Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
27 March 1924, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: I would like to propose that we begin today with the disciplinary problems.
A teacher: F.R. threw a stone at another student and hit him on the head. He has been suspended.
Dr. Steiner: I do not agree with the proposal that was made to deal with this problem. It would look as though we thought we could have a strong effect upon such boys by dealing with them in a way that is something of a caricature. We actually know only from what other students have said how bad the situation was. Now, however, things are better. We can hardly do more than require F.R. to appear before a committee or perhaps the entire faculty over Easter, and then we can question him. I would like to speak with him then, also. Has his father reacted?
A teacher: The father has given up leaving him at school.
Dr. Steiner: I think we should decide that I will speak to F.R. when I come. The situation is, of course, not good, but I would not recommend expelling him. He always behaves well after you speak with him, and that lasts for a time. There is always a reason when he behaves like that, but afterward he is sorry.
A teacher speaks about a girl, S.F., in sixth grade. She ran away from the people she was living with and tried to walk to where her mother lives, a long distance away. The police found her while she was walking there. Dr. Steiner received a letter from her uncle mentioning that the housemother had spoken deprecatingly about the girl.
Dr. Steiner: Are we simply here to marvel at all the good children? Children are not the way we would like to have them. This whole situation shows only that Mrs. N., her housemother, doesn’t know how to handle her. It is quite clear she hasn’t the least idea about how to handle the girl. Our task is to educate children, and not to judge how good or bad they are. This situation shows that we should not send any more children to live with Mrs. N. Her uncle has certainly maintained a good attitude. Of course, it would make someone angry when such things are said about a child. To call her a whore is so silly that I am at a loss for words. We cannot allow Mrs. N. to mix into our affairs here. The girl has a very good character. Physically, she is not quite normal and is a little smaller than she should be. All these things show that she needs to be treated carefully. We should just leave things as they are with her and simply tell her that after Easter she will be moved to a better home. It would also be good if we wrote to her uncle and told him that we do not agree with Mrs. N.’s behavior. We still do not have sufficient contact with the children here. Although we are very careful with our methods, we should not simply leave the children to themselves. They need contact with the faculty. With the methods we use, we cannot, as a faculty, live in Olympian heights, above the private situations of the children. The children also need a little human contact with the faculty.
A teacher reports about N.N. who had stolen something and had behaved very poorly.
Dr. Steiner: His is a difficult case. We need to remember that no father is present. His mother, who has always been a rather unfortunate woman with no inner fortitude, hangs onto the boy. She does not know what to do and has always been disturbed by every message she receives from Stuttgart. She also did not know whether she had enough money to leave him here. With her, all this insecurity is constitutional. She is quite unstable psychologically. That is clear from the fact that she is now here in an insane asylum. That is something that could have just as easily occurred earlier. She may well return to her earlier situation.
This woman’s entire psychological makeup was transferred from her astral body into the boy’s etheric body. He has absorbed it organically, so that his behavior is a genuine picture of his mother’s psychological situation. In the astral body, it is only an insecurity in making decisions, in not knowing what to do. With him, it results in a desire to show off. Take, for instance, one of the worst cases, when he acted shamelessly in front of a window. His mother’s psychological situation remains in the realm of judgment, so that allowing her soul to be seen in a shameless way is a psychological illness. With the boy, it has gone into physical exhibitionism. Here you can see how heredity actually proceeds. The things that exist in the parents’ souls can be seen in the physical bodies of the next generation. That is something that is known medically.
It is quite clear to me that it is important for us to treat this boy with good intentions until he reaches the age of eighteen or nineteen, when his conscience will speak. First, he needs to properly integrate the part of his I from his previous incarnation that is the basis of his conscience. It is not yet properly integrated, so his conscience does not play the same role as conscience does in others who are further along. He experiments with all kinds of things. People always experiment with their higher self when their lower self does not yet contain what keeps them firm and strong. This will last until he reaches eighteen or nineteen. You need to treat him with good intentions, or you will have it on your own conscience that you allowed him to be corrupted; and what develops in that way will remain corrupted. He is really very talented, but his talent and his moral constitution are not developing at the same rate. Today, he has an organic moral insanity. We need to carry such children past a certain age through our well-intentioned behavior without approving of what they do. Conscious theft was not at all present in the case where they hid some money, and so forth. Keep him in the remedial class; that will be good for him. We should continue to treat him in the same way.
The situation with his mother is much more unpleasant for us as anthroposophists. Her coming to the place she had always dreamed of certainly caused her present situation. She had always dreamed about Stuttgart.
We have other situations that are a result of current events and the effects of German nationalism upon the school. I have already been told about them. I do not feel that this trend began with one boy alone. The question is whether the boys do this just because they have too much time on their hands, or whether they belong to some group. This situation is difficult to understand. You can do something positive here only by undertaking things that would tend to include these boys and girls. Recall for a moment that nationalism does not need to play a very large role at that age. What attracts them is all the fanfare. They have the impression that our Waldorf teachers sit at home on Sundays making long faces down to their waists and meditating and so forth. The preacher is something else, again. “What kind of people are these, anyway?” If we do nothing about that, the problem could increase, under certain circumstances. The impression that the faculty sits on Olympic thrones has spread too far.
