Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
6 October 1922, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: The main reason I called you together today is that we need to continue working with the situation with the ninth-, tenth-, and eleventh-grade students. This thing is really a little frustrating. We cannot get around the fact that the whole thing will land on the anthroposophical movement. That is hardly avoidable.
Yesterday, I spoke with the students in the eleventh grade, and I had the impression that they certainly want to be rid of their three comrades, N.G., H.B., and O.R. because they disturb the class. All the students seem to share the opinion that those three disturb the class, and that they cannot be there if the class is to continue as it should. That is what I found out there. However, I still feel there is a thorn in the class, a thorn we can see in the students’ feeling that the Waldorf School should have been able to cope with those children. I think — I hope you will understand me correctly — that feeling will remain with them despite what we do — as one of the students said, “We don’t want those guys here” — a problem will still remain. There will be a thorn in the side of the class. They seem to be unhappy that things went this far, and that, of course, is certainly something we cannot just pass over lightly.
Today, I spoke with U.A. I had the feeling that, although he is the oldest of the whole bunch, there was nothing more to it than that he followed along with the others, and that he himself does not actually know how he became involved with the group. Basically, there is not much to be said against him other than that he drank an awful lot one time. He was certainly terribly drunk. He couldn’t walk and couldn’t stand up. He laid down on a bench and was dragged around and had a terrible hangover the next day. Now, he still has a hangover about the hangover and makes the excuse that it all happened during the holidays. Otherwise, there is not really very much to say against him, and we certainly cannot even discuss expelling him. There can be no discussion of that whatsoever.
We had to expel the three. No doubt this will all be laid at the feet of the anthroposophical movement, and people will hang it around the neck of the anthroposophical movement so that, despite the fact that the boys were here for a longer time, we must now throw them out. The way things now stand, we cannot offer a better justification.
Well, say what you have to say. We did not quite finish our discussion last time, since only some of you said what you wanted. There are certainly others who want to speak. We need to discuss these three students, but we can expel them only by stating that they behaved in such a way during class and directly following that they disturbed the instruction. We also need to state that we cannot allow further disruption of the class because we have to prepare the upper-grades students for their final examinations. We need to present the picture that they made instruction impossible, that they had given passive resistance and laughed at the teachers. That is what became abundantly clear in my meeting with the class yesterday, that those boys did that to a great extent.
Nevertheless, it is still a very difficult thing. Yesterday, I looked at the drawings that X. had them make in descriptive geometry, and I cannot say that the drawings made by these three were any worse than those of the others. It is clear from the drawings that they participated just as much as everyone else, at least in the practical aspects, so that is certainly not a reason for expulsion. The question is whether they really disturbed the class. We need reasons. We can hardly expel them because they have pulled some dumb pranks. The drawings are what is normally called “neat work.”
J.W. spoke with me in her motherly, caring way about the three. She told me that H.B. has gained some interest in mathematics since X. took over class. Someone else said, however, that H.B. had said, concerning X.’s instruction, that it was a pleasant change from what occurred in the other classes. What occurred there did not interest him at all.
Can we really justify the expulsion by saying they made teaching impossible? We cannot keep them any longer. The way things are now, we would disavow the teaching of the class, and that is impossible. Nevertheless, we must somehow justify the decision. There must be some reason the whole class believes they will not move forward if these boys remain.
A teacher: The disturbance is actually outside class. They have attempted to undermine the school work.
Dr. Steiner: We need to substantiate that in a kind of summary of today’s discussion. We need to formulate it. We need to know what happened outside class.
Several teachers report and make proposals for formulating a basis for expulsion.
Dr. Steiner: Aside from the fact that we discussed whether we should use the practices of other schools, no school would expel him as a first consequence. He would get a warning at every other school, and under certain circumstances, a warning would be given upon a second occasion. Since we never gave him a warning, but immediately expelled him, we cannot proceed the way other schools do.
A number of teachers say G.S. was warned. At the public schools, he would have been immediately expelled for such a major breach of discipline.
Dr. Steiner: That is usually not done.
A teacher: That is the practice everywhere.
Dr. Steiner: It would be very difficult to include all three in this case.
