could consider bookbinding. The main thing is that the children learn how to bind a book. They should also make pleats and rolled seams for linens in handwork. Can the children chop wood?
That is how things are done in Miss Cross’s King’s Langley school. There is no extra help at the school, and the forty children do everything. It is a boarding school. The children wash their own clothing, they keep the heater going, they cook, they clean the windows, they do everything. They also keep poultry, have cattle and bees, even ponies. They take care of all the work around the home and garden. Here, every child works for themselves, but there, every child is just like the next. It is difficult to get parents to put the children there. The teaching suffers from this.
People do not know how little we teach children and how much they actually learn themselves. We need to help develop the three aspects of the child’s individuality, that is our educational task. The child gains a great deal when it must do all that. It is too bad when the things necessary to ripen the soul do not happen.