Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
5 February 1924, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: I am sorry I could not come sooner, but it was not possible. We have a number of things to catch up on, and I am really very happy to be here today.
A member of the administrative committee: (After greeting Dr. Steiner) After we came back from the Christmas Conference in Dornach, we felt responsible for doing everything to make the Waldorf School an appropriate instrument for its new task. I have been asked to tell you that the members of the administrative committee now place their positions in your hands. Since it seems possible that the relationship of the school to the Anthroposophical Society may change, we would like you to redetermine from this new standpoint how the school should be run.
Dr. Steiner: I certainly understand how this view could arise among you, since the intent of the Christmas Conference was to do something for anthroposophy based upon a complete reformation, a new foundation of the Anthroposophical Society. On the other hand, the Christmas Conference gave the Anthroposophical Society an explicitly esoteric character. That seems to contradict the public presentation, but through the various existing intentions, which will gradually be realized over the course of time, people will see that the actual leadership of the Anthroposophical Society, the present board of directors [Vorstand] in Dornach, will have a completely esoteric basis. That will also effect a complete renewal of the Anthroposophical Society.
Now, it is quite understandable that the various institutions connected with anthroposophy ask themselves how they should relate to what happened in Dornach. In my letter to members published in our newsletter, I said that the conference in Dornach will have a real purpose only if that purpose is not forgotten for all time. The conference will realize its complete content to the extent individual anthroposophical institutions slowly make the intent of the Dornach conference their own.
The Christmas Conference was the second part of a decision in principle. The first part was that if anthroposophists want it, the board of directors will do some things from Dornach, and that includes a continuous questioning of life within the Anthroposophical Society. In principle, there is a decision that — to the extent that this intention is realized, that we bring it into reality— the board of directors in Dornach is justified in taking over the responsibility for anthroposophy, not just for the Society. That is the esoteric purpose, but of course the esoteric impulses must come from various directions. I would like to ask the individual institutions to understand that whatever emanates from Dornach always has an esoteric background. It is, of course, just as understandable that the Waldorf School particularly, and its representatives, question its relationship to Dornach and to the Free School of Spiritual Science.
Perhaps, as you have considered the question in more detail, you already feel there are some significant difficulties, particularly concerning the final decision about the administrative committee. The situation is this: First, we must find the form through which the Waldorf School can make the connection to the School of Spiritual Science. Formally, the Waldorf School is not an anthroposophical institution; rather, it is an independent creation based upon the foundations of anthroposophical pedagogy. In the way it meets the public, as well as the way it meets legal institutions, it is not an anthroposophical institution, but a school based upon anthroposophical pedagogy. Suppose the Independent Waldorf School were now to become officially related to the School of Spiritual Science in Dornach. Then the Waldorf School would immediately become an anthroposophical school in a formal, external sense. Of course, there are some things that would support making such a decision. On the other hand, though, we must consider whether the Waldorf School can fulfill its cultural tasks better as an independent school with an unhindered form than it can as a direct part of what emanates from Dornach. Everything that emanates from Dornach is also collected there. If the Independent Waldorf School entered a direct relationship to Dornach, all activities of the Waldorf School falling within the Pedagogical Section of the Anthroposophical Society would also be the responsibility of the leadership of the School of Spiritual Science and fall within their authority. In the future, Dornach will not be simply a decoration, as many anthroposophical institutions have been. Dornach will be a reality. Every institution belonging to Dornach will, in fact, must, recognize the authority of the leadership in Dornach. That will be necessary. At the same time, the leadership of the Waldorf School would then take on an esoteric character.
On the other hand, given the state of the world today, we could certainly weigh the question of whether the Waldorf School could best achieve its cultural goals that way. This is definitely not a question we can immediately brush aside. Weighed with nothing but the most serious feeling of responsibility, the question is extremely difficult since it could mean a radical change throughout the Independent Waldorf School.
