Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
21 June 1922, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: The first thing we need to consider for the present eleventh grade is literary history. I want to begin by discussing the continuation of what we taught in the tenth grade. What was done there? The Song of the Niebelungs, Gudrun, meter and poetics. I want to include the treatment of meter and poetics for this class in what I yesterday called aesthetics in art instruction. The first thing is to place what is literary in literature in the foreground. That is, you should try to create a bridge from The Song of the Niebelungs and Gudrun to the major works of the middle ages, Parzival, Armer Heinrich, and such things. Primarily, you should try to elicit in the children a complete imaginative picture through a survey of such things, so that the children learn about Parzival and they feel the part they read in the original reflects the whole story.
A Religion teacher: I have already done that.
Dr. Steiner: That does not matter. When you consider the basic principles in connection with the children in the eleventh grade, it would be good to do the Armer Heinrich again. The Parzival tale is the most important, though.
At the same time, you should cover the history of that period, something that, for children of this age, will certainly have an effect upon their view of the present. You should connect it with the present and show the children which historical figures of the past are similar to those of the present. In particular, show them which ones we would expect to be similar and which ones different. In this way, you can bring a certain capacity for judging into the whole thing. That is what you must take into consideration, so that the children can see the nineteenth century as growing out of previous centuries.
You also need to work with this class in aesthetics and art, in meter and poetics, to observe the various styles. You do not need to remain simply with literary style, you can move on further into the styles of other arts, into musical and sculptural styles. I would certainly use the style definitions given by Gottfried Semper for the latter, although they are very abstract, and go on to show the children about other characteristics of style.
You will need to treat trigonometry and analytical geometry as broadly as possible. In descriptive geometry, the children should understand and be able to draw the intersection of a cone and a cylinder.
In physics — this is something I was able to thoroughly try out in my teaching — it is very good for children at this age when you present them with the newest discoveries in physics, for instance, wireless telegraphy and x-rays, including such things as alpha, beta, and gamma rays. These are things you can use to awaken further interest in the children.
There is a question about atomism.
Dr. Steiner: A number of friends have conveyed that feeling to me. You certainly cannot deny that what you yourself are working upon will color your teaching. I believe that you will find the proper nuances if you present this material somewhat historically. I also believe that it would be good to begin the story where all the polemics about structural formulas, both pro and con, begin. Atomism was something different prior to Van’t Hoff ’s chemical symbols. I believe that you need to work through all Kolbe’s polemic against symbolic chemistry, since this polemicizing has, in a sense, placed the entire problem on developments in chemistry. You can show this precisely. You have all said a great deal against atomism, but you have not been able to say as much against it as Kolbe. You can put all this into perspective only when you include the most modern aspects. You need to include the phenomenalism introduced in the work of Pelikan and Kolisko. You would make no impression if you simply mentioned Kolbe’s name. Kolbe said that in order to continue in chemistry, Van’t Hoff mounted the Pegasus he apparently borrowed from the veterinary institute in Berlin. You need to include that.
When you discuss what I just mentioned above, you do not even need to speak about atomism. It is particularly unnecessary when discussing this subject. On the other hand, you could also speak a great deal about alchemy. There you have the opportunity to present far-reaching observations that you may not, however, clothe in vague mysticism. With Marconi’s telegraphy, you can address the connection of the brain with the cosmos through a simple, but exact and broad, presentation of the coherer and then describe the brain as a kind of coherer in connection with the cosmos. In this case, you can illustrate something that occurs materially and then go on to point out that the processes within the brain are only initiated by the physical human being. Here, you have a possibility of awakening a broader perspective.
In chemistry, it is necessary to develop basic chemical concepts such as acid, salt, and base as completely as possible, so that the students then know what an alcohol or an aldehyde is. The more traditional topics, such as separating organic and inorganic chemistry require less attention. I believe that is what we should include in a survey of the material. I do not believe it is correct to develop chemistry on the basis of material. It is better to develop the process and then bring in matter and metals so that during the instruction a feeling arises that matter is simply a static process. The children should have a picture of matter as simply a static process. If you have a piece of sulfur in front of you, what you really have is a static process. If I am standing here, and it is raining hard, then I have a process in which I am included. However, if I look at the cloud from a distance, it appears as an object to me. When I look at certain processes it is as though I were standing in the rain, when I look at sulfur, it is as though I were observing the cloud from a distance. Matter is simply processes that appear petrified.
