Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
23 January 1923, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: I would like to share some of my thoughts about my visit to the school, specifically, about the walls. Now that everything here is so new, it is more apparent than before that it is not good for a school to merely have a somewhat lost and not particularly good picture hanging here and there. It is significant that our school does not make a particularly impressive artistic impression.
Of course, we cannot completely fulfill the ideal at this stage, but it seems to me that it would be good to at least have that ideal before us so that we could move toward it, at least in our thoughts, and that in the end we would do something in that direction. I would ask you not to understand what I have to say the way many things have been understood. For instance, when I said that this or that is a difference between eating meat or vegetables and people immediately began to promote vegetarianism as a result.
Accept it as an ideal. Out of our pedagogy itself, what should be the artistic form in our classrooms? We could perhaps extend this from what we find in the schoolrooms to what we find near the schoolrooms on the walls.
There is no doubt that we need some pictures to decorate the schoolrooms. I say this not because I think we need to do this tomorrow morning, but because our guiding principle needs to be what is needed by our pedagogy.
First, we have the lower grades. There, we need a more physical presentation of what we give the children pictorially. That can gradually move into the more artistic, on the one hand, and to more practical activities in life, on the other. Today, I only want to mention some of the main things that we can deepen in the course of time. It is important that where the subjects themselves play the main role in artistic decoration, we have no mechanically created or barren illustrations, but that things be artistically formed. These artistic creations should not be such that they emphasize special opinions or special styles, but more in the direction of what seems to genuinely human.
If we look at the first grade, the main thing would be to decorate the walls with pictures from fairy tales, and when possible, to have them in color. I need to emphasize that if it is not possible to do everything in color, we will need to use some black-and-white reproductions. It is better to have a technically good reproduction than to have some poorly done copy of something. In the first grade we need to have pictures of fairy tales, and in the second, of legends. That is something we need to strictly maintain.
You can imagine the continuous and proper effect that will have upon the children’s feelings. The only thing is that we cannot just take the pictures from picture books. They should be artistically done. It would be beneficial to set this as a task, not in some one-sided painting style, but such that everything has a general human feeling to it.
When we come to the third grade, we must take into account the state of the soul. What we hang on the walls should be what is normally called “still life” pictures of plants and of flowers. Of course, these should not be normal still lifes, but genuine representations of what is living, but not yet feeling. If we bring the children so far that they live into them with their souls, that will be good. We should save representations of the feeling of animals for the next grade because then the child’s soul begins to relate to a portrayal of feeling. Only from that time on do children have a sense that they have feeling in themselves, even though that feeling may be quite dull. Pictures of animals that the children saw earlier in children’s books have an effect such that the child cannot differentiate whether it is a picture of a real cow or a cow made of wood. Before about the age of nine or ten, children cannot differentiate in an inner living way between the picture of a real cow and a cow made of wood. However, at about that age, this capacity to differentiate begins.
In the fifth grade, when the children are ten or eleven years old, what is important is to choose pictures that show groups of people of differing ages, for instance, dancing groups, or, say, a street where people meet one another, so that you can say something to the children about it. You need groups of people so you can talk with the children about what occurs between those people.
We now come to the sixth grade. There, we should have individual human beings. You could have pictures of heads or of the whole person, for example, a person standing in nature, where nature comes to that person’s aid. You could then draw the children’s attention to what a sunny landscape is, or to one in the rain, but there should be a person in it such that the individual person is important. Perhaps a picture of a small lake where someone is rowing.
We have now come to the point where the material itself is less important and where the pictures should move more into the artistic. Here, we need to begin with the most artistic things. We must, of course, recall that if you cannot obtain good copies, then we should have black-and-white pictures. For the age of the children in the seventh grade, it would be good to have Raphael and Leonardo, things that can also remain in the eighth grade. You could divide these between the classes in both grades. What is important is that the children have these pictures in front of them. You should not believe that the proper thing to do is to choose the pictures so that they go in parallel to what is being taught. It is actually quite important that the children have the pictures before they are spoken of in art class. You should speak occasionally about the pictures, but, in general, the child’s eyes should simply be occupied with the artistic aspect of the pictures. Children should first receive only a pure sense impression and know that we consider these pictures particularly beautiful. They have already been properly prepared since they knew that previously the pictures hanging on the walls were primarily important because of their content.
