Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
9 December 1922, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: I think that first I need to hear what has happened with the class schedule during the short period it has been implemented. I would like to know whether you see it as a possible solution.
A teacher: A father wrote a letter indicating things have gotten worse.
Dr. Steiner: We should include those opinions in a practical evaluation. We need to ask ourselves how it is that a boy in the fourth grade has class until ten minutes to 7:00 in the evening.
A teacher: We had to put one of the language classes into the afternoon, and then handwork follows it.
Another teacher: In general, the situation is not worse.
Dr. Steiner: That is the way it should be. We have not increased the number of hours, but actually reduced them, and the instruction is more concentrated.
A teacher says something about the free periods.
Dr. Steiner: If we had more teachers, such free periods would not occur. What do the students do during that time?
A teacher: They are put together in one room, and we keep an eye on them. The older children work alone.
Dr. Steiner: We should answer such a letter by pointing out the advantages. There must certainly be some advantages.
A teacher: In the eighth grade, there do not seem to be any advantages.
Dr. Steiner: We have to recognize that as unavoidable. Is it really so obvious? Certainly, the number of classroom hours has not increased.
A teacher: It is only a temporary disadvantage and will exist only as long as we have shop in the afternoon.
Dr. Steiner: This situation can last only for the darkest months of winter. Instruction begins relatively late, at 8:30 a.m. I always assumed that was for reasons of economy. We could also say that if the parents paid for the additional lighting, we would begin at 8:00. We could ask the parents whether they want it or not, and then decide according to the majority. We could begin a half hour earlier and use electric light.
We could survey the parents after we explain the basic issues of the class schedule. The main complaint of the person who wrote that letter is that he does not see his children. He is quite sorry his son does not arrive home until 7:30 in the evening. We need to take a survey. We could ask him whether he would be willing to pay more in order to have school begin a half hour earlier. The gymnastics teacher: The children have asked whether we could have gymnastics from 7:30 until 8:30 in the morning.
Dr. Steiner: The children would then come to main lesson tired. They would be just as tired as if they had a regular period before main lesson.
We need to speak with the students about their dissatisfaction, and we should send a questionnaire to the parents. For the students, our task is that they have the same perspective as you, the teachers. Where would we be if the students’ viewpoint was different from that of the teachers? It is absolutely necessary that the students support the teachers’ perspective. We should try to achieve better harmony between the students and teachers, so that the students would go through fire for the teachers. Each time that does not happen, it is painful for me.
A teacher: Things would improve if we could have shop in the morning.
Dr. Steiner: If that is possible, go ahead.
It is curious that the students criticize the class schedule. Why is that?
A teacher: The children criticize a great deal.
Dr. Steiner: That should not be. In general, you should not lose contact with the children. I think every class schedule would have advantages and disadvantages. If you had good contact with the students, the class schedule would not be a problem. I would like to hear from the teachers what you think the practical results have been. We could send out a questionnaire to the parents, but student criticism is unacceptable. What I said at the beginning referred to the perspective of the teachers.
A number of teachers report.
A handwork teacher: Can we allow the boys in the upper grades to have handwork as an elective? The girls have asked if we could leave out the boys. The boys who have grown with the classes like to participate, but the new ones do not.
Dr. Steiner: How could we do that? We have included those things in our curriculum that are appropriate in handwork; that leaves no room for variation. We cannot allow handwork to become an elective. How would you do that? Your guiding rule would then be that the children go only to what they want.
You can vary things within the class. There are a number of good possible variations. You can give the children many kinds of activities. Things to not need to be the same everywhere. As far as I am concerned, you can give the boys and girls different activities beginning in the eighth or ninth grade, but if it becomes an elective, we will destroy our plan.
A teacher: I would like stenography to be an elective. The children do no homework.
Dr. Steiner: That is too bad. When does that class begin? Oh, in the tenth grade. I do not understand why they do not want to learn it.
We are so close to some things that we often forget that we have a different method and a different curriculum than in other schools. You see, now that I’ve been in the classes more often, I can say we are achieving results with what we might call the Waldorf School method; the results are apparent. A comparison with other schools, in fact, shows that, to the extent we are using the Waldorf School pedagogy, we are achieving results. The question we need to ask ourselves is whether we are unconsciously not using the Waldorf method where we have not achieved results.