Pedagogical life in the modern world may still be subject to the error, or better said the illusion, expressed through the various goals of all kinds of pedagogical organizations. However, everything in those pedagogical organizations is really nothing more than talk. In reality, pedagogy is increasingly falling prey to three factors of development, two of which are making giant steps today. Anthroposophy, the third factor, is very weak; it is only a shadow and is not seen by opponents as anything of any importance. Pedagogy is slowly being captured by the two main streams in the world, the Catholic and the Bolshevik, or socialist, streams. Anyone who wants to can easily see that all other tendencies are on a downward path in regard to success. That says nothing at all about the value of Catholicism or Bolshevism, only about their strength. Each has tremendous strength, and that strength increases every week. Now people are trying to bring all other cultural movements into those two, so it only makes sense to orient pedagogy with the third cultural stream, anthroposophy. That is the situation in the world.
It is really marvelous how little thought humanity gives to anything today, so that it allows the most important symptoms to go by without thinking. The fact that a centuries-old tradition has been broken in England by MacDonald’s system is something so radical, so important, that it was marvelous that the world did not even notice it. On the other hand, we from the anthroposophical side should take note of how external events clearly show that the age whose history can be written from the purely physical perspective has passed. We need to be clear that Ahrimanic forces are increasingly breaking in upon historical events. Two leading personalities, Wilson and Lenin, died from the same illness, both from paralysis, which means that both offered an opening for Ahrimanic forces. These things show that world history is no longer earthly history, and is becoming cosmic history. All such things are of great importance and play a role in our detailed questions.
If we now go on to the more concrete problem of the administrative committee putting their work back into my hands, you should not forget that the primary question was decided through the conference in Dornach. From 1912 until 1923, I lived within the Anthroposophical Society with no official position, without even being a member, something I clearly stated in 1912. I have actually belonged to the Anthroposophical Society only as an advisor, as a teacher, as the one who was to show the sources of spiritual science. Through the Christmas Conference, I became chairman of the Anthroposophical Society, and from then on my activities are those of the chairman of the Society. If I were to name the administrative committee now, that committee would be named by the chairman of the Anthroposophical Society. The highest body of the Independent Waldorf School would thus be designated by the chairman of the Anthroposophical Society. That is certainly something we could consider, but I want you to know that when we go on to discuss this whole problem. If the Waldorf School and Dornach had that relationship, then the Waldorf School would be something different from what it is now. Something new would be created, different from what was created at the founding of the Waldorf School. The Christmas Conference in Dornach was not just a ceremony like the majority of anthroposophical activities, even though they may not have a ceremonious character, particularly in Stuttgart. The Christmas Conference was completely serious, so anything resulting from it is also very serious.
The Independent Waldorf School can relate to Dornach in other ways. One of those would be not to place the school under Dornach, but instead to have the faculty, or those within the faculty who wish to do so, enter a relationship to Dornach, to the Goetheanum, to the School of Spiritual Science, not for themselves, but as teachers of the school. The Waldorf School, as such, would not take on that characteristic, but it would emphasize to the outer world that from now on the Pedagogical Section at the Goetheanum will provide the impulse for the Waldorf School pedagogy, just as anthroposophical pedagogy previously provided it. The difference would be that, whereas the relationship to anthroposophical pedagogy was more theoretical, in the future the relationship would be more alive. Then, the faculty as a whole or as individuals would conform to the impulses that would result when one, as a teacher at the Independent Waldorf School, is a member of the School of Spiritual Science. That relationship would make it impossible for the Goetheanum to name the administrative committee. The committee would, of course, need to remain as it is now because the thought behind it is that the committee was chosen, even elected, by the faculty. It may not even be possible from the perspective of the legal authorities here for the administrative committee to be named from Dornach. I do not believe the laws of Württemberg would allow the administrative committee of the Independent Waldorf School to be chosen from the Goetheanum, that is, from an institution existing outside Germany. The only other possibility would be for me to name the new administrative committee. However, that is unnecessary.
These are the things I wanted to present to you. You can see from them that you should consider the question in detail yourselves. Now I would like you to tell me your thoughts about the solution of the question. Whether you want to give me more or less control over the solution, whether you want me to decide how you should operate. You do not need to do this in any way other than to say what you have already discussed in the faculty, and what led you to say what you said at the outset.
