Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
19 June 1924, Stuttgart
Dr. Steiner: Unfortunately, I could not visit the classes, but you could tell me about them. I have not finished the curriculum for the ancient languages yet.
A teacher asks whether there will be levels of grammar in the foreignlanguages classes like those in German.
Dr. Steiner: Well, this is the situation. What I gave was according to the needs of the respective ages of the children. What they need is that you give them the nuances of the state of their souls at their age. Children learn how to enliven such nuances most easily through their mother tongue. It is best to make a connection with other languages after they have learned things in their mother tongue, for instance, to show how differently other languages express the same mood of soul. You can certainly make comparisons like that.
You should not begin teaching them grammar before the age of nine or ten. Develop your language teaching during the earlier stages purely from speaking and from the feeling for what is spoken, so that the child learns to speak from feeling. At that age, which is, of course, not completely fixed but lies between the age of nine and ten, you should begin with grammar. Working with the grammar of a language is connected with the development of the I. Of course, it is not as though you should somehow ask how you can develop the I through grammar. Grammar will do that by itself. It is not necessary to have specific teaching examples in that regard. You should not begin grammar earlier, but instead, attempt to develop grammar out of the substance of the language.
A teacher: You said that in eighth grade we should begin to give them the basics of meter and poetics, and then in the eleventh grade, the aesthetics of the language. What did you mean?
Dr. Steiner: Metrics is the theory of the structure of verses, the theory of how a verse is constructed. Poetics is the various forms of poetry, the types of lyric, epic, and dramatic poetry. That is what metrics and poetics are. You can then go on to metaphor and figures of speech. Always give the children some examples.
The children have a rather large vocabulary, German, French, and English, which you can use as a basis for comparing the different languages. Teaching the aesthetics of a language means that you draw their attention to such things as whether a language is rich in the o and u vowels or in the i and e vowels. You can then try to give them the feeling of how much more musical is a language that has many o and u sounds than one that has e and i sounds. You can try to give them a feeling for how the aesthetic beauty of a language decreases when the possibility of inwardly transforming words in various cases is lost and when endings disappear. Thus, the structure of the language is part of its aesthetics, whether it is flexible or more lyrical and musical, whether it can express complicated interjections, and so forth. That is different from actual metrics and poetics. The aesthetics of a language is concerned with the actual beauty of the language.
Sanskrit is very rich in a’s. U and o make a language musical. E and i make it discordant. The German language is discordant. Sanskrit is somewhat monotonic due to the predominance of a, but lies between the musical and flexible. It has a strong tendency to be musically flexible, that is, not to be unmusical in its plastic forms. That is how a works. It stands in the middle. It is particularly characteristic to find a vowel next to an a in Sanskrit. It is very characteristic, for example, to hear an Indian say, “Peace, peace, peace,” since an a comes first and then there is a soft hint, almost a shameful hint, of the I. That is because they say, “Shanti, shanti.” I is the most egotistical vowel. It is as though the Indian immediately becomes red in the face from shame when he says i.
A teacher: The Finnish language also has many a’s.
Dr. Steiner: That is true, but you should also consider how long a language has been at the stage of this particular peculiarity. There is something hardened in the a of the Finnish language, which, of course, relates to its tendency toward consonants. It is a kind of hardening that begins to become sympathetic. All these things are based upon a subtle aesthetic feeling for the language, but such subtle feelings are no longer natural for people today. If an Englishman spoke the ending syllable of English words the way a German- or a French-speaking person does, that would be a hardening for the English person. English-speaking people have begun to drop the end syllables because they are moving out of the language. What is a hardening for one can be something quite natural for the other.
A teacher asks another question about metaphors and figures of speech.
Dr. Steiner: Metaphors correspond to the imagination, figures of speech, to inspiration. First you have what is absolutely unpoetic and characterizes the greatest portion, 99 percent, of all poetry. You then have one percent remaining. Of that one percent, there are poets who, when they want to go beyond the physical plane, need to strew pictures and figures of speech over the inadequacies of normal prose. How could you express, “Oh, water lily, you blooming swan; Oh swan, you swimming lily!” That is a metaphor. What is expressed is neither a water lily, nor a swan; it floats between them. It cannot be expressed in prose, and the same holds for figures of speech. However, it is possible to adequately express the supersensible without using a picture or a figure of speech, as Goethe was sometimes able to do. In such cases, he did not use a picture, and there you find the intuitive. You stand directly in the thing. That is so with Goethe and also sometimes with Martin Greif. They actually achieve what we could objectively call lyric. Shakespeare also achieves it sometimes with the lyric poetry he mixed into his drama.