I do not want to be too hard. Things do not always need to end in a storm about how the Waldorf School method is not being used everywhere. Sometimes you fall back into the usual school humdrum. You get results when you use the methods. Even though the results in foreign languages are uneven, there are, nevertheless, quite good results. We are also achieving good results in the lower grades with what is normally called penmanship. In arithmetic I have the feeling that the Waldorf School method is not often used.
I think we need to continually ask ourselves how we need to work in these different conditions. Of course, it is easier to flunk a third of the class at the end of the school year than to continue bringing them along. That would result in different conditions. If we continue to use the same guidelines and think in the same way, we will not move forward. We would then have to allow the students to fail. You cannot have one without the other.
On the other hand, we also need to consider that the work done at home needs to be done happily. The children must feel a need to do it. If you teach at one of the public schools with compulsory attendance, where you have no interest and can operate like a slave owner, you are in a different situation. If the children do not bring their homework, you simply punish them. The children would simply run away. If we were like other schools, they would simply run from us. We need to get the children to want to do their homework. But, their work is well done, isn’t it?
I work so hard to unburden the teachers because I must admit to feeling that you do not always have the necessary enthusiasm to really put something into your teaching. We need more fire, more enthusiasm in our teaching. So much depends upon that. If, for example, a boy does not want to participate in handwork, you need to give some thought to giving him something he finds interesting. I know stenography can be learned in nothing flat, without much homework. I have, unfortunately, not been able to see what you do there. How do you explain stenography to the children?
A teacher: I gave an introductory lecture on the history of stenography, then taught them the vowels.
Dr. Steiner: You can generate much more excitement if you also teach abbreviations when you teach them the vowels,. All that relates to what we must overcome. What is that supposed to mean, “The children don’t want to”?
A teacher: One girl told me she does not need stenography. She is interested only in art.
Dr. Steiner: One thing must support the other. The students do not need to consider the question, “Why do I need to learn this?” We must direct our education toward being able to say to the student, “Look here, if you want to be an artist, there are a number of things that you need. You should not imagine you can simply become an artist. There are all kinds of things you need to learn that are not directly connected with art. As an artist, you may well need stenography. There was once a poet, Hamerling, who once said he could not have become what he was without stenography.” We must learn to teach so that as soon as the teacher says something, the children become interested. That should simply happen. We begin teaching stenography in the tenth grade. By now, the children should be so far that they understand they should not question their need to learn what we teach.
A teacher: The children asked before we even began. Some of them had already learned the Stolze-Schrey method.
Dr. Steiner: That is a real problem. If there were enough children, it might lead to needing a special course for those who want to learn the Stolze-Schrey method.
A teacher asks about the visit of someone from England.
Dr. Steiner: Concerning this visitor, it is important that we develop a kind of “visitor attitude” so that we appear to be accustomed to having visitors. Don’t you agree that we do not really do that when we have German visitors? Englishmen will be terribly disappointed if you receive them the way you normally receive visitors in the Waldorf School. I do not want to suggest that you take up “Emily Post” in your free time, but there is something you might call a kind of “natural manners.” It is different when you have a visitor than when you speak in the faculty meeting. The main thing is that you are gracious to visitors. I mean that not only in connection with your external demeanor, but also inwardly. You need to want to allow the visitors to see what is special about our instruction. Otherwise, they will go away with no impression at all. The impression our visitors receive depends upon how we act with them. That is the first thing. The other thing is that we need to make the visit as efficient as possible. It will not do to have thirty visitors in a class on the same day, but only as many as we can handle. We should not allow them simply to watch us.
When the Theosophical Society had a conference in London some time ago, they had a “Smiling Committee.” When we had our meeting in 1907 in Munich, there was a great deal to see. There were the celebrities of the Theosophical Society. I thought it was really horrible that these famous people left with the opinion that people are right, Germans are impolite. I once suggested to someone that he should say a few words to a well-known person. He replied, “With them?” He thought it was a terrible imposition that I thought he should be polite. He thought he should simply ignore someone he did not like. These things happen. They should not happen here. Otherwise, we would have to not allow the visit, and that is something we cannot easily do.