A teacher: For us, the question was whether the Christmas Conference in Dornach changed the relationship of the Waldorf School to the Anthroposophical Society.
Dr. Steiner: The Waldorf School has had no relationship to the Anthroposophical Society. Because it was outside the Society, the Christmas Conference has no significance for the Waldorf School. That is the situation. It is different, though, for institutions that arose directly from the Anthroposophical Society. That is quite different. The Waldorf School was founded as an independent institution. The relationship that existed was unofficial and can continue with the new Society. The relationship was completely free, something that came into existence each day because the vast majority of the teachers here belonged to the Anthroposophical Society and because anthroposophical pedagogy was carried out in a free manner, since, as the representative of anthroposophical pedagogy, I also was chairman of the faculty. We need change none of that.
A teacher: How should we understand the Pedagogical Section?
Dr. Steiner: We can only slowly put into practice the intentions of the Christmas Conference, particularly those of the School of Spiritual Science. To an extent, that is because we do not have enough money right now to construct all the buildings that we will need for everything we want to do. What we need will gradually be created. For now, the various sections will be created to the extent possible with the people and resources available today. My thought was that the basis for creating the Independent University as an institution of the Anthroposophical Society would be the membership of the School of Spiritual Science. I have now seen that a large number of teachers of the Waldorf School have applied for membership; thus, they will also be members and from the very beginning become a means for spreading the pedagogy emanating from the Independent University. We will have to wait and see which other institutions join the Independent University.
Other institutions have often expressed a desire to form a relationship with Dornach. The situation is simple with those anthroposophical institutions that have either all the prejudices against them or none. For example, the Clinical Therapeutic Institute here in Stuttgart can join. Either it has been fought against from the very beginning as an anthroposophical institution, in which case no harm is done if it joins, or it has been recognized because people are forced to see that the healing methods used there are more effective than those found elsewhere, in which case it is obvious that it joins. That institution is not in the same situation in regard to the world as a school. The clinic can join without any further problems.
However, if a school suddenly became an anthroposophical school, that would upset both the official authorities and the public. There is even a strong possibility that the school officials would object. They actually have no right to do so, and it doesn’t make any sense to object to the pedagogical methods, which can certainly be those of anthroposophy. There is also no reason to object even if all the teachers personally became members of the School of Spiritual Science in Dornach. That is of no concern to the officials, and they can raise no objection to it. However, they would immediately object if an existing relationship between the Waldorf School and the School of Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum required the Waldorf School to accept pedagogical decisions made there, so that, for example, those in Dornach controlled the curriculum here. That is certainly true for the first eight grades. If we had only the higher grades, from the ninth grade on, hardly any objections could be raised except for possibly not allowing the students to take their final examinations, but the officials would hardly do that. Nevertheless, they would not allow it for the elementary school grades.
The basic thought of the School of Spiritual Science is that it will direct its primary activity toward insight and life. Thus, we can say that every member has not only the right, but, in a certain sense, a moral obligation to align him- or herself with Dornach in regard to pedagogical questions. Certainly, there will be people at the School of Spiritual Science who want to learn par excellence. However, once having learned, they will remain members, just as someone who has earned a diploma from a French or Norwegian or Danish university remains a member of the university and has a continuing relationship with it. In France, you do not simply receive a piece of paper when you earn a degree, you become a lifelong member of the university and retain a scientific connection to it. That is something the old Society members who will be members of the school under the assumption that they already know a great deal of what will be presented there should consider from the very beginning. The school will, however, continually have scientific or artistic tasks to resolve in which all members of the school should participate. To that extent, the life of each individual member of the school will be enriched. In the near future, we will send the same requests to all members of the other sections that we have already sent to the members of the Medical Section, requesting that they turn toward Dornach in important matters. We will also send a monthly or bimonthly newsletter, which will contain answers to all the questions posed by the membership. However, you would not be a member of the section, but of the class. The sections are only for the leadership in Dornach. The board of directors works together with the sections, but the individual members belong to a class.
A teacher: Should we work toward making it possible for the Waldorf School to be under Dornach?