It is important at this period of life to teach about cells in natural history. That need not be done in such great detail, but you could take characteristic plants from the lowest up to the monocots. Begin at the lowest and go upward. You should also mention the dicots and draw parallels between flowers and mushrooms. Be sure to take into account the mycelium and the formation of spores. When you discuss the formation of stems, you should take the mycelium into account, also. Bring teleology, that is, the relationships of the various parts of a organism, into a reasonable relationship. Be sure to discuss interactive relationships, not just the purely causal. Treat the theory of cells in a cosmological manner.
A teacher asks about zoology.
Dr. Steiner: Zoology? Certainly not in this year. I do not believe it would be good to do too much mineralogy. That is something we can do next year.
Today, the same thing happened. It was quite natural to work toward the human being. I know of no question in natural history that you cannot use as a basis for moving toward the human being.
A teacher: We have done several practical exercises in surveying.
Dr. Steiner: Altitude and distance. I would also like you to create a connection between surveying and geography, so that the children have an exact idea of what a Mercator map is. You should also discuss how the meter was determined in Paris.
In regard to technology, cover waterwheels, turbines, and production of paper. I have to admit I cannot believe you could not get all the boys to participate. You cannot allow opposition to arise.
A teacher: Should we teach spinning and weaving in the technology class?
Dr. Steiner: In principle, the children can already do that. It would be a good idea to introduce them to water turbines and the production of paper. We can return to weaving later. I once mentioned that this is something they need to learn slowly. The children will have a great deal if we can explain to them about the production of paper and how waterwheels and turbines work. They will gain a broader view. They can learn something about geography and the importance of rivers. You could even move into an elementary discussion of economics.
A teacher: In mechanical drawing, I was supposed to take children through screws.
Dr. Steiner: We can leave that for now and come back to it later. In the tenth grade, you should do things as I said.
We also, of course, need to be careful to include a formation of taste in eurythmy and music classes, particularly at this age. This can be done by interweaving things with a judgment of taste. You do not need to begin much new in the way of content, but go on to taste considerations.
We want to have Graf Bothmer for gymnastics. He will certainly do well here. The entire faculty needs to work together in this area. In other things, a sense of taste needs to be brought in.
It would be good if there were a certain amount of harmony in eurythmy. You need to take style into consideration in particular works. If they are studied at the same time in eurythmy, it would be helpful to connect the eurythmy exercises with the style of the poems. You will find that one or another poem is particularly appropriate, and then you will find that there are nuances of style in them. The art teachers can use a poem to illustrate a sonnet. You will find that I took the sonnets from Shakespeare and Hebbel into account in the eurythmy forms. The form is often quite different because it directly relates to the style. The teacher of aesthetics also needs to take that into account.
Marie Steiner: I would recommend Dr. Steiner’s Twelve Moods.
Dr. Steiner: The Twelve Moods were once tested in connection with astrology. They are cosmically connected. That is something you can use both in the teaching of style and in eurythmy. Nearly every syllable is stylized in the tone. You can find an inner stylizing everywhere. These are objective style formations. You can also compose them. The children could learn a great deal if you read them quite objectively. They could be made into a festival for older children.
We now need to turn to the needs of the various classes and teachers.
It is important that you carry on a kind of dialogue when teaching foreign languages. On numerous occasions, Dr. X. told the little children in first grade that he did not understand any German. You could make a connection with that and weave your readings into it. Don’t simply talk to the children, but allow them to speak as much as possible. It was apparent this morning that the children cannot yet do that; you need to be sure to allow the children to speak. They need to have an opportunity to tell about what they have read. This is particularly true in the upper grades where the foreign languages are still behind. The lower classes are much better in languages and it is easier there. The problems in language lie in the upper grades.
Origines de la France Contemporaine is a good book.
A teacher: Could I perhaps do Expansion of England following Shakespeare?
Dr. Steiner: It is important that you bring the children along. The first-grade class enjoyed it a lot.
We have developed the most important principles into a connected whole. Those things that occur in a haphazard fashion are simply due to sloppiness. Sloppiness has entered our work in that we have moved in the direction of doing things more easily. It is important that we take into account that when the children speak in chorus, although it goes well, that is no proof that they can do it individually, since the group spirit also participates. We need to work both ways. Always keep connected to the material so that your words are directly connected with the subject. When we spoke, I noticed that it is good to connect the learning of poems with certain figures of speech in order to make them conventions. If you have done three or four such poems, then you can return to improve the accent. We have already discussed all of these things. The way you are teaching poems now has led to a kind of sloppiness. That is partially because the foreign languages are taking a back seat. They are in a secondary position and the teachers are tired. The other problem is that many seek to avoid proper preparation. You prepare for other things. That is fine if all you want is something mechanical.