A teacher: We thought we would serve tea in one of the classes. We’ve also prepared a display table.
Dr. Steiner: That is certainly good, but I am referring more to your attitude. You could certainly say we should not allow these people to come, but that is not easily avoided. You need to show them what is special about our teaching methods, and you need an opportunity for doing that.
Sometimes when you say something, it feels like you are taking the morning dew from the flower. It is all so easy to say in a lecture, but with concrete questions, you seem so dry and barren. Then, it is like taking away the dew. Everything depends upon how you do it, whether it seems you want to help someone or not. What I want to say is — I can say this today because it will not seem as though I wanted to praise Dr. B.— when I come into his class he seems to think it is important and correct to point out certain things to me. The same is also true of Dr. S., but I also do not want to praise you. I do not think it would disturb your teaching if you were to point out what you are doing. Perhaps it is not so necessary with me, but I am convinced it is more important that you make sure visitors see what you are doing instead of simply having them stand there noticing nothing at all. Englishmen with their lack of concepts will understand nothing if you do not point out the basis of it. If you only give the class and let them watch, they won’t have the faintest idea of what happened. You need to forcefully point out what is special about the instruction.
An earlier visitor left without the faintest idea of what the Waldorf School is. He left and went home with only a proof that the methods he used in his English school are good. The only impression he had was that we are doing the same things he does. You shouldn’t believe people notice things by themselves. Many of you have not yet noticed it, so many things continue on in their normal trot, even with our own teachers. That is what I meant. Not much more can be done.
We should give a very impressive 5:00 o’clock tea at the branch office on Landhausstraße. Otherwise, the Englishmen will leave Stuttgart saying they have seen nothing of the Society, all we wanted was to lecture. In England, everybody introduces themselves, and they consider lectures as something to do on the side. They just put their hands in their pockets. Most of their lectures are simply long sentences. Germans say something in a lecture, something special about life, and they should notice that here. If you can show them that, they will slowly gain some respect. No Englishman can understand the German nature. They do not understand it, they have no concept why we see something in a lecture that we associate with conviction. For them, it is only a longer speech within a conversation, but they do have a good sense of ceremony for formal occasions. You can certainly see that in everything they do. We do not need to imitate English culture, we do not need to imitate English nature, but we do need to give these people the impression that we simply do not stand around, but are truly active. That is what we need to do. We do not need to do much more, and there is not much more we can do during a twoweek visit than to try to get people to respect our Waldorf School methods. Nevertheless, we do need to gain their respect. You need to remember that there is no way of expressing the word “philistine” in the English language. An Englishman cannot properly express the peculiarities of a philistine. People’s most prominent characteristics cannot be expressed in their own language. Nowadays, Germans have taken on so many characteristics of the English that they are almost incapable of saying the word “philistine” with the proper feeling. We should eliminate everything that is philistine from the Waldorf School.
A teacher: Should we tell the children about this now?
Dr. Steiner: I would not do that. What I have said should remain within our four walls. Outside our circle we will have to arrange things so that the children consider the visit as a matter of course. Don’t tell them. Don’t do things as though they were something outside our normal life. The visitors should not notice anything. They should not believe we made any special preparations. They should think their visit does not bother us at all. There can be no talk of taking their visit into account. Do that as little as possible.
A teacher: Won’t the children bring some resistance from home?
Dr. Steiner: I visited the school of a man who will be coming. I went through all of Mr. Gladstone’s classes. The children, of course, knew I was a German just as the children here will know that the visitors are from England, but it was natural that I was treated as a guest.
A teacher: I would always ask an English visitor to tell something.