Dr. Steiner: As with everything that can really be done, the moment we wish to join the school with Dornach we are treading upon a path we once had to leave, had to abandon, because we were not up to the situation when we undertook it. That is the path of threefolding. If you imagine the Independent Waldorf School joined with the School of Spiritual Science, you must realize that could only occur under the auspices of what lies at the foundation of threefolding. We would be working toward a specific goal if all reasonable institutions worked toward threefolding. However, we have to allow the world to go its own way after it intentionally did not want to go the other one. We are working toward threefolding, but we have to remember that an institution like the Independent Waldorf School with its objectively anthroposophical character, has goals that, of course, coincide with anthroposophical desires. At the moment, though, if that connection were made official, people could break the Waldorf School’s neck. Therefore, the way things presently are, I would advise that we not choose a new administrative committee; rather, leave it as it is and decide things one way or another according to these two questions. First, is it sufficient that the teachers here at the school become individual members of the School of Spiritual Science in Dornach? Or, second, do you want to be members through the faculty as a whole, so that you would have membership as teachers of the Independent Waldorf School? In the latter case, the Pedagogical Section in Dornach would have to concern itself with the Waldorf School, whereas it would otherwise be concerned only with general questions of pedagogy.
That is certainly a major difference. Our newsletter might then have statements such as, “It would be best to do such and such at the Independent Waldorf School.” In a certain sense, such statements would then be binding on the teachers at the Waldorf School, which would be connected with the School of Spiritual Science. There is no danger in joining all branches and groups with the Anthroposophical Society. Actually, they have to do that. All such groups of many individuals who fulfill the requirements, and such institutions as, for example, the biological institute, the research institute, and the clinic can join. You could have problems otherwise. The difficulties that would arise for the Waldorf School would not be of concern there. When the school was founded, we placed great value upon creating an institution independent of the Anthroposophical Society. Logically, that corresponds quite well with having the various religious communities and the Anthroposophical Society provide religious instruction, so that the Society provides religious instruction just as other religious groups do. The Anthroposophical Society gives instruction in religion and the services. That is something we can justifiably say whenever others claim that the Waldorf School is an anthroposophical school. Although anthroposophy believes it has the best pedagogy, the character of anthroposophy is not forced upon the school. That is a very clear situation. Had The Coming Day approached the Anthroposophical Society for exercises everyone who wanted to could do, then the remarks in the Newsletter would not have been necessary. We can clearly see the real formalities through such things.
A teacher: Hasn’t a change already occurred since you, the head of the Waldorf School, are now also the head of the Anthroposophical Society?
Dr. Steiner: That is not the case. The position I have taken changes nothing about my being head of the school. The conference was purely anthroposophical and the Waldorf School had no official connection with the Society. What might happen if, in the course of time, the leadership of the Anthroposophical Society in Dornach takes over the guidance of the religious instruction, is a different question. Were that to occur, it would be a situation of organic growth.
A teacher: Is the position we took at the founding of the Waldorf School still valid today?
Dr. Steiner: When you present the question that way, the real question is whether it is even appropriate for the faculty to approach the question, or whether that is actually a question for the Waldorf School Association. You see, the outside world views the Waldorf School Association as the actual administration of the school. You know about the seven wise men who guide the school. This is a question we should consider in deciding whether the Waldorf School is to be joined with Dornach or not, that is, should the faculty of the Waldorf School decide whether to join as a whole or as individual teachers? Everything concerning pedagogy can be decided only in that way. Under certain circumstances, this is a professional question. The Waldorf School is as it is, outside of that. You need to look at things realistically. What would you do if you, here in the faculty, decided to connect the school with Dornach, and then the school association refused to pay your salaries because of that decision? That is something that is at least theoretically possible.
A teacher asks about the final examination.
Dr. Steiner: In connection with the question of the final examination, which is purely a question of compromise, what would change through the connection to the Society?
The teacher explains his question further.