I certainly have reason to complain about things. It is not possible for you to prepare in the way you should. We first need to develop what can be fruitful in our methodology, otherwise we would slowly come to teach language such that what we fail to achieve by a better method is much worse than what we could partially achieve by a lesser method. We could easily slip into the calamity that because we do what is better poorly, we cannot keep up with what other schools achieve. In spite of that, I want to be perfectly clear that it is possible within the normal school day to achieve the ideal through rational work so that the children are spared tiring homework. Unfortunately, that is not of interest everywhere. In practice, certain things are still missing, and for that reason, I believe we must initiate a kind of modified homework. We do not want the children doing pages of arithmetic at home. However, we can give them literature and art history problems to solve at home. We should also encourage those who are more industrious and want to do something at home, but we should be clear that we do not want to overburden them. They should not feel they are groaning under the weight of their homework. They need to do it happily, in which case assigning them a task has a genuinely good influence. For instance, you could have them create an equation in the form of a short story, “A lady is asked.…”
There is another thing I find lacking in the teaching, but certainly belongs there, and that is humor. I have taken particular note that humor is missing in the classroom. I do not mean making jokes, but genuine humor. Just as human beings must physically breath, you cannot expect the children to always be taking things in. They must also be able to breathe them out. If you always teach for the whole period in the same tone, it is as though you were to allow the children only to inhale, never to exhale. You must have humor. Humor is the soul’s exhaling. You must bring humor into your teaching. That is something you can find in the most various places. Humor comes from liveliness. You need to bring some liveliness into the class, the children need that in every grade. A little humor! If we only had one period a day, that would be different, but you must bring humor into the classroom.
You misunderstood me in connection with handwork. I had thought you would work things out between yourselves. The women would then have twenty-six hours. Tomorrow, please give me the number of hours per week that each of you can take on. Twenty-six is, of course, too much. We need to see how we can get some more help. Please give me a list of the total number of hours. You can put the tenth- and eleventh-grade classes together.
We must have the remedial class, and you are responsible for teaching it. The tall fellow needs to go into the first grade. That is something we cannot do, of course, but to be consequential, we would have to send one from the eleventh grade back to the first grade.
Concerning religion class in the eleventh grade, continue with the material so that you strengthen the capacity to judge. Become involved in discussions. Until now, you have given a pictorial presentation, but now we need to work toward comprehension of the concepts. You should treat the question of destiny in a religious form. Also the question of sins, and then the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You can begin with pictures and then move into concepts, so that it is a kind of causal perspective.
What did we decide about religion in the eighth and ninth grades?
A teacher: We began with a treatment of the Laocoöns.
Dr. Steiner: It is not necessary to go through everything. I assume you have gone through parts of the St. John gospel. If you do not spend considerable time with it, it is terribly difficult to go through the story of creation, but it is not necessary to do other parts of the Old Testament. I think it would be good if the children knew the New Testament, particularly the stories of the apostles. In particular, the St. Luke gospel.
Concerning Greek and Latin in the eleventh grade: In discussing the readings with the children, we must see to it that they gain an understanding of the mixture of style and grammar, in particular, a comparison of the Greek and Latin sentence structure. You should do that before presenting literary history. You should also develop an entomological understanding of words. You need to emphasize entomology much more in the ancient languages. You should emphasize entomology much more. The first book of Livius is enough. In Greek, you can do readings of your choice.
They discuss the report on O.R. and in particular that he needs to learn something from life.
Dr. Steiner: He is just like his father, but not at all so thoughtless. I have the feeling with Mr. S. that he is really lazy. I would like to have a characterization of his work. I have not seen his drawings. You need to give a concrete picture. The obvious result of Dr. N.’s report would be to gain a “Doctor Life” for the school. Then people could say they should call up “Doctor Life” in order to get to the heart of the matter. I think we should keep him here another year and see what he learns.
There were some errors made in the preparation of the students reports.
Dr. Steiner: That is a deficiency in the seriousness with which the reports were treated. That is terribly sloppy, and something that you must treat seriously. The tendency to make excuses for it only makes things worse. This is really terrible. When such things occur, we are not really working in the Waldorf School. We have no right to speak about reports when we present ourselves to the world in such a sloppy manner. This is really unbelievable. We are slowly creating a situation that no one can take seriously. A report, that is a document! When you make such mistakes in writing, well, I would like to know which company would employ us then. Such things must be based upon a strict and rather mechanical process so that errors are not possible. It should be like clockwork. Such errors should not occur.
I want to end this discussion now. I think it is unbelievable when such documents are created with such an attitude, we cannot discuss that.