Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
21 June 1923, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: There are some things that are troubling me about the school, so I think I need to spend two days here next week. There are two things I think we need to discuss, but today we can do nothing but address more pressing problems.
Certainly, all of the points we discussed yesterday are important. The first thing troubling me, particularly after what I saw this morning in various classes, is the issue of punctuation. The second thing we need to resolve is a kind of running wild here at school, which we can certainly not take lightly.
Let’s take that as our starting point. Let’s start with the 9b class. The teachers have described some things to me, but this morning the 9b class was very well behaved. The only thing that troubled me was how they write. It cannot continue that way.
Regarding unruliness, I would ask those of you who have some concerns to present them objectively.
A number of teachers speak about the class and the particularly difficult students F.R., T.L., D.M., K.F., and J.L. Regardless of what the teachers attempted, they were unable to create a respectful attitude toward the great artists. F.R. incited the boys to a pogrom-like attitude. They also wrote some obscene things on the door to the teachers’ bathroom.
Dr. Steiner: First, I would like to say that F.R. suffers from a persecution complex and, aside from that, hates women. T.L. appears to be somewhat weak minded, as are D.M. and K.F. Here we have some psychological problems, and F.R.’s hatred of women affects the others. That is the situation. It would be interesting to know if a large part of his misbehavior is related to that question. The misbehavior I saw certainly comes from that direction.
This is not an easy case. F.R. came to us first in the fourth grade, after having been beaten at home. In addition, he felt he was treated extremely poorly by the fourth grade teacher, and many of the things he told me took on particular nuances in his fantasy. From what he told me, it seems he made an unsympathetic impression upon the teacher, and she took it out on him. Now he feels at least subjectively justified in thinking that the teacher had her favorites in the class, and that he was set back because he was one of the most disliked. At the time, all this created a small crisis, particularly because the teacher was not firm enough. She had to retract much later. In the fourth grade, the boy was not properly handled, so we were not able to move him into the fifth grade. That caused some trouble for me at the time. However, you had him for quite a time. How did it go?
A teacher: In the fifth grade, I had no problems with him. He was strongly impressed then.
Dr. Steiner: At that time, he was four years younger and the impression he got was that there is still some justice. Possibly that was weakened later, but that was the impression he had then. His feeling was that the world was unjust, but that there is still some kind of justice. Now he has some psychological problems. Certainly, since that time it seems to me that the boy — well, what should we do? We can only treat him if he trusts someone. The teachers’ viewpoint may be justifiable, but what he lost is trust. Somehow, he lost trust again.
T.L. is the boy who, when he reads or hears something, becomes possessed. He is possessed by good and by evil. When something dramatic occurs, he is possessed and speaks in that way. When he talked back to you, he did so out of that state. It is really a problem. K.F. is not exactly honest, either. It is not only that he misstates things, but he has a tendency toward absolute lying. He needs a strong hand. It is not easy, you see, because we are not in a position of following things with greater energy.
There is something else we need to take into account. If you think F.R. would write a good essay about Raphael and Grünewald in the ninth grade, you will never come to terms with him. That is completely impossible in his present incarnation. He cannot do it, nor can he understand it. It is something that lies outside his field of vision. When he realizes he cannot understand it, he dries up inwardly and the bad juices, the etherically bad juices, rise and push him on so that he becomes vengeful. The recurring theme of his thinking is that he is unjustly treated.
There is nothing more I can do other than speak with these five boys. It is something that could make the 9b class impossible. I will speak with them next week. We need to have some order here. There is little possibility of doing very much. All these things point to something below the surface. We need to recognize that many of these things are only symptoms. The obscene things you mentioned are only symptoms of something lying deeper within him. He probably did that as revenge against a teacher.
I once knew a class who had to write some letters. You should have seen what the boys thought up as names for the writer. They really thought up some names. They made up names by abbreviating first names in unthinkable ways, when you read the first and last name together, so that the result was a cynical provocation. Everyone in school knew about it.
We really cannot take such things seriously. The situation often depends only upon how you laugh. You need to get used to laughing at such things. If you get angry — well, fifteen-year-old boys are a particular kind of human being. We need to look into the situation further.
The transition years are difficult for these children, and we can see we need to do something. There is not enough energy, not enough punch in the German class in the eighth and ninth grades. That is something the children miss in their German class. We must teach them in an interesting way about the structure and style of sentences. You need to develop a feeling for style through essays. That should begin at the age of twelve. I mentioned these things in the course about adolescents. You should discuss forming pictures with them, metaphors, similes, and anecdotes. I have noticed that this is missing. We will never be able to introduce them to punctuation if they do not comprehend the value of a word in style.
The fact is that the way you are teaching German, they will never understand style and essays. In the ninth grade, they do not even know what a sentence is. They write in such a way that it is clear they have no idea what a sentence is. They have no feeling for style. That is something you must include in your teaching. German class is not quite what it should be, and that has tremendous significance for these developmental years. The boys and girls are changing the inner style of their sentences just as they are changing their speech. If you do not take that into account, they will have an inner deficit.
The important thing is that if you ask yourselves how many of the students in the entire Waldorf School are such that you would have such critical opinions of them, you will find it is nowhere near 5 percent.
I would also like to draw your attention to something else. All kinds of things occur in the Society. Recently, a man came to an official of the Society and said, “I know you have great ideas. The ideas are very good, but no one in the Society has the proper will. The reason for that is that you people in the Society do not take care of the egotists in the proper way. I am a prime example of a real egotist. I have no ideas, although I would like to have some. However, I do have will. A couple of people like myself,” — and you should take note of this — “three or four students like me could get all the students and faculty to do what we want, and in the end, the school inspector too.”
Three or four can dominate an entire class, even the whole school. The school cannot go under simply because of them.
There are some other things also. The 3b class is really horrible, but there is a way to improve it by taking two of the boys out and putting them into the remedial class. We need to make the remedial class not only for those who are intellectually weak, but also for those who are morally weak. That would be good for the 3b class. The two boys, K.E. and R.B., should go immediately into the remedial class. They are infecting the whole class. The class would not be so bad, but then we have these two boys. As long as they are there, you will be unable to do anything with the class.