In the following classes, what is important is that you tactfully connect what is artistic with the practicalities of life, so that the children have both perspectives continually in front of themselves. Thus, in the ninth grade, you might have pictures from Giotto or similar things, and in the same class, pictures of other things, more technical, for instance, a meadow or a willow tree, a pine forest, and so forth, but not done artistically, rather, technically. Purely as examples, in the way that you might draw a plan. You could put those on one wall and hang other things on the back wall, for instance, paintings by Giotto. You could also have a star chart in the ninth grade where the various constellations are connected with some figure, with stylized figures of the heavens, as used to be done in star charts.
In the tenth grade, where you are dealing with fifteen and sixteen year olds, you should have pictures by Holbein and Dürer on the artistic side, and on the technical-scientific side, you could have — other things would be possible — a drawing of everything in the sea, all the animals, and so forth. That would have to be drawn appropriately so that it was intellectually instructive, but also had an artistic effect upon the children.
Holbein and Dürer would remain for the eleventh grade, with perhaps the addition of Rembrandt. That would also continue in the following grades. You might also include some older paintings. At that age instruction can go in parallel. Thus, for the eleventh and twelfth grades, Holbein, Rembrandt, and Dürer.
On the technical side in the eleventh grade, you should hang something like a cross-section of the Earth or geological cross-sections or perhaps elevation charts and similar things. Only in the twelfth grade would you have physiological pictures, anatomic charts in addition to Holbein, Dürer, Rembrandt.
That is what we need as an ideal. Things look terrible now, but if you have an ideal before you, at least under some circumstances, you can work in that direction, even if it takes a century. It is better to have a good woodcut than much of what is hanging now. This is what I wanted to say to you about pedagogy. It is certainly necessary that we attend to an exceptionally good treatment of art in our pedagogy, since that definitely belongs to the total picture of the anthroposophical treatment of human progress.
We can say that until the sixteenth century, there was not a sharp contrast between an intellectual and an artistic comprehension of the world. You should remember something that is no longer considered; the Scholastics created their books with a certain architectural art, very consciously, apart from the illuminations. Until the tenth century, there was absolutely no real difference between art and knowledge. Now, children in even the earliest grades are poisoned with purely intellectual material. There is an effect here in our school of something we cannot yet do differently: when teachers use reference books, not only by giving them to the children, but also for their own preparation, the intellectual tendency of such references enters the teacher. The teacher thus becomes a distorted picture of intellectualism.
You could ask, then, how should teachers prepare themselves? When the teacher wants to teach something to the children, he or she learns the material from modern presentations. When I see where teachers get their material for preparation, I would like to put another book alongside the one the teacher is using, a book that is perhaps a century older than the teacher’s. It is not possible to use only books that are centuries old, but it would certainly help in many areas to use books that are a hundred years old along with more modern books on the same subject. Now, if people are teachers, they know what someone like Goethe or some other exemplary person wrote about one work of art or another, or about something in nature. The problem is that no one looks at what people two or three generations ago, at Goethe’s time, wrote about art, but these, along with more modern works, are certainly important. Even today, when we have so many outstanding things, you can gain something by using books that are a century or so old that treat subjects similar to the subjects of more modern works. That is very important. I have often mentioned that, for example, editions of Greek and Latin from the first half of the nineteenth century are like gold in contrast to the brass printed today. The grammar texts that are thirty or forty years old are much better than the modern presentations.
I think we need to take into account that our pedagogy must everywhere counter with a thoroughly artistic activity the rule of intellectualism present throughout modern thinking. We should avoid allowing modern systematic books to affect our teaching. The systematic presentation in modern books is narrow-minded and inartistic. People are ashamed to speak of anything artistic. Modern academics are ashamed to develop their own artistic style or to artistically divide things into chapters. We need to take these things into account in our own preparations.
I would like to take this opportunity, which has arisen from a number of circumstances, to ask you all the following question. During a meeting last night, I again had the feeling that you think preparing is very difficult. Someone said that Waldorf teachers normally sleep only from 5:30 until 7:30 in the morning. Everyone needs to recognize that is much too little. People need to understand that a really enormous amount of time is used to prepare for school. From that, it seems that preparation is difficult. I would like to ask in that regard if it is true that for one reason or another you can go to sleep only at 5:30. I would also like to know if the difficulty lies in the preparation, if it is really so difficult and requires so much time. Of course, that is subjective; nevertheless, I would like to pose this question now, at the beginning of our discussions, and ask you to tell me about it so we can talk about this today or at our next meeting.