You can do something else to counter that. Of course, you don’t need to do everything yourself, but you could support Dr. X. so that the children have something to do. I thought it was a very good idea to carefully choose a number of our younger people from the Society and ask them to undertake some trips with the students. Surely even Waldorf School teachers could learn something from that about what is needed to arrange such things. Otherwise, the perception of your sitting on an Olympic throne will remain. Of course, the first responsibility of the faculty will always be leadership of the school, but you should still do something like that. These nationalistic things could have a far-reaching impact — we might end up with a corps of ruffians. I am not so afraid of the attitude as I am of the children turning into ruffians. If the students know we are together with them, they will not be caught by such things.
This also played a major role in the debates we had in Dornach about founding a youth section. Somehow, we must find a way within the Youth Section to create some kind of counterforce against all these other movements. You need only think about the youth groups within Freemasonry that use nationalistic aspirations everywhere. Here, under the careful guidance of the faculty, we must find a way to bring the youth movement into a healthy whole. Here, everything is still much too individual, too atomized. Our faculty needs to counter the general principle in Stuttgart of never working together, always working separately. A teacher asks about the upcoming final examinations.
Dr. Steiner: The children in the twelfth grade have written that they wish to speak with me. I can do that only when I am here Tuesday for the conference. I would like you to tell the whole class that.
In general, I think the results of the final examination have shown unequivocally that everything we have discussed is still true. It would, of course, have been better had we been able to add a special class and keep the Waldorf School pure of anything foreign to it. Everything we discussed in that regard is still the same and should not be changed. Nevertheless, the statistics seem to indicate that the poor results were due to the fact that the students were unable to solve problems for themselves because they were used to solving them as a group. You know it is very useful to have the children work together, and we have also seen that the class gives a better impression when they speak together than when they speak individually. We were somewhat short on time, but it seems you did not have the students work enough on solving problems alone. They did not understand that properly and were thus shocked by tasks to be solved alone. I have the impression that you overdid what is good about speaking together. For example, if a few were causing some trouble, you quickly changed to having them all speak together. It has become a habit to work only with the class as a whole. You did not make the transition into working with the children individually. That seems to me to be the essence of what was missing. We should have no illusions: The results gave a very unfavorable impression of our school to people outside. We succeeded in bringing only five of the nine students who took the test through, and they just barely succeeded. What will happen now with those who did not take the final examination or who failed it? When I am here on Wednesday, we need to discuss all these things with the twelfth-grade teachers.
A teacher requests some guidelines for the pedagogical conference to be held at Easter in Stuttgart.
Dr. Steiner: The basis of the Vorstand’s decision about the conference was that the conference should express the significance of the Waldorf School within all of modern education and that we should clearly demonstrate the importance of the Waldorf School principle. In other words, you should say here and there why the Waldorf School and its methods are necessary. Such a presentation gives people the opportunity to notice the difference between Waldorf School pedagogy and other reform movements. Another perspective is that we can demonstrate what we have said to the youth movement in our letters to the newsletter.
The second letter to young members says that human beings presently do not do at all well to be born as children. It is really the case that now, when human beings are born as children, they are pushed into an educational method that totally neglects them and requires them to be old. It does not matter whether someone tells me about the content of today’s civilization when I am eighteen or when I am seventy-five. It sounds just the same, whether I hear it at eighteen or at seventy-five. That is either true or not. It can be proven or refuted logically. It is valid or not. You can grow beyond such a situation only after eighteen, so you might need to decide not to come into a child’s body at all, but instead to be born as an eighteen- or nineteen-year-old body. Only then would things work.
An initiate from an earlier time, if born today, could not be an initiate again if he or she had to go through our present-day schools. I discussed that in Dornach in my lectures about the Garibaldi incarnation. He was an initiate, but his earlier initiation could appear only after he became separated from the world, a practical revolutionary. Garibaldi is only one example of how people today cannot express what exists within them. We must give children back their childhood. That is one task of the Waldorf School. Today’s youth are old.
We received a number of replies from young people in Dornach following the announcement of the Youth Section. They were all very honestly meant. The main thing I noticed was how old even the youth in Dornach are. They speak about old things, they cannot be young. They want to be young, but know that only in their subconscious. What has gone into their heads is mostly old. They are so clever, so complete. Young people must be able to be brash, but everything they say is so reasonable, so thought out, not at all spontaneous. I am happiest when spontaneous things happen; they may be unpleasant, but I like them best. What we spoke about at a youth meeting in Dornach a short time ago was so well thought out that it could have been said by professors. I made a joke about something, and they took it seriously. They have put on a cloak of thoughtfulness, which is ill-fitting at every point. You can see that in the way they speak. You feel very much like a child when today’s youth speak.