Dr. Steiner: Well, the only other viewpoint would have to be that we absolutely refuse to take into account whether a student wishes to take the final examination or not, that we consider it a private decision of the student. Until now, no one has been thinking of that, and the question is whether we should consider that as a principle. Thus, all students’ parents would be confronted with the question, “Do I dare consider sending my child into life without having taken the final examination?” Of course, we can do that, but the question is really whether we should do that. All that is quite independent of the possibility that we may have no students at all or only those who cannot go anywhere else. It seems to me very problematic whether we can bring that question into the discussion of final examinations. I do not believe a connection with Dornach would change anything in that regard. In some ways, we would still have to make a compromise.
I believe we first need to choose a form. Such things are not permanent; they can always be reconsidered. I think you should decide to become members of the School of Spiritual Science as individual teachers, but with the additional remark that you want to become a member as a teacher of the Independent Waldorf School. I think that will achieve everything you want, and nothing else is necessary for the time being. The difference is that if you join as an individual without being a member as a teacher, there would be no mention of the Waldorf School in our newsletter, and, therefore, questions specifically about the Waldorf School would not be handled by Dornach. Of course, if you add that you are joining as a teacher, that has no real meaning for you, but for the cultural task of the Waldorf School it does have some significance, because all other members of the School of Spiritual Science will receive news about what those in Dornach think about the Waldorf School. The Independent Waldorf School would then be part of anthroposophical pedagogical life, and interest would spread to a much greater extent. Everywhere members of the School of Spiritual Science come together, people would speak about the Waldorf School: “This or that is good,” and so forth. The Waldorf School would thereby become a topic of interest for the Society, whereas it is presently not an anthroposophical activity. For you, it is all the same. The questions that would be discussed in Dornach would of course be different from those that arise here. It could, however, be possible that we need to discuss the same questions here in our meetings. For the Society as a whole, however, it would not be all the same. It would be something major for anthroposophical pedagogy, and in doing that you would fulfill the mission of the Independent Waldorf School. Through such an action, you would accomplish something you actually want, namely, making the Independent Waldorf School part of the overall cultural mission of anthroposophy. It could, for example, happen that a question arises in the faculty meeting in the Waldorf School in Stuttgart that then becomes a concern of the School of Spiritual Science.
A teacher: That would mean the school would send reports about our work for publication in the newsletter.
Dr. Steiner: It would be good to make reports about the pedagogical methods so long as they do not concern personnel questions, unless, of course, these had pedagogical significance.
The teachers ask Dr. Steiner how he envisions the Easter pedagogical conference and ask him to give a theme for the conference.
Dr. Steiner: The only thing I have to say is that the conference at Easter must take into account that there will also be a pedagogical course in Zurich beginning Easter Monday.
I would like to bring up another question, which relates to something we mentioned earlier. What we can do from the Waldorf School is the following, although I need to consider what I’m now going to mention in more detail. There is another way that could immediately bring you closer to achieving your intention of a complete connection with the anthroposophical movement. The proposal is that the Waldorf School declare itself prepared to host a conference that the Anthroposophical Society would present at Easter at the school. No one could complain about that. Certainly, the Independent Waldorf School could hold an anthroposophical conference on its own grounds. That is something we can do. I would like to think some more about whether this is the proper time. However, I do not think there will be any public objection, and the officials at the ministry will not even understand the difference. They will certainly not understand what it means. That would be a beginning. I will set up the program.
There is one other thing I would like to say. The Youth Conference of the Christian Community in Kassel was quite in character in terms of the desires you now bear in your hearts. What happened was that the Christian Community priests held small meetings from Wednesday until the end of the week with those who wished an introduction to what the Christian Community, as a religious group, has to say. The whole thing closed with a service for the participants of the conference. The last two or three days were available for open discussions, so that the people who attended had an opportunity to meet officially with the Christian Community and see that it is independent of the Anthroposophical Society.
I should mention that the participants consisted of young people under the age of twenty, and others who were thirty-six and older, so that the middle generation was missing, something characteristic of our time. They participated in a Mass, followed by open discussion that assumed the topic would cover what had been experienced. What actually happened, however, was that what had been experienced awakened a longing for something more, so that the anthroposophists present then spoke about anthroposophy. It could be seen that all of what had occurred had anthroposophy as its goal. That was a very characteristic conference because it shows that what is objectively desired is a connection with Anthroposophy. There will be something about the Kassel youth conference in the next newsletter.