Some teachers report about it.
Dr. Steiner: Are there any specific questions about preparation?
A teacher: I usually need a long time. I used Carus for teaching about the skeleton.
Dr. Steiner: The bones of the human being have not changed. You used a book that is a hundred years old, but it is important that you use the easiest sources. This is a case where much help could have been given. The teacher of one class could help the teacher of the following class.
An upper-grades teacher: I do not actually prepare for a specific class. Instead, I read a book about the whole subject I will be teaching. Then, I read an anthroposophical book connected with it, for example, The Riddles of Philosophy, for background on the development of consciousness within the period. I read something that brings me into a mood of that time. For the specific class period, I look for something, perhaps even a small detail, from which I can form the instruction.
Dr. Steiner: That is a very good method, to begin with something you are strongly interested in yourself that brings your soul into movement, so that you make some small discovery. In that way, you will get an idea during the class. You will notice that while you are with the children, things come to you more easily than when you sit and brood by yourself. That will not happen in history and geography until you have taught for a few years. It is particularly important when you are beginning a new period that you really try to form a comprehensive picture of what occurs during the entire period, possibly only in broad outlines, so that you know what is important in that period.
The same teacher later gave Dr. Steiner some additional information when he was visiting the teacher’s class. Dr. Steiner told the teacher that while using that method he actually thought of too many things. He needed to be careful not to overload the students with what he was interested in at the moment.
A teacher: In Latin grammar, I have the feeling it could be organized according to thinking, feeling, and willing, but it falls apart when I do it.
Dr. Steiner: To orient yourself, it would be a good idea, when you have three weeks free, to simply take one author, for instance, Livius, and select some sentences, then study the sentence structure empirically. Someone should do that.
I would like you to pay more attention to developing a certain feeling regarding the Socratic method. I would like you to try to develop a feeling so that you differentiate between what the children can simply repeat and what you should ask them. It is more exciting for the children when you tell them something than when you ask them something they cannot answer. You should not believe you can get the children to say something they cannot know. You should not overdo the Socratic method because you will tire the children too much. You need to develop a feeling for what you can ask, and what you need to say. You need to develop a certain tactfulness. I would now like to hear questions about what is currently going on.
A teacher asks about the school administration. Many things within the administration need to be done by everyone.
Dr. Steiner: This is an awkward problem, but I have given it a great deal of thought. This is so difficult and we can accomplish our intentions only when we carry it out with the general support of the entire faculty, or at least the vast majority of the faculty. On the other hand, the way it is accepted necessarily affects the way it is organized.
First of all, I would ask you to consider what should be included in this new area of organization. There are a large number of operations the person in the school house needs to do. We need to exclude these things since they are connected with the person in the house. Concerning everything in the administration that represents the school to the outside, I would recommend that a small group of three or four people from the faculty take up that work in the future. This group can only work in an alternating fashion, so that they work one after another as individuals, and they should meet with one another only in those cases where a common decision is valuable. In order not to violate our republican constitution, it should be a group. I would ask you to speak your thoughts about this freely and openly, even though you might think what you have to say may contradict this in the broadest sense. I would still ask you to say what you think.
A teacher: There are some things we all know only Y. can do, and other things for which other people are better suited.
Dr. Steiner: I thought that such a small group would always represent the faculty since members would alternate, particularly for limited tasks. This group could do what you just said from case to case, namely, designate one person as capable of one task or another. Nevertheless, there will still be differences of opinion.
A teacher: I think regulating the situation would be a help. It could be very useful for the school.
Dr. Steiner: We could think still further. We would form such a group and the entire faculty would declare itself in agreement when the group decides some member of the faculty should be designated for a particular task. That is what should happen. Preparation for faculty meetings and setting the agenda could also be part of the duties of the head of the administration, but that would make the job rather difficult. It is possible that preparation for the faculty meeting could be one of the tasks of the committee member who has the task of administering the school at the time. It is important to do this in complete harmony with the whole faculty.
A committee of seven teachers had formed concerned with questions of the Anthroposophical Society.
Dr. Steiner: Of course, I now need to ask what the faculty thinks of this committee that formed itself. It is important to find a way of reaching a final resolution of this problem. That committee seems very active, and we could make an assumption that through its efforts to reorganize the Anthroposophical Society, it wanted to prepare itself for administering the school. Of course, if that committee has the complete trust of the faculty, the question can be easily answered.