In the pedagogical course given by Dr. Steiner in Ilkley in August 1923, he characterized four languages in the eleventh lecture without naming them. A teacher asks which languages he meant.
Dr. Steiner: The first language is English, which people speak as though the listener were listening from a distance, from a ship floating on the waves of the sea, struggling against the wind, struggling against the movement and spray of the sea, that is. The second language, which has a purely musical effect when heard, is Italian. The third, which affects the intellect, which comes through reasoning and is expressed through its logical forms, is French. The fourth, which sculpts its words, is German.
A teacher: What is the basis of French meter?
Dr. Steiner: As hard as this may be to believe, the basis of French meter is a sense of systematic division, of mathematics in language. That is unconscious. In French meter, everything is counted according to reason, just as everything in French thinking in general is done according to reason. That is, of course, somewhat veiled since it is not emphasized. Here, reason becomes rhetoric, not intellect. Rhetoric is audible reasoning.
A teacher asks which texts they should use for foreign languages.
Dr. Steiner: We have already spoken a great deal about the twelfth grade, and I gave you some suggestions, for example, MacKenzie. In the preceding grades, it would depend a little upon what the teacher has already read and what the teacher likes, and for that reason, I gave only the qualities. For the tenth grade, you should certainly consider older and more recent lyric poetry.
A teacher says that he began with lyrics from Milton’s time.
Dr. Steiner: You should do it in the following way. In the tenth grade, read the lyric poetry from Shakespeare’s time and then give a short review in the twelfth grade. We cannot completely ignore lyric poetry from Shakespeare’s time because it gives a curiously deep indication of the period of European development when the Germanic languages were much more similar to one another than they are only a few centuries later. English lyric poetry is still unbelievably German. If you read Shakespeare’s lyrics, you will see they are not at all un-German. We can show that in the twelfth grade, so that a feeling will arise that is very important for humanity in general.
Thus, for the tenth grade, Robert Burns, some things out of the period of Thomas Percy. Some things from the Sea School, for example, Coleridge, and then Shelley and Keats. You will, of course, need to be selective, but do what you prefer, since you will then do it better. You could also present some particular points of view. There is, however, one thing in these lyrics that you will find throughout almost all English lyric poetry, namely, that where it is good it has a sentimental element. Sometimes that is very beautiful, but there is certainly a sentimental element throughout.
Something else is that when the English way of thinking becomes poetic, it is not at all appropriate for representing humor. English then becomes trivial and has no humor in a higher sense. There is not even a word for it. How could you say “humor” in English? The way Falstaff is handled would not represent humor today. We would, of course, say there is much humor in it, but we would not refer to the way the whole thing is presented as humor itself. What is apparent to us is how precise the characterizations are. We perceive what is human, but in Shakespeare’s time it was not perceived in that way. The well-roundedness and exactness of characterizations was unimportant for people in earlier times. What was important then was that the humors be good for presentation on the stage. People thought much more as actors at that time.
Today, we can no longer call Falstaff humorous. By the word humor, we mean someone who dissolves in a kind of fog, that is, someone not so well defined in regard to his temperament. Humor is the kind of temperament someone has. The four temperaments are humors. Today, you can no longer say that someone has a melancholic humor. Thus, someone whom you cannot really quite grasp, who dissolves in the fog of their temperaments, has humor.
In drama, you should show that the development of the English people resulted in the height of English drama being reached by Shakespeare, and that since then nothing else has reached the same height. It is, of course, interesting, but you should draw the students’ attention to how development proceeds only in the twelfth grade. You can mention how in Middle Europe, the German Reformation kept its basic religious character through the great importance of church lyric. In France, the Reformation does not have a religious character; it has a social character, and this can be shown in the poetry. In England, it has a political/moral character, something we can see in Shakespeare. That is connected with the fact that for a long time the English did not have an idealistic philosophy, so they lived it out in poetry. That gives their poetry a sentimental tendency. That is what made the rise of Darwinism possible.
A teacher: We still need to group the three fifth-grade classes for Latin and Greek.
Dr. Steiner: The question is whether Mr. X. will take over that instruction.
A teacher asks about religious instruction in the Waldorf School and in the Christian Community.
Dr. Steiner: One thing we need to consider is that the Christian Community also gives religious instruction to the children. There are continuing questions. First, how is the independent religious instruction in the Waldorf School connected with the religious instruction of the Christian Community, and, second, how are the school’s Sunday services related to the Christian Community Sunday services? I would like to hear your feelings about these things. I would also like to say beforehand that we cannot object in principle to the children participating in both the Waldorf School religious instruction and the Christian Community instruction and also attending both services. Our only possible objection might be that it might be too much. You should speak about it, though, as we should not decide something dogmatically.