A teacher discusses the question of the final examination and says that some students will be advised to not take it.
Dr. Steiner: The question is how we should give the students that advice. If you handle the question from the perspective you mentioned, the principles will not be readily apparent when you give that advice. I would like to know what you have to say about the principles.
A teacher: If students are to take the final examination at the end of the twelfth grade, we cannot achieve our true learning goals in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades. Instead, we will have to work toward preparing the students to pass the examination. They should take both a thirteenth school year and the examination at another school.
Dr. Steiner: On the other hand, the whole question of final examinations arose from a different perspective, namely, that the students wanted to, or their guardians wanted them to, take the test. Has anything changed in that regard? The students, of course, are unhappy, but students in other schools are also unhappy that they need to learn things they don’t want to learn. I mean that our students are unhappy about the same things all other children with the same maturity at eighteen or nineteen years are unhappy about. The question of final examinations is purely a question of opportunity. It is a question of whether we dare tell those who come to us that we will not prepare them for the final examination at all, that it is a private decision of the student whether to take the final examination or not. That is the question. For the future, it would be possible to answer that question in principle, but I do not think it would be correct to decide it for this year at the present stage.
A teacher asks whether it would be better to have the students take a thirteenth school year at another school and take their examinations there. Should a note be sent to the parents with that suggestion?
Dr. Steiner: You can do all that, but our students cannot avoid having to take an entrance examination. The question is only whether they will fail the entrance examination or the final examination.
Most of the parents want their children to have an opportunity to attend a university, in spite of the fact they gave the students to us. Both parents and students want that. At the beginning, the children did not believe it would be a problem. Their concern was that they would be able to take the final examination. That is certainly a possibility, and they can try it, but we cannot solve the problem simply by sending the students to a thirteenth school year at another school. The question is only whether we can solve it in the way we already discussed but found very problematic and therefore rejected. If we are firm about completing the school, the question is whether we could consider the alternative of creating a preparatory session in addition to the school. We rejected that because we thought it very unpedagogical. The question is whether to create a preparatory group or ignore the curriculum. I think it would be best if we did not send the students to another school. They would then need to take an entrance examination. However, if we completed the curriculum through the twelfth grade, we could use a thirteenth year to prepare them for the final examination.
Let’s consider the question pedagogically. Suppose a child comes into the first grade at the age of six or seven and completes the twelfth grade at the age of eighteen or nineteen. At that time and not later, the child should actually begin the transition into the university. Adding another year then is just about as smart as what the state does when it believes there is more material to be learned and adds an additional year for medical education. Those are the sorts of things that can drive you up the wall. Those who do not want to attend the university will need to find their own way in life. They will be useful people in life without the final examination, since they will find what they need for life here. Those who are to go to the university can use an additional year to unlearn a little. I think we can certainly think of the thirteenth year as a year of boning up. Nevertheless, we will certainly need to be careful that they pass, since we cannot put the children in a different school. We will need to separate it in some way from the Waldorf School, and we could hire instructors. We would have to enlarge the faculty to include the thirteenth grade. If we hired such people and the faculty kept control of things, we could possibly do that. That is what I think.
A teacher asks about the students who are not yet ready for the examination.
Dr. Steiner: We could suggest that, in our judgment, they are not yet ready. At other schools, the question of taking the final examination is also handled by advising the relatives of such students in the last grade not to enroll them, but to wait a year. We could also give such advice, and tell the officials that we gave it. You have always said something that is true: we have had these students only from a particular grade. We could give the ministry a report stating that it was impossible for us to properly prepare the students for the final examination during the time they were with us. We believe they need to wait a year. You should try to advise them against it, but if they want to enroll for the examination, you should inform the officials in the way we discussed by saying we think the students need to stay in school one more year.
A teacher asks about counseling students for choosing a career.