A teacher: But the class does not want to work with them any more.
Dr. Steiner: That is the real reason, namely, that the class does not want to work together. That is the real reason. The exception is J.W. She would continue to work with them. She admits they disturbed her, and yet she would continue to work with them. She said that others are just as much at fault that they have become as they are. I cannot help but believe that the problem will remain and that the students, at least J.W., will believe they were not treated properly by the teachers. The question is, whether we can do things that way, that is, whether can we allow the official reason for expulsion to be that the whole class, with one exception, no longer wants to work with them.
A teacher: The girls in the eleventh grade asked to be protected from the improper behavior of those boys.
Dr. Steiner: There is nothing in the record of your questioning to substantiate that. When was that?
A teacher: Two and a half weeks ago.
They discuss the case further.
Dr. Steiner: It seems that if you treat the remaining class appropriately, such a thing will not occur again.
It is truly so that we must accept bad influences almost with open eyes, and that people will say we throw students out without even a warning, without one single word. The case involving S. will be difficult for us just for that reason, because we are throwing him out with no prior suspension. Nothing else has happened in the case of S.
A teacher: Y. and I visited the parents and his mother wrote a letter afterward.
Dr. Steiner: (reads the letter aloud) Now we have that, too. Mr. N., don’t think I am trying to meddle in your work. On the morning they were expelled, the students demanded to speak with the teachers at 8:00 o’clock. That was delayed until 11:00, and then they met with you. You told the students not to speak with you as a teacher, but man to man. That created an absolutely impossible situation. By doing that, you give them swollen heads. The students get the feeling they should be heard at every opportunity, but you should speak to them as a teacher. If you put yourself at the same level as the students, you will develop nothing but rowdies who are completely out of your control. If you emphasize that, you will soon become their servants. That is something you should not say.
Two teachers make a report.
Dr. Steiner: I don’t understand the connection. We must understand things, otherwise there is no possibility of forming a judgment. Do you really believe you can still maintain discipline if you speak to the students that way?
Surely you did not justify yourselves to the students? Did you say that to them? Then there is some connection. You can’t do these things. You do not need to tell the boys the opposite, but you cannot allow them to believe that you are just as young as they are. That is impossible. We cannot do that. The children will be caught in delusions of grandeur.
A teacher: We should disavow those teachers.
Dr. Steiner: Be reasonable. We can’t do that. Imagine that we bring the boys back to school tomorrow in a triumphal parade and say to them, be so good as to come back to school. We want to punish your teachers.
A teacher: The children think the teachers were incorrect.
Dr. Steiner: That will usually be the case. That is probably not an exception.
The situation is that we need to decide about future occurrences, and we cannot negotiate that way with the students. If you do, you will continually muddy the differences between teacher and student. Even if only a rumor had been spread that the faculty has that opinion, then we could have said, “What are you thinking about, trying to force us to justify our opinions about you?” You cannot justify your views of the students to the students. That is absolutely out of the question. When it is only social conversation, you can certainly allow them to discuss things with you. However, when things have gone as far as they did, you cannot discuss morality with them. If you do, then the next thing you know, they will demand it.
We can do nothing else but expel them, but we need a sound reason. The unfortunate thing in this case is that after all the things that occurred, you still held negotiations with the boys. I think it was wrong that you went through the questioning reported in these minutes. A number of things came up that should not have. You should have handled the case in the class. There, you could have created the reason that would then have led to expulsion. Individual questioning throws a bad light on the matter. U.A. told me about a lot today. I only spoke with him because I wanted to know positively whether he could remain here in school here or not. I wanted to know if it was possible for the faculty to still work with him. I needed to know that. It is, of course, clear that the faculty can no longer be with the other five. An impossible relationship has developed. I hope that you will not go that far.
N.G. is discussed.
Dr. Steiner: N.G. breaks my heart. He is a victim of the situation at home. He said that he sees no difference between good and bad. He wants to join those people whose goal is the destruction of humanity. He said he will become worse. He would like to know that it is also possible to be good. That is, in general, the content of what he said. I told him he is simply a dumb boy who is incapable of forming an opinion about such things. I made it quite clear to him that I did not speak with him man to man, but treated him like a dumb boy. He was not so bold then, but he did tell me about things. All the pain he has withstood throughout his life is just like the pain he had from his appendix operation. He wants to destroy everything, and from that it is possible to conclude that he also wants to destroy the school. Where possible, I have always tried to help.