Regarding such things, you should express the responsibility of the Waldorf School to today’s youth with some enthusiasm at the Easter conference. We should not simply give clever lectures; we need some enthusiasm. We need to have some wisdom about how we speak of the relationship of the Anthroposophical Society to the school so that we do not offend people. We do not want them to say that we have been able to accomplish what we wanted since the beginning of the school, namely, an anthroposophical school. We need to show them that we have extended anthroposophy in order to do the things that are genuinely human. We need to show them that anthroposophy is appropriate for presenting something genuinely human, but we must do that individually. We should not give too strong an impression that we are lecturing about anthroposophy. We should show how we use anthroposophical truth in the school, not lecture abstractly about anthroposophy. That is the perspective we had at the time. The board of directors in Dornach follows such things with great interest. They want to be informed by everyone and to work on everything, but we need to round off some rough edges. The letters in the newsletter will, over time, discuss all aspects of anthroposophy.
The people in Bern are not asking the Waldorf School teachers for detailed lectures at the Easter pedagogical course. What they want are introductory remarks that will lead to discussions as they are usually held.
A teacher asks whether the present two eighth-grade classes should be combined in the ninth grade.
Dr. Steiner: We need a third fifth grade class more than a second ninth-grade class. We could combine them. The children are fourteen or fifteen years old. You should be able to keep them under control. It is difficult to find an appropriate teacher, though I have tried. We can discuss the whole thing later.
A teacher asks whether it would be better pedagogically if the upper grades also had one class teacher for the whole time, like the lower grades.
Dr. Steiner: We cannot do what is necessary simply by having one class teacher, if that teacher does not do what is really necessary. What we need is that everyone concerned with the upper grades wants to do what is necessary. I do not believe it is very important to have a single class teacher. If we all want a better relationship with the children, I do not see why we would need to restrict it.
A teacher asks about a possible summer camp in Transylvania.
Dr. Steiner: That may be possible, but I find it difficult to imagine how. The situation there is quite different. It is very much in the East. You can have some strange experiences there. I went to a lecture in Hermannstadt in the winter of 1888-89. When I arrived in Budapest, I was unable to make my connection. I had to travel via Szegedin and arrived at about two in the afternoon in Mediaš. I was told I would have to remain there for some time. I went into a coffee house in town where you had to scrape the dirt away with a knife. A number of players came in. There was something Vulcan- like and stormy in their astral bodies; they were somehow all tangled together. Everything went on with a great deal of activity and enthusiasm. The room was next to a pigsty and there was a horrible smell. You can get into such situations in that region, so we would have to protect the children from such experiences. Everyone gets bitten by all kinds of insects as well.
There had been some difficulties with Mr. Z., one of the teachers.
Dr. Steiner: I had the impression we should offer Mr. Z. a vacation to give him an opportunity to collect himself. My impression was that he needed some rest. The question now is to what extent we can still keep him in school. If he intensely felt how he is, we might be able to keep him. X. says he is unstable. We really can’t do anything other than send him on a vacation and bring him back again.
Concerning the entire matter, I would like to say that it seems to me that we must direct our attention toward not allowing such things as discussions with the students to develop. Where would we be if we had more discussions where the students can complain about the teachers? We cannot allow that. It was already very bad in the other case, which resulted in our expelling the students. Now, it is coming up again — a few students come and want to discuss things with the teachers. We cannot allow that. Z. does do all these things, but we cannot allow the students to undermine the authority of the teacher. That would result in the students judging the teachers, which is really terrible. Students sitting as judges over the teachers. We have to avoid that. Of course, one teacher yells at them more and another less, one is more creative, another less. However, we really cannot take such discussions seriously, where the students put the teacher before a tribunal. That doesn’t work. Were that to occur, what would happen is what they once proposed, that the teachers no longer give grades, but the students grade the teachers each week. After Easter, we have to see if we can have him work only in the lower grades. There is not much more we can do.
I fear Z. will always fall into such things. He will need to feel that behaving that way does not work, but that will take a longer time. You need to make the situation clear to him and tell him we may have to send him on a permanent vacation. He is a real cross to bear, but on the other hand, he is a good person. He did not find the right connection, and that has happened here also. A time may come when we can no longer keep him in school, but now we need to give him an opportunity to correct his behavior. I fear, though, he will not take it up.
In such cases, there is generally nothing to do but hope the person finds a friend and makes a connection, and that the friend can then help the person out of such childishness. In a certain way, everything he does is rather childish. In spite of his talents, he has remained a child in a certain area. He is at the same stage as the students, and that causes everything else.
His living conditions seem to be horrible, but I do not see the connection between his behavior and his living conditions. Others could have even worse living conditions and still not come up with the idea of doing such things in school. I feel sorry for him. He needs to find a friend, but has not done that. He would then have some support. There is no other way of helping such people. Apparently, he has nowhere to turn. It was perhaps a karmic mistake that he came into the faculty. If he found someone he belongs with, what I said would probably occur. I do not think, however, that there is anyone within the faculty that Z. could befriend. It is, perhaps, something like it was with Hölderlin, but not as bad.