Dr. Steiner: I would prefer to tell it myself. You should understand that all other classes will be of interest, but the English class will interest them only a little. I would try to make them understand, in a polite way, of course, that it is unimportant to me if they find the class not well done. If they say something, you could reply that you would probably say the same thing in their German class. You are probably right. That is what is important. Don’t give the impression they are important for you, but treat them as guests. It is important that people feel they have been treated as guests. It is important that they believe the things that happen while they are here are what occurs normally, not that they believe we prepared something for them. They should not believe that. When we give a 5 o’clock tea at the branch house, they should think that that is the custom here. We are moving a little too strongly in the direction of becoming bureaucrats rather than people of the world, but we need to become people of the world, not bureaucrats. It is bad for the school if bureaucracy arises here. All German schools are bureaucracies, but that is something that should not happen at the Waldorf School. Basically, we do not need to show the people anything other than what happens here. Everything else lies in the way we do that.
I will be here on the eighth and ninth of January, perhaps also on the tenth, and then at the end of the visit. I was thinking it might be possible in that connection to give a short pedagogical course that would deal primarily with the aesthetics and pedagogy of music.
A teacher asks about Parzival in the eleventh grade.
Dr. Steiner: In teaching religion and history, what is important is how you present things. What is important is how things are treated in one case and then in another. In teaching religion, three stages need to be emphasized. In Parzival, for instance, you should first emphasize a certain kind of human guiltlessness when people live in a type of dullness. Then we have the second stage, that of doubt in the heart, “if the heart is doubting, then the soul must follow.” That is the second stage. The third stage is the inner certainty he finally achieves.
That is what we need to especially emphasize in teaching religion. The whole story needs to be directed toward that. You need to show that during the period in which Wolfram wrote Parzival, a certain segment of the population held a completely permeating, pious perspective, and that people at that time had these three stages in their own souls. You need to show that this was seen as the proper form, and that this was how people should think about the development of the human soul. You could speak about the parallels between the almost identical times of Wolfram’s and Dante’s existence, although Dante was something different. When you go into these things, you need to give each of the three stages a religious coloring.
In teaching literature and history, you need to draw the children’s attention to how one stage arises from an earlier one and then continues on to a later stage. You could show how it was proper that common people in the ninth and tenth centuries followed the priests in complete dullness. You can also show them how the Parzival problem arises because the common people then wanted to participate in what the priests gave them. In other words, show them that people existed in a state like Parzival’s and grew out of that state just as Parzival grew out of it. Show them how common people actually experienced the priests, just as Wolfram von Eschenbach did. He could not write, but he had an intense participation in the inner life of the soul.
Historically, Wolfram is an interesting person. He was part of the whole human transition in that he could not write and in that the whole structure of education was not yet accepted by common people. But it was accepted that all the experiences of the soul did exist. There is also some historical significance to the fact that it is a cleric who is the scribe, that is, who actually does the writing. The attitude in Faust, “I am more clever than all the fancy people, doctors, the judges, writers, and priests,” persists into the sixteenth century. Those who could write were from the clergy, who also controlled external education. That changed only through the ability to print books. In the culture of Parzival, we find the predecessor of the culture of printed books.
You could also attempt to go into the language. You should recall that it is quite apparent from Parzival that such expressions as “dullness,” “to live in the half-light of dullness,” were still quite visual at the time when people still perceived things that way. With Goethe, that was no longer the case. When Goethe speaks of a dog wagging its tail, he refers to it as a kind of doubting, whereas in Faust, it means nothing more than that the dog wags its tail. You see, this doubting is connected with dividing the dog into two parts: the dog’s tail goes to the left and the right and in that way divides the dog. This is something that is no longer felt later. The soul became completely abstract, whereas Goethe still felt it in a concrete way. This is also connected with the fact that Goethe once again takes up the Parzival problem in his unfinished Mysteries. That is exactly the same problem, and you can, in fact, use it to show how such things change. They return in an inner way.
Take, for example — well, why shouldn’t we speak about Goethe’s Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily? You have probably already done this, that would be just like you. Why should we not take into account that the story of the kings is pictorially the same in Andreae’s Chymical Wedding, where you also have pictures of the kings? If you go back to that, you will see the natural connection to the Arthurian tales and the Grail story. You would have the whole esoteric Grail story. You would inwardly comprehend the Arthurian tales and the particular cultural work as the Knights of the Round Table, who set themselves the task of destroying the lack of consciousness, the dull superstition of the common people, while the Grail Castle’s task is to comprehend external life in a more spiritual way. Here you have the possibility for an inner deepening of Parzival, but at the same time you can place him in his own time. I have mentioned this in some of my lecture cycles, as well as Poor Heinrich, which can also be treated historically as a theme of the willingness to sacrifice. A moral understanding of the world coincided with the physical understanding of the world, something that was lost in the next cultural period. Something like Poor Heinrich could not have been written in the fifteenth century.
