Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
25 April 1923, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: Unfortunately, our main problem is that we must give up the Waldorf School ideal for the twelfth grade. We cannot base the twelfth-grade curriculum upon our principles. We simply have to admit that we must take all the subjects in other high schools into account during the final year. I am looking with some horror at the last semester, when we will have to ignore everything except the subjects required for the final examination. It’s inconceivable that we can work any other way if the students are to pass the final examination. This is really a problem. After thinking about it a long time, I do not think there is much to say about the curriculum for that class except those things we already considered, such as chemical technology and such.
The students are about eighteen, and at that age it is best if they attain an overall understanding of history and art. We should give them an understanding of the spirit of literature, art, and history without, of course, teaching them about anthroposophy. We must try to bring them the spirit in those subjects, not only in the content but also in the way we present them. With the students, we should at least try to achieve what I have striven for with the workers in Dornach, pictures that make it clear that, for instance, an island like Great Britain swims in the sea and is held fast by the forces of the stars. In actuality, such islands do not sit directly upon a foundation; they swim and are held fast from outside. In general, the cosmos creates islands and continents, their forms and locations. That is certainly the case with firm land. Such things are the result of the cosmos, of the stars. The Earth is a reflection of the cosmos, not something caused from within. However, we need to avoid such things. We cannot tell them to the students because they would then need to tell them to their professors in the examinations, and we would acquire a terrible name. Nevertheless, that is actually what we should achieve in geography.
In physics and chemistry, we should try to cover every principle that reveals the whole system of chemistry and physics as an organism, a unity, and not simply an aggregate as most people assume. With the twelfth grade, we have a kind of conclusion, and we must draw conclusions everywhere. We must give answers to the questions that arise, for instance, in mineralogy, where the five Platonic solids manifest. We should do that when we study minerals and crystals.
In art, we can only continue what we previously did in music, sculpture, and painting. That can never be concluded.
Unfortunately, we can do none of that. The only new thing we can do is one hour of chemical technology. Elsewhere, we will need to make sure that we simply bring the students far enough along that they can answer the questions on the final examination. This is terrible, but there is nothing we can do to avoid it. However, we should follow our curriculum as exactly as possible until the students are fourteen. As far as possible, I would ask you to consider up to that year all the things that have fallen by the way. We need to strictly carry out the curriculum until the students are fourteen.
I am telling you all this so that you will know how you would need to think were it possible to apply the principles of the Waldorf School with eighteen-year-old students. Eighteen-year-olds need to understand the various historical periods in a living way, particularly regarding the “getting younger” of humanity. That would have an important influence upon people. In the oldest periods of humanity, people could feel the development of their souls until the age of sixty. Following the Mystery of Golgotha, they could feel it only until the age of thirty-three, and today that is possible only until twenty-seven. Students need to comprehend this ongoing decrease before they begin their studies at an institution of higher learning. It is something that belongs in the general education in a Waldorf school and would have a tremendously beneficial effect upon the students’ souls.
The situation is as follows. When we look at the learning goals of the twelfth grade, we need to imagine that the students will continue at a college, and we also need to imagine that they have completed their general education. We can find our teaching goals in the following circumstances. Today, you can represent anthroposophy to the world such that people with sound human feeling can understand it. (Sound human understanding does not exist today.) They can understand it through feeling. Today, however, if those who have gone through a modern high-school education do not have a particular predisposition, it is impossible for them to comprehend certain anthroposophical truths. Today, they have hardly any possibility of understanding such things.
If you consider Kolisko’s chemistry, it is clear that it is unimaginable for modern chemists. You can teach students that kind of imaginative capacity until the age of eighteen or nineteen, that is, until the completion of the moon cycle, which then begins again. If people are to comprehend certain concepts, they must achieve a particular development during that period.
Compared to other people today, you are all a little crazy. You all have something that sets you apart from the current general development, something that is present to a greater or lesser extent in each of you. You have a certain kind of eccentricity. You are, in a certain way, not quite normal. Those who are normal, that is, “normal people,” cannot understand some things. Chemists with a normal education cannot understand Kolisko’s chemistry. They simply have no concepts for it. Our goal should be to make that understanding possible for our students. However, we cannot achieve that when we are forced to work toward ruining brains in exactly the same way that modern schools work toward that goal. Souls cannot be ruined. They undergo a self-correction before the next earthly life, although if things remain as they are today and continue into the next earthly life, humanity will degenerate. We cannot do these things. It is simply impossible. Even people like Herman Grimm could maintain themselves upon their islands only by brusquely brushing away certain concepts. People like him simply went past others, but they were the last who had such concepts. Those people, who were quite old during the 1890s, were the last who had them, and that possibility died with them.
It is particularly difficult with today’s youth. Today’s young people, as we have seen quite clearly in our anthroposophical youth movement, have a tendency to reject all ideas. They are not interested in ideas and, therefore, to the extent that they do not accept anthroposophy, become disorganized. Today’s young people are forced into a terrible tragedy, particularly if they are academically inclined and have gone through our college preparatory schools. We can achieve more for those students who go into practical life at the age of fourteen.