There is further discussion about N.G.
A teacher: Would it be better to look into such things in class?
Dr. Steiner: You should at least have brought some disciplinary action through which you could have removed the boys. There is no sense continuing with this second guessing. Of course, you should evaluate the situation in the classroom so that we would have a reason to get rid of the boys, otherwise we run the risk of someone saying that we acted on rumors and that we do not know what really happened.
We can hardly do anything other than say that the class no longer wants to have anything to do with the three boys, and that they behaved toward the faculty such that the faculty could no longer teach them. We can’t do anything else. How else could we justify this? There is nothing more to be done.
A teacher: Could we justify it with things they did outside class?
Dr. Steiner: Even that boy U.A., who is really just a dumb boy, said here in the minutes, and I saw it today also, that he does not want to say anything about the private situation of H.B. There is nothing we can do about that opinion because most of the things mentioned in the minutes of the questioning took place during the holidays. Everyone would say that if we knew what the boys had done, we would have been free to not accept them in school.
Several teachers suggest ways of stating the justification of the expulsions.
Dr. Steiner: That would be true of N.G., H.B., and O.R. The other cases we have to handle in the following way. We could tell U.A. that he can return, but we could give him a warning. If we want to remove S.H., we must be very careful. She is so little known to me and so hard to grasp that I depend completely upon those who know her to phrase it.
A teacher: Would “a conscious and intentional maligning of a teacher” be a reason?
Dr. Steiner: In connection with the three boys, that is adequate. For her, we would have to find some wording that would prevent people from accusing us of anything. We cannot include any characterization. We could say that remarks she has made about the school and faculty make it apparent that we can no longer teach her. It is questionable whether we should use the word “malign.” However, I have nothing against it. We could say, “S.H. has made remarks about the school and the faculty that make it impossible to continue to keep her as a student. These remarks were not only objectively considered, but were admitted to by herself.”
A teacher: That still does not include anything that says the remarks were untrue.
Another teacher: No one would believe her remarks were true.
Dr. Steiner: She could say the school insulted her. I only wanted a phrase that did not include any words that implied we are calling her a liar.
Whether you say “incorrect” or “lied and fabricated” that is all the same. If you want to avoid that problem, though, you cannot add such words. However, I do not want to contradict myself. If you want to include them, go ahead. For me, they indicate that the school feels justified in expelling her since, had she made truthful statements, the school would not have felt justified in doing that.
You could just say that she “made baseless statements.” It is all the same to me. If I say, for instance, that Moritz made statements that caused me to end our friendship, then no one would believe he had said I am the most noble man in the world. If I say I am ending our friendship, that implies that he referred to me as something other than the most noble person.
A teacher asks whether the school should give a progress report to those students who are expelled.
Dr. Steiner: We need to give them such a report only if they demand it. If we do, it should note that they were expelled for disciplinary reasons. Such progress reports are something we should do only when requested. My experience has always been, for example, in the universities, that progress reports were given when people did not fail. I saw a situation once where a student demanded such a report only to annoy the professor. We could write in our letters to the parents that we would provide a progress report if they wanted one. Even in the case of G.S., the report should include the fact that his behavior made it impossible for the faculty to allow him to remain in school. In the future, though, we need to be somewhat more careful.
A teacher: Should we tell the children in the upper grades about this in a formal way?
Dr. Steiner: What do you mean by a “formal way”?
A teacher: We could take them into the eurythmy hall and tell them there.
Dr. Steiner: I think we should leave it to the class teachers to simply tell them. Tell them only about the students in their class.
A teacher makes a remark.
Dr. Steiner: We asked Miss Doflein to temporarily take over the main lesson in the second grade.
The fact that we are missing a language teacher is causing major problems. For the moment, we can do nothing about that. We need to see to it that we use all our strength to move forward. Things would be much better if we had just one more teacher.