I have also made a comparison between Parzival and von Grimmelshausen’s Simplicius. In Christoffel von Grimmelshausen’s time, people were already so advanced that they could treat the Parzival problem only in a humorous manner. You can still find an echo of it in Simplizism. This is something you can do in literary history.
When you continue on to the present, things become very hidden, but you nevertheless should uncover them. It is also good to uncover much of what has been hidden. Take, for example, the training of Parzival by Gurnemanz. The question could arise whether a Gurnemanz existed in the nineteenth century. The answer is, yes, but you must understand the situation. It was Trast in Sudermann’s Honor. There you will find Trast and the inexperienced Robert. There you have a real Gurnemanz figure. You will find all the characteristics translated into silliness. But, you will again have an opportunity of showing that Robert is a kind of Faust, but made silly, and Trast a kind of Mephistopheles. Sudermann is a silly fellow and translated everything into silliness. Here you have an opportunity to show the tremendous superficiality that lies in the transition from the Middle Ages into the most modern times.
A teacher asks why there is talk of twelve religions in The Mysteries.
Dr. Steiner: For the same reason that I spoke about twelve world views in a lecture in Berlin. Goethe was not interested in discovering these twelve religions. He knew that the twelve religions were connected with the twelve pictures of the zodiac, and for that reason he spoke about twelve religions. It was not that he imagined a priori that there were twelve possible religions. I prefer to keep to Goethe’s attitude. As soon as you construct something of that sort, it becomes dry. The number is enough, and then you can give examples. Such things need not be particularly clear empirically.
There are also only twelve consonants, the others are variations. That is something that occurs in no other language except Finnish, where there are only twelve consonants. That is how you can treat such questions, and you need only fill in the holes.
A teacher: How should we handle the Klingsor problem? That is such a difficult theme for the children.
Dr. Steiner: Avoid it. But, there is one important thing you can mention. You could discuss Wagner’s Parsifal with the children, but avoid bringing up questionable things. The result of your teaching will be that these things will be taken in with a much greater amount of inner purity later than they are today.
A teacher: I wanted to ask you to say something about methodology.
Dr. Steiner: I don’t understand your question. Isn’t that something that comes from the material itself? You have told the children a number of things, and the methodology lies in the things themselves. You have behaved in a way so that the children slowly came to behave in the same way. And the result is that the faculty could have sat on the school benches, and the children could have become the teachers. Everything is connected with that, with theory. You need to teach things much more naturally. There is no value in, for instance, saying that we need to ask the children if we want to know what it is that we should do. You should not repeat such things.
A teacher: When teaching the Song of the Niebelungs in the tenth grade, I had the feeling I was right on the edge because I do not understand the language.
Dr. Steiner: You see how difficult it is to speak in terms of general principles. The details are what is important. I think that if properly handled, the language is always interesting to the students. Things that can be learned from the inner structure of the language itself would always interest the students. I also think that the teachers working together would bring a great deal of good. For example, Mr. Boy presented a number of very interesting things, things that really interested the students in spite of the fact that a number of philologists would not consider them. Although they are rules, such things are interesting. Everything connected with language is interesting. Nevertheless, it is difficult to generalize. What I have had to say in that regard, I said in my language course, but I connected it with specific things. It is not possible to generalize. We could achieve a great deal if those who know certain things would tell the others who do not know them. This is a possibility for real collaboration. It is a shame that there is so much knowledge here and the others do not learn it. In the faculty, there could be a really great cooperation.
A teacher: I do not understand Middle High German.