It is impossible, for example, to develop a spatial concept as I described it in the recent teachers’ course in Dornach, that is, the three dimensions, up-down, left-right, front-back. That is why it is so difficult to give people an understanding of anthroposophical truths. No one today is interested in things for which there should be broad public interest. I have said that everything connected with the will works three-dimensionally in the earthly realm. Everything connected with feeling is not three-dimensional, but two-dimensional, so that when you move from willing to feeling in your soul, you have to project the third dimension onto the plane in a direction that corresponds with front to back. We need to remember that we cannot simply — we can reduce it to the symmetry of the human being, but we cannot limit it to only that. This plane is two-dimensional everywhere — thinking then leads to one dimension and the I to zero dimensions. When we do that, the situation becomes quite clear. Now I ask you, how can such elementary things be presented in a lecture? There is simply no possibility of making that plausible to the modern public. No one is interested in it.
It would certainly be wonderful if, for example, in addition to the normal perspective of orthogonals, planes, and centers, people understood perspectives of three dimensions to two, from two dimensions to one, and then from one to the zero dimension. It would be wonderful if people could do that so that we could differentiate a point in many ways.
I am telling you all these things so that you can see how things need to be in the future and how we should form a school that would really educate people. Today, so-called educated people are really very undeveloped because today’s students are required to know many things in a certain way, but they really need to know them in a quite different way. I think we should try to do as much of that as possible in the lower grades, but in the upper grades, we must be untrue to our own principles, at least for the most part. We can only include one thing or another here and there. Even someone like J.W. can say to me that she would take the final examination if she thought she would pass. I told her that would be sensible only if she is certain she will pass. If she failed, it would not be good for the school.
The worst thing is that if we could convince the state to accept our reports, our students could very well follow a course of study at the university with what they would learn from our curriculum. Everything connected with the final examination, which causes such misery in modern school life, is absolutely unnecessary for studying at the university. Students could take up Kolisko’s chemistry as a subject. They would at first be surprised by chemical formulas, of course, but they could learn that later. It is much more important that they understand the inner processes of materials and the relationships between them. These are the things I wanted to say. I would like to discuss this whole question further. I would have completed the curriculum, but it has no meaning for the twelfth grade. We already know what we must do.
The students need to complete all the practical subjects insofar as possible. That is something you will feel after a time. So that the children have some sense of security, I would like to ask them about these subjects. I had the impression a while ago that the children thought the questions were unusual when you stated them poorly.
A teacher: Could we split the classes?
Dr. Steiner: We would need to have parallel classes from the age of fourteen, but we do not have enough teachers. The problem is financial. I would like to know how the finances are now. We should always keep that in mind.
There is some discussion about the financial situation.
Dr. Steiner: Well, the important thing is not that we have a financial report, but that we always have what we need in the bank. We can certainly continue, but we will have to do something. Otherwise, it will be impossible to do what needs to be done. For now, we cannot consider such a split.
At the college level, we cannot reach our goals for a very long time. The Cultural Committee might have done that, but they fell asleep after a few weeks. We might be able to achieve the things we want so much if we had the situation that existed in Austria for many private high schools. There many parochial high schools had the right to give and grade the final examinations, and technical schools could provide an accepted final report. I believe there are no such institutions in Germany. We would need a state official to be present, but the teachers would actually do the testing. A state official, while certainly causing many difficulties in our souls, in the end would have little effect on the grades if the final examination was held by our teachers.
A teacher: I believe we should speak to the students who will not be able to pass the final examination.
Dr. Steiner: That depends. People will say the faculty is at fault if more than a third of the class do not achieve the learning goals. If it is less than a third, the fault is thought to be the students’, but when a third or more do not achieve what they should, then it is seen as the faculty’s problem. You know that, don’t you?
In general, no one who has had good grades fails. The problem is, that is not taken into account. A further point is whether we could avoid using those really unpedagogical textbooks. The teacher could, of course, use them for preparation. Most of those texts are simply extracts from various scientific books. I have noticed that the questions come from such books and that there are readings from them, also. That can, however, cause many problems. We need to get away from using such references. We can use Lübsen’s books since they are quite educational, although the last editions have been somewhat ruined. His books are very pedagogical through all the editions before those made by his successor. Imagine for a moment the wonderful value of calculus in pedagogy. His analytical geometry is also pedagogically wonderful, at least the older edition, as well as his volumes on algebra and analysis. He has, for example, a collection of problems that are extraordinarily good because the methods required to solve them are very instructive.
A teacher: Should we throw out all the textbooks?
Dr. Steiner: For translation, they are not so bad. However, for German readings, you should not use normal textbooks. They are quite tasteless. Perhaps we should write down our lesson plans for the following teachers, so they could at least have some material for reading. There are so many people here who can type. Why can’t we prepare documents that people can read? The offices are filled with people, but I have no idea what they do.
A teacher: The students in the twelfth grade would like an additional hour of French.