Dr. Steiner: That can be done only in individual cases. It would hardly be possible to do it in principle. In most instances, the school has little influence upon their choice of career. Determining that is really not so simple. By the time a boy is eighteen or nineteen, he should have come to an opinion about which career he should work toward; then, based on that desire, you can counsel him. This is something that involves much responsibility.
A teacher asks about pedagogical activities relating to writing essays and giving lectures.
Dr. Steiner: That would be good in many instances, particularly for eurythmy students. I think that if you held to the kind of presentations I gave in Ilkley, it would be very useful.
I do not know what you should do to revise my lectures. It is not really possible to give a lecture and then tell someone how to revise it.
A teacher asks about reports on work at the school.
Dr. Steiner: Why shouldn’t we be able to report on our work? I think we should be able to send reports to the Goetheanum on things, like those, I believe it was Pastor Ruhtenberg, has done about German class. You could give the details and the general foundation of what you as a teacher think about the specific subject. For each subject you could do things like what Ruhtenberg did and also a more general presentation about the ideas and basis of the work done up to now.
It would probably be quite good if you did some of these things the way you previously did. Keep them short and not too extended, so that the Goetheanum could publish something more often, something concrete about how we do one thing or another. the Goetheanum now has a circulation of six thousand, so it would be very good for such reports to appear in it or in some other newspaper.
A shop teacher thinks it is too bad that painting instruction cannot be done as regularly and in the upper grades as often as in the lower grades. He also asks about painting techniques for the lower grades.
Dr. Steiner: It does no harm to interrupt the painting class for a few years and replace it with sculpting. The instruction in painting has a subconscious effect, and when the students return to the interrupted painting class, they do it in a more lively way and with greater skill. In all things that depend upon capability, it is always the case that if they are withheld, great progress is made soon afterward, particularly when they are interrupted.
I think painting instruction for the lower grades needs some improvement. Some of the teachers give too little effort toward technical proficiency. The students do not use the materials properly. Actually, you should not allow anyone to paint on pieces of paper that are always buckling. They should paint only on paper that is properly stretched. Also, they should go through the whole project from start to finish, so that one page is really completed. Most of the drawings are only a beginning.
Since you are a painter, what you want will probably depend upon your discussing technical questions and how to work with the materials with the other teachers. No other practical solution is possible.
In the two upper grades, you could have the talented students paint again. There is enough time, but you would have to begin again with simpler things. That could not cause too many problems if you did it properly. With younger children, painting is creating from the soul, but with older children, you have to begin from the perspective of painting. You need to show them what the effects of light are and how to paint that. Do all the painting from a practical standpoint. You should never have children older than ten paint objects because that can ruin a great deal. (Dr. Steiner begins to draw on the blackboard with colored chalk.) The older the children are, the more you need to work on perspective in painting. You need to make clear to them that here is the sun, that the sunlight falls upon a tree. So, you should not begin by drawing the tree, but with the light and shadowy areas, so that the tree is created out of the light and dark colors, but the color comes from the light. Don’t begin with abstractions such as, “The tree is green.” Don’t have them paint green leaves; they shouldn’t paint leaves at all, but instead areas of light. That is what you should do, and you can do it.
If I were required to begin with thirteen- or fourteen-year-olds, I would use Dürer’s Melancholia as an example of how wonderfully light and shadows can be used. I would have them color the light at the window and how it falls onto the polyhedron and the ball. Then, I would have them paint the light in the window of Hieronymus im Gehäus. And so forth. It is very fruitful to begin with Melancholia; you should have them translate the black and white into a colorful fantasy. We cannot expect all the teachers to be well-versed in painting. There may be some teachers who are not especially interested in painting because they cannot do it, but a teacher must be able to teach it without painting. We cannot expect to fully develop every child in every art and science.
A teacher: Someone proposed that the school sell the toys the shop class makes.