A teacher proposes expanding the committee.
Dr. Steiner: I only thought that if a group of people was already working with this question, it would be best if that group continued its work because it would save time.
A teacher makes a remark.
Dr. Steiner: You are mixing up two questions. I only wanted to ask who is in that group because I know such a group exists. Apparently that group has worked with these questions and — I must emphasize from the outset that we must do the whole thing harmoniously— the first question I wanted to ask is whether that group has the complete trust of the faculty, so that it can make proposals for a final form. It would be difficult for us to begin from zero today. It would be better, since I will probably be here again soon, if we could answer the question of whether that or an extended group has the full trust of the faculty, so that the group could prepare a proposal for a final resolution of the question for the next meeting. That is the question we need to answer today. I would like to hear what you have to say about this question of trust.
A teacher: This makes an impression that there are first- and second- class Waldorf teachers, but perhaps that feeling is based upon a false assumption.
Dr. Steiner: The fact that a group has formed is their business. Since, however, it has worked with these questions, we could, in the event there is trust in that group, think we could trust them with working out such a proposal. It is more complicated to consider this question in the faculty as a whole than it would be to have a group that has the trust of the faculty consider it. Some teachers agree.
A teacher: I have an awkward feeling about the formation of that group. The people who formed the group are the same ones who are so distracting for the administration.
A teacher: I have noticed that certain groups get together, and when you go by, you hear parts of important conversations. I became uncomfortable with that, and I went to a colleague and said that it was creating cliques. I was quite fearful that the faculty was dividing into those who were more or less active.
Dr. Steiner: That is certainly a problem. The Waldorf School can prosper only if the faculty is in harmony. It is not possible for everyone to find everyone else sympathetic, but that is a personal question and does not belong in the faculty. To the extent that the faculty represents the entire Waldorf School, the prosperity of this school depends upon the inner harmony of the faculty. There is a major difference in whether someone says to someone outside, “You are getting on my nerves,” and when that is said here in the faculty meeting. Here in our meetings and in the administration of the Waldorf School there are only teachers from the Waldorf School, and the difficulties arise due solely to the more democratic constitution of the school. Of course, difficulties do arise. I am certainly against using the terms “first- and second-class” here in the faculty. That would certainly be the beginning of very bad things if something like a first- and second-class of faculty and faculty cliques played a role in our discussions. These are things we must strictly keep out.
Basically, when such a group forms, we need to accept the fact that the group exists and not use it as an occasion to say bad things about it. If there were reason to do that, it would be the start of difficult times in the faculty. As long as the group has formed and exists as such, I would like to again ask to what extent we need to take that group into account. It is perhaps not at all necessary to say anything about that. The question has been posed because it has received an official duty and that group should work on proposals. Barring some misdeed, I do not see that it should have any significance whether it is that group or a completely different small group. The only thing that is important is the usefulness of the group, since the proposal will be presented to the whole faculty and discussed. The only question is one of trust, that is, whether you consider that group capable of making the proposals. When such remarks are made, it is difficult to see that there is even the slightest movement toward forming a faculty. That is something that must not happen. Here we must have only harmony.
A teacher: I have complete trust in the group, but I did want to bring out that there may be colleagues who do not.
Dr. Steiner: When I use the expression, “getting on my nerves,” I mean that one person makes another person nervous. The subject of the group’s work would be how to organize the administration. Thus, you would make them nervous.
A teacher: I do not distrust the group.
Another teacher: I do not feel there is a faculty within the faculty. I think all of my colleagues could agree to this group.
Dr. Steiner: Some things have been said that were not taken back, so we can assume we cannot do this in the way it was originally intended. I could just as well think that according to the impulses out of which the school and the faculty arose, I could create such a group. I am not doing this because suspicions have arisen. I would like to wait until things have become clearer. Some antagonisms are apparent.
The committee that works upon these questions needs to study such things in order to make proposals for the administration. I think six people would be enough.
Dr. Steiner has the faculty vote by secret ballot for a preparatory committee of six members.
Dr. Steiner: I would like to have the committee propose people who can do things.
A teacher asks about an educational conference in England.
Dr. Steiner: There is a possibility of another conference in England. I need to try to put these two things together. Perhaps we could agree to it in principle.
A teacher: The English people want to know if you would agree to inviting Waldorf teachers who can speak English.
Dr. Steiner: Of course, they can do that.