Dr. Steiner: I would like to make everything possible. It is terrible that the twelfth-grade students will not receive an introduction to architecture. If everyone teaching languages helped, it might be possible.
An English teacher asks about prose readings for the twelfth grade, about Carlyle’s On Heroes, Hero Worship, and the Heroic in History, and about the English art and literature magazine The Athenaeum.
Dr. Steiner: The Athenaeum is edited very practically. You should not give it to the students, but instead use some individual essays. You could also use it in the eleventh grade. We do not have such well-edited magazines in Germany anymore. This is an old magazine, a humanistic magazine par excellence. There was a terrible German imitation called Literary News. Zarnck’s Literarisches Zentralblatt (Literary journal) was also a terrible imitation. It was a magazine for people who do not exist even in England.
A teacher: We have done enough of Tacitus and Horace. Should we take up Sallustius?
Dr. Steiner: Sallustius and Tacitus. I think the Germania would be enough. You could have them read a larger piece from that and then give them a test.
A teacher asks about music for the twelfth grade.
Dr. Steiner: A feeling for style, as such, an awareness of how Bach differs from others, is the main thing for the twelfth grade. At worst, you will have a problem at Christmastime if we see that we cannot continue all of the art instruction. Do not consider it an impossibility that we have to stop all art instruction at Christmas. Other people make fun of our things.
A teacher asks about religious instruction for the twelfth grade.
Dr. Steiner: You should go through religious history and give an overview of religious development. Begin with the ethnographic religions and then go on to folk religions and finally universal religions.
Begin with the ethnographic religions such as the Egyptian regional gods, where the religions are still quite dependent upon the various tribes. There are also regional gods throughout Greece. You need to do this in stages. At first, we have the religions that are fixed at a given location, the holy places. Then, during the period of wandering, the tent replaces the holy places, the religion becomes more mobile, and folk religions arise. Finally, we have universal religions, Buddhism and Christianity. We cannot call any other religions universal.
In the ninth grade, read the Gospel of Luke, which is a pouring out of the Holy Spirit.
A teacher asks about the Apocrypha.
Dr. Steiner: The children are not yet mature enough to go through the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha contains many things that are more correct than what is written in the Gospels. I have always extended the Gospels by what we can verify from the Apocrypha. Sometimes there are strong conflicts. When they take up the Gospels, the children must grasp them. It is difficult to explain the contradictions, so if they took up the Apocrypha nothing would make sense anymore. I would simply study the Gospels. A teacher asks about religion in the tenth grade.
Dr. Steiner: Following St. John’s Gospel, a number of paths are possible. You could do either the Gospel of St. Mark or Augustine, selecting some sections from the Confessions where he speaks more about religion.
A teacher asks if they should teach zoology and botany in the twelfth grade.
Dr. Steiner: Those subjects need to be included if our reports are to be officially recognized. We study zoology in the fifth grade, then the human being, then zoology again. If we did not have this problem of final examinations, I think it would be wonderful to present zoology to the children in the course of three weeks. That would be eighteen mornings to handle the twelve groups of animals. In the twelfth grade, we should limit zoology to categorization; the same is true of plants.
The students already know about skeletal structure, since you have already done anthropology. The most important thing is that they gain an overview about how we classify animals. You should begin with single-celled animals, then go through the worms. You will have twelve if you consider the vertebrates as one class. A teacher asks about how continents swim.
Dr. Steiner: Usually people do not think about how it looks if you move toward the center of the Earth. You would soon come to regions where it is very fluid, whether it is water or something else. Thus, according to our normal understanding, the continents swim. The question is, of course, why they don’t bump into one another, why they don’t move back and forth, and why they are always the same distance from one another, since the Earth is under all kinds of influences. Why don’t they bump into one another? For instance, why is a channel always the same width? We can find no explanation for that from within the Earth. That is something that comes from outside. All fixed land swims and the stars hold it in position. Otherwise, everything would break apart. The seas tend to be spherical.
A teacher asks for more details. Dr. Steiner takes a teacher’s notebook and draws the following sketch in it while giving an explanation.
Dr. Steiner: The contrast is interesting. The continents swim and do not sit upon anything. They are held in position upon the Earth by the constellations. When the constellations change, the continents change, also. The old tellurians and atlases properly included the constellations of the zodiac in relationship to the configuration of the Earth’s surface. The continents are held from the periphery; the higher realms hold the parts of the Earth. In contrast, the Earth holds the Moon dynamically, as if on a leash. The Moon goes along as if on a tether.
A teacher asks about drawing exercises for fourteen- and fifteenyear- olds.
Dr. Steiner: You should have the children paint the moods of nature. The continuation students in Dornach have done wonderful work in painting. I had them paint the difference between sunrise and sunset, and some of them have done that wonderfully. They should learn those differences and be able to paint them. Those are the kinds of things you could work with, for example, the mood of rain in the forest. In addition, they should learn the differences between painting and sculpting.
In the lower grades, take care, when things get out of hand and you cannot get through the material, that you do not rashly reach for a substitute and simply tell the children a story to keep them quiet.
I hope to be here again tomorrow morning.