Dr. Steiner: I do not know how we can do that. Someone also wanted to sell such things in England, with the proceeds going to the Waldorf School, I believe. However, we cannot make a factory out of the school. We simply cannot do that; that would be pure nonsense. This idea makes sense only if someone proposes building a factory in which the things we make at school would be used as prototypes. If that is what they meant, it is no concern of ours. At most, we can give them the things for use as prototypes. However, I did not understand the proposal in that way, so it really doesn’t make much sense. In the other case, someone could make working models. If someone were to come with a proposal to create a factory, we could still think about whether we wanted to work that way.
A teacher requests a new curriculum for religion class in the upper grades.
Dr. Steiner: We have laid out the religious instruction for eight grades in two groups, the first through fourth grades in the lower group, and the others in the upper. The religious instruction is already arranged in two stages. Do you mean that we now need a third?
A teacher asks whether the curriculum could be more specialized for the different grades, for instance, the fifth, eighth, and twelfth grades.
Dr. Steiner: You can show me tomorrow how far I went then.
A teacher asks about the material for religion class in the ninth grade.
Dr. Steiner: St. Augustine and Thomas à Kempis.
A teacher asks if Dr. Steiner would add something more to the ritual services throughout the year, for example, colors or such things.
Dr. Steiner: The Youth Service for Easter is connected with the entire intention of youth services. I am not certain what you mean. Were you to do that, you would preoccupy the children with a suggested mood. That is not good while they are still in school.
Through that, you would make them less open. Certainly, children need to remain naïve until a certain age, to do things without being fully conscious of them. Therefore, we should not have a complete calendar of the year, as that would suggest certain moods. Children need to be somewhat naïve about such things, at least until a certain age. You certainly could not have a small child who has just learned to walk, walk according to a vowel or consonant mood. You can work only with the Gospel texts in the Mass. I think that in the Youth Services we can proceed more objectively. The Mass is also not given according to season; it does not adhere strictly to the calendar. What was done historically comes in question only for the reading. During the period from Christmas until Easter, there is an attempt to present the story of the birth and suffering, but later, we can only take the standpoint that the listeners should learn about the Gospels. I don’t think we can do this strictly according to the calendar.
A teacher asks about creating new classes at Easter.
Dr. Steiner: It is a question of space and even more so of teachers. The problem is that there are no more people within the Anthroposophical Society who could teach within the Waldorf School. We can find no more teachers, and male teachers are nowhere to be found within our movement.
A teacher asks what they can do about the poor enunciation of the children.
Dr. Steiner: You mean you are not doing the speech exercises we did during the seminar? You should have done them earlier, in the lower grades. I gave them for you to do. It is clear the children cannot speak properly. You should also do the exercises for the teachers, but you need to have a feeling for this improper speaking. We have often discussed the hygiene of proper speech. You should accustom the children to speaking clearly at a relatively early age. That has a number of consequences. There would be no opportunity for doing German exercises in Greek class, but it is quite possible during German class. You could do speech exercises of various sorts at nearly every age.
In Switzerland, actors have to do speech exercises because certain letters need to be pronounced quite differently if they are to be understood, g, for example. Every theater particularly studies pronouncing g. Concerning the course by Mrs. Steiner, you should never give up requesting it. At some time you will have to get it from her. If you request it often enough, it will happen.
Some teachers ask about the school garden and how it could be used for teaching botany.
Dr. Steiner: Cow manure. Horse manure is no good. You need to do that as well as we can afford to do. In the end, for a limited area, there can be no harmony without a particular number of cattle and a particular amount of plants for the soil. The cattle give the manure, and if there are more plants than manure, the situation is unhealthy.
You cannot use something like peat moss, that is not healthy. You can accomplish nothing with peat. What is important is how you use the plants. Plants that are there to be seen only are not particularly important. If you grow plants with peat, you have only an appearance, you do not actually increase their nutritional value. You should try to observe how the nutritional value is diminished when you grow seedlings in peat.
You need to add some humus to the soil to make it workable. It would be even better if you could use some of Alfred Maier’s manure and horn meal. That will make the soil somewhat softer. He uses ground horns. It is really a homeopathic fertilizer for a botanical garden, for rich soil. In the school garden, you could arrange the plants according to the way you want to go through them. Sometime I will be able to give you the twelve classes of plants.