The situation is this: We have seen how the Christian Community has grown out of the anthroposophical movement. There cannot be any discrepancy within the content of the two. The question concerning religious instruction is that if the Christian Community were to request to instruct the children who belonged to the Christian Community, we would have to give them the same rights as other confessions. The children who do not belong to the Christian Community will, in the majority, have the independent religious instruction. Thus, we will have just one more religion class. But why should we allow an extra religion class for the Christian Community other than the independent religious instruction? I do not actually see how we can decide this question in principle, since we cannot put ourselves in the position of advising someone not to participate in our religious instruction. To do that would be incorrect.
Take, for instance, the situation of a Catholic father saying that he wants to send his boy to the Catholic religious instruction as well as to the independent religious instruction. We could certainly not say anything against that if it was possible to schedule things that way. We cannot decide it, the Christian Community must decide it for themselves.
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It should not be possible for a child to make comparisons and conclude that the religious instruction given by the Waldorf teacher is not as good. The school exists within the framework of anthroposophy, so if a child makes such a comparison of which teacher is better, it should be obvious that due to the nature of the subject, the Waldorf teacher is better.
A teacher asks about the selection of a new religion teacher.
Dr. Steiner: This situation could someday cause us very large problems, greater than all previous ones. As you know, it was very difficult to find religion teachers. The teachers here are more concerned with their own specific subjects, and there is a certain prerequisite for teaching religion. It might occur that we will need to find a religion teacher for the school within the Christian Community. I would try to avoid that as long as possible, but it may someday be necessary. I do not see why we should be so exclusive. We can leave it up to the parents and children whether they want to participate here and there; however, I think it would be good if they participated in both, so that there would be a harmonious discussion of the material by the religion teacher here and the religion teacher there.
You should also not forget that the priests of the Christian Community are also anthroposophists, and they have made great strides in a very short time. The priests are not the same as they were, they have made enormous progress in their inner development. They have undergone an exemplary development in the life of their souls during the short time the Christian Community has existed. Not everyone, of course, but it is true in general, and they are a great blessing in all areas. There was a youth group meeting in Breslau, and two theologians worked with them. That had a very good effect. Young Wistinghausen is a blessing for the youth there.
A teacher: What should we do with the newly enrolled students? They have already been confirmed by the Christian Community. Should they immediately go to the Youth Service?
Dr. Steiner: That would not be good, as they would not begin the Youth Services with an Easter service. It is extremely important that they begin the Youth Services at Easter. You should make it clear to them that they should attend the Youth Services somewhat later. You could allow them to attend as observers, but not for a whole year. Those children should attend the Youth Services beginning at Easter when they have completed the eighth grade. The Youth Service has its entire orientation toward Easter.
A teacher: What should we do with those who have gone through the Protestant confirmation or Catholic First Communion?
Dr. Steiner: The main problem is that these children have been confirmed or have taken First Communion, and now they are taking independent religious instruction. By doing that, they lose the entire meaning of confirmation or First Communion; they negate it and strike it out of their lives. Once they have been confirmed or have taken First Communion, they cannot simply take independent religious instruction. Being confirmed means to be an active member of a Protestant church, so they cannot participate in the independent religious instruction because that negates the confirmation. That is even more true with First Communion. Our task is to indicate to the children in a kind way that they need to first live into their new life, so that it will not be so bad if they do not participate in the Youth Service until next Easter. You need to prepare them for renouncing their faith and direct them to something quite different. These are things we should take quite seriously. At worst, these seven will have participated too early, but not too late if they come only at Easter. We should perhaps consider this if a dissident is there.
A teacher asks a question.
Dr. Steiner: I do not understand at all why someone who was confirmed by Priest K. should not go through the Sunday services for a year, since he had not been confirmed before. In his case, our only question is whether he should go to the Sunday services for a year.
If you look at the inner meaning of our Youth Service and that of the Christian Community, you will see they are compatible. The inner meaning of our Youth Service is to place a person into the human community, not into a specific religious community, whereas the Christian Community’s is to place the person into a specific religious community. It is, therefore, completely compatible for someone to attend the Christian Community Youth Service after attending our youth services; that is not a contradiction. The other way around, for someone who is confirmed before attending our Youth Service, is not compatible. However, the first way is compatible. Parents from the Christian Community have asked me about this. First, the children should go to the youth services here, and then go through confirmation in the Christian Community. If a child attends the Christian Community youth services, we should not object. It is compatible because we do not place the children into the Christian Community. I did not say they must be confirmed into the Christian Community, rather, they may. Our Youth Service does not replace that of the Christian Community because it does not lead to membership in the Christian Community. If children have been confirmed in the Christian Community, they will need to wait here until next Easter.
A religion teacher says the older students do not like to go to the services for the younger ones. They think they are too old for that.
Dr. Steiner: They completely misunderstand the service. They have a Protestant understanding of ritual, which means a rejection of it. It is possible to attend the service throughout your entire life. Their understanding is based upon the perspective that these teachings are preparations, not a ritual. We need to overcome that Protestant understanding.
A teacher asks how to handle students who only audit the classes.
Dr. Steiner: That is a question we can decide quite objectively, but then there can be no differing opinions. The instruction we give in the Waldorf School assumes a certain methodology. We present the material according to that methodology, and we cannot take other circumstances into account. Those who audit the Waldorf School need to assume that they will be treated according to that methodology. We cannot answer this question with a subjective opinion. You cannot modify the methodology by saying you will ask one student and not another, since you would no longer treat the students according to the Waldorf methodology. As long as he is in the class, you have to treat him like the others.
I do not understand why his report is not different from the others. If someone attends all the classes, I do not see why he is an auditor. His report should clearly state that he took only some classes. That should be summarized somewhere. At the end of the report, you should state that the student did not receive remarks about all subjects because, as an auditor, he did not attend all classes. The reports are uniformly written, and it should, therefore, be evident that the student was an auditor unless we have cause to view him differently. We spoke about this when we discussed how the reports were becoming more bland and that we should stop that. If you do not write them with enough care, they no longer have any real meaning. I do not see why that should be any different now. If we give an auditor a report — to the extent that we can give such a report — we should do it according to the principles of the Waldorf School or not at all. That is really self-evident.
The only question could be whether he should automatically receive a report, or only if he requests it. That is not a major question and has no further consequences. Certainly, you could give him a report regardless of whether he asks for it or not, and he might tear it up, or you could ask him and if he does not want it you simply save yourself the work of writing the report; that is really not so important. If he is to audit, then he must be an auditor in the Waldorf School. To treat him differently would not correspond to teaching in the Waldorf School. His extended leaves from school are a different question.
There is further discussion about S.T. Some letters to his mother are read aloud.
Dr. Steiner: I recently discussed this whole matter very clearly and said that when he was enrolled I assumed he would be treated according to his very specific nature. I continue to assume that, otherwise I would have advised him not to come to the Waldorf School. At that time, I said it was absolutely necessary for him to live with one of the Waldorf School teachers. I also said he does not tend to progress in individual subjects in a straightforward fashion, but we have not gotten past that problem. We appear to have characterized him, but that is really not much more than just giving grades. He has not been treated as I intended he should be treated. In a certain sense, the way T. has been treated is a kind of rejection of me by the faculty. That is something that is actually not possible to correct. These letters are simply a justification of his report. I do not agree with the report nor with your justification of it. You have not taken his particular situation into account. He is difficult to handle, but you also have no real desire to work with him as an individual. I need to say that in an extreme way as otherwise you will not understand me clearly. You could have said everything in his report differently. Now there is nothing to do other than to send this letter. What else can we do? I think, however, that we can learn a great deal from this report because most of what is in it is said in a devious way. He is also now living in R.’s boarding house. You have done nothing I wanted. Some of the students are living with teachers.
I do not think we can achieve more by rewriting the letters. What we should have achieved should have been done throughout the year. What is important is to be more careful in carrying out the intentions. Otherwise, we should not have accepted him.
A teacher: Should we advise an eleventh-grade student who wants to study music to no longer attend school?
Dr. Steiner: As a school, we can really not say anything when a student no longer wants to attend. We do not have compulsory attendance. However, as the Waldorf School, we can certainly not advise such a young student that he should no longer attend. That is something we cannot do. We need to take the viewpoint that he should continue and finish. That is the advice we can give. If it is necessary for the boy not to complete the Waldorf School in order to become a musician, then we will lose him, and his mother will not be able to keep him, either. If he is to become a good musician, we cannot advise him not to continue in school.
A teacher asks about a child in the third grade who has difficulties concentrating and cannot make the connections necessary to write short essays.
Dr. Steiner: Have the child repeat a series of experiences forward and then backward. For instance, a tree: root, trunk, branch, leaf, flower, fruit. And now backward: fruit, flower, leaf, branch, trunk, root. Or you could also do a person: head, chest, stomach, leg, foot. Then, foot, leg, stomach, chest, head. Try to give him some reminders also.
A teacher: How often should we have parent evenings?
Dr. Steiner: When possible, parent meetings should be monthly.