Dr. Steiner: I’m not sure that is so important. I once knew a professor who lectured about Greek philosophy, but who could never read Aristotle without a translation. What is important is that you come into the feeling of the language. Who is there who really understands Middle High German well? There is much that the other teachers could tell you.
A teacher: I cannot pronounce it well. You read it then.
Dr. Steiner: Not everyone reads it the same. It is colored by various dialects. We all speak High German differently. In some cases, it is important that you don’t speak High German like an Austrian.
A teacher: Then you mean we should give only some examples from the original text.
Dr. Steiner: The original version of Parzival is really boring for students, and now one of them is translating it. One of you might write to Paris to order a book that you could get much more quickly if you simply ask Mr. B. to loan it to you.
A teacher: We could also make a connection with etymology.
Dr. Steiner: Regarding languages, my main desire is that the aesthetic or moral, the spiritual, and the content is emphasized more than the grammar. That is true for all languages and is what we should emphasize here. A word like “saelde” is really very interesting, “zwifel,” too. There is much that could be said about that, as well as about “saelde” that relates to the entire soul.
A teacher: Could you say something about the spiritual scientific perspective?
Dr. Steiner: All you have to do is look it up in How to Know Higher Worlds. Recently, there have been a number of lectures in Dornach about literary problems that Steffen found very interesting.
A teacher asks about periodicity in teaching art at various levels: I will be going to the ninth grade on Monday. I have already spoken about the themes in Albrecht Dürer’s black-and-white art.
Dr. Steiner: You can certainly do that. Do you really believe that the many things in Melancholia are attributes of Dürer? I think the difference between Dürer and Rembrandt is that Rembrandt treats the question of light and dark simply as a question of light and dark per se, whereas Dürer attempts to show light and dark through as many objects as possible. The many things contained in the Melancholia should not be seen as attributes, but more as his desire to place all possible objects into it. For me, the problem with Dürer is more how light behaves when reflected from all kinds of objects. With Rembrandt, the problem is more the interactions between light and dark. That is what I think. Rembrandt would not have seen the problem of Melancholia in the same way. He would have done it much more abstractly, where Dürer is more concrete. I think that is how you can draw a very fine line.
A teacher: I wanted to include the problem of north-south, and then that of east-west.
Dr. Steiner: You could contrast Rembrandt’s light and dark with the southern painting style. In that way, you can bring such things together. Of course, when you describe that, you can also mention that Rembrandt treats the question of light and dark only qualitatively. Space is only an opportunity to solve the problem through painting. If you show how a sculpture is entirely a question of space, you can then go on into sculpture. Of course, it is probably best if you make a connection with French sculpture of the late classical period. In the rococo — of course, you need to leave out the good side of the rococo — you find in sculpture an extreme contrast to Rembrandt. You can show how the question of light and dark is treated in the rococo quite differently than by Rembrandt. You always need to mention the thought that the rococo, even though it is often not valued artistically as highly as the baroque, is actually a higher development in art.
A teacher: Should I then develop a kind of art-historical stages?
Dr. Steiner: I would show how these stages in their various forms are expressed in various regions. It is interesting how, during the time when Dürer was active, there existed in Holland something different from what Rembrandt was doing. Different times for different places.
I would arrange things so that I begin in the ninth grade only by concentrating upon the class and then develop the stages more strongly as I progress. Thus, by the eleventh grade, a review would awaken a strong picture of the various stages.
A teacher: Our proposal in teaching languages was to begin with the verb with the lowest beginners. From the fourth grade onward, we would develop grammar, and beginning with the ninth grade, we would do more of a review and literature.
Dr. Steiner: It is certainly quite right to begin with the verb. Prepositions are very lively. It would be incorrect to begin with nouns. I would like to explain that further, but this is a question I want to discuss when everyone who gives a language class is here, and N. is not here today. He did something today that is directly connected with how the verb and noun should be treated in class. We also need to answer the question of what is removed from the verb when it becomes a noun. When a noun is formed from a verb, a vowel is removed, and it thus becomes more consonant, it becomes more external. In English, every sound can become a verb. I know a woman who makes a verb out of everything that she hears. For instance, if someone says “Ah” she then says that he “ahed.”
We want to turn our attention to this